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The Prelude

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The Prelude: Timed Write Re-Write

The preceding excerpt from William Wordsworth's The Prelude conveys a sense of adventure, coupled with the downfall into the sublime, and presents a common day scenario in accordance with naturalistic motifs and dream-like ambience evident in romanticist poetry. The excerpt describes a snippet from Wordsworth's life--an evening ride upon a lonely boat that grows into a fearful encounter upon noticing a peak beyond the horizon, ending with the narrator falling into a troubled demeanor, termed as a "dark solitude". Being such a common day event, readers are engaged by Wordsworth's experience, and can relate to his responses to the naturalistic stimuli that he encounters. The verse form heightens this bond between reader and author, being more raw and accurate to each emotion Wordsworth experiences while going through the event presented in the excerpt, and Wordsworth's use of diction and imagery highlight the various tone shifts and changing narrator response.

Specific word choice and diction highlights both the narrator's emotions and the underlying tone conveyed by the passage. The passage starts on a summer evening, where the narrator finds a boat tied onto a "willow" tree, unloosening the chain and disembarking on a little adventure, deeming the situation as an "act of stealth" or "troubled pleasure", his boat leaving ripples that glitter "idly" in the moonlight, as he fixes his viewpoint upon the craggy ridge of a horizon. Emphasis on the summer evenings, naturalistic settings, and "idle glitterings" exhibit a sense of dreaminess and summer-lethargy, as if the narrator has just stumbled upon a diversion to curb his bored self, an escape from the laziness that pervades a late summer evening. However, launching the boat perceives to be somewhat troublesome, and as such the narrator's interest is peaked, and his sense of adventure is heightened, as he fixes his viewpoint upon the horizon, with the outlook of a captain of a ship, not of a poet on a "little boat". Presenting a lazy dream setting as his hook, and broadening this laziness into a sense of adventure anew, readers are drawn into Wordsworth's poem, noting the parallel shift of the narrator's emotions and the passage's tone. As the narrator continues to "lustily" row, he notes that behind his "craggy steep" of a horizon, a second peak, "black and huge", rises as he continues to row, a huge shape that "towered" and seemed to stride after him. Initially, the narrator does not notice the emergence of the second peak, and is displayed as innocent and still engrossed in the dream-like setting of the poem, going on his "play" journey, "lustily" stirring his oars onto adventure; the sudden emergence of the second peak, depicted as huge, tyrannical, and powerful, contrasts heavily with the scene immediately previous, and shatters the "wonderland" constructed by the earlier parts of the poem, effectively changing to passage's displayed tone from dream-like and lethargic to fearful and awe-inspiring. As in the previous scenario, a shift in the passage's tone entails a parallel shift in the narrator's response to the situation--obviously one of fear, as he turns away with "trembling oars", back to the safety of his home. This sudden shift causes confusion and leaves a lasting effect on readers, which is similar to the lasting impression left on Wordsworth by this event; the author constructs a literary scenario that is analogous to the response he felt in experiencing the event. Retreating back to the "covert" of his willow tree, the narrator leaves homebound in a "serious" demeanor, being clouded by a "darkness" that left for him no more of his "familiar shapes", and left confounded by "huge and mighty" forms that waded his mind in waking and troubled his dreams in sleep. The tone shift that was enacted by the emergence of the dark peak is now completed by the "darkness" that haunts the narrator, effectively transitioning the poem into the sublime. The narrator is aware of his downfall--he cries out in a ranting fashion upon describing his fall into blank desertion, repeating "no" three times, emphasizing that "no", where he is, all there is are the black shapes that so haunt him. By effectively using specific words and diction, Wordsworth is able to highlight both the narrator's emotions and the passage's tone, usually in parallel fashion.

Wordsworth also couples his selective diction with specific imagery--highlighting both the tone shifts evident through the passage and changing reactions to various stimuli

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