By John Turner
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Extra resources for Wordsworth: Play and Politics: A Study Of Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1787–1800
For once again the gulf between the man who had been and the man who was to come was opening up in front of Wordsworth; poetic despondency and prose optimism needed to be reconciled and - to avoid the lure of rhetoric and the desperation of hope , to achieve the substantial universal language which is perhaps the aim of all radicalism - he felt the need to make good in himself, as far as possible, the nature of that man who was to come. But that was not yet: it was to be an even deeper despair that first prompted him to reshape the world, in poetry, and thus to discover the particular importance of its play-area to the long process of social transformation.
But his quest has quite opposed results. In the wide range of many a weary round, Still have my pilgrim feet unfailing found, As despot courts their blaze of gems display, Ev'n by the secret cottage far away The lily of domestic joy decay; While Freedom's farthest hamlets blessings share, Found still beneath her smile, and only there. (719--25) The pleasures of cottage life are tainted by political tyranny; and what is true of domestic joy is certainly true of the joy in landscape. For what we see is a function of what we are, and only the free mind can see freely: it is liberty that adds a precious seeing to the eye.
Hamlet had helped him in the first two poems to explore a recurrent mood of world-weariness; but from now on the two great feudal tragedies of King Lear and Macbeth were to be as important as Hamlet in helping him to image the potential harmony of social life and the most unnatural strife aroused by its betrayal. Over the next few years, and especially in The Borderers, Wordsworth was to develop Shakespeare's feudal imagery into a radical critique of precisely the long continuance of feudal oppression.
Wordsworth: Play and Politics: A Study Of Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1787–1800 by John Turner