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HUMANITIES 12) Baker returns to james in his final chapter, to compare the mystical experience of one of james's contributors with Wordsworth's account of the ascent of Snowdon. The comparison is interesting but excessively long, and the emphasis on james makes one suspect that Baker is more concerned with what Wordsworth believed thart his literary approach readily admits. Similarly the appendix, 'The Ruined Shrines,' which Baker includes to emphasize the resonance of certain settings in The Prelude and to reveal Wordsworth's historical sense as 'a sense of tradition: takes on a disproportionate importance by being the single appendix to such a short book and - though interesting in itself - does not illuminate the text sufficiently to be helpful to the reader. Any necessary information about these shrines might have been incorporated in the text or the notes. Individual readings are always perceptive and often superb: here Baker seems most confident and authoritative. The treatment of Wordsworth's syntactical ambiguities, particularly in the discussion of Prelude, Ii.54-65, in chapter 6, is especially interesting, and the treatment of the 'spots of time' is illuminating in its emphasis not on the static quality of such moments but on the energy within them and its effect on the imagination of the reader. Chapter 4, 'Margaret and Michael,' is my favourite: Baker reads the fate of each character in terms of temporal disturbances, Margaret falling victim to 'the subtly addictive pain of unjustifiable hope: while Michael, through love for the child of his old age, makes himself equally vulnerable to disappointed hope. The bleak ironies of time that Baker uncovers in this chapter are counterbalanced in chapter 5 by emphasis on idleness and wise passiveness, which lead beyond the prison of time to the visionary state achieved through spots of time, explored most fully in the last two chapters. In this way the argument of the book unfolds lUCidly and logically. This is not only a book written by one specialist for others; it is also a book with much to say to students and other interested readers of Wordsworth, especially to those who might approach the poetry either as vague and impressionistic or as versified philosophy. It is an uneven book and one that necessarily limits itself more than its title might suggest, but it defines its limits conscientiously and within them it invites the reader to approach familiar texts freshIy . (ANNE Me WHIR) W.j. Keith. The Poetry of Nature: Rural Perspectives in Poetry from Wordsworth to thePresent University of Toronto Press. xi, 219. $20.00 The Poetry ofNature examines the work of nine poets:Wordsworth, Ciare, Barnes, Hardy, Frost, Edward Thomas, Edmund Blunden, Andrew Young, and R.S. Thomas. Professor Keith gives particularemphasis to the 124 LETTERS IN CANADA 1980 technical influence of Wordsworth on the other eight and demonstrates how Wordsworth's bold experiments with perspective and viewpoint are an important part of his poetic legacy. There is hardly a poem chosen for discussion which Keith does not illuminate by making one see it from an unusual perspective, and here he hashimselflearned from Wordsworth. I found myself continually forced back to the original texts with a shock of both recognition and fresh delight. The subtle discussion of a 'simple' poem like 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' underlines Wordsworth's originality and artistry; indeed, Keith's technical analysis of even the slightest 'nature' poem tends to strengthen it rather than demolish it. One thinks of 'Thaw' by Edward Thomas, 'Field-Glasses' by Andrew Young, 'Mouse's Nest' by Clare, and the lago Prytherch poems of RS. Thomas. Keith, as critic, keeps a delicate finger on the focus wheel, providing the reader with the sort of binocular vision he so admires in the poets themselves. Not everyone will agree with Keith's emphases - for my money he overrates Edward Thomas (fine as that poet is) and he dismisses Dylan Thomasratherbrutallyin one phrase, 'undisciplined romanticism' (p 196). 1 wish also that Keith had extended his discussion to include Philip Larkin, surely the most distinguished of modern English poets who acknowledge Hardy as a technical progenitor. Larkin is not, of course, a 'rural' poet, but if one substitutes suburbia for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 123-124
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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