1. Wordsworth manages to capture man's potential greatness (greatness = being able to see all of God's manifestations) in My heart leaps up, as well as man's shortcomings (losing sight of spiritual potential) in "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood." It is obvious that most of his poems are intertwined with the motif of nature. However, in exploring man's relationship to nature and God, it becomes clear that Wordsworth is battling with human capacity and perfection. He sees the perfection in nature in My heart leaps up while at teh same time realizing the perfection in man's vision. For, if he can "see" the Godliness in things around him (i.e. Rainbow), his vision, too, must be Christ-like. Yet, in "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" he reveals the not-so perfect aspect of human existence: "The Rainbow comes and goes" (verse two). There's a definite sense of nonchalance in viewing the "Rainbow" as it merely "comes and goes," where as in the former poem, his "heart leaps up" at the sight of the "Rainbow." The last three lines of the "Ode" further Wordsworth's view "that there hath past away a glory from the earth," or possible Original Sin as spoken of in the Bible. He touches on human imperfection as being man's blurred/hindered vision.

One of my biggest questions for Wordsworth would be in respect to his portrayal of sight/vision, etc. He places a great emphasis on man's ability to physically see with one's eyes God's greatness. What about the spiritual connection or internal sight that experiences God's perfection? Is Wordsworth devaluing other means of reaching human perfection, or did he purposely express one aspect? What is he really saying about man's capabilities? Does he believe in human perfection or Original Sin? Or, can they co-exist? (Cameo Brown)

2. "My Heart Leaps Up"

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

In this poem, Wordsworth expresses his awe and joy at the sight of a rainbow in the sky. The same "natural piety" he had as a young child he experiences now as a man, and he hopes never to lose this adoration of nature as he grows old. "The Child is father of the Man" perhaps because children, to whom the appreciation of nature is inherent, can teach adults the same joy, and are in this sense, wiser than adults. However, in "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth compares his first experiences as a young boy rambling through the mountains to the present time:

And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all. - I cannot paint
What then I was…
…That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures.

In these lines, Wordsworth seems to diminish his boyhood experiences and reduce then to "coarser pleasures," "animal movements (albeit glad)," and "dizzy raptures." Is the Child still "father of the Man" in these lines? Do these lines somehow contradict the philosophy of the previous poem? Or is Wordsworth merely making a comparison of the levels in which man perceives and appreciates nature? (Tien-Tien Chen)

3. "For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."
(Wordsworth, "I wandered Lonely As a Cloud" lines 19 - 24)

Descriptions of nature, and the effects of natural scenery uopn a contemplative soul, appear throughout Wordsworth's poems. Nature is described as a place of refuge where thought can run unchecked, free of the confusions and pressures of life among people. The natural world is also portrayed as an atmosphere where foolish thoughts and gloomy speculation are rebuked by awe-inspiring surroundings. Wordsworth speaks very infrequently of God (the Christian God), but seems to feel himself surrounded by some kind of "higher power" as he moves through a landscape, a power which evaluates the quality of his emotions and turns his mind towards happy and more expansive speculation. In this way, even the memory of joy or wonder experienced in a natural setting is a reminder to Wordsworth to avoid gloomy or self-indulgent thoughts, and to cast his mind upon the sublime. Does "Nature" function as a kind of diety for Wordsworth, and if so, how does his reverence manifest itself? Does Wordsworth draw a distinction between "mature" contemplations of nature, and the passionate follies of youth? What is the difference? (Alison Kotin)

4. In Wordsworth's poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" there is wonderful imagery andmetaphor. Wordsworth creates a poem that enables the reader to drift and wander like a cloud, as he does; we can see the beauty he describes in his poem because of his imaginative descriptions. Wordsworth was a able to use an somewhat ordinary and common weed and make it the savior of his solitude.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By giving the reader this image of daffodils "in sprightly dance" Wordsworth installs in our memory something we can look at in nature or in the sanctity of our minds and feel, as he does, comforted. Wordsworth describes in this poem a simple cure for a lonely heart. How does the historical context of the romantic period influence what object Wordsworth chooses for the reader to use as a cure? (perhaps in a different time the object may be more elitist and not so common) (Ama Codjoe)

5. "The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years." (p. 138 Tintern Abbey)

"Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," is a poem of upwellings, surges, local maximums of emotions that themselves are presented not in a linear chronological order but swirling between the present, past, and future. Wordsworth remembers that the scene of the Wye from five years ago revived him many a dismal time in the town and city, and likewise, as the above quote shows, he anticipates that the present scene of the Wye will be sustenance in the future. The life that Wordsworth describes is usually plain and dreary in the town and city, punctuated by emotional ecstasies in Nature, the memories of which provide lesser emotional peaks to relieve the urban monotony that one returns to. Wordsworth's world seems to depend so much on contrast, i.e. one has to experience the weariness of the city before drinking up greedily the emotional high of Nature such as youth does or soaking up Nature in one's body and soul as the mature man does. If one lived in Nature all the time, would he feel the same level of ecstasy? Would he be able to sustain that feeling? Since there wouldn't be the contrast of the city any longer, would the revitalizing effect of Nature gradually rub off? (Juliet Liu)

Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000