The Recluse Essay

The Recluse Essay

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Wordsworth suffers solitude, even as he celebrates it. Alone, the poet can explore his own consciousness; it exists at both poles of the notion of ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, and is the dominant developmental mode of Wordsworth’s childhood as depicted in The Prelude (1805). Independence is what is exalted in his introduction to that poem: he greets the ‘gentle breeze’ as a ‘captive… set free’ from the ‘vast city’ which has been as a ‘prison’ to his spirit. The oppression of city living is alleviated in this opening reacquisition of isolation; the relief is evident: ‘I breathe again’, ‘that burthen of my own unnatural self [is shaken off], /The heavy weight of many a weary day/ Not mine, and such as were not made for me’. In this, the commencing statement of his autobiography, the independence of solitude is represented as the essential quality of his poetic felicity. The ‘egoistical sublime’ observed by Keats is manifest in this poetry in a separation from other men, rather than in that of a Byron, whose narrators’ egotisms are evinced by their social interactions. Wordsworth’s company is nature; his sister, his wife, his children exist as assimilations rather than relationships.
The sister of Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, is conjured into independence in the final paragraph, so as to exist as a previous self: ‘For thou are with me’, he suddenly reveals, ‘and in thy voice I catch/ The language of my former heart’. She is externalised when poetically useful; and it is by this externalisation that Wordsworth is able to avert and diminish his poem’s undercurrent doubts. ‘This prayer I make/ Knowing that Nature never did betray/ The heart that loved her’, has a contrary traction as a plea intimating des...


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...this as his essential condition, but it is worth observing that ‘recluse’ does not imply total isolation. Wordsworth’s solitude, as he left childhood, was never again to be absolute; for as consciousness developed, so did his capacity to apprehend himself, in language, so even alone he could not be alone without self-intercourse, mediated by language. His solitude was necessary for his vocation, but his vocation trespassed on that solitude; for to be a poet is to cast experience away from the self: even in egotism, isolation is disrupted by the projection of an audience.



Works Cited

Gil, Stephen ed. William Wordsworth: The Major Works (OUP 1984)
Hartman, Geoffrey Wordsworth’s Poetry 1787-1814 (Yale University Press 1971)
Morgan, Monique R. ‘Narrative Means to Lyric Ends in Wordsworth’s Prelude’ (Narrative, Volume 16, Number 3, October 2008, pp. 298-330)

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The Recluse Essay

- Wordsworth suffers solitude, even as he celebrates it. Alone, the poet can explore his own consciousness; it exists at both poles of the notion of ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, and is the dominant developmental mode of Wordsworth’s childhood as depicted in The Prelude (1805). Independence is what is exalted in his introduction to that poem: he greets the ‘gentle breeze’ as a ‘captive… set free’ from the ‘vast city’ which has been as a ‘prison’ to his spirit. The oppression of city living is alleviated in this opening reacquisition of isolation; the relief is evident: ‘I breathe again’, ‘that burthen of my own unnatural self [is shaken off], /The heavy weight of many a weary day/ No...   [tags: Literary Analysis]

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