Wordsworth in the Mountains: The Prelude

NPG 1857,William Wordsworth,by Benjamin Robert Haydon
by Benjamin Robert Haydon,painting,1842

Wordsworth in the Mountains: The Prelude

I first read The Prelude on a long train journey.  I didn’t pause except to get a glass of red wine and only occasionally looked up to notice how the dusk was coming on and the light inside the carriage gradually triumphed over the fading light outside.  By the time the train pulled into the station in Taunton, Somerset, I was nearly half way through the book, caught on the hook of Wordsworth’s rhythm.

This is the way to read Wordsworth, I thought: in movement.

In the mountains of Asturias I have found another way to read and it is more appropriate still to the manner of the great Romantics poets.  I walk and read.  Wordsworth is not only a great poet; he is a great walker.  The Prelude is understandable from an armchair or a train, but it comes to life when it is combined with walking.

And, it seems to me, that this is a great moment to read the Prelude all over again.  It is appropriate to read it in the context of a changing Europe.  It is appropriate to read it in Europe, even though Wordsworth did not make it to Spain.  To be a walker and read the work of a walking poet asserts a different level of priorities:

Here must thou be, O man,
Strength to thyself — no helper hast thou here —
Here keepest thou thy individual state:
No other can divide with thee this work,
No secondary hand can intervene
To fashion this ability. ‘Tis thine,
The prime and vital principle is thine
In the recesses of thy nature, far
From any reach of outward fellowship,
Else ’tis not thine at all.

In this five day reading group we will read the whole of the 1850 edition.  Between readings we will walk.  There are shorter walks and longer walks.  For the longer walks you must be able to walk for at least three hours through the mountains.

If you are interested in more information about this unique experience, get in touch.



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