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Organising PoetryThe Coleridge Circle, 1790-1798$
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David Fairer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199296163

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296163.001.0001

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Returning to the Ruined Cottage

Returning to the Ruined Cottage

(p.260) 11 Returning to the Ruined Cottage
Organising Poetry

David Fairer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the ‘return’ motif as a means of organising related ideas of place, time, and identity. It opens with a return to ‘Tintern Abbey’, in which the poet's revisiting hints at the unsettling georgic implications behind a pastoral scene. Another poem of 1798, ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’, presents a figure who, hardly conscious in himself, helps sustain through his reassuring returns a wider ‘common life’, a social identity in those around him. Finally, in ‘The Ruined Cottage’, the theme of revisiting finds its ultimate expression in a poem in which tragic event is subsumed into organic history. The text's successive returns to the sacred place allow change to be registered ecologically as continuity, and death as endurance and survival. The poem finally declares its subject to be the ability of the ‘secret spirit of humanity’ to survive. Beneath the pastoral tragedy is a layer of georgic stoicism.

Keywords:   Wordsworth, revisiting, return, Tintern, Cumberland Beggar, Ruined Cottage, georgic, nature, organic, history

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