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The Prelude’s Prelude Essay

1123 words - 4 pages

The nature of poetry remained an enigma to the majority of society in the late 1700s. Rigid to the didactic principles of the past, Wordsworth’s manifesto declared that poetry, as a collective, had become perverted by, then, modern society. He called for a return to the principles of classical poetry, in which the rhetoric of poetry, and its content, mattered. This, cataclysmically combined with the 1700s, existed in a state of chaotic order. Needless to say, this time period embodied social upheaval from the majority of its citizens. The French Revolution had a massive affect on not only cultural, social, and political society, but on William Wordsworth as an individual. This observation is in itself poignant, because it marked the dawning of an age during which one could be an individual. While the country was shedding its monarchial shackles, individuals, namely Wordsworth, were taking the initiative to apply the principles of self-fulfilled existences within the context of their own lives.
Also occurring at this time was an overwhelming movement of Romanticism. This era revolved around the concepts of free expression, lyricism as personally coined by Wordsworth, the glorification of the ordinary, an innate awe for the natural world, and overwhelming individualism. These passions of the time spilled over into the hearts of artists everywhere. Wordsworth was extremely affected by this trend, and he conveyed it through his works.
The Prelude served as the metaphorical ruby to Wordsworth’s crown of literary achievements. It chronicles the spiritual journey that a poet embarks on by pursuing the craft, and symbolizes a historical transition into a new realm of literary expression. It spans multiple experiences, over the course of his life, in an attempt to conceptualize the underlying journey of existence. Spanning approximately thirteen books, it was the product of 35-years of planning on Wordsworth’s part. The Prelude introduced a variety of thematic that Wordsworth appears to have paralleled to previous publications.
The title, The Prelude, abstractly alludes to the depth of the piece. It spans multiple, literal journeys experienced over the course of his life in an attempt to convey the underlying journey of existence in general. Congruently, it's narrated as from the dual-perspective of an omniscient narrator, and Wordsworth himself. As defined by Merriam-Webster, a prelude is ‘an introductory performance, action, or event preceding and preparing for the principal or a more important matter.’ Wordsworth manipulates this concept by implying that his progression as a poet is a means to a greater end—that of heightened self-actualization. He begins his autobiographical poem with a tribute to childhood. “Long months of ease and undisturbed delight are mine in prospect…” (Wordsworth Line 26-27) characterized, as a generalization, his youth. Brisk diction, such as “happiness…passions…spontaneously…brisk” supplies the reader with the concept...

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