Wordsworth: The Prelude

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

At last
When all the ground was dark and the huge clouds
Were edged with twinkling stars, to bed we went
With weary joints and with a beating mind.

Wordsworth was a phenomenal walker.  The Prelude “reads almost as a single long walk that, though interrupted, never altogether stops, and this recurrent image of the walker gives it continuity amid all its digressions and detours,” says Rebecca Solnit (Wanderlust: A History of Walking).  Thomas De Quincey estimated that he probably walked about 180,000 miles in his long life.


You can read The Prelude in an armchair, and enjoy the experience, but that seems to miss the point.  You might be tempted to scoff at the poet’s chronology, his pious philosophy and his self-glorification from the comfort of a seated position.  Wordsworth, however, comes to life when you combine the reading with walking and that is the whole point of the Prelude in the Mountains reading group: to read the whole Prelude over five days and to undertake walks through the mountains of Asturias that will bring the poem to life.


I was reading the Two Part Prelude with a Spanish student with excellent English who wanted to improve her fluency.  She stumbled over some of the words and expressions but I encouraged her to continue.  “You can’t stop to study this,” I said.  “You have to let the music of the phrasing get into you before you go back and analyse it.”  She looked askance but pushed ahead.  Then she caught the rhythm and started to walk with it.  It was a magical moment; a milestone on her road to fluency.  One of the basic concepts underlying all of the readings that I do in the village here in Asturias is that stopping is proper to the classroom, but real reading is a continuous journey through a text, especially a poetic text.  Conversations, opinions and clarifications are left to the dining table or the walks.


“When all the ground was dark…”  The iambic rhythm is natural to English poetry: unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed.  This walking rhythm is as natural as a heartbeat or the moving of legs across the terrain.  Wordsworth even walked back and forth to compose his poetry.  We need to combine walking and reading to get the full juice out of the experience.  In our reading room you can sit, stand or pace.  We will also read after walking in the library in Grado, for example, or weather-permitting on a mountain crest.  We will take the rhythms directly out into the landscape.


It will be a unique experience.


Does the idea interest you?  Drop me a line: currman@gmail.com


The Prelude in the Mountains reading group will run from December 10-16, 2017.  The price is 650€ including all food, accommodation and texts.  I can also run Made to Measure student groups at a reduced price.  Get in touch and we can talk.




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