c. 1807 | Grasmere

Thinking Inside the Box

William Wordsworth escapes the weight of too much liberty.

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth, the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground:
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

Painting of William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth

“Nuns Fret Not.” In 1838, five years before he was named poet laureate, Wordsworth wrote that he was first “tempted” to compose poetry in the sonnet form by his “admiration of some of the sonnets of Milton,” calling this “one of the innumerable obligations which, as a poet and a man, I am under to our great fellow countryman.” Twenty-nine years earlier, in a letter to Walter Scott, the Romantic poet Robert Southey wrote, “I impute Wordsworth’s want of perspicuity to two causes—his admiration of Milton’s prose and his habit of dictating instead of writing.”