Sunday, July 12, 2009


William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet and Poet Laureate. He was a close friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and together they are credited with launching the Romantic age in poetry.

Wordsworth, born in his beloved Lake District, was the second of five children. He was very close to his elder sister Dorothy who was also a poet and a diarist. Their father was the legal representative of the first Earl of Lonsdale and through his connections; they lived in a large mansion in a small town. Wordsworth Sr. had little involvement with his children and remained a distant father till the end. Although rarely present, Wordsworth’s father did teach him poetry including Milton, Shakespeare and Spencer, in addition to giving him access to his huge private library.

As a boy, Wordsworth would stay at his mother’s house many times but he never got along with his grandparents and uncle. Harsh treatment and Hostile interactions with them distressed him to a point of contemplating suicide.

He went to college in Cambridge. In 1790 he went with friends on a walking tour to France, the Alps and Italy, before arriving in France where Wordsworth was to spend the next year. Whilst in France he fell in love twice over: once with a young French woman, Annette Vallon, who subsequently bore him a daughter, and then, once more, with the French Revolution. Returning to England he wrote, and left unpublished, his Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff - a tract in support of the French Revolutionary cause. In 1795, after receiving a legacy, Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy first in Dorset and then at Alfoxden, Dorset, close to Coleridge. In these years he wrote many of his greatest poems and also travelled with Coleridge and Dorothy, in the winter of 1798-79, to Germany. Two years later the second and enlarged edition of the Lyrical Ballads appeared in 1801. One year later Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson.

This was followed, in 1807, by the publication of Poems in Two Volumes, which included the poems 'Resolution and Independence' and 'Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood'. During this period he also made new friendships with Walter Scott, Sir G. Beaumont and De Quincy, wrote such poems as 'Elegaic Stanzas suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle' (1807), and fathered five children. Sadly, three of their children predeceased William and Mary. He quit writing poetry when his daughter Dora died.

After Wordsworth’s death, his widow Mary published his lengthy autobiographical poem “The Prelude” several months after his death and it has been come to be known as his masterpiece.
Today Wordsworth's poetry remains widely read. Its almost universal appeal is perhaps best explained by Wordsworth's own words on the role, for him, of poetry; He called it "the most philosophical of all writing" whose object is "truth...carried alive into the heart by passion"

'"The Solitary Reaper" is one of Wordsworth's most famous post-Lyrical Ballads lyrics. The words of the reaper's song are incomprehensible to the speaker, so his attention is free to focus on the tone, expressive beauty, and the blissful mood it creates in him. The poem functions to 'praise the beauty of music and its fluid expressive beauty, the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling" that Wordsworth identified at the heart of poetry.'

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?--
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;--
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

Here is a recitation of the poem

Divya Gurnay

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