Enlightenment: Wordsworth and Ross Work Together to Seek A New Way Home

The French Revolution evoked feelings for sympathizing life, troubles, and speech of the ‘common man’. The French Revolution was considered to be the first modern revolution because it changed the structure of society. Rather than simply replacing the existing ruler or even the political command, the Revolution created new ideologies to explain its course when nothing suitable could be adopted from the past governmental structures. To be a ‘common man’ refers to ordinary people, who are members of neither the nobility nor the priesthood, these more typical members of society favored a democratic republic in which the voice of the common man would be heard. William Wordsworth published “Ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” after his visit to France when he realized that the frustrated population of Europe sought an Enlightenment-based change. Wordsworth’s great despair, which he experienced in Britain, led him to seek out his own understanding for the world. Wordsworth was fascinated with the human mind, especially when relating human thoughts when derived from nature. Each ‘common man’ during the Revolution sought equality, and a government leader who was based from the people’s choosing. Wordsworth was convinced that by using imagination and memories, any man could overcome their pain and most difficult encounters.

“It’s Wordsworth’s desire for reunion with the mother that most completely articulates what ’home’ meant to him” (Ross 633). When Wordsworth was a mere eight years old, his mother passed away. It was that monumental memory in Wordsworth’s life that would forever change and guide the direction of his poetry. “He thus argues for a compensation adequate to replace the lost glory” (Ross 626), the same lost glory the people of Britain need. It is here where we find evidence that Wordsworth really does sympathize for the life and troubles of the ‘common man’, with William being a commoner himself.

In “Ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, Wordsworth recollects of a time during his childhood where he has felt the most comfort but for some reason he cannot seem to bring back these lighter days again permanently. He speaks of “the possibility of self-disintegration, of complete fragmentation and loss of being” (Ross 632). Wordsworth finds envy in watching the lambs play around with such innocence and hearing the bird’s joyous song gives him grief. He states that it would be wrong to feel such pain while watching the joy of the season flood around in his presence. Wordsworth saw innocence more like a learning process of maturation. Just like when nothing suitable could be adopted from Britain’s current governmental status, it was up to the citizens to create something more properly suitable for the evolving time period. With transformative powers of the mind available to all, Wordsworth evoked hope in the ‘common man’ to empower change.

Wordsworth experiences a surge of joy at the thought that his memories of childhood will always grant him a kind of access to that lost world of instinct, innocence, and exploration. We can see evidence of this desire to regain this oneness throughout his life and works. He believed that since language originates in nature, the most purest and best form of language is closest to that origin. “For modern readers the poem remains powerful because it dramatizes one of our earliest confrontations with the modern self” (Ross 638). By using his own imagination and recollection of memories from childhood, Wordsworth explains to the reader that a new era of ideologies can be more than accepted if the common man were to take his innocence and from spring growth. “Though nothing can bring back the hour/ Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;/ We will grieve not, rather find/ Strength in what remains behind”(Wordsworth 557). Wordsworth explains that with each experience, rather good or bad in relativity, will provide us with an answer of some extent. “As a result, Wordsworth finally starves off his worst fears even when sensing the presence of a creature who has begun to move about in worlds not realized” (Ross 638). Instead of grieving as the common man and dwelling on everything that seemed to be crumbling down upon the British Empire, readers should look to times like these as a learning and growth opportunity. Wordsworth encourages his readers, especially during the French Revolutionary time, to continue to argue for equality. This ‘common man’ equality wouldn’t be achieved if the citizens continue in the same British Empire slump. Not only should readers take from the Ode strength, but also to look at the old ways in life as learning experiences. We should not recollect on our innocent minds with negativity, but with enlightenment and gained knowledge.

“In the primal sympathy/ Which having been must ever be;/ In the soothing thoughts that spring/ Out of human suffering;/ In the faith that looks through death,/ In years that bring the philosophic mind”(Wordsworth 557). He then goes on to state that because of our light in youth and innocence, we are brought into a new light. This philosophic light has more power than recollecting on not just innocence- but will provide us with a more mature consciousness of the outer world, beyond just nature alone. Ross states that the “truest source of ‘joy’ is not memory, which constancy reawakens the poet’s sense of loss” (Ross 639), but rather positivity in the learning philosophic mind which “provides a balm for his fear of encroaching mortality and for his loss of home” (Ross 639).

Just as William Wordsworth tries to imply in “Ode of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” and Daniel W. Ross assets, The French Revolutionary ‘common man’ sought out enlightenment and ultimate freedom of choice in government. The only problem was that these commoners did not have the drive to promote the change to happen. Wordsworth allows memories to recollect positively; Instead of painting a ‘could have, should have’ mindset and we should think to memories in this positive way likewise.

Works Cited:
Academy of American Poets. “William Wordsworth.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

Hubbell, J. Andrew. “A Question Of Nature: Byron And Wordsworth.” Wordsworth Circle 41.1 (2010): 14-18. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Nichols, Ashton. William Wordsworth. Digital image. Romantic Natural History. Ashton Nichols, 2011. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.

Ross, Daniel W. “Seeking a Way Home: The Uncanny in Wordsworth’s “Immortality Ode”” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 1992 4th ser. 32 (2009): 625-43. JSTOR. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

Venitis, Basil. Inside France. Digital image. Venitism. Blogspot, 13 July 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.