Characters of the great apocalypse

The Alpha and the Omega, the first and last of the classical Greek alphabet, usually signifies Christ, as alluded to in the Book of Revelation: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” (verses 22:13). These are the lines that Wordsworth had in mind in book 6 of The Prelude, the section on “Crossing the Alps” (lines 469-573).  I particularly puzzled by Wordsworth’s description of his sublime experience crossing the French Alps, without actually knowing that he did so:

Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light,

Were all like the workings of one mind, the features

Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,

Characters of the great apocalypse,

the types and symbols of eternity,

Of first, and last, and midst, and without end.

(lines 567-572)

What do these “characters,” “types,” and “symbols” refer to?  The Norton edition footnote (#6) tells us that these terms refer to geological evidence, during Wordworth’s time, of the first great apocalypse: the Deluge. Of course, this version of apocalypse sounds strangely familiar to the Dream of the Arab episode in book 5, where the Arab prophet figure predicts the coming of a destructive flood.  For your posts, consider how this circular version of apocalypse, one in which the deluge and the future destruction predicted in Revelation are united, inform the symbolic imagery present in the Dream of the Arab episode and in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan.  When read side-by-side, what do these sublime visions tells us about the “Characters of the great apocalypse”?  Use the above quote as a lens through which to interpret these two related visions.

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~ by hgarcia13 on September 11, 2012.

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