William Wordsworth Essays

William Wordsworth Essays-90
Wordsworth’s preface is heavily influenced by Shaftesbury’s argument.He turns to simple characters for his poems because they exhibit the natural, primary, unspoiled states of feeling that are the ultimate basis of morality.The Romantic typically sees rebellion and breaking free from false restraint to regain a state of nature as highly desirable; Wordsworth’s preface shows him deeply committed to this revolutionary ideology.

Wordsworth’s preface is heavily influenced by Shaftesbury’s argument.He turns to simple characters for his poems because they exhibit the natural, primary, unspoiled states of feeling that are the ultimate basis of morality.The Romantic typically sees rebellion and breaking free from false restraint to regain a state of nature as highly desirable; Wordsworth’s preface shows him deeply committed to this revolutionary ideology.

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Shaftesbury asks his readers to imagine a “creature who, wanting reason and being unable to reflect, has notwithstanding many good qualities and affections,—as love to his kind, courage, gratitude or pity.” Shaftesbury probably is thinking of creatures such as a faithful dog or a child too young to reason well.

In such cases, one would have to say that the creature shows good qualities, even though he or she lacks reasoning power.

Psychological primitivism is the belief that there is some level in the mind that is primary, more certain than everyday consciousness.

In the preface, Wordsworth says that humble life displays “the primary laws of our nature; chiefly, as far as the manner in which we associate ideas.” Here Wordsworth refers to a very important Romantic idea, associational psychology, which developed from the tradition of British empirical philosophy—from John Locke’s about tracing in his poems the “manner in which we associate ideas,” he is endorsing the line of thought of the associational psychologists. They help people to understand the origins of their own feelings about what is good and bad by demonstrating the way impressions from nature strike the mind and by showing how the mind associates these simple experiences, forming complex attitudes about what proper conduct is, what fidelity and love are, what the good and the true are.

When Jean-Jacques Rousseau began (1762) with the assertion that “Man was born free, and yet we see him everywhere in chains,” he concisely expressed the primitivist point of view.

The American and French revolutions were both predicated on Romantic primitivism, the idea that humanity was once naturally free, but that corrupt kings, churches, and social customs held it enslaved.It is one of the best-known works of the English Romantic movement.Its poetic form is blank verse, unrhymed iambic pentameter, in the tradition of John Milton’s (1667, 1674).For Shaftesbury, then, to reason means merely to recognize the already existing good impulses or feelings naturally arising in such a creature.Morality arises from natural feeling, evidently present in creatures with little reasoning power.Many writers feel that they must live in the centers of civilization, London or Paris, for example, to be conversant with new ideas and the latest fashions.Wordsworth turns away from the cities to the rural scene.Romantic ideology of this sort underlies much of the contemporary environmentalist movement: the feeling that humans ought to be in harmony with their environment, that nature is beneficent, that people ought to live simply so that the essential part of their human nature may conform to the grand pattern of nature balanced in the whole universe.The use of the words “passion” and “restraint” in Wordsworth’s quotation above is significant.The decline of Wordsworth’s poetic power as he grew older is often explained in part as the result of his disillusionment with revolutionary France.A second kind of primitivism in the preface is psychological.

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