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William Wordsworth was born April 7, 1770 in Cookermouth, England, and he was the second of five children, to John and Ann Wordsworth. After the death of his mother when he was eight years old and his father when he was thirteen years old, William and his brothers were sent to school in Hawkshead. In Hawkshead, they boarded at the cottage of Ann Tyson. Ann Tyson treated the boys as if they were one of her own. She gave them the simple comforts of life, showed them loving affection, and let them romp around the country side to their delight. William especially loved nature and poetry more than anything else. He would spend most of his days and even "half the night" (Greenblatt et al. 243) out investigating the wonders of the English country side, feeling there was a mystical connection between nature and God. William felt that nature had healing powers, in fact, it had such a profound effect on him that he wrote about nature in most of his poems. One can directly see his love of nature in most of his writings and especially in his poetry. As he wrote, William would often reminisce of his childhood, back to a simpler time of freedom, curiosity, and nature. A direct connection established between his poetry and the impact nature had on him. (243)
While in grammar school, William found his true passion for poetry and showed a strong interest for poems and poets. One of the poets who fascinated him most was John Milton who wrote such poems as, The First Love of Adam and Eve, Light, On His Blindness. William's love of poetry and nature started when he was still a young boy. As he grew up, William went on to attend St John's College at Cambridge University to further his education and love of poetry. Every summer, William would return home to his beloved nature and spend countless hours out among the fields taking in the sights and sounds. Before Graduating from Cambridge, he took a walking tour through France, Switzerland, and Italy in 1790 with his friend Welshman Robert Jones. After his tour, William returned to France to study the language where he met and fell in love with Annette Vallon. William and Annette had an affair from which she became pregnant with his illegitimate child, a daughter born in December of 1792. Due to financial troubles, William never married Annette. Instead, he left her and his daughter in France, returning to England to write for money, and intending to come back when he could provide an exceptional life for them. Because William never returned to France to be with his love and their daughter again, he experienced great guilt and depression throughout his life, (pg. 243).
William Wordsworth's first published works were Descriptive Sketches, and An Evening Walk, published in 1793; both were unpopular and not well received by the public (Drabble 16). In 1797, Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a friend and fellow poet, co-wrote Lyrical Ballads, the first edition was published in 1798. Coleridge and Wordsworth wanted to write poetry that was in the language of the common man. They did not want their writings to be flashy in a language above the average man (Drabble 44,45). Wordsworth and Coleridge wanted everyone to share in their joy of poetry and nature. For example, Wordsworth and Coleridge show their love for nature through one their writings The Thorn. This poem is about nature imagery from nature. For example, lines six, seven, eight, and nine, "It stands erect, this aged Thorn; No leaves it has, no prickly points; It is a mass of knotted joints; A wretched thing forlorn" (George 75) One of Wordsworth's more memorable poems in the Lyrical Ballads, Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tittern Abbey, shows his love for nature (Chandler 9). In lines3, 4, &5 is an example of nature, "These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs with a soft inland murmur.-Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs." (George 91) Wordsworth writes here about his view above Tintern Abbey and how nature sets the scene for his poem (243).
Nature was Wordsworth's true comfort and in his poems he wrote about how he felt for nature. He wrote such poems about his feelings on nature as, To a Butterfly; I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, To the Cuckoo, and The Rainbow. Wordsworth's reoccurring theme he wrote about that would surface in his poems was nature and God.
Wordsworth's poem, To a Butterfly, is a skillful example of how Wordsworth put either his childhood memories in his poetry or his love for nature in his poetry. Wordsworth believed that we experience nature, contemplate about it, and then spontaneously write what flows out of us( Drabble 46). Nature to Wordsworth was his true comfort, a place where he could find himself and witness the awesome power of God. In this poem, Wordsworth is writing about his childhood, and his fond memories of a sweeter, more innocent time of careless wandering about. Especially in lines: ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen, of this poem," Oh! pleasant, pleasant were the days, The time, when, in our childish plays, my sister Emmeline and I together chased the butterfly". (George 276) This poem is not all that much about a butterfly, but more about his memories of a sweeter time of innocence and the carefree world of a child. In lines one, two, five, and six they are about the butterfly and how fragile and fleeting the life of a butterfly is. This directly correlates with the fleeting time of child hood and how precious and fragile this time is. "STAY near me---do not take thy flight! A little longer stay in sight!" "Float near me; do not yet depart! Dead times revive in thee." (George 276) Wordsworth relates the butterfly to his childhood, such as when he says "Dead times Revive In Thee" (276) he is referring to how the butterfly reminds him of his child hood memories.
In another of Wordsworth's nature poems, To the Cuckoo, he writes about nature and childhood. In lines one through seven, Wordsworth writes about this little bird that helps him reminisce of boyhood times and nature:
"I hear thee and rejoice.
O Cuckoo! Shall I call thee Bird.
Or but a wandering Voice?
While I am lying on the grass,
Thy twofold shout I hear,
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off, and near" (Knopf 19)
In lines fourteen through sixteen, Wordsworth shows that his poems are not always what they seem. He writes about this little bird that is actually an invisible idea he chases when he hears it sing, "Even yet thou art to me no bird, but an invisible thing, a voice, and a mystery"(19). Wordsworth writes in these lines and conveys to the readers how his childhood is this invisible object to him. He metaphorically chases the cuckoo or time, to step back to a time of simple joy. In this poem, there are references of his love for nature, and how he wants so badly to be a boy again. This idea is shown here in the last lines of the poem,
"That golden time again.
O blessed Bird! The earth we pace,
Again appears to be,
An unsubstantial, faery place;
That is fit home for Thee!"(20)
Wordsworth writes about "that golden time" (20), which refer to boyhood and nature. He also writes "that is fit home for Thee"(20), which refers to how nature is his true home, and is where he wants to be.
Wordsworth's love of nature and his childhood memories are evident in his writings, and are shown directly in his poetry. Wordsworth's poetry is rooted in nature and the memories he loved most about nature. To Wordsworth, nature is where he could be at true peace and be free to see the full power and magnitude of God. Wordsworth's poetry is true to his lifelong love affair
with nature and God.