Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators

By Joseph C. Sitterson Jr. | Go to book overview

4
The Intialthoughions Ode
An Infinite Complexity

Like Wordsworth's meditation after climbing Snowdon in the last book of The Prelude, the ending of the Intimations Ode has encouraged readers to look for a generic closure that, in Barbara Herrnstein Smith's characterization of what she aptly calls the “narrative lyric,” is achieved “through the poet's more or less clear statement, at the end, of the significance of the events so reported.”1 The Ode's position at the end of the collected poetry doubles that expectation. But for many readers the final statement of interpretive mastery is not very clear, and the closure seems forced: “the solution is asserted rather than dramatized”; “the central achievement of the Ode, the glorious child, seems betrayed … by [Wordsworth's] shift in emphasis to transcendent divinity”; “the ode dims to a noble conclusion, where the poet assuages his banishment from life eternal by vague intuition that in some sense the pilgrimage into mortality is necessary and just”; and, “the poem becomes dishonest … the philosophic mind has not mastered the grief but rather come to live side by side with it.”2

I shall argue that Wordsworth deliberately suggests and then refuses such mastery, that while the odic tradition warrants the attempt at closure and mastery, the Intimations Ode's deliberate refusal is generically unique. In doing so I shall depend on Rosalie Colie's argument that

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Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Introduction to the Songs of Experience the Infection of Time 12
  • 2: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Distinguishing the Certain from the Uncertain 34
  • 3: The Prelude Still Something to Pursue 65
  • 4: The Intialthoughions Ode an Infinite Complexity 88
  • 5: Lamia: Attitude is Everything 110
  • Conclusion 137
  • Notes 153
  • Works Cited 185
  • Index 199
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