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Words After Speech: A Comparative Study of Romanticism and by Paul Coates

By Paul Coates

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The separate versions criticise and parody one another, as do the visions experienced by the Rousseau and the poet figure of The Triumph of Life. Parodying himself, the poet rattles the bars of the individualism of the modem age. The accumulated versions strive to assuage the guilt of individualism, to mitigate the violence of solitary statement: they are negative imprints of the absent community the poet would like to address. In the case of Shelley, this is an eminently Platonising procedure: the one unwritten text remains, the many versions fade and die.

His verse equivocates between a Miltonic admiration of 'calm of mind, all passion spent', and terror of self-petrification. In 'Michael' Wordsworth writes of'having feit the power /OfNature by the gentle agency / Ofnatural objects': the individual objects within nature point metonymically to a larger, overarching whole. The analysis of the Simplon Pass fragment of The Prelude presented earlier in this essay should indicate that the movement from natural objects to Nature is by no means unproblematic, and is arrived at through coercion as weil as gentle agency.

528 people can be said to send forth shadows rather than to cast them. Otherness, of which the shadow is classically a cipher, inheres within selfhood. Proceeding with the same sequence of lines one encounters the words, And still before her on the dusky grass Iris her many-coloured scarf had drawn. In her right hand she bore a crystal glass . . (11. 356-8) Apart from the She11eyan fusion of high and low (grass and rainbow) one notes here that the juxtaposition of the sentences renders 'her' ambiguous, permitting the pronoun to suggest an identity (the hint is reinforced by the para11elism of the lines) between 'her' and 'Iris', then Archaeology: Roots 0/ Symbolism 35 only to suppress 'Iris', who nevertheless remains present as an afterimage absorbed into the train of'her' identity.

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