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. Unlike many of Wordsworth poems, The Prelude was written without rhythm. Wordsworth uses imagery, metaphors, and sound in this episode. Wordsworth tells his story with quick pauses reflecting on moments he believed were significant to him as an older man.

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. During winter, the days are shorter, so it begins to get dark earlier. Wordsworth firmly 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 states 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. Not only but also, in 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.

Focusing on auditory imagery Wordsworth describes many event. Firstly, “Resounding horn” (Line 466) and “The Pack loud” (Line 467) being so closely in the reading can imply some sort of isolation. The “pack loud” can also imply the wolves or dogs were loud, and out of control. He compares humans as animals but only within the audio sense. Wordsworth focuses on the auditory sense in this particular part of the scene. Secondly, the word “din” (Line 469) which refers to massive noise. Lastly, he redirects his focus to the children having fun, which is loud as well.  This is an example of 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 that he doesn’t want the night to end. The night 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. Wordsworth writes this scene in the lense of him as a child.

Wordsworth says “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. The mountains appear further away, as it gets darker. The stars are a reflector of the ice, which expresses the motion of the stars reflecting on the ice. He also compares the stars shooting across the sky to the kids sliding across the ice.

“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. In contrast, Wordsworth states “wheeling” in the following line, which implies nature is wheeling about him. Without the children skating and enjoying the ice, nature wouldn’t mean much.

As it begins to get darker, Wordsworth expresses his solitude and isolation. “Feebler and feebler” (Line 491) implying 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 analyze 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 reflects 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.

Nature plays a huge role in the skating episode. Wordsworth describes his journey while he skates incredibly. 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 in great details. He compares the night to his loneliness as an adult, by explaining how he is affected by the event. The relationship between nature and man is very different in Wordsworth poems. He shows his 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 now as a 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 in the entire poem. He dives deeper into the poem explaining that him and his friends lived freely and enjoyed the skating. Thoughout the scene, you can imply William experienced a lovely and free childhood when he was with his friends. Ironically, the pleasure of youth ended he and brings back to the readers his adult perspective of the story. The skating episode shows Williams spiritual growth in his life. He mainly describes his place in nature and in the world. The poem was inspired by his memories with his friends but suddenly he becomes solitary. Similar to some of his other poems. In the final analysis, Wordsworth uses imagery, sound and personifications throughout The Prelude, not just the skating episode.


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