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William Wordsworth - The importance of the senses and of memory

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William Wordsworth

Wordsworth, born in his beloved Lake District, was the son of an attorney. He went to school first at Penrith and then at Hawkshead Grammar school before studying, from 1787, at St John's College. In 1790 he went with friends on a walking tour to France, the Alps and Italy, before arriving in France where Wordsworth was to spend the next year.

While in France he fell in love twice over: once with a young French woman, Annette Vallon, who subsequently bore him a daughter, and then, once more, with the French Revolution. The brutal developments of 757e44h the revolution and the war between England and France brought him to the edge of a nervous breakdown.

In 1795, after receiving a legacy, Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy first in Dorset and then at Alfoxden, Dorset, close to Coleridge.

In these years he wrote many of his greatest poems and also travelled with Coleridge and Dorothy, in the winter of 1798-79, to Germany. Two years later the friendship with Taylor Coleridge proved crucial to the development of English Romantic poetry: the second and enlarged edition of the Lyrical Ballads appeared in 1801, which was to become the Manifesto of English Romanticism. Just one year before Wordsworth married Mary Hutchinson. The Prelude, his long autobiographical poem, was completed in 1805, though it was not published until after his death.

In 1842 Wordsworth was given a civil list pension, and the following year, having long since put aside radical sympathies, he was named poet laureate.

However, he continued to write poems until his death, in 1850, at the age of eighty.

The Manifesto of English Romanticism

Wordsworth belonged to the first generation of Romantic poets who were characterised by the attempt to theorise about poetry.

Wordsworth didn't want to write following the standards of 18th century poetry. His stronger objection to it was its artificial, elevated language, which he called "poetic diction". In his Preface he established what the subject matter and the language of poetry should be.

Poetry should deal with everyday situations and with ordinary people. Even the language should be simple.

The reason is that in this way the poet was more direct, nearer to his passions.

Therefore the poet is a man among men, writing about what interests mankind.

Man and natural world

In his poetry Wordsworth speaks about the relationship between the world and human consciousness. He says that the nature influences his emotions and sensations, than man couldn't exists without nature, but as an active participant in it, so that "nature" to Wordsworth means something that includes both inanimate and human nature, each is a part of the same whole. Indeed one of the most consistent concepts in Wordsworth is the idea that man and nature are connected.

The importance of the senses and of memory

Nature can influence also our perceptions. In fact Wordsworth says that we perceive the power of nature with our sense. [wordsworth exploited above all the sensibility of the eye and ear through which he could perceive both the "beauteos forms" of nature and the sounds of the winds or waters, or the silence of secluded places]. He was influenced by David Hartley in his belief that there are three stages of the development of human mind that are the stages of man: childhood, youth and adulthood. He established that the childhood was a result of the pleasure and pain caused by our physical experiences. Childhood is the most important stage because when we are young we see the nature and live in it, so we remember its in future.

So the memory is important in growth of man, and it is memory that allows Wordsworth to give poetry its life and power.

Recollection in tranquillity

All genuine poetry "takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity" so that we read in the poem results from the active, vital relationship of present to past experience. Through the re-creative power of memory, the emotion is reproduced and purified in poetic form so that a second emotion, "kindred" to the first one, is generated.

Object>Poet>Sensory Experience>Emotion>Memory

Recollection In Tranquillity>"Kindred" Emotion> Poem> Reader>Emotion

The poet's task and his style

The poet has greater sensibility and the ability to penetrate the heart of things. So the poet become a teacher in fact teaches men how to understand his feelings and how find his emotions and truths. W. use a blank verse, a simple form and rhymes with short lines. He writes above all sonnet, odes, ballads and lyrics.

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