Madoc in Scotland: a transatlantic perspective on "Stepping Westward"
Jarvis, R. (2008) Madoc in Scotland: a transatlantic perspective on "Stepping Westward". European Romantic Review, 19 (2). pp. 149-156. ISSN 1050-9585
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10509580802030441
Wordsworth’s “Stepping Westward,” one of the “Poems Written During a Tour in Scotland” included in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807), has received little critical attention compared with its companion tour poem, “The Solitary Reaper.” This essay offers a fresh angle on the poem by placing it within the circumstances of its time of composition in late spring 1805 – circumstances that included the personal grief of bereavement and fears for national security at a critical time in the war against France. More particularly,I propose that Wordsworth’s reading of Southey’s epic Madoc just prior to writing “Stepping Westward” opens transatlantic horizons of meaning within a poem that otherwise does little to explore the metaphorical potential of its title. Just as modern scholarship has unearthed a complex textual history beneath Southey’s published work that reflects his ideological journey during a tumultuous decade, so the strange irresolution of Wordsworth’s poem makes sense when both the mythic and contemporary dimensions of westward travel and migration are brought into play.