The Wind in the Willows: Kenneth Grahame and Neopaganism Essay examples

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The Wind in the Willows: Kenneth Grahame and Neopaganism

The beauty of the English countryside--cultivated or wild, pastoral or primeval, it was an endless source of inspiration for eighteenth-century Romantic poets. Such notables as Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley envisioned ancient and exotic Hellenic gods in familiar, typically British settings. Douglas Bush says of Keats, "For him the common sights of Hampstead Heath could suggest how poets had first conceived of fauns and dryads, of Psyche and Pan and Narcissus and Endymion" ( Pagan Myth 46). Later writers, clearly influenced by the Romantic world view, would describe idealized pastoral scenes in terms of "the rich meadow-grass . . . of a freshness and a
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I can look back and trace the evolution in my own thought from Presbyterian to pagan; it was harder to envision a course of events that would result in the frankly Romantic mythology of "The Piper" growing from the Scottish Calvinist soil of a Victorian banker. The insights of Grahame biographer Peter Green, although some of his interpretations were contradicted by other sources, helped in the formation of a plausible explanation. I have come to believe that Kenneth Grahame's treatment of Nature and pagan themes went beyond the general Victorian/Edwardian tendency to idealize the countryside, and reflected alienation from society and his own life's circumstances.

An understanding of the literary traditions influencing a Mid-Victorian like Grahame is a logical starting point. Douglas Bush, in Mythology and the Romantic Tradition in English Poetry , relates that "Browning liked to think of Pan as the shaggy goat-god, benevolent or amorous; Keats . . . reveled in details, half real, half fanciful, or primitive pastoral life, and . . . Shelley's Pan . . . is as disembodied as Ariel" (137). Actually, "Pan" was a sort of allegorical shorthand, emblematic of sentimentality, passionate emotion, and recoil from reason and the "mechanical conception of the world" (43). Nature, once an assortment of phenomena
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