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William Wordsworth's the Prelude: A Casebook
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William Wordsworth's the Prelude: A Casebook

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  2,720 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
William Wordsworth's long poem The Prelude is a fascinating work-as autobiography, the fruit of many attempts at understanding the formative period of Wordsworth's life; as a fragment of historical evidence from the revolutionary and post-revolutionary years; as an unstable literary text, which mutated through at least five discernable versions from 1799-1839; and as a poe ...more
Paperback, 406 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1800)
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May 21, 2017 Jonfaith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetshere
He cleared a passage for me, and the stream
In wholesome separation the two natures,
The one that feels, the other that observes.

2.5 stars. This was a tandem read with ATJG. There were of bubbly moments of exhilaration but much too much clawing and climbing. Wordsworth embraces Nature embarks on a quest of Becoming.

Finding himself splattered and besmirched with stains of human folly, Wordsworth pursues the path which leads to an actualization-- one without an embrace of either shame or decadence
Sep 16, 2011 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1800-s, poetry
Turns out I like The Prelude a lot. But I still wouldn't invite Wordsworth to a party at my place.
Darran Mclaughlin
It took me a long time to read this. It's pretty clear what the constant stimulation of the digital age has done to my ability to concentrate and read epic poetry.

Wordsworth has always been my least favourite of the great sextet of English Romantic poets. I found his lyrical ballads to be a bit lachrymose, sentimental and prosey. However, I went to the Lake District for the first time a couple of weeks ago so I decided to read this as part of the whole experience. As it turns out it is great. T
Nov 26, 2011 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, romanticism
As much as I respect this text (and I do, it should be read), I have always said from the moment I finished reading that Wordsworth here is like a child constantly kicking away the ball he keeps bending over to pick up.

Currently reading Brodsky and this line from his Less Than One essay really sums up Wordsworth's autobiographical quest and does it more justice than I've snarked for the last five or six years: "As failures go, attempting to recall the past is like trying to grasp the meaning of
Rachel Ann Brickner
I finally finished The Prelude for the first time through, but I will be reading it again for class in the next few weeks. I'm hoping a second reading will be helpful and give me a greater appreciation for the poem. I really disliked reading this poem because of the blank verse and its long, complicated sentences until Book XI of the 1805 version. I read the last three Books this evening and they gave me a greater appreciation for Wordsworth's project than I initially had. The last three Books r ...more
When people saw me reading this everyone would ask "Prelude to WHAT?" after seeing the lengthy poem. This is a hundreds of page long poem about Wordsworth's formative years--he worked on this until his death revising it every few years.

Has anyone ever said that Wordsworth writing an epic length poem about his youth could be viewed as somewhat. . .maybe. . .egocentric? All these stories are laid out to the reader with the express intention to be a lesson to she who reads it.

Actually it comes off
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Why did it take me so long to come to this book? Wordsworth has been looming large my entire English Literature life, and I've just outright avoided him. 7 years into my degree, I finally read The Prelude and I was astonished and charmed. I loved the first two books, felt liberated by the third - I actually cried realizing that others have experienced the things I've never spoken about - and then. THEN. I came to Book 13, to the end of book 13 - and my imagination got on board, left nature and e ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Meaghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this edition. The facing-page versions of both 1805 and 1850 are so handy and useful, making it so easy to see how one publication differed from the other. Like so many others I imagine, I'm in love with the 1805 version. Still, I was glad to have the 1850 immediately next to the 1805, in order to make that distinction for myself. I had read the 1805 this past summer and am now reading it again more closely. It's clear to me that this work was/is of major importance. If anything could ind ...more
Kelly Danahy
Feb 22, 2015 Kelly Danahy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm afraid I absolutely deplore Wordsworth. As his name would imply, he is a man of many words. WAY TOO MANY WORDS. He loses his reader his 13 BOOKS of verse semi-autobiography. What could have been an interesting and intriguing work turned into a lengthy, diluted, contrived, mess. I completely blame his friend Coleridge for encouraging him in any way. Please avoid at all costs.
Sadegh Maleki
Mar 16, 2016 Sadegh Maleki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Romantic poetry, especially Wordsworth's poetry, is really beautiful. It takes u to the depth of ur experience of the nature and of the self. Roots of Heideggerian phenomenology, especially in the works of his disciple Wolfgang Iser, and Pre-Freudian theory of human development can be seen in this book. I undoubtedly recommend anyone to read this masterpiece and to ponder over it.
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.
Eddie Watkins
I have read and loved The Prelude, but that was years ago, and as I now reread the copy I once read I decided to get this copy instead and get real geeky about it.
1799'lusu :)
Brett Hilton
I probably like the idea behind The Prelude - the development of the mind and its worthiness of an epic - more than I actually enjoyed reading this text. I found the English of this text more difficult to read than that of Paradise Lost for some reason, despite its relative youth. As such, it took me a very long time to get through the poem in its entirety. I did enjoy the "spots of time", though, where Wordsworth makes connections between the experiential and the spiritual or universal and rema ...more
J. Alfred
Jan 29, 2014 J. Alfred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Wordsworth created an epic, in blank verse, of his own life. It is sort of a poetic, kindly version of "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." What you'll be surprised at, when you read this, however, is how little you learn about Wordsworth as a person, and how much you learn about what Wordsworth thinks about people-- even in doing something that seems extremely egotistical, he shows us ourselves more than himself.
With the possible exceptions of Hopkins and Herbert, Wordsworth has
Now living, or to live in future years.
Sometimes the ambitious Power of choice, mistaking
Proud spring-tide swellings for a regular sea,
Will settle on some British theme, some old
Romantic tale by Milton left unsung;
More often turning to some gentle place
Within the groves of Chivalry

This is a beautiful inclusion of Milton, whose works spoke to Wordsworth.

Life in one's youth truly is a fantasy, when cares and problems are nowhere to be found--Wordsworth shares his love of those days in a tr
Apr 28, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wordsworth's autobiography in verse.

The ending reminded me of how I feel about teaching (when I'm extremely caffeinated and in a top-of-the-world kind of mood... i.e., 12 percent of the time).

. . .we to them will speak
A lasting inspiration, sanctified
By reason, blest by faith: what we have loved
Others will love, and we will teach them how,
Instruct them how the mind of man becomes
A thousand times more beautiful than the earth
On which he dwells above this Frame of things
(Which 'mid all revolution
Sep 02, 2010 Dominic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Instruct them how the mind of man becomes / A thousand times more beautiful than the earth / On which it dwells [.../] and of fabric more divine" (Wordsworth 482)! And thus wrote the great poet.

O, Wordsworth, I just don't know yet what to say! Only, for now, that you make me feel so large, so infinite, so imbued with meaning, so free of human-made/human-enforced "puny boundaries," so capable of doing something powerful.

241 pages of poetry, experience and memory. I am in awe. I will have a more
Sep 18, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This comment is on the 1850 version of The Prelude, not others or Norton's criticism/apparatus. Perhaps a slog to some contemporary readers, but brilliant, beautiful and often sublime and deeply insightful. That’s not to say it's completely without contradiction or that it presents a coherent system of thought (or is consistently brilliant and beautiful). But it’s rich in food for thought, sometimes viewed from very unusual perspectives, and in an uncannily earthy yet simultaneously other-worldl ...more
Savannah Golden
Sep 20, 2011 Savannah Golden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Prelude is Wordsworth’s longest compilation of poems that shows all of his Romantic ideals from romance and nature to poetry its self. Saying that poetry should be written in simple language rather then flowery, over dramatized language. However I did find it tough to read at times. His topics range from childhood, to the future, to love, and to death. His use of blank verse and imagery make it a great work to read under a tree by a lake. This work made me love poetry, Wordsworth, and Romant ...more
When it's on, man, the Prelude is on. When it's off... it's really off. I say this about all long poems, so let me specify this particular case: there will be four pages in a row where the remembered scenes are great, the language awes, and the theme clicks. Then there will be six pages where it does not. Some sections do better than others: the first and last are strong, as expected (I also liked 2, 3, 6, and 12 a lot). Nonetheless, a lot of the time - despite its progression - it felt rather r ...more
I read Book VII of this for a literature seminar about London. I'll be honest: I'm not into poetry. I love literature, and I love reading, but poetry is just one genre that I cannot seem to appreciate; it doesn't touch me. But to each their own, right? While reading it before said seminar, I was really bored and almost literally fell asleep at the library. I thought I would be just as bored in class, but I underestimated my wonderful professor who made the studying of this extract fun and worth ...more
Derek Baad
Sep 14, 2008 Derek Baad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: romantics, Wordsworth fanatics
Finally done with this one, and I can't say I'm unhappy. Did I like it? Not sure I can answer that one. I had to read it so fast that I can't say the density of Wordsworth's thought penetrated too deeply. He is still one of my favorite poets, and I've been looking to take this on for a long time, but I'm glad it's over. I will definitely be returning to a few of its chapters, especially the early ones.
Michael Arnold
I liked this a lot. I'll have to read this book again - as it puts me in a very peaceful mood. There are some beautiful images and some really awesome passages of the poet working through his own past and his own thoughts. I'm not much of a lover of Wordsworth, but I did like this. It is, in every way, Romantic. It is very idyllic though, which is both it's best asset and it's worst problem - that's the general problem I have with Wordsworth anyway though, so I guess there is that.
some of the language was so freaking pretty, and sometimes when he described the lakes the waterfalls... it was perfect picture in my mind, like I was actually there. In parts, I loved this.

However, a large portion of it was un-intelligible to me, so two stars it is.

I feel like if I was smarter I would have enjoyed this more....

Oct 04, 2014 Hope rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-college
I think I would have liked this better if I had more time to read it and really think on it. As it was it was dense and hard to follow, though the poetry was beautiful. I found that listening to it helped a lot so sometime I might go back and reread it while listening to it.

(just a note: my rating is on my personal enjoyment of reading the work, not on its quality or importance of the work.)
I like a lot of Wordsworth's poetry, and this is my second time reading The Prelude, and it's still a bit of a slog to get through for me. There are beautiful, lovely passages, but then a lot of trudging through rambly boring ones that make me sleepy. Wordsworth's got a special place in my heart though. Will always love Tintern Abbey.
Barksdale Penick
Dec 13, 2016 Barksdale Penick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads asks what did I think of the book. I think I need to study it. I listened to it twice as an audio book and traipsed through the woods and saw bustling London and menacing post-revolution Paris through our narrators eyes. But it always the outdoors where the poem sings to me. I must study it if I am to appreciate it properly.
Quick Review: (re) read books 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, and 12 of the 1805 edition. Masterful poetry channeling the epic tradition lending insight into Wordsworth's life, mind, and philosophy of poetry. This is a staple on any reading list of/for English Romanticism.

This Penguin edition is a good reading copy, as it included the 1798-1799 Prelude with the 1805 and 1850 editions in parallel text.
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  • In Memoriam
  • Biographia Literaria: Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life & Opinions
  • Poetry and Prose
  • Prometheus Unbound
  • Poetry and Designs: Authoritative Texts, Illuminations in Color and Monochrome, Related Prose, Criticism
  • The Complete Poems
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  • The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals
  • Men and Women and Other Poems
  • Leopardi: Selected Poems
  • Harmonium
  • "I Am": The Selected Poetry of John Clare
  • Collected Poems
  • The Life of Samuel Johnson
  • Complete Poems
  • Poetry, Drama and Prose
  • Complete Poems

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“Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven.”
“The earth was all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way.”
More quotes…