The mysticism of William Wordsworth
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By these five marks we can recognize mystic consciousness --- by the sense of the transcendent , of unity, or energization, or revelation, and of loving emotion. Its exponents have always declared that the experience in its completeness was ineffable. The mystic regards language, even the most metaphorical, poetic, and suggestive language, as an inefficient tool for imparting what he has received and describing how he has felt. It is at best a matter of hint and suggestion, not of explicit statement. Bergson defines mystic intuition as the power by which we identify ourselves with what is unique in an object “and hence inexpressible.” When mystics speak of the “ineffable” it is of course to be understood in a relative sense. Thus Evelyn Underhill does not blush at writing a six-hundred page volume on an experience which is “ineffable”. In it she says of the mystic, “Try as he will, his stammering and awestruck reports can hardly be understood but by those who are on the way.”1 Yet she goes on to declare that his experience is such that he must share it. “In his worship of perfect Beauty faith must be balanced by works. By means of veils and symbols he must interpret his free vision, his glimpses of the burning bush, to other men.” This, as I shall try to show in the subsequent chapters of this thesis, is what Wordsworth has accomplished in that portion of his poetry in which he is at his best. Yet, like other great mystics, he was aware of the supreme difficulty of the task, and felt unequal to it. In the words of another great prophet of his century “his reach exceeded his grasp.” He had a magnificent ideal for his work. “My theme”, he declared, is “no other than the very heart of man”.2 It is his hope that some work of his ”Proceeding from a source of untaught things, Creative and enduring, may become A power like nature’s.” (Prelude 13:311-313).