The Spots of Time- Wordsworths Poetic Debt to Coleridge

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  Colby Quarterly   V&#$e 28I**e 2  June  A)+!c#e 3 J%e 1992 e Spots of Time : Wordsworth's Poetic Debt toColeridge  James P. Davis F&##& +!* a%d add!+!&%a# &) * a+:'://d!g!+a#c&$$&%*.c&#b.ed/c(  0!* A)+!c#e !* b)&g+ +& & f&) f)ee a%d &'e% acce** b D!g!+a# C&$$&%* @ C&#b. I+ a* bee% acce'+ed f&) !%c#*!&% !% C&#b Qa)+e)# b a%a+&)!ed ad$!%!*+)a+&) &f D!g!+a# C&$$&%* @ C&#b. F&) $&)e !%f&)$a+!&%, '#ea*e c&%+ac+$e##@c&#b.ed. Rec&$$e%ded C!+a+!&% C&#b Qa)+e)#, V&#$e 28, %&.2, J%e 1992, '. 65-84  The  Spotsof Time : Wordsworth s Poetic Debt to Coleridge byJAMES P DAVIS   N ONE of thefirstpassagesthathewrotefor ThePrelude, whichheeventuallyplacedin Book Eleven of the1805version,WilliamWordsworthdiscussesthesurfacinginto.presentconsciousness of memories of significantevents he calls spots oftime l Manystudents of Wordsworthapplythephrasenotonlytoprocesses of memory,asWordsworthseesthem,butalsotothenarrativestructurehedevisedtorendersuchmomentsinhispoetry:thefrequentretrospectivepassagesinwhichherecountsaformativeeventinhislife,oftenwithoutexplicitlyconnectingittohissubjectathand.TakingWordsworth scuethat Suchmoments   /Arescatteredeverywhere (XI,273-74),Wordsworthscholarsgenerallyagreethatmanyincidentsin ThePrelude surfaceandfunctioninWordsworth snarrativeinthesamewayasthetwoexplicitlylabeled spots inBookEleven.Thespot of timeisseen as thepoem sprimary structuralunit, 2as thenuclearcell of thewhole[poem], 3asWordsworth sview of  the structure of imaginativeexperience itself.   KennethJohnstonclaimsthatthearrangement of bookswithinthepoem(notmerely of detailswithinbooks)repeatsthe   spot of time structure. 5Theaccumulateddiscoveriesaboutthespots of timehaveledtoincreasinglybroaderclaims of theirimportance. The spotshavecometo be viewedasanorganizingprinciplewithnearlyinfiniteflexibility,describingandreenactingthemostsignificantmomentsin ThePrelude, providingamacro-stnlcturetoconnectthesemoments,andembodyingtheprocesses of imaginationitself.Wordsworthfoundthespots of timestructurequitecongenialtohisretrospectivehabits of mind,theformbestsuitedtoconveyingemotionsrecollectedintranquillity,anditenabledhimtocomposewhathecalledhis poemtoColeridge. ExploringpossibleantecedentsforWordsworth snewgenreandtheidea of thespots of time, SOUle criticshavelookedtoRousseau s Confessions,6 or toDescartes notions of discontinuoustime. 7 Iproposethattofindtheantecedent   UnlessIspecifyotherwiseinthetext,quotationsfrom ThePrelude arefromthe1805textprinted inThe Prelude:1799, 1805,1850, ed.JonathanWordsworth,M.H.Abrams,andStephenGill(NewYork:W.W.Norton,1979). 2 HerbertLindenberger, OnWordsworth s Prelude(Princeton:PrincetonUniv.Press,1963),p.143.3.GeoffreyH.Hartman, Wordsworth sPoetry: 1787-1814(NewHaven:YaleDniv.Press,1964),p.211.4.JohnT.Ogden, TheStructure of ImaginativeExperienceinWordsworth s Prelude, TheWordsworthCircle, 6(1975),290-98. 5. Wordsworth  nd TheRecluse(NewHaven:YaleUniv.Press,1984),p.174.6.Lindenberger,pp.138-43.7.SeeChristopherSalvesen, TheLandscape of Memory:AStudyo/Wordsworth sPoetry (Lincoln:Univ. of NebraskaPress,1965),pp.9-12;andJeffreyBaker, Time  nd ind inWordsworth sPoetry (Detroit: Wayne StateDniv.Press,1980),pp.145-47. 65 1Davis: The Spots of Time : Wordsworth's Poetic Debt to ColeridgePublished by Digital Commons @ Colby, 1992    COL Y QU RTERLY forWordsworth sspots of timestructure,weneednotlook  u ~ furtherthantosomeearlylyricsbyColeridgethathecalled conversationpoems. If wecomparethespots of timestructuretoColeridge sconversationpoems,especiallytoonethatWordsworthquotesfrequentlyinthe1805 Prelude wediscoverimportantparallelsbetweenColeridge sshorterlyricsandWordsworth sspots of time.ExaminingthesimilaritieswillhelpexplainWordsworth sfeelings of indebtednesstoColeridgeandthefrequency of hisaddressingandquotingColeridgeintheearlybooks of ThePrelude. Examiningthedifferenceswillrevealtheextent of Wordsworth smodificationandexpansion of theform.Ourfirstconcernwillbewiththespots of timesequenceitselfasastructuralparadigm. 8 Weshallexaminethestructureinonerepresentativespot of time,andthenexploreColeridge s FrostatMidnight. Thestudies of thesharedstructure of thespotsareinremarkableagreementaboutmost of itsfeatures,thoughtheydifferinthevocabularytheyemploytodescribeitsstages.Thefirstsuchstudy,byJonathanBishop,isprimarilyconcernedwiththesequence of imageswithinthespots.Bishopnotesthatthespotssequencesusuallybegininthesameway: theopeninglinessetthedateandtheseason of adventuresmanytimesexperiencedbytheboyWordsworth. Usuallytheprotagonistemergesfromacrowd,ascendsinvariouswaystoaneminence,wherehe receivesacheck,abreakingin of newexperience. 9PaulSheats,too,notesaprogressiontowardaboundaryandaneventualreturn: Attentionfocusesrepeatedlyuponthepointatwhichhisexcursivemotionoutwardishaltedandtransformedintoareturnhomeward,apoint of extremephysicalexposure,andoftenaborderlinebetweennaturalelements,earth,water,orsky.Hereheincorporatespowerwithinhismind,andhisreturnsuggeststheappropriationandfixation of suchpowerforfuturetime. lO Lessconcernedwiththepsychoanalyticimport of theimagesthanBishopandmoreinterestedintheidea of  excursionandreturn, Sheatsalsoobservesthateachspotisa psychologicalexcursionintopasttime andareturntothepresent(thetime of composition).JohnOgdenexpandsuponthismodel,notingthree,sometimesfour,stagesin imaginativeexperience : Whilethestructureneverrecursinexactlythesameform,theparadigmmayberecognizedintheprogression of mentalstates.Themindshiftsfromattentionthroughconfusiontoillumination;or,asitmayalsoappear,fromexpectationthroughfrustrationtofulfillment.Thislaststate of illuminationorfulfillmentmaybedividedintotwostages:initialsurpriseandelation,andensuingcalmandsatisfaction.   JohnstonacceptsOgden sparadigmbutrestatesitinthefollowingway: (1) anoriginalexpectation(naiveormisguided)isthwartedby(2)surpriseordisappointment, 8 My focusonthestructuralparadigm of thespotsdoesnotincludetwoexcellentbiographicalanalyses of thespots of time:RichardJ.Onorato, TheCharacter   thePoet:Wordsworthin ThePrelude(Princeton:PrincetonUniv.Press,1971);andDavidEllis, Wordsworth FreudandtheSpots   Time:Interpretationin ThePrelude(Cambridge:CambridgeUniv.Press,1985). In thisstudyI am lessconcernedwiththebiographicalsourcesfortheincidentspresentedasspotsandwiththelastingpsychologicaleffects of themonWordsworth(asaboyandasanadult)thanIamwiththespotsasastructuringprinciple in hisnarrative.9. Wordsworthandthe Spots of Time, ELH 26(1959),46-47.10. ExcursionandReturnin ThePrelude TheWordsworthCircle 1(1970),124.11.Ogden,p.292. 2 Colby Quarterly, Vol. 28, Iss. 2 [1992], Art. 3 http://digitalcommons.colby.edu/cq/vol28/iss2/3  JAM ESP. DA VIS 67 resultingin(3a)asubsequentreinterpretationnotonly of theoriginalexpectationbut,moreimportantly,(3b) of thepower of thehumanmindtoformexpectationsandrespondtounexpectedvariation.   Evenmorebriefly,helaterspeaks of  thefamiliarthree-part  spot of time structure as expectation, disappointment, and revaluation (p.174). Of coursethemorewesimplifythestructuralschemethemoreuniversalitappears.OgdennotestheparallelsbetweenthissequenceandWordsworth stheory of poeticcomposition( emotionrecollectedintranquillity )aswellas theconventionalplot-structure of mostdramaandnarrative, theprocesses of scientificproblemsolving,andGestalttheories of perception.Theseemingubiquity of thisprocess,toOgden,suggests  a universallawbywhichthehumanmindoperates. 13But common neednotimply commonplace, and if Wordsworthhasdiscoveredmentalprocessesuniversaltoman,hehasnotdiminishedtheimportance of hisdiscovery;hehasaccomplishedexactlywhathesetouttodo.Thespots of timestructuremayinfactresembletheconventionalplotstructure of actionnarratives(exposition,complication,climax,resolution),butWordsworth staleisamentalone,andtheformheadaptedfromColeridge sconversationpoenlstorepresentithasbecomeastandardwaytorepresentconsciousnessinstream-of-consciousnessworks.Obviously,Wordsworthdidnotinventthestructures by whichthemindprocessesexperience,but he didhelpdesigntherhetoricalformscommonlyusedtosimulatesuchprocesses.Onesamplepassagefrolll  he relude willillustratethemainfeatures of thespots of timestructure.InthisdiscussionIassumethatmostreaders of  he relude recognizetheexistence of thespotsthroughoutthepoemandthatIneednotrepeattheextensiveworkothershavedonetodocumentthepresence of thisstructuralunit.WhileIwouldnotgosofarastoagreewithHerbertLindenbergerthatthevariousspotsare sayingessentiallythesamethingagainandagain, 14Ithinkitispossibletofindasamplethatisrepresentative of thenarrativetechnique of theotherspots.Thefirst of Wordsworth stwoexplicitlynamedspots of timeinBookElevenwillsuffice: AtatimeWhenscarcely(Iwasthennotsixyearsold)Myhandcouldholdabridle,withproudhopes1mounted,andwerodetowardsthehills: We wereapair of horsemen-honest JamesWaswithme,myencouragerandguide. We hadnottravelledlongeresomemischanceDisjoined me frommycomrade,and,throughfearDismounting,downtheroughandstonymoor1ledmyhorse,andstumblingon,atlengthCametoabottomwhereinformertimesAmurdererhadbeenhunginironchains.Thegibbet-mastwasmouldereddown,thebones 12.Johnston,p.112.13.Ogden,pp.296-97.14.Lindenberger,p.188. 3Davis: The Spots of Time : Wordsworth's Poetic Debt to ColeridgePublished by Digital Commons @ Colby, 1992
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