William Wordsworth's "Expostulation and Reply" and "Strange fits of passion have I known" - review.

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Derrick Matthews

November 13, 2002

Engl 211

        William Wordsworth is well known for his great works of poetry, spawned from his unique idea of how good poetry should be written.  Wordsworth was a firm believer in using simple language, and more importantly emphasized the need to have a reflective component to his poetry.  As a result of his writing poetry in the Romantic era, elements such as nature and spirituality have a more profound effect on the poem.  In two of his own poems, “Expostulation and Reply” and “Strange fits of passion have I known,” Wordsworth demonstrates the use of nature and spirituality combined with his more reflective style to create stunning poetry.  Although no two poem can entirely capture his writing style, these two are as representative as possible, they’re alike in that they both use elements of nature and spirituality, but dissimilar because they create different experiences.

        Nature is a theme prevalent in many varieties of poetry.  Many Romantic poets, including Coleridge and Keats used nature, but in a drastically different fashion than Wordsworth.  When Coleridge and Keats used nature in their poetry, it was often portrayed as this destructive horrible force that should be avoided.  They would both often juxtapose a harsh natural environment such as a stormy winter as in Keats’ “The Eve of St. Agnes” with a warm, safe, and inviting interior.  Wordsworth shows nature in a much more positive light, and uses it to enhance the mood of his poetry.  From the fourth stanza of “Expostulation and Reply” we see “One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake, /When life was sweet, I knew not why.”  These two lines help to create a tranquil.  The poem itself advocates the notion of viewing nature as a more positive force.  The friend with whom Wordsworth is conversing wonders why he isn’t using books to learn.  The dialogue that is exchanged between the two shows Wordsworth’s stance on the superiority of nature as a teacher than traditional books.

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        Similarly, nature is shown to be a gentle and peaceful part of his poetry in “Strange fits of passion have I known.”  This poem is very much reflective, an aspect of his poetry which we should not be surprised to see at all.  “When she I loved looked every day /Fresh as a rose in June, /I to her cottage bent my way, /Beneath an evening moon.”  (lines 5-8)  Just as in “Expostulation and Reply,” Wordsworth sets up a natural scene to convey a feeling of serenity.  Later in lines 13-16 he writes, “And now we reached the orchard-plot; /And, ...

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