The Prelude: Book 2 Line by Line - Summary & Analysis

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LINE BY LINE SUMMARY

      Lines: 1 to 46: O Friend, (Coleridge) so far (in Book I) I have made an attempt to recapture and describe the simple ways in which I passed my childhood days after leaving out many incidents. I have mainly recalled those unforgettable memories that led me to love rivers, woods and fields. This passion or love for Nature was kept enthused and nourished by my surroundings without any deliberate effort on my part. In those days our exciting life full of noisy games and sports continued from week to week and month to month. In summer, these games, as usual, went on till there was any trace of light in the sky. By that time all the chairs would be removed from the door; there would be none on the benches or at the doorway of the house; after keeping awake for longer spell even the old man and the laborer were fast asleep. Even then we went on with our wild and noisy games and merry-making. In the end, when darkness prevailed over the land and the gleaming stars appeared at the edge of huge black patches of clouds, we were back at our homes and retired to bed with an excited mind and an exhausted body. Anybody who has enjoyed the joys and pleasures of youth needs the warning that he should never have any feeling of pride for this improved powers of mind and a higher self-regard for his enhanced sense of virtue at a mature age. 

      Even the wisest and the best among men cannot but, sometimes, desire that impossible union, that is, a yearning to unite the verve and zest of boyhood days with the earnestness of later years to fulfill his duties and to carry on the quest for truth. A soothing spirit seems to bring comfort and solace to my bodily frame. It seems to me that there is a great gulf between the present years of my life and those early boyhood days the memories of which are still retained in my mind; and when I mediate upon them I become conscious of a two-fold existence, my present life as a grow-up man as well as the vague existence of my boyhood days.

      In the middle of the square of our market village there was a heavy piece of rough rock and all our boyhood sports and games were held around it. When I came back to this place after a long interval I first went to that spot; but that old grey piece of stone was no longer there and that spot of ours was occupied, as if by force, by a decorated assembly room. The fiddle or violin may go on with its grating sound of music and may the listeners be satisfied. The stone may not be there, still I am sure that my friends will remember with me those pleasant, star-lit nights, and that old name after whom we named that piece of stone. She used to sit there and diligently keep an eye on her table full of pedlar’s wares for sale. This she did during the span of sixty years of her life.

      Lines: 47 to 54: We lived a very noisy and tumultuous life and the year seemed to be whirling on with a quick and dizzy movement. But soon, the time came when I felt a strong desire for calmer and sober type of pleasures and also to have all our plans for all games and sports and other holiday enjoyments closely attached to lovely forms or objects of Nature; otherwise, they would have been much less pleasing and so were pursued with less interest and keenness.

      Lines: 55 to 77: At the advent of summer our principal means of recreation was to move quickly over the surface of Lake Windermere on joyful half-holidays and to have a healthy rowing competition. Sometimes our chosen goal was an island resounding with the musical sounds of the birds that seemed to be singing on without any break. At some other time, our goal was some other near-by island that was sheltered by the shady oaks and was all sown over with lilies of the valley. And sometimes our goal was a third small island, where still remained the ruins of a lonely shrine. It was dedicated to Virgin Mary and songs of prayer in praise of Virgin were chanted there every day. Such rowing competitions with happy endings never gave rise to any undesirable feelings of sorrow, envy, discomfort or dejections. The victors as well as the vanquished were equally happy and all rested happily in a shady place. In this way the pride of the winner in this strength and vanity for his superior tact in rowing were curbed and controlled. As a result of this we slowly gathered a calm and serene independence of the heart. And without expecting any censure, I may add, for the sake of my friend who knows me well, that due to such experiences, some sort of quiet bashfulness and modesty began to grow in me to become a part of my nature in future. I also learned not to feel lonely and to sustain myself quite well even in solitude.

      Lines: 78 to 114: our daily food was quite simple, as simple as the meals that Horace partook of on his sabine farm (in Italy). We then enjoyed, more than what was pleasant; we then derived extreme pleasure as a result of a keen appetite. And our bodily vigor and energy were never undermined by taking dainty dishes, as we were given a very small allowance during three quarters of the year and so had to live rather in stark poverty all the time. But we came back to school after our half-yearly holiday with a good amount of pocket money and this helped us to enjoy better dishes, costlier than what the Dame (Ann Tyson) could supply us out of her small provisions. Thus we could have the pleasure of having rural-type dinners on cool grassy lawns in the woods or on the bank of a river or near a shady fountain; and all the while the winds would be blowing softly among the leaves and steeped in delight we could not even feel the heat of the mid-day sun shining brightly round us. I hope, I won’t be neglecting my aim if I narrate how, during those half years, we often used to spend a lot out of our funds. We felt elated to control a horse and also very keen to spur on the swiftly running steed. And if the goal of our horse-rides and a distant place we did not mind playing some clever tricks to hide the truth on the obliging innkeeper who met our need by supplying horses. Our goal sometimes might be some famous temple where in ancient times the Druids or the priests of the ancient Britons used to worship or it might be the ancient walls of that large abbey (Fountain Abbey) in the vale of Nightshade. In this abbey there stood a ruined church built in honor of St. Mary with its broken arch, bell tower and images; only the trees were fresh and lively and all these presented a holy spectacle. Our horses would be grazing on the soft green fields. The west wind from the uproarious and disturbed sea would be blowing fast above our head, but still we had a feeling of peace and tranquility there. In that lonely valley, there were trees and towers but all were silent without any movement. There we got such a pleasing shelter offering us quiet rest and solitude.

      Lines: 115 to 137: After this, we got upon our horses and the call was given to be ready for return journey. We used our whip and spur and dashed as if we were running a race, through the shrine and rode past the statue of the cross-legged knight. We left behind the abbot’s statue and that lonesome wren which one day sang sweet songs in the nave of the old church, though the surrounding places were not so comfortable due to recent rain. The earth fanned by a gentle breeze seemed to let out sobbing sounds, from the roofless walls came the sounds of soft breathing and the ivy on the wall trembled in the soft breeze and shed large drops of water. All the while the unseen bird continued to sing in the shade so sweetly that I felt I could make my permanent abode there to live forever just to listen to such fine songs. We rode fast by the wall and across the valley. Then in a playful and reckless mood, we made a round and galloped homewards over the uneven land. O you rocks and streams, and that serene spirit that seemed to have descended from the evening air! Even at such delightful moments when we slowed down the speed of the horse just to have a bit of rest along the sides of the hills, or when we galloped hard with a thundering noise rising from the hoofs over the even sand lit up by the gleaming moon-beams from the sea-side, I was often aware of a personality permeating all those objects of nature.

      Lines: 138 to 197: Halfway on the eastern bank of long Winander, within a sickle-shaped lovely bay there stood an inn or a public house (The White Lion). This was not a plain type of building having a look of ancient simplicity like the cottages in the neighborhood. It was a grand building with doors swarming with servants and uniformed attendants and carriages. Inside one could find fancy bottles and wine of blood-red color. In days gone-by, before the hall was built on the large island (Belle Isle), this place was so attractive as to fill a poet’s heart with love and admiration. Under the sycamore trees, there was a hut that looked very beautiful with a bright fire burning inside.

      There was a time when a few lines of poetry were inscribed over the gate, but they were no longer there. Once there was also a picture of a lion painted on the signboard, but the old lion had been displaced and in its place, there was the name of the inn inscribed in golden letters that seemed to mock at the rustic painter who painted it previously. But in spite of all its foolish glamour, this place remains dear to me. The garden was situated on a slope topped by a grassy lawn for playing bowls. There was a small wood below us and through the leaves of the trees and over the tree-tops glimpses of water were visible. We were never in want of good refreshments such as strawberries and cream rich in taste. There, half through an afternoon we continued our games; and whether a boy won a game by his own skill or by a lucky accident there was loud burst of applause that made the mountains ring and resound. But, just before night-fall when we rowed back in our light boat in a lazy mood over the shadowy lake, we sometimes turned our course towards the shore of some small island and left our musician (Robert Greenwood) on the island. Then we rowed away gently and he would sit alone upon the rock and play upon his flute. On such occasions, the quietness of the scene and the calm water of the lake seemed to lie upon my soul with such a light burden that instead of oppressing me in any way it gave me a lot of pleasure. The sky at that time seemed to me more beautiful than ever before and made its way deep into my heart and overwhelmed me with dream-like stage of ecstacy. In this way my sympathies or affections went on widening and the familiar and visible objets of nature became dear to me day by day. I had already begun to love the sun. But my love for the sun as a joy was quite different from the love that I felt in advanced years.

      In later years I loved the sun as a promise and guarantee of our earthly life, as a light that, tells us that we are alive when we look at it and that bestows its generous gift on different regions of the universe. But in that early life I loved the sun because I had seen it bathing the hills in its radiant beauty in the morning and beheld the golden sun touching the western hills just before it set. At many such thoughtless hours, due to overwhelming happiness, my blood seemed to flow in my veins for the sake of its own pleasure and I would draw my breath with extreme delight. Due to such feelings, powerful though humble, the moon also became dear to me; and this love was akin to affection for our home and attachment for our country. I could forget all my aims and purposes while I stood and gazed upon the moon hanging midway between the hills. It seemed that she knew no other place and exclusively belonged to this valley and the old cottages and the valley also seemed to have a peculiar right to claim that the moon entirely belonged to them.

      Lines: 198 to 232: In earlier years, of life I became attached to objects of nature because of the incidental charms, because they went along with their games and sports, but these became weaker and weaker day by day. Now I want to tell it clearly that Nature, which was holding so far a secondary or intermediate position in my life, became now the principal object to seek for its own sake. But it is not possible to analyze the human mind by applying rules of geometry that help us to distinguish between a square and a circle. Nobody can trace a habit back to its exact origin. None can point out with a wand and say that this part of the river of his mind came from that particular fountain. My friend, you are a person who knows his own thoughts much better. You know about the real truth and scope of scientific knowledge. We may boast of it as a great achievement of mankind, but you know well that it is an inferior substitute for reality and a support for our weakness. You were never a blind believer in the false scientific or analytical reason.

      By which we increase differences at a high rate and then think that our little and weak boundaries are things which we accept as realities, but never understand they are the creations of our own reasoning intellect. You have no blind faith in such false arts; the underlying unity of all things in nature has been revealed to you (through imagination). I am, no doubt, much less skilled than you are, but still I hope that you will share my doubts about arranging our mental faculties in definite order with gradations, dividing our feelings and sensations into water-tight compartments and then relating with a great flow of words the origin and development of each, as if it had an independent entity and existence. In fact, it is really, an arduous task, a futile hope, to analyze the mind. The truth is that even a plain and particular thought cannot be traced to its exact origin by careful reasoning or analysis; so the question of analyzing the whole of mind including the imaginative and mystic aspect does not arise at all.

      Lines: 233 to 264: I shall trace the progress of earthly existence of man depending mainly on my faculty for conjecture or guess work. Blessed it the infant who is nursed in his mother’s arms, who is rocked to sleep on his mother’s breast. He can imbibe, with all his soul, the feelings that find expression in his mother’s eyes. For the babe, the ‘dear Presence’ of the mother has a superb quality that ennobles and adds a splendor to all the objects perceived by the child through his senses. The infant does not feel himself like a foreigner in his new earthly surroundings; so he never feels confused and dejected. The central attractive force of mother’s love that seems to spread through his veins and the close link with his mother helps the child to establish a relationship with his new world.

      If the child points out a flower, which he cannot gather with his weak hands, it shows that his mother’s purest love for him has made a flower beautiful in his eyes. Even at this stage, the child looks kindly at ugly things suggestive of harm and violence; and this is due to feelings of pity the source of which is his inner tenderness. Such a being surely lives a forceful life, even though he is weak and helpless undoubtedly, he is a true inhabitant of this vital world. Feeling has endowed the infant with power which in unison with the developing faculties of the senses creates, working as it were, like an agent of God’s mind; so he may be taken as the creator as well as the receiver. He works or creates after establishing an affinity between him and the objects of nature seen by him. Hence childhood is, in truth, the first stage of the poetic spirit in human life. In most cases this poetic spirit begins to dwindle in later years due to control of customs or convention; but in some cases this creative spirit continues to assert itself through all the ups and downs of life.

      Lines: 265-322: Starting from the very early days not long after the time when, as an infant, I held silent communication with my mother’s heart through the sensations derived from physical contact. I have tried my best to show the means through which the child’s vivid sense impressions, a noble gift received at the time of his birth as a matter of right, were enhanced and maintained in me. Now, there lies a still more difficult path before me. I am afraid that to confront the rough turnings or the tough task I shall need muscular strength of an antelope and the easy flight and keen vision of an eagle.

      At this time I felt some sort of uneasiness for some mysterious reasons. I was left alone to seek the visible objects of nature without understanding why I did so. The main supports (boyish games and sports) of my affections were gone, but the building (love for nature) still stood firmly without them, as if strengthened and supported by its own lively spirit. Whatever I saw attracted me and hence my mind lay open to more delicate and pleasing influences of Nature and could have a more exact and intimate contact with her. The joys of our youth is numberless; but what a great joy it is to live when every hour helps us to acquire knowledge palpably. Then all knowledge was a thing of delight and there was no sense of sorrow. The seasons came and went; and every season brought with it some short-lived features which might have been overlooked had there not been this vigilant power of love. Hence they left a record of permanent relations, which would otherwise easily have been forgotten. Therefore, living things, changing seasons and the beauties of nature were so much liked by me that they made my solitude more effective than the best society; and society became as sweet as solitude by soft and imperceptible sympathies and by mind’s mild thrill of discovery by perceiving so many distinctions and differences in objects-not like the careless and unwatchful eye that sees sameness everywhere. Thus I experienced joy of an elevated kind. Often I liked to walk alone under the serene starlit sky and at such moments I realized the real power of sounds to bring about a feeling of exalted and ecstatic delight: these sounds were, in no way, debased or marred by any visible sight or form (due to darkness). And if the night became darker due to the impending storm, I would stand under a rock and listen to sounds that seemed to be the mysterious and supernatural language of the primeval earth or seemed to have their dwelling in distant winds.

      From all these sublime objects of nature, I imbibed the visionary power or creative imagination and never considered these passing moods of vague but sublime pleasure without any value. It was not because they were related to our purer mind and spiritual life, but for the reason that the soul remembering how it gathered its past experiences, not exactly what it imbibed, retained some vague feeling regarding the possibility of the existence of an exalted world to which it aspired more and more with its maturing faculties. And as these faculties went on growing more and more, the soul seemed to feel that to whatever extent these powers might develop still there was something to aspire for and pursue.

      Lines: 323-352: Not only in the midst of gloomy and noisy scenes but also in lovely and quiet aspect I had a feeling of the existence of a visionary power or creative sensibility and the oneness and harmony underlying all the diversities of nature even in their subtle forms. And this consciousness moved my mind with feelings of great joy and it was strengthened by an increased spiritual power ‘a virtue not its own’ but extraneous. I used to have my morning walks quite early and before school time I made a complete round of our little lake. It was a pleasant ramble for five miles. That was really a happy time, and more so because one of my friends (John Fleming) whom I loved very dearly happened to be with me in those days. I am sure that his heart would be overflowing with joy when he would go through these lines of mine. We have been living separate lives for many years and we have also not communicated with each other for long; so we are now living completely forgetful of those happy days of the past. Often I used to open our cottage door very early, even before any column of smoke could be seen rising from the fire place of human abode, or before the little thrush started its spring-time song.

      I would sit by myself among the woods on some projecting hillock when only the first rays of the dawn were visible arid when the lonely vale still seemed to be in peaceful slumber. It is impossible for me to seek the starting point and find out the source from where those wonderful feelings and experiences cropped up at that time. Often, at such times a sacred quietness would pervade my soul and I would completely lose the sense of my body and bodily-eyes; and then whatever is visible to me seemed to be something, within myself, something vague like a dream and seen with only mind’s eye.

      Lines: 352 to 375: In those days I had a close communion with Nature with a sense of deep religious love whenever I moved in the midst of lovely scenes. It would take a long time to narrate in detail how I gathered inspiration from the changing seasons of spring, autumn, winter with snow, summer with its shade, from day and night, morning and evening, sleep and waking and from thoughts sources of my inspiration never failed me and fed and strengthened my religious spirit of love for nature. But this should never be forgotten that I still retained the creative sensibility of my earlier days. My regular contact, with the work-a-day world could not tame or weaken the power of my soul. I had in me a creative sensibility, a shaping power which sometimes seemed to be rebellious and at other times to be acting in an erratic mood. It was nothing but a local spirit in conflict with the general tendency, but it was very often strictly subordinate to external objects with which it was in communion. A light or visionary power emanated from my mind and added new glory and grandeur to the beauty of the setting sun. The same light again bestowed some added glory to the sweet-singing birds, the rustling breeze, the flowing fountains babbling to one another. Even the midnight storm would go darker and violent touched by that light from my eyes. And this inner light was really responsible for all my homage, by worship and my ecstatic delight.

      Lines: 376-418: Perhaps this should not be left unrecorded. I still loved the exercise and the outcome of labor which was more pleasing to me than the work of analytical reasoning. To me, the former seems to be more poetic in nature as it is related to more creative activity. My song would now speak about the ever-continuing process (of love for nature) which was strengthened by observing affinities among objects of nature; such similarities as cannot be perceived by minds devoid of creative sensibility. I was then seventeen, either because of my deeply-rooted habit (of observing affinity in objects of nature) or because of my excessive faith in the social feelings of gregarious unity that makes all objects of nature interrelated, I transferred all my pleasures and feelings to all inanimate objects or shared these emotions with them, or the power of truth came to me with an impact of revelation and I conversed, as it were, with the real objects of nature. At this stage of life, I felt I was surrounded by profusion of blessing (of joy in Nature). Thus with the passing of days and years I received so much from Nature with her over-flowing soul that all my thought were dominated by or saturated completely with feelings. I was really happy when I felt the sentiment of Being with a mystic bliss, spread over all things, animate or inanimate, over all things which are beyond the comprehension of our thoughts and knowledge and invisible to the physical eye, but still existing so far as our feelings are concerned; over all creatures whose movements are full of life and joy, over creatures that fly in the sky (bird-kingdom); over all that moves under the waves, even in the waves and in the very depth of the sea. It was no surprise that I felt ecstatic joy by communing with every form of creature on the earth or in the sky—creatures that looked up to the Creator with a deep sense of love and adoration. It seemed all these beings sang the same song and this song could be heard distinctly only when my bodily ear overcome by the beginning of the mystic music forgot her physical functions and became absolutely inactive like one falling fast asleep.

       Lines: 419-451: This faith of mine may be wrong and some other belief may be more acceptable to men with religious bent of mind; still, if I fail to speak with abundant gratefulness to the noisy water falls, mountains, lakes and the mists and winds whose abode is among the hills where I was born, I would be shamefully devoid of all finer human feelings that make our world such a lovely and lovable place. If in my youth I have been pure in heart, if, in spite of my constant mixing with the dusty world, I am satisfied with my own modest pleasure of life and have lived with spiritual intercourse with God and Nature without giving ill to petty jealousies and mean desires, it is all due to the gracious influence of the objects of Nature. If during this period of horror (aroused by the French Revolution) with its depressing feeling due to the disappointment of great hopes, if in the midst of absolute lack of interest and indifference and a sense of elated victory of the wicked when good men stray away from the right path without any rhyme or reason and submit to selfishness and justify it giving it some pleasant names like peace, quiet and love for the family and ridiculing people with cherished ideals; if at such times of terror and failure in discharge of duty, I do not fall a prey to despair regarding the ultimate good of human nature but retain a robust Roman confidence, a never-failing faith that helps me overcome sorrows and sustains me in misfortunes and has turned out to be a solace and blessing of my life, this is also due to the gracious influence of Nature with its winds, the noisy waterfalls and lofty mountains. Nature has always reinforced my lofty thoughts and meditations, has strengthened my purest passions and has also been a source of solace and joy for my troubled and distressed soul.

      Lines: 452-470: My friend (Coleridge), you were brought up in the great city (London) in the midst of absolutely different scenes, but, though we had to travel by different roads we have reached one and the same goal. And it is only for this reason that I am speaking to you without expecting any scornful remark from you, without being afraid of any sort of scorn or jeers, hinted directly or indirectly, from timid and cowardly people and such other unexpressed but clearly discernible remarks that efface all traces of beauty and love from human face. You have also tried to seek truth in loveliness and ever since the days that brought you liberty you have keenly desired to be a great worshipper in the temple of Nature and have been very diligent in your devotion. We have been bound by many ties of kinship, but the chief bond of kinship between us is that both of us are equally diligent in our devotion to Nature. I bid you farewell. May you be in good health enjoying the peace of a healthy mind. You have often sought human company, but more often you have preferred to live in solitude with your own thoughts and dreams. I wish you a long and happy life with the hope that your life would be a blessing to mankind.

LINE BY LINE CRITICAL ANALYSIS

      1. But the time.....languidly pursued (lines 48-54) The sub-title of Book II and the very opening lines tell us that Wordsworth’s main purpose in this book also is to retrace how his simple life of childhood days led him to love the beautiful sights and sounds of nature and also to trace the growth and development of his love of nature and its gracious influence on his mind and imagination.

      The first period of poetic life of childhood days was in its infancy and was kept enthused and nourished by his beautiful and sublime surroundings without any conscious effort on his part: “By nourishment that came unsought”. The poet’s life at Hawkshead school was still noisy and boisterous, full of exciting sports and pastimes. But the poet was growing up and slowly his attitude towards nature underwent some change. He then longed for some calmer and sober type of pleasures. If his games and adventures were not closely attached to lovely objects, ‘the winning forms of Nature’ he failed to derive the same pleasure from them. In Book I we found the boy not at all conscious of his surroundings, but now he has a longing to play all his games in close proximity of Nature. Thus, we may consider this as the second stage in poet’s growing awareness of Nature.

      2. Thus were my.....breathed with joy (lines: 175-188) Often after a day’s excited games and sports the poet and his companions would row back, first before the nightfall in their light boat (pinnace) over the shadowy lake in the lazy mood. Robert Greenwood, the musician of their party, left behind on a small island would sit alone on a rock and play upon his flute. At such hours the quiet scene with the softly gleaming water of the lake filled his soul with a serene pleasure and the world seemed to be bathed in a dream-like beauty. In this way, the poet’s sympathies and spiritual powers widened and familiar and common objects of nature became clearer to him day by day.

      He then began to love the sun not for its utilities, for its life-giving power, or because it was a symbol of the security of human life on earth, but because it bathed the hills with its radiant beauty at dawn and touched the western hills with its golden fingers before it sank behind the dark horizon. Such glorious sights filled his soul with supreme joy and due to overwhelming happiness even his blood seemed to flow in his veins with a sheer pleasure of its own.

      3. Those incidental.....her own sake (lines: 198-203) Wordsworth has already told us how he loved the sun and the moon for their sheer beauty and grandeur and how the glorious sight overwhelmed his soul with supreme joy and happiness.

      In these lines, the poet elucidates another great change in his attitude toward Nature. In earlier years of life, nature held a secondary position. He loved the beautiful objects of nature because they were the background of his sports and pastimes. But as he grew up, this attachment became weaker day by day. But now Nature attracted him because of her own inherent appeal and was sought for her own sake.

      We may call this rather the third stage in the growth of his love for Nature. At the beginning of the second Book, the poet has already spoken about the second stage.

      “When the winning forms of Nature were collaterally attached to every scheme of holiday delight.’’ That is, in the second stage he derived pleasure only from those sports and pastimes which were connected with the pleasing objects of nature. But now Nature became the principal objects of his quest and interest.

      4. Hard task.....Hath no beginning (lines 228-232) These lines are addressed to Coleridge. Just after telling us about another great change in his attitude towards Nature, the poet digresses into some philosophical observations. Here he is trying to elucidate a transcendental theory of knowledge. He decries the attempt to analyze human mind by applying rules of geometry. It is beyond our power to trace a thought or feeling to its precise origin. To him human mind is not a mechanism but an organism and an organ is a conscious whole which can be apprehended only in the imagination. Scientific analysis is often prone to error, and reason is hostile to imagination. It is beyond us to analyze even our rational thoughts and ideas, so it will be absolutely futile and foolish to analyze our emotions and imagination. The poet ends by expressing a firm hope that his friend will understand and appreciate his point of view that our mind can never be divided and sub-divided into watertight compartments.

      5. Thence did I drink.....something to pursue (lines 311-322) Wordsworth has already told us in the previous lines that during this period his mind lay open to more delicate and pleasing influences of Nature and he could have a more intimate contact with her. Living things, changing seasons and the enchanting beauties of nature had so much fascination for him that even solitude became ‘best society’ for him. Often, walking alone under the star-lit sky he realized the power of sounds unmarred by any visible sight.

      All these sublime sights and sounds of nature engendered in him an exalted and ecstatic mood, and thence did the poet drink the ‘visionary power’ the power of creative imagination. That is, the poet imbibed everything from Nature and of Nature. So, these lines give us an idea of Wordsworth’s mystic experience from his ennobling and ecstatic contact with Nature. But these passing moods of mystic delight were never without some benefit. They were of importance not because they were related to our spiritual or intellectual life, but for the reason that the poet’s soul remembering how it gathered its past experiences retained some vague feelings regarding the possibility of the existence of an ideal world; and his soul aspired for this more and more with its growing and maturing faculties. To whatever extent might his faculties develop and whatever might be the level of their attainment, he had always a feeling that there still was something more to aspire and attain.

      6. Oft in these.......A prospect in the mind (lines 348-352) Here Wordsworth tells us of his mystic experience amidst the bright and beautiful sights of nature. Not only in the midst of gloomy and noisy scenes but also among lovely and serene aspects of nature the poet had had a feeling of the existence of a visionary power or creative sensibility. A realization that there was unity and harmony underlying all the diversities of nature came to him like a revelation.

      In those days, Wordsworth often used to leave his cottage very early even before the little thrush started its springtime matins. He used to sit by himself on some projecting hillock when the lovely valley seemed to be still lying in a deep and peaceful slumber. At such times a serene and sacred quietness pervaded his soul and he would completely lose the sense of his physical existence and of his bodily eyes. After that whatever was visible seemed to be something within himself, something vague and indistinct like a dream and seen only with the mind’s eye. Is not this blissful mystic experience of the poet-priest of Nature very much akin to that of ‘Samadhi’ mentioned in our ‘Vedanta’? After such deep and inexplicable experience the poet developed rather a religious or spiritual love towards Nature. This may be taken as the final or fourth stage of Nature. In some of the lofty lines of Tintern Abbey also we find the poet in the same mood.

      7. For feeling.....which it beholds (lines 255-260) Here also, in a high philosophic mood the poet makes a few observation on ‘the infant babe’ and the child-mind. The central and attractive force of his mother’s love that seems to spread through his veins and the close link with his mother help the child to establish a relationship with his new world and he becomes—‘An intimate of this active universe.’

      To Wordsworth, the child seems to possess the faculty of creative imagination. Feeling has endowed the infant with power which is unison with the developing faculties of the sense creations. It works as it were, like an agent of God’s mind. The child’s mind does not see and study an object as consisting of diverse elements. Whatever is perceived by his senses is transformed into one whole. Hence the child may be regarded as a receiver as well as a creator. So childhood is, in truth, the first stage of the poetic spirit in human life. As in Immortality Ode, here also we may find the influence of Greek philosophers, Plato and Pythagoras on Wordsworth. These lines also remind us that the soul of a man comes into this world from its heavenly abode:

And evert the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and became a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things (Lines 45-50).

      8. An auxiliary light.....hence my transport (lines 368-376) Wordsworth has already told us that he used to move in the midst of lovely scenes of nature with a sense of religious love and this was led and strengthened by the changing season of nature with its sunshine and snow, with its cool shade and heavy showers, with all its greenery and vernal grandeur, day in and day out, from month to month, from year to year. The poet also retained his creative power or sensibility of his early years.

      In those days a light visionary power emanated from his soul and added new glory and grandeur to the beauty of the setting sun and a fresh charm to the sweet melody of the birds, the rustling breeze or the running fountains softly babbling to one another. Even the midnight storm would seem more violent, touched by that inner light from his soul. And his inner light by imparting a fresh charm to all the objects of nature was really responsible for all his devotion to them, for all his ecstatic joys that he derived from them. Herein lies the creative faculty of imagination, the poetic faculty par excellence.

      (9) Wonder not.....and slept undisturbed (lines 409-418) Wordsworth was then just seventeen. At this, he received so much from Nature with her overflowing soul that all his thoughts were steeped in feeling and he saw blessings spread around him like a sea. He was really happy when he felt ‘the sentiment of Being’ spread over all things, animate or inanimate, visible or invisible, in this universe.

      Thus there was no element of surprise if the poet then felt supreme joy or bliss by communing with every form of creatures or objects of nature on earth or in the sky-creatures that looked up to the Creator with a deep sense of love and adoration. It seemed all these beings sang the same song—a realization that a common thread of harmony ran throughout the entire creation. It seemed to the poet that he could hear that ‘one song’ distinctly only when his bodily ear over-whelmed by this mystic music forgot her physical function and became absolutely inactive. That is, only the spirit or mind of the poet became aware of the one and the same life shared by all the creatures of this universe.

      These few lines along with the foregoing lines point out the four important stages in the development of the poet’s mind. Firstly, there is a feeling of joy at the very sight of nature. In the second stage there grows a belief in him that there is life in nature and in all her objects. Thirdly, he has a feeling that there is one and the same life in all things. Finally, the poet observes affinity in objects — affinity that is related to creative power and opposed to the reasoning or analytical faculty.

      (10) If in this time.....the gift is yours (lines 439 to 444) The poet now expresses his deep sense of gratefulness to the various forms and objects of nature. From his very childhood, Nature has fostered and nurtured his mind and senses, has been a safe guide to wisdom and goodness. 

      The poet here refers to the period of horror and great disappointment after the sad failure of the French Revolution. Great hopes regarding the future of mankind were aroused by the French Revolution. But it failed miserably and all the high hopes were dashed to the ground. A period of distress and dejection followed. Good and honest men strayed away from the right path and became a prey to selfishness and egoism and started ridiculing people with cherished ideals. Even during such a period of horror and depression, a period when even honest persons failed to discharge their duties properly, the poet never lost his faith and courage but was able to retain, like the ancient Romans, his robust confidence in the ultimate good and greatness of humanity. If he was really able to do so, it was all due to the benign influence of gracious Nature with its high winds, ‘sounding cataracts’ lofty mountains and many other lovely and sublime sounds and sights.

      Note: Coleridge in one of his letters to Wordsworth suggested that he should write a poem addressed ‘to those, who, in consequence of the complete failure of the French Revolution, have given up all hopes of amelioration of mankind,....It would do great good, and might form a part of the Recluse While writing these lines the poet might have had this suggestion in his mind.

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