The Prelude: Book 1 Line by Line - Summary & Analysis

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      Lines: 1 to 30: This soft and mild breeze is a divine gift to make me happy. It is a holy visitor that caresses my cheek; and while doing so it seems to be aware to some extent of the joy it brings for me from the blue sky and the green fields. Whatever may be its purpose, this mild breeze cannot be more cheering or refreshing to anybody else. I have just escaped from that vast city of London. I had to live and suffer there for a long time as an unhappy resident. I am at liberty now and as free as a bird, to settle down wherever I like. What spot is going to welcome me to make my place of residence? In what valley shall I find a shelter for me? Under which grove shall I set up my home? Which will be the clear stream to soothe me into rest and sleep?

      I have the open and wide world lying before me. With a heart full of joy I look around myself a heart that is not at all afraid of its newly acquired liberty. I can never miss my way even if I choose a sailing cloud to be my guide. Once again I can breathe freely. Lofty ideas and exalted flights of imagination come thick and crowding in my mind. My mind is now relieved of the burden of its unnatural self and the sense of deep discontentment that lay on my soul like a heavy load; and all these were alien to me and never inherent in my being. I can now look forward to long months of peace, comfort and uninterrupted happiness, without knowing if our future life can, at all, fulfill such great expectations. Which direction shall I take? Shall I follow a regular road or a pathway, or move on through a pathless field to walk up or down a hill? Will the course to be followed by me be indicated by some chance object floating on the surface of the river?

      Lines: 31 to 45: Freedom is, no doubt, dear to me but even this freedom would be of no use if it is not accompanied by a greater gift that renders my joy sacred.

      It seemed to me that, when the sweet heavenly breeze was gently moving over my body, there arose within me a similar breeze of poetic inspiration. In the beginning, it moved softly to inspire me with poetic zeal; but it has now grown into a tempest, having so much of superfluous energy that it is causing trouble to its own source. I am thankful to both of these, the external and the internal breeze and to their pleasant powers. Both of them have combined to bring about a thaw in the long-continued frost (in the external world as in poet’s mind). Now they bring with them a bright promise to herald spring and also great hope for days of creative activity. The swiftly flying time will urge him on to poetic creations. It will really be a period of pleasant leisure but not without deep philosophical meditations and not without the high and regular service of writing poetry of a lofty and sublime order-poems of prayer that are in tune with hours of the morning and evening.

      Lines: 45-58: O my friend (Coleridge)! I have, so far, not been in the habit of turning an immediate joy into a subject for writing a poem. I have only expressed the deepest feelings of the heart in harmonious verses that could never be forgotten, and so are recorded here. Addressing the open fields, I predicted like a prophet. Verses came to me naturally and effortlessly, as if to enrobe with a priestly or spiritual garb a specially chosen and revitalized spirit which was to compose poetry of deep religious or spiritual exaltation. I was cheered up by my own voice and, more than that, by the internal echo of the imperfect sound of my voice. I listened to both these voices (my voice and the mind’s echo to this voice) and drew from both an optimistic confidence about the shape of things to come.

      Lines: 59-100: I was quite satisfied and wanted to give a breathing space to my creative urge for writing poetry for a while. I moved on with brisk and eager steps. At length, I found a green shady place where I sat down under a tree and willingly relaxed my thoughts for some time settling into a gentle mood of calm and happiness.

      It was a calm and serene day of autumn. For the last two hours, the sun had been going down towards the west and was giving out the desired degree of warmth. It was a day with silvery clouds and the grass was gleaming under the light of the sun. There was absolute calm and silence in the grove that gave shelter to others and was also sheltered by the tall trees around. So many thoughts were entertained by me for the choice of a place but they were ultimately discarded. Finally, a known valley (Race-down) was selected and I began to move on. I decided not to stop or take rest till I reached the very door of a cottage which, it seemed to me, I had seen before. This place with the cottage seemed to me more beautiful than any other place that I could remember. While I gazed upon that scene of my imagination with increasing love, some divine or nobler power than fancy spoke with assurance to my soul that I would begin some exalted work of undying fame at that place and perhaps would also be able to accomplish that great task there. Thus, for a long time, I was absorbed in my thoughts without losing sight of the subjects of my musings, except when an acorn, freed from its cup, fell clown rustling through the dry leaves amid the grove of majestic oak trees here and there or all of a sudden dropped to the bare ground startling me out of my deep thought. I did not rise from the soft grassy place where I settled down till the sun had almost touched the horizon. Then I threw a backward glance upon the rising city smoke curling up like a column of cloud. It seemed to have acquired a rural charm because of the distance. I felt, as enthusiastic as one who runs away from duty or as one who runs away from danger. But I was also as determined as a pilgrim to take the road to the valley chosen by me, although I had very little equipment at that time except what I had got with me, as it were by chance. It was a lovely evening and my soul once more measured its own power and ability; it was not without thoughts or inspiration that seemed to play upon my soul as wind on the Aeolian harp. But soon it was clear that my soul had been deceived as it failed to respond to the wind of inspiration to produce a harmonious pattern; and so the notes grew weaker and fainter and finally died away. And then there was absolute silence. Let it be so. Why should the poet think of anything except immediate benefit?

      Lines: 101-131: So, like a laborer setting out for home after the day’s toil, I moved on beneath the setting sun that shed a soft and gentle light on all objects. I had no desire at all to sacrifice the joys of rest and pleasure of that time to undertake some hard task and work like a slave. There is no need of using many words to describe my condition. I moved on leisurely and after three days of pleasant journey, I reached my chosen place of shelter. I refrain from telling about the kind of life I began to live. I was quite interested in common things and the endless store of things, which were rare or seemed to be rare. I found them all around me in that locality. I congratulated myself for being able to live a life in that way. From morning to night my heart was full of joy and tranquility without any break. But very soon I felt a keen desire to prepare myself for some fixed project or plan such as reading or thinking. I should either gather a new store of knowledge or rescue my old stores of knowledge from being forgotten by taking timely action. With that, still loftier hopes arose in my heart. I thought that I might give poetic or visible expression to some vague fancies and longings, that were drifting about aimlessly in my mind for many years and also hoped that I might, in a sober manner, ascribe to such fancies and notions all the feelings which had been disturbing my mind. Those hopes failed to get any encouragement. Poetic inspiration comes to me from the east (the source of poetic Muse) with the rising of the sun, but it fades into nothingness and seems to make fun of me as the light of hope does not brighten up at all. Remembering the bold promises of the past, I wish to tackle some exalted theme with gladness, I meet with absolute failure. In whichever direction, my mind turns it faces fresh obstacles from day to day.

      Line: 132-145: Now I shall be satisfied if I give up my lofty hopes for the present to engage myself with some modest type of work (that is simpler and shorter type of poems). But my dear friend, the poet may be in a passion when he is unable to control himself and has also fits of poetic frenzy when he is really neither ill nor well. At such times there is nothing to agitate him except his own uncontrolled passions. The poet’s mind is mightily pleased as long as it is lost in deep meditation upon some chosen subject, just like the mother bird sitting dutifully on its eggs. But the poet cannot stick to that end for long. He is driven by some strung urge from within to search the groves (of poetry) just as the mother-dove is, sometimes, forced to fly in quest of groves as if it were in some trouble. At present I am under the sway of such a great emotional stress. There is nothing to find fault with this. But I am blaming it only because this frenzy is lasting rather too long.

      Lines: 146-165. When as it is proper for a man who desires to prepare himself for such a difficult task (for writing a great epic), I subject myself to severe self-analysis, I find the result to be much more encouraging. In fact, I do not seem to be lacking either in the very important primary gift, creative or organic sensibility, or the power to understand universal truths, which are themselves just helping agents and mediators to the living soul to create. I am also quite aware of external resources like forms, images and so many other aids of lesser importance; and these I had to acquire with hard intellectual labor as they are very much necessary to bring name and fame to the poet. I am in quest of a suitable setting in time and place and an appropriate style and they are available in abundance; but none of them seems to be striking enough for a firm and sure choice. There are a great many names which I remember and which I can, quite confidently, call back to my mind from oblivion and make them live again in the hearts of men, now living or who will be living in the years to come.

      Line: 166-185: Sometimes my lofty power of ambition regarding the choice of a proper theme leads me to mistake a short-lived onrush of poetic inspiration as a steady source of profound, creative activity; and then I think of a subject related to Britain. Milton might have dreamt of writing an epic on such a romantic theme, but he did not accomplish it.

      Very often my mind contemplates on some gentle theme of chivalry and I think of composing pastoral poems to please the shepherds; or sometimes I feel like sitting clown, with a harp in my hand by the side of a river or a mountain where knights are relaxing and listen to solemn medieval tales of dreadful magic spells and enchantments which the brave knights faced and overcame. There I may also listen to tales of brave martial deeds, where spears and swords clashed together; and the weapons came up against one another so boldly that it seemed that they were quite aware of the accounts of glory and heroic tradition of knights engraved on the shield, and this made their struggle great and glorious. Such tales of chivalry inspired me to write a poem narrating the solemn and determined quest of opportunities by warriors of various places to right or wrong and also to pay a tribute, in a lyrical language, to the people of persevering courage, of pure truth, of firm loyalties, of never-ending enthusiasm to serve a right cause and of Christian humility lending a sacred touch to faithful love.

      Lines: 186-220: Sometimes, stirred to think of more serious subjects I would like to narrate the story of Mithridates (Roman general) who moved towards the north after his defeat and after spending a number of years in hiding reappeared as Odin and became the founder of a race which ultimately brought about the destruction of the Roman Empire. Or I would prefer to describe how the friends and followers of Sertorius, the famous Roman general, fled from Spain, found shelter in the Fortunate Islands (the Canaries in the Atlantic) and how their customs, art and their laws, given up by them in course of time, wasted away slowly and ultimately died and disappeared due to prolonged disuse in these small islands. But the spirit of liberty never died out; it remained alive in them for fifteen hundred years. When the Europeans came there with their irresistible skill and power, that spirit of freedom maintained its hold on this race of natural heroes like some deadly disease and for this they died, glorious deaths.

      Or I would relate, how, in times when despotic kings ruled, some heroic soul, never mentioned in the historical records of by-gone kings and monarchs, embraced troubles and sufferings silently for the sake of truth. Or I have a desire to narrate how that Frenchman, Dominique de Gourges as a result of meditating long and deep on the cruel and beastly deeds of those (Spaniards) who were the first to conquer the Indian Isles, voyaged alone across the sea to carry out his solemn task. His purpose was not simply to comfort the victims of persecution but to wander about like a hot and thirsty wind to bring death and destruction to the oppressors. Of l would prefer to relate how Gustavus I (King of Sweden) aspiring to free his country from Danish rule sought help to live in disguise in the mining district of Dalecarlia; or how Wallace fought for the liberty of Scotland and left his name and fame pervading his country just like wild flowers growing everywhere and how his brave deeds like invisible spirits haunted every part of the country with its towering hills, river banks, its safe retreats, provided by nature herself to inspire the inhabitants with an uncompromising urge for freedom.

      Lines: 221-269: Sometimes I feel that it would suit me better to invent a story from my own mind, much more closely related to my intense feelings and habitual thinking. The story may be consisting of diverse elements, but it must have an exalted tone. But the thin and vague structure of such a story seems to melt away due to great intensity of my poetic passion just as mist fades away touched by the rays of the rising sun. Then I feel a passionate desire arising in my soul with growing intensity to compose a lofty poem dealing with some great truth which gives strength and sustenance to our day-to-day life. Such a lofty poem of undying fame rises from the very depth of the human soul after deep meditations and is as sublime as the music of Orpheus playing on his lyre (after his return from the underworld).

      But very soon I recoil from undertaking such an arduous task and console myself with a fond hope that my advancing years will endow me with a maturer power of thinking and a deeper wisdom to compose such a great poem. In this way I pass the days with contradictory thoughts and am unable to distinguish desires from irresistible poetic urges without any definite plan for creation. I am hesitant to make a choice; and this hesitation may be due to my lack of confidence or to my desire to be very wise and cautious to run any risk; and all these bring about an endless delay. I lack in my power to discern and distinguish. I have also been misled by my own humility and fear springing from modesty, and these often serve the purpose for some sort of a cover, for a subtle kind of selfishness that has at one time wholly prevented me from exercising my poetic talents, and at some other time deceives me by intruding upon me and putting off the simplicity of style and the truth which offers itself for clear expression. Instead of suffering from these mental conflicts, it would be far better for me to roam about over the fields and village pathways deriving only sensuous enjoyment from the beauty of nature, without caring for the passage of time, abandoning, myself to purposeless thinking, to an uncensored indifference to all serious subjects and to a deliberate and purposeful enjoyment of leisure. I feel it would be far better for me to forget the words signifying enthusiasm rightful aspiration than to live with a confused and distracted mind that every hour turns cowardly, away from its task, a mind that at one moment takes courage and the very next moment feels dejected due to some vain thought acting as a deterrent to all long cherished aspirations. So I am passing my days in this unhappy condition, as either, I always find some drawback in the theme selected by me, or I feel myself so much lacking in perfection to deal with my chosen theme that I shirk away from my task, give way to dejection, lethargy and indolence, seeking an escape from the futile distractions of my mind. Thus I find myself drawing towards the grave without performing any useful deed, just like an unfaithful manager of an estate who has received a lot from his master but has not rendered any real service to him in return.

      Lines: 270-300: Was it for this distracted condition of my mind that the Derwent, fairest of all rivers, gladly mingled its soft bubbling sound with my nurse’s song and from the groves of alder trees growing on its bank, it rocky water-fall, and from its fords and shallow places sent a soothing voice to blend with my childhood dreams? O Derwent, was it for this that you, went winding through grassy meadows on which I used to cast long and steady look as a very young child, produced sweet musical sounds for long without any break to soothe and comfort me with a serenity and gentleness greater than that enjoyed by an infant, and to give me, even when living in human abodes full of fever and fret of life, an experience rather in advance, a vague anticipatory feeling of the calm and serenity which nature engenders among the hills and groves. After leaving the mountains and after receiving on its smooth surface the shadow of the towers of Cockermouth castle that still survives as a dilapidated memorial of feudal power and greatness, the bright and blue river (the Derwent) flowed on along the side of our terrace walk. The river was like a tempting playfellow to us and we loved it very dearly. Oh, as a child of five years very often I would spend the whole day of a summer bathing on a channel branching off from this river and driving a water mill. I used to take a drive into the river and back in the sun in turns throughout a summer’s day. Or at some other time I would run about swiftly in the sandy fields leaping through groves of yellow ragort abounding in flowers, Or when the rock and hill, the forests and the towering top of Skiddaw (a mountain) at a distance turned rich brown, bathed in the brilliant rays of the sun, I would stand alone beneath the sky. At such times I felt as if I had been born in the land of Red Indians and just in a playful mood had run out of my mother’s hut to play like a wild naked boy in the thunder shower.

      Lines: 301-325: My soul had an ample and a very favorable environment for the period of its early growth, and in such an atmosphere I was nursed and brought up by emotions aroused by both beauty and awe. I was much liked at Cockermouth, my birthplace and also equally favored in the beloved valley of Esthwaite to which we have shifted soon afterward. There we were given greater freedom to take part in a variety of games. Before I became a boy of ten years it was a source of great delight to wander with bird-snares hanging from my shoulder, over the high hill sides, where the woodcocks would run over the green grassy soil. This was the time when the frost and the chilly wind had sharply bitten at the last autumnal crocus growing over those high slopes. Right upto midnight I used to run quickly from one trap to another working anxiously and assiduously, and all the while the light of the moon and the stars shone over my head. I used to be absolutely alone and seemed to be disturbing the peace that reigned over the place. In the course of such nocturnal wandering a strong desire sometimes got the upper hand over my reasoning power and I used to catch hold of a bird which was trapped in a snare set by some other person. After the commission of such an unfair deed, I felt that someone with suppressed breath was following me and I also heard sounds of movement almost inaudible and also those of footsteps as quiet and silent as the grassy plot on which they moved.

      Lines: 326-339: Our activities went on unabated when spring had brought warmth to the cultivated valley, and then we moved about just like robbers in quest of high places where the mother birds were expected to build their nests. Our object in committing such a deed was, no doubt, mean and ignoble, but in the end, we did not have such feelings. Oh! When I was hanging above the nest of a raven without sufficient support, simply holding on to knots of grass and narrow cracks in the slippery rock, I felt as if the strong wind blowing with great force against the naked rock was supporting me to hold on. At such hours while I hung alone on the dangerous hill-side, the loud dry wind spoke to me in a mysterious voice; the sky also had a strange, unearthly appearance and the very clouds seemed to have some sort of mystery in their movements.

      Lines: 340-356: We human beings are, no doubt, made of dust but our immortal soul develops like melody of music harmonizing different notes. Nature possesses a mysterious and unknown kind of skill that can harmonize disagreeable and opposite elements and thus bring them together in one harmonious combination. It is really very strange that all the terrors, pains, early troubles, regrets annoyances and sense of weariness, all mixed up in my mind, should, have played such a necessary part to bring about a calm and peaceful existence for me when I act and feel nobly in a manner worthy of myself. I am all praise for this ultimate peace and serenity of my soul and also grateful to nature for all means employed by her to foster my soul.

      Sometimes her discipline was mild and gentle causing no fear and at some other time her admonitions caused some slight and gentle fear; but it was as slight and mild as the fear which is caused by the harmless light that seems to pass through clouds after opening or parting them. On some occasions Nature’s training and discipline was much more severe to suit her purpose best by creating a more tangible effect on the poet’s mind.

      Lines: 357-400: Led by the promptings of Nature, one summer evening I found a little boat tied to a willow tree within a rocky cave where it was usually tied. I immediately untied the chain and after getting into the boat pushed it away from the shore. It was an act of theft and my pleasure was mixed with anxiety. When the boat moved on there came echoing sounds (of warning) from the mountain sides. The boat left, on either side, small circles of water gleaming idly under the light of the moon till all of them were mixed up and dissolved giving way to one single track of glittering light. But now, like a person, who rows with a sense of pride in his skill to reach straight to a selected spot without any deviation, I fixed up my gaze on the peak of an uneven mountain range which formed the farthest boundary on the distant horizon. Above me, there was nothing except the great sky and the stars. My lovely boat seemed to have a fairy-like appearance. I dipped the oars vigorously into the silent lake, and as I rose up after the stroke to propel it, my boat moved ahead like a swan skimming on the surface of the lake. Just at this moment from behind that uneven range of the high hill which had so far seemed to me to be the boundary of distant horizon, a huge and black peak reared its head, as if it were a living being endowed with a will and a power of its own. I continued to row on and on over the calm lake, but slowly growing larger in stature the awful peak with its towering height seemed to stand between me and the stars. It still seemed to me that the awful shape was a living creature following me with regular steps with some fixed purpose of its own. With the oars trembling in my hand I turned my course and moved on silently over the calm surface of the lake to be back to the shelter of the willow tree. I left the boat at the place where it was harbored and went homeward in a pensive and serious mood through the grassy fields. But, for many days after I had seen that strange striking sight my mind was haunted by a vague and strange feeling that in nature there were mysterious forms of life beyond the knowledge of man. Deep darkness hung over my mind wiping out almost all previous knowledge; it may be called mere solitude or a complete vacuum in my mind. I was devoid of my impression of all previously known objects and pleasing sights like that of trees, of sea or sky, or of the colors of green fields. Only huge powerful forms and shapes whose mode of life is absolutely different from that of man, haunted my mind during the day and troubled me in my dreams at night.

      Lines: 401-424: O Wisdom and spirit of the universe, you are as eternal as human thought; you transmit life and everlasting movement to all objects and forms. It was not in vain that, from my earliest days of infancy, by day as well as by star-lit night, you took upon yourself the task of shaping an intimate relationship between the human passions in my soul and high and everlasting things of nature—and not the temporary and vulgar creations of man. Thus, by this mode of interlinking, you refined elements of my feeling and of thought and through proper control and training lent a sacred quality to both pain and fear and finally led me to recognize a grandeur, a loftiness in the beating of the human heart. Further, you never lacked in generosity in bestowing on me this companionship with the enduring objects of nature. Hence I could commune with nature in the days of November when clouds moving down the valley deepened the silence and loneliness of a scene, in the woods as noon a swell as during the calm and quiet period of summer nights, when I used to go homewards alone beneath the dark hill along the bank of the quivering lake. I could also enjoy such companionship in the open fields, both by day and by night, and all through summer season by the side of lakes and rivers.

      Lines: 425-463: And during the season of frost and snow, when after the sun-set, the cottage fires shining brightly through the gloom of the twilight were visible for miles around, I did not care to pay any heed to their calls for returning home. It was really a very happy time for all of us, but for me it was a time for ecstatic delight. The village clock struck clearly and loudly and announced the hour of six. I moved round and round feeling greatly proud and joyful like a horse wheeled not at all tired and does not care to go back to its home in the least. With iron skates fitted to our feet we played games collectively on the polished ice and moved about producing hissing sounds. We wanted to imitate all joyful woodland sports and the game of the hunters who, accompanied by their barking pack of hounds, blow their horns echoing through the woods to enjoy the thrill of chasing hares. Thus we skated and moved very fast through the cold and darkness—all of us shouting together. The steep mountains resounded, struck by the ringing sounds of our skating. The leafless trees and the ice-capped hills made a soft ringing and metallic sound, while the far-distant hills sent a distinct type of sad sound to mingle with all this great and excited noise—and this could not remain unnoticed by us. The stars in the eastern sky were shining clearly at this time and the orange color to the evening sky faded away without any trace. Many a time I used to get away from all such tumult to move into a silent bay, or I would sometimes leave the noisy crowd, look sideways playfully and chase the reflection of a star in the ice—the reflection that seemed to flee before me, but still went on shining on the smooth and mirror-like surface of the plain. Very often, when we had been whirling on the smooth plain and moving in the direction in which the wind was blowing, the dark hill sides on either side came through the darkness with a quick movement. At such times, after going round and round in circles for long I would shift my weight upon my heels and stop my whirling movements all of a sudden. But even when I had stopped my movements, the lonely rocks still seemed to be turning round and for this, the earth itself seemed to be revolving on its axis with distinct motion to complete its daily rotation. These rocks seemed to lie spread out behind me in a solemn procession; and while I stood and watched, their movements grew slower and slower till everything became absolutely quiet and peaceful like a profound sleep without dreams.

      Lines: 464-475: O spirits of Nature in the sky and on the earth! O vision of the hills! and ye souls of solitary places! It was surely some noble hope-never a low and vulgar one—that actuated you to such ways and training and discipline for my mind, when, for so many years, you possessed my mind, haunted me in this way in the midst of my boyish games in the caves, in the woods and on trees imparting characteristics of either love or fear to all such objects of nature. In this way, you made entire nature heaven with triumph and delight, with hope and fear just like the vast sea.

      Lines: 476-498: I would think myself engaged in a useful task if I continued to pursue this theme (constant communion with nature) through all the different kinds of exercise and sport to which the years with its changing and delightful seasons invited us.

      We were a noisy group of boys. Ours was the most beautiful valley under the sun, and never did the sun in the sky shine upon a group of boys richer in happiness and joy than we were; and no other group was so much worthy of the ground on which they walked as we were. With great pleasure, I could describe the woods of autumn and their bowers of hazel tree with snowy-white bunches of flowers hanging overhead and the fishing rod and line which is a true sign and symbol of the foolishness of human hopes and could also narrate how, all through the summer, the harmless and magic like attraction of the fishing-rod led us on by the side of rocks and lonely pools where the light of any star could never reach, to lonesome waterfalls among the hidden windings of mountain brooks. These memories can never be effaced from my mind. Even at this I can recapture the same ecstatic feelings with which I watched from the top of some hill on sun-lit afternoons, the paper-kite among clouds, soft like fleece, tugging at the string like a spirited horse pulling hard at its reins; or on some windy days I watched it going up from the grassy plain, flying up in the teeth of a strong wind and then suddenly plunging downwards, overpowered by the stormy wind.

      Lines: 499-543: O you humble cottages in which we used to live, you had also your own share of disciplining and molding my mind. It is beyond me to forget you as you looked so beautiful standing among the lovely and pleasant fields.

      I cannot also forget the simple and refined countenance with which you extended your homely comforts to us. You had also your own joys and inspiration to offer us. With all eagerness and without getting tired we enjoyed our games and other pleasant diversions at home, sitting by the warm peat fire in the evenings. At such times we took a pencil, and on a smooth slate, drew squares into which we scrabbled carelessly, crosses and zeroes and we puzzled our heads by scheming and struggling against one another; and all these now seem to be too humble to be narrated in verse. Or, we sat round the bare table made of snow-white fir, cherry or maple wood, forming a very close group and played Loo or Whist (games of cards) leading our cards as if they were sturdy soldiers of an army. And we never neglected or rejected them, as is usual with this world, ungratefully after they had rendered useful service, but preserved them carefully for many a later battle (game of cards). It was a shabby and soiled pack of cards and many of them had to perform the function of some other cards. Some common or ordinary cards of low rank were raised up to a new dignity by fate and made to play the role of missing kings and queens. The cards used to fall on the table with a thud.

      There were false cards representing clubs, hearts, diamonds or spades, but all looked equally soiled and shabby. These old cards, offered very cheap matter to our boyish intelligence. (Or they offered the chief subject for the boy, to exercise their intelligence.) The black knaves were thrown forcefully on the table with jeers and mocking remarks just like those received by Vulcan (Roman god of blacksmiths when he was turned out of heavan (by Zeus). Then there was the ranking ace which without its polish and brightness looked like the eclipsed moon, or there were the queens which seemed to shine faintly after losing almost all their past glory. And the kings also seemed bitter and morose as their royal faces had grown shabby. Meanwhile, rain had been falling outside continuously or a chilly, biting frost continued without any noise, but with great fury. Many a time our eager game of cards was disturbed by a loud and prolonged yelling sound from hills and meadows. This was caused by the pent-up air trying hard to free itself from under Esthwaite’s frozen surface which cracked with a roaring sound that can be compared with the howling of the wolves in groups along the gulf of Bothnic (in the Baltic sea).

      Lines: 544-558: I have, no doubt, taken enough pains to narrate how nature by a feeling or passion, whose source was purely external first, filled my heart with grand and beautiful forms and images of this earth and then made me love them all. But I should not fail to mention that I have also experienced certain other pleasures which arose from a more refined or spiritual source. During the passionate and most active period of my boyhood days, I have often enjoyed those pure and sacred sensuous pleasures. But they were so simple and so pure that they seemed to have a more refined or a spiritual touch. That serene pleasure, which if I am not mistaken, must surely belong to those early sympathies or inborn instincts which make the child’s new-bound existence harmonize with the existing earthly things of life and which in the very early years of our earthly life, make the bond of union between life and joy.

      Lines: 559-580. Definitely, I remember the time when our earth with seasonal changes and the first ten years of my life imprinted on my mind the beauty of the different seasons of the year. Even at that period of life I could be in spiritual communion, though unconsciously, with eternal beauty of the universe and thus could also derive pure sensuous pleasure by gazing at the silver mist rising up in a curling manner or at the calm and smooth surface of lakes, seas and rivers darkened by over-hanging clouds. The sands of Westmoreland, the rocks and boys of Cumberland’s rocky shores can still feel the deep feelings experienced by me in those days. They can bear witness to the fact that very often in the evening when the sea had cast off its gloomy shade of the evening and brightened up under the light of the rising moon which was noticed and welcomed by the shepherds from their huts in distant hill, how I used to stand there gazing at the scene without any such fancies or recollections as I have now. I could not remember to have seen a similar wonderful sight ever before, nor feel at that moment any special sense of peace and serenity in my soul. Yet I used to stand there and, while my mind would wander over the vast expanse of the glittering water of the sea deriving pleasure from every inch of that sight, I felt like sucking in beauty from the minutes part of the scene as a bee sucks in honey from the flowers.

      Lines: 581-612: Thus, very often in the midst of those fits of sensuous pleasures which almost always accompany a child in the course of his different activities, amid the rapturous delights, which like a tempest, infuse excitement in the blood but are very soon forgotten, even at such moments I beheld flashes of momentary visions (of divine beauty) like the sudden flashes reflected from a shield; as a result of which, the earth with all the common objects of nature communicated to me things worth remembering (of divine origin). There is no doubt that all these were often the result of chance encounters and strange accidents-like strange combination of events supposed to be done by mischievous fairies; yet they were not entirely useless. Perhaps they might impress on my mind new sights and scenes closely related with such experiences in the past. All these sights and objects seemed to be without any power to inspire me at that time and were likely to remain hidden in the subconscious until they were recollected by me at a later date when my mental powers would be quite mature, and then they would infuse inspiration and exalt my soul. And even if the sensuous pleasures faded out of my memory due to their very excess and great intensity the scenes which were a witness of my deep joys remained firmly impressed on my mind with all their essential features and were constantly visible to my mind’s eye. In this way through the solemn ministry of fear, through repeated joys and pleasures and through the force of dimly recollected emotions and feelings that reminded me of the forgotten things of the past, these bright beautiful and sublime scenes became dear to me as a matter of habit and were closely connected by some invisible bonds with my primary passions and emotions with all their different forms and changing colors. Of course, the time for realizing their profound significance was reserved for a distant date.

      Lines: 614-636: I began to narrate my story from the days of my early childhood and while doing so I hope I have not been misled by my mistaken or fond love for those forgotten days of childhood. To me, this premature venture seems to be as out of season as the planting of snowdrops in winter before the advent of spring.

      O my friend (Coleridge), I further hope that you, with all your eager sympathies for me, will never feel that I have tried to elaborate a dull story by narrating it in a feeble and foolish manner. Meanwhile, it has been my earnest hope that recollection of my childhood days might refresh my thoughts and restore the unsteady balance of my mind. I might also meet proper self-accusation, the impact of which would urge me on to greater effort to achieve something nobler. But if all such hopes prove futile and if I am unable either to understand myself or to enable you to know thoroughly the mind of your beloved friend, still I never expect any harsh judgment from you even if you find me quite unwilling to give up my thoughts about those happy memories of childhood that possesses the enchantments of a dream and about the beautiful sights and scenes of nature and the sweet feelings and excitements that take us back to the past, that seem to transform our memories of distant childhood days into a vivid and bright scene flooded by sunlight.

      I have, at least, succeeded in achieving one important object. My mind has been refreshed and reanimated. If this happy mood of mine persists I shall be able to narrate soon the story of the later years of my life. The path lies clear before me, because it is a simple theme of well-defined limits. I have selected this theme for the present and not a work of a wider scope, requiring greater intellectual power. Such a theme might have embarrassed and baffled me. Moreover, I entertain definite hopes that this labor on my part would be welcome to you, my honored friend, without fail.


(1) For I, me though.....harmonious verse. (Lines 31 to 45).

      These are the closing lines of the Preamble to Book I of The Prelude. Wordsworth is on his way from Bristol to Race-down, where the poet and his sister, Dorothy, settled down in the autumn of 1796. The poet’s heart is full of immense joy as he has been able to leave that vast city of London where he languished for a long just like ‘a discontented sojourner’. He has left behind that dusty, dirty city full of deafening din and clamor. A gentle breeze from heaven has soothed and comforted his body and mind and has chased away the gloom of despair from his soul. Gone is that burden of a cramped and artificial life, and the poet is now as free as a bird to settle down wherever he likes and to follow the vocation of his choice. But at the same time it strikes him that the newly-earned liberty will be of no avail without any creative activity.

      Then the poet feels a correspondent breeze of poetic inspiration rising up in his soul. This wind of inspiration is mild and gentle in the beginning, but slowly it grows into a tempest, into a sort of poetic frenzy. This excessive urge overwhelms the poet and almost thwarts all his creative activity. But Wordsworth is thankful to both, the external breeze as well as the wind of inspiration, and their pleasant powers. Both of them have combined to bring about a thaw in the “long-continued frost” in his soul, that is, they will soon help the poet to discard the sense of dejection and lethargy that invaded his soul during the unhappy days of his life in London. They bring with them a great promise, high hopes for days of creative activity, reminding him of the swiftly flying time and the shortness of human life. The poet is going to utilize this period of pleasant leisure by meditating on deep philosophical subjects and by writing poetry of a lofty and sublime order - poems of prayer that are in tune with hours of morning and evening. The poet’s idea of “punctual service high” reminds us of Milton’s sonnet, On his Blindness, were the poet expresses his desire to serve his Master with the One “talent” he has blessed him with.

(2) It was a splendid evening.....utter silence. (Lines 94-99).

      We know that Wordsworth was proceeding towards Race-down where the poet and his sister, Dorothy, settled down in the autumn of 1796. He was sometimes as eager as a truant or a fugitive or as earnest as a pilgrim to reach the chosen Vale of Race-down.

      On his way, it was a lovely evening when his soul once more made an attempt to measure its own power and ability to undertake a noble task. He felt within himself a creative stir and poetic thoughts came crowding into his mind. These lofty thoughts and ideas seemed to play upon his soul as the wind on the Aeolian harp. Here the Poet’s soul stands for the Aeolian harp and his poetic thoughts for Aeolus, the god of the wind in Greek mythology. So the thoughts were playing upon the harp of his soul. But soon it was evident that his soul had been deceived as it failed to respond to the wind of inspiration to create a harmonious pattern. So his thoughts and ideas, like the notes of music, grew weaker and fainter and finally died away completely. And then there was absolute silence in his soul, as there was no inkling of poetic activity anymore.

      Note: In Greek mythology, Aeolus is the wind-god and nature is his harp. Aeolian harp is a many-stringed instrument that produces musical sounds on exposure to the wind.

(3) And now it would.....lasts too long. (Lines 132 to 145).

      The poet has already told us that whenever he desired to tackle some lofty theme, “by Milton left unsung”, he faced serious obstacles and hindrances. But still he does not give way to dejection or despair. The poet makes up his mind to give up his high ambition of writing a sublime epic on some exalted theme. For the present, he wants to remain satisfied with some humbler type of poetic activity. Actually, during 1798 Wordsworth wrote some simpler poems like Cumberland Beggar, The Discharged Soldierecnd also the poems to be included in the Lyrical Ballads and Peter Bell.

      Then he tells Coleridge that the poet, like the lover, still has his moments of extreme passion and first of poetic frenzy. The poet might have in mind the famous lines from Shakespeare’s A Mid Summer Night's Dream.

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy, rolling
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.

      At such times Wordsworth is not always content with brooding or meditating on some particular theme just like the mother-dove sitting on its eggs in a pensive mood. He is rather goaded by poetic frenzy, like a dove driven by the stormy wind, to search the groves of poetry for some exalted theme. The poet is now under the sway of such an overpowering emotional stress. There is nothing to find fault in a poet for this. The poet feels a bit embarrassed as frenzy is rather continuing for too long a spell.

      These lines reflect the poet’s capacity to analyze state of mind and his great interest in psychology. This power is revealed also in many other poems. And that is why, according to Emile Legouis, poetical psychology is his triumph.

(4) This is my lot.....renders nothing back (Lines 261-269).

      Wordsworth’s great ambition was to write a sublime epic. After a process of self-examination, he discovered that he had all the necessary equipment for achieving such a grand purpose. Then he was in quest of a suitable theme for his great work and ranged over the noble and daring deeds of great national heroes, medieval knights, or of the legendary figures of mythology and ancient tales. But none of them seemed to his striking enough for a sure choice. Finally, he felt a strong urge in him to compose a philosophic poem dealing with some great or universal truth which offers strength and sustenance to our day to day existence. This lofty poem should be a sublime and highly melodious as the music of Orpheus, the great musician in Greek mythology, playing on his lyre. But he recoiled from such an arduous task, seeking consolation from the fond hope that his advancing years would endow him with maturer powers of thinking and clearer insight to compose such a great poem as will defy time’s tyrannic claim.

      Thus, the poet became a helpless prey to indecision and procrastination, to contradictory thoughts and passions. He always found some drawback in his chosen theme, or often he felt himself so much lacking in perfection that he deliberately wanted to give way to lethargy and indolence, seeking an escape from the futile distractions of his mind. Out of dejection and despair he almost reconciled himself to his fate, as he realized that he was slowly gravitating towards his grave without achieving anything grand or noble. He was just like an unfaithful manager of an estate who had received a lot from his master without rendering him any useful service in return.

      This is another typical Wordsworthian simile reminding us again of Milton’s famous sonnet, On his Blindness.

      Here again, we find Wordsworth examining the human mind from a psychological stand point or trying to analyze the working of the subconscious mind. This is why many a critic considers him to be the first English poet exploring this field.

(5) Dust as we are.....suit her aim. (Lines 340-356).

      Here we come across a few lines which are partly philosophical and partly psychological. Such thoughtful lines not only in The Prelude but in many other famous poems such as the immortality Ode, Tintern Abbey and some others, reveal lucidly the poet’s philosophy of nature and man and go a long way to establish his claim to be a philosophical poet.

      Wordsworth has already told us how he grew up in his childhood days ‘fostered alike by beauty and by fear’ amidst lovely as well as sublime surroundings of nature.

      Here the poet tells us that our physical body is destined to die but our soul is immortal. Just as the melody of music is composed by harmonizing different notes, so also our immortal soul is formed by harmonizing different and opposing elements. Nature works in a mysterious way. It is beyond our intelligence to fathom the art or workmanship with which nature combines various discordant or opposing elements into a harmonious whole.

      The poet, in the various stages of his life, has undergone experiences of worries, fear, vexation and weariness. But the most wonderful thing is that all these discordant and opposing elements were fused into a harmonious combination to foster the growth of his soul, and thus played a very useful part to enable him to attain a calm and peaceful existence. Nature’s ministry is sometimes mild and gentle and at some other times it causes slight and mild fear. It is a slight as the fear that is sometimes caused by the sudden flash of lightning that brightens up the sky. On some other occasion, Nature’s discipline was much more severe, to create a more tangible effect on his mind. The poet is very much thankful to Nature for all these means, pleasant or painful employed by her for the healthy growth of his mind and soul. He is all praise for her for the ultimate peace and serenity attained by his soul. In such passages we get a vital part of Wordsworth’s Nature—philosophy and they remind us of such famous lines as:

The girl, in rock, and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and power,
Shall feel an overseeing bower,
To kindle and restraint.

      In this passage, we find Wordsworth following the associationist or the empiricist philosophers who lay special stress on the early background and environment. According to their view, the character of a man develops during childhood and youth as a direct result of his physical experiences and the feelings of pleasure and pain from such experiences.

(6) Wisdom and spirit.....beatings of the heart. (Lines 401-414)

      In the foregoing passage Wordsworth has described that well-known boating incident which is one of the best illustrations of how poet’s soul was fostered by Nature’s ministry of fear. Here also we find an echo from Hartley’s associationist psychology that tells us that our early environment fashions the personality. Another remarkable passage is here from the pen of Wordsworth with the sublimity or an epic style. I gives us a very clear exposition of his Nature-religion.

      It begins with an apostrophe to the Wisdom and Spirit of the universe. To him this wisdom and spirit is the Soul of Nature, is as eternal as human thought and transmits life and movement to all objects and forms of this universe. It is the essence, the only reality. This idea seems to be somewhat akin to some doctrines of Vedanta and the Upanishads. The poet further tells us that this very soul of Nature took from the earliest days of infancy, upon itself, the task of shaping an intimate relationship between the human passions of his soul and the noble and everlasting objects of nature, such as lofty mountains, shining lakes and streams and the vast blue dome of the sky.

      He could be in silent communion with Nature amidst her lovely and sublime sights and scenes day in and day out. Nature purified his thoughts and passions through her ministry of both pain and fear, and as a result of this, exaltation of mind and heart took place. This enabled him to recognize a grandeur, a loftiness even in the beatings of the heart’. In short, the association of thoughts and emotions of his childhood days with the beautiful as well as the sublime objects of this universe engendered in him a profound confidence in the greatness and grandeur of his own nature.

(7) And to the combat.....departed Potentates. (Lines 516-525)

      In their humble cottages at Hawkshead Wordsworth and his playmates used to amuse themselves with various indoor games in long winter evenings. One of the interesting games was that of cards. Often they sat round a bare table forming a close group and with all boyish excitement played Loo or Whist, two of the popular; games of cards. The poet is describing the progress of the game and the condition of the cards in a rather mock-heroic one. They had a very shabby and soiled pack of cards. The cards have been compared with a thick-ribbed army, that is a strong army of sturdy soldiers. The shabby individual cards were like veteran soldiers of many battles, now grown old and weak with age. Generally, our ungrateful world rejects such invalid ones even if they had rendered useful service in
the past. But they never did so. They led their cards as of they were stout soldiers of a powerful army. They preserved these shabby cards for many a later bat tie—that is for many rounds of game. Funnily some of the individual cards were missing and their function had to be performed by some other cards. Thus, some ‘plebian cards’ common or ordinary cards of two rank, were raised up to a new dignity, as if by fate, and had to play the role of missing kings and queens.

      These lines definitely brings to our mind Pope’s The Rape of the Lock—a grand mock-heroic poem. According to Prof. Selincourt, Wordsworth could hardly fail, when he wrote the passage, to recall the famous game of cards in The Rape of the Lock. Even the phrase, plebian card, has been borrowed from that celebrated poem of Pope:

Gained but one trump, and one plebian card. (Canto III, 54)

(8) “how I have and joy.” (Lines 549-558).

      In many a preceding passage of this poem the poet has taken a lot of pains to explain how the lovely and sublime shapes and sights of nature had been a source of ecstasic delight to him since his very infant days. But in that passionate period of his early days he was deeply moved only by the sensuous beauty of nature, when:

The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion

      The joy, no doubt, filled his heart with beautiful forms and images of nature and made him love them all. But these pleasures were so pure and simple without any urge to interpret, that to the boy’s deep sensibility they seemed to have a more refined or spiritual source. Even as a child, he could also experience some deep, serene delights whose source was some mysterious charm, ‘unborrowed from the eye’. But how can a child have such deep experiences of joy and jubilation when our earthly existence is full of miseries and misfortunes? And to answer this question the poet takes recourse to Platonism—that is Plato’s doctrine of pre-existence. This view, that our soul had an heavenly existence before coming into the miserable world, forms the core of that grand poem The Immortality Ode. There we find such lines as:

The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had else where its setting
And cometh from afar:

      As Heaven lies about us in our infancy, the child has also recollections of his divine origin and has the visions of divine beauty and grandeur. And these inborn instincts, these visions and recollections make the child happy and enable him to adjust himself to his newly-acquired earthly existence.

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