A decisive moment in European cultural history occurred when Wordsworth fled from the French Revolution that he had at first hailed and returned to his birth-place in the Lake District. In doing so he helped to anchor the national identity of England (and link it in part to the marvellous watery and mountainous country around Grasmere and Hawkshead) whilst the French, desperate to find harbour, went on to drift through ever-deeper waters. Wordsworthian England draws on its own roots in an almost organic cycle of renewal: here in its simplest and crudest form is the Protestant concept of Nation as force of Nature, soon to be expropriated by less innocent German philosophers. God is diffused throughout Nature and His law felt in every cloud and tree. The poet Basil Bunting, a Quaker, whom I visited in his Cumbrian redoubt many times before his death in 1985, continued nearly two centuries later to entertain a somewhat Wordsworthian view of things, an almost pantheistic equation of God with the immutable, organic forces of Nature. How different from the French Revolution which was bent only on uprooting the old order, marking a total divorce between Nature and Law and establishing a new transcendent system of man-made Law for which you were now expected to suffer and to die like an old Christian martyr.
KeywordsLake District French Revolution Decisive Moment Mountainous Country Organic Force
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