Admittedly, Wordsworth was a Romantic English poet of the Victorian Age with some highfalutin ideals and a penchant for a Christian God. But he also had some pretty radical ideas about the health of the human soul being dependent on its environment.

“Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing Boy.”

Along with the dirt and the consolidation of British class frameworks, the industrial revolution also ushered in the politics of institutions and discipline. Wordsworth lamented a society in which the economies of labour stacked the odds against the young and unschooled.

The prison was a notion of culture; as visible in the cities as it was felt in the soul. Piers Lewis summarised it as such:

The prison house that Wordsworth is talking about is more metaphorical than literal; he is thinking of the force or weight of social rules and conventions, of received ideas, of ready-made or pre-formed thoughts – clichés

Got any conventions or received ideas you’d like to take the opportunity to shed?