University of Baghdad
College of Education (Ibn-Rushd)
French Revolution in Wordsworth poetry
A research paper presented by M. A. student Othman A. Marzouq to Dr. Saad Najim .
The French Revolution in Wordsworth poetry
The impact of the French Revolution upon English poets, and especially Wordsworth, is well known. Wordsworth’s Prelude , which was begun in 1798 appeared only after Wordsworth’s death, is an account not only of a poet’s coming of age, but also of his disillusionment with the radical political causes that propelled the unexpected violence following from the first revolutionary acts that culminated in the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Writing The Prelude in 1798, Wordsworth expresses the ecstasy he and his contemporaries felt "When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights / A prime enchanter to assist the work / Which then was going forward in her name" . These hopes were dashed, when, as Wordsworth writes, revolutionaries "now, become oppressors in their turn, / Frenchmen had changed a war of self-defense / For one of conquest, losing sight of all / Which they had struggled for". A year after Wordsworth began to write The Prelude, notes Simon Bainbridge: Coleridge [wrote] to his friend and fellow poet Wordsworth identifying the Revolution as the theme for the era’s definitive poem, writing . . . that "I wish you would write a poem, in blank verse, addressed to those who, in consequence of the complete failure of the French Revolution, have thrown up all hopes of the amelioration of mankind. . . . It would do great good". It was, Bainbridge further notes, Coleridge’s urgings that "informed Wordsworth’s examination of the Revolution’s impact in The Prelude and The Excursion . . . but poems on the events in France had begun to appear very quickly". The early period of the Revolution appeared to the English poets as the realization of a poetic ideal. When reflecting in The Prelude on his visit to France in 1790, Wordsworth famously writes that the period was "a time when Europe was rejoiced, / France standing on top of golden hours, / And human nature seeming born again". "It was in such millennial terms," writes Bainbridge, that many poets responded to events in the early years of the decade, understanding these events through biblical [eyes] . . . as the second coming of Christ, bringing about the end to the old world and the creation of a new one. Referencing M. H. Abrams influential essay, "English Romanticism: The Spirit of the Age" (1984), Bainbridge acknowledges that the increasingly violent disasters overtaking the revolutionary movement caused poets such as Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth to recast the notion of revolution, not as a political project to be enacted in reality, but as a personally transformative endeavor undertaken within the individual imagination . For the English poets writing at the turn of the century, Abrams states, "hope is shifted from the history of mankind to the mind of a single individual, from militant external action to an imaginative act".
Wordsworth actually lived in France during some of the most stirring scene of the new order .he became a convinced revolutionist and was eager to join the Girondists. (Sampson, 1975, p.476)
William Wordsworth’s attitudes to the French Revolution underwent significant changes during his two visits to France. His differing views of the Revolution were motivated by the fact that that he visited revolutionary France in slightly different periods. Wordsworth visited France for the first time in 1790. At that time France celebrated the first anniversary of the fall of Bastille. During his first visit Wordsworth did not experience any significant political event of the period. On the other hand, during his second visit in 1791-92, the situation in France was quite different. Politics in France became quite complicated as several political...
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