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If memory is not betraying me from the time I last read this poem ages ago,
I believe the sense of it was that the actually viewing of Mount Blanc did
not live up to the expectation of what Wordsworth and his friend had
envisioned the experience to be.  The "soul" of the mountain was in what
they had believed they would feel on seeing it in reality.  On "behold(ing)
the summit" they no more could hold the "living thought" of a vision that
would be a meaningful to them because the mundane reality had spoiled the
sight their imaginations had held, thus the soulessness.

C. C. Parker
From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>


Subject: Query -- Literary but not Eliot


> I'm rereading Wordsworth's Prelude (1805) again, and my delight in it is
> increasing. (I'd read it half a dozen times or more over the last 50
> years and each time my response was something like blah: maybe it's best
> when one is old?) Anyhow, I've come on a passage which baffles me,
> vi.452-55 (1805), 523-28 (1850):
>
> That day we first
> Beheld the summit of Mount Blanc, and grieved
> To have a soulless image on the eye
> Which had usurped upon a living thought
> That never more could be.
>
> What is he talking about here? Why is Mont Blanc a "soulless image," and
> why should it grieve him and his Cambridge friend? Granted a mountain
> doesn't have much soul, neither do lots of other things, so why the
> point about it here? Is it made clear in some other poem by W at the
> time?
>
> Carrol
>