This autobiographical poem is written in blank verse by William Wordsworth. He wrote its first version at the age of 28 and continued it for his long life without publishing it. It was published three months after the death of the poet in 1850, and it was entitled by his widow Mary. It is not an external autobiography of the poet, but it is an internal autobiography. It possesses the record of the growth and development of the poet’s mind with the help of beauty and fear. In this poem, William Wordsworth recalls his childhood experience which was enriched with the magic of nature. For him, the nature is a best teacher and under her teaching, there happens the growth of soul, heart and mind. So, she transcends man to spirituality.
In the first book of The Prelude, the poet tells about his childhood and school time. He calls nature a mother, and whenever he comes in the lap of mother, he feels himself happy and as free as a bird. Besides, he lived in London, but its life seemed him to be unnatural. The poet describes his contact with nature at the age of five. He always played with nature at Cockermouth. At Kankshead, he and his companions used to take part in a variety of games. In this book, he tells that how he was nursed and brought up by the various ministries. Nature is a teacher to him, and under her teaching, he understood the rules and developed himself spiritually as well as mentally. He agrees that her mighty weapons are pleasure and fear.
William Wordsworth acquaints us with his childhood and wandering. He enjoyed a lot by his long spell of bathing in the river. His long bathing increased his pleasure and attraction to nature; for she holds cold water with sweet colour, rhythm and test. The poet felt a great joy by playing with it. He sometimes ran in the sandy fields and leapt through flowery graves. Sometimes, He stood alone under the blue sky amid the enchanting rocks and the hills shining with the joyful beams of the sun. Under such innocent pleasure, he understood himself to be a Red Indian boy who comes from his mother’s hut to sport a naked savage in the thunder shower. His bathing in the river and wandering in the company of valleys, hills and mountains provided him a healthy pleasure that helped him to grow and develop his mind and soul. The poet recalls them because they link him to nature or spiritual world. Besides, they still provide him more joy and pleasure, and the poet is able to express or write his internal autobiography.
At his childhood, he used to play different games with his companions. At the age of ten, he used to catch Woodcocks over the high hill sides under the light of the moon and how he used to catch hold of a bird which was trapped in the snare of some other person. He was busy in such unwilling actions to nature. The nature watched him and debarred him from such unfair deeds by means of fear. The poet felt that some one with low breathing was following him continually and persistently. Her pursuit caused a troublesome fear to him and he avoided doing it again.
His other sport was stealing the eggs of birds. He, with his young friends, wandered in quest of high hills, and sometimes, he was found alone hanging above the nest of a raven. At such times, he was faced a strange and awful sound of the wind blowing against the hill. The sky and the dark and gloomy clouds used to stand gigantic above with an awful appearance. He felt a pure trouble. One thing, I must admit that why children like to steal away the eggs and play with them. Its main cause is the colour of eggs which really attract the children. The other is nature that teaches the child by means of fear when he is alone. Simultaneously, the nature pursues him and puts in his mind the fear as he may not repeat such deeds.
In stealing boat, the nature issues him a pure trouble. He stole a boat and started it moving over the lake. He saw that his boat was moving as the swain in the lake. Apart from it, he was going through the mountains which really added a great pleasure to him. All of sudden, he heard the echoing sound from the mountain sides because the teacher (nature) did not accept the action. Admitting it as a warning, he went into dismay. Sometimes, he found a huge and black raising its head from behind the range of hills. Nature like an awful and strange creature with its will and power was following him without pause. Under such dismay, he was brought to the same place from where he had stolen the boat. He was overwhelmed by fear and hurried homeward with a pensive mood. His mind was always haunted by such huge forms that fostered his soul with fear.
His other game was skating on the ice. He recalls that he, in the company of other friends, moved on the skates around the trees and the hills. Sometimes he made himself away from the friends and chased them. He accepts that nature followed him when he was alone. The echo of rising sounds of the skates from the trees and the surrounding hills provided him innocent pleasure. He used to enjoy a lot in the lap of nature. He turned jocundly round and round. Such company always excited him to understand the pursuit of nature.
It is the nature that enabled him to play in her lap and to express his love for her. Although he was grown up, he did not forget such revelries and memories of childhood that made this materialistic world easy and joyful with the touch of nature. His poems on the natural objects show his gratitude to her.