Towards a Reading of Wordsworth’s “Now ye meet in the cave”

1 University of Gloucestershire.


Wordsworth’s very early “Now ye meet in the cave” (dating from 1786 or a little later) is a strange fragment. It emanates from a desperate, unidentified speaker and bears on the burial of a mysterious female whose death is yet uncertain. It has been largely passed over by critics, with the exception of Duncan Wu -- who suggested the poem might be about Wordsworth’s mother. This article follows this intuition, and explores common features of language and theme with a range of works of Wordsworth’s early youth. The conclusion is that “Now ye meet in the cave” is a significant document, and expresses fundamental, yet inevitably covert, facets of Wordsworth’s sensibility. In broadening this case, the article relates a final close reading of the poem to two important, inter-related contexts. The first is Stanley Cavell’s discussion of Romantic scepticism as a metaphysical fantasy involving the refusal of finitude, and a suspended sense of the world’s existence. The second references recent research in child psychology that demonstrates the automatic unconscious fantasy of a young orphaned child who affectively bargains his knowledge of his parent’s death for the belief that she still somehow is incorporated, within himself, and within nature.

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