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For Coleridge, as we saw above, the visible negated the sublime, which for the male High Romantics typically instanced the most ambitious aesthetic goal. This made Wordsworth less categorically sceptical of the visual and allowed him to invoke it as his model for The Return of the Visible and Romantic Ekphrasis 21 verbal description in the Guide with the aim of ordering memory and giving a firm ground for new observations.

In the version that accompanied the engraved images, the second paragraph given above was substantially different: Something of this kind as far as can be performed by words which must needs be most inadequately will be attempted in the following introductory pages, with reference to the country which has furnished the subjects of the Drawings now offered to the public, adding to a verbal representation of its permanent features such appearances as are transitory from their dependence upon accidents of season and weather.

This, if tolerably executed, will in some instances communicate to the traveller, who has already seen the objects, new information; and will assist him to give his recollections a more orderly arrangement than his own opportunities of observing may have permitted him to do; while it will be still more useful to the future traveller by directing his attention at once to distinctions in things which, without such previous aid, a length of time only could enable him to discover.

And, as must be obvious, this general introduction will combine with the Etchings certain notices of things which, though they may not lie within the province of the pencil, cannot but tend to render its productions more interesting. PrW 2, — app. This revision makes a significant difference in how the verbal medium is introduced in the Guide as such: while it suggests that words are inferior to and need the visual media of the model and the graphic illustrations in the early version, in later versions Wordsworth says that words are their equals and can substitute adequately for them even though it would make for awkward reading.

In both cases, Wordsworth remarks on the different effects and capacities of the visual and the verbal media. Although the syntax is problematic, Wordsworth here seems to align the visual with the permanent space and the verbal with the transitory time. I will now address myself more particularly to the Stranger and the Traveller; and, without attempting to give a formal Tour through the country, and without binding myself servilely to accompany Etchings, I will attach to the Work such directions, descriptions, and remarks, as I hope will confer an additional interest upon the Views.

PrW 2, app. The drawings, or Etchings, or whatever they may be called, are, I know, such as to you and Sir George must be intolerable.

They will please many who in all the arts are most taken with what is most worthless. I do not mean that there is not in simple and unadulterated minds a sense of the beautiful and sublime in art; but into the hands of few such do prints or picture fall. First of all, in his introductory description of the Lakes modelled on the Alpine simulacrum where he introduced the figure of a wheel with eight spokes to visualise the eight valleys of the Lake District perhaps in verbal competition with and under stimulating inspiration from the idea of graphic illustration.

Such clouds, cleaving to their stations, or lifting up suddenly their glittering heads from behind rocky barriers, or hurrying out of sight with speed of the sharpest edge—will often tempt an inhabitant to congratulate himself on belonging to a country of mists and clouds and storms, and make him think of the blank sky of Egypt, and of the cerulean vacancy of Italy, as an unanimated and even sad spectacle. A resident in a country like this which we are treating of, will agree with me, that the presence of a lake is indispensable to exhibit in perfection the beauty of one of these days; and he must have experienced, while looking on the unruffled waters, that the imagination, by their aid, is carried into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.

The reason of this is, that the heavens are not only brought down into the bosom of the earth, but that the earth is mainly looked at, and thought of, through the medium of a purer element. Paradoxically, the visual here performs exactly the kind of subjection of the human that Wordsworth would resist according to Geoffrey Hartman. As much motivated and energised by attacks on Neoclassical descriptive poetry and the popular, profoundly visually oriented gothic genre, as by the political ideals espoused by the iconoclastic French Revolution, this resistance to the visual came to represent, for Hartman and a number of other Romanticists, what was most authentically Wordsworthian about Wordsworth.

Yet, his understanding of their relationship is more complex than it is often made out to be. But we could hardly see the statues. The Memnon, however, seemed to interest him very much. I doubt whether he feels the beauty of mere form. Or perhaps Wordsworth just had a problem with sculpture. Yet, another explanation may simply be that he had already seen and praised the Elgin Marbles and was more interested in the Egyptian novelty. As the letter to Haydon indicates, in his later years Wordsworth was immersed in the visual art culture of Romanticism and had learned to value the plastic arts very highly.

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Indeed, he was actively seeking to integrate them into his poetic works even if they were to take up a subservient, servile position. This typical Wordsworthian desire to reduce costs by getting illustrations for nothing hides a less typical positive espousal of the presence of visual images in his books.

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The hierarchy and production sequence is clearly in favour of the word over the image, of the poet inspiring and controlling the painter in an inversion of how the Guide was produced. Must eyes be all in all, the tongue and ear Nothing? Heaven keep us from a lower stage! Wordsworth did not, in a reactionary manner, condemn and wish to ban illustration per se. He may have taken offence over certain examples in the ephemeral press. Not until the mids did newspapers regularly provide illustrations of the events they reported.

It is a recognition that the eye is vital, but that the eye and the ear must co-operate rather than compete. Like the public spectacles of the theater and the panorama, the increasingly popular illustrated book engaged the eye rather than the mind and imagination. Wordsworth is a fine judge of paintings and his remarks are full of feeling and truth. We afterwards went to the British Institution, where we also lounged a long time over a glorious collection of the Old Masters—a very fine collection. In the way in which that artist works something out of nothing, and transforms the stump of a tree, a common figure into an ideal object, by the gorgeous light and shade thrown upon it, he perceives an analogy to his own mode of investing the minute details of nature with an atmosphere of sentiment; and in pronouncing Rembrandt to be a man of genius, feels that he strengthens his own claim to the title.

Instead of insisting on ut musica poesis he sometimes openly engaged in the game of ut pictura poesis wherein he identified with certain painters both in terms of technique and in terms of possessing genius.

Bibliographic Information

It is an ekphrasis of the impressive thirty-metre tall Pillar of Trajan, which still stands in Rome where it was first erected in the early second century AD — Wordsworth had not seen the Pillar of Trajan in and based his account on written evidence and possibly engraved reproductions that proliferated; but in , after visiting it with Crabb Robinson, he saw that it suited the touristic and visually overdetermined sequence of Italian poems.

Two natural phenomena, vine and woodbine, are used by Wordsworth as metaphors to describe the way in which the images thus wind themselves around the pillar. This is an instance of a chiasmic reversal in the transition from earlier to later Wordsworth whereby the hierarchy of nature and art seems to be reversed, and art takes up a position over nature.

The prosaic explanation is that Wordsworth wrote it as an example of a poem that might have competed for the so-called Newdigate Prize, a competition instituted in at Oxford for students to write the best poem on a classical Greek or Roman work of art or architecture. Just as the Pillar ends with something special, the statue of Trajan in fact substituted in by one of St Peter , so the poem ends with something special in the form of a remarkable variation on what has The Return of the Visible and Romantic Ekphrasis 35 by then become an almost unbearably regular couplet pace: the second line of the penultimate couplet is run over, the only of its kind in the entire poem: Still are we present with the imperial Chief, Nor cease to gaze upon the bold Relief Till Rome, to silent marble unconfined, Becomes with all her years a vision of the Mind.

Due to its placement between two libraries from where spectators could view its upper images, the Pillar is usually taken to imitate a partly unrolled scroll. In ekphrastic poems, the verbal representation of the act of seeing a visual representation may cause the reader to begin to look at the words of the poem and to attend to them as if they were of the same ontological nature as the represented art object.

If we activate the pun, we get the sense in which a two-dimensional printed column on the page may iconically imitate a three-dimensional free-standing column. That Wordsworth calls the object one thing in the title and another in the poem merely reflects general practice, which too reveals confusion whether to call it a pillar or a column. What Wordsworth values about the Pillar is its permanence and capacity to remain after the death of speech. The artwork offers what the verbally mediated images of nature offer in the Guide: permanence, stability and an idea of indestructibility which Wordsworth wished to confer upon his own work in the interest of securing its posterior survival.

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However, when studied in the light of the recognition that he was writing for posterity, certain differences can be identified between the earlier and the later inscriptions as well as in the use and understanding of the book rather than the monumental stone as the ideal medium for the inscriptional and epitaphic poetry.

As he internalised posterity as audience, Wordsworth increasingly began to envision poetic composition also in terms of writing rather than solely speaking. Scattering thus In passion many a desultory sound, I deemed that I had adequately clothed Meanings at which I hardly hinted, thoughts And forms of which I scarcely had produced A monument and arbitrary sign.

Poetry grounded on such poetological considerations, as J. Writing outlines speech, it fixes, externalises and visualises it in poetic lines, which have a substantiality not inherent to speech, but which for Wordsworth was not alien to speech either. If a more striking or more dramatic effect could be produced, I have always thought that in an epitaph or memorial of any kind a Father or a Husband etc. If the composition be natural, affecting or beautiful, it is all that is required. The passions should be subdued, the emotions controlled; strong, indeed, but nothing ungovernable or wholly involuntary.

PrW 2, 59—60 42 Wordsworth and Word-Preserving Arts Writing surface and the materiality of the inscription are both permanent and publicly available for visual reading. Writing surface, mode of inscription and intended audience can almost be seen to generate what may be said in an epitaph and how it may be said. How venture then to hope that Time will spare This humble Walk? PW 4, , ll.

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The reason for this may be that in the later editions it was placed among the class of Inscriptions which was introduced in the edition of , and that Wordsworth simply wanted to avoid using the same title to denote a class and an individual poem. This precision suggests that the most important aspect of these particular poems may be the act of writing them. This dash was inserted in the revisions along with five additional dashes. This was his motive for composing the inscription. We may safely assume that Wordsworth in had this specific inscriptional surface in mind.

Yet, because it does not—surprisingly—bear a circumstantial title designating its intended inscriptional site e. In this context, and due to the similar emphasis on the writing hand, it reads as a reflection upon the preceding inscription. Reading becomes almost a kind of writing, at once a visual and an aural experience. The distinction also obtains in the fact that the later inscriptions emphasise the paradoxical survival of the inscription despite the inevitable temporal fate of the surface, its title may inform us, it is supposed to be inscribed upon.

The earlier inscriptions, as Cynthia Chase and Linda Brigham have suggested, tend by contrast to be more directly dependent upon and determined by the ruinous mutability of their inscriptional surface. Hence, the possible distance in time and space between the originator of the work and its readers becomes virtually limitless.

In an important sense, inscriptions are not detachable from their context: when they are printed, the title, sometimes at great length, has to provide information about their place 48 Wordsworth and Word-Preserving Arts and purpose. Yet by its sheer presence the title points to an unfulfilled intention stating that the text is not in fact inscribed where it purports to be inscribed.

The title becomes a sign that the inscription is not no longer, not yet or not exclusively inscribed on its intended object, but instead fixed on the page in the book, which functions as a substitute for the intended inscriptional surface. The difference between early and late Wordsworth, from the point of view of his inscriptions, may be found by looking at the way in which he imagines the relation between the intended and the actual surface of inscription and the inscription itself. This is signalled in the titles given to the inscriptional poems.

The former inscription unambiguously signals that it is to be imagined as already inscribed upon its intended object, whereas the latter signals either that it has not yet been inscribed upon its object or that it may be both inscribed upon the object seat and present on the page where it is the intention of something that may have been fulfilled, but still has the form of an intention. The early inscription is about and is said to be literally written upon an aborted building project.

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One Sir William had decided to build a pleasure house on the island at Rydal, but having learnt that it could be reached by a full-grown man wading across shallow water, he abandoned the project. This is interesting because such a manner of producing significance—where the words of the poem are imagined as reflecting and participating in the fragmentation and dissolution of the inscriptional surface—is what the later Wordsworth aspired to go 50 Wordsworth and Word-Preserving Arts beyond, though not by denying the need to incorporate poem and context, but by changing the context from nature to the book.

PW 4, The basic conceit of the poem is a comparison between buildings made of stone and buildings made of words.