The Prelude: Autobiographical Epic - Summary and Analysis

Also Read


      The Prelude was conceived as an autobiographical epic by William Wordsworth. It was written between 1799 and 1805. Wordsworth himself remarked that it was "a thing unprecedented in literary history that a man should talk so much about himself".

      The Prelude records the inner history of the poet. Books I and II deal with the growth of his love of Nature; in the different phases. His vivid delight in physical sensations as distinguished from the feelings they arouse is shown in the way he describes them. The Prelude which deals chiefly with Nature is a study of the imagination by which Nature is made to serve the spiritual needs of man. It was the sense of mystery or something beyond or more deeply interfused. He "felt the sentiment of being spread overall." The Prelude also records Wordsworth's acceptance of the ideals of the French Revolution, his horrors, his despair, and his recovery.

The Prelude
The Prelude

      Book XII deals with Wordsworth's recovery from the despair into which Godwinian rationalism and his disappointment in the French Revolution had plunged him. This recovery is achieved by his faith in the common man and by his belief that his mission lay in making verse "deal boldly with substantial things".

      Book XIII renews his faith in man and his mission lay in making verse "deal boldly with substantial things". Book XIII renews his faith in man and his mission of treating the humble life with imagination.

Critical Analysis

      In spite of its autobiographical and moral purpose, the artistic effect of the poem is maintained. At the beginning of the autobiographical account, the oratorical tone is abandoned and the movement of the verse becomes subtle and flexible. The effect of the words is to describe the scene as it appeared to Wordsworth as a boy and to create in the reader's mind the effect that it had on the boy's mind. After the meditative tone of the earlier lines, the verse becomes clear and loud. The Prelude has to be considered in terms of the effectiveness of communication and richness of experience. The success of The Prelude depends on genuine experience communicated with the sureness and certitude of an artist.

Previous Post Next Post