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Yeats and the Ghost of Wordsworth

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Abstract

After what I have said, Mr. Wordsworth will not be flattered by knowing that Blake deems him the only poet of the age, nor much alarmed by hearing that Blake thinks that he is often, in his works, an Atheist. Now, according to Blake, Atheism consists in worshipping the natural world, … Dante and Wordsworth, in spite of their Atheism were inspired by the Holy Ghost. Indeed, all real poetry is the work of the Holy Ghost, and Wordsworth’s poems (a large proportion, at least) are the work of Divine Inspiration.… in general Blake loves the poems. What appears to have disturbed his mind, on the other hand, is the Preface to ‘The Excursion.’ He told me six months ago that it caused him a stomach complaint that nearly killed him (Letter from Crabb Robinson to Dorothy Wordsworth, quoted in WWB1 147–8).

Keywords

  • Young Woman
  • Nursery Rhyme
  • Poetical Work
  • Holy Ghost
  • Great Poet

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Notes

  1. Then unpublished, quoted in Richard Ellmann, Yeats—The Man and the Masks (London: Macmillan, 1948; N.Y.: Dutton, n.d.), p. 6. I am grateful to Phillip L. Marcus for his valuable advice concerning this essay.

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  2. George Bornstein, Transformations of Romanticism in Yeats, Eliot, and Stevens (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), p. 45.

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  3. L 590. See also Patrick J. Keane’s Yeatss Interactions With Tradition (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987), p. 87.

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  4. See Phillip Marcus, Yeats and the Beginning of the Irish Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), pp. 105 & 125.

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  5. The version of the poem used here is the one available to Yeats in The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth. 7 vols. Ed. Edward Dowden. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1892 (YL 2292), hereafter ‘Dowden ed.’. For some of the other poems, see Wordsworth’s Poems in Two Volumes, and Other Poems, 1800–1807. Ed. Jared Curtis, The Cornell Wordsworth (Ithaca and London:: Cornell University Press, 1983).

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  6. See William Wordsworth, Selected Poems and Prefaces. ed. Jack Stillinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965). The eight year gap between the ‘occasion’ and the poem is not long for Wordsworth: there were other admonishments from relatives. In 1802 the love affair with Mary Hutchinson was facing the opposition of her family, who, according to Stephen Gill, considered the poet ‘a man without a profession, no better than ‘a Vagabond’ (p. 206). Gill cites The Letters of Mary Wordsworth 1800–1855, ed. Mary E. Burton (Oxford, 1958), p. xxv, n. 13. See also Stephen Gill, William Wordsworth: A Life (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 80. Ernest de Selincourt refers to ‘Dear child of Nature’ as her ‘brother’s prophecy and dearest hope for Dorothy’ (Dorothy Wordsworth: A Biography [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933], p. 323). Mark L. Reed suggests that the poem was composed early in 1802 (Wordsworth: The Chronology of the Middle Years, 1800–1815 [Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1975], p. 141). Wordsworth’s own note makes it clear that they were companion poems, composed at Grasmere. ‘Composed at the same time and on the same view as ‘I met Louisa in the shade’: indeed they were designed to make one piece’ (The Poetical Works ed. Ernest de Selincourt and Helen Darbishire [Oxford, 1940–9], II, p. 471).

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  7. See Hazard Adams, The Book of Yeatss Poems (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1990), p. 112.

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  8. For an illuminating analysis of this poem within the context of class and gender, see Michael Baron’s Language and Relationship in Wordsworths Writing (London & New York: Longman, 1995), pp. 174–6.

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  9. See W. B. Yeats, The Wild Swans at Coole; Manuscript Materials, ed. Stephen Parrish (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994), p. 87. Hereafter, Parrish, Manuscript Materials.

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  10. Our contemporary equivalent may be a work like Barry Lopez’s marvellous Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986, New York: Bantam, 1987).

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© 1998 Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited

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Daruwala, M.H. (1998). Yeats and the Ghost of Wordsworth. In: Gould, W. (eds) Yeats Annual No. 13. Yeats Annual. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-14614-7_7

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