The Simple Wordsworth: Studies in the Poems, 1797-1807

The Simple Wordsworth: Studies in the Poems, 1797-1807

The Simple Wordsworth: Studies in the Poems, 1797-1807

The Simple Wordsworth: Studies in the Poems, 1797-1807

Excerpt

In spite of Wordsworth's place in the canon one cannot be sure that he is nowadays read. Wordsworth has tended to be swallowed up in a general 'Wordsworthianism' or in the anti-Wordsworthianism of those who have reacted against it. Certainly only a minority, it would seem, read him with the exciting shock of surprise and delight that is central to the experience good poetry offers -- or with the close attention good poetry deserves. The idol of Wordsworth's friends has been the aunt-sally of his foes. Yet one feels Wordsworth himself still remains aloof, untouched by the better part of the discussion. What he rated high his best supporters have tended to rate low. The poems he especially prized his readers have smiled at as forgivable aberrations: 'Simon Lee', 'The Thorn', 'The Reverie of Poor Susan' -- in the main, most of those poems put into Lyrical Ballads as exempla of a new mode of sensibility and a new non-septic manner of writing.

The partisans of Wordsworth were slow in coming forward. When they did appear they seemed already destined to be Victorians -- a generation too early weaned, premature adults fulfilling wishfully the dislocated desires of adolescence in a backward-looking middle-age, finding in Wordsworth a consolation and support he might himself have had grave doubts about: doubts as to whether it should be supplied, or . . .

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