– Imagination And Mortality Essay, Research Paper
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, states that the secondary or poetic imagination is the power which, ?Reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities?of?idea with the image? (Coleridge 482). In, Resolution and Independence, Wordsworth attempts to create an image of the poetic imagination in a decrepit old man. In so doing, Wordsworth attaches his own fears of mortality and aging, and thus oversteps Coleridge?s idea of the imagination with the imagery of his own fears.
Wordsworth?s description of the old man?s occupation gives the clearest image of the secondary imagination.
?At length, himself unsettling, he the pond
Stirred with his staff, and fixedly did look
Upon the muddy water, which he conned?? (Wordsworth 283).
The use of the words ?stirred? and ?conned? are important because they imply the coalescing and creative power of the poetic imagination. In the word ?stirred? Wordsworth evokes the idea of disturbing the silt on the ponds bed to create a muddy mixture. ?Conned? furthers the image by implying that the man is getting something out of this mixture much the way the poet uses his imagination to create something out of ?Opposite or discordant qualities? (Coleridge 482).
The man as representative of the poetic imagination is also seen in the fact that he is gathering leeches.
?He told, that to these waters he had come
To gather leeches,?? (Wordsworth 283).
The leeches are what the man is conning out of the pond. Metaphorically, they are the poems of the old man. The leeches are the new thing created from the opposites, water and silt.
Wordsworth falls short of making this man a complete image of the secondary imagination when he describes the man himself.
?As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence?? (Wordsworth 282)
Using the image of a stone implies that the secondary imagination is something timeless and placing it on top of a cliff or mountain represents the fortitude and solidarity of the poetic imagination. This comparison fits well with Coleridge?s idea that the secondary imagination is exclusive to poets (Coleridge 477), but it is contrary to Wordsworth?s image of a decrepit old man.
?Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead,
Nor all asleep–in his extreme old age:
His body was bent double, feet and head
Coming together in life?s pilgrimage;
As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.? (Wordsworth 282).
This stanza is key, because it follows Wordsworth?s imagery of the man as something that is both timeless and strong. Wordsworth, at the same time, applies the imagery of the human qualities of frailty and old age. He not only portrays his view of the imagination, but his fear that he will lose his creative powers just as this man has lost his youth and strength. Also, Wordsworth places upon the man a, ?..More then human weight..? (Wordsworth 282), which confuses the secondary imagination as a power to create with a divine spirit.
??By our own spirits are we deified:
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.?
Coleridge believes the poet?s ability to create is exclusive. However, Coleridge does not allude to this ability as being a divine spirit within the poet (Coleridge 477). Wordsworth makes a comment on the loss of the creative power as a poet ages. He equates this to ?despondency and madness? because it is the loss, not of a skill, but of a divine spirit. Wordsworth adds a divinity to the poetic imagination that raises it as not just a power to create but as a force that exalts poets? spirits above that of ordinary men.
In his description of the man?s life Wordsworth quotes the old man, which contradicts his idea and again gives this ?divine spirit? the weakness of humanity.
??Once I could meet with them on everyside;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may.? (Wordsworth 284).
Wordsworth describes his image of the imagination, the man, as having a purpose in life that slowly fades as he ages. Wordsworth displays his fear of growing old and dying. Wordsworth knows he is nothing without the poetic imagination, but at the same time this power does make him a god.
Wordsworth fear of aging and thus not being able to create poetry becomes his image?s main focus.
??I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit man so firm a mind?? (Wordsworth 284)
Wordsworth finds it absurd that this man has the same ability to create as he himself does, but Wordsworth knows that he is as human as the man before him. This is Wordsworth main problem he can?t separate his image from his fear of losing his divine gift. In the last line of the poem he calls to God for support, as if he wants God to carry him through his own divinity. (Wordsworth 284). Wordsworth fails to express his ability to create as his salvation. Rather, he sees it as his divinity and therefore his curse. In this expression, Wordsworth convolutes his image of a man fighting against odds to maintain himself with that of an image cursed by its own divinity to fade into nothing.