Study Guide

London, 1802 Admiration

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Poets just love other poets. The tradition of writing elegies for great writers of the past is a long and illustrious one; since reading is a fundamental part of writing, it's natural for poets to reflect fondly upon earlier poets whose work they find inspirational. In "London, 1802," Wordsworth invokes the noble spirit of Milton, who he sees as an incredibly powerful moral and poetic force. However, this poem isn't only concerned with Milton's prowess as a writer; there's also a profound admiration expressed for the man's character. Wordsworth piles praise upon the earlier writer for his goodness of heart and moral superiority, and raises him up as an example to all of the depraved people of contemporary England.

Questions About Admiration

  1. Is this a portrait of a real guy, or is Wordsworth's description of Milton too good to be true?
  2. Do you think Wordsworth really believes that Milton truly embodied all of the qualities attributed to him here, or does he exaggerate to drive home the point of the poem?
  3. Wordsworth asks the dead Milton to "return to us again" (7) – can we interpret this through a religious lens? Do you think Wordsworth views Milton as a messiah figure?

Chew on This

Wordsworth's praise of Milton clearly asserts the older poet's superiority, while also establishing his own place in the canon alongside the latter.

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