Mapping ‘The Prelude’

The Prelude is a classic autobiographical poem written by the English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth and posthumously published in 1850. Written over the course of at least fifty years, the poem was inspired by, and composed during Wordsworth’s long walking tours around the hills and fells of the Lake District.

This project uses Processing to visualise the text of the poem as a series of  ’footpaths’, mapped onto the landscape of Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere. Each one of the 14 books of the poem generates its own pathway of words running across the hills and fells around Dove Cottage. The full poem is visualised as both an interactive environment and as a printed ‘walking map’ allowing viewers to read and explore the text in different ways.


Visualising The Prelude in the form of a traditional ‘ordinance survey’ or geological map re-enforces the significance of the walked landscape to the compostion of the poem, and allows viewers to see and read the text in a new context. Presenting the entire poem as a single large map allows the entire work to be viewed as a whole, whilst inspection of the paths reveals the detail of the lines and words of the poem mapped across the Lake District terrain.

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The interactive element of the project allows viewers to take their own journey across and through the landscape of the poem, exploring the environment from a number of different perspectives, or following an individual line of text as it travels across the mountains and hills.

A touch-based interface allows viewers to interact with the map: moving to new points in the landscape, altering the point of view or travelling along an individual path of words.

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New views of the landscape are revealed as viewers travel and explore the environment of the poem.


The project is built entirely from Processing code with the Geomerative library.  Terrain models of the Grasmere landscape are taken from Google maps, exported as data files and used as the ‘canvas’ upon which the lines of text are drawn. An XML document of The Prelude is used to collect the text of the poem, using the word and line length to generate the wandering lines across the terrain map.

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