|University of Louisville
|Full text PDF:
While democracy was developing, while men were seeking to reform national politics and to find some means by which the people might be represented justly in the government, a new movement entered into literature to give it a broadened scope and a deepened meaning. This was the philosophical movement, at times strongly influenced by a metaphysical spirit, which often "not only prescribed the form of poetry, but furnished it with its elements". (Taine, History of English Literature, p.87). The questions, What is the meaning of life? What is man, and what is his purpose in the world? turned the thoughts of men inward upon their own souls to find, if possible, the answers. The question, how to live, was recognized as a moral one; "it is the question which most interests every man, and with which, in some way or other, he is perpetually occupied". (Arnold, Essays in Criticism, p. 142). As a result, the habits of introspection and of profound meditation characterized the poets of this period, and it remained for Wordsworth, as the chief representative of this new movement, to establish a name and place for himself unlike that of any other English poet. In this paper, then, it is my purpose to examine Wordsworth's position as a philosophic poet and to show that this position does not rest upon the dry dust of a "scientific system of thought". By tracing the development of his love for nature through his childhood, his youth, and his maturity, I wish to present Wordsworth's wholly new and individual view of Nature, which forms the basis for his unique position. Further, I desire to show how, through the influence of Nature, he was brought to that love and sympathy for mankind, that broad comprehension of the working's of man's mind, which make him, in the truest sense, a philosophical poet for those who approach him with "a seeing eye and an understanding heart".