Fear in Wordsworth's "My heart leaps up when I behold", "We Are Seven", "Tintern Abbey", and "Resolution and Independence"
Romantic poetry conjures in the mind of many people images of sweet, pastoral landscapes populated by picturesque citizens who live in quaint houses in rustic villages, with sheep grazing on green-swathed hills, while a young swain plights his troth to his fair young maiden, who reclines demurely amidst the clover and smiles sunnily. William Wordsworth is perhaps the archetypal Romantic poet; his most famous poem, "I wandered lonely as a cloud", would seem on first reading to support the traditional, one could say stereotypical, image of a Romantic poet. Even his name, Words-worth, reinforces that image. And yet, upon looking more closely and carefully at his works, it becomes clear that the emotions which motivate his creativity are not solely a love of nature and pastorality.
Let us consider Wordsworth's "My heart leaps up when I behold". The poem can be interpreted on a very simple level as a typical Romantic poem: there is the glorying in and of nature that most people immediately think of when Romantic poetry is mentioned. The speaker is thrilled when he sees a rainbow, he was thrilled in his youth when he saw a rainbow, and when he is old he will continue to be thrilled by seeing a rainbow; if he cannot be thrilled, he would rather be dead. The speaker's life has a kind of continuity, of stability, through the process of memory. The reader can wipe away a tear and mumble "Isn't that nice?", and switch on Three's Company; this interpretation affirms our sense of what poets should fee...
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...rom finding "In that decrepit Man so firm a mind" (line 145), finding, however temporarily, a source of courage against his fears (lines 146-147):
'God,' said I, 'be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor.'
All quotations are taken from the following book, references given parenthetically within the text:
Stephen Gill, editor. The Oxford Authors: William Wordsworth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
o "The Idiot Boy", pp. 67-80
o "Michael", pp. 224-236
o "My heart leaps up when I behold", pp. 246-247
o "Resolution and Independence", pp. 260-264
o "Tintern Abbey", pp. 131-135
o "We Are Seven", p. 84
except, where indicated by "Coleridge", from:
Donald A. Stauffer, editor. Selected Poetry and Prose of Coleridge. Random House: New York, 1951.
o "Dejection: An Ode", pp. 78-82
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