Index William Wordsworth

Nature fails not / Univeral tendency

Elijah went before the people and said, 'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.' But the people said nothing.

1 Kings 18:21

Spinozist? Absurd!

Characteristic for the ambiguity of this fragment is the criticism that sounded after the publication of The Excursion. Wordsworth was accused of idolising nature. The poet's response: there is no such thing, not in the whole book, unless I am mistaken. And he also never equated Nature with God, as Spinoza had done. Nevertheless, he admitted that the fragment had something 'spinozist' in the eyes of many, but that was 'absurd'. He trusted that the 'intelligent reader' would understand that these lines played a role in the dialogue between the main characters of The Excursion. They were meant to make the solitary (the cynic and unbeliever) realise that religious feelings also live in the minds of adherents to atheism.

Of Spinozism (at the time synonymous with atheism or pantheism) he should not be suspected, stated Wordsworth. Neither of faith in a God as Creator. He did not believe that the supreme being is in the same relationship to the universe as a watchmaker to a watch. Actually, he said, he found nothing worse than all that constant talk about God's creation.

Vague image of God
All in all, Wordsworth's image of God is variable and vague. He does not really choose. Despite his denial of being a Spinozist, he often makes no distinction between God and God's creation - nature. Thus he seems implicitly to endorse the Spinozist principle of Deus sive Nature (God = Nature). At the same time, he constantly tries his best to distinguish between God and his workings. Then he recognises God as the creator of the universe, in other words as something outside of nature. You get the impression that two different intuitions are constantly competing in him. This poetry hinges on two thoughts, you may say. Wordsworth follows neither God nor Baal - or he follows both, regardless of what he claims. You can also say that his poetry is a two-sided coin. If one of the two sides doesn't appeal to you, just flip it.