Past, Present & Future in The Prelude

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      The Prelude, like many of Wordsworth’s poems, grows out of his memories based on childhood experiences. In Book I Line. 620-625 he says that his hope has been to fetch “Invigorating thoughts from former years” in order to “fix the wavering balance of my mind”. He looks into the past experience for a power to spur him on “in manhood now mature, “To honorable toil”.

      The Prelude records the growth of a mind. In the development of his mind, Wordsworth created a great deal to Nature’s influence. Nature affords several experiences to a child evoking the emotions of pleasure and fear. Wordsworth believed in the free exercise of childhood emotion, for only such lack of inhibition would allow the child to gain maturity. The images of childhood experience bathing and basking in the sun, hanging on precariously to a rock above a raven’s nest or stealing a boat—remain with us all our lives. They serve, Wordsworth felt, to ennoble the emotions they evoke. The beauty of Nature may evoke awe and wonder (what Wordsworth implies by “fear”) and thus may discipline the mind.

      The reminiscence of childhood experiences can comfort ambient troubles. This is an idea which runs throughout Wordsworth’s writings. As Wordsworth has stated in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, his poetry takes its origin “from emotion recollected in tranquility”. It was not his habit, as he says in Book I of The Prelude, make
A present joy the matter of a song.

      The Prelude is a deliberate cultivation of memories in order that they may become permanent:

—Unfading recollection! at this hour
The heart is almost mine with which I felt.

      Tintern Abbey, too, points out the importance of such recollections in bringing solace to the mind. In The Prelude, as in all his poetry, Wordsworth was:

.....loth to quit
Those recollected hours that have the charm
Of visionary things....

      The various incidents evoking a pleasurable or fearful response to nature’s beauty—robbing bird snares, or stealing boats or skating or boating—have a great formative value for Wordsworth. Each episode is vividly realized in the poem. But in their realization in poetry, comes the ordering and artistic control of the poet. The skating episode, for instance, is an experience of tumultuous excitement, and yet precisely controlled, verbally given.

      Wordsworth integrates the past and the present. The first Book of The Prelude gives us the memories through the medium of pondered and poetic maturity. “Often,” writes Wordsworth, “do I seem two consciousness.” One consciousness is placed in the past. One is in the present. But both belong to the same unitary person—the poet. In childhood, one knew of things in a certain way; in older years the same thing can be experienced in another way—a more intellectualized way. The pastoral scene and its accompanying emotions, when recollected in retrospect, lead to a “serene and blessed mood.”

University Questions

“In The Prelude, the events of Wordsworth’s life are presented not as they seemed to him at the time they occurred but interpreted in tranquillity and shaped into an artistic pattern” Discuss.
“The poem (The Prelude) is the reinterpretation and representation of the past in the present for the future” Elaborate.

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