'Extract from 'The Prelude'' - Key Quotations

"A little boat tied to a willow tree"

CONTEXT:

At the beginning of the extract, the speaker describes what they found.

THEMES:

Mankind; Control; Nature

LANGUAGE:

Metaphor = the boat itself is a metaphor of mankind's power and innovation, and yet it is still being held back by nature, which is represented by the tree.

"Straight I unloosed her chain"

CONTEXT:

The speaker discusses releasing the boat.

THEMES:

Mankind; Control; Nature

LANGUAGE:

Verb = "unloosed" suggests that mankind is taking some control over nature.

"Small circles glittering idly in the moon,

Until they melted all into one track

Of sparkling light..."

"Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,

The horizon's utmost boundary..."

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes what they see whilst moving on the boat.

THEMES:

Nature; Power

LANGUAGE:

Contrast = the first quotation conveys nature as being peaceful and beautiful. This contrasts with the second quotation, which changes the tone by highlighting the obstacles and limitations that nature presents.

"She was an elfin pinnace; lustily

I dipped my oars into the silent lake,"

CONTEXT:

The speaker has developed something of a heated, passionate mood towards nature. 

THEMES:

Lust

LANGUAGE:

'elfin pinnace' can be translated to mean 'fairy boat'.

Metaphor = elves were often portrayed in literature as sexual and lustful, and so this 'elfin pinnace' is a metaphor for the heated mood that now exists within the boat.

Adverb = "lustily" - the speaker is "lustily" dipping his oars into the lake. He clearly has very strong, passionate feelings towards nature at this point.

"Went heaving through the water like a swan"

CONTEXT:

We learn more about the speaker's journey in the boat, this time bringing attention back to nature being mightier than man.

THEMES:

Nature; Mankind

LANGUAGE:

Simile = the boat that carries the speaker moves through the water "like a swan", which is already an aspect of nature itself. This suggests that everything mankind does is just an imitation of what nature has accomplished already.

"The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,"

 

"with purpose of its own"

CONTEXT:

This marks a change in tone in the poem, with nature becoming seemingly more intimidating.

THEMES:

Nature; Power

LANGUAGE:

Personification = the horizon is described as having a "purpose of its own", suggesting that it is alive and with intention. This conveys nature as being darker and more dangerous, potentially even sinister.

"...With trembling oars I turned,"

CONTEXT:

Nature's intimidation begins to affect the speaker.

THEMES:

Nature; Power

LANGUAGE:

Adjective = "trembling" implies fear and vulnerability. The speaker begins to retreat as a result, effectively attempting to run away.

"grave and serious mood"

"dim"

"undetermined"

"unknown"

"darkness, call it solitude

Or blank desertion"

"no pleasant images of trees,

Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields"

CONTEXT:

The final quarter of the poem contrasts hugely to the beginning. At this final stage, the speaker uses language that conveys a morbid, depressing, negative tone.

THEMES:

Nature; Power

LANGUAGE:

Semantic field of pessimism = the language used in this part of the poem shows the massive impact that nature has had upon the speaker, who is reflecting on the conflict between the beautiful and the aggressive sides of nature.