By Winfred P. Lehmann
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Extra info for A Gothic Etymological Dictionary
This image is very likely derived from Biblical sources, such as the highly positive occurrence in Revelations 14: 2: 'And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters .... ' Carl Woodring reminds us that, much as they valued 'imagination and vision, the Romantics never abandoned particularity' (Woodring 1989, p. 62). Nonetheless they placed imagination over sense; 'imagination was made noumenous,' the one certain organizing power for experience (Woodring 1989, p. 61). In Characteristics, Carlyle describes Nature as a kind mother, a 'bottomless boundless Deep, whereon all human things fearfully and wonderfully swim ..
Before baptising Oxford as the loveliest of cities, Arnold uses language that is already half-performative, capable of invoking absent seasons such as spring and the heightened beauty of Oxford in June as midwinter blessings. But there is still a sense that such consecration has to be achieved, that it is a triumph of making believe rather than being descriptive. The boundary between stanzas 2 and 3, visible to the eye but inaudible to the ear when the lines are read aloud, fortifies the challenge of having to cross the divide between descriptive and performative speech: Humid the air!
His way is marked for him and he must make that way very much on his own strength and against odds. For Arnold even the way has disappeared. The path itself must be created and the energy with which to create it is much diminished. Everywhere among the Victorians a great sense of potential and energy is matched by a feeling of entrapment and weariness. In Swinburne, one of the least characteristic Victorians, the energy and weariness paradoxically blend together. The Romantics concentrated upon the sources of power and its transmission - on mountain heights and strong, coursing waters.
A Gothic Etymological Dictionary by Winfred P. Lehmann