The passage that is now known as ‘The Prospectus’ to ‘The Recluse’ has a long history. Wordsworth had planned to compose ‘The Recluse’ early in his career, after being inspired by Coleridge in the 1790’s, but it was never written according to the plan. What he did write was eventually published in its entirety as ‘Home at Grasmere’ in 1788, much after Wordsworth’s death. ‘Home at Grasmere’ is not another name for ‘The Recluse’, but the lines between 959-1058 appeared as ‘The Prospectus’ with the preface of another poem titled ‘The Excursion’ (1814). This context is important because the connotation of the text is affected by its placement-whether as the concluding part of ‘Home at Grasmere’ or as ‘The Prospectus’ to ‘the Recluse’.
‘On Man, on Nature and on Human Life’; three issues that engaged Wordsworth throughout his poetic career; the discussion on man here can be contrasted with that which is found in Alexander Pope’s ‘An Essay on Man’. Pope’s stance was neo-classical, whereas Wordsworth adopts a position that relies on the creative function of the imagination. ‘Nature’ in Wordsworth’s vision is a creative entity, which also acts as a guide to man. ‘Musing in Solitude’; to contemplate in isolation without any intervention from any external agency. ‘Far trains of imagery’; the imaginative process at work; it is as if the tableau of nature were unfolding before the mental world of the poet as he contemplates. ‘No unpleasing sadness mixed’; unadulterated, perfect and not influenced by any thought that could affect the pure experience.
‘Of truth, of Grandeur, Beauty, Love, and Hope’; all of these are key themes in Wordsworth’s poetry and almost always co-exist on the same plane. ‘Melancholy, Fear subdued by Faith’; it is the faith in the purity of all things that enables the speaker to overcome and overwhelm any fear that may hamper the creative communion with nature. ‘Of the individual Mind that keeps her own Inviolate retirement’; the human mind’s creative spirit does not follow the dictates of any external agency; it operates in the realm that is independent and separate from the clamours of the world while the inviolate retirement here implies a state that is not affected by anything but the mind’s inherent conscience.
Even though we are reading it here as ‘The Prospectus’ to ‘The Recluse’, its textual affiliation to ‘Home at Grasmere’ cannot be denied. ‘Home at Grasmere is a long narrative poem dealing with issues that occupied Wordsworth for the major part of his poetic career: the human/nature interface, the creativity that is inherent in every individual and the close bond that exists between a child’s vision of the world and the experience of existence. These issues do not figure in the passage that is known as ‘The Prospectus’, but we can see how they have a bearing on the way Wordsworth presents his theme here.
‘Urania’; Urania is one of the nine muses in Classical mythology. The muse of the sciences and astronomy, her name implies ‘heavenly’. Wordsworth invokes Urania for he seeks celestial inspiration in this enterprise of imaginative recreation that takes for its subject ‘man’, ‘nature’ and ‘life’. ‘Jehovah’; Jehovah is the transliteral formation of the divine name in Judaism, which is actually a misreading of the Hebrew letters YHWH. Jews do not utter God’s name, preferring to do with ‘Adonai’ which is often translated as the ‘Lord’. The use of the name ‘Jehovah’ in non-Jewish cultures often assumes it to mean God, which isn’t quite the case. ‘Angels, and the empyreal thrones’; there are nine orders in the hierarchical structure of angels which are from the highest to the lowest: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Power, Principality, Virtue, Archangels and archons. ‘..chaos, Not the darkest pit of lowest Erebus’; chaos is the empty and infinite space that was in existence before Creation began and Erebus is the son of Chaos and the god of darkness in Greek mythology. ‘Elysian’; a paradisiacal space which is said to be close to river Oceanos which was also known as the island of the Blessed. The ideas presented in ‘The Prospectus’ are patterned in the manner of an invocation (comparable to the opening passage of Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’) and as such can be considered independently.