The Grasmere Pastorals

  • John Turner
Part of the Studies in Romanticism book series


Wordsworth apologised in a note to the Lyrical Ballads edition of The Brothers for the abruptness of the poem’s start: ‘This Poem was intended to be the concluding poem of a series of pastorals, the scene of which was laid among the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland’ (PW II:467). The second volume of Lyrical Ballads was a much more local collection than the first, largely devoted to Wordsworth’s home-making in Grasmere; and many of its poems — short ballads and tales, short inscription pieces and the beautiful Poems on the Naming of Places — may have been destined for that projected volume of pastorals. The range of voice in the poetry is remarkable. At one extreme is the pastoral ballad, poems like Andrew Jones and The Childless Father, of which Stephen Parrish has written: ‘by adapting the form to a homely and realistic purpose, carried out with jocular buoyancy, Wordsworth would have been accomplishing the sort of parody he had earlier managed by adapting the form of Burger’s ballads of terror to The Idiot Boy‘.1 The tone of these ballads is pastoral in a full sense of the word: they might be the affectionate words of a pastor possessed of great gaiety of spirit, participating in the interchanges of village society with tender indulgence, gentle reprimand or irresponsible idleness as circumstances prompt.


Attenuation Stein Verse Milton 


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Stephen Parrish, ‘Michael and the Pastoral Ballad’, in Jonathan Wordsworth (ed.), Bicentenary Wordsworth Studies in Memory of John Alban Finch, (Cornell University Press, 1970), p. 68.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mary Jacobus, Tradition and Experiment in Wordsworth’s ‘Lyrical Ballads’ (1798), (Oxford University Press, 1976) p. 183.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (Penguin, 1974) p. 117.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    John Milton, Areopagitica, ed. K. M. Lea (Oxford University Press, 1973) p. 14.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Michel Foucault, Mental Illness and Psychology, trans. Alan Sheridan (Harper Colophon Books, 1976) p. 68.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Donald Davie, ‘Dionysus in Lyrical Ballads’, in A. W. Thomson (ed.), Wordsworth’s Mind and Art (Oliver & Boyd, 1969) p. 131.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (Penguin, 1957) ch. 20, p. 163.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    John Beer, Wordsworth and the Human Heart (Macmillan, 1978) p. 101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (Penguin, 1974) p. 60.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    David Pirie, William Wordsworth: The Poetry of Grandeur and of Tenderness (Methuen, 1982) p. 94.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Geoffrey Hartman, Wordsworth’s Poetry 1787–1814 (Yale University Press, 1964) p. 266.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John F. Turner 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Turner

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