William Wordsworth: A Composer Ahead of His Era

Mr. Wordsworth is quite the complex soul. And it’s rather easy to choose an elaborate passage from The Prelude and pick it apart and define every word and trace every allusion, but that only touches a small part of the meanings behind this Wordsworth composition. I find it exceptionally difficult to explain the meaning behind this piece of literature, and then on top of trying to find words to illustrate the intrinsic value of this exceptional work, I must also communicate understanding of the “still, sad music of humanity.” But then again, this idea, this description of “the still, sad music of humanity” includes me, too. And for that matter, it includes every member of humanity that ever lives.

Wordsworth, whether he classified himself or not as one, is a composer. He is a lyricist and an artist. In Books III, IV, and V Wordsworth really begins to expose himself to raw experiences and overwhelming emotions, and by means of his words, he crafts pieces that fill the readers mind with images, sounds, and cryptic feelings of awareness. Iambic pentameter keeps the rhythm pulsing as the words drift and the lines stretch to finish the composer’s thoughts. His syntax and diction swarm, and Wordsworth describes in as many synonyms as he can find, the images he sees and the feelings he experiences (see Book III, lines 100-119.) He personifies that which has no life (Book III, lines 131-133,) and he uses the different books of The Prelude to lead him through a journey of human condition and personal composition.

And as mentioned before, William Wordsworth is a composer. And this “still, sad music of humanity” is something that expresses the Romantic ideal: a sense of oneness with a moment in time and the feeling of sadness knowing that the moment is fleeting. This era of Romanticism was an era that lived and breathed passion and richer and deeper experiences of life. Artists of this era composed with a sense of overwhelming awareness of life and nature and self, and Wordsworth is no different. He composes with a richness that is undeniable, and yet, he writes with hints of Impressionistic mentality. Impressionism followed the Romantic era, and this period was defined by the celebration of suggestion and focused on the atmosphere of emotions rather than specific instances. And Wordsworth is truly connected with this idea of Impressionism and atmospheric composition. The “still, sad music of humanity” is a polyphonic connection to self, nature, and existence that binds us to a moment in time and a lingering sense of sadness for a time that has come before, that exists in the present, and that will instantly pass us by.


~ by katiearata on September 6, 2012.

One Response to “William Wordsworth: A Composer Ahead of His Era”

  1. I understand your point about Wordsworth’s compositional richness–which is a very good idea to pursue–but I’m unsure where exactly do you see it at work. You mention his blank verse form and gesture toward two different passages in the Prelude book III. However, you don’t take the time to analyze these lines in detail. Doing so would have made your point much more stronger. Close readings are more helpful than broad historical generalizations on impressionism and its relationship to Romanticism.

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