Poems > England > Wordsworth

The Prelude
by William Wordsworth

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude;
How potent a mere image of her sway;
Most potent when impressed upon the mind
With an appropriate human centre—hermit,
Deep in the bosom of the wilderness;
Votary (in vast cathedral, where no foot
Is treading, where no other face is seen)
Kneeling at prayers; or watchman on the top
Of lighthouse, beaten by Atlantic waves;
Or as the soul of that great Power is met
Sometimes embodied on a public road,
When, for the night deserted, it assumes
A character of quiet more profound
Than pathless wastes.
An excerpt from Book IV, "Summer Vacation," Lines 354-370
Read the full poem Book 4 - Summer Vacation
Romantic readings: The Prelude, by William Wordsworth
by Tess Somervell Go To

Books of the 14-book Prelude
1    Introduction – Childhood and School-Time
2    School-Time (Continued)
3    Residence at Cambridge
4    Summer Vacation (Read the full Poem)
5    Books
6    Cambridge and the Alps
7    Residence in London
8    Retrospect – Love of Nature Leading to Love of Man
9    Residence in France
10  Residence in France (Continued)
11  Residence in France (Concluded)
12  Imagination and Taste, How Impaired and Restored
13  Imagination and Taste, How Impaired and Restored (Concluded)
14  Conclusion

      The events of Book 4 are significant because they lead to the poet's eventual realization of what will become his special vocation—his calling to poetry. The book describes his return to his native area for a summer break after a time spent at university, where his inner needs were not met in the company of others. He feared that the wisdom and beauties he had absorbed as a child had faded forever, leaving him ill at ease with his adult self. He knows he must reconnect with the feelings of his purer youth and with himself as well as with others. He feels a kinship with ordinary people and begins to sense his task to record his thoughts while he can.
    The Prelude is epic in its scope but has no real hero, and the lines reveal a kind of modesty and humility toward nature. His thoughts are in constant flux while he is young and forming his views. He can well remember the sense of everything changing around him as he moves from the previous state of quiet unity to a sense of things passing and blurring his senses like someone bending "from the side / Of a slow-moving boat upon the breast / Of a still water, solacing himself / With such discoveries as his eye can make," At the point of taking a break from his formal studies, he is still forming an understanding of himself and others. Truth and reason are blurred. The poet still knows man to be a "creature great and good," but the actuality of it all is doubtful.
...for the enjoyment
and passion of words and verse.        Page create: January 03, 2019
William Wordsworth
    Born: April 07, 1770, Cockermouth, Cumberland, England
Died: April 23, 1850 (aged 80), Rydal, Westmorland, England
The second of five children born to John Wordsworth and Ann Cookson, William Wordsworth
    His Bio > Poetry Foundation
    William Wordsworth died at home at Rydal Mount from an aggravated case of pleurisy on 23 April 1850, and was buried at St Oswald's Church, Grasmere. His widow Mary published his lengthy autobiographical "poem to Coleridge" as The Prelude several months after his death. Though it failed to arouse much interest at that time, it has since come to be widely recognised as his masterpiece.