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Romanticism and the Self-Conscious Poem$
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Michael O'Neill

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122852

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122852.001.0001

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‘The Words He Uttered…’: Wordsworth

‘The Words He Uttered…’: Wordsworth

(p.25) 2 ‘The Words He Uttered…’: Wordsworth
Romanticism and the Self-Conscious Poem

Michael O'Neill

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a discussion of The Excursion, a poem whose fear of the autonomous imagination results in writing that is fascinatingly, at times tragically, both repressed and expressive. Wordsworth is concerned in much of the poem with time and transience, forces implicitly and explicitly at odds with affirmations about the value of poetry. The Excursion's awareness of itself as a poem is a means of bringing death and temporality within ‘the reach of reflection’. By examining the poem's self-conscious preoccupation with the uses of language embodied in its own procedures, an attempt is made to rescue it from the comparatively low esteem which it has suffered. The second section of the chapter explores the workings of self-consciousness in two poems from Lyrical Ballads, suggesting that the poet's designs on the reader are especially impressive when the poems relinquish didactic ambitions and allow themselves to be surprised by the direction they have taken. The third and fourth sections are devoted to detailed readings of ‘Resolution and Independence’ and ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’, respectively.

Keywords:   imagination, The Excursion, self-consciousness, Lyrical Ballads, Resolution and Independence, Ode: Intimations of Immortality

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