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‘Words in their best order.’

I was in transcendental mode when this book arrived. I was searching my mind for different meanings to my life, other tasks, other ways of fulfilment. Could there be subliminal purposes for us all? Ordained by whom? Agnostic that I am, I wondered if there really was some unimaginably different power or spirit out there, and if so, how should we get in touch with it? In the meantime should we rely in our ponderings chiefly upon fact, suggestion, truth or fancy? In short, I was discombobulated! Every-where humankind, it seemed to me, was in squalid disarray, ugly and loveless, perhaps beyond redemption: the world, quoth I to myself, was too much with me. Then the postman turned up, and with him came William Wordsworth's own 18th-century meditations on these very quandaries, in the long poem he addressed to his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge and called The Prelude. I wondered what to do with it. Wordsworth, in his thirties, was also trying to sort out his convictions, which he had more or less formed in his first decades. What he was writing really was the prelude to a life. On the other hand I, in my nineties, am groping towards enlightenment in my last decades, and my thoughts can only be contemplated as epilogue . . .

. . . In the last week I have reread it all the way through, nearly 300 pages of iambic pentameter; much of it I read aloud to myself, so musical is the gentle flow of it and so kindly its sentiments. I love it dearly, . . .

(portion of a review by)


Painting in Verse

The Prelude By William Wordsworth (Edited by James Engell

& Michael D Raymond) (Oxford University Press 281pp £30)

APRIL 2017 Literary Review p31

©Jeff Guess 2017

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