‘It is often suggested that the source for many of William Wordsworth’s poems lies in the pages of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal. Quite frequently, Dorothy describes an incident in her journal, and William writes a poem about the same incident, often around two years later.’ It is a common observation that whilst Dorothy is a recorder – ‘her face was excessively brown’ – William is a transformer – ‘Her skin was of Egyptian brown’ . The intertextuality between The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals and ‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud’ allows both Dorothy and William to write about the same event, being equally as descriptive, but in very differing ways. Dorothy writes in a realist ‘log-book’ like style, whereas William writes in a romantic ballad style. This can be very misleading, as it gives William’s work more emotional attachment even though his work is drawn upon Dorothy’s diary, which in its turn is very detached, including little personal revelation. When read in conjunction with William’s poetry, Dorothy’s journal seems to be a set of notes written especially for him by her. In fact, from the very beginning of the journals Dorothy has made it quite clear that she was writing them for William’s ‘pleasure’ . This ties in with many of the diary entries in which she has described taking care of William in a physical sense. In a way this depicts the manner in which William uses his sister’s journal to acquire the subject of his poetry, which makes it seem as though Dorothy is his inspiration.
Unlike her brother, Dorothy seems to be less solitary in her experiences, her accounts of what happened and who was with her are less personal than William’s. Dorothy tends to include everyone who surrounded her at that point and time – ‘We [Dorothy and her brother William] were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park’ – whereas William makes it a companionless experience, he forgets everyone that may have been sharing the moment with him – ‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud’ . This, in conjunction with the use of imagery, similes and personification, not only makes William’s poems more accessible to a wide range of readers but it also adds character and personality, whereas Dorothy’s journal tends to be more reserved and closed to interpretation. Although both use semantic field of nature, William’s use is more affective as it conveys emotion, passion and attachment to his work. The use of first person narrative in both texts is effective in differing ways. In Dorothy’s journal, the use of first person narrative helps the reader gain an in-depth insight into her mind, whereas the first person narrative in William’s poem helps the reader become engrossed and connect with his emotions. The A-B-A-B-C-C rhyme scheme adapted by William not only gives the poem rhythm, but combined with the iambic pentameter makes it take on a very inviting and bouncy flow, almost emulating the ‘dancing Daffodils’ . On the other hand, Dorothy’s full on descriptive journal, shows the reader exactly how the daffodils ‘tossed & reeled & danced’ – thus impeding them from developing a personal picture. This really emphasises the personality of the diary form, as it shows she is writing to record those moments, which end up being so pivotal for William’s inspiration. William’s use of alliteration and onomatopoeia also increases the natural rhythm of words and at certain points accentuates the natural sounds of nature. William tends to use imagery in order to depict the beauty of nature, whereas Dorothy uses nature itself to depict the beauty of the moment. This correlates with the style of the time, as female writers honed in on more detailed images of nature, whereas male writers would be more likely to use verse (ballad) forms, with romanticised imagery of nature. This is partly the reason why William’s use of the first person personal pronoun is very effective in the poem and Dorothy’s use first person plural pronoun is extremely suited to the journal form of her...
Bibliography: • University of Aberystwyth, Study of English handbook, 2007-2008.
• Wordsworth, D. ‘The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals’, ed. Pamela Woof.
• Wordsworth, W. The Poems of William Wordsworth, ed. Nowell Charles Smith, M.A. Oxford.
• Wordsworth, W. Selected Poems of William Wordsworth, ed. Damian Walford Davies, Everyman’s Library (1994).
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