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By Wordsworth, William; Wordsworth, William; Fosso, Kurt

Bargains an evidence for the poet's mysterious and longstanding preoccupation with loss of life and grief

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The poem’s fourth episode, similarly recounted in Book 9 of the 1805 Prelude, presents a further vantage for the narrative’s decoding. In this scene, the poet recalls events of December 19, 1783, and of succeeding days. — (VE 274–83) In a text of repeated descents, where repetition is itself a structural principle and key, the repeating of the word “long” focuses attention on the narrator’s anticipation of the horse and on the duration that marks not just death but also the “shock” of loss. The narrative indeed surfaces because of this past “bitter shock,” a seizing, self-consuming kind of affect (“bitter”

Singing “o’er and o’er” his elegiac “tale of sorrow,” Orpheus in this way epitomizes an open-eyed refusal to negate or replace the dead. His grief characterizes him, in Freud’s binary scheme, not as the typical mourner, who declares “the object to be dead” by accepting a substitute for it, but as the melancholic, who “struggle[s]” with “ambivalence” (SE 14: 257), acknowledging loss while resisting all mediating symbolic substitutes. ”17 It is on this middle ground that many of Wordsworth’s protagonists stand, as Orphic mourners who resist substitution and its cessation of grief.

75 In such an age there were many Hamlets to play: Hamlet the rationalist philosopher, Hamlet the aimless wanderer, and Hamlet the soliloquist of mortality. ”76 One likewise discovers this burden of the dead in the Immortality Ode’s oft-noted allusion to Hamlet, describing “High instincts, before which our mortal Nature / Did tremble like a guilty Thing surpriz’d” (PTV, ll. 149–50; emphasis added; cf. 129). Here the attributes of the deceased King are transferred to the “mortal Nature” of his obstinately questioning son.

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