The life within : the Prelude and organic form
Analysis of organic form begins not with plants but with the problem of Cartesian dualism. Inadvertently, its effect was to remove God from the natural world, thus opening the way to atheism. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this was refuted by stress on God's active role in nature. The presence and operation of his intellect was equated with life as the primary force in the natural world. Later natural philosophy developed a theory of power which was also equated with life and mind. The subject of Wordsworth's two-part Prelude is the relation of the mind to this life or permeating spirit, and the epistemological uncertainties which it entails. While proposing a view in which the individual is integrated into the totality, the poem also raises the problem of how the individual can also be contradistinguished from it. Blumenbach, under whom Coleridge studied in 1798-99, proposed a different theory of life in which it was defined as a nisus formativus, or inner self-generating power, which creates the form of the living body. Coleridge developed this into a theory of life as individuation, which resolved the opposition of the infinite and the individual. Study of Kant also showed how the nisus formativus could be allied to a theory of method based on a priori cognitive structures. The expansion of The Prelude in 1804 is related to Wordsworth's identification of the self, as the inner principle of life, with the a priori guiding Idea of his poem. Imagination, the "co-adunating Faculty," links the two together. Wordsworth's related theory of poetry views mind and language as integrated in the same way as mind and body, life and matter, and God's mind and nature. Together, these provide the basis for an understanding of the structure of the poem, and, in particular, its "fall."