By David Simpson
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Additional info for Irony and Authority in Romantic Poetry
It is possible to read the poem positively, of course; the taking up of a life into the natural ebb and flow of rocks and trees can seem to be a sublimation. But the other reading comes to seem more convincing, and satisfies more of the details of the lyric, though the ambiguity can be related to a division in Wordsworth's own consciousness. The poet, or narrator, has recognised too late the limitations ofhis former attitude to the 'she'. Having seen her as 'a thing', he has been guilty of a horrifying reification of a human life into mere materiality, and his metaphorical materialism, wherein he regarded her as a thing, has been turned into literal truth by the fact of death.
30 simply parenthetical serves to force it into a causal connection with the description of division which follows, thus synthesising certainty and doubt-is seen by Shelley as the precise nature of the creative part of the mind: ... this arises from within, like the colour of a flower which fades and changes as it is developed, and the conscious portions of our natures are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure ... The toil and the delay recommended by critics, can be justly interpreted to mean no more than a careful observation of the inspired moments, and an artificial connection of the spaces between their suggestions by the intertexture of conventional expressions (Complete Works, VII, I 3 5-6).
I have already thrown out some hints about the W ordsworthian paradoxes implicit in Hegel's The Phenomenology of Mind; 40 it is worth pointing out that his Science of Logic contains a philosophical formulation of the problem ofbeginnings which can be read as a very close parallel to the poetic treatment of the same theme in The Prelude. Hegel is very careful never to allow his reader to posit a determinate beginning at the beginning, either in the ego or outside it (see pp. 7 58), for the reification of either mind or nature would result in materialistic fixity, a model within which our desires must always fall short of our capacities, since what is desired will remain eternally other.
Irony and Authority in Romantic Poetry by David Simpson