The stereotypical version of William Wordsworth is as the poet of Nature, a man who describes with enormous enthusiasm in many different places how wandering through rural landscapes has repeatedly provided him with the balm for his soul and the matter for his poetry. Nature taught him, in this version of the Romantic myth, everything he really needed to know. His subjectivity was created by intercourse with the landscape rather than socially constructed by intercourse with other people. The great political events of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars were the ones, which moved him to enormous enthusiasm at the time — ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,/But to be young was very heaven!’ (X, 691–92)1 — became in retrospect a false dawn rather than the herald of a new world. The return from politics to nature is narrated in Book XI of the thirteen-book Prelude (1805), and it is clearly with a sense of reconstructed relief that Wordsworth turns away from both emotional and political turmoil back to the assuaging balm of the natural world.
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