Showing posts with label William Wordsworth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Wordsworth. Show all posts

The Rime of The Ancient Mariner: A Critical Analysis of Coleridge's Romantic Imagery

In 1797 and 1798 Coleridge wrote 3 poems which had no equal and which he himself was never again to equal or approach: "Christabel," "Kubla Khan" and "The Ancient Mariner." These three poems are concerned with the supernatural. Both "Kubla Khan" and "Christabel" are fragments while the Ancient Mariner is complete.

Coleridge had a difficult task; he must produce a poetry of the supernatural which should be as human and as compelling as Wordsworth's poetry. In "The Ancient Mariner" he presents a series of incredible events through a method of narration and this makes them not only convincing but in some sense a criticism of life. In his conquest of the unknown, Coleridge went outside the commonplace thrills of horror. The weird adventures of the Mariner take place on a boundless sea and not in a trite Gothick setting of a medieval castle. His characters are not of the same breed as Geraldine. They are spirits and they are transformed by Coleridge into powers who watch over the good and evil actions of men and give them the appropriate rewards and punishments. This new setting and new persons give the supernatural a new character. Instead of confining himself to phantoms, he moves over to a wider range of emotions (guilt, remorse, grief, joy, suffering, and relief...)

The first problem for any poet of the supernatural is to relate it to familiar experience. But Coleridge could not rely on his reader's feeling at home with his unfamiliar theme. He must relate his theme to something which they knew and understood, something which touched their hearts and imaginations, and he did this by using some characteristics of the dream. Dreams can have a curiously vivid quality which is often lacking in waking impressions. They have, too, a power of stirring elementary emotions, such as fear and desire. The Mariner commits a hideous crime when he shoots the albatross. He is haunted by the presence of his dead comrades, and he carries a gnawing memory to the end of his days. His comrades were doomed to die because they helped him in his crime when they said the imaginary world has its own rules which are different from ours. They are more convincing than most events in dream. The Ancient Mariner has its own casual relations between events and lives in its own right as something intelligible and satisfying.

It is clear that Coleridge felt about the creations of his imagination something similar to what he felt about dreams. When we have them, we don't question their reality. However unnatural his events may be, they are derived from natural elements, and that is why we believe in them. We may even be at home with them because their constituents are familiar and make a direct, natural appeal. Once we enter this imaginary world, we do not feel that it is unreachable, but rather we respond to it as we would to actual life. 

In other words, though Coleridge begins by appealing to our experience of dreams, he uses it as to present something which is more solid and more reasonable and more human than the most haunting dreams. He uses the atmosphere of dreams to accustom us to his special world, and then he proceeds to create freely within his chosen limits. At each step he takes pains to see that his eery subject is real both for the eye and for the emotions, that it has both the attraction of visible things and the significance which belongs to actions of grave import. His natural background, for instance, could have been fashioned only by a man who had learned about nature from loving observation and shared the Wordsworth's devotion to it. Amid all these strange happenings nature remains itself, and its perseverance in its own ways sometimes comes in ironical contrast to what happens on the ship, as when, at the moment when the Mariner is haunted by the look in his dead comrades' eyes, the moon continues her quiet, unchanging course: 

The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside.

Even when nature breaks into more violent moods, it is still itself, and each touch of description makes it more real, as when Coleridge sketches a storm with something of Turner's delight in wild effects of sky and cloud: 

 The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.

In such scenes there is no indeterminacy of dream. Each detail comes from the known world and gives a firm background to the supernatural events which accompany it. Coleridge has his own realistic treatment of the setting which is matched by the appeals he makes to our emotions in handling his human persons. The Mariner and his comrades are hardly characters in any dramatic sense. They lack lineaments and personality. But what touches us in them is the basic humanity of their sufferings. Their agonies are simply and universally human. What happens to them might in similar circumstances happen to anyone and we respond to their pathos and their misery. Physical sensations play a large part in dreams, but Coleridge describes them as we know them in a waking state. He handles them in a lively way which creates a powerful emotional effect. What is true of physical sensation is no less true of mental state. The Mariner is indeed in a fearful plight alone on a ship surrounded by the dead bodies of his comrades. Coleridge describes his state by drawing attention to his sense of helplessness and solitude:

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony

This is the real anguish of a man who feels himself abandoned both by God and man and faced with the emptiness of his guilty and tormented soul. Conversely, when the ship at last comes to land, the Mariner sees angels standing by the dead bodies and feels an intimate relief. The very silence of the celestial presences fills him with hope and joy:

This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart 
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.

Coleridge understood the extremes of despair and of joy, and he distilled them into these brief moments. Because his poem moves between such extremes it has a certain spaciousness and grandeur and reflects through its variations the light and the shadow of human life. 

Coleridge expects us to believe that his situations are real, and to have some kind of human feelings about them. This is easy if they belong to the ordinary experience, but when supernatural takes place it demands a more unusual art. Then Coleridge makes the supernatural look as natural as possible because, however strange it may be, he forms it from elements which are in themselves familiar. 

Coleridge's realism is of course much more than an art of circumstantial details. It is a special form of poetry, the reflection of his love for the sensible world and his sensitiveness to its lights, shades, colors, and sounds. He possessed to a high degree that cardinal quality of poetry which he calls "the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature." And he has more than "faithful adherence." He is by no means photographic or merely descriptive. His eye for nature is for its more subtle charms and less obvious appeals. In his choice of details we can see his affinity with the Wordsworth's, but there is much that is indisputably his own, especially in the richer and more luxurious pleasure which he takes in some natural things. Nature was no moral teacher for Coleridge; he preferred to bask in its favors and enjoy them without any ulterior satisfaction that it was doing him good. Moreover, he was bolder than Wordsworth in describing scenes which he himself never saw. Wordsworth was perhaps capable of doing this, but he was too conscientious to try. Coleridge, for whom the contents of books had a vivid reality, was able to see with the mind's eye, as if objects were literally in front of him. More, too, perhaps than Wordsworth, he evokes the magical associations of sound, whether it be an angel's song or the pleasant noise of the sails: 
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month if June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.

The Romantics knew how to use their senses, and Coleridge, despite his love of metaphysical abstractions, was in this respect a true member of their company. He used nature to give color and music, solidity and perspective, to his creations, and it is one of the chief means by which he sustains the enchantment of his poem.

When Coleridge wrote the Ancient Mariner, he believed in the imagination as a vehicle of truth. Coleridge thought that the "secondary imagination" with which poetry is concerned, is itself concerned with eternal values. For Coleridge a symbol is something which presents the eternal in a temporal, individual shape. He means by eternal belonging to the world of the absolute values, a symbol's task is to present in poetry an instance of universal truth. "The Ancient Mariner" passes beyond its immediate purview to something remote and vague. In other words, "The Ancient Mariner" is a myth. It presents in an unusual and lively form certain issues with which we are all familiar and forces us to look afresh at them. It draws attention to neglected or undiscovered truths. This is what Coleridge believed to be the task of poetry. Through creation the poet reveals the secrets of the universe, especially in the sphere of absolute values. The myth is only one kind among many kinds of poetry, but it is specially adapted to Coleridge's outlook because it can deal with the supernatural issues. It is an extension of the use of symbols. In "The Ancient Mariner," he shapes these symbols into a consistent whole, and subordinates them into a consistent whole, and subordinates them into a single plan, so the poem is in the first place a story which we enjoy for its own sake, but in the second place a myth about the dark and troubling crisis in the human soul.

"The Ancient Mariner" is a tale of crime and punishment. It falls into seven sections. What matters is the imaginative and poetical effect, the emotional impression which the words make on us. Coleridge in his myth shows the essential qualities of crime and punishment. He shows what they are and what they mean. He goes to the heart of the matter in its universal character. In the first section, Coleridge tells the actual crime. To use the shooting of the bird may seem a normal act, but to Coleridge it is significant in two ways. First, he does not say why the Mariner kills the albatross. The Mariner may be annoyed or angry, but what matters is the uncertainty of the Mariner's motives. Secondly, this crime is against nature, against the sanctified relations of guest and host. The bird, which has been hailed in God's name "as if it had been a Christian soul," and is entirely friendly and helpful, is wantonly and recklessly killed. At that time Coleridge was obsessed by the Neo-Platonic ideas of the brotherhood of all living things. Perhaps he was, but it does not matter. What matters is that the Mariner breaks a sacred law of life. In his action we see the cruelty of many crimes against humanity and the ordered system of life and the killing of the albatross as symbolical of them.

In the second section, the Mariner begins to suffer punishment for his crime. Coleridge transfers to the physical world the corruption and the helplessness which are the common attributes of guilt. The world which faces the Mariner after his crime is dead and loathsome. The immediate results of crime are portrayed in the image of a universe dying of thirst and haunted by menacing phantoms. The third section shows the repentance of the guilty soul and its isolation in the world. The Mariner begins to realize the consequence of his action. The phantom ship decides his doom:

The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

The night in which the Mariner's companions die symbolizes the darkness in his soul. The fourth section focuses on the sense of solitude and loneliness. The guilty soul is cut off not only from any human intercourse but also from any consoling friendship of nature which mocks it with majestic detachment. Then there is a turning point for the better. When the Mariner, unaware, blesses the water snakes, he begins to re-establish relations with the world of affections. This opens the way to the future. Instead of being dead, the spirit shows some small signs of that love which holds life together. The fifth section continues the process of the soul's revival. Before he can be fully healed, the Mariner must establish relations not merely with men but with God, and this is what he begins to do. In the sixth section the process of healing seems to be impeded. The Mariner is haunted by the presence of his dead comrades and feels that he is pursued by some fearful power of vengeance:

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread. 

In this figure of the Mariner, Coleridge gives his special symbol of remorse. But because remorse brings repentance and humility, this section closes with the vision of angelic forms standing by the dead-sailors. The forgiveness of God awaits even the most hard-hearted sinners if they will only be ready to receive it.  In the last section, the end comes, the guilty man has been shriven and restored to a place among living men. Most of the visible traces of his crime have been erased, but the punishment of life-in-death is still at work. Since he has committed a hideous act, the Mariner will never be the man that he once was. He has his special past and his special doom. At times the memory of what he has done is so insistent that he must speak of it:

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

The Mariner's need to confess is appropriate, because by forcing others to listen to him he regains some of that human converse of which his crime has robbed him. Coleridge doesn't tell the end of the story, but leaves us to suppose that the Mariner's sense of guilt will end only by his death. 

"The Ancient Mariner" is a myth of guilt and redemption. Though Coleridge has his own poetry of a guilty soul, it is not comparable in-depth or in insight with the poetry of some other men who have given the full powers of their genius to writing about crime and the misery it engenders. Much of the magic of "The Ancient Mariner" comes from its blend of dark and serious issues with the delighted play of creative energy. Coleridge fashioned his poem in this way for two reasons. In the first place, the combination of different themes responded to his own complex vision of existence. For him life had both its dark and its bright sides. He saw that the two were closely interwoven and he must introduce both into his poems. In the second place, he saw life not analytically but creatively, and he knew that any work of creation must itself be an extension and enhancement of life.

In creating "The Ancient Mariner" in this way Coleridge obeyed the peculiar and paradoxical nature of his genius. In him the poet and the metaphysician were uneasily blended, and the creative spirit worked most freely when it was free from metaphysical speculations. His three great poems owe nothing to his study of philosophy or his own conscious theories about the universe. Only when he was free from the topic which engaged his philosophic curiosity was he able to release all his imaginative powers. 

In the Ancient Mariner he does indeed treat a subject of universal interest, about which philosophers have had something to say, but he succeeds in making it poetry just because he keeps at some distance from his habits of abstract thought. Coleridge felt the attraction of the supernatural. What touched his genius was his sense of mystery at unknown forces at work in life, and to keep this mystery intact he needed some subject which was in itself mysterious. He saw strange powers behind the visible world, and he believed that men were moved and directed by them. To show this he needed characters and circumstances in themselves strange and arresting. Once he found a subject of this kind, his creative imagination set freely to work and built its own system. There is nothing to hamper the free play of his gifts, and he felt at home in the incredible and the unknown. What Wordsworth found in the world of vision, Coleridge found in the supernatural. He was both fascinated by the unknown and in some sense afraid of it. It gave him the thrill of excitement which he needed before he could concentrate his mind on a subject, and through it he sharpened his vision and purified his mind of many disturbing and distracting elements. 

Like all great poetry, "The Ancient Mariner" suggests prospects and possibilities beyond its immediate subject. Indeed, it is a great poem largely because it does this. In creating this imaginary world Coleridge offers an alternative to familiar existence which is at the same time an illuminating commentary on it. Both in the main plan of the Mariner's crime and in the spiritual forces who battle over him, Coleridge emphasizes the state of man between persecuting horrors and enchanting beauties. "The Ancient Mariner" is his greatest poem because he put most of himself into it and in it spoke most-fully from his inner being. The brilliant reality which he gives to this invention of his imagination comes from his prophetic insight into himself. His poem creates not a negative but a positive condition, a state of faith which is complete and satisfying because it is founded on realities in the living world and in the human heart.

*The supernatural element appealed to him with a special power and was responsible for his finest work. He had a remarkable sensibility for the physical world. 

The Romantic Imagination

In the beginning of the eighteenth century, imagination was not a cardinal point in poetical theory. For Pope and Johnson, as for Dryden before them, it has little importance, and when they mention it, it has a limited significance. What matters in poetry according to them is the truth to the emotions, or, as they prefer to say, sentiment. They prefer to speak in general terms and not to indulge themselves in creating new worlds.

For a whole century English philosophy had been dominated by the theories of John Locke who assumed that in perception the mind is wholly passive, a mere recorder of impressions from without, "a lazy looker on the external world." Both Locke and Newton found a place for God in their universes, the former on the ground that the works of nature in every part of them sufficiently evidence a deity, and the latter on the principle that the great machine of the world implies a mechanic. 

Tom Paine, a well known thinker and a close friend to William Blake, assumed that the creations of the imagination are mere fantasies and, as such, divorced from life. In addition, William Shakespeare shows his acquaintance to this belief along with approval of an Italian philosopher called Picodella Mirandola, who thought that the imagination is almost a diseased faculty. Moreover, Francis Bacon in turn regarded imagination as a harmless and not an unpleasant activity, but not more. The position stated above is plainly unsatisfactory for poets who believe that the imagination is a divine faculty concerned with the central issues of the whole being, and it is extremely fundamental because without it there is no poetry. 

English Romantics gave a great importance to imagination, so they were interested in images (visual impressions and metaphors).  For the English Romantics, the belief in imagination was like the belief in individual self ; they admired sentiments. The mind is the central point and governing factor. The most vital activity of mind is imagination, and the source of spiritual energy is divine. They believed when they exercised imagination that they partake of the divine activity of God. Blake and Coleridge were the pioneers who insisted that the most vital activity of the mind is imagination, and they were hostile to the whole system of Locke and Newton.

For Blake the world of imagination is infinite and eternal whereas that world of generation, of vegetation, is finite and temporal. He also claimed that the imagination is nothing less than God as he operates in the human soul. It follows that any act of creation performed by the imagination is divine and that in the imagination man's spiritual nature is fully and finally realized. 

As to Coleridge it is true that he regards poetry as a product of secondary imagination, but since this differs only in degree from the primary it remains clear that to him imagination is of first importance because it partakes the creativity (divine activity) of God. To him, imagination is related to truth and reality, and it is connected with a special insight. It sees things to which the ordinary intelligence is blind. Insight and imagination are inseparable, for they complete each other. Insight awake the imagination to work and is sharpened by it when it is at work.

Romantics combine imagination and truth because their creations are inspired and controlled by a peculiar insight. What matters to them was an insight into the nature of things. They refused Locke's limitation of perception to physical objects because it robbed the mind of its most essential function (perceive and create). It was this search for an unseen world which awakened the inspiration of the Romantics and made poets of them. However, imagination can't be considered an escape from life. Coleridge believed that imagination working with intuition can make discoveries on matters which really concern us. 

The Romantics wanted to explore the world of spirit, so visible things aren't every thing unless they are related to an embracing power. They believed that through imagination and insight they could understand the things of spirit and present them in poetry. Apprehension of spiritual issues differs from scientific apprehension of natural laws or philosophical grasp of general truths. These laws and truths are stated in abstract words, but spiritual powers must be introduced through particular examples. When imagination is on them, we begin to understand their significance. In nature, Romantic poets found their initial inspiration. It wasn't everything to them, but they would have been nothing without it.

Coleridge had a deep trust in imagination as something which gives a shape to life. He believes that nature lives in us, and it is we who create all that matter in her. Although Coleridge is a little hampered by the presence of an external world, he feels in some way he must conform to it. Yet, when his creative genius is at work, it brushes these hesitations aside. Because he was fascinated by the notion of unearthly powers, he believed that the task of poetry is to convey the mystery of life, and it was their influence he sought to catch. Moreover, he believed that life is ruled by powers which can't be fully understood, so the result is a poetry more mysterious.

Wordsworth agreed with Coleridge on the distinction between imagination and fancy, for he believes that imagination is the most important gift a poet can have. Wordsworth didn't relate reason to anything, but he insisted that the inspired insight is itself rational. However, he differs from Coleridge in his conception of the external world; he accepts its independent existence and insists that imagination must in some sense conform to it. Moreover, he believes that imagination must somehow be related to the external world because that world is not dead but living and has its own soul and distinct from the soul of man, and man's task is to connect with this soul; man's life is shaped by nature . Wordsworth believed that he helped this soul of nature to become closer to man and could show how the external world and the individual mind fits each other. As concerning nature, it was the source of his inspiration. Wordsworth sought for a state in which the soul of nature should be united with the soul of man.

As for Shelley, he was also attached to imagination, but he saw that reason must somehow be related to imagination and believed (unlike Wordsworth) that its special task is to analyze the given and to act as an instrument for the imagination. Shelley calls poetry the "Expression of Imagination" because in it divers things are brought together instead of being separated through analysis. In his "Defense of Poetry" he claimed that the poet has a special kind of knowledge, a sear, gifted within a peculiar insight into the nature of reality. For him the ultimate reality is the eternal mind, so he believed that the task of imagination is to create shapes by which this reality can be revealed.

The Romantics agreed that their task was to find through the imagination some order which explains the world of appearances, for them this reality could be spiritual. They refused to accept the ideas of other men on trust or to sacrifice imagination to argument. 

Keats had a passionate love for the visible world. To him, ultimate reality is to be found only in the imagination. He saw the imagination as a power which both creates and reveals, or rather reveals through creating. Keats accepted the works of the imagination not merely existing in their own right, but as having a relation to ultimate reality through the light which they shed on it. Through the imagination, Keats sought an absolute reality to which a door was opened by his appreciation of beauty through the senses. Through beauty he felt that he came into the presence of the ultimately real. The more intensely a beautiful object affected him, the more convinced he was that he passed beyond it to something else. The beauty of visible things carried Keats into ecstasy.

In conclusion, Coleridge, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelly and Keats were confident not only that the imagination was their most precious possession but that was somehow concerned with a supernatural order. They insisted that it reveals an important kind of truth; as it works it sees things to which the ordinary intelligence is blind, and that it is intimately connected with a special insight or perception or intuition.

William Wordsworth Lyrical Ballads

Wordsworth, in his advertisement, said that the material of poetry "are to be found in every subject which can interest the human heart" and that most of the poems in the volume "were to be considered as experiments... to ascertain how for the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure."

The principle object proposed in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life in a selection of language really used by men and to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination where by ordinary things should be presented in the mind in an unusual order, and above all to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though no ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature chiefly as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement. "Humble and rustic life" was generally chosen, because, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, and because in that condition the passions of men are in corporate with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature. 

Each of Wordsworth's poems has a worthy purpose. Not that he always began to write with a distant purpose formally conceived, but habits of meditations have so prompted and regulated his feelings that his descriptions of such objects as strongly excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. A circumstance that distinguishes these poems from popular poetry of the day is that the feeling there in developed gives importance to this action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling.

The concept of poetry:
The reputation of Wordsworth as a poet has always been touched by ambiguity. Wordsworth's aim was, as a poet, to seek for beauty in meadow, wood land, and mountain-top, and to interpret this beauty in spiritual terms. He was for ever spiritualising the mads of Nature and winning from them moral consolation. Wordsworth's poetry is the outcome of the exchange between the mind of the poet and nature. 

In defining poetry, Wordsworth says:"Poetry is the spontaneous over flow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." In this quotation, Wordsworth is not in need of external motives to teach the audience. Although poetry is spontaneous, this does not mean that Wordsworth does not think of it at all. Explaining what Wordsworth said, the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility gradually disappears and an emotion similar to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. Wordsworth says: "Poetry is spontaneous but only at the moment of composition." However, the poetic experience on which he gives the theory must have existed in the mind of the poet long before the moment of composition. Thus, the poet could not suspend the moment of composition; just like a woman delivering a baby, the poet could not suspend delivering a poem. Wordsworth meant by spontaneous that it is not predetermined or preconceived. He says that as if writing poetry is a habit in him. What is meant  by spontaneous is not without intellectual activity, but is that he doesn't need external stimulus to be excited emotionally. He either justifies himself or corrects himself. If the poet does not find the stimulus, he must create it himself. Wordsworth says that poetry cannot be written without the use of intellect, so poetry is spontaneous only at the moment of composition. Wordsworth located the source of a poem not in the outer world but in the individual poet. Many writers identified poetry as the "expressions" or "exhibitions" of emotions. Wordsworth defined poetry not only as spontaneous, but also as "spontaneous overflow." 

There is no poetry spontaneous, writing long sentences in the poem means an overflow of feelings, and this reveals a handicap or disadvantage to the poem because there is no control of the poetic experience, then overflowing is a problem. Those who judged Wordsworth misunderstood him. He tried to defend and justify his definition. When he said that poetry is spontaneous, he meant that it is not in need of external stimulus to be excited. According to some critics, the poem must have existed in the poet a long time ago; therefore, it has some sort of fermentation inside him, "recollected in tranquility." Poetry is not spontaneous; otherwise, where would be the poetic diction. A poet is never in need of external stimuli, poetry should be the product of fermentation, it must come out of language. To Wordsworth, poetry has to express the poet's feelings and emotions, between the poet and the lines, there is no distance directly. It is not the expression of a remote experience, but an experience dealt with from a far observer.

The aim of poetry:
"There is scarcely one of my poems which doesn't aim to direct the attention to some moral sentiments or some general principle, or law of thought, or of our intellectual constitution." Each of them, Wordsworth wrote in Lyrical Ballads, of his poems has a purpose.

In his definition, Wordsworth rules out the elements of consciousness. There is no will in the poem process. Then it could be added that since poetry is an overflow, there could be no intention inside the poet before writing the poem. Wordsworth rules out the aim of poetry. It should come from the inner part of the poet. Why poetry is written doesn't exist, because poetry is spontaneous: the process is a spontaneous one. The poet can't decide when or why he writes poetry. When he speaks of when and why poetry should be written, he says that the purpose of writing poetry is a preconceived purpose. If there is a purpose, it comes along the process of writing. Although Wordsworth speaks of pleasing the audience and instructing them, he didn't make a secret of his desire to instruct. "Every great poet is a teacher: I wish either to be considered as a teacher or as nothing." It is obvious that it is not his aim to instruct or please the audience. The words that follow this assertion in "Lyrical Ballads" though indicates that he has his own conception of how the purpose should be communicated: "Not that I always begin to write with a distinct purpose formally conceived: out habits and meditations have, I trust, so prompted and regulated my feelings, that my description of such objects as strongly excite those feelings will be found to carry along with them a purpose."

A circumstance that distinguishes Wordsworth's poems from the popular poetry of the day is that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling.

What kind of purpose do Wordsworth poems have?
1) The static aim of poetry is supposed to arouse feeling in us, and in this way, the poem would be considered a failure if couldn't achieve this task.

The aim should be unconscious and this shouldn't mean by any way that there can be an aim, if there is, the poet must not be aware of it and if he is, he would suppress this aim.

2) If the purpose is ethical, the poet also shouldn't be aware of it, if it is religious, the poem should not serve it, it should be a target.

As a conclusion, the basic aim should be emotional and the second is an ethical aim.

So the purpose is not, it appears, something to be stated in general terms; it is to be carried along by descriptions of objects which strongly excite the poet's feelings.

To Wordsworth, the poet is born a poet. The question of what he writes for is concealed, because he is born to write poems.

The language and poetic diction:
Wordsworth's poetic language in "Lyrical Ballads" has a transparent value and meaning. Most poets have been called to their vocation by poets of the past. But Wordsworth was made a poet by the direct appeal of earth and man. His language therefore was not caught from the echoes of ethic poetry, but from the lips of men themselves. The poetic diction current in his days seemed to him artificial and half-dead. He needed language that was before everything. And he created it by following the spoken idiom of unlettered people and using the mold of the simplest ballad meters.

Wordsworth states that the aim of "Lyrical Ballads" was "to choose incidents and situations from common life" and to use a "selection of language really spoken by men" for which the source and model is "humble and rustic life." He declared,"as much pain has been taken to avoid poetic diction as is usual taken to produce it." This is a confession of self-consciousness fatal to artistic perfection.
Wordsworth considered that in poetic diction he would be far from ordinary language, ordinary man. According to him, there are terms which are introduced to poetry before him and and accomplished during certain moments of history, such as political or economical. Wordsworth believes that those occasions and incidents are finished but some poets thought that they are famous and those terms are poetic and they should go on although the situations are finished, but Wordsworth considers that they should end with the end of those occasions. Wordsworth is against using personification in his poetry unless he used abstract ideas. In "Lyrical Ballads" he says:"In these poems personification of abstract ideas is rarely adopted by me." He doesn't want to make out of his poetry concrete images, he believes in abstract poetry, and applies it in his poems. Images are not important by themselves; but in poetry they become important. The internal is becoming external i.e whatever feelings found inside, they are projected to outside. In many of Wordsworth's poems, language is less conversational but still has refreshing directness and simplicity when set against the elaborate diction of conventional 18th century verse. But Wordsworth abandoned the use of colloquial language for in "Lyrical Ballads", it results too often in a dissipation of poetic intensity.

Like all romantic poets (except Blake), Wordsworth celebrated for his love of nature. He described it with inexhaustible enthusiasm seeing:

In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the ruse,
the guide, the guardian of my heart and soul
or all my moral being
-Tintern Abbey-

In his preface to "Lyrical Ballads", Wordsworth wrote that "I have at all times endeavored to look steadily at my subject." A glance at the table of contents of any collection of romantic poems will show the degree to which the natural scene has become a primary poetic subject, while Wordsworth and Coleridge described natural phenomena with an accuracy of observation which had no earlier match in its ability to capture the sensuousness. Wordsworth insisted that the ability to observe and describe objects accurately is not at all "sufficient" condition for poetry.

Wordsworth is always known as the poet of nature. When he is considered alongside the other romantic poets. What is so extraordinary about Wordsworth is not the evocation of nature but his insight into the nature of man, both individually and in society. When he writes about nature, he is doing so in the context of his own beliefs and experience, and of his consciousness of the prophetic role. His writings about nature must not be understood superficially. He used language for a process which he wrote as prophet to declare to the world: that in contrast to the mechanical, diseased waste of life that is encouraged by modern urban society, there are ways of living that allow the fuller development of the mind and heart. The doctrine of nature in Wordsworth's poetry is an unremitting campaign against the destruction of the individual by material and social pressures. To this end, he describes the poet as "the rock of defense for human nature, an upholder and prisoner carrying everywhere with him relationship and love." He saw himself and Coleridge as prophets of nature, not so much to propagate a gospel as to demonstrate the power and beauty of the mind of man when influenced by nature.

Wordsworth's poetry demonstrates his two great preoccupation: the predicaments of human life and the beauty of the natural world. When a natural object is described, it is usually apparent to us that the main focus of interest is the response of a human being (almost Wordsworth himself) to that object. Indeed one of the most consistent concepts of Wordsworth is the idea that man and nature are inseparable; man exists not outside the natural world but as an active participant in it, so that "Nature" to Wordsworth means some thing that includes both innate and human nature each is a part of the same whole (Nothing should stand as a barrier between the poet and the nature that surrounds him). 

The moments of vision that are the source of some of Wordsworth's best poetry occurs when he has a heightened sense of this unity. At such moments, he responds not to the forms, shapes, colors of natural objects, but to an inner force which penetrates the natural world and which is felt within himself also. Wordsworth was very interested in the growth of his relationship with nature-the ways in which it influenced him at different points in his life and the ways in which his awareness of it change. One means of gaining fuller sense of what nature meant to him and the role it played in his poetry is to attempt to trace his growth concentrating in our search upon the verse itself.

In "Tintern Abbey", Wordsworth exhibits toward the landscape altitudes and sentiments which human beings had earlier felt not only for God, but also for a father, a mother, or a beloved. Wordsworth also revives the enchant theological concept that Gods creation constitutes a symbol system.

-The use of 1st person pronoun (as they could ask me) enables the Duke to glory in an author which the Duclen' spontaneity never allowed him to possess while she was alive.

-The Dukes makes a tyranny, not only within his own domestic life, but also within his theatrical domain of art.

-The Dukes resembles Browning in his relation to the reader.

-Freud describes the Duke:"originally always a person of a very energetic disposition, often highly opinionated, and as a rule intellectually gifted beyond the average."

The Duke's genius in controlling the response of the envoy and his skillful use of rhetoric are evidence of his superior intellect.

A Comparative Study on Wordsworth's Ode On Intimations Of Immortality & Coleridge's Dejection

When Wordsworth arranged his poems for publication, he placed the Ode entitled "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" at the end, as if he regarded it as the crown of his creative life. 

The three parts of the Ode deal with a crisis, an explanation, and a consolation, and in all three parts Wordsworth speaks of what is most important and most original in his poetry. The Ode's unusual form is matched by its unusual language. The stately metrical form is matched by a stately use of words. Wordsworth seems to have decided that his subject was so important that it must be treated in what was for him an unusual manner, and for it he fashioned his own style. Because the Ode lies outside Wordsworth's usual range, it doesn't perhaps realize its ambitious aims. He, who had known moments of visionary splendor, found that he knew them no more, and that is a loss which no poet can take lightly, or however comforting his consolations may be, accept in a calm, philosophic spirit. But Wordsworth was so determined not to surrender to circumstances that he made his Ode more confidant than was perhaps warranted by the mood which first set him to work.

Wordsworth lost something very special in his whole approach to nature and his relation with it. At the height of his career Wordsworth discovered that nature, in which he had put on unquestioning trust as the inspiration of his poetry, seemed to have abandoned him and deprived him of his most cherished strength. Tintern Abbey anticipates the Ode in distinguishing between two periods in Wordsworth's life. In his youth he throve on a visionary power which worked through nature; later he found a living presence which inspired him with devotion and was the "soul of all his moral being." This difference and this contrast run through the Ode. Wordsworth needed time and tranquility to absorb his experiences and transform them into poetry. When we look at the circumstances in which the Ode was begun, we notice that something had recently happened to Wordsworth and that an old problem had developed a new seriousness and insistence. Wordsworth began the Ode at a time when he was exercised by two different ideas about nature. In the first place, the fitful returns of his youthful vision made him ask why they were not more frequent and more secure. This made him anxious and uneasy. In the second place, he believed that in the moral inspiration of nature he had found something to take the place of his visions, and the discovery gave to the Ode its positive and consoling character. Such, no doubt, was his state of mind when he conceived the outline of the Ode. Wordsworth found that his visionary gift was not so dead as he had thought, but still at times returned to him. He saw more clearly how much comfort was to be found in his moral conception of nature.

He was thirty-two years old and found that his inspiration was not what it had once been, that it didn't work so readily or come in the same way as of old. He built his poetry on nature. It was the source of his creative strength and opened worlds of the imagery to him. It was therefore a matter of anxious concern when he realized that this source was in some ways drying up. Nature might fail him in one way but it still supported him in another, and he was more than content with that.

Wordsworth, then, seems to have begun his Ode because of some deep trouble which he had brought to the surface by his affection for Coleridge. The problem which concerned both friends was that of poetical inspiration. Wordsworth faced the problem in the first three stanzas of the Ode and then abandoned it for at least two years; Coleridge, slower perhaps to start but quicker once he had started, told of his crisis in the poem which he called "Dejection". Wordsworth's Ode, at least in its eight last stanzas, is a kind of answer to Coleridge's "Dejection". The two poems are concerned with central problems in the Romantic outlook and show to what different conclusions two men could come who shared their inner most thoughts, and followed, as they believed, very similar aims. Both poets share a common crisis, but each interprets it in his own way. When Coleridge examines himself and speaks with fearful candor of his inner being, he sees nothing but an empty, lifeless depression. At some moment, Wordsworth felt something like this, but he has conquered and suppressed it. In the Ode, almost as if in answer to Coleridge, he stresses his own confidence and the delight which he still takes in nature, despite his loss of something most valuable. There was in Wordsworth something tough which Coleridge lacked. Coleridge's sensitiveness was part of a gentle nature. When things went wrong with him, he didn't know what to do and was prone to lament defeat. Wordsworth was made of harsher stuff and sought for a new scheme of life to replace the old.

The differences between the two men is well illustrated by the different scenes which they describe. While Wordsworth speaks of a fine mourning in spring, Coleridge speaks of a stormy night with the moon shining between clouds. What should fill him with inspiring joy leaves him cold. There was one thing which touched Coleridge more than anything and it was the moon. He saw in it a symbol of the poet's power to transform the material world into a world of the imagination. In "Christabel" the hidden moon serves to emphasize the helpless state of the heroine, and in the Ancient Mariner, the moon increases the mystery of a spirit-haunted world. It is appropriate to use it to illustrate his dejected state. Wordsworth was inspired not by vague forms and definite contours, but by the stirring of light and life, the budding of flowers, and the sunshine on the meadows. While Coleridge was at his best among dimly described shapes, Wordsworth moved happily and confidently among solid forms.

This contrast shows the more delicate nature of Coleridge's genius and illustrates why when his crisis came, it was more fearful and more final than Wordsworth's. The differences of personality which are illustrated by the "Ode" and by "Dejection" are raised by differences of outlook on the task of poetry and the place of imagery in life. 

In the first place, the double crisis shows how differently Coleridge and Wordsworth reacted to the external world. As a poet Coleridge was an idealist who believed that the mind fashions the universe for all purposes that really matters. His present grief has come because he feels that he has lost his power to create through the imagination that he can no longer shape experience into beauty and impose his will on nature. Because he has lost his inner joy, he has lost his gift of imaginative creation, and he can't but lament the circumstances which are responsible for this. He has lost not only his poetical gift but what makes life worth living. With Wordsworth it is quite different. For him nature exists independently and needs only to be used and interpreted. He stresses this independence and this essential joyfulness of nature as he develops his poem. Whereas Coleridge puts all his trust in his own imagination and is in despair when it fails him, Wordsworth continues to believe that nature stands outside himself and has still much to give him, if he will only be ready to receive it. 

A second point of contrast revealed by the two poems is between the different ways in which Coleridge and Wordsworth were inspired to write poetry. On his own experience, Coleridge is empathetic. For creation he needs joy. It may not be all that he needs, but so far as it goes, it is indispensable. This pure joy is the "strong music in the soul" which enables Coleridge to create, and this is what he has lost. Without it he feels helpless and miserable. What stirred Wordsworth's creative energy was not joy, as Coleridge describes it, but something more complex. Nature might delight him, but it also did something else. It woke hidden powers in him by a process which was not always enjoyable. For him, beauty and awe were closely mingled in any keen appreciation of natural things, and each contributed to his conception of his task. When he talks about his childhood, he gives a correct account of his spiritual development. If he was sometimes assailed by fear, it was not a deadening emotion but something which enriched his nature through the awe with which it struck him. Wordsworth saw that some kinds of fear are good and that a man does well to be afraid before the mysteries of life and death. Fear bred surprise, and from surprise Wordsworth derived a special exaltation, a sense of enhanced life, a keener vision and a greater power to create. His childhood had moments of anguish and terror, and he was more grateful for them than for its hours of happiness. When he wrote the Ode, he saw that his moments of awful vision were responsible for the best things which he did or knew. In comparison with the strange workings or Wordsworth's creative faculty, those of Coleridge were indeed frail, since they were founded in a joy which he lost early and never regained.

A third point of comparison between Coleridge and Wordsworth turns on their conception of the world which the imagery finds beyond the senses. Through the exercises of the imagination the "inanimate cold world is transformed into something real and living. The imagination creates reality by absorbing the given into the world of spirit. This is the only reality for Coleridge, but this is not Wordsworth sought or found. There were moments when by some mysterious and magnificent process he passed beyond the visible world into some other order of being, vaster, and more wonderful. Instead of examining nature with a close observant eye and extracting all that he could from it, he found himself unaccountably transported into another sphere of being, shapeless, and frightening and beyond the reach of exact words. He seemed then to lose all ties with common life and to be absorbed in something much wider and more majestic. Physical nature ceased to count for its own sake and became the entry into another world. While Coleridge seeks to transform the given world through the imagination, Wordsworth knows moments when he passes beyond it to something else, and he believes that this task is essentially one of the imagination.

The Ode, then, is a kind of answer to Coleridge's "Dejection" or at least to the doubts and anxieties which prompted it. Wordsworth lived not only with but on nature, and what he prized most in it was its capacity to open to him another world through vision. It is this which he lost, perhaps not entirely, but enough to cause him a deep anxiety. There is Wordsworth's conviction that at times he was in another world which was more real than that of the senses, a world not of sight but of vision. His entries into this world were closely connected with his creative and imaginative faculties. And when he had this experience, he felt that he passed outside time into eternity. He was then so unaware of the common ties of life that he had a timeless exaltation. 

Wordsworth devotes some stanzas in the Ode to his special idea of childhood as time when "the vision splendid" is normally with us, and to his explanation of this by a theory that a child has memories, which he gradually loses, of a blessed state in another world before birth. Of course, he has his own childhood in mind. Now, on looking back over the years, he sees what childhood was and finds in it an explanation of his early visions. Indeed, we can almost see why his mind turned to childhood and children in this way. In the first version of "Dejection", Coleridge complained that his children had become for him a cause for regret and anxiety which only made his situation more painful. In answer to this, Wordsworth puts forward his belief that in childhood we see a celestial state which explains much that we most value in ourselves. He contradicts Coleridge's complaint and to say that instead of children being an occasion for lamentation, they should be an occasion for joy. In childhood Wordsworth sees the imagination at work as he has known it himself in his finest, most creative moments. To explain the presence of this power in childhood and its slow disappearance with the coming of maturity, he advances his account of recollections from a celestial state before birth.

Wordsworth was not a man to put ideas into poetry merely because they were suitable for it, nor was he capable of saying as a poet what he didn't believe as a man. When he said a thing, he did so because he believed it to be true and to need saying. It is impossible to read the Ode without seeing that, when he wrote it, Wordsworth was convinced of pre-existence and of recollections from it in childhood. The theory of recollections from it in childhood. The theory of recollection goes back to Plato, but Wordsworth didn't take it from him, nor is his application of it Plato's. His sources are Coleridge and Henry Vaughan. Coleridge had played with the idea of pre-existence as an explanation of a feeling that we have in a previous existence done something or been somewhere. Wordsworth picked up the idea because it helped him to explain his own visionary moments. He is concerned with the loss not of imagination but of innocence. From Coleridge Wordsworth took the idea of pre-existence and from Vaughan that of a slow decline in celestial powers, and from this combination formed his own original theory. Wordsworth's theory of recollection enabled him to put into a single consistent form the three matters which most concerned him.

 In the first place, he had known a vision of another world, and he couldn't but believe that this was both real and divine. He saw that his moments of intimacy with it were close to something which he had enjoyed in childhood and which other children enjoyed. In the child's vision of another world Wordsworth saw something very like his own visions, and he could not but connect the one with the other. 

Secondly, Wordsworth knew that this visionary power was closely connected with the imagination and the creative process. Indeed, he hardly distinguishes between the two, so convinced that the act of creation in the highest sense involves a special insight into the nature of things. In children he sees this creative power in its purest form. The child fashions his own little worlds of the mind because he is divinely inspired by heavenly memories.

Thirdly, through vision Wordsworth found what he called eternity. The idea is too vast for analysis, but we can at least say that when he felt himself in its presence, Wordsworth believed both that he had transcended his temporal being and that he was at the heart of reality. Wordsworth found his explanation of imaginative power in the capacity of children to create and to imagine and while doing so, to have no sense of time or of the limitations of our human state. In the visionary experience which Wordsworth once knew so well and now knows only rarely and fully, he feels that he passes to eternity, and this is what his theory expresses. 

Wordsworth believed himself to be immortal because through the objects of sense he had known a lofty exaltation in which he passed beyond time. He enjoyed the companionship with nature and believed to be more lasting and less intermittent than his vision. In the presence of nature his human emotions were stirred and enhanced in a peculiar way. His feelings for the fellowship of natural things was so instinctive and so powerful that he was almost more at home with them than with human beings, and among human beings he preferred on the whole those who were closest to nature. He believed that life in town corrupts and deadens the finer instincts of men and that they find their true selves only in the presence of natural things. He found it hard to release his feelings except with a very few intimate friends and relations. But in the presence of nature his feelings were set free and felt no shyness afterward in writing of them. In him nature awoke especially those emotions of sympathy and affection which he felt for his sister and his wife and a few chosen friends. Under his impenetrable exterior he concealed a real need for giving and receiving affection and when he was among his mountains and trees and flowers, he allowed this to rise to the surface and express itself in poetry.

In analyzing his creative powers, Wordsworth distinguishes between his moments of vision and the more enduring effect which nature had on his affections. Thus, he believed, it remained with him when his visions had departed. Wordsworth's happiness came from living close to nature. In it he found a calm and a contentment. He who had once put his trust in visions now put it in a religion of nature and thought that all would be well with him. Before long it was clear that the religion of nature was not enough, and Wordsworth abandoned it for a more orthodox faith. Wordsworth's belief in natural religion began to wane soon after the completion of the Ode. Its decay almost inevitably followed his loss of visionary power. But what mattered most in him was gone - the creative imagination which carried him beyond the bounds of space and time into some vast order of things, where, in almost losing his individuality, he saw in impassioned vision the power which sustains the universe and gives meaning to life. And when he lost this, it was not long before he lost his secondary but hardly less remarkable gift of feeling himself so close to nature that in its presence he was able to understand the tender movements of the human heart and to enter into full sympathy with them.

A Critical View on William Wordsworth's poem "The Daffodils"

The Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

All critics believe when they come to study this poem that Wordsworth is describing the flowers. Conventional criticism believe that while he was walking, he came to a bunch of daffodils. They believe that the poem is nothing more than a description. However, I believe that Wordsworth did not meet the daffodils when he wrote this poem, a good poet doesn't need to see the daffodils to write about them.

In his "Preface to Lyrical Ballad" he says that a poet is not in need for external stimulus so that he could write a poem. This means that whenever we meet a poem, we shouldn't understand that the poem is the product of a certain definite occasion. Wordsworth may have seen but also he could write the poem even if he didn't see the daffodils. He can write with or without a stimulus. Seeing the daffodils or not is an external factor and shouldn't be considered in evaluating the poem. This has nothing with the evaluation of the poem. The first impression about the title is that the first lines would be about the daffodils. In this case it will appear that Wordsworth is describing the daffodils. This is not the function of poetry because Wordsworth say that poetry is the "Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected at tranquility". So, the lines are not about the daffodils, and even if they are, the poet is not reproducing nature. The purpose of poetry is never to imitate nature, because if it is an imitation, then it wouldn't be poetry according to Wordsworth. This is what is conveyed in his preface. "Poetry has no purpose, if there is a purpose, it should be a worthy one". There are two contradictory cases, either poetry has a purpose or not. If poetry has a purpose, then Wordsworth would be describing, but as proved in the lines, he is not describing the flowers. The worthy purpose is not describing the daffodils, so there is another story behind the title.

The word "wander" denotes moving without destination. The person who wanders doesn't know where he is going. Wordsworth was not going to look at the daffodils. "I" is the I of the poet, there is no distance between the poet and the "I". The person in the poem is the poet himself, he is not reproducing nature. The person of the poem is lost, so the poet is placing the poem at another level of discussion when he says that he is lost. He is not satisfied, he is like a cloud because a cloud doesn't choose its direction. He is choosing himself and another image which is the cloud that is driven by the wind, so may the poet be driven by something else?

I  wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high over vales and hills ,  
which is the image of the cloud.

The poem raises a very important question which is the resemblance between the world of poetry and the world of reality. This poem appears to be a mere description of a yellow flower. This is a deadly mistake in poetry, if a poem is a reproduction of reality by the poet, then his poetry will be the result of describing reality. The poet would have no role but to reproduce reality. No art can allow itself to reproduce what is factual because there will be no role for the artist or the poet. There is a landscape in the poem which is the daffodils, but it only exists in the world of the poem. Because there is a resemblance between the  world of poetry and the world of reality , the poet tries to create his own world of poetry for the daffodils which couldn't have the shape of the crowd in the world of reality.

The effort done in this poem by the poet, is a trial to redefine poetry in practice through writing this poem. So this poem is the definition of poetry. In romantic poetry, the material imposed upon poets included nature as one of its components. In nature, the poet found a reflection of himself. After 50 years poetry didn't include nature as one of its materials. The daffodils in the poem have another function than just being a daffodil.

Writing poetry has nothing to do with feelings, it is about talent and structure. In writing this poem Wordsworth is abiding by the rules of nature. He is observing rules which produce a work of art that looks like nature. When we meet the movement of the daffodils, their shape and the place they grow in, we find resemblance in these poetic elements to nature. The structure of poetry has a reference to nature, resemblance and not imitation of nature. The poem stands for the poet and how we should perceive poetry. When poetry flows spontaneously, it needs the interference of the poet's intellect or it cannot be written. The poetic experience passes through the poet's intellect, thus having control over the poem. The first 6 lines form one unit, and at the same time form grammatical unit, this unit reveals that the words in one unit are  attached to each other which makes it difficult to hold a pause or a full stop but until the end of the unit. The sound unity coincides with the grammatical unity and this could not take place by coincidence. The mind of the poet was in command with the poetic experience. The term "glee" in line 14 represents the joy of the poetic experience, it is related to the music and rhythm of poetry itself and not to the daffodils. In "gazing" there is an intellectual effort which goes beyond mere looking, it is a process of involving the real understanding of the scene and the conscious effort that accompanies gazing. "The show" is metaphorical for the process of writing poetry. "Off" is a sigh of relief, a shift from tension to a relaxed mood. In line 20, there is another reference to the process of recollection. The last lines reveal Wordsworth intention for writing the poem, the connotation of his "glee" in writing poetry. He didn't write for audience, he did not want to teach anything, he just wrote for the joy of poetry, poetry for its own sake. The poem isn't about the daffodils, but they are contained in the structure of the poem.