“The Wild Swans at Coole”: Analysis

The Poem

The Wild Swans at Coole

By W. B. Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

The Message

The Wild Swans at Coole basically finds Yeats contemplating a game of swans (apparently “game” refers to a group of swans when they’re sitting or swimming, and “wedge” refers to them when they’re in the air). The poem has a lot of external references, from Yeats’ Irish nationalism, to his unrequited love of Maud Gonne, but, on the surface, it shows Yeats watching the swans that he has watched for many years, and, as he watches, they all take off into the air, leaving him to contemplate what he will do when they are no longer around.

The Analysis

Metre & Structure

The poem is written in a balladic style, echoing how Yeats is reflecting on the past, glorifying nature and love through this style’s connection to tradition and romance.

The Title

Coole Park was the home of Lady Gregory, a patron of the arts and Yeats’ close friend. Yeats must have watched the swans when he wandered the park on his visits to Lady Gregory.

Line by Line

  • “The trees are in their autumn beauty, / The woodland paths are dry,” – Ireland, Yeats’ home, is thought to be a place of peace and serenity, filled with nature and beauty. These lines may also, however, reference Maud Gonne and how she is in her “autumn beauty”, her veins “dry”, due to her lack of passion for Yeats.
  • “Autumn” / “Twilight” – Yeats considers time a lot in this poem; he thinks of Autumn, which marks the beginning of the end of a year, and twilight, the beginning of the end of a day. This demonstrates how he is considering the end of his life, as he does in other poems such as “The Cold Heaven“. It may also reference the end of nature, however, relevant considering the changes that were beginning to happen in Ireland during Yeats’ lifetime.
  • “Mirrors a still sky” – This poem was published in 1917, a year after the Easter Risings of 1916, suggesting that Yeats may be reflecting on his peaceful Ireland before the chaos broke out.
  • “Among the stones / Are nine-and-fifty swans” – The swans surround the “stones” – inanimate objects that may represent the dead Irish from the Easter Risings. This is particularly notable as, whilst the last two lines of each stanza generally rhyme in a ballad, Yeats only offers a half-rhyme here, which emphasises the discord in the serene setting – all is not as peaceful as it seems! The swans, however, offer a stark contrast to this eerie setting, as they provide the imagery of elegance and serenity. They could perhaps represent the spirits of those who died, linking the ideas together.
  • “Suddenly mount” – “Suddenly” represents the changing pace of Ireland, a contrast to how the word is used in “The Cold Heaven” to represent the explosion of Yeats’ inner turmoil. “Mount”, meanwhile, conveys sexual connotations that link the poem to the myth, put into poem by Yeats, of “Leda and the Swan”, where Zeus impregnates the girl, Leda, whilst in the guise of a swan.
  • “And scatter wheeling in great broken rings / Upon their clamorous wings” – The plosive language of “great broken rings” demonstrates Yeats’ resentment at being rejected by Gonne and his anger at having his traditional, romantic Ireland, essentially taken away from him. The peace is broken by the swans, echoing how the Easter Risings broke Irish peace.
  • “My heart is sore” – Yeats’ mental frustration at losing Ireland is causing him physical pain, too. This passion and association with the heart not only links back to Maud Gonne, but also demonstrates just how much love Yeats has for Ireland.
  • “All’s changed since I” – Ireland’s changing around Yeats; the structure of this sentence also suggests that it’s leaving him behind, as the personal pronoun “I” comes after the changing process considered in “all’s changed”.
  • “The bell-beat of their wings above my head” – The “bell-beat” could represent the end of a life, perhaps Yeats’, as he considers this, or perhaps the Nationalist heroes’, which were lost in the previous year.
  • “Unwearied still, lover by lover” – Swans mate for life, and this line reveals just how much they are “unwearied” by each other’s company. Yeats resents this as he compares it to his relationship with Gonne.
  • “Their hearts have not grown old” – Reference to how the Nationalist heroes died young, or perhaps a reference to how Yeats is ageing.
  • “Passion or conquest – Perhaps again linking to the myth of “Leda and the Swan”, and Zeus’ mysterious reasons behind it.
  • “But now they drift on the still water” – The swans came back to Yeats, suggesting that his traditional Ireland has not quite come to an end, and that there is still hope for it. From a more eerie interpretation, the fact that the swans “drift” and the water is “still” gives the impression of a lack of movement, and therefore also perhaps a lack of life.
  • “Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day / To find they have flown away?” – Yeats realises that his life will have very little value after Gonne is dead and his beloved Ireland is changed forever. Both his poetry and his actual life will have no purpose without either of these great loves. The conclusive question mark represents Yeats’ overall confusion – how can he live when he’s lost so much?

Overview

The Wild Swans at Coole.JPG
My original analysis of this poem

The Wild Swans at Coole is one of Yeats’ poems that most aligns him to the Romantic poets. Yeats himself, of course, is never labelled a Romantic poet in the same way that people like William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Percy Shelley (1792-1822) are, simply because Yeats (1865-1939) was too late. Yet the Romantics were clearly a strong influence in some of Yeats’ poems, particularly those, such as The Wild Swans at Coole, where he romanticises nature.

This poem demonstrates Yeats’ nationalism and loyalty to Ireland, along with his sadness at how, essentially, time has changed things. It has changed things for Yeats on a personal basis, but it has also changed things for Ireland. Yeats doesn’t want to imagine what might happen in Ireland’s future; he doesn’t want to imagine an Ireland where his swans don’t exist anymore. So, essentially, this is a poem about reflecting on the past, the future, and fearing the loss of natural beauty and tradition. It’s also one of Yeats’ more political poems, if only in how it links to the Easter Risings of 1916.

“The Cat and the Moon”: Analysis

The Poem

The Cat and the Moon

By W. B. Yeats

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun around like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon
The creeping cat looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For wander and wail as he would
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnalousche runs in the grass,
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnalousche, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.
Minnalousche creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnalousche know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnalousche creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.

The Message

The Cat and the Moon is, on the surface, about a cat trying to catch the moon. It’s been suggested that the cat in the poem was based on either Maud Gonne’s cat (the muse and love of Yeats), or his friend, Lady Gregory’s. However, it’s also about a dance between lovers (the cat here represents Yeats, whilst the moon would be Maud Gonne), and may also hint at the Romantic concept of mutability (this basically means ‘change’, but it’s an idea that the Romantic Poets latched onto in their works).

The Analysis

Metre & Structure

The poem moves rhythmically with a mainly iambic metre to accentuate the tone of a dance. A mixture of assonance and alliteration then gives it a soft tonality that matches the lyrical, child-like feel to it.

Line by Line

  • “The cat went here and there / And the moon spun round like a top,” – No matter what Yeats does, as he goes “here and there”, he cannot reach the moon (Gonne); she, meanwhile, “spun” in front of Yeats, which gives the impression that she’s almost laughing at him. Spinning also means that she would be constantly changing, the first link to the concept of mutability. This changing could be a reference to age, or else her revolutionary involvement. Yeats sees her everywhere he goes, but he can never reach her. There is a duality between Yeats’ movement and Gonne’s, the “and” pairing them; this could demonstrate how, in Yeats’ opinion, he and Maud belong together. Despite this, their movements are too different; one spins gracefully while the other darts “here and there”.
  • “And the nearest kin of the moon” – Hints at Yeats’ relationship with Iseult Gonne, Maud’s daughter. He sees her as a part of the dance, but she will always come second to Maud (this is shown by the preceding description of the moon in juxtaposition to Iseult’s reference).
  • “Creeping cat” / “Stared at the Moon” / “For wander and wail” – These phrases show Yeats’ general self-hatred; his love for Gonne controls him. He is always “creeping” towards her, even though the physical distance between them will always be too far. This demonstrates his acceptance of the fact that he will never be with Gonne, an idea also considered in “The Cold Heaven“.
  • “Animal blood” – Yeats bestialises himself as Minnalousche (thought to be the name of the cat Yeats based The Cat and the Moon on), perhaps to suggest that he is not in control of himself when it comes to Gonne – he is driven by his more primal instincts.
  • “Do you dance, Minnalousche, do you dance?” – This rhetorical question accentuates the idea that Yeats is questioning his attitude, as well as his future. He mocks himself, the repetition here amplifying the impression that the poem is actually a song.
  • “What better than to call a dance?” – This directly links “dance” to the poem. Yeats sees himself as taking part in a neverending dance.
  • “Maybe the moon may learn, / Tired of that courtly fashion, / A new dance turn.” – This is a contrast to earlier as Yeats hopes that Gonne will change and suddenly accept him as her lover. “A new dance turn” may also reference Iseult, as he considers his relationship with Maud’s daughter.
  • “From moonlit place to place” – Yeats reminds us of how his love for Gonne is eternal, haunting him wherever he goes, just like the moon. Yet, at the same time, it could be argued that he only feels the love some of the time, as the moon does not shine in the day.
  • “Change to change – In these few lines, as well as the final two, Yeats considers how he and Gonne will change over time (similar to how he wrote, “there is gray in your hair” in his “Broken Dreams”. It could also represent how he is beginning to resent his eternal love for her.
  • “Alone, important and wise,” – Yeats closes the poem with his self-praise, to perhaps reassure himself that he is not as weak and worthless as Gonne’s rejection makes him feel. The Cat and the Moon thus acts as a journey of Yeats’ acceptance of the situation; although he creeps through the grass after the moon, he sees himself as wise, because he knows that he has no choice.

Overview

The Cat and the Moon.JPG
My original analysis of this poem

The Cat and the Moon is, on the surface, one of Yeats’ less serious poems; because of its form and metre, it is almost impossible to read the poem in anything but a sing-song voice. Yet this poem still addresses big concerns that were quite important to Yeats. He thinks a lot about Maud Gonne, and her place, as well as her daughter’s, in his own dance. Overall, though, the poem represents change. It considers how people change, and how dances change.

Whether Yeats is accepting that, as he and Gonne change, their relationship may never prosper, or he is still hoping for “a new dance turn”, he is looking to the future in a somewhat positive way, particularly compared to some of his other poems, such as in “The Cold Heaven“. This leaves his readers on a positive note, which gives a satisfactory feel to the close of the poem.

“The Cold Heaven”: Analysis

This is the first of a new blog section that I’m starting, dealing with poetry analysis. Analysing poems is something that I’ve always liked doing, so thank you for reading; I hope this may be of some use to someone.

The Poem

The Cold Heaven

By W. B. Yeats

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quick,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

The Message

The Cold Heaven is all about emotion; it’s Yeats’ revelation, supposedly inspired by strange clouds and patterns in the sky. It explores big concerns, such as life, death and destiny, as well as his personal concerns, which were primarily about his muse, Maud Gonne, and how she refused to love him. Yeats was also extremely concerned about death, particularly as he grew older, and this poem, published in 1914, marks the time when he began to think seriously about the end of his life.

The Analysis

Metre & Structure

The poem is made up of Alexandrines within free verse, which demonstrates a limited order within chaos. It represents Yeats’ own confusion about death and afterlife. The enjambment throughout the poem demonstrates how The Cold Heaven itself is a rush of emotions, as well as a revelation; he cannot control the pace of his thoughts.

The Title

The idea of a “cold heaven” is the exact opposite to the idealisation of hell. This could suggest that it is pure and divine, yet “cold” also presents an image of emotional detachment and a lack of passion. These contrasting impressions of an afterlife reveal Yeats’ uncertainties over his death and his fear as he begins to contemplate the unknown.

Line by Line

  • “Suddenly” – Reveals the power of Yeats’ thoughts as they burst from him (an idea also considered in “The Wild Swans at Coole”).
  • “Rook-delighting heaven” – Could refer to crevices and sharp edges (an unfriendly image), or to how death is satisfied in heaven, suggesting that it is a positive image, and thus a positive afterlife.
  • “Ice burned and was but the more ice” – Could demonstrate how heaven is a form of hell; here Yeats critiques religion, suggesting flaws through the image of a “cold heaven”; it is “cold” to represent its opposition to hell, and yet Yeats suggests that heaven is still imperfect, as it is “cold” and unwelcoming. He suggests that, regardless of where he ends up after his death, he will not be happy.
  • “Imagination and heart were driven / So wild that every casual thought of that and this” – Yeats suggests that “the cold heaven” would be a place void from “imagination and heart”. These lines also indicate what would happen to the “heart”, if it was to enter a “cold heaven”; if heat represents passion, then he way be considering his unrequited love for Maud Gonne.
  • “Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season” – Here Yeats considers how his passion for Gonne could not be a part of the idealised heaven. His heaven has gone “cold” as he realises his rejection and feels as though a part of him (the heat of heaven) has left him, leaving only the memories.
  • “With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago; – This could be a Shakespearean link; similar lexical tones suggest that love and death are intertwined, just as they were in Romeo and Juliet, with the “star-crossed lovers”.
  • “Sense and reason” – Yeats can’t logically define or understand the concept of an afterlife, no matter how hard he tries.
  • “Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,” – Yeats weeps over his own confusion; he is desperate to determine what he will face once he dies and whether Gonne will be a part of this existence. He is overwhelmed by grief from her rejection, as well as his own confusion; this line most accurately reveals the emotion within this poem, “to and fro” illustrating how he alternates between concepts of a pleasant afterlife, and an unpleasant afterlife. It also demonstrates how he has nowhere to turn now that he has lost Maud Gonne.
  • “Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken, / Confusion of the death-bed over” – Yeats has another revelation within the first. He is no longer scared about his future; “ah” separated by a caesura in either side slows down the pace of the poem and represents Yeats’ satisfaction over this realisation, suggesting that heaven must be good and that his “confusion of the death-bed [is] over”.
  • “Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken / By the injustice of the skies for punishment?” – Yeats is “out naked on the roads” because of his vulnerabilities. “Stricken / By the injustice of the skies” indicates that Yeats’ “punishment” will be met in heaven, but their “injustice” also hints at the idea of destiny and that it is not his fault that Gonne does not love him; it is “the injustice of the skies”, whether this be God or not, that seeks to punish him.

Overview

The Cold Heaven
My original analysis of this poem

The Cold Heaven is all about oppositions. It’s emotional, passionate and messy, but that’s the point. Yeats is torn between his need to move on from Maud Gonne, so he can focus on much bigger things, such as the questions about death, and his inexplicable love for her. Even though this poem represents his realisation that Gonne will never truly love him, he still wonders whether she might change her mind.

The most important thing to take away from this poem is probably Yeats’ own confusion. He honestly doesn’t know what he’s thinking, because his thoughts are no longer logical. He’s working through his emotions, which is why the issues about Gonne and about death merge together, as he worries about both at the same time. Like I said, it’s messy, and it’s confusing.

Sunday Scrawl #2

For a long time now, my two main hobbies have been writing short stories and taking lots of photographs. It therefore makes perfect sense to me to start a photo prompt challenge of my own. Here are the rules:

Sunday Scrawl Logo

  1. Below, you will find this week’s photo prompt!
  2. Responses to the prompt can vary from prose/poetry writing to more photographs – there are no limits and no word counts.
  3. There are no tangible prizes for this challenge, but I will be reblogging the top entries!
  4. Feel free to use the photo below or the “Sunday Scrawl” icon to illustrate your responses (although I’d love to see some of your own illustrations, too)!
  5. Please remember to include a pingback to this post in your response.
  6. To enter, please just add a linkup to your post in the comments section (linking to this blog should do it, but add an extra link if you’re worried)!

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You can read my own response to this prompt here.

The Sunday Scrawl

Hi everyone,

For a long time now, my two main hobbies have been writing short stories and taking lots of photographs. It therefore makes perfect sense to me to start a photo prompt challenge of my own. I will post my first challenge this Sunday, and hope you’ll join me in writing a response to it.

You can post absolutely anything in response to my challenges, from poetry and short stories, to photos of your own. If you want to know more about “The Sunday Scrawl” challenge, you can visit its page here.

Thanks for reading; I’m looking forward to hearing from you next week!

Sunday Scrawl Logo

Nobody’s Fault

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July 2017

When I were five, I started the system.

Five days a week, for a bunch o’ times tables.

I ‘ave a go now, but can’t even list em’:

Got no use to a guy who fixes cables.

 

When I were eleven, knew it weren’t over.

Nine ‘till three fifteen, each bloody day.

Spent my last few years hungover,

N’ when I was done, couldn’t wait to be away.

 

When I were sixteen, didn’t get better.

Got some gig with a mate o’ me dad.

Nine ‘till five, said ‘at written letter…

But at least I weren’t no undergrad.

 

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January 2017

When they were eighteen, they left home.

‘Ad to leave to make their millions,

‘At’s what they said, as they got their loan.

Nine thousand a year? Cost ‘em billions.

 

When they was twenty-five, they worked

At minimum wage, not twenty pound an hour.

They was ‘ungry tired and overworked,

Fightin’ for the right to a shower.

 

When we was fifty, we was broke.

They got them jobs with their qualifications,

But them loans? What a joke.

Nobody’s fault! But this damn Nation’s.

Change

The first thing that came into my mind as I looked at today’s photo prompt from Creative Writing Ink, was a short, little poem I wrote just before I started university. Poetry’s never been my strongest form of writing, probably because I simply enjoy writing prose so much more, but I had a go, and this poem was later published in a young writers’ anthology, so I figured it might be worth sharing.

Change
Creative Writing Ink 06/07/17

There’s something strange about this crazy world;

I wanted to sit back as it unfurled,

But now I’m trapped in these churning waters,

Stuck watching as the confusion slaughters.

I don’t know who I am or where to go:

Do I stand out or join the pressing flow?

I need a guide to help me through the dark,

Because I’m here and want to leave my mark.

Everything’s changing; everything’s new,

But I guess that’s life, and you feel it, too.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”: Poem Review

A few weeks back, I wrote a poem review for “Pearl”, which is a short, Christian poem originally written in Middle English. As I mentioned then, the anonymous poet who wrote “Pearl”, has had three other texts attributed to them: “Patience”, “Cleanness” and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. The latter of these is much longer, and also happens to be the most famous, which is why I thought I should see what all the fuss was about.

“It has often been said that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (c. 1380) is one of the two great long poems in Middle English, the other being Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385). Yet the experience of the two poems in the history of English Literature could hardly be more different.”                                 – Bernard O’Donoghue.

The name ‘Chaucer’ is level to that of ‘Shakespeare’; his work in Middle English is said to be revolutionary, forever influencing English Literature. However, whilst Chaucer’s works have purposefully been preserved throughout the centuries, experts going to great lengths to preserve manuscripts, along with copying out the words to keep a record of them, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” has survived by complete chance. Because there was no name attributed to the poem, it was not deemed important at the time, which is why so many anonymous works from this period were lost. It just so happened, however, that a single manuscript of the poem resurfaced in the nineteenth century, after which point it was printed for the first time, and began to grow the huge readership which it has today.

Gawain
The O’Donoghue translation (the one I read).

Small disclaimer: whilst I read “Pearl” in the original Middle English, I didn’t dare attempt this with “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”; the issue is not only the age of the terms and the lack of a standardised spelling of the time, but is due to the fact that the North-Western dialect adopted by this poet did not become the dominant English dialect. There are therefore some terms that are completely unrelated to modern English, making them impossible to translate without considerable amounts of expertise, or many hours dedicated to Middle English dictionaries.

The poem itself is fascinating; it is set in the court of King Arthur, and depicts the journey of one particular knight, Sir Gawain, who faces many challenges as he attempts to prove himself to his kingdom. Without giving too much away about the plot, I will say that one of the challenges that Gawain faces, is that of seduction; he attempts to resist the advances of one beautiful woman, who consistently attempts to seduce him, demanding kisses from him behind her husband’s back. It is this event that has labelled the poem a Medieval, or Arthurian, romance, and provides an interesting twist to the plot as the values of the knight, including chivalry and compassion, are put to the test.

Indeed, the interactions between Gawain and the Lady make up a good part of the poem, yet they are juxtaposed to the harsh scenes of hunts, which the Lady’s husband has embarked on. This makes an interesting contrast, as Gawain and the Lady enjoy fine food by the fire, and then the Lord races through the undergrowth in pursuit of some wild beast. The poet has here been commended on their ability to question the roles between the interior and the exterior, as, upon reflection, it becomes clear that whilst there is a hunt outside the castle, there is also a hunt inside, as the woman pursues Gawain. In fact, the Lord is arguably safer away from the castle, than Gawain is within it, as the latter doesn’t stand even as nearly as good of a chance of escaping. What this could be suggesting, is that we overestimate the dangers of the wild, and that, in fact, we pose much greater dangers to ourselves, than the outside world ever could. This makes an interesting contrast to the much earlier Beowulf, which is said to have been composed between 700AD and 1000AD. This poem depicts the dangers of the outside, the monster Grendel causing chaos in a castle, much like the Green Knight causes chaos in Arthur’s castle. However, Grendel is purely monstrous, unrefined and bestial. His equivalent in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, the Green Knight, who interrupts Arthur’s festivities to challenge Gawain, is sophisticated, seemingly more honourable than many of the knights present. The poem thus subverts these older values, and asks us to question where the danger truly is: is with the wild animals outside, or is with ourselves?

Another interesting thing about the poem, is how it presents human nature. As Gawain rides out to face his trials, he brandishes a pentangle symbol on his shield, which the author explains in full, and which I have attempted to replicate on the diagram below:

Pentangle.png

These are the values expected to be held by the knights of Arthur’s court, although, interestingly, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” holds the only reference to this symbol, which is surprising considering the detail that it entails. What this symbol does suggest, however, is that the knights held stable, stationary identities, always adhering to these values, because, due to the structure of the pentangle, if they lost one value, the others would no longer align, and they would be left with nothing, at all. Their only option was then to either be perfect, or to entirely imperfect; arguably, this would provide a fair amount of pressure.

I enjoyed my time reading “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, and would certainly recommend it more than I would “Pearl”, although I must add that, if you do decide to give this fantastic, although somewhat underrated, poem a go, it would be better to read the O’Donoghue translation, or else some other translation, rather than attempting to decipher inauspicious language of the original Middle English.

Sir Gawain

Author Spotlight: William Wordsworth

Here’s another article that I published in my Sixth Form’s newspaper, Sixth Sense, focussing on William Wordsworth and his connection to my home county, Dorset. This edition was the first official one that my team and I produced, available to read in full here: 2-september.


Born in the late 18th century, William Wordsworth helped to pioneer the way for the Romantic Age in English Literature. Wordsworth’s works such as the famous I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, as well as his collection of lyrical ballads that he shared with his friend, Samuel Coleridge, are his most reputable pieces of literature, nature often being used as a motif for the complex emotions that he experienced throughout his life.

This use of nature was undoubtedly inspired by his early life, for, although Wordsworth completed his work with Coleridge in Somerset, his family home was in the Lake District, where he was raised along with his four siblings, beside the picturesque English moors. Wordsworth had a particularly close relationship with his sister, Dorothy, who is also renowned for, in particular, her diary writing, and so after Wordsworth’s time in Somerset, he moved back to stay in a cottage with her in Cumbria.

What most people don’t acknowledge, or aren’t aware of, though, is Wordsworth’s connection to Dorset; his home being far from this very Southern county, any connection at all would be unexpected. In fact, it has been noted that Wordsworth spend at least two years of his life living with Dorothy at Racedown Farm, near Pilson, Dorset. There, they appeared to have lived very solitary lives, only accompanied by three members of staff, one of whom did not permanently reside at the farm.

This meant that the Wordsworth siblings were almost completely cut off from society; despite being born into the upper class, they could not afford the London paper, and so couldn’t keep up with current affairs or news. They did, however, surround themselves with the local nature. William took to his hobby of “hill walking”, where he learnt about the local history and began to thoroughly explore the area.

It has been recorded that Wordsworth wandered down to the sea at Lyme Bay on more than one occasion. One time that this happened, he witnessed the Great Indies fleet sailing right past him in all its glory, before it was brutally destroyed by a sudden storm. Ironically, this was close to the time when Wordsworth’s younger brother, John, perished at sea; as a Sea Captain, his ship was destroyed in 1805, a little further to the east.

Wordsworth did greatly admire the Dorset countryside before his return to the North, though; he climbed to the highest point at Pilsdon Pen and allowed his passion for walking and writing to give him a different perspective of his beloved English countryside; arguably, his time in Dorset may have majorly affected his later writing.

 

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My original article, published in “Sixth Sense”