Early Years and Adolescent Poetry (1770–87)

  • F. B. Pinion
Part of the Macmillan Literary Companions book series (LICOM)


One summer, on his way home from school at Hawkshead, William Wordsworth stayed the night at Patterdale, near the head of Ullswater.1 In the evening, eager for adventure, he set out alone. Catching sight of a boat within a rocky recess, he could not resist the temptation to row out into the lake. Suddenly he noticed a cliff-like peak rise above the craggy steep near the shore; the further he rowed the higher it towered between him and the stars, until it seemed to be striding after him. Such was the joint effect of guilt and loneliness. ‘With trembling oars’ he turned, and made his way back ‘in grave and serious mood’. If he had heard of his grandfather’s flight to Patterdale, he was too preoccupied to think of him.


Summer Holiday Grammar School Christmas Holiday Classic Page Early Poem 
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  1. 1.
    Wordsworth was on his way to his ‘father’s house’ (PR.23, app.cnt.), probably in the summer of 1781, when his elder brother was ill at Hawkshead. On 1 July Mr Cookson’s servant paid the Hawkshead accounts, and William probably accompanied him late in the afternoon on his return journey to Penrith, before being taken to Cockermouth. See Mary Wedd, ‘Wordsworth’s Stolen Boat’, The Wordsworth Circle, XI. 4, Autumn 1980.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    T. W. Thompson (ed. R. Woof), Wordsworth’s Hawkshead, London, 1970, pp. 211–15.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    B. R. Schneider, Wordsworth’s Cambridge Education, Cambridge, 1957, pp. 166, 171.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    F. M. Todd, Politics and the Poet, A Study of Wordsworth, London, 1957, pp. 221–5.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Mary Moorman, William Wordsworth, The Early Years, Oxford, 1957, p. 115n.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    See H. D. Rawnsley, A Coach-Drive at the Lakes, Keswick, 1902, pp. 9–10.Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    See the illustration to the article by Mary Jacobus in Jonathan Wordsworth (ed.), Bicentenary Wordsworth Studies, Ithaca and London, 1970, opp. p. 238.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    The phrase is used by Wordsworth in ‘To the Moon (Rydal)’, 1835, but with a moralizing, not a spiritual, significance.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    Douglas Bush, Science and English Poetry, New York, 1950, p. 83.Google Scholar

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© F. B. Pinion 1984

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  • F. B. Pinion

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