Guest Author - Sheena Esther Janakie
William Wordsworth is arguably one of England’s most famous poets of all times. He came from the famous “Lake District” in northwest England. Most of us would have come across at least one of Wordsworth’s poems in the course of our schooling, if not more. The reason for this is that William Wordsworth was not merely another poet, but one of the poets who pioneered one of the major literary eras in English literature.
William Wordsworth, along with his friend and co-poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published, in 1798, the very famous “Lyrical Ballads”. This publication marked the beginning of the Romantic Age in English literature. The age preceding the Romantic Age in English literature was the Neoclassical Age. The neoclassicists believed in reason and order. They believed that meaning was to be found in order. Reason was the most important thing to them, and they believed also that social needs were more important than individual needs.
Following close upon such an age came the Romantic Age, where emotions reigned supreme. The Romantic Age was a refreshing change where subjectivity, emotions, adventure and imagination were the bywords. Some of the other famous of the poets of the romantic Age are Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and William Blake.
Wordsworth’s masterpiece or Magnum Opus is considered today to be his “The Prelude”. It is interesting that when it was initially published by his wife after his death, it was not very well-received. Wordsworth was Britain’s Poet Laureate after Robert Southey from 1843 up to his death in 1850.
One of his lesser known works is the poem “Lines Written in Early Spring”. One look at the poem will tell us how emotions play a major role in the poem. Another characteristic of the poem (indeed it is one of the characteristics that marked the Romantic Era as a whole) is its simplicity. The poem is lyrical, and yet is simple enough for a lay person to understand.
The poem is a simple rendition of the emotions and thoughts that passed through the poet’s mind while he sat contemplating the scene before him. What makes the poem appealing is that fact that any one of us could be in the same situation and have similar thoughts. There is no grand or lofty language, and no great life-changing thought, and yet the reader is drawn to the beautiful lines.
In the very first verse, Wordsworth catches the reader’s attention in his last two lines. As soon as one reads that his “pleasant thoughts” brought “sad thoughts to mind”, one wants to read further and find out what sad thoughts those were that were brought to his mind as he sat looking at a pleasant and beautiful scene.
The second verse, though it tells the reader what his “sad thought” was, does not tell him/her why he came to think these sad thoughts in such a pleasant setting. And so the reader is compelled to read on.
The next three verses tell the reader about what the poet was seeing, and what he understood from what he saw. He sees the elements of nature at work – the periwinkles trailing their wreaths, the birds hopping and playing, the budding twigs spreading out their fan – and realizes that no matter what they do, they seem to find intense pleasure in doing these simple things. All nature seems to be enjoying itself. Still no word on why he had his sad thoughts! And so the reader goes on to the last verse of the poem.
In the last verse of the poem, Wordsworth tells us that what he has seen so far seems to emphasize the fact that it is nature’s rule for all creation to enjoy life to the fullest – in whatever it does. But this rule, sadly, has not been evident in man. For men involve themselves in wars and petty fights and do not enjoy each day and action like all nature does.
This poem very efficiently acts as a good example of the poetry of the romantic age. There is plenty of imagination, and an emotional touch to the poem. The reader also has a sense of adventure as he/she sets out to understand the poet and his frame of mind and his thoughts. Though seemingly simple, the poem is still an attention grabber!