Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, 4
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. 8
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free
So didst thou travel on life's common way, 12
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
"London, 1802." Poems in English 1530-1940, ed. David Daiches. New York: Ronald, 1950. Pp. 320-1. The following link contains general instructions.
1. Briefly interpret the poem.
2. Offer a prose paraphrase of the poem.
3. From what you remember of the seventeenth-century epic poet John Milton and his work, why is the persona's (speaker's) use of his name in apostrophe relevant to Wordsworth's (French Revolutionary) era?
4. The lines "altar, sword, and pen, / Fireside, the brave heroic wealth of hall and bower, / Have forfeited their ancient English dower / Of inward happiness" contain three examples of metonymy: explain what the poet means by "altar, sword, and pen."
5. Through the poem what criticisms is Wordsworth leveling at the Church of England, the British army, and contemporary writers?
6. According to Wordsworth, what could the heroic Puritan writer John Milton provide the current generation of English people that they are lacking?
7. The sestet elaborates on Milton's virtues. What aspects of his life could "inspire" the "selfish men" who are in charge of every major feature of English life?
8. Locate the volta (turning point), and show how it marks a shift in thought.
9. If, as the poet contends, "England . . . is a fen / Of stagnant waters" (lines 2-3), what is the country's chief problem according to Wordsworth at the end of the 1790s?
Incorporated in the Victorian Web: 24 June 2003