Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tone change

I find it remarkable that The Ancient Mariner and Old Man Traveling are published in the same collection. The former shocked the world with its total weirdness, the latter is extraordinarily calm and peaceful. The total reversal of Gothic themes surprised me, since these poems are written at about the same time. Rather than drama and plot driving this scene, the poem is a descriptive passage of a slow, methodical old man. In my mind, the sense of time struck me. Whereas Gothic lit hurled through time and space, this poem simply meanders down the path. Words like subdued, quiet, settled, patience, mild, and peace produce a tranquilizing effect. Even though the old man is going to see his son die, the poem shows no anxiety or urgency that we see in the Gothic poems we have read. The effect is quite profound. In 1815, Wordsworth even removes the only active part of the poem, the last 5 lines about the dying son. This sketch captures a beautiful expression of peace with the universe.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this is a strange decision on the part of Wordsworth. Perhaps he did it to specifically draw a distinction between himself and other writers (Mariner is by Coleridge). What I think may be a more likely explanation is simply that he included some of the bizarre works in the book to bring attention to the book as a whole and gather attention to his simpler, more calm verse.