The Symphony of Wordsworth and His Readership

In The Prelude, Wordsworth’s verse appears as a song to the reader allowing them to partake in the music that Wordsworth hears in nature, to some extent. The words of Wordsworth are a song. His experience creates the music for the reader. After looking through the early portions of the Prelude, I find that I always have some form of music in my head while thinking about his words. It’s not that I am wearing headphones or playing music from my computer, it is that I am absorbed in Wordsworth’s world as he is in his own. Through the sounds and images that he reports and hears, I myself share a similar experience.

The idea of this stems from a passage in Book I regarding the shepard’s boat being stolen. Wordsworth is rowing along the placid lake as the low taps of his oars striking the water “in cadence” (359). Suddenly terror and fear engulf Wordsworth as a massive mountain appears from behind a “craggy steep…a huge cliff,/…Upreared its head” (378-380). The combination of seeming stillness and serenity thwarted by the appearance of this monstrous natural object remind me of Haydn’s Overture of The Creation posted earlier [What does the apocalypse sound like]. The subtle pitter patter of the oars is usurped by the presence of the evergrowing mountain–a similar feeling gained from listening to Haydn’s piece.

Another example is found in Book IV of The Prelude as Wordsworth rests with his terrier companion. Suddenly Wordsworth hears a “rippling breeze” followed “intermittingly a breath-like sound/ A respiration short and quick” that seemed to echo the natural cadence of his oars from the previous passage (180-186). Wordsworth is suddenly brought to reality when he realizes the faint respiration was quite possibly his companion. It is moments such as this where the reader shares in Wordsworth’s experience quite closely. We only hear as much he hears as his apocalyptic unveiling of sound proceeds. Wordsworth himself becomes lost in his creation stepping away from reality into a world of lush scenery and swarming sounds. The music that he hears or the scene that he describes composes a song in the head of the reader. Wordsworth allows the reader to be involved in their own creative experience as he describes, allowing for our own version of the apocalypse. I hear the pitter of his oars entering the water, not as he did, but as I imagine drawing memory and experience. In this sense, I am creating something of my own as I read his verse. What makes Wordsworth truly endearing is not how directly shares his experience with the reader, but rather how he involves the reader in their own creative process.

~ by frightenedinmate2 on September 6, 2012.

One Response to “The Symphony of Wordsworth and His Readership”

  1. I can see how the reader is involved in Wordsworth’s musical universe, but I wonder where, exactly, in his poetry does he allow a moment for the reader to fill in a gap with their imagination. This is key question, for Wordsworth frequently tells his readers what to think and feel and how; he coaches them on how to listen to his poetry and on how to imagine (or reimagine) what he is remembering. The respiration that Wordsworth refers to is not just an allusion to the previous section of the oars in the lake but to the iambic heart-like beat of his poetry. It is at the level of poetic rhythm that Wordsworth implicates his readers in the very experience he just reflected on.

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