The Prelude, Book III: Residence at Cambridge
1. ll. 1-29 Contrast the opening lines of this book with those that begin Book I. What are some striking shifts in situation, tone, imagery and overt statement? How do these affect the reader's expectations of what will follow? (What has happened, for example, to the imagery of breath and clouds? To the poet's relationship to nature and to the source of his emotions?)
2. ll. 30ff. Is the poet's self-presentation here different from that of the first two books? For example, what judgment on his former self seems represented by such descriptions as, "My lordly dressing-gown, I pass it by. . . ." (l. 40)
Is his attitude toward this earlier self clear and consistent throught the succeeding passages? Does he convince you of his earlier frivolity? How do you respond to his repeated apologies and confessions, e. g. of his drinking bout to Milton's memory?
Is repudiation of his former self consistent with his theory of the developmetn of the imagination? For example, can his theory explain the euphoria and cheerful conviviality which he seems really to have felt at the proximity of Cambridge's "unnatural" stitmuli? (e. g., ll. 234-36)
3. ll. 46ff. What places, sights, sounds, and artifacts of university life impress him favorably or unfavorably, and why does he respond as he does in each case (for example, to the Trinity College clock, the room where Milton lived, Newton's statue)? What most attracts him in the memory of Newton, Milton, and other predecessors? Are his preferences consistent with what we already know of his temperament from Books I and II?
4. ll. 81ff.; ll. 449 ff. The poet feels alienated from contemporary university life by the "feeling that I was not for that hour/Nor for that place." (81-82) Is there another hour and place with which he believes he could have felt a closer identity? Do his statements on past university life seem accurate; if not, what assumptions cause him to idealize the past?
5. Many passages of book III were added in 1850, for example, ll. 84-87, 100-107, 111-114, 121-124, and 275-276. Judging from these examples, what tone characterizes the changes? Do they shift the ratio of "thought" to "actual events and details"? And what kind of "thoughts" seem to be added? Do these alterations add or detract from the book's unity?
6. 92ff. Despite complaints, the poet does achieve some significant perceptions while at Cambridge. What are they? Does he learn anything which he hadn't already known (for example, do ll. 130-35 relate a new form of epiphany, or do they reiterate the cognitive experiences of Books I and II)?
In ll. 95 ff. the poet claims to have discovered that the mind can return into itself to renew its energies, and in ll. 170ff. he celebrates the divinity of his own psychological states:
O Heavens! how awful is the might of souls,
And what they do within themselves while yet
The yoke of earth is new to them, the world
Nothing but a wild field where they were sown.
Are these statements consistent with his later judgment that:
. . . 'mid this crowded neighborhood of things
That are by nature most unneighborly,
The head turns round and cannot right itself . . . (ll. 624-26)
If so, on what grounds? If the mind is self-renewing, why isn't any environment equally satisfying?
7. ll. 149 ff. How does the poet differentiate his inward trances and visions from a state of madness? Does his defense suggest features of his own poetry?
8. ll. 196-204 Is there a thematic purpose to this transitional passage? Is it really useful? Does it reflect any tradition epic conventions?
9. ll. 409ff. What are some of the poet's specific complaints against the formal instruction offered at Cambridge? (e. g., ll. 408-410, ll. 497-99, ll. 500-505, ll. 534-48; ll. 408-410 seem as Wordsworth ever comes to humor).
Do these complaints seem consistent with his earlier assertion (ll. 350-54) that his educational dificulties were his own fault? Do you think the poet really regrets his youthful failure to conform? On what basis can you form a judgement?
ll. 519-33 What educational envionment does he feel might have better served someone of his visionary temperament?
10. ll. 512 ff. To what extent does the poet continue to use images of natural life in describing his Cambridge environment, and what are some tonal effects of these metaphors?
To what earlier acquaintainces does he contrast the "grotesque" Elders and "old humorists" who are his university professors? Why do you think he makes several references to the theatre and public entertainments, and what attidues toward art do these references show?
Were you surprised by the personifications of ll. 598ff? Are they appropriate in context?
11. ll. 612-631. In his final evaluation of his first year away from home, do you feel the poet is able to achieve a consistent attitude or network of attitudes?
12. In general, do The Prelude's shifts between descriptions of everyday events and metaphysical speculation seem natural to you? Do you find the poet's accounts of mundane reality interesting? Does he ever use satire, irony, or parody; if so, where, and to what effect? If not, how does their absence affect the poem's tone?
13. What Book III more or less readable than the previous ones? Did you find it interesting? Why or why not?