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Published: 22-11-2019

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Back to the Future: Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty” and “Elegiac Stanzas”

A past attitude is reverted to and revised in Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty” and “Elegiac Stanzas.” Employing geographic metaphors, each celestial and earth-bound, the poems climb more than rocky Wordsworthian terrain that particulars his reconciliation between past and present and implications of the future. Though vastly diverse stylistically “Ode to Duty” utilizes an antiquated verse kind and language, even though “Elegiac Stanzas” is written in Wordsworth’s beloved “language of men” and in the internal willfulness on the poet’s part to alter versus reaction to external stimuli, the poems parallel in their desires for resolution of a disarrayed soul by way of the calming sublime power of either an abstract notion or a naturalistic piece of art.

Wordsworth deviates from his course of democratic poetry in “Ode to Duty” by exercising a classical kind, the ode, and manipulating the elevated language it affords the poet. Even the opening quote is from a Greek source, Seneca, which foreshadows the poem’s anachronistic contact to duty. The poem is divided into seven tetrameter octets, of which the final line is Alexandrine. The French origins of the Alexandrine line additional confuse the poem’s miscegenational heritage, and conspire with the “missing” eighth stanza (had been the poem to have an orderly arrangement of eight syllables per line, eight lines per stanza, eight stanzas total) to cast an ambiguous shadow more than Wordsworth’s conception of duty. As suggested by the allusion to Seneca and the ode type, it is one particular of poetic duty without ever calling consideration to the act of writing poetry.

Similarly, “Elegiac Stanzas” confronts the death of Wordsworth’s brother by only slightly focusing on the actual death but alternatively turning its attentions to the vacillating emotional responses to a painting. The bouncy “abab” rhyme scheme and regular iambic pentameter accentuates Wordsworth’s initial rose-colored reaction, then later heightens the tension of his haunting observations. The quick quatrains help the mercurial shifts of the emotional poet, more so than the lengthy stanzas of “Ode to Duty” which dwell on single concepts. The stanzaic breaks lend the impression of a longer poem, even though “Elegiac Stanzas” has only six much more lines than “Ode to Duty.” The montage effect also mirrors the composition of the topic matter just as a painting is a composite of a number of pigments, brush-strokes, and impressions, so is “Elegiac Stanzas” a patchwork collection of complementary and opposing thoughts. And, as the painting’s impact on Wordsworth grew from straightforward acceptance to complicated musings, so, too, can the quatrains be interpreted as neat organizations, or chaotic sequences.

The struggle in between chaos and calmness is at the heart of “Ode to Duty.” With an allusion to Milton and via the ode’s archaic language and form, Wordsworth connotes duty’s rigidity: “Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!/ O Duty! if that name thou love” (1-two). The rigidity is a divine shepherd for the errant and infirm: “Who art a light to guide, a rod/ To verify the erring?/ And calm’st the weary strife of frail humanity” (three-4, eight). Wordsworth deploys a travel conceit to describe his youthful, independent straying: “I, loving freedom, and untried/ No sport of each random gust,/ Yet being to myself a guide,/ Too blindly have reposed my trust” (25-8). Without having an in a position guide, the autonomous voyager is blind. This is echoed in “Elegiac Stanzas,” as the poet contends that simple “happiness, wherever it be recognized,/ Is to be pitied for ?tis surely blind” (55-6). The developed individual welcomes “frequent sights of what is to be borne!/ Such sights, or worse, as are ahead of me here,” though the visions may distress him (58-9). The parallel to completeness of character in “Ode to Duty” is recommended by the antithetical, constricting grip duty applies to windy freedom: “And oft, when in my heart was heard/ Thy timely mandate, I deferred/ The activity, in smoother walks to stray/ But thee I now would serve much more strictly, if I may” (29-32).

Wordsworth’s deferential inquiry sounds a note in the chorus of the poem’s obeisance motif. His wish to mend his methods was brought about “Through no disturbance of my soul,/ Or strong compunction in me wrought?/ But in the quietness of thought” (33-4, 36). The poem’s devotion to an abstract notion exemplifies the willful internality of the poet’s choice. This internality leads the poet to “supplicate for thy control,” an act that shifts the poem into the religious territory of reverence. Certainly, Wordsworth subtly raises his travel conceit from the earth to the heavens. “In the quietness of thought,” a time that is often reserved for prayer, he decides that “Me this unchartered freedom tires/ I feel the weight of opportunity-desires” (37-eight). The unmapped liberalism of random urges weighs him down and bounds him to the earth the austere and personified guardian of duty, on the other hand, actions lightly in between the earth and the sky: “Nor know we something so fair/ As is the smile upon thy face/ Flowers laugh ahead of thee on their beds/ And fragrance in thy footing treads/ Thou dost preserve the stars from incorrect/ And the most ancient heavens, via Thee, are fresh and strong” (43-eight). The craving “for a repose that ever is the very same,” a constancy that could, in the future, hold for him “a blissful course,” is created salient in the comparison to stars, long regarded as shapers of destiny (40, 21). The “repose” here implies “sleep,” whereas in the fourth stanza “reposed my trust” implies to shop. The analogy here is not lost on Wordsworth to place one’s trust only in oneself and not a greater source is to slumber peacefully and ignorantly.

Blissful slumber is Wordsworth’s critique of his former self in “Elegiac Stanzas.” His memory of Peele Castle is an unwavering one particular that he saw “every day and all the even though/ Thy Type was sleeping on a glassy sea” (three-four). The reminiscence of the castle evokes images of constancy: “So pure the sky, so quiet the air!/ So like, so extremely like, was day to day!” (five-6) The anaphoric use of “so” lulls the reader into a repetitive dream-state, a single in which “it seemed no sleep/ No mood, which season takes away, or brings” his former self was locked into an oppressive stagnancy of disposition, 1 really different from the beneficial guiding hand of duty in “Ode to Duty” (9-10). Whereas wind blew the young Wordsworth in his exploration, wind is an impotent force of nature in his construct of the castle: “No motion but the moving tide, a breeze,/ Or merely silent Nature’s breathing life” (27-eight).

The speaker’s renewal charges his when-complacent view of nature with a brutal and morbid electricity that stresses its adjectives with caesurae and subverts the rote iambic meter: “And this massive Castle, standing here sublime,/ I enjoy to see the look with which it braves,/ Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time,/ The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves” (stresses in bold) (49-52). The analogy amongst the stoic castle and the stolid Wordsworth who should accept his brother’s death are apparent, but more subtle is the storm’s visibility and palpability that benefits in a possible pun: “O ?tis a passionate Operate! but sensible and properly,/ Effectively chosen is the spirit that is here/ That hulk which labours in the deadly swell,/ This rueful sky, this pageantry of worry!” (45-eight) The zeugma of “well,” as each a signifier of healthiness and of top quality, connotes a third which means, that of a physical nicely of water. Below this assumption, the “hulk which labours in the deadly swell” carries the image of chaos lurking inside the supposedly secure confines of a effectively, yet another exhibition of chaos contained within comfort. What is more, the underground associations of the well polarize the elevated “rueful sky,” pointing once more to the hectic battleground of the speaker’s feelings.

As for the result in of the two divergent roads in Wordsworth’s yellow wood of art criticism, the shipwrecked death of his brother is the culprit. The Freudian implications of the nightmarishly imagined death in a violent storm are clear enough, but what distinguishes this revised attitude from that in “Ode to Duty” is the lack of option in the matter. As opposed to his pleasant supplication to duty, the speaker has now “submitted to a new control:/ A energy is gone, which absolutely nothing can restore/ A deep distress hath humanised my Soul” (34-six). His dependence on external forces, specially those of fickle nature, stand in stark contrast with the utter blankness of the poem’s first half, and the rapid series of quatrains type the connective tissue in his emotional repairs. His personal caprices shine through in the second to final stanza, following possessing praised the stolidity of the castle but condemning his personal previous and passive response: “Farewell, farewell the heart that lives alone,/ Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind!” (53-4) He has turned 180 degrees from calmness layered over calmness to calmness inside the storm, the poet has managed to mine catharsis and rebirth out of tragedy.

There was no apparent tragedy in “Ode to Duty,” but possibly Wordsworth felt mankind was on the verge of 1. His feelings toward the French Revolution had soured, and he may possibly have discovered the new liberation and fraternity getting portioned out in unequal measures in poetry. Modify is a excellent thing, both “Ode to Duty” and “Elegiac Stanzas” suggest, but only when adopted “in the quietness of thought” otherwise, rash decisions only mirror the frenzied environments out of which they grew. No matter whether or not “Ode to Duty” or “Elegiac Stanzas” have veiled political agendas is unclear what is ingenious is Wordsworth’s ability to provide so numerous comparable messages in such contrary envelopes.
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