The Character of the Poet: Wordsworth in "The Prelude"

The Character of the Poet: Wordsworth in "The Prelude"

RICHARD J. ONORATO
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 448
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x13tw
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  • Book Info
    The Character of the Poet: Wordsworth in "The Prelude"
    Book Description:

    By a judicious use of psychoanalytic concepts, Richard Onorato interprets the Wordsworth revealed in the poemThe Preludeand relates the problems of poetic autobiography to those of personality.

    Originally published in 1971.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7060-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-x)
    R.J.O.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. CHAPTER I THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
    (pp. 3-28)

    Anyone who has ever talked of Wordsworth’s poetry has known the feeling that the subject of Wordsworth himself, his mind and character, would soon come to the fore. From his earliest ballads and lyrics to his most solemn odes and elegies, from his earliest meditative poems to the long autobiographical epic, one finds oneself commenting parenthetically on and attending with increasing care to the “Wordsworth” of Wordsworth’s poetry. To proceed at all is first to yield to that necessity.

    But any appraisal of Wordsworth’s achievement inThe Prelude, of his success at describing poetically the growth of his mind, must...

  5. CHAPTER II FROM “TINTERN ABBEY” TO THE PRELUDE
    (pp. 29-87)

    “Tintern Abbey,” written in the blank verse style to be adopted forThe Prelude,and written a year earlier than the first longer passages of Books I and II, shares withThe Preludethe common theme of growth. It also reveals in one poetic whole the characteristic problems of Wordsworth0’s habit of self-regard, and offers for critical inspection the problem of personality in Romantic art. The problems to be considered are: What is expressed and what is understood in the poem? What may be understood on the basis of the poem? Much of one’s reading of Wordsworth is determined by...

  6. CHAPTER III BEGINNINGS THAT BECAME THE PRELUDE
    (pp. 88-135)

    The Prelude, as it was to be called when published, was the final result of various poetic beginnings in the years between 1795 and 1799. Although preceded by brief passages written at Racedown and Alfoxden, a large number of crucial passages composed in blank verse and later compiled as Book 1 ofThe Preludedate from 1798-99, the winter that Wordsworth spent with Dorothy at Goslar in Germany.¹ These passages, reminiscing about boyhood, seem to have come in response to his own self-chiding for his inability to get on withThe Recluse,which, by that winter of 1798-99, had already...

  7. CHAPTER IV IMAGINATION AND REVELATION
    (pp. 136-163)

    The crossing of the Alps through the Simplon Pass was for Wordsworth the particularly memorable journey of a summer spent on the continent during a college vacation in 1791. In Book VI (lines 452ff.) his recollected journey is transformed by Imagination into another and more symbolic one, a figure for talking about the mind itself. Here, the journey-metaphor emerges as the principal metaphor in his attempt to extend the sense of growth and completion.

    First, there is the recollection of his disappointment at seeing Mount Blanc, an odd but honest way of introducing the experience. He grieved that the “soulless...

  8. CHAPTER V MEMORIES AND IMAGININGS
    (pp. 164-219)

    When Wordsworth recalls “one, the fairest of all rivers,” he imagines the happiness of infancy and of childhood in one idealized picture of the river, the vale, and the first home. This is the river valley of the Derwent at Cockermouth from which all other vales gain their special affective power for him, even the “beloved vale” of his school years in nearby Hawkeshead, and Grasmere, which later became his “chosen vale.” In the “beloved vale” of his school days he learned to live with the fact of his mother’s loss and to compensate for his loneliness by finding in...

  9. CHAPTER VI THE WORLD BEYOND THE VALE
    (pp. 220-285)

    Early inThe Prelude,Wordsworth gives a description of himself as Nature’s chosen youth, the young Poet at the moment of his Dedication to poetry about to enter upon his ministry. It was obviously very important to him, both as an experience and as a passage of poetry, for he had intended to use it as the symbolic conclusion of the projected five-bookPrelude.¹ As the passage appears in Book IV ofThe Prelude,it has perhaps been simplified to fit his revised intention to seek his present image in his whole story, but it nevertheless stands very fittingly as...

  10. CHAPTER VII MEN AND HISTORY
    (pp. 286-367)

    Despite Wordsworth’s hope of giving a satisfying account of the growth of a poet’s mind, our thoughts about the epistemological limits of art are provoked early by him. Still, the imaginative daring of his attempt to invent himself appeals to one’s curiosity in exactly the way “romantic” evokes, even from its detractors, a suspicious fascination. Perhaps the egoism that animates an aspiration to godly self-knowledge is, to use Wordsworth's phrase, “heroic argument”; but after listening to these matters by suspending our disbelief, we do not accord them belief. Despite our acknowledgment that the artist may imagine himself as his own...

  11. CHAPTER VIII CONCLUSION: ARAB, WANDERER, DRUID, CHRISTIAN
    (pp. 368-404)

    The conclusion of the poem, with the discrepancy we have observed between the Poet described ideally and Wordsworth declared as simply himself, indicates what Wordsworth must have felt to be the failure of his intentions. But if we say that his poetic obsession failed to reveal its meaning to him and that his unconscious intention to reveal the truth to himself was never successfully expressed, we are nevertheless saying that a stronger and opposite unconscious intention succeeded instead. The negative aspect of the repetition compulsion had effectively resisted and denied the trauma; it had rationalized the traces of repressed matters...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 406-420)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 421-428)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 429-435)