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Selected Wordsworth Poems: How to read them, understand them and write truly insightful analyses on them


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This is a preview for Ticking Mind's forthcoming VCE English text: Selected Wordsworth Poems: How to read them, understand them and write truly insightful analyses on them.

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Selected Wordsworth Poems: How to read them, understand them and write truly insightful analyses on them

  2. 2. 2 Selected Wordsworth poems: how to read them, understand them and wrote a truly insightful analyses of them Copyright © Ticking Mind 2019 All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Copyright Act 1968 of Australia and subsequent amendments, no part of this publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. First Published 2019 by: Ticking Mind Publications, Northcote. ISBN 978-0-9944258-6-7 Preview
  3. 3. 3SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS CONTENTS Romanticism..................................................................................... 4 The key ideas.................................................................................... 4 Imagery............................................................................................ 6 How to read poems............................................................................ 8 Essay questions.............................................................................. 14 We should praise & embrace nature Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3 .........................................................................16 My heart leaps up when I behold......................................................................................................... 22 The world is too much with us.............................................................................................................. 26 To the cuckoo.........................................................................................................................................30 Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey............................................................................36 Death is an essential & unstoppable element of nature A slumber did my spirit seal..................................................................................................................54 Strange fits of passion I have known ..................................................................................................58 Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind.............................................................................................64 Simplon Pass...........................................................................................................................................70 Reflection and contemplation are essential to life Travelling................................................................................................................................................. 76 I wandered lonely as a cloud.................................................................................................................80 The solitary reaper.................................................................................................................................86 Art, poetry & an appreciation of the epic nature of life are important London, 1802..........................................................................................................................................94 Extempore effusion upon the death of James Hogg........................................................................98 Preview
  4. 4. 4 ROMANTICISM One of the reasons that Wordsworth is an important poet is that he (and a couple of other poets and writers) was one of the leading thinkers in an intellectual ideal called the Romantic Period. Although the name ‘romantic’ might make you think of mushy kisses, red roses and bad ’90s rom-coms, it actually means a bit more than this. Reading Wordsworth’s poetry will give you a pretty good indication of what the Romantic Period meant, so you really don’t need to do any more research (unless you’re super-keen, but remember that doing more research won’t necessarily help you write an awesome essay). However, it might help you to remember that the Romantic movement was a reaction to the Age of Enlightenment – a period of time just before the romantic movement that focused on scien- tific advances (when cool theories were developed, like needing oxygen to breath), development in technology and people moving to the cities. The Romantic movement found all of this science stuff super-boring and they hated the new cities because cities were smoggy and filled with other people. Listed below are a few essential things the Romantics did believe in: • Nature is awesome: the Romantic movement was all about describing how amazing nature is. • Emotions are super-cool: having emotions was important to Romantics because it separated them from the rational, scientific thinkers who only liked logic and were basically robots. • Life was better in the good old days: and when they said ‘good old days’, Romantics meant the Medieval period when men were heroes and women were delicate damsels who needed to be rescued. • Art is awesome: music, poetry and literature will help make you a better person. Way better than boring old science will. And people who write music, poetry or literature? Heroes. • Everyone needs a bit of shush: Romantics thought that being surrounded by people stifled creativity, so it was important to get out into nature on your own and just…feel it. THE KEY IDEAS While all Wordsworth’s poems generally espouse romantic ideals, he also reflects on different, specific aspects of romanticism in each of his poems. To allow you to better see how Wordsworth develops these specific themes in his poetry, this guide divides his poems into four different groups, based upon the romantic principles they explore. At the top of each category is the main principle and beneath this are different ways of thinking about them. However, as you read through the poems and their analyses, you will also realise that while a poem might focus on a certain romantic principle (like ‘death is an essential and unstoppable element of nature’), it will invariably also include other ideas (such as ‘reflection and contemplation are essential to life’). Preview
  5. 5. 5SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Main idea: We should praise and embrace nature • Nature is a place of freedom, beauty, joy and purity • Nature and childhood are connected through innocence • People who are close to nature are free and happy • When we live away from nature, in cities or in a materialistic life, we lead unhappy, meaningless lives • Human life is a smaller part of the greater whole of nature Main idea: Death is an essential and unstoppable element of nature • The finality of death highlights the beauty and fragility of life • The mortality of our lives is frightening Main idea: Reflection and contemplation are essential to life • We are able to examine our inner selves when we are alone • Nature provides space for solitude • Inner reflection helps us to understand that emotions (of all kinds) are an important part of the human experience Main idea: Art, poetry and an appreciation of the epic nature of life are important • Great romantic poets allow us to witness and see the true beauty of nature and life • Romantic ideals and the romantic life are doomed at the hands of a materialistic and industrial age Preview
  6. 6. 6 Image Icon What it means Dreams Wordsworth frequently describes experiences of dreams or daydreams in his poetry. This recurring motif emphasises how life should not just be made up of practical, everyday matters, but should include spiritual and imaginative experiences that belong to the mind. Air Air, breezes and wind are all symbols of how nature (and people when they are in nature) moves freely and purely. Time and transitions Wordsworth often refers to time changing – whether it’s the sun and moon going up and down, the seasons turning or the years passing. These references to time and transitions emphasise how we can grow and change in life but also how the cycle of life is unstoppable. Death A key element of romantic poetry is to idealise and glorify emotionally profound and tragic elements of life. Since there is nothing more tragic than death, references to graves, funerals and eternity feature a lot in Wordsworth’s poems. Religion While many of Wordsworth’s poems have a pagan (pre- Christian) reverence for nature, Wordsworth still relies on the type of Christian religious imagery (references to heaven and God) his audience would have been familiar with to elevate the things he describes in his poems to a divine level. Aural Aural imagery – references to music, harmony, or gentle and lulling sounds – characterise nature as a place of beautiful serenity and musicality. Celestial Celestial means anything belonging to the sky or space. Throughout his poetry, Wordsworth invokes imagery of the sky, generally, or the sun, moon or stars, more specifically. This creates a sense of things that are majestic and luminous – beyond the merely land-bound and low activities of human life, which is concerned only with consuming and making money. IMAGERY Preview
  7. 7. 7SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Image Icon What it means Water Water is an essential element of life and Wordsworth uses this symbol in two different ways in his poems. When he references rivers and streams, he is usually emphasising how nature moves freely and purely. However, when he evokes the sea or the ocean, he is usually conjuring a sense of the turbulent power of nature. Tranquillity Taking the time to contemplate and reflect on life is an important idea throughout Wordsworth’s poems. Wordsworth often characterises nature as a place of serenity and tranquillity to illustrate how it can provide the ideal conditions for introspection. Sleep Sleep can represent both a place of tranquillity and dreams, but also the ‘eternal sleep’ – death. Heart The heart is used as a symbol of our emotional selves. Since Wordsworth’s poems often revolve around the emotional impact and meaning of experiences, he frequently uses the heart to represent the force that feelings have upon him. Perception Wordsworth regularly refers to eyes or describes the action of seeing, looking, gazing and beholding – or the opposite, being blind. In each of these references, he emphasises the importance of looking carefully and thoughtfully, and of being aware of the world around us, rather than hurrying through life in an unobservant way. Preview
  8. 8. 8 So, you’re confronted with a collection of poetry and you don’t know how to interpret the weird shapes the words are making on the page. Don’t worry – we’re here to help you figure it out! There are a few different ways you can read a poem: 1. Form level: Look at the form of the poem (the table on the next page can help you with this): each poetic form has a different purpose and Wordsworth chooses his poetic form in a fairly traditional way. The overall, ‘big idea’ of the poem will be influenced by the form it takes. 2. Stanza level: If the poem is broken up into smaller sections, or stanzas, just try to figure out what is happening in each of them. Sometimes, you will find that you can understand what is happening in most of the stanzas, even if you don’t ‘get’ every single one. 3. Sentence level: Wordsworth’s poems are made up of individual sentences, just like ‘normal’ or prose writing. Sometimes, you will find it easier to read and interpret poems if you just re-type the poem, so it looks more like the sentences you are used to. Let’s look at one of Wordsworth’s poems in two different ways: Poetic format: This is the spot:—how mildly does the sun Shine in between the fading leaves! the air In the habitual silence of this wood Is more than silent: and this bed of heath— Where shall we find so sweet a resting-place? Come, let me see thee sink into a dream Of quiet thoughts, protracted till thine eye Be calm as water when the winds are gone And no one can tell whither. My sweet friend, We two have had such happy hours together That my heart melts in me to think of it. ‘Normal’ sentence format: This is the spot: —how mildly does the sun shine in between the fading leaves! The air in the habitual silence of this wood is more than silent: and this bed of heath – where shall we find so sweet a resting-place? Come, let me see thee sink into a dream of quiet thoughts, protracted till thine eye be calm as water when the winds are gone and no one can tell whither. My sweet friend, we two have had such happy hours together that my heart melts in me to think of it. 4. Line level: Just look at one line at a time and pay attention to any patterns in the words or unusual breaks within the line, asking yourself what effects these things have. 5. Word level: Sometimes a word will have more than one meaning or will give you certain connotations. For instance, the word ‘gold’ has connotations of purity and excellence even though it may only be a chemical element, or a piece of money. HOW TO READ POEMS Preview
  9. 9. 9SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS However, there are also a whole bunch of special poetic techniques and terms that are useful to know. On the next few pages, there are a range of tables of poetic terms. Poetic Form Not all poems are the same. Different poems have certain structures that will give you a clue about how to read and interpret them. Wordsworth uses five main poetic forms that you should know about. In order to understand these definitions, you should first know that the lines of a poem can be broken into chunks or sections and these chunks are called stanzas, which are kind of like paragraphs in normal (prose) writing. Look at the table on the next page to show you the differences between each of these poetic forms and an explanation of how the purpose of each of these poem types is different. Preview
  10. 10. 10 Poem Type Form Purpose Sonnet Fourteen lines in total: the first eight lines are called an ‘octet’ and the last six lines are called a ‘sestet’, or ‘sextet’. The ninth line of a sonnet is called the ‘volte’, or turning point, because it marks a turning point in the poet’s thoughts. Wordsworth writes Petrarchan or classical sonnets (different to Shakespearean sonnets). A sonnet compares two different aspects to the one idea: the octet shows one idea and the sestet offers an alternative. Ballad A ballad is several stanzas long and typically each stanza has four lines in a rhyming ABAB pattern. A ballad is a story-telling poem. Lyric This sort of poem is quite common in modern poetry, but it was more unusual in Wordsworth’s time. Lyric poetry does not have any formal structure, and it may be written without stanzas and without any formal rhyming or rhythmic sequence. However, there will be other ways that the ideas and images in the poem will be linked. A lyric poem explores emotions, feelings and ideas. Ode Usually, an ode has a regular rhyming sequence and can be divided into stanzas, but each ode can be slightly different. An ode is designed to praise, celebrate or otherwise describe how awesome a person or thing is. Elegy Traditionally, an elegy is written in a set rhyming sequence and the stanzas have four lines in each, so it can look a bit like a ballad, but it has an entirely different purpose. An elegy expresses sadness or regret about a tragic event, particularly a person dying. Preview
  11. 11. 11SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poetic Techniques In order to sound like a true expert in analysing poetry, you really want to have a good understanding of some poetic techniques. While these can seem a bit tricky at first, if you practise analysing just one at a time you will soon get the hang of them. In the table below there are some brief descriptions of the major techniques Wordsworth uses and a very general explanation of how each technique works. It’s very important to remember that these explanations are only a rough guide and are not a substi- tute for you doing your own thinking and interpretation. You should always ask yourself the question: “I know how this technique sort of works, but is it working in an expected or unexpected way here?” Poetic Technique What is it? What effect might it have? Rhyme Usually, the final word of one line will rhyme with the final word of another line. Sometimes, there might be an internal rhyme where the word in the middle of a line rhymes with a word elsewhere. Connects words (and therefore ideas) together. Could contrast words and ideas. Rhythm There are a whole range of poetic rhythms, but essentially the rhythm of a poem decides how quickly or slowly you read through a poem and which words have more emphasis on them. Below, there is a more detailed chart for describing different rhythms. Can make the poem seem more urgent or more relaxed and contemplative. Repetition When a word, phrase or sound is used more than once. Can add emphasis to that word, sound or phrase. Might be used to highlight a transformation. Caesura A pause in the middle of a poetic line, due to some kind of punctuation. Breaks the rhythm of the poem and can either create silence within the poetic line or add emphasis to a word, phrase or idea. Personification When inanimate objects, such as trees, rocks, clouds, etc. are given the qualities of a human (such as having emotions or thoughts). Helps the reader to connect with the inanimate object. Can also help to convey a mood or thought. Preview
  12. 12. 12 Poetic Technique What is it? What effect might it have? Oxymoron When two opposite or contrasting ideas are put together, such as ‘deafening silence’ or ‘bittersweet’ or ‘sweet sorrow’. Gives each opposing idea a fresh perspective and a new way of thinking about them. Onomatopoeia When words are spelt in a way that it sounds like the thing it describes: like ‘shush’ or ‘murmur’. Can evoke a strong, physical sense of the thing or idea being described. Assonance Words in relatively close proximity (on the same line, or in the same position) contain similar sounds that are not quite a rhyme – like ‘hour and clouds’ or ‘thwarting winds’. Operates in a similar way to rhymes. Alliteration Words that share a starting sound - like ‘the girl grimly grinned’. Connects words together. Can also create an evocative sound pattern that brings an extra quality to the image being presented. Susurration Susurration is a type of alliteration or assonance, that particularly describes an ‘s’ sound. Creates a whispering sound in the poem. Could also evoke the wind or the sea. Soft sounds Some letters like L, F, H and M create softer sounds, leading to more murmuring sounds when you say them. Evokes a gentler, more musical mood. Could also sound more stereotypically feminine. Hard sounds Some letters like K, T, G, P, Q and Z create harsher, more emphatic sounds when you say them. Evokes a jarring feeling or a sense of hardness or abruptness. Could also sound more traditionally masculine. Preview
  13. 13. 13SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Rhythm We’ve put an extra section in here to describe some of the different poetic rhythms you will come across (and, as usual, some suggestions for the effect they create). Don’t worry too much about all of these different rhythms, because you probably won’t write very much about them in your essay – they’re just here to help you if you’re interested. Before you can understand how rhythm works, though, you need to know a couple of things. 1. Words are made up of individual syllables - the ‘chunks’ of sound in a word, like this: Words are made up of in div id u al syll a bles… 2. Music has a beat, poetry has ‘feet’. Wordsworth’s poetic feet typically have two syllables in them – the two syllables might come from the same word or two different words. Usually, poetic rhythm is described by the number of feet in each line as well as the kind of rhythm each foot has. Wordsworth’s favourite poetic rhythm is iambic pentameter. Look in the table below to see what that means. Type of rhythm What is it? Pentameter Five feet (ten syllables) per line. This is usually a more classical or formal style of meter. Tetrameter Four feet (eight syllables) per line. This is a meter usually associated with songs, storytelling and ballads. Iambic An iamb is a soft syllable followed by a stronger syllable: a da-dum sound. The strong ‘dum’ sound puts an emphasis on certain words or sounds. This sort of rhythm can sound like a heartbeat. It’s also the most common type of poetic foot, because most two-syllable English words have the emphasis on the second syllable. Trochaic A trochee is the opposite of an iamb. It creates a weird, dum-da rhythm that can be unsettling. Preview
  14. 14. NOW IT'S YOUR TURN 14 NOW IT'S YOUR TURNESSAY QUESTIONS “Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light.” ‘While Wordsworth celebrates the beauty of nature, he also represents the darkness of death.’ Discuss. How does Wordsworth illustrate the romantic beauty of nature in his poetry? ‘Wordsworth shows that it is essential to reflect on our existence in order to lead a meaningful life.’ Discuss. ‘Wordsworth’s poetry shows that it is more important to connect with nature than lead a life dedicated to consuming.’ Discuss. Discuss the role of solitude in Wordsworth’s poetry. ‘It is Wordsworth’s imagery that gives his poetry its power.’ Discuss. “My heart leaps up when I behold / A rainbow in the sky.” ‘Wordsworth’s poetry expresses both joy and melancholy about the beauty of life.’ Discuss. ‘Wordsworth’s poems are filled with allusions to both the stunning power and tranquillity of nature.’ Discuss. “England hath need of thee: she is a fen.” How is Wordsworth’s poetry a critique of society’s values? ‘Wordsworth’s poetry reveals both an awe of nature and a fear of its destructive powers.’ Discuss. ‘It is only when we are alone in nature that we can truly understand ourselves.’ How do Wordsworth’s poems explore this idea? Preview
  16. 16. 1616 In this poem, the poet is admiring the beauty of the rising sun from a bridge in the centre of London. As you read this poem, think about how the poet describes: • The effect nature should have on other people • How nature makes the city appear • How nature affects him What to watch out for: THE HEADLINE: Sunrise looks great from bridge Insights Annotations Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3 Earth has not any thing to show more fair: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by A sight so touching in its majesty: This City now doth, like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Never did sun more beautifully steep In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill; Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! The river glideth at his own sweet will: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; And all that mighty heart is lying still! dull: boring majesty: royal and elegant beauty garment: a piece of clothing steep: to soak food in liquid for flavour splendour: the beautiful and impressive appearance of something ne’er: never glideth: glides Preview
  17. 17. 17SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS 17SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: This poem is a sonnet, which means that it has fourteen lines. More importantly, these lines are divided up into two groups: an octet (eight lines) and a sestet (of six lines). That is so that a sonnet can look at two different ideas and show us how they are related. Ideas Techniques Octet In Wordsworth’s sonnet, the octet explores the idea that the city is big, majestic and impressive. impressive, Wordsworth peppers his poem with hard consonants: A sight so touching in its majesty Because it’s difficult to pronounce these hard sounds quickly, using them in a poem slows the rhythm and makes the opening octet more dignified, like a grand old city. Throughout this octet, there are many pauses within the lines, called caesuras, that slow the poem further, demonstrating the poet’s thoughts and sense of wonder in the quiet dignity of the city. Sestet In the sestet, the poet’s attention shifts to the rising sun and how it infuses the city with its warmth and light as it rises above the horizon. So, the main thing that Wordsworth is pointing out is that the city is made more beautiful because it is embellished by the natural world. But he also draws a comparison between the spiritual nourishment that he gains from nature and the metaphorical nourishment that a city can have because it too is a part of nature, sitting in the greater landscape. The hard sounds of the consonants are replaced with the softer ‘s’, ‘n’ and ‘l’ sounds: Never did the sun so beautifully steep This emphasises the softer influence of nature as it infuses (steep is another word for infuses) across the cityscape that Wordsworth is watching. Also, throughout this sestet, the ‘er’ sounds repeat, like the river that runs through the city, in a gentle rhythm that lulls the reader, just as the river lulls the inhabitants of the city to sleep. It is as though the “mighty heart” of the city has been soothed to sleep by the landscape that surrounds and nourishes it. The big idea In this poem, Wordsworth is looking at London in the early hours of the morning. He is admiring the beauty and majesty of the city and he cannot fail to be impressed by it. However, he is also pointing out that the city is made more impressive by the nature that surrounds and infuses it: the sunlight that steeps over the buildings, and the river that runs through the centre of London. His point is that the city has been given beauty because it has become a part of the greater natural world: that the city is calmed and soothed by the natural world, just as he is. Preview
  18. 18. 18 Thinking about the elements of nature Wordsworth begins this poem by describing the nature clothing the city in “majesty”. This means nature is able to provide these royal qualities: • supreme power • magnificence • loveliness / grace • dignity • the ability to inspire respect, awe and wonder In the chart below are three images Wordsworth uses as specific examples of the “majesty” nature provides. Read through the poem and find examples and write down a quote for each of these images (hint: use the image icons to help you). After this, consider which one particular majestic quality each image of nature gives. Image Quote Specific majestic quality Heaven Air Water Tranquillity Thinking about how urban life is portrayed While on the surface ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’ focuses just on the beauty and magnificence of nature, it also implies that urban life is the opposite. Look at the table below and infer what each of the quotes on the left-hand side shows us about life in the city. What the poem says Inference The city wears a “garment” which makes it appear beautiful on the outside, which suggests that on the inside, it is… The city is now “smokeless” and the buildings “bright” which suggests they are usually… The city is now “silent” and the houses “asleep” which suggests that they are usually… Preview
  19. 19. 19SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Writing activity Since this is this first poem you’ve studied, let’s try just practising some basic analytic writing proce- dures. Below are words and phrases you can use to analyse the poem at three levels: the whole of the poem, parts of the poem and individual techniques. The model sentences at the start of each section will give you an example of how to analyse the poem. Pay attention to how the examples use quotes. When constructing your sentences, look back through the poem and consider what word or phrase you might quote in your sentence to aid your analysis. Writing about the poem as a whole: In ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’, Wordsworth lauds the “majesty” of nature. In ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’, Wordsworth… celebrates the…of nature… celebrates nature as… praises the power of nature as… describes how nature can… contrasts the…of nature to…of urban life. Writing about the ideas: In the octet of the poem, the poet focuses on how nature touches the “soul” because of its “fair” beauty. In the octet of the poem, the poet… …highlights …emphasises …focuses on …reflects on the way nature can… that nature is… the capacity for nature to… Throughout the poem, the poet… At the turning point of the poem, the poet… develops a picture of nature as… praises individual elements of nature such as… and… highlights how nature can…and suggests that, by contrast, urban life is… In his sestet, the poet… The poet closes the poem… by emphasising… with the conclusion that… and emphasises that idea that… Preview
  20. 20. 20 Writing about the images When the poet describes the river as gliding “at his own sweet will”, he uses the image of freely moving water to create the sense that nature is a place of liberty. The poet uses the image of… When the poet describes…as…, he uses the image of… to… to create the sense that… to invoke a picture of… to emphasise a feeling that… to build an association with… Through the image of…embedded in the words…, the poet… By using the imagery of…to describe…as, the poet invokes a sense of… create a sense of… builds a picture of… Preview
  21. 21. 21SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Notes: Preview
  22. 22. 22 Insights Annotations behold: see bound: to be tied to something piety: a strong religious belief about the right way to behave My heart leaps up when I behold My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die! The Child is the father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety. What to watch out for: In this poem, Wordsworth sets out his belief that as we grow old, we should maintain a childish, innocent joy in nature and life. Now, you’ve already read one other Wordsworth poem, so as you read this one consider: • How the idea of nature as being innocent connects to nature in ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802’ • How the use of sky imagery also connects to that poem THE HEADLINE: Man really likes rainbows Preview
  23. 23. 23SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: Ideas Techniques The first six lines are almost a series of couplets, of a thought that is begun in one line and finished in the next. However, these are not traditional couplets that rhyme, but are a new kind of spontaneous couplet that is as unexpected as the nature that inspired it. The initial couplet establishes this pattern – the poet explains that he is filled with joy on one line and then on the following line explains the source of his joy. The first couplet does not rhyme, one line is longer than the other, so the rhythm does not match and the reader is taken by surprise, just as the poet was surprised by the sight of the rainbow. The second couplet is far more traditional, the rhyme and the rhythm match and the reader is lulled back into a sense of the familiar, but straight away Wordsworth confounds us with his third couplet: another unrhymed pair with an irregular rhythm. The point the poet is making is that nature is constantly new and constantly surprising, and it is this sense of novelty that is so delightful. The final three lines, the last third of the poem, read as an extended thought, a proverb that Wordsworth is trying to create. What Wordsworth the man wants from his inner child is that naive sense of devotion and worship of nature: as a child he worshipped nature, so nature is like a religion to him. He even begins this tercet (group of three lines) with words that sound like a proverb: “The Child is the father of the Man”, using words that are both simple and familiar, but giving them a new meaning – twisting what we would expect. Readers are familiar with the idea of a man being a father, but here it is the child who is the father. The big idea Nature regularly surprises and delights us with new things to see: like rainbows. Wordsworth is so inspired by these unexpected gifts that he is filled with a childish joyfulness that bursts out of him in a rush and finds expression in his poetry. Preview
  24. 24. 24 NOW IT'S YOUR TURNNOW IT'S YOUR TURN Thinking activity Below is the poem rearranged into its rhyming lines. Looking at these lines, there are two things you can think about: 1. What idea do the rhymes emphasise? 2. What is the impact of the line length? Look through the lines and make some notes about what you notice: What do you notice about the line length? What idea does the rhyme seem to emphasise? My heart leaps up when I behold So be it when I shall grow old, A rainbow in the sky: Or let me die! So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; The Child is the father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety. Think about how you might use this vocabulary to help you discuss line length or rhyme: brief / brevity: the quality of being short or brief abrupt / abruptness: suddenness blunt / bluntness: saying exactly what you think without being polite sparse / sparseness: having a small amount of something cut short: like something else was going to be said or happen the connection of the rhyme of relation of emphasises highlights amplifies dramatises underscores connects reinforces binds joins together closely links Preview
  25. 25. 25SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Writing activity A good analysis of Wordsworth will compare and link poems. So now you’ve studied two poems, you can begin to practise linking poems in your writing. Compare how nature is presented in the two poems: While the general celebration of nature links ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘My heart leaps up when I behold’, each poem focuses on a different attribute of nature: • The beauty and majesty of nature • The playful innocence of nature Read through this example sentence and use the phrases and words in the table below to compare the two poems: In both ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘My heart leaps up when I behold’, Wordsworth portrays the glory of nature. However, unlike ‘Westminster Bridge’, where nature is “beauty”, in ‘My heart leaps up’, the essence of nature is innocent like a “child”. In both ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘My heart leaps up when I behold’, Wordsworth… celebrates nature as… lauds the…of nature. depicts nature as… praises the…of nature. However, while the central focus on ‘Westminster Bridge’ is on nature’s…, Yet, while the chief focus in ‘Westminster Bridge’ is on the…of nature, ‘My heart leaps up when I behold’ instead emphasises… the focus of ‘My heart leaps up when I behold’ is on… Compare the techniques used in the two poems: In both ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘My heart leaps up when I behold’, Wordsworth uses sky imagery to depict the boundless freedom of nature. In ‘Westminster Bridge’, the sky is a space which is “open” to the beauty of the city, while in ‘My Heart Leaps’, the poet’s innocence “leaps” into the beauty of the sky. In both ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘My heart leaps up when I behold’, Wordsworth uses sky imagery to show that nature is… to illustrate the…of nature. to represent how nature can… In ‘Westminster Bridge’, the sky is depicted as being… Wordsworth creates a picture of the sky…in ‘Westminster Bridge’ while in ‘My heart leaps’, the image of the sky represents… but uses the same imagery in ‘My heart leaps’ to… Preview
  26. 26. 26 Insights Annotations In this poem, nature is powerful and impressive, just like ancient Greek gods, but modern humans are petty and only interested in buying stuff. As you read this poem, think about: • the negatives of consumerism • how nature is powerful The world is too much with us The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn. sordid: dirty or immoral boon: something that makes life easier bares: uncovers suckled: sucked milk from a breast creed: a set of beliefs lea: a meadow forlorn: feeling alone and unhappy Proteus: A Greek god of the changing sea Triton: A Greek god of the sea and a messenger wreathed: wrapped in flowers or plants What to watch out for: THE HEADLINE: Materialism boring, nature awesome Preview
  27. 27. 27SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: This poem is another sonnet, which means it has fourteen lines that explore two different ideas. The octet focuses upon how wrong society is, while the sestet looks at the alternative – how we could live more harmoniously with nature. Ideas Techniques Octet The octet of this poem is divided into two quartets: the first quartet describes the pettiness of human lives and the pointless consumerism that people engage in, while the second quartet juxtaposes the power and rage of the ocean with the gentle stillness it has at other times. Wordsworth focuses the reader’s attention on how materialistic and worldly people are by stopping our thoughts with the caesuras that are in three of the first four lines: each of these lines is stopped after describing how out-of-touch humans are with their natural environment. By stopping the flow of the rhythm after telling his audience that “The world is too much with us” or “We have given our hearts away”, Wordsworth forces us to focus upon the impact our decisions have upon our lives. However, the poet also highlights the varied emotions and power of nature by illustrating both the power of the ocean and the peace that it can bring – it can be a howling and powerful force and it can also be peaceful like a sleeping flower. In the first quartet, the poet highlights the triviality of most people’s concerns with the short vowel sounds that fussy ‘t’ sounds in “getting and spending” and “little”; these sounds contrast with the booming round sounds of ‘oon’ and ‘ours’ that finish each line. Throughout the octet, Wordsworth repeats and inverts his rhyming sequence from ABBA to BAAB, so that the sounds of ‘oon’ and ‘ours’ repeats as regularly as the waves of the ocean, booming with power. The muscularity and strength of the ocean is also emphasised by the pushing repetition of the ‘b’ sound in the line “The Sea that bares her bosom” and the onomatopoeia of “howling at all hours”: rather than the ocean being a peaceful place, it is strong and loud. The big idea Most of us have forgotten to look at the power and beauty of nature. Instead of looking at how impressive nature is, we focus on consumerism (“getting and spending”) and this means that we are out of touch with the world around us. Instead, we’d be better off if we were like the ancient pagans who worshipped nature gods because they recognised how awesome nature is. Preview
  28. 28. 28 NOW IT'S YOUR TURN Ideas Techniques Sestet In the sestet, Wordsworth focuses upon exhorting people to be more pagan in their attitudes so that they can better appreciate the majesty and power of the natural world. To emphasise the intuitive quality of pagan religions, he imagines being “suckled by a creed outworn”, of being nourished and fed by the idea of a nature-worshipping religion. This type of devotion would also give the poet something that is worthwhile, rather than the worldly goods other people strive for – he repeats the word ‘have’ in two lines, establishing the idea that a sense of awe is the most valuable possession. The two caesuras in line nine (the volta, or turning point of a sonnet) force the reader to pause twice and consider the contrasting ideas the poet is putting forth. Throughout the entire sestet, the breezy sound of ‘ee’ echoes – both within the lines and at the end of them, linking the ideas with the sense of ease they bring him. By conjuring classical Greek gods, the poet demonstrates how ancient and enduring the natural world is, and how far human society has moved from a tradition of awe. Thinking about the poem: Throughout this poem, Wordsworth contrasts consumeristic disconnection to nature with a more primal, pagan connection to nature. In the table below, quotes demonstrating two ideas have been arranged in groups. Read through them and brainstorm words that will help you label or discuss the ideas in each of these quotes. Consumeristic disconnection from nature Pagan connection to nature Getting and spending waste our powers Little we see in Nature We have given our hearts away sordid boon we are out of tune suckled in a creed standing on this pleasant lea hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn Words or phrases to analyse what disconnection from nature is like: Words or phrases to analyse what pagan connection to nature is like: Preview
  29. 29. 29SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS In addition to contrasting the disconnection of consumerism with the connection of a pagan rever- ence for nature, Wordsworth explores how nature is both powerful and dramatic as well as tranquil. Look at the descriptions and images Wordsworth uses below and sort them into two categories: ones that show nature is powerful and dramatic and ones that show nature is tranquil: “bares…bosom to the moon” “winds…howling” “up gathered…like sleeping flowers” “pleasant lea” Proteus: A son of the Greek sea god Poseidon, Proteus was god of the changing sea. The word ‘protean’ which means ‘changeable’ comes from Proteus. Triton: Also a son of the Greek sea god Poseidon, Triton is often imagined as a merman. In mythology, he would rise from the sea and blow a seashell like a trumpet. The noise he would make was so loud it would frighten giants. Writing about the poem: When you are writing about a sonnet, you really want to be able to discuss the two sides to an idea that the poem shows you. So, you might want to think about writing a sentence that is something like this: On the one hand, Wordsworth decries the “sordid” reality of conventional lives which are domi- nated by consumption and spending, while on the other, he praises the “creed” of paganism that turns its back on this way of living and reveres nature. In order to write a sentence like this, you need to be able to compare two different ideas. Use the words and phrases in the table below to create your own sentence that compares the two different ideas in this sonnet. On the one hand analytical verb , while on the other analytical verb In the octet… Although While… criticises censures denounces condemns decries , but in the sestet , he then , he later exalts lauds pays tribute acclaims extols the virtues of glorifies Nature is tranquil Nature is powerful and energetic Preview
  30. 30. 30 Insights Annotations In this poem, Wordsworth celebrates the romantic sound of the cuckoo (yes, the bird of cuckoo clock fame). You might like to google ‘cuckoo’ sound before you read this poem, so you’ll know what all the fuss is about. What to watch out for: THE HEADLINE: Cuckoo sound would make awesome ringtone blithe: cheerful and carefree rejoice: celebrate twofold: double Vale: valley Thrice: three times rove: wander about To the cuckoo O blithe New-comer! I have heard, I hear thee and rejoice. O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird, Or but a wandering Voice? While I am lying on the grass Thy twofold shout I hear; From hill to hill it seems to pass, At once far off, and near. Though babbling only to the Vale Of sunshine and of flowers, Thou bringest unto me a tale Of visionary hours. Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring! Even yet thou art to me No bird, but an invisible thing, A voice, a mystery; The same whom in my school-boy days I listened to; that Cry Which made me look a thousand ways In bush, and tree, and sky. To seek thee did I often rove Through woods and on the green; And thou wert still a hope, a love; Still longed for, never seen. Preview
  31. 31. 31SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Insights Annotations beget: create unsubstantial: not concrete or can’t be touched faery: fairy The big idea This poem is an ode, a type of poem that celebrates how super something is, and Wordsworth is praising the cuckoo here. And I can listen to thee yet; Can lie upon the plain And listen, till I do beget That golden time again. O blessèd Bird! the earth we pace Again appears to be An unsubstantial, faery place; That is fit home for Thee! Poem analysis: The ode is divided into eight stanzas with alternating rhyme sequence, so that the reader can hear echoes of sound throughout the poem and these echoes evoke the two-toned note of the cuckoo’s call. In each of the stanzas, the first and third lines are longer in rhythm while the second and fourth lines are shorter, creating a space of silence after each thought, much like the end of the cuckoo’s two-note call creates a space in the soundscape. Ideas Techniques In the opening two stanzas of the poem, Wordsworth establishes the nature of the cuckoo’s call: it is a sound to be celebrated, but it is also elusive, because the poet cannot see the bird that makes the sound, but only hears the “wandering voice”. The poet is firmly established in the present, listening from where he lies on the grass for the two-toned bird call that echoes (just as the poet’s own rhymes do) throughout the landscape. In these two opening stanzas, words such as “hill” are repeated, as is “heard” and “hear”, almost as though the poet is mimicking the reiterative notes of the cuckoo. Preview
  32. 32. 32 Ideas Techniques The poet delves further into his imagination in the third and fourth stanzas, connecting the sound of the cuckoo with the sound of time; just as the wooden cuckoo can keep time within a cuckoo clock, this real bird can bring the sense of “visionary hours” to Wordsworth. The poet also imagines that the bird is singing romantically of “sunshine and flowers”, creating a sense of shared joy in beauty between the two of them. In the fourth stanza, the connection to time is strengthened as the poet refers to “thrice”, which follows his reference to “twofold” from earlier in the poem – it is as though this real cuckoo is marking time, just as the wooden birds in a clock do. And so here the bird is representative of the elusive nature of time, “an invisible thing” that marks our lives. Time is also made more concrete because the poet points out that the cuckoo is a herald of spring and so, in its own way, does actually mark time – it’s just that the real cuckoo calls out the passing of seasons, not hours. In the fifth and sixth stanzas, the poet moves backwards through memories to when he was a “schoolboy” and here he conjures the searching and yearning that are so much a part of childhood. In these stanzas, the boy poet “look[s] a thousand ways” and “longed for” things he cannot see. He emphasises this stilted searching in the final line of the fifth stanza, with its two caesuras that highlight the multiple directions of his childish gaze. It is as though the cuckoo represents all of his youthful hopes and dreams and all of the discoveries of adulthood that lie ahead of him. In closing his poem, Wordsworth refers to the future, to the pleasure that will come to him when he listens to the cuckoo again. And here in this future are evocations of the past: “that golden time”, since the future is made even more pleasurable with references to the past. However, the future is unknowable, “unsubstantial, faery”, just as the cuckoo’s voice is. Because the cuckoo can represent the past, the present, the spring, the future and time itself, it is an object of wonder and awe for Wordsworth and he articulates all of these feelings in this ode. Preview
  33. 33. 33SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS NOW IT'S YOUR TURN Thinking and reading activity: In this poem, the cuckoo’s voice represents the real, concrete beauty of nature, but its invisibility (that is, how difficult it can be to actually see a cuckoo), symbolises things which are intangible: memories, love, hope – and the spiritual, supernatural power of nature. There are three different points in time that Wordsworth writes about in this poem: now, childhood and the future. Using the table below to guide your thinking, look through the poem and identify quotes that show what the cuckoo’s voice actually sounds like at any of these times, and what feelings or ideas it represents or makes the poet think of at any of these times. The cuckoo’s voice is… The invisibility of the cuckoo makes the poet think… The romantic quality of the cuckoo makes the poet think… Now As a child In the future Preview
  34. 34. 34 Writing activity: One of the analytic writing skills you’ll need for your essays on Wordsworth is to insert and inter- pret single or multiple quotes in a sentence. Below are models of how to do this and some quotes to practise with. Analysing one quote on its own When inserting a single quote into a sentence, you’ll need an introductory phrase, a quote and an analytic verb like this: Introductory phrase Quote Analytic verb Wordsworth describes how, in search of the cuckoo call, he would “rove” , creating a sense of the cuckoo’s call as inviting exploration and adventure. Use the phrases and quotes in the table below to practise inserting and analysing single quotes in a sentence: Introductory phrase Quote Analytic verb Wordsworth describes…as… Wordsworth labels…as… Wordsworth likens the cuckoo’s call to… “sunshine and of flowers” “that golden time again” “an unsubstantial, faery place” creating a picture of… evoking a sense of… illustrating… representing… Preview
  35. 35. 35SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Analysing two quotes together To insert and analyse two quotes in a sentence, you’ll need the same basic structure with the addition of some connecting words to join together two or more quotes: Introductory phrase Quote + connecting words Analytic verb Wordsworth characterises the cuckoo’s sound as “wandering”, “far off” but also “near” , creating a sense of the bird as like something supernatural, like a ghost. Use the phrases and quotes in the table below to practise inserting and analysing multiple quotes in a sentence: Introductory phrase Quote Connecting words Wordsworth characterises…as… Wordsworth paints the…as… Wordsworth likens the cuckoo’s call to… Wordsworth describes how on hearing the cuckoo’s voice he will… “blithe” “babbling” “rejoice” “welcome” “an invisible thing” “a mystery” “never seen” and as well as and also as both…and as not just…but also Preview
  36. 36. 36 secluded: isolated and lonely repose: rest or sleep tufts: clumps or groups clad: covered copses: small group of trees growing close together sportive: playful pastoral: rural wreaths: rings vagrant: homeless person Hermit: person who chooses to live on their own and away from others Insights Annotations Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey Five years have past; five summers, with the length Of five long winters! and again I hear These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs With a soft inland murmur.—Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, That on a wild secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect The landscape with the quiet of the sky. The day is come when I again repose Here, under this dark sycamore, and view These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, Which at this season, with their unripe fruits, Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves ‘Mid groves and copses. Once again I see These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms, Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke Sent up, in silence, from among the trees! With some uncertain notice, as might seem Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire The Hermit sits alone. Wordsworth is revisiting a natural landscape he wandered in as a younger man and thinking about what it meant to him years ago, what it means now and what it will mean in the future. He also randomly talks to his sister (who he also calls his Friend) right at the end. This is the longest poem you’ll read and study in this collection. Because it is so long, it’s been broken into smaller sections to help you read it more slowly and under- stand it better. After you’ve read each section, read the analysis and then re-read the section again before moving on. What to watch out for: THE HEADLINE: A really, really long poem about the awesomeness of nature – Part 1 Preview
  37. 37. 37SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: Ideas Techniques In this opening vignette, the poet is describing a natural landscape that he used to visit frequently as a boy. The landscape is framed by mountains on one side and a small collection of cottages on the other. Although the poem has no rhyming structure, the lines are connected by the repetition of words and sounds: for instance, the idea of it being a long time since the poet visited this area is emphasised by the repetition of the word “five” and the reiteration of “length” and “long”. In the rest of this opening sequence, the poet describes the natural landscape around him, connecting all of the elements that contribute to the scene – the mountains, sky, trees and flowers. To evoke these natural elements, Wordsworth emphasises a number of sounds. The murmuring of water is captured by the soft consonants that whisper: …waters, rolling from their mountain-springs With a soft inland murmur. And the repeated ‘h’ in hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows”, mimics the predictable pattern of the cottage gardens the poet sees below him in the valley. The big idea Wordsworth is showing how classically beautiful nature can be as well as demonstrating that nature is worthy of poetry and intellectual thinking. He emphasises this idea by writing this lengthy lyric poem in iambic pentameter, which is a very classical and formal poetic rhythm (or meter). Preview
  38. 38. 38 din: noise restoration: returning to a happy, calm state sublime: something that is wonderful and affects you deeply burthen: burden – a heavy load unintelligible: impossible to understand serene: calm, peaceful corporeal: relating to the body vain: useless or pointless effort fretful: worried, anxious sylvan Wye: Wye is a river in England. Sylvan means to do with trees and forests. Insights Annotations THE HEADLINE: A really, really long poem about the awesomeness of nature – Part 2 These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; And passing even into my purer mind With tranquil restoration:—feelings too Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, As have no slight or trivial influence On that best portion of a good man’s life, His little, nameless, unremembered, acts Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world, Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on,— Until, the breath of this corporeal frame And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul: While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things. If this Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft— In darkness and amid the many shapes Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, Have hung upon the beatings of my heart— How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee, O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods, How often has my spirit turned to thee! Preview
  39. 39. 39SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: Ideas Techniques In this section, the poet is focusing upon his recent past, when he has not been able to see or experience the natural beauty of this location. He compares the activities that he has undergone in “towns and cities”, where each moment and act is measurable. Here, Wordsworth considers how we measure the worth of our lives: pleasure is “slight or trivial”; acts of kindness and love are “nameless, unremembered” and the world outside of nature is “heavy” and “weary”. All of these human acts are contrasted with the “sublime” and “blessed” power of nature, which is measureless and boundless. Nothing in the poet’s life is more important than his memories of this natural landscape. His life is compared with illness, characterised by “fretful” motions in a world of “fever”. Nature is the antidote to the sickness of society and the ‘civilised’ world. The big idea Nature cannot be measured, but human lives can be, and they are pointless and small. Preview
  40. 40. 40 perplexity: finding something difficult to understand roe: a deer coarser: coarse means having a rough surface. cataract: a waterfall Insights Annotations THE HEADLINE: A really, really long poem about the awesomeness of nature – Part 3 And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought, With many recognitions dim and faint, And somewhat of a sad perplexity, The picture of the mind revives again: While here I stand, not only with the sense Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts That in this moment there is life and food For future years. And so I dare to hope, Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first I came among these hills; when like a roe I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, Wherever nature led: more like a man Flying from something that he dreads, than one Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days And their glad animal movements all gone by) To me was all in all.—I cannot paint What then I was. The sounding cataract Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock, The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, Their colours and their forms, were then to me An appetite; a feeling and a love, That had no need of a remoter charm, By thought supplied, not any interest Unborrowed from the eye. Preview
  41. 41. 41SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS The big idea Memories fade and when that happens we must return to nature to refresh and revive ourselves. When we contemplate the beauty of nature, we become spiritual – if we do not think about nature, we are like animals. Poem analysis: Ideas Techniques This section of the poem focuses upon the thoughts and memories of the poet: because he has become separated from the natural landscape, his memories are “dim and faint” and he is confused and “perplexed”. As a young man, he often returned to the landscape of his youth – where he “bounded” like a “roe” (a deer) through the landscape. This animalistic behaviour of his youth meant he lacked the reverence for the beauty of nature that separates humans from animals. The difference between the poet as a man and the poet as a boy is reinforced by the caesura that breaks the line “To me was all in all.—I cannot paint”: the em dash of this line emphasises the vast difference between who he was and who he is now. The tired and faded memories of the older man in the first lines of this vignette stand in stark contrast to the visceral and physical movements of the younger man, but neither image is of a contented and fulfilled man – the older man is confused by his time in towns or cities and the younger man does not appreciate the full and vital beauty of nature. Preview
  42. 42. 42 raptures: extreme happiness abundant: in a large amount recompense: the reward or payment for doing something ample: there is enough of something chasten: make someone feel bad for something they’ve done elevated: lift up sublime: something that is wonderful and affects you deeply interfused: when something is blended in with other things impels: when something forces an action to occur Insights Annotations THE HEADLINE: A really, really long poem about the awesomeness of nature – Part 4  —That time is past, And all its aching joys are now no more, And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts Have followed; for such loss, I would believe, Abundant recompense. For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes The still sad music of humanity, Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power To chasten and subdue.—And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man: A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods And mountains; and of all that we behold From this green earth; of all the mighty world Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create, And what perceive; well pleased to recognise In nature and the language of the sense The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul Of all my moral being. Preview
  43. 43. 43SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS The big idea The poet is no longer a young man full of animal passions; he has become an old man who is a lover of nature, and who has come to see nature as the ultimate moral compass. Poem analysis: Ideas Techniques The first few lines of this vignette describe youthfulness as an illness – with “aching joys” and “dizzy raptures” – and it is clear that the poet is thankful to have left these years behind. He believes that the loss of youth is more than made up for by the increased understanding of the wonder of nature that has come with age. To reinforce the idea that nature is wonderful, Wordsworth describes the sheer size and capacity of the natural world, which encompasses “the light of setting suns”, the oceans and the “living air”. Most importantly, nature has a spirit that impels “all thinking things”. Here, Wordsworth is crediting the natural world with his intellect and thought, linking the two together as objects of wonder. To further this idea, he links what the senses can perceive of the “mighty world” with how the world inspires and directs his mind. He highlights two of his senses – the “eye, and ear” – and echoes these alliterative two senses with the alliteration of “guide, the guardian” to emphasise how nature is as important to who he is as his senses are. Without nature, he feels, he could not be the man he is. Preview
  44. 44. 44 perchance: perhaps genial: friendly decay: rot dreary: depressing prevail: overcome, defeat Insights Annotations THE HEADLINE: A really, really long poem about the awesomeness of nature – Part 5 Nor perchance, If I were not thus taught, should I the more Suffer my genial spirits to decay: For thou art with me here upon the banks Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend, My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart, and read My former pleasures in the shooting lights Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while May I behold in thee what I was once, My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make, Knowing that Nature never did betray The heart that loved her; ‘tis her privilege, Through all the years of this our life, to lead From joy to joy: for she can so inform The mind that is within us, so impress With quietness and beauty, and so feed With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues, Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all The dreary intercourse of daily life, Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold Is full of blessings. Preview
  45. 45. 45SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS The big idea Wordsworth used to have fantastic chats here with his sister, Dorothy, who was a great listener. But nature is also a great listener. And the great thing about nature is that she doesn’t care what nasty people say, she is so far above all of that petty stuff. Poem analysis: Ideas Techniques Briefly, Wordsworth begins to directly address his absent sister Dorothy, calling her his “dearest Friend” – an idea that is so important to the poet he repeats it on the next line – and his “dear, dear Sister”. He also remembers the important conversations he had with his sister, when he spoke “the language” of his feelings and she responded with the kind of wisdom that nature itself has, because of her “wild eyes”. In fact, being back in this location is close to having a conversation with his beloved sister, as he feels that this scene has been a silent witness to their relationship. The repetition of the word “dear” reinforces how Wordsworth cherishes his sibling, but also how intimately close he feels towards her when in this location. After addressing his sister, Wordsworth personifies the natural world in the second half of this segment, commending the natural world for being far above the petty thoughts of people. He even describes nature as inspiring “lofty thoughts” that are far superior to the “rash judgements” and “sneers of selfish men”, not to mention the “dreary intercourse” that most people have. In fact, it seems that nature, as personified and celebrated by Wordsworth, is a far better companion than most people are. Preview
  46. 46. 46 solitary: lonely ecstasies: things to be extremely happy about sober: sensible, serious exhortations: emotional request perchance: perhaps hither: here zeal: great enthusiasm pastoral: rural Insights Annotations THE HEADLINE: A really, really long poem about the awesomeness of nature – Part 6 Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk; And let the misty mountain-winds be free To blow against thee: and, in after years, When these wild ecstasies shall be matured Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms, Thy memory be as a dwelling-place For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then, If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts Of tender joy wilt thou remember me, And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance— If I should be where I no more can hear Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams Of past existence—wilt thou then forget That on the banks of this delightful stream We stood together; and that I, so long A worshipper of Nature, hither came Unwearied in that service: rather say With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget, That after many wanderings, many years Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, And this green pastoral landscape, were to me More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake! Preview
  47. 47. 47SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS The big idea Even though Wordsworth and his sister are taking their walks alone these days, every time they come to this particular location, they should think about the great times they shared with nature here. Poem analysis: Ideas Techniques The poet finally moves from remembering the past to considering the future and the “after years” that he and his sister might have. He invites his sister to enjoy the last, lonely moments with nature, when the wind might fill her with “wild ecstasies”, before she matures into the “sober pleasure” of old age. When she is no longer physically capable of long walks in the wilderness, her mind will become more important, so important that it can be described as a “mansion” of memories that will metaphorically support her through “solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief”. Fortunately for Dorothy, thoughts of the poet will cheer her up, because she will remember him with “tender joy”. The extremities of her happiness at the thought of Wordsworth are further emphasised by the exclamation point that forms the caesura in the following line – this punctuation underscoring how his encouragements or “exhortations” are surprisingly delightful. He finishes his poem by reassuring his sister that this particular part of the landscape is really only important to him because of the memories he has of them sharing this “green pastoral landscape” with each other. Preview
  48. 48. 48 NOW IT'S YOUR TURNNOW IT'S YOUR TURNNOW IT'S YOUR TURN Thinking and Reading activity: As he does in ‘To the cuckoo’, here Wordsworth explores what nature means to him at different points in his life. Look at the three phases of his life below and Wordsworth’s description of what natures means in each of these phases. In the right-hand column, write your own analysis of what this means, and include a short quote. Quotes This means Before “when first I came among these hills; when like a roe I bounded o’er the mountains” “The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, Their colours and their forms, were then to me An appetite; a feeling and a love, That had no need of a remoter charm, By thought supplied, not any interest Unborrowed from the eye.” As a young man, nature was… Now “For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth; but… Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused” In the present, nature is… Later “While here I stand, not only with the sense Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts That in this moment there is life and food For future years.” “in after years, … Thy memory be as a dwelling-place For all sweet sounds and harmonies” In the future, nature will provide… To think about how Wordsworth explores similar and different ideas of nature in his poems, compare what nature (in the form of a cuckoo) means to Wordsworth at each stage of his life in ‘To the cuckoo’ and ‘Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey’ by noting down similarities or differences in this chart: Preview
  49. 49. 49SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS ‘To the cuckoo’ ‘Tintern Abbey’ As a child/young man Now as an adult In the future Wordsworth uses a range of images throughout ‘Tintern Abbey’. However, the two images he returns to most often are images of tranquillity and the heart. Using the words below, annotate the sections of the poem that feature heart and tranquillity images. Use these sentence starters to help with your annotations: Tranquillity represents… Tranquillity provides… The heart is the emblem of… Heart Tranquillity Truth Emotion Essence Essential Soul Life force Spiritual being Peace Relaxation Meaning Focus Calm Harmony Balanced Preview
  50. 50. 50 NOW IT'S YOUR TURNNOW IT'S YOUR TURN Writing activity: Now you’ve studied a set of poems about the key idea of celebrating nature, you can practise writing in more detail about the poems. Let’s have a go responding to a basic essay topic about Wordsworth: Wordsworth’s poems demonstrate that nature provides meaning to all stages of our life. Below is an example paragraph that responds to this essay topic by focusing on how nature provides meaning to his childhood. The example paragraph also demonstrates some of the essential analytic skills you need to develop in writing about Wordsworth’s poems: • Elaborating on what ideas mean • Inserting quotes to demonstrate ideas • Comparing how an idea is represented in different poems Read through the example paragraph and pay attention to how it’s been structured – you’ll write your own paragraph following this structure: Topic sentence In his collection of poetry, Wordsworth celebrates the energising effect of the natural world on his mind and body as a young person. Explanation of terms He believes that nature was a place of exploration and intense physical delight for him as a child. Quote that demonstrates idea In ‘Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey’, the poet refers to the delight of his “boyish days” when he exercised in the natural landscape. Analysis that links to topic In his memory, nature has created a safe space for physical exhilaration and primal pleasures. Image or technique to demonstrate idea In fact, so intense was his boyhood experience, that when he sums it up with “all in all”, he separates his childish self from his adult self with a caesura break in the middle of the line. The em dash of this line emphasises the vast difference between who he was and who he is now. Analysis that links to topic Although there is a great difference between Wordsworth as a man and who he was as a boy, at each stage of his life, this natural scene has helped him to understand himself. Preview
  51. 51. 51SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Link to other poem The boyish delight in nature Wordsworth describes in ‘Tintern Abbey’ is echoed in ‘To the Cuckoo’, where Wordsworth remembers roving “through the woods and on the green” in his “schoolboy days”, just to find the elusive cuckoo whose song he can hear. To underline his connection with nature, Wordsworth describes his search for the cuckoo as “a hope, a love”, highlighting how his childish emotions and dreams are intrinsically linked to the natural world. Concluding analysis that links to topic Wordsworth’s commemoration of these early, simple memories underscores just how vital the landscape was to his younger self. Now it’s time for you to write your own paragraph. Below are two topic sentences that focus on how nature connects to other stages of life in Wordsworth’s poems. Pick one to start a paragraph. However, Wordsworth’s poetry demonstrates that adulthood brings a more refined, intellectual relationship with nature. In contrast to the immediate, primal pleasure nature offers in childhood, Wordsworth presents nature as offering long-lasting sustenance in the future as a person ages. Before writing your paragraph, plan what you will say. Fill in this table, starting with yourtopic sentence. For the second row, consider what the key words in the topic sentence mean and provide more expla- nation. After that, identify quotes and examples you can use from ‘Tintern Abbey’ and other poems. Topic sentence Explanation of terms Quote that demonstrates idea Analysis that links to topic Image or technique to demonstrate idea Analysis that links to topic Link to other poem Concluding analysis that links to topic Preview
  52. 52. 52 NOW IT'S YOUR TURN Preview
  54. 54. 54 In this poem, Wordsworth explores how sleep can shut our spirit off from the worries of life. He repeatedly uses the pronoun ‘She’ throughout the poem and this could refer to a particular woman or even sleep itself. What to watch out for: THE HEADLINE: Sleep great cure for being awake Insights Annotations A slumber did my spirit seal A slumber did my spirit seal; I had no human fears: She seemed a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years. No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees; Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course, With rocks, and stones, and trees. slumber: sleep seal: close, shut diurnal: daily, cyclic Preview
  55. 55. 55SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: In this very simple lyric poem of two rhymed stanzas, Wordsworth draws an analogy between sleep and death. Each stanza consists of just one sentence – a single idea that has different sub-ideas associated with it. Stanza 1: Ideas Techniques The opening stanza focuses on sleep and its importance in our lives. In the second line, Wordsworth describes the effect of this rest – it removes him from the “fears” that plague him while he is awake. Sleep is something that removes emotions and ageing from the human experience. As such, the reader can see that sleep is a restorative and necessary process, keeping us safe from the more confronting aspects of life. The susurration of the ’s’ sounds whispers through the first line, creating a sense of hush that readers would easily associate with rest: “A slumber did my spirit seal” The inhuman nature of sleep is further emphasised by the rhyme that links “human fears” with “earthly years”. However, In the second half of this stanza, sleep is partially personified as a woman – “She” – but she has no other human attributes, and cannot “feel”, much as the poet himself does not feel while he is asleep. Stanza 2: Ideas Techniques However, this separation from life reminds Wordsworth of death and, in the second stanza, he shifts the focus of the poem from the disembodied concept of sleep to the imagined death of a young woman who no longer has “motion” or “force” and has been removed from the sensory perception of life. Wordsworth suggests that life and death are an essential part of the “earth’s diurnal course”, just as wakefulness and sleep are a part of humans’ diurnal rhythm. The lifelessness of the imagined young woman is further emphasised by the heavy, stopped rhythm of the final line that pictures other inanimate natural elements: rocks, stones, trees. Preview
  56. 56. 56 NOW IT'S YOUR TURNNOW IT'S YOUR TURN Thinking and reading activity: The interpretation of the poem that is provided above is only one possible interpretation of the words you can read. Many analysts have suggested that this poem is written to ‘Lucy’ an imaginary woman who features in other Wordsworth poems. In Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy poems’, he draws upon one of the weirder elements of Romantic thinking: that women (or men) who die young embody perfect beauty that will be untouched by time. Re-read the poem, this time mentally substituting the name ‘Lucy’ for the pronoun ‘she’ every time you read it. How does this change your understanding of the poem? But what if the poem is not about Lucy at all? Wordsworth himself never explicitly said that this was a ‘Lucy poem’, so it’s possible that the critics just got this wrong in their efforts to say something clever. What if this is just a poem about how important sleep is to the human spirit? After all, if we don’t sleep, our brains stop working and we can become psychotic. It’s possible that Wordsworth’s poem is simply about the natural process of sleep, and we all know how important natural processes are to this poet. Now re-read the poem and mentally substitute the word ‘sleep’ for the pronoun ‘she’ every time you read it. How does this change your understanding of the poem? Which reading do you prefer? Writing activity: An important part of poetry analysis is to label the ideas you are discussing and analysing in a detailed and thoughtful way. Below are two examples – a poor one and good one – that label an idea in ‘A slumber did my spirit seal’: Poor example In ‘A slumber did my spirit seal’, Wordsworth explores the power of sleep. Good example In ‘A slumber did my spirit seal’, Wordsworth explores the restorative power of sleep. The poor example only provides a general label for the idea of ‘power of sleep’. The key to the good example is that it more specifically labels the idea by adding the description ‘restorative’. Now it’s your turn. Following the model of the above good example sentence, write two sentences that more specifically label the power of sleep in Wordsworth’s poem: More specific description General idea protective cocooning curative liberating cyclical vital power of sleep nature of sleep capacity of sleep Preview
  57. 57. 57SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Now let’s look at some more detailed sentences: In ‘A slumber did my spirit seal’, Wordsworth illustrates the restorative capacity of sleep to protect against dispiriting anxieties of life. OR In ‘A slumber…’, Wordsworth creates an analogy between the cyclical nature of sleep and wakeful- ness to the everyday reality of death It’s your turn. Following the models above, write two sentences that specifically label and compare different ideas in Wordsworth’s poem: undeniability inescapability universality of death crippling debilitating bleak anxieties of life Preview
  58. 58. 58 Insights Annotations This is a ballad which means the poem tells a story and it’s this: as he rides his horse to visit his lover, Wordsworth is overcome with dread that his lover might be dead… or that she’s secretly watched the next episode of that Netflix show they both like. What to watch out for: THE HEADLINE: When you stop and think about it, life’s scary because someone you love could die Strange fits of passion I have known Strange fits of passion I have known: And I will dare to tell, But in the Lover's ear alone, What once to me befell. When she I loved looked every day, Fresh as a rose in June, I to her cottage bent my way, Beneath the evening Moon. Upon the Moon I fixed my eye, All over the wide lea: With quickening pace my horse drew nigh Those paths so dear to me. And now we reached the orchard plot; And, as we climbed the hill, The sinking moon to Lucy’s cot Came near, and nearer still. In one of those sweet dreams I slept, Kind Nature's gentlest boon! And, all the while, my eyes I kept On the descending Moon. My Horse moved on; hoof after hoof He raised, and never stopped: When down behind the cottage roof At once the bright Moon dropped. What fond and wayward thoughts will slide Into a Lover's head— “O mercy! to myself I cried, “If Lucy should be dead!” fit: uncontrollable emotional outburst befell: happened fixed: stared at lea: a field quickening: getting faster; the first feelings of a baby’s movements inside a mother nigh: near boon: something that makes life better or easier Preview
  59. 59. 59SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: This poem is a ballad about a man riding on horseback to meet his girlfriend and the thoughts that he has on the way there. One of the weirdest and most disturbing thoughts is that his Lucy has died, and it is this gloomy thought that concludes the poem. Stanza 1: Ideas Techniques The opening stanza establishes the poet’s message and presages the disturbing thoughts that end the poem. Wordsworth is admitting to odd and unusual emotions, but they are the sorts of beliefs that only another person in love could understand, so he is reluctant to “dare to tell” anyone who is not a “Lover”. The privacy of these thoughts and feelings is highlighted by the rhyme of “known” and “alone”; the poet is clearly describing some of his most intimate “passions”. Stanza 2: Ideas Techniques In the second stanza, Wordsworth describes the object of his love in a fairly traditional manner – she is like “a rose in June”, and we know that she is young because he describes her as “fresh”. He then describes how he set off to visit her at “her cottage” one evening. The story he is about to tell us in this ballad is of a night “when” she was young and beautiful, so this early description of Lucy juxtaposes grimly with his later fears for her death and highlights just how “strange” and aberrant his feelings are. The rhyme of “June” and “moon” also underscores the contrast of Lucy’s youth with Wordsworth’s dread of her inevitable death. While she is like the flower of summer (remember, June in the northern hemisphere is in summer), he is moving through the night- time, traditionally associated with death. The big idea Wordsworth explores how death is inevitable and how this realisation can strike us and fill us with dread that those we love will die. Preview
  60. 60. 60 Stanza 3: Ideas Techniques In the third stanza, the poet describes his journey under the light of the moon. To begin with, he is travelling across a “wide lea” – a field that is expansive and open, but as he approaches the cottage, this feeling of freedom shifts. The third line of this stanza – “With quickening pace my horse drew nigh” – includes an extra ninth syllable rather than the usual eight. This irregular length represents the “quickening” change of pace of the horse and the change in mood of the poem. Stanza 4: Ideas Techniques He moves into an orchard in the fourth stanza, where the trees must crowd him overhead, and he and his horse begin to exert themselves as they climb “the hill”. Here, in this confined space, as he and his horse begin to feel the effort of their journey, the moon, which earlier served as a guide seems to be “sinking”. And not only is the moon getting lower but, to the tired poet’s eyes, it appears to be getting “near, and nearer” to his beloved Lucy’s house. The repetition of “near” and “nearer” underscores the relentless cycle of life and creates an ominous and foreboding sense of the future. Stanza 5: Ideas Techniques The fifth stanza begins to describe the thoughts of the poet: “In one” of the thoughts that cross his mind, he is home asleep and resting – a very appealing thought to the tired man. But even as this thought crosses his mind, the poet keeps his eye on “the descending moon”, focused upon finishing his journey and visiting his Lucy. The universal appeal of sleep for the weary is ironically underscored with the exclamation point after “gentlest boon!” Every reader of this poem can relate to the idea that sleep feels like a gift when people are tired. Preview
  61. 61. 61SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Stanza 6: Ideas Techniques Fortunately for the poet, the horse is continuing the journey for him in the sixth stanza – the steady movements of the horse are soothing and repetitive and echoed in “hoof after hoof”. But while the horse is constant, the moon that has guided the journey up until now has “dropped” behind the cottage and the poet is plunged into literal and metaphorical darkness. The three caesuras in this stanza further accentuate the break between the calm and lover-like thoughts that have thus far dominated the poem and presage his increasingly disordered thoughts. Stanza 6: Ideas Techniques Fortunately for the poet, the horse is continuing the journey for him in the sixth stanza – the steady movements of the horse are soothing and repetitive and echoed in “hoof after hoof”. But while the horse is constant, the moon that has guided the journey up until now has “dropped” behind the cottage and the poet is plunged into literal and metaphorical darkness. The three caesuras in this stanza further accentuate the break between the calm and lover-like thoughts that have thus far dominated the poem and presage his increasingly disordered thoughts. Stanza 7: Ideas Techniques Without the light of the moon, “wayward thoughts” come into the poet’s mind. The unexpected and grim conclusion to the poet’s journey – that Lucy could be “dead” – is both poignant and serious; while love is an emotion that brings many positive feelings that are celebrated, it also ushers in the fear of loss and there is no greater fear than of losing one you love. The absurdity of Wordsworth’s thoughts is accentuated by the many exclamation points in this final stanza, but the final word of the poem is serious and final – “dead”. Preview
  62. 62. 62 NOW IT'S YOUR TURN Thinking and reading activity: In this poem, Wordsworth uses repetition to illustrate the inevitability of death. By repeatedly refer- ring to certain images, Wordsworth create a strong sense that death cannot be escaped and occurs again and again, just like the reiterated images do. Look through the poem, identify the following repeated images and use the questions to guide your thinking about the impact this repetition creates: 1. Highlight in one colour all the lines that refer to the moon. • Where in each stanza are the moon references? What feeling does the placement of these references emphasise? • What type of action is the moon doing in many of these lines? What feeling about death does this word reinforce? 2. Highlight in a different colour all the lines that refer to or describe the horse and how it walks. • Which of these words describes the motion of both the horse and the moon: inexorable a process which cannot be prevented from continuing waning decreasing gradually in size, strength or power diminishing reducing in size, importance or intensity inescapable something you cannot prevent yourself being impacted by dogged determined and stubborn • How does the walk of the horse symbolise life and death? Writing activity: As well as writing about the images in Wordsworth’s poems, you could also write about how the form of a poem contributes to our understanding of the ideas and themes it presents. In this case, the form of the poem is a ballad. Here are the conventions of ballads: • They tell a story – often about love • They are divided into stanzas of four lines (called quatrains) • Each stanza follows an ABAB rhyme scheme • The lines of each stanza usually contain four stresses; in the case of this poem, the lines alternate between a rhythm of four stresses and three stresses like in the example on the next page: Preview
  63. 63. 63SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Strange fits of pa ssion I have known da dum da dum da dum da dum And I will dare to tell da dum da dum da dum These conventions make the ballad form predictable and formulaic. Wordsworth uses the predictabil- ity of the form in ‘Strange fits of passion have I known’ to highlight the inevitability and universality of the fear of death. Here’s an example of what it would look like to link the poetic form to an idea in an analysis: The regular and alternating rhyming sequence of this ballad underscores the cyclical nature of life, illustrating that there are both moments brimming with energy and enthusiasm and times of grief, fear and sadness. Now it’s your turn. Using the words and phrases in the table below, construct your own sentences analysing how the form of the ballad is used to emphasise an idea in Wordsworth’s ‘Strange fits of passion have I known’. The regular and alternating rhyming sequence of this ballad underscores the cyclical nature of life , illustrating that there are both moments brimming with energy and enthusiasm and times of grief, fear and sadness. The familiar structure of the ballad The repetitive rhyme of the ballad The predictable rhythm of the ballad The certain and fixed character of the ballad’s rhythm represents mirrors echoes reflects parallels the certain nature of death the inevitable pattern of life and death the unalterable cycle of life , representing… , depicting… , portraying… Preview
  64. 64. 64 Insights Annotations This poem is a sonnet, which means it discusses two ideas. In the first eight lines, Wordsworth describes the grief of momentarily forgetting then remembering his lover has died. The last six lines compare this momentary lapse to the initial grief he experienced when she first died. What to watch out for: THE HEADLINE: Man has awesome story to tell lover, but remembers she’s dead Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom But Thee, deep buried in the silent Tomb, That spot which no vicissitude can find? Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind— But how could I forget thee? Through what power, Even for the least division of an hour, Have I been so beguiled as to be blind To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore, Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn, Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more; That neither present time, nor years unborn Could to my sight that heavenly face restore. vicissitude: the fluctuation of good and bad things happening beguiled: be attracted to something bore: carried forlorn: feeling alone and unhappy Preview
  65. 65. 65SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Poem analysis: In this sonnet, Wordsworth explores how simple and distinct moments in our present create echoes with the past and with the future, so that the present is never only one moment, but is a mix of our memories and our hope and fears for the future. Quatrain 1 Ideas Techniques In the first quatrain, Wordsworth describes having a feeling of intense joy then turning “to share” these emotions with someone else only to remember that this person has died. His wild joy is compared with a personified Wind, who is “impatient”, which emphasises how natural and wild the poet’s joy is. Wordsworth’s fresh and blustery joy is further epitomised by the rushing ’s’ sounds of “share the transport” in the following line. However, this present moment experienced by the poet is broken with a caesura as he remembers that the person “with whom” he wants to share this moment is no longer alive. The rhyme of “whom” and “tomb” underscores this personal connection with death. The final line of this quatrain fails to rhyme completely with the first line – “wind” and “find” assonate, rather than rhyme – and this mismatch echoes the way the poet’s emotion of joy feels out of step with his reality. The big idea Although it sounds strange, sometimes you can forget that a person you loved has died, espe- cially when you’re having a really happy moment. It’s only when you stop and think of telling that person that you remember that sharing your thoughts with them will be impossible. So, then your feeling of joy is mingled with grief, creating a weird happy-sad feeling. Preview
  66. 66. 66 Quatrain 1 Ideas Techniques The second quatrain is addressed entirely to the object of the poet’s love and the depth of feelings Wordsworth has for this person is emphasised by the repetition of “Love, faithful love”. Here, he also asks himself how he could ever have forgotten this person “Even for the least division of an hour”, emphasising that it would have had to be some strange “power” that would have made him forget. As he berates himself for this temporary lapse of memory, Wordsworth repeats a “b” sound – “Have I been so beguiled as to be blind” – as though he is poetically beating himself. sestet Ideas Techniques In his octet, the poet thinks that remembering the fact of this person’s death is “the worst pang” of sadness – except for that moment in the past when he first knew they had died. And, in this moment when he remembers that desolate past, he also remembers the fears he had of the future when, in “years unborn”, he would be unable to see his love. So, here in the sestet of the poem, there are echoes of the past which contain forethoughts of the future: within any given moment in our lives, the past and the future are an integral part of the present. The assonance between “return” and “forlorn” highlights the loneliness of the word “forlorn” – almost as though the word itself is alone because it has no rhyme; a solitariness further accentuated by the repetition of “one, one only” in line eleven. Preview
  67. 67. 67SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS NOW IT'S YOUR TURN Thinking and reading activity: One of Wordsworth’s poetic techniques that has been pointed out many times so far is the caesura. The word caesura comes from an old word meaning ‘to cut’. In a poem, a caesura is any break or pause within a line, as opposed to at the end of the line. Wordsworth uses full stops, exclamation marks, dashes, commas and semicolons in the middle of lines to create breaks with caesuras. Depending on the punctuation mark he uses, the caesuras create different effects. The chart below describes the general effect of the different punctuation Wordsworth uses for caesuras in ‘Surprised by joy’, and lists more specific vocabulary you can use to analyse its effect: Punctuation mark Vocabulary to analyse effect Dashes can illustrate a sense of distance or of things being separate jarring, clashing, grating, contrasting, removes, sudden, shifts Exclamation marks emphasise the emotion that underscores a line emphatic, resounding, forceful, underpins, striking, underlines Question marks illustrate uncertainty and self-doubt inherent in a life bewilderment, disorientation, confusion, perplexity, tumult Commas add further description to an idea, stopping the reader mid-line to reinvestigate the idea or image repeated, rethinking, emphasising To think about the caesuras Wordsworth uses in ‘Surprised by joy’, follow these steps: 1. Read through the poem again and highlight all the caesuras. Remember, you’re looking for dashes, exclamation marks, question marks and commas within a line. 2. For each caesura, write an annotation in the space provided next to the poem reflecting on its impact. Use the words from the chart above to help you think about the effect each caesura achieves. Here’s an example: Emphasises the break between his thoughts and his actions His moment of realisation is striking and punctuated by two caesuras Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom Preview
  68. 68. 68 Writing activity: Now you’ve thought about caesuras, it’s time to practise writing about them. Below is an example sentence analysing the caesura in this line: “Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind—” When Wordsworth separates “faithful love” from the rest of the line with two caesuras, he empha- sises the primary importance of love in this relationship and creates the mental space for his reader to consider the power of love. Now it’s your turn. Following the model above, analyse the effect of the caesura in this line. Use the words in the chart below to help you: “Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn” When Wordsworth…, he… separates isolated detaches removes emphasises accentuates underlines highlights Let’s look at a different way of analysing a caesura: “But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb” By splitting “thee” and “long buried” with a caesura, Wordsworth both emphasises his lover is dead and creates a sense of her being severed from the living world. Now it’s your turn. Following the model above, analyse the effect of the caesura in this line. Use the words in the chart below to help you: “That neither present time, nor years unborn” By…. Wordsworth both… and… splitting separating divorcing cleaving emphasises accentuates underlines highlights creates reveals illustrates symbolises Preview
  69. 69. 69SELECTED WORDSWORTH POEMS Notes: Preview