The great Romantic poem of human consciousness, The Prelude takes as its theme 'the growth of a poet's mind'. In its search for the origins of the adult personality, The Prelude takes the reader back to the formative moments of childhood and youth: the baby at the breast, the boy ranging over the Cumbrian fells, the revolutionary undergraduate. In many ways it can be seen as the first modern poem, challenging Milton in its redefinition of epic, as Milton challenged Homer and Virgil. This new Penguin English Poets edition of The Prelude contains the brief first draft, Was It for This, composed in 1798; The Prelude in two books completed in 1799; and The Prelude in its 1805 and 1850 versions, printed here in parallel texts. The editor provides an invaluable introduction to the texts and fuller, more detailed notes than in any previous edition, as well as significant textual variants and a biographical table of dates.