“Long time have human ignorance and guilt
Detained us, on what spectacles of woe
Compelled to look, and inwardly oppressed
With sorrow, disappointment, vexing thoughts,
Confusion of judgment, zeal decayed,
And, lastly, utter loss of hope itself
And things to hope for!”
These verses open the Book Twelfth of William Wordsworth’s long poem The Prelude. The title of this book Imagination and Taste, How Impaired and Restored essentially suggests it is about restoration. A closer look at the above verses makes it clear Wordsworth is talking about a nervous breakdown he had suffered or what we call Depression in popular perception. What is the cause of this depression?
Wordsworth had struggled on behalf of the revolutionaries during French Revolution. An enthusiast earlier, he became disillusioned with the revolution after witnessing the violence and its aftermath. Therefore, it was the despair that led to this rupture. Now, though the times have changed but the feelings of sorrow, disappointment, confusion and despair which eventually lead to a depressed soul are still prevalent. There are people who are not even aware that they suffer from Depression. Our lives have become so mechanistic that we have normalized these feelings and “utter loss of hope itself” governs today’s world. There is this constant tussle between our material self and our sentimental self where our emotions are being subjugated by our materialistic desires.
Wordsworth is extremely honest in talking about his depression. He goes on to say that natural graciousness of his mind “Gave way to overpressure from the times/ And their disastrous issues.” The situation was such that he was not able to write anything for a period of time. It is not really uncommon for us, as these days almost everybody is loaded with overpressure of times and the disappointment of not being able to bear this pressure leads one to despair.
How did Wordsworth overcome this path of sorrow and disappointment? No matter how difficult the problem is, the answer usually lies in simple things. Wordsworth says,
“Through these distracted times; in Nature still
Glorying, I found a counterpoise in her,
Which, when the spirit of evil reached its height,
Maintained for me a secret happiness.”
And later he adds,
“Go to the Poets; they will speak to thee
More perfectly of purer creatures”
For Wordsworth, the ‘Book of Nature’ is the renovating book. It is because of his contact with nature he is able to write the poetry of restoration. Writing becomes a therapy for self in this case. Choosing a medium to express oneself is the best therapy for depressed souls. One should read anything that gives him/her the inner peace; it can be a poem, a fictional or a non fictional book or even the holy books of different religions. Writing one’s heart out in any form can help to free the mind of all those thoughts which otherwise keep lurking in the back of our mind. Any form of expression, be it art, music, dance is necessary to get things out. Moreover talk to any person you can express your feelings to. Wordsworth returned to his self with the help of two women: his sister and future wife. It is very important to not let yourself be caged by the overpressure of the society. Many successful people have experienced difficulties in their lives and people like Wordsworth who now have been immortalized by their work also suffered at different moments in their lives. Suffering is important to bring out the best in you but it is necessary to overcome that suffering and not let it end your life.
“To God, Who thus corrected my desires;
And, afterwards, the wind and sleety rain,
And all the business of the elements,
The single sheep, and the one blasted tree,
And the bleak music of that old stone wall,
The noise of wood and water, and the mist
All these were kindered spectacles and sounds
To which I oft repaired.”