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The Prelude

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,380 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
This book is the first to present Wordsworth's greatest poem in all three of its separate form. It reprints, on facing pages, the version of "The Prelude" was was completed in 1805, together with the much-revised work published after the poet's death in 1850. In addition the editors include the two-part version of the poem, composed 1798-99. Each of these poems has its dis ...more
Paperback, Norton Critical Edition, 704 pages
Published December 17th 1979 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1800)
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Darran Mclaughlin
Oct 26, 2013 Darran Mclaughlin rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
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.
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
Jan 13, 2016 Sara rated it liked it
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
Jun 19, 2013 Lesliemae rated it it was amazing
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 27, 2013 Pewterbreath rated it it was ok
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
Sadegh Maleki
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.
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
Eman Amari
Apr 23, 2015 Eman Amari rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
just one single star for the effort I made to read it. well, I love poetry!! but for sure not Wordsworth's -_-
Nov 05, 2011 Meaghan rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 22, 2015 Kelly rated it did not like it
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.
Eddie Watkins
Sep 29, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it it was amazing
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.
J. Alfred
Feb 10, 2014 J. Alfred rated it really liked it
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
Liz Wager
Mar 07, 2013 Liz Wager rated it it was amazing
have been reading this, on and off, for a while ... after hearing Ian McKellan reading it on the radio ...
May 15, 2009 Magda added it
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.
Brett Hilton
Aug 13, 2011 Brett Hilton rated it liked it
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
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.
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.
Nov 02, 2014 Leslie rated it liked it
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
May 29, 2012 David rated it really liked it
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
Chas Bayfield
Jun 02, 2014 Chas Bayfield rated it liked it
Found this too haughty and dwelling too long and too deep on intangible ideas, beliefs and emotions. Then again, that was 25 years ago!
Jan 30, 2011 Dominic rated it it was amazing
"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
Jul 23, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star, read-in-2015
As my first look at pastoral poetry I may have been dived right in the deep end but as I will be studying this next year it has given me an insight into this genre of poetry.
Matt Morris
See reviews of this & other books at
Drew Rupard
Mar 09, 2015 Drew Rupard rated it liked it
this gives a good idea of what kind of guy WW is. read this to understand him before you read his other stuff, I say
May 11, 2014 Mitchell marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven!
Sep 18, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing
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
Terry Bradley
Sep 20, 2015 Terry Bradley rated it it was amazing
Amazing use of form to create a Romantic manifesto!
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
Jan 31, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Sir Ian McKellen reads Wordsworth's autobiographical poem. Recorded in Dove Cottage, where it was written.
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  • In Memoriam
  • Biographia Literaria: Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life & Opinions
  • Keats's Poetry and Prose
  • Prometheus Unbound
  • The Complete Poems
  • Poetry and Designs: Authoritative Texts, Illuminations in Color and Monochrome, Related Prose, Criticism
  • Men and Women and Other Poems
  • The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals
  • The Odes of John Keats
  • Collected Poems
  • Poetry, Drama and Prose
  • Leopardi: Selected Poems
  • "I Am": The Selected Poetry of John Clare
  • Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature
  • The Vanity of Human Wishes
  • The Life of Samuel Johnson
  • Harmonium
  • The Complete Poems and Plays
William Wordsworth was a major English romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their 1798 joint publication, Lyrical Ballads.

Wordsworth's masterpiece is generally considered to be The Prelude, an autobiographical poem of his early years which the poet revised and expanded a number of times. The work was posthumously titled and publ
More about William Wordsworth...

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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…