This two-volume set of William Wordsworth’s poems, published in 1807, is a touchstone for many narratives of his life. It contains some of his most famous pieces, such as “The Solitary Reaper,” “Elegiac Stanzas,” “Resolution and Independence,” and “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” and even features a series of poems depicting his wrestle with the French Revolution’s violent aftermath. His unnamed piece beginning “The world is too much with us” in the first volume typifies how many saw Wordsworth in later years: as a quasi-religious figure, a prophet for a new, quieter, nature-based spirituality which could survive the pressures of rationalism, modern commerce, and the Industrial Revolution. In this same volume, however, Wordsworth also displays how traditional his religiosity can be, telegraphing the later-life theological conservatism by which some of his readers were ultimately disappointed.
Contributed by Thomas Sorensen