The Skating Episode Essay

William Wordsworth’s Skating episode from the Prelude portrays a childhood memory of him skating with his friends. It’s written in the first person, which makes the reading more personal. Wordsworth uses imagery, metaphors, and sound in this episode. Wordsworth tells his story with quick pauses reflecting on moments he believed was significant to him as an older man. Unlike many of Wordsworth poems, the Prelude was written without rhythm.

Immediately in the first line of the episode Wordsworth gives a setting of his poem using the word “frosty” (Line 455). Having the connection of frost, we can determine the season is winter. Children are usually happy during Christmas, we can imply it was Christmas, or around the time of Christmas. Because it is winter, the days are shorter, Wordsworth strictly expresses the fact the sun is setting and the evening is approaching. He uses amazing transitioning words within the phrase, for example, “twilight blaz’d” (Line 457).  Twilight refers to the duration of the evening when outside becomes darken after daylight. Wordsworth could have said, “it was now evening”, but instead he used imagery to contrasts the idea of a snowy late evening.

Wordsworth is reliving the moment and specifies that when you are a child, you are free and full of energy. He describes the moment to convince the reader that he is in power and he is excited about skating. Wordsworth loves to use imagery in his writing, towards the middle of this episode, he uses auditory imagery. He describes the sound of his crew gliding on the ice. “We hiss’d along the polish’d ice” (Lines 455), Wordsworth allows the readers to use a sense of hearing and characterize the aspect of winter, meaning the water froze and became ice.

“Resounding horn” (Line 466) and “The Pack loud” (Line 467) being so closely in the reading can imply some sort of isolation but considering the “pack loud” can also imply the wolves or dogs were loud, and out of control. He compares humans as animals but only for the audio sense. Wordsworth focuses on the auditory sense in this particular part of the scene. He mentions the word “din” (Line 469) which refers to massive noise. In a comparison, he redirects his focus to the children having fun, and compares humans versus nature.

Wordsworth relives the moment of watching the sunset, as a child. He used the color orange to express the sun is slowly disappearing. Shortly, he emphasizes the evening dying away, showing emotions that he doesn’t want the night to end. The night is ending so quickly is a metaphor. Wordsworth says “glanced sideway” (Line 479) which is a motion of fast speed which contrasts to the quietness surrounding him while he remembers this memory. In this scene, Wordsworth conveys his childhood excitement as a child.

Wordsworth says he “Not seldom from the uproar I retired” (Line 477), meaning he is setting himself apart from the other children, at the time. But it can also imply that now as a man, he set himself aside from reality. He detaches from reality and takes an outlook of the moment. He sees the mountains further away, as it gets darker. The stars are a reflector of the ice, which expresses the motion of them flying on ice, he compares the stars shooting across the sky.

“Stopp’d short” (Line 487) express that he was suddenly stopped. But it was not nature who stopped Wordsworth, Wordsworth stopped to take a glance and embrace nature. It is as if Wordsworth is in power at the moment. Contrasting that he sais “wheeling” in the following line, is implying nature is wheeling about him, as if without the children skating, nature wouldn’t mean much.

As it begins to get darker, Wordsworth expresses his solitude and isolation. “Feebler and feebler” (Line 491) interrupting that time is fading his memories. Metaphorically referring to his memories, he compares the distance of darkness to the mountains. Wordsworth utilizes imagery throughout his entire piece, whether it was sound or visual. The skating scene also is a metaphorical simile comparing being young and remembering being young. Wordsworth looks back on his memories and begins to understand and analysis his experience.

“Dreamless sleep” (Line 493) can imply death, or lack of movement, which then Wordsworth reflects on his moment and nature. Wordsworth tends to have many moments where he stops and reflect about the moment but doesn’t actually pauses and writes it in his poem until now. Wordsworth openly states he is having a “dreamless sleep”. Dreams are images played in your head when you are sleep, but differently from sleeping, Wordsworth was not sleeping, in fact he was dreaming about the moment as an adult.

The theme of nature plays a huge role in the skating scene, how he describes the images he sees on his way down. Discussing nature throughout his poem shows the theme of nature, which can show a significance Wordsworth has an insight of the natural world. He also discusses the night very detailed, but he compares the night to his loneliness, explaining how he is affected by the event. The relationship between nature and man is very different in Wordsworth poems. He shows characteristic of a child living free and unappreciative at the time of nature, but now that he is older, he appreciates and looks at nature much differently. Nature is more powerful to him as man, than it was to him as a child. Ironically, Wordsworth continues his night with loneliness, but it can symbolize that now as a man, he is lonely writing this poem.

The innocent life of a child is played out entirely into the poem. He dives deeper into the poem explaining that him and his friends lived freely and enjoyed the skating. The poem showed that as a man William had a great pleasure of the youth having a love of their freedom. Once again, Wordsworth ironically ended the pleasure of youth and brings back the adult morality of the story. The skating episode shows Williams spiritual growth of his life. He mainly describes his place in nature and in the world. The poem was inspired by his memories with his friend but suddenly he becomes solitary, similarity to some of his other poems. He uses imagery, sound and personifications throughout the entire Prelude, not just the skating episode.

One thought on “The Skating Episode Essay

  1. jdwilner says:

    This paper is very rich with ideas and observations about the passage. You also see clearly the connection between the boy’s separating himself from others (and what happens when he does) and the way the adult poet distances himself from his experience to reflect on it and write about it.
    The main weakness of the paper is a lack of organization. You do group your thoughts into paragraphs, which is important, but within each paragraph there’s no particular order to the sentences, especially as the paper goes on. I’ll send you an attachment with some more detailed comments.


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