Wordsworth and Mountaineering: Before the Dawn of European Alpinism

       Shingo TAGAYA (Graduate Student, Osaka University)


This paper looks into some interesting aspects of pre-modem mountaineering in the era of
English Romanticism, from the end of the 18th century toward the first half of the 19th cen-
tury. The essay concerns itself exclusively with the poetry of William Wordsworth (1770-
1850), an English romantic poet noted for his avowed love for nature. Unfortunately, literary
works, especially poetry, have scarcely been dealt with as a source for any arguments on
sport history. The present study uniquely adopts Wordsworth's poetry as a source for analy-
sis with a hope of bringing new horizons to sport history. Biographical documents show that
the poet frequently ascended mountains near his hometown. His poetry, too, express the im-
pressions and feelings he had through the memorable experiences of mountaineering at
home and abroad. In the course of textual analysis, some notable aspects of the poet's atti-
tude to mountaineering will be elucidated: his rather patriotic view of mountains and the re-
sultant preference for British mountains over the Alps; his adherence to anecdotes of moun-
tains; his emphasis on imagination in climbing, etc. All these may be taken as a mature and
deliberate concept of mountaineering. They are precious ideas before the dawn of European
modern mountaineering, because it seeks, in the name of alpinism, only to conquer yet un-
challenged lofty peaks without ever thinking of the spiritual aspect of mountaineering.