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A Critical View on William Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils”

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud (Photo credit: katerha)

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed–and gazed–but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Deutsch: William Wordsworth 1770-1850 englisch...

Deutsch: William Wordsworth 1770-1850 englischer Poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All critics believe when they come to study this poem that Wordsworth is describing the flowers. Conventional criticism believe that while he was walking, he came to a bunch of daffodils. They believe that the poem is nothing more than a description. However, I believe that Wordsworth did not meet the daffodils when he wrote this poem, a good poet doesn’t need to see the daffodils to write about them.

In his “Preface to Lyrical Ballad” he says that a poet is not in need for external stimulus so that he could write a poem. This means that whenever we meet a poem, we shouldn’t understand that the poem is the product of a certain definite occasion. Wordsworth may have seen but also he could write the poem even if he didn’t see the daffodils. He can write with or without a stimulus. Seeing the daffodils or not is an external factor and shouldn’t be considered in evaluating the poem. This has nothing with the evaluation of the poem. The first impression about the title is that the first lines would be about the daffodils. In this case it will appear that Wordsworth is describing the daffodils. This is not the function of poetry because Wordsworth say that poetry is the “Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected at tranquility”. So, the lines are not about the daffodils, and even if they are, the poet is not reproducing nature. The purpose of poetry is never to imitate nature, because if it is an imitation, then it wouldn’t be poetry according to Wordsworth. This is what is conveyed in his preface. “Poetry has no purpose, if there is a purpose, it should be a worthy one”. There are two contradictory cases, either poetry has a purpose or not. If poetry has a purpose, then Wordsworth would be describing, but as proved in the lines, he is not describing the flowers. The worthy purpose is not describing the daffodils, so there is another story behind the title.                                              Continue Reading: Romantic Era: A Critical View on William Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils”

How Strindberg & Ibsen Tackle “The Rejection of God” Issue Throughout Their Careers

As Ibsen continues to reject God, Strindberg wavers between ‘Affirmation and Negation’, finally giving way to a ‘Melancholy Fatalism’ which one never finds in Ibsen.

Portrait of norwegian author Henrik Ibsen by n...

Portrait of norwegian author Henrik Ibsen by norwegian painter Eilif Peterssen (1852-1928); made 1895; private ownership, Oslo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ibsen’s revolt is total.He is dissatisfied with the ‘Whole Creation’, and not just certain contemporary aspects of it. His deepest quarrel is probably less with those pillars of church, state, and community who dominate his plays, than with the supreme authority figure, God himself. Behind his demand for a new beginning for ‘Mankind’, one can glimpse his half-hidden desire to ‘fashion a new creation’, more in keeping with the logic of his poetic imagination. With this ‘New Creation’ represented by the body of his art, the basic Ibsenist conflict is frequently messianic-its Hero a Rebel against God, and its issue not superficial changes in the social structure, but a complete alteration in the moral nature of man.

On the other hand, identification with Lucifer and rebelling against a mad, merciless, mechanical will are important aspects of the first phase of Strindberg’s career. In his opposition to established authority, Strindberg’s also identifies with related figures like Cain, Prometheus, Ishmael– all ‘Rebels of God’. Strindberg’s  admiration for Religious Rebels pass him well beyond the usual revolutionary postures to an embrace of Satanism, under the spell of which he practices, black arts/magic, worships the occult, and studies the transmigration of souls.

As the Confessor says in The Road to Damascus: “This man is a demon who must be kept confined. He belongs to the dangerous race of rebels; he’d misuse his gifts, if he could, to do evil”. Strindberg’s flair for self-dramatization leads him to exaggerate his demonic activities, for they were really harmful to nobody but himself. However, there is no doubt that he thought himself pledged Lucifer by way of a Mephistophelian pact. This seems like a much more radical form of rebellion than anything found in Ibsen. But as Strindberg implies in Inferno, “Ever since childhood, I have looked for God and found the Devil”. His revolt against authority is reality the reverse of his desire for authority posture, Strindberg’s revolt is always a little nervous and uncertain, rather like the act of a man in constant dread of retribution.

English: Photograph of August Strindberg (1849...

English: Photograph of August Strindberg (1849-1912). This is a photo of Strindberg after his 50th birthday, when he was finally settled in Sweden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And while Ibsen’s messianism remains constant, Strindberg is gradually tempered by his fears of divine revenge from an omnipotent power. Even when he considers himself a ‘Free-thinking Atheist, these fears are never far from the surface. He became an unbeliever, as he declares in Inferno, when “the unknown powers let slip their hold on the world, and gave no more sign of life. But when these “unknown powers” do begin to appear to him in the “nineties”, his messianism becomes less and less defiant, until he finally becomes convinced that the powers are personally guiding his destiny, and revealing themselves to him in every material object.

Strindberg has been suffering from a religious state called “Devestatio”. God has been seeking him, and he has been too proud to let himself be found. Freed from his torment after his insight, he determines to live a life of ‘Repentance’. He, therefore, gives up his occult and scientific studies, begins to wear a habit of monkish penitential cut, and even contemplates entering a monastery after the publication of ‘Inferno’. Theologians might say that he has finally found his way to God after a long period of resisting him. No longer defying the Universe, or trying to become God, Strindberg is now yielding to the unknown and seeking to do its will, looking for correspondences rather than causes. He has replaced his former Naturalism and Atheism with a new concern for the supernal forces behind material things. The frequent subject of his satire now, in fact, is his old impious self, the rationalistic, blasphemous male with aspirations towards the superhuman. For, in this second phase of his career, many of Strindberg’s plays are designed as ‘Acts of Penance’, in which he tries to expiate his sense of guilt, and scourge his desire for worldly vanities.

While the tones of his plays are more saintly and forgiving, Strindberg’s thematic concerns have also remained essentially the same. Even his new religious humility is modified by traces of the old skeptical arrogance. If Strindberg is no longer fighting God, he is still questioning him, for he is still a rebel, raging against the lawful limitations of his humanity. He has tried to escape from life into a realm of pure spirit, but he cannot resist the pulls of the body which drags him back into the filth, muck, and flesh of the material world. With his work in our hands, it is perfectly clear that this rebel’s eternal struggle with God is the key to his greatness.

Ibsen continues to believe in the importance of the will, and begins to measure his rebellious ideals against the social reality. He seeks a spiritual and moral revolution which will transform the soul of man. Strindberg, on the other hand, comes to believe in a strict determinism (The Higher Power), and loses faith in his rebellious ideals. He seeks deeper spiritual insights in order to resolve his own painful dilemmas.