The Prelude: Stealing the Boat ("homeward I went, in grave / And…
The Prelude: Stealing the Boat
This is an extract from the first of 14 books that make up Wordsworth's poem, 'The Prelude'. Wordsworth was a Romantic poet. Like other 'Romantic' poetry, this extract explores the connection between nature and human emotion, and the way human identity and character is shaped by experience.
There are 3 main sections in this extract. In the first, the tone is fairly light and carefree. There's a distinct change when the mountain appears - the tone becomes darker and more fearful. In the final section, the narrator reflects on ow the experience has changed him.
This extract is a first-person narrative. It sounds personal and describes a turning point in the poet's life. The use of blank verse makes it sound serious and important, and the regular rhythm makes it sound like natural speech.
"But huge mighty forms [...] were trouble to my dreams"
Unsettling image - helps us to emphasise with him. Huge contrast to the tone and mood at the start of the poem.
"O'er my thoughts there hung a darkness, call it solitude"
The narrator is left feeling alone and unsettled
"my brain worked with a dim and undetermined sense of unknown modes of being"
The vague language shows that the narrator doesn't understand what he's seen - he's struggling to describe it.
"homeward I went, in grave / And serious mood"
The event has had a big impact on him - 'grave' means serious, but may also be a reminder of his own mortality.
"With tumbling oars I turned, / And through the silent water stole my way / Back to the covert of the willow tree"
He's afraid and guilty, and wants to hide away - he feels like an intruder.
"For so it seemed, with purpose of its own / And measured motion like a living thing, / Strode after me.
The mountain is calm, powerful and in control - contrasts with the narrator's fear.
"I struck and struck again, And growing still in stature the grim shape / Towered up between me and the stars"
As the narrator rows away from the mountain, more and more of it comes into view. This means it seems like the mountain is getting bigger, and makes it sound like a nightmare.
"The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge"
A mountain appears on the horizon, Very different language now - darker and more threatening
"The horizon's utmost boundary; far above / Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky"
The emptiness contrasts with line 22, when he looks at the horizon again. This makes the appearance of the mountain more shocking.
"It was an act of stealth and troubled pleasure"
The narrator knows that he is doing something wrong by taking the boat - this is the first clue that something isn't quite right.