Before turning in the final chapters to the poet's most sustained attempt to humor himself--The Prelude-this chapter leads up to it by considering how Wordsworthian fun can be gleaned from the values and dangers that circle around singularity. When one contemporary noted that Wordsworth seemed “to pique himself upon eccentricity...and to chuckle in secret,” he was raising questions that have proved hard to shake for many readers: What is the poet up to? Is there a joke we’re not getting? And is his eccentricity something that needs to be made comprehensible, or is it rather our response to it that we need to comprehend? The chapter begins by exploring mixtures of the egotistical and the sublime, the humorous and the wondrous, first by looking at the behavior of some words and tropes (simile and enumeration) across a range of his writings. It then turns to “The Thorn.” That poem was, Wordsworth said, always “a favorite with me,” and, as Hugh Sykes Davies has noted, “in the course of writing it, he developed, almost for the first time, what was to become the basic characteristic of his whole handling of words for poetic purposes.”
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