Wordsworth's Poetical Works

Back to the Future: Wordsworth's "Ode to Duty" and "Elegiac Stanzas"

A past attitude is reverted to and revised in Wordsworth's "Ode to Duty" and "Elegiac Stanzas." Employing geographic metaphors, both celestial and earth-bound, the poems climb over rocky Wordsworthian terrain that details his reconciliation between past and present and implications of the future. Though vastly different stylistically"Ode to Duty" utilizes an antiquated verse form and language, while "Elegiac Stanzas" is written in Wordsworth's beloved "language of men"and in the internal willfulness on the poet's part to change versus reaction to external stimuli, the poems parallel in their desires for resolution of a disarrayed soul via the calming sublime power of either an abstract concept or a naturalistic piece of art.

Wordsworth deviates from his course of democratic poetry in "Ode to Duty" by exercising a classical form, the ode, and manipulating the elevated language it affords the poet. Even the opening quote is from a Greek source, Seneca, which foreshadows the poem's anachronistic call to duty. The poem is divided into seven tetrameter octets, of which the final line is Alexandrine. The French origins of the Alexandrine line further confuse...

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