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Paperback The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850: A Norton Critical Edition Book

ISBN: 039309071X

ISBN13: 9780393090710

The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850: A Norton Critical Edition

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Book Overview

There are no fewer than seventeen manuscripts of The Prelude in the Wordsworth library at Grasmere. Working with these materials, the editors have prepared an accurate reading version of 1799 and have newly edited from manuscripts the texts of 1805 and 1850--thus freeing the latter poem from the unwarranted alterations made by Wordsworth's literary executors. The editors also provide a text of MS. JJ (Wordsworth's earliest drafts for parts of The...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Useful for Study of a Great Epic

Wordsworth is a great poet, one of the greatest. The Prelude is also one of the greatest English epics. This edition, edited by Jonathan Wordsworth--Wordsworth's own progeny, offers readers a chance not only to read the poem in its entirety but also to compare different versions (the posthumously published 1850 version has 14 "books"), which is helpful in understanding the development of the poem and of Wordsworth. In The Prelude, Wordsworth is his own epic hero, and the traditional epic journey is more an interior journey, but the autobiographical text helps us to see Wordsworth as someone who was meant to be a poet, indeed as someone who was created for that purpose. His message of humanity's bond with nature, through which we have access to the divine, continues to be relevant to today's readers, perhaps even more relevant as we become more mechanized and urbanized, moving further and further away from nature, a move Wordsworth anticipates with regret. Wordsworth as a poet and as a man tends to grow on readers willing to take the time to get to know him. His genius is surpassed perhaps only by Shakespeare, and his wisdom and vision help make readers better for the journey into his mind and heart.

It was for this....

"A good deal of [Wordsworth's poetry], perhaps most of it, is very dull, like a long walk on a grey day. But just as somewhere on that walk there might be a sudden and superb flash of beauty, so in Wordsworth's poetry there are short passages, perhaps only a line or so, that are miraculous. An apparently simple unadorned phrase will suddenly blaze in the reader's imagination. These moments of his, once experienced, are never forgotten, and we never entirely lose our response to them." - J. B. Priestley. Literature and Western Man (Collins, 1960). The Prelude contains many of these unforgettable moments - certainly more than "short passages". Besides being a wonderful poem, the work gives the reader a unique insight into the life of the poet through his own words. The four versions give us a chance to appreciate how the poet grows and develops and how his views change over time. In many cases, changes to the 1805 manuscript appearing in the final 1850 publication do not seem to be improvements at all, but attempts to cover up previous indiscretions or to subdue outbursts of passion. The sentiment of the newer portions is often far from that of the earlier drafts. The two much shorter initial drafts, "Was It for This" and the Two-part Prelude of 1799, are very different to the later books and show a superb command of language. Not surprisingly, Wordsworth's relationship with nature is a major theme throughout the poem. The direct effect of growing up in the countryside is perhaps revealed more plainly than in his other poems and a quasi-religious philosophy is evident. This Penguin version seems to me to offer as much as one could want for a non-academic reader. The 120-odd pages of notes are quite sufficient to understand the poem thoroughly. This book will appeal to anyone who enjoys romantic poetry, nature or autobiography. A book to be savoured, not rushed. Highly recommended.

A beautiful epic, with an English Romantic spin

It is interesting that Wordsworth should never have published his most impressive poem. Norton calls it the "most original long poem since Milton's Paradise Lost," and it certainly deserves to be ranked alongside the master of the English epic. This poem was not published until after Wordsworth's death in 1850, and there are several versions of it (which are included in this book). The 1798-1799 version is very short, but the 1805 is expanded and includes many epic devices which Wordsworth borrowed from Milton and others. The 1850 version is basically a revised 1805 edition. It is not necessary that you read all three versions of the poem to understand its power, but it is useful to have them all at hand like this.The Prelude is an autobiography about Wordsworth's early life. It is full of sublime images of the world through the eyes of a Romantic, and includes some of the most beautiful imagery ever set to verse in English (I believe). Wordsworth's reflections about the evils of ambition and self-absortion, among other things, are also very powerful.This poem has been widely quoted by such Christian authors as CS Lewis, and has been admired by many great English poets. It is truly a masterpiece, an epic poem done in the tradition of English Romanticism. You can get this poem in many compilations, but usually in abridged form. This edition features the poem in its entirety, and in three version. This poem is essential to any study of English Romanticism.

five stars

This book articulates a vision of the world and of the emotions it inspires in a cerebral, yet densely imaged poem. Wordsworth did not want the poem published for fears that it was too self-absorbed; adressing earlier reviews that have made this complaint, it is true that the poem is self absorbed in that it presents the vision of the world from an individual all poems do. I find Eliot's use of quotations and footnotes drawing on his banks of memory and reading to be far more self-absorbed than this: a poem intended to communicated clearly. It is true that it is personal in that it was written to a friend with devotion and love, but this does not detract from the power of the language, the power of the vision, and the impact of the poem upon the age(s). As for comparing Wordsworth to a modernist, that comparison is difficult to make as the modernists rejected the romantic's formal language and optimism (both present in the prelude, despite moments of recognition of a bleak 'wasted' world).

an all-star book

This book is a roller-coater of litereral passages that keep you on the edge of your chair. It's a real page turner.
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