13 September 2009

Observations Upon Romanticism: Or Reasons as to why the Poetry of Mr. Wordsworth Sucks

Commending his verse to the reading public in Great Britain, Mr. Wordsworth emphatically emphasised its novelty: the motif of ‘low and rustic life’ supposedly put it in a league altogether different from that of his predecessors and peers. He made an elaborate case for his poetry, dexterously arguing the advantages poets stood to gain by versifying ‘the manners of rural life’, those ‘elementary feelings’ which, from ‘the necessary character of rural occupations’, ‘coexist in a state of greater simplicity’ with ‘the beautiful and permanent forms of nature’: the closer one moved to Nature, the more one threw over the ‘language used by men’ a ‘certain colouring of imagination’, the better one’s verse became. This was a ‘mark of distinction’ worthy of the serious reader’s scrupulous attention: indeed, ‘twas a veritable revolution in poetry, the strong herald of a new dawn for art and humanity.

This, of course, is what Mr.-Monsieur-Wordsworth would have us believe. The disjunction betwixt truth and reality is such, however, that one cannot but wonder at the credulity of his peers in believing doctrines as naïve as Mr. Wordsworth’s: simultaneously, one cannot but marvel at the contriving cunning of Mr. Wordsworth himself in convincing entire generations of the supposedly worthless worth of his worthless poesy.

Consider, for example, the poem ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’. In the misguided pursuit of an imagined ‘overbalance of pleasure’ Mr. Wordsworth stresses excessively upon ethereal intangibilities-imperial palaces ablaze with celestial lights-with the unfortunate consequence of degrading the material, tangible realities of human existence into fond folly. A parent’s doting encouragement of his/her child’s playful mimicry of the adult world is to him foolhardy indulgence, succeeding in naught but accelerating the process of the child’s departure from his/her native innocence.

Not fully satisfied with thus demonising parental affection, Mr. Wordsworth further rambles upon his airy arguments. Beneath his/her ‘exterior semblance’ the child is actually a ‘Mighty Prophet’, a ‘Philosopher’ who has all the knowledge in the world. Of course, the reason why we-or the blessed child for that matter-never get a taste of his/her ‘Immortality’ is because the poor child is himself not aware of his ‘heritage’- and since in growing up he/she gradually looses sight of that heavenly light, any parental intervention to affect the same merits unequivocal condemnation.

Mr. Wordsworth’s worldview is patently exclusive. Been from an early age besotted with the supposed virtues of ‘low and rustic life’, Mr. Wordsworth, himself a well-travelled Cambridge man, zealously thrusts his blinkered vision upon his readers. Going by the gloriously befuddling evidence of his poetry, it seems there were no children in the world besides shepherd boys, farm lads, amateur woodcutters and lonely peasant girls - this, or that the others are not worth mentioning at all. His narrow classist mindset is clearly laid bare through the constant elevation and glorification of these children.

Be that as it may, the idea of a troubled childhood seems totally alien to Mr. Wordsworth’s skewered conception of society. It seems he was so busy running for inspiration-and Nature knows what else-after children in lonely woods and mountain valleys that he lost sight of all reality: all children did was innocently play in ‘endless imitation’ of the adult world. Victims of war, hunger, manual labour and sexual exploitation just did not exist- or if they did, they were best dealt by being pushed out of consciousness into, as it were, the ‘eternal mind’, the great memory…

Interestingly, inspite of remembering so much about his life before he was born, Mr. Wordsworth seems to have had no real memory of flesh and blood children- even humans for that matter. One might excuse him for forgetting the earthly needs and nature of children-who, like Celia of yore, puke, pee and poop-but considering he’d already had a daughter through Mademoiselle Vallon his mystification of children is not in the least justifiable. Even if one were to argue that he never met his bastard Caroline till she was ten, one still has the evidence of his boy John who was born in 1803, a year after Mr. Wordsworth started composing this Ode.

In light of Mr. Wordsworth’s personal life, his poetry is hard to explain, leave alone justify. If children came ‘trailing clouds of glory’, then how were his bastard and John born? Did Mr. Wordsworth, like those famed Spanish stallions, direct his clouds of glory into the respective French and English receptacles from afar, and was later, in a state of ‘tranquility’, inspired to imaginatively recreate the scene and thus arrive at the metaphor? One can really not think of any other reason than this for an experienced, married man to thus romanticise such a crucial, life-giving activity, though, of course, it’s possible that searching for the child within he forgot those around him, forgetting not just parenting his children but also the fact that, after all, he alone had fathered them- or perhaps even that might’ve been done under inspiration, a trance induced with Coleridge’s expert guidance: Mr. Wordsworth humping away to glory, totally unaware of either the act or its shackling consequences, thinking only rapturously of ‘clouds of glory’…

Any sane reader of Romanticism will, therefore, recognise the same as the greatest artifice thrust upon Literature- and that too by a bunch of insignificant, frustrated zealots who fondly imagined themselves heralds of a new dawn while being in actuality messengers of a dark, dull night. Indeed, it is a bane upon the Academia, throttling novelty and encouraging instead single-minded devotion to dubious dogmas. It is the sacred duty of all Literature scholars to consciously overthrow these dogmas and so liberate Literature from the clutches of Romanticism: to this we must devote our combined energies, to this dedicate our collective acumen!

Yes Mr. Wordsworth, as for Dorothy, you live on with us as well-and in unison do we sing you this solemn ode-Wordsworth sucks!


Anonymous said...

...a provocative piece informed by a limited assessment of wordsworth.the writer be better advised to: 1. make a clear distinction between wordsworth and other romantics and not pain all with the same brush. 2. read some more of wordsworth,most importantly 'the prelude'(1850 version published after he was no more), before dismissing him and his ideas about poesy rather uncharitably.

AP said...

My dear Sir/Madam!

Let me assure you that I understand perfectly the distinctions betwixt the six major Romantics and that each had their own style and theories on poesy. I have also read some enlightening sections of the Prelude, and have thus enlarged my sphere of knowledge about Mr. Wordsworth's theories.

But let me draw your attention, dear Anon, to the labels on this post, one of which is 'Naughty' and the other 'Vella'. You can Imagine the rest!

Anonymous said...

you don't quote a single piece of Wordsworth's poetry or prove you've actually READ any of his poetry.

There...I helped you get your e-rocks off by trolling on your lame blog. I was bored and stumbled upon this literary-critical equivalent of a cow patty.

More evidence that the signal-to-noise ratio of the Internet is truly astounding!