The same era can yield completely different results. I believe that though Wordsworth was believing he was creating back down to the roots of a rustic life, he somehow thought humanity was past all of that. It must be the Victorian English era that makes him hoity-toity. Whitman on the other hand praises that which we really are at the core: a “low and rustic life,” to use Wordsworth’s terms.
Whitman can believe and show that democracy shouts out that there is no line of difference among the “American elite,” any named individual of a supposedly higher class, and the common man. We are all common. We are all animalistic creatures. Wordsworth’s world id delineated by the fact of royalty. Apparently some are born higher than others. Whitman could not disagree more. Therefore, Wordsworth thinks of “rustic” as living without that which society and technology have given us, much like people today thinking of how they ever lived without a cell phone or a computer. I don’t have a cell phone and people have questioned me strangely as if I was not part of their world. I have actually been asked if I were Amish when it was discovered I had no cell phone. “Rustic” to Whitman is more basic matters, as in animalistic urges and needs, especially sexual. There is nothing appalling in sex or in relating to it. For instance, in “Spontaneous Me,” Whitman constantly talks of our base sexual desires running parts of our lives.
“The boy’s longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me what he was dreaming,
The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl, and falling still and content to the ground,”
This clearly identifies with the fact that man needs these desires (even realizing that solo night desires must be there for maturation) to procreate, to litter our ground with the leaves that will sustain us. The prudish upper class can deny these poems at the time they were written but didn’t they fall to these desires? They must have or the species would die out. They don’t want to admit them, as parents feel uncomfortable in talking about sex with their children. Whitman’s character is full of joy because he has embraced these realities and not hidden from them. He therefore has no ego because he realizes the truth: it simply is and he is no better than the rest.
Wordsworth in “Tintern Abbey” shares much of the ideals of Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” In “Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth shares the perspective anew through his sister’s eyes. In effect, he is then gaining a new experience and not a true repeating of his original adventure there. Whitman in “Crossing” wonders about time and these visions. Fifty years before him, these same islands he sees did not have these marvelous boats. Fifty years from now, something new would come and it did, however, the islands were still there. The same space is differentiated by time with new visions, even though the same space is there. This makes his self and experience wonderful, but my experience today would also be wonderful, just a tad different. Therefore, he truly feels democratic about it, the fact that everyone will share the wealth as it were even though the wealth changes slightly.