Wordsworth's Bardic Vocation, 1787-1842

Author: Gravil, Richard


PDF 4 MB. 456 pp. Four illustrations, 2 colour, 2 B&W.
A mobi version is also available but lacking the comprehensive index.

Recommend to your librarian

A second edition of one of the most comprehensive critical studies of the poet since the 1960s. 

This book presents the poet as balladist, sonneteer, minstrel, elegist, prophet of nature, and national bard. The book argues that Wordsworth’s uniquely various oeuvre is unified by his sense of bardic vocation. Like Walt Whitman or the bards of Cumbria, Wordsworth sees himself as 'the people’s remembrancer'. Like them, he sings of nature and endurance, laments the fallen, and fosters national independence and liberty. His task is to reconcile in one society 'the living and the dead' and to nurture both 'the people' and 'the kind'.

Part 1 offers a comprehensive account of Wordsworth’s early interest and his later researches into antiquarian matters and the contemporary significance of such interest. It includes readings of The Vale of Esthwaite, An Evening Walk, Yew-Trees and the pagan sonnets that introduce Ecclesiastical Sketches. Part Two considers the Salisbury Plain poems, The Ruined Cottage, Lyrical Ballads and the enlightenment ideas about nature underlying The Poem upon the Wye. Part Three explores elegiac Wordsworth in the 'Lucy' poems, his creation of archetypal heroes (Michael, the Discharged Soldier, the Leech-Gatherer) to people the Cumbrian landscape, and how Wordsworth reconfigured 'manliness' in such poems as Brougham Castle, Hart-Leap Well and The White Doe of Rylstone. Part 4 examines The Excursion, the political sonnets, The Convention of Cintra, the Waterloo poems, the 1842 publication of The Borderers and Guilt and Sorrow in the era of Chartism, and (new to this dition) the Intimations Ode.

A new addendum expands on the context of Wordsworth's notorious 'Thanksgiving Ode'.

"This erudite exposition, profligate with its ideas ... succeeds as few others have done in apprehending Wordsworth’s career holistically, incorporating all its diversities and apparent inconsistencies into a unified vision. It justifies fully the notion proposed by Hughes and Heaney that he was England’s last national poet."— Duncan Wu, Review of English Studies 

Other Formats

This 420 page study is also in paperback at £17.96 from Lulu.com (rrp £19.95)
ISBN 978-1-84760-345-6

Also available in ePub and Mobi, but the PDF is much superior.  


About the author

Richard Gravil is the author of Romantic Dialogues: Anglo-American Continuities, 1776-1862 (Palgrave 2000), and Wordswoth and Helen Maria Williams, or the Perils of Sensibility (HEB 2010), and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth (2015). He is Chairman of the Wordsworth Conference Foundation.

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Wordsworth's Bardic Vocation, 1787-1842

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Review Comment

‘A remarkable account of Wordsworth’s long writing life, with something fresh and often provocative to say about its many extraordinary poetic achievements, both famous and forgotten. It is difficult to imagine a better explicator of this most complex of modern poets: Gravil is scholarly and humane, sharp-eyed and good-humoured.’ —Seamus Perry, Balliol College, Oxford

‘This outstandingly original book reveals in fascinating detail how William Wordsworth—prophet of nature, remembrancer of his kind—attuned his poetry to the bardic voices of the ancient world. Embracing the full diversity of Wordsworth’s career.... the Wordsworth that emerges is freshly situated in his own cultural milieu and times, and speaks to us with renewed vitality.’ —Nicholas Roe, University of St Andrews

‘A richly rewarding monograph ... one of the most important publications on Wordsworth in recent years’ —Matthew Scott, Yearbook of English Studies

 ‘Engaged and refreshingly direct ... this is criticism which discusses craft and concept with equal facility and insight.’—Damian Walford Davies, Romanticism

Reader reviews

Rating : 5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars5/10 stars

"I regard Chapter 6 as the most important piece on the 'Poem on the Wye' that has come out in the last 20 years or so, and, to be honest, the best piece on the poem that I have ever read. "


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