The poetic work of “The Ruined Cottage” is carried out by acts of the “meditative mind” that Armytage identifies early in the poem (l. 81). The history of interpretation of the poem has been sorely vexed by Armytage’s closing statement, “I turned away / And walked along my way in happiness” (ll. 524–25). Far from standing alone, Armytage’s statement flows immediately from his repeated identification of a kind of “meditation” (l. 524). Contrary to Wordsworth’s later disclaimers, he learned much about this activity of meditative mind from Kant’s theories of the sublime. Edmund Husserl’s deepenings of aspects of these Kantian theories are apt for understanding what Wordsworth saw in Kant and what he achieved in “The Ruined Cottage,” going even beyond Kant—and Husserl as well. Wordsworth’s meditative activity produces, in practice, the distinctive consciousness—encompassing a difficult happiness—that is this poem’s greatest achievement. Coleridge, who was well aware of this achievement but resisted acknowledging it, provides important suggestions for locating it substantively, most specifically in Wordsworth’s Kantian engagement with Milton’s poetry.

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