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How Do the Content and Style of Two of the Wordsworth Poems Set for Study Match His Beliefs About Good Poetry?

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William Wordsworth reacted to the natural world around him with a sense of awe and contentment. He believed that imagination, overflow of emotion and memory were the key elements behind inspiring poetry. In his poetry, his central themes are the potency of memory, humanity’s reliance on nature, emotional expression and the personal world of imagination. His two poems ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ and ‘The Solitary Reaper’ match and reflect this and his beliefs about good poetry, as expressed in his famous preface to ‘Lyrical Ballads’. Through Wordsworth’s use of stylistic and poetic techniques, such as personification and sibilance, he has emotively recounted his personal experiences to the reader, linking the importance of nature to humanity.

Wordsworth describes poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” and he focuses on the personal quality of the experience to inform the reader of his reaction to the environment surrounding him and the emotions created when he comes in contact with the beauty of nature. The value of personal experience and emotions encountered is emphasised in ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ through various techniques. His use of first person in both poems '' “Ten thousand saw I at a glance” (I Wandered) and “I listen’d, motionless and still; and, when I mounted up the hill” (Solitary Reaper) highlights the significance of personal experience and creating particular feelings of empathy and admiration. He chooses to use high modality language such as ‘pleasure’, ‘bliss’ and ‘golden’ which enriches his poetry and creates intrigue for the reader leading to his recollection of emotions evident in the last stanza of ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’. Likewise, Wordsworth’s ‘The Solitary Reaper’ reflects the importance of rekindling of emotions after an experience. His beliefs of good poetry was centred around the recollection of experience and overflow of emotion evident in ‘The Solitary Reaper’ through an uplifting sense of musicality throughout the poem to imitate his joy in encountering the maiden '' “The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more.” Wordsworth believed passionate emotion contemplated and rekindled was essential in order to write good poetry and this has been effectively applied in both his poems.

The content of Wordsworth’s poems challenged the classical view of poetry as industrialisation led him to fear that human sensitivity and love of nature was being lost through mechanisation and commercialism. This caused him to speak about humanity’s need to embrace its natural origins in his poems. In ‘The Solitary Reaper’, Wordsworth’s use of word choice repeats the idea of solitude '' “Behold her, single in the field, yon solitary Highland lass! Reaping and singing by herself; ... alone she cuts and binds the grain” but although he presents this gesture of loneliness, it is uplifting as the message to the reader is that peace comes with solitude and hence the ability to appreciate the natural world. This idea recurs in Wordsworth’s poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ as he encourages the reader to embrace nature through his use of reverse personification. He compares himself to a natural object whilst personifying the daffodils with human characteristics '' “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and “A host of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze ... tossing their heads in sprightly dance”. This reinforces his idea of the intrinsic relationship between nature and humanity. These two poems acknowledge the link between man and nature as shown in the girl’s organic beauty. Her raw qualities appeal to the narrator and accordingly, Wordsworth identifies that she is the product of embracing humanity’s natural origins and he thus encourages the reader to recognise its importance.

He believed that poetry was an over flow of emotion and in order to recreate that emotion at will, imagination was the key ingredient, contributing to the memory of a personal experience. He spoke through his poetry about imagination having the power to provide escapism from reality into his personal impression of nature. Wordsworth presents this idea of imagination and memory in his poem '' The Solitary Reaper, through his imagery and comparisons of the girl to exotic and foreign elements of nature all created through his world of imagination. This is evident in '' “No nightingale did ever chaunt more welcome notes to weary bands of travellers in some shady haunt among Arabian sands” and his rhetorical questioning of the content of her song also implies his imagination is trying to comprehend her mysterious being. Similarly, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ uses personification of natural surroundings, enhancing his poetry with vivid visual imagery '' “Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves besides them danced; but they out the sparkling waves in glee”. Also, his association between nature and God is evident as a further branch of imagination when he connotes spirituality '' “a host of golden daffodils”. Similarly, incorporating sibilance into heavenly imagery creates a soothing, organic reaction suggesting the religious concept of eternity and immortality '' “Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle in the milky way, they stretched in never-ending line along the margin of a bay” thus fusing nature and divinity into one perception. This imagination which overflows from the two poems portrays to the reader Wordsworth’s assertion of the importance of memory.
Wordsworth expresses his thoughts about the significance of memory in ‘The Solitary Reaper’ in the last stanza as it reminds the reader of the recount-like structure of the poem and the uplifting tones imply that memory of an experience has the power to transcend time '' “The music in my heart I bored, long after it was heard no more”. This memory provides contentment for Wordsworth, as he describes in his recognised preface '' “the mind will, upon the whole, be in a state of enjoyment”. The idea of memory surpassing time is found in ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ in the final stanza also which reflects his thoughts expressed in the preface through the word choice and musicality of his poetry '' “they flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude; and then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils” restating his idea of achieving a state of joy provided by the imaginative memory of one’s personal experience.

William Wordsworth had a unique impression of his natural surroundings and found contentment in recounting his personal experiences in his poetry. In his renowned preface to ‘Lyrical Ballads’, he expresses his beliefs on the importance of imagination, emotion, memory and connection with our natural origins which were the ingredients to inspirational poetry and has used poetic techniques to achieve this. As such, the content and style of ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ and ‘Solitary Reaper’, emphasises Wordsworth’s ideals about the power of memory, importance of nature to humanity, emotion conjured through experiences and explorations of the foreign and exotic world of imagination as the key to powerful poetry.

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