Wordsworth's Thanksgiving Ode in Context

Author: Gravil, Richard


26 pages, PDF, two illustrations

Recommend to your librarian

A Bicentennial re-reading of Wordsworth's notorious Ode on the end of the Napoleonic Wars

Wordsworth’s ‘Thanksgiving Ode’ expresses the poet’s sentiments on the final outcome of the Napoleonic Wars. It is possibly Wordsworth’s most notorious poem, widely criticized for its alleged bellicosity and for one line in particular, addressed to God: ‘Yea, Carnage is thy Daughter’. Richard Gravil argues that the poem is a strenuous exercise in Christian Thanksgiving, appropriate to the close of two decades of global war. Its tone is reflective and self-searching, not bellicose, as befits a poet who called the Battle of Waterloo ‘a hideous rout’. Its thought is grounded in the Old Testament, as were the numerous sermons preached on the morning of 18 January 1816, a ‘Day Appointed for a General Thanksgiving’. The booklet explicates the poem’s demanding argument, and places it alongside a range of sermons offered by the Bishop of London, Anglican vicars, a Canadian rector, a Vicar Apostolic and a Unitarian Minister, united in thanksgiving at the close of what was, in reality, the first World War

About the author

Richard Gravil is author of Wordsworth's Bardic Vocation 1787-1842, co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth (2015), and Chairman of the Wordsworth Conference Foundation.

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