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A critical appreciation of “From the Prelude” by William Wordsworth

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This poem is Wordsworth’s magnum opus. It has been taken from the Prelude, Book 1 that has been taken from a larger work of his known as The Recluse. The poem was written around 1789-’99. This was the same time that ‘Romanticism” or the ‘Romantic Revival’ came into being. The poets of this period emphasized on emotions, they explored the relationship between Nature and human life, they believed in the power of the imagination and experimented with new ideas and concepts. They believed in originality.

William Wordsworth was a pantheist and he believed that everything was a manifestation of Nature. His personality and poetry were deeply influenced by his love for nature. He felt that Nature is an entity in her own right, and that she had a soul, life and being of her own. Wordsworth considered Nature as his guide, philosopher, friend and mentor in life.

The language used in the poem is simple and clear so that everyone can understand it. The poet uses an oxymoron in describing the joy of stealing the boat, the joy of doing something wrong when he takes “troubled pleasure”. In the line” my boat went heaving through the water like a swan ” gives the image of the boat being graceful by the use of a simile.

The poem starts off as a pleasurable excursion with a picturesque and uplifting setting, it seems somewhat surreal. But, with the approach towards the crag the mood changes to something gloomy, haunting and formidable. The change of the mood is seen when Wordsworth describes the boat as an “elfin pinnace” and then goes on to describe the boat as his “bark” giving the idea of something that has lost its lustre.

In the scene where he steals the boat, Wordsworth describes the bold reckless attitude of his youth, where he took “troubled pleasure” and “proud” delight in the mischievousness of his actions. However, as Wordsworth approaches the crag, this emotion changes dramatically as the crag “like a living thing strode after me”. This occurrence makes a great impact on him as he changes from feelings of ecstasy to brooding as feelings of loneliness, darkness and “blank desertion” overtake his mind and thought process.

The “huge, peak, black and huge” intimidated him. It was a manifestation of his guilt. Nature is seen as a destructive force, which arouses feelings of guilt and fear within him. It is his conscience that comes between him and stealing the boat.

He is perplexed and confused by this unexpected reckoning from Nature, as he never seemed to view himself as a smaller part of it. He never realized that Nature was larger than his own existence and that he could learn great things from Nature. This poem shows how a passive entity like Nature can affect our lives in deep and profound ways.

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