Study Guide

London, 1802 Sound Check

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Sound Check

This poem is extra-special-fancy by Wordsworth's standards; we can imagine him sitting down, clearing his throat, cracking his knuckles, and thinking, "What would Milton like?" This is kind of like buckling down to write a fan letter to your favorite celebrity, dead or alive, in which you want to tell them just how totally amazing he/she is, and how much you really, REALLY love him/her.

We imagine Mr. Wordsworth crossing out line after line, trying to create a poem that could possibly express his overwhelming angst at the state of England, and also be worthy of addressing the absent-yet-looming figure of Milton, before settling upon this version of the poem, which is, we must admit, more than a little fawning. It's almost too adoring; we can practically picture Wordsworth swooning and sighing, "Oh Milton, is there anything you couldn't do?"

Wordsworth poses the problem of England's personality crisis, and makes Milton out to be the solution; the implication is that, if all of his compatriots could just be like the divine Mr. Milton, everything would be peachy keen. Wordsworth's immense respect for Milton, as both a poet and a highly moral human being, are communicated through the language of the poem, which ends up reading like an elegant and plaintive love letter from one straight male poet to another.

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