Prelude Book First: Beginning vs End

The introductory stanza ends with a question that Wordsworth appears to answer in the final stanza of Book First. He asks “Whither shall I turn,/ By road or pathway, or through open field” to find his future and follow his destiny of “long months of ease” and “undisturbed delight” (29-30, 28). He has escaped the confines of the city, which be describes as a “house/ of bondage” and a “prison” that he has been held in for years (6-7, 8). This follows a common Wordsworth theme of absolutely hating cities. He is a new man entering a free, unburdened era. 


Interestingly, and perhaps coincidentally, the final stanza of Book First mentions a road:

I will forthwith bring down

Through later years the story of my life.

The road lies plain before me.


He has been replenished, and has all plans to continue happily and burden-less. His age has been alluded to varyingly; at some points he is an infant, at some points “in manhood now mature,” and in some his childhood (652). There are some constants from the first stanza, namely that he remains unconfined by a city, and the life of ease that he predicted appears to have come to fruition. I wonder if there is any significance to the parallel of mapping the future from the first stanza.

In both, he plans his destiny, but in the final, he knows that the path to his future is a road, whereas in the first stanza, he only presented that as an option. His future is not necessarily all ease, but a labor that seems fulfilling, which offers a different kind of ease. What is the significance of the road, if at all?



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