The Sublime Nature of the Future

In the Prelude, the lines in question make a few references to the poet-prophet, angling more toward the prophecy aspect, but still embarking on the nature of the role. Wordsworth himself states how the force or rather his exposure to the force of nature evokes the poet’s natural predisposition toward prophecy. However, though the experience of the sensation is founded in the instant, he regulates the sensation itself as a precursor for future events. He himself states, “Thus far, O friend, did I, not used to make/A present joy, the matter of my song,/pour out that day my soul in measured strains” (line 46-48). I believe implicitly expressed here the essence of the role, endeared to the notion of the sublime. I comprehend that Wordsworth is saying that poets should seek the sublime in nature. Although once it is found the experience can’t be described in present time. Because the nature of the sublime is the nature of the future, transcendent, mysterious, and blank in some parts. He even depicts, the future as, “the mind’s internal echo of the imperfect sound” (56).
From this description, I see a direct comparison to Shelley’s characterization of “mirrors of gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present”. This comparison makes me anxious to see a connection to Shelley’s account of unacknowledged legislation, merely from the similarity. However, the two legislations are incongruent in that Wordsworth seems to affix acknowledgement to the poet-prophet, while Shelley of course does the opposite. In the Prelude, the speaker in divulging the nature of his prophecy seems to beget more of the specifics than Shelley would attribute to a poet-prophet. Specifically when speaking of the future Wordsworth says, “to both I listened, drawing from them both/ A cheerful confidence in things to come” (57-58). Similarly of his muse he states that he felt hope, “of active days, of dignity and thought/Of prowess in an honorable field” (42-43).
Such clear foresight seems getting away from Shelley’s delineation, as the poet-prophet expresses what they don’t understand. Since, Wordsworth is saying he does understand I would say the two are similar but incongruent definitions. I would venture that this difference stems from the varying ideas the two authors must have regarding the sublime. The sublime being a hallmark of romanticism thought and expression applied to many poets and artists at the time and in expressing the nature of the sublime they were also fulfilling their role as poet-prophets. Though, Wordsworth had a more of a continuum regarding Nature.

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~ by bobcat101 on August 30, 2012.

One Response to “The Sublime Nature of the Future”

  1. Bobcat, this is a really thought-provoking and original post showing the links between the sublime and apocalypse. I had a hard time seeing the link in the quotations you included in the first paragraph, but your point became clearer in the second paragraph when you mention the “things to come.” I wonder though if Wordsworth is really understanding the sublime; by definition, the sublime cannot be categorized, defined, or represented in form. To understand the sublime is to lose it, and I don’t think that wordsworth wants us, the readers, to lose this experience by overthinking it.

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