William Wordsworth as A Poet of Man

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      Wordsworth was not only the poet of Nature, he is also the poet of Man. It is by his close and loving penetration into the realities and simplicities of human life that he himself makes his claim on our reverence as a poet. He relates in The Prelude how he has been led through love of Nature to honor men. The love of Nature leads him to the love of Man.

      In many of his poems, his efforts have been to show that the keynote of all life is to enjoy happiness—happiness, not as the result of chance or circumstance, but as sometimes to be won by work, sacrifice, service, or patience. He always chooses for his heroes and heroines, not famous men and women stupefied by victory and intoxicated, with glory and power, but humble peasants, innocent farmers, artless shepherds, lonely reapers, and highland girls, and shows that in their commonplace careers, there is ample material to move the soul.

      Wordsworth’s poetry of man can be considered in two ways: (a) his poetry of Man in relation of Nature, and (b) his poetry of Man in relation to human society.

As a Poet of Village Life

      Wordsworth liked to represent simple village folk in the natural setting, and to describe how in the midst of their sorrows and wants, they would be consoled by Nature. He glorified village life because the villager lived so close to Nature and communed with her daily. He found in the average villager a dignity, strength and courage and a sense of self-respect which he did not find among the town-folk.

As a Poet of Childhood

      Wordsworth had his own peculiar way of looking at childhood. He was not much interested in the play of children but he glorified childhood in the abstract. The beauty of children makes him glad, but he never rests there. “He reads mysterious revelations in the child’s innocence; its fancies’ are ‘brought from afar’...; it is the ‘father of the man’, the ‘seer’; ‘haunted for ever by the eternal mind’ (Immortality Ode). The root of this feeling was Wordsworth’s memory of his own childhood, so ordinary in its incidents, so marvelous in its emotions...He regarded his mature imagination as faintly following out the traces of these boyish visions. The child-life is the hiding-place of man’s power where man must seek it with all his mature faculty”. This thought is given a magnificent expression in his Ode on the Intimations of Immortality.

“Return to Nature” and Wordsworth

      “Return to Nature” was Wordsworth’s motto; and since he saw little distinction between the soul of Nature, and the uncorrupted, unsophisticated soul of man, Nature, as existing in the heart of man, was an object of his close attention. He was a realist and dealt boldly with substantial things. It is by his close and loving penetration into the realities and simplicities of human life that he himself makes his claim on our reverence as a poet. The love of nature led him to the love of man. It was exactly the reverse order to that of the previous poets. His interest in the simple and ordinary types of humanity is illustrated by his treatment of their simple joys and sorrows, their thoughts and afflictions, their general goodness and their daily interest. Simon Lee, Margaret, Poor Susan, the Schoolmaster Matthew, the Highland girl attracted him at isolated points of Spiritual illumination. His interesting study of and mystic faith in the glories of childhood are but a natural corollary of his keen interest in the simplicities, virtues and goodness of uncorrupted humanity. “His children are rarely touched with the exquisite tenderness of Coleridge, but with a kind of solemn joy, pass often into mystic awe. He reads mysterious revelations in the child’s innocence; its fancies are ‘brought from afar’; its 'carols are fitted to unutterable thought’; ‘it is father of the man’, the seer haunted for ever hy the Eternal Mind”.

The Mystic Conception of Man

      To this natural philosophy of Man, Wordsworth adds a mystic element, the result of his own belief that in every natural object there is a reflection of the living God. Nature is everywhere transfused and illuminated, by Spint; man also is reflection of the divine spirit and. we shall never understand the emotions roused by a flower or a sunset until we leam that Nature appeals through the eye of man to his spirit. In a word, Nature must be “spiritually discovered”. In Tintern Abbey the spiritual appeal of Nature is expressed in almost every line: but the mystic conception of man is seen more clearly in “Intimations of Immortality”, which Emerson calls “the high-water-mark of poetry in the nineteenth century.” In this splendid Ode, Wordsworth adds to his spiritual interpretations of Nature and Man the alluring doctrine of pre-existence, which has appealed so powerfully to the Hindus, and which makes of human life a continuous, immortal thing, without end or beginning.

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