Sunday, April 24, 2011
The Prelude 1805 (lines 230-273)
In these lines, Wordsworth expresses his desire to capture the beauty of everyday life in his writings. But at this point in his life, he sees it is wiser for him to wait to gain life experience before trying. Until then, he has to live like everyone else who doesn't share these aspirations, feeling stupid. He says that "humility and honesty" serve as a "cloak to a more subtle selfishness." In other words, he says he sadly must wait to write fully and suffer til he is ripe with age, but saying such things only elevates him. It's as though he's saying things - simple truths - to make us pity and admire him, and so humble and honest expressions come to self-serving ends. This realization is very introspective on Wordsworth's part. He gives us multiple layers to explore in his philosophical work: what he's saying, what he means, what he will mean, and who he is. He focuses largely on nature, but analyzes his writing and what it will be in the future, and then he delves into the effects of what he's saying on our view of him and his view of himself. He wants to have a simple eye but his human desires for possessions and power remain within him. They beat him down. He can see these cravings at work and how their satisfaction does nothing to slow the trip to the grave. Wordsworth seems to be emphasizing the pointlessness of succumbing to materialism. Clearly, he thinks there is something better to spend one's limited life on, such as enjoying each day, as the beginning of this set of lines points out.