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date: 31 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the evolution of the Salisbury Plain poems, which focus on the plight of the individual in a harsh and often unforgiving world. This vision was shaped, at various points, by Wordsworth’s radical politics of 1793, by his reading of Godwin’s Political Justice in 1794 and subsequent focus on ‘the herculean mace | Of Reason’ as the chief implement of social change, by his desire to expose ‘the vices of the penal law and the calamities of war as they affect individuals’, and by his late work on the Sonnets, Upon the Punishment of Death. In the course of multiple revisions Wordsworth developed a number of features that shape some of his greatest poetry: the use of landscape to intimate psychological truths, the role of memory in transforming perceptions of the present, and the value of human suffering in establishing bonds of community.

Keywords: Wordsworth, Salisbury Plain, Guilt and Sorrow, revisions, Bloody Code, Godwin, capital punishment, Spenserian stanza

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