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text 2019-12-01 21:41
Which Wordsworth is worth keeping?

For the past couple of days my son has been nagging me to go to our big local used bookstore, as he wanted to add to his newly-started collection of One Piece manga. As you can imagine, he didn't have to work to hard to get me to go. While he poured over the manga section I perused the literature shelves in search of a particular book. As I passed through the Poetry section, though, I came across a hardcover copy of the Oxford Standard edition of William Wordsworth's Poetical Works in pretty good condition for an excellent price.


Now, I'm a huge fan of the Oxford University Press and its high editorial standards. Normally I snap up a work like this in a heartbeat. The problem is that I already own a copy of a different edition of Wordsworth's poems, this one being the Cambridge Edition that Houghton Mifflin revised and republished in the early 1980s. I did some online research to see which was recommended, but as usual the Internet proved to be unhelpful in providing much beyond cat videos. So after a few minutes spent pondering the situation, I decided to buy it and determine for myself which is the better edition.


Once we got home, I began my assessment.



As you can see, the Cambridge Edition is by far the larger of the two, which matters in a few important respects. Foremost among them is the question of how much space they take up on my shelf, as the prospect of freeing up a few centimeters by replacing the Cambridge with the Oxford Standard was one of the things that drew me to it in the first place (besides, shouldn't poetry books be portable so that they can easily be taken out on trips outdoors to read during rambles or while picnicking in a grassy meadow?). Of course size matters as well in terms of readability, yet here the difference wasn't as great as I thought it would be:



As you can see, the size of the text in the Cambridge Edition at the top isn't much larger than that of the Oxford Standard edition, and certainly not enough to make a great deal of difference.


Far more important, though, is the question of content, and here is where comparisons prove more challenging. The editors of the Cambridge Edition stuck with a largely chronological format with only minor variations. By contrast the Oxford Standard has them grouped in categories that provide for a different ordering. This makes comparing differences between the poems themselves a little difficult, but I can't find any significant ones that distinguish one edition from the other.


Finally there's the question of annotation. While the Cambridge Edition has only a limited amount of notes (and they're annoyingly located at the end of the book) this definitely beats the Oxford Standard, which eschews annotation altogether. Yet while in many circumstances this would be a deal-breaker, this is less of an issue for me here as I don't need much context for these poems.


As a result, while I'm still comparing the two editions, it looks as though I'm going to replace my Cambridge Edition with the Oxford Standard. So if anyone is interested in a hefty collection of Wordsworth's poetry and is willing to cover postage let me know and I'll send it off to you sometime this week.

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text 2017-04-07 10:45
7th April 2017
The Works of William Wordsworth (Wordsworth Collection) - William Wordsworth

The best portion of a good man's life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.


William Wordsworth


British poet William Wordsworth (born April 7, 1770) was a key figure in the Romantic Age, which privileged emotion over reason and was seen as a cultural revolt against the Industrial Revolution.

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review 2017-03-31 17:44
Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey - William Wordsworth  
Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey - William Wordsworth

6 June, 1982

Read for AP English. I rather like Wordsworth, even though I'm not a huge poetry fan.


Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume II, which I have kept


31 March, 2017

Reread today because it came to my attention. Thirty-five years on, I'm not the same person who read it then. Now I have a daughter in her own senior year of high school. It seems an unbelievable length of time, and yet, hardly any. The math is accurate. But thirty-five years since I graduated high school? And here I am, full circle, worrying about Russia and nuclear war, and the Berlin Wall is now a piece of rubble in that part of the kitchen where strange things show up from time to time. Inconceivable.

I don't share Wordsworth's delight in the countryside in general, although I did find delight in standing outside just now, after the rain, looking for a rainbow. Still I think I get some of what he was trying to say. None of the people who were with me in that last year are near me now, although I suppose I could connect with them all on FaceBook, well, except my parents, who have both died. But I think I get the point he was making about being able to return to a place after whatever changes I've been through, and to feel again the same kinds of sensations. The place I return to isn't a scenic walk in the mountains at the Borders, it's a text, which is the only permanence I know.

There are only two kinds of poetry I care for, still: light verse which amuses and delights Old Possum's Book never gets old to me, nor The Jabberwocky, and poetry like this, that gets at the feelings. I suppose it is the same way I feel about music, that it is an easy and reliable way into a particular emotion.

None of this sheds any light on Wordsworth's poem, and my AP English teacher wouldn't have accepted a paper like this, but this is what reading is for me: a way to share emotions with other people across space and time, or even just with myself. An emotional time machine. I think he'd understand that.


Free copy from Project Gutenberg

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review 2014-05-30 20:35
The Prelude - William Wordsworth
The Prelude (Parallel Text, Penguin) - W... The Prelude (Parallel Text, Penguin) - William Wordsworth

Okay, my inner philistine is out in force today. Wordsworth's autobiographical, book-length poem The Prelude is undoubtedly well-written, artistically constructed and technically skilled, but it annoyed me no end. Worse, it left me cold, which I feel is the exact opposite of what poetry's effect should be.


My main problems with it are essentially the same as my reasons for disliking Lyrical Ballads: it's pretentious (our poet would like to think that he is a genius such as is rarely seen upon this earth), it romanticises poverty in ways that are really quite objectionable, especially from Wordsworth's rather middle-class viewpoint, and it's often fairly misogynistic.


Oh, and pointless. I sat and read the whole thing, and I still have no idea what Wordsworth was blathering on about.

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review 2014-05-25 12:23
Lyrical Ballads - William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Lyrical Ballads - William Wordsworth,Samuel Taylor Coleridge,Michael Schmidt

I'm sorry, but I really don't see what the fuss is all about. After about 50 interminable pages of condescending poetic hokum in the form of Wordsworth's famous (infamous?) Preface, you get to the poems, which are, you know, nice and all, some of them have good rhymes, there are some undoubtedly beautiful passages...but it's all a bit meh. Apart from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", which is kind of awesome. Possibly this all makes me a bit of a philistine. Or just a Modernist. (I do like T.S. Eliot.)


Also, the whole romanticisation-of-poverty thing? Ugh. Just ugh. Poverty is not fun. It is not industrious, religious, healthy, clean, etc., especially not when written by a well-off middle-class guy whose brother went to Cambridge.


I think the Romantics annoy me just a little bit.

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