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Selected Poetry of William Wordsworth represents Wordsworth’s prolific output, from the poems first published in Lyrical Ballads in 1798 that changed the face of English poetry to the late “Yarrow Revisited.” Wordsworth’s poetry is celebrated for its deep feeling, its use of ordinary speech, the love of nature it expresses, and its representation of commonplace things and events. As Matthew Arnold notes, “[Wordsworth’s poetry] is great because of the extraordinary power with which [he] feels the joy offered to us in nature, the joy offered to us in the simple elementary affections and duties.”
I can't help it if my heart doesn't leap with joy with Wordsworth's respectful and magisterial poems. I feel some kind of guilty distance with his realistic and moderated exultation of Nature, his aspirations towards perfection and his Odes full of bucolic and idealized countryside. There are some brilliant stanzas though which show the almost anecdotal wonders of an apparently monotonous life, but still I find them lacking in originality and too self-centered in the soul of the poet, framed in nature, basking in the mutual reflection between the soul and the world; the landscape becoming the revealing image of moral life and religious transcendence. And this recurring need to isolate his artistic self in order to write straight from the soul is not convincing, at least for me. Maybe because he is trying too hard, but he doesn't reach to me the way that other poets do, for example, Robert Frost, who also speaks of the rural life but with an underlying need to return to the origins, which is absent in Wordsworth's poems. "Humility and modest awe, themselves Betray me, serving often for a cloak To a more subtle selfishness; that now Locks every function up in blank reserve, Now dupes me, trusting to an anxious eye" His poems leak with more consciousness than inspiration, his verses being usually nostalgic recollections of a better times, usually during childhood, when the soul is in harmony with the world and experiences are lived intensely and purely. "There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Apparelled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream. It is not now as it hath been of yore;- Turn wheresoe'er I may, By night or day, The things which I have seen now I can see no more." But somehow, his willingness to elevate his writing to the intellectual knowledge and to democratize the lyrical language creates an artificial rhetoric which diminishes the impact of his words, at least for me. "Ye winds and sounding cataracts! 'tis yours, Ye mountains! thine, O Nature! Thou hast fed My lofty speculations; and in thee, For this uneasy heart of ours, I find A never-failing principle of joy And purest passion." Nevertheless, I have to give him credit for being one of the first English Romantic Poets who will lay the foundations for Byron, Shelley and Keats, and for trying to elevate his meditations towards great poetry. Although not one of my favorites, (I'm aware I'll make a bunch of detractors here), he surely earned the right to be read and re-read again and again.read more
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