In this Extract from The Prelude, the speaker narrates one of the important moments in his young life. In the context of The Prelude, this is part of the speaker’s beginnings as a writer. Read the extract and a part of the analysis below.
Excerpt from The Prelude
And in the frosty season, when the sun
Was set, and visible for many a mile
The cottage windows through the twilight blaz’d.
I heeded not the summons; – happy time
It was, indeed, for all of us; to me
It was a time of rapture: clear and loud
The village clock toll’d six; I wheel’d about,
Proud and exulting, like an untir’d horse,
That cares not for his home. – All shod with steel,
We hiss’d along the poish’d ice, in games
Confederate, imitative of the chace
And woodland pleasures, the resounding horn,
The Pack loud bellowing and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the clod we flew,
And not a voice was idle; with the din,
Meanwhile, the precipices rang aloud,
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tinkled like iron, while the distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy, not unnoticed, while the stars,
Eastwards, were sparking clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
- Frosty – icy; unfriendly in manner; (of weather) extremely cold
- Visible – able to be seen
- Twilight – Evening time; dusk
- Heed – verb, past participle: heeded – pay attention to, follow instruction(s)
- Summon – noun, plural: summons – an order to appear somewhere – sometimes used in a legal context, for an appearance in court
- Rapture – ecstasy; a state of enthusiastic delight
- Exulting – a state of great happiness, especially at someone’s failure: for example, they exulted over their victory
- Shod – past principle: shod (of a horse) fit with shoes
- Confederate – adjective: in a joint agreement or treaty; allied; united; noun: an accomplice in an activity, especially something illegal or secret, helper
- Imitative – adjective: similar; like; following an example
- Chace – noun (plural chaces) – a French part-song in the form of a cannon in the unison
- Resounding – adjective: unmistakable, impressive; (of a sound) resonating
- Bellow – gerund or present participle: bellowing (of an animal or person) a deep roar of pain or anger
- Hare – A species of small mammal, similar to a large rabbit with bigger ears
- Din – noun: a loud, unpleasant, and monotonous noise; uproar; verb: to teach by constant repetition; instil; drive
- Crag – noun: a rugged cliff; ridge; slope
- Precipice – plural: precipices . a rock cliff, especially one over a body of water; rock face
- Tinkle – past tense: tinkled – a soft, clear ringing sound; ring; chime; (informal) to urinate
- Poise’d – adjective: an archaic form of poised, meaning composed and assured in manner, graceful
- Allen – noun: a foreigner in the country of residence; emigrant; a fictional being from an unknown world; extraterrestrial
- Chace – to pursue
- Tumult – confusing noise, especially from a large crowd, uproar, disorder
- Melancholy – noun: a feeling of sadness, sorrow, unhappiness; adjective: having a feeling of sadness, desolate
STORY + SUMMARY
In the frosty winter season, while the sun was setting, and clearly seen on all the earth. The cottage windows reflected out into the twilight landscape, blazing. I did not listen to anyone – happy time, it was for me; everyone also seemed to enjoy the moment. It was a time of great delight; clear and loud. The village clock struck six o clock. I turned about, confident and assertive, like a horse on the loose not caring about his stable.
We hissed along the polished ice, playing games, imitating hunting together, and enjoying the pleasures of the forest, we heard the hunter’s horn and the hunter’s pack of dogs bellowing, and we hunted hares. So through the darkness and cold, we flew, and no one kept quiet; what with the continuous noises, meanwhile, the cliff edge rocks rang with echoes, and the frozen trees and the icy peaks of hills tinkled like someone striking iron. The distant hills sent an alien sound into this chaos, one of thoughtful sadness, while the stars appeared, dazzling bright from the East, and in the west, the orange sky slowly faded.
Read the Excerpt from The Prelude – specifically the ‘Extract’ about boating – rowing out on a mountain lake here.
SPEAKER + VOICE
The speaker narrates one of the important moments in his young life. In the context of The Prelude, this is part of the speaker’s beginnings as a writer.
The poet captures the moments of youthful joy during hunting trips, through chaos and exhilaration. He recounts these moments fondly. It was a happy time, without care for the home.
The beautiful imagery of the emerging sky at the poem’s coda demonstrates the speaker’s joy, but also wonder and thoughtfulness about the passing of time and the sunset. The speaker maintains a casual tone of happy reminiscence. It is laced with gratitude, awe and passion – but also sadness, that these times will never return.
William Wordsworth was born in Cumberland (now Cumbria), near Lake District, in 1770. With a name like that, how could he have been anything other than a famous writer? Wordsworth was one of the most celebrated romantic poets of his time and continues to be to a poet of renown to this day – along with his contemporary, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He served as Poet Laureate from 1843, at the age of 73, until he died in 1850.
This romantic poem which was written in 1850 was indeed to be a longer work – The Prelude – co-written with Coleridge, Wordsworth’s friend and fellow poet. Like many of his other poems, The Prelude values the experiences of ordinary people. A large portion of this poem describes his own childhood experiences.
Interestingly, given its title and the fact he worked on it for the majority of his life, The Prelude was published after Wordsworth’s death. In his poem, he again demonstrates that nature has a profound effect on our feelings and behaviour. He suggests that as a parent and teacher, nature always works towards the benevolence of all creatures.
If you’re studying this particular poem, you can buy our detailed A* study guide here.
- Story + Summary
- Speaker + Voice
- Language Feature Analysis
- Form and Structure Analysis
- Attitudes + Messages
- Themes + Deeper Ideas
- Tasks + Exercises
- Possible Essay Questions