Kent's comment bears pretty directly on one source of my recent Romanticism interest – I've been dipping into Simon Jarvis's Wordsworth's Philosophic Song, a product very much of that Cambridge nexus. (Prynne's own Field Notes, a longish essay on "The Solitary Reaper," is on the shelf waiting to be read.) I'm not ready to full-on tackle Jarvis's book quite yet, but his discussion of the critical issues surrounding Wordsworth got me thinking about my own deficiencies in the Romanticism department. So I've been looking at Abrams's Mirror & the Lamp and Natural Supernaturalism (which I seem to have read much of at some point, as I'm finding quotations that I pillaged for some of the poems in Anarchy), leafing thru some of the essays in Stuart Curran's Cambridge Companion to English Romanticism, & reading pretty closely in Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Revolution.
Aside from Bob A's enthusiastic endorsement of Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre's Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity, I'm struck by how many recommendations are of biographies, single or group. (I'm also struck by how many biographies of these chaps I've already read – Holme's 2 volumes of STC [his Shelley, a wedding gift of all things, sits on the shelf waiting to be read], Ackroyd's Blake, Gill's Wordsworth, Gittings's Keats. Thanks to you, Norman, I picked up a copy of Hay's Young Romantics last night.) That is, while many of us in this conversation are scholars of one stripe or another, I think we tend to primarily identify as poets, & find a kind of immediate access thru biography, rather than thru more austerely critical works – at least I didn't hear anyone recommending Paul de Man. Would it be self-interested of me to say that I find this investment in the biographical to be a very heartening thing?
The Cambridge "school" & Wordsworth – now that's an interesting conjunction that bears thinking about on a kind of meta-critical level. We – at least we alt-poets in the US – tend I think to regard Wordsworth as the most canonical of the canonical, a sort of zero-degree of institutional verse, utterly impervious to the sorts of recovery operations carried out so successfully on Whitman, Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, even Shelley (I recall one memorable MLA talk on PBS by Michael Palmer some years back). He simply can't, that is, be recuperated for the avant-garde. He has no place in the lineage of the modernist revolution, except as a baseline to be reacted against.
But what if one were to read Wordsworth, as I think Prynne & Jarvis do, as a magnificent, deeply subtle, & deeply strange poet; and furthermore, to read one's own work, not as a reaction against a canonical "mainstream," but as the simple furtherance of tendencies already present within a poet like Wordsworth? (A version of what Bunting is doing – thanks, Bill – ie placing his own work within a tradition in which Wordsworth is a magisterial exemplar.) I suspect that something like this is at play in Prynne's & Jarvis's critical work on WW (including the Chicago Review essay Kent cites, which I haven't read but have heard, at least if it's the same talk he gave at U Chicago a few years back).
In the end, it's hard to resist quoting J. K. Stephen's Wordsworth sonnet (the source, I suspect, of all of Pound's dismissals of WW as a "bleating sheep"):
Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
And one is of an old half-witted sheep
Which bleats articulate monotony,
And indicates that two and one are three,
That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times
Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes,
The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst:
At other times--good Lord! I'd rather be
Quite unacquainted with the ABC
Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.