Growth of Human Mind in Wordsworth Poetry

Also Read

      Wordsworth’s poems are often concerned with the theme of human growth. The poet wishes to show how the human mind develops through sensory experiences and reflection. The descriptions of natural scenes are not indulged in for themselves, but for what man’s mind can learn through the stimuli they offered. The towering rocks, the damp echoing crags, the stationary blast of waterfalls and the open blue sky of The Simplon Pass speak of the co-existence of tumult and peace, which in turn, reveal the presence of an eternal spirit behind all objects in the universe.

      Tintern Abbey records the different stages of development in the attitude of the poet towards nature. The Immortality Ode similarly records two different attitudes to Nature. The Elegiac Stanzas again present a growth or development of mind and response. It is as if in all these poems, two widely separated periods of time are juxtaposed in order to make one conscious of the development that has taken place. In Tintern Abbey, the light in the eyes of his sister seems to reflect for the poet the very state of mind which he had experienced five years ago at the same scene: “I behold in thee what I was once.” The sense of time having passed and brought about changes is obvious in the Immortality Ode.

      As these stages in development take place, inevitably enough there is a sense of loss felt for the previous stage. The boyhood animal spirit and childhood purity of joy have to be given up. The sense of sadness is inevitable. The poet cannot help lamenting over what once there was, the powers he once had, the responses he could once feel. The elegiac tone penetrates much of Wordsworth’s work. He realizes that,

That time is past,
And all its acting joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures.
(Tintern Abbey)

He asks with haunting wistfulness:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
(Immortality Ode)

He admits.
A power is gone, which nothing can restore.
(Elegiac Stanzas)

      Once his response to Nature would have been to paint her, not as she was, but adding that gleam, “the light that never was, on sea or land”; but not so anymore. But the tone of lamentation is not the sum-total of the poems. In each poem, the lamentation for a power lost or response denied is matched with joyful gratitude for a compensating power. The pure innocent joy of childhood in Nature may be lost; but there is a gain in the “philosophical mind”. Consciousness of human suffering, the “still sad music of humanity”, the sober thought which now colors the poet’s eye is “abundant recompense”, for it speaks of the “human heart by which we live, its tenderness, its joys and fears.”

      She was a Phantom of Delight records the stages in his response to his wife’s nature. If she was a phantom of delight when she first gleamed upon the poet’s sight, she is now even more—a perfect woman, nobly planned, and yet a spirit still “with something of an angel light”.

      Conclusion: There is regret for things lost: a vision of immortality in youth, an absolute sense of Nature’s beneficence, an unchartered freedom, or the ‘phantom of delight’ ones’s wife was when first encountered. At the same time, there is an acceptance, not only without hesitation or sentimental self-pity, but with positive joy, those substitutes which come for the early raptures.

University Questions

“Regret, a certain kind of lamentation, does battle with joy a certain kind of paean for the blessings of this life, and the joy tends on the whole, to win out.” Elucidate with reference to the poems you have read.
Comment on Wordsworth’s poetry is the light of the statement: “An elegiac tone underlines or penetrates so much of the work of this lyricist of human growth.”

Previous Post Next Post