Wordsworth's 'Sublime' Republic:the Politics of Swiss Myth

Wordsworth's 'Sublime' Republic: the Politics of Swiss Myth


This paper is an attempt to examine the idea of a republic in the Wordsworth’s poetic career in relation with the Swiss myth. The Swiss myth was a popular belief that an ideal democracy is being practiced in the small communities located in the mountainous areas of the Alps each one of which could be called a mini republic, a microcosm of the ancient republics such as Athene or Sparta. Such small republics were peopled by the native inhabitants naturally equipped with civic virtues such as patriotism, a spirit of independence, frugality, and self-government all of which were grown in constant contact with the sublime landscape of the Alps. Wordsworth began his poetic career publishing a topographical poem Descriptive Sketches based upon his trip to the Alps which was made in 1790 under the charm of Switzerland as a country of pure democracy and sublime landscape. The Swiss myth, along with its aesthetic and political ramification, was always the source of inspiration in Wordsworth’s public life particularly in relation with his political sentiments. In this paper, I am trying to explore the significance of the Swiss myth in the transformation of Wordsworth’s political standpoint. I start with E. P. Thompson’s sincere question about Wordsworth’s apparently groundless optimism which managed to survive after all those traumas of political disenchantment. The secret, I argue, is that the Swiss myth provided him with a spiritual model with which to build an alternative Swiss in his native Lake District. Wordsworth’s ambitious project failed, of course, leaving the opprobrium of political apostasy only. It was undeniably an apostasy indeed after a certain point in his life, but his impossible dream for an alternative Swiss in the Lake District, I would like to argue, was dreamed due to his desperate wish to keep his republican idealism alive by building a ‘sublime’ republic of his own in whatever terms.  



Journal of English Studies in Korea 27-1(2023): 43-85 

『영미문학연구』 27-1(2023): 43-85