dead Brits — Wordsworth

Still working our way (in the wrong order, what can I say) through re-acquaintances with The Big Six  —  Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley & Keats

Reading up on Wordsworth’s life and re-reading some of his poetry has confirmed something I really only half-knew about myself — that ideas are important to me in poetry, in the sense that the intellectual framework upon which the poetry hangs counts as an element in favor of or against that poetry. Detracts from or enhances its aesthetic appeal. Unappealing ideas, of course, don’t necessarily mean I won’t be wowed by the poetry (I’m thinking Milton and Paradise Lost here), but they do go a long way to putting me off at times (Shelley).

In the case of Wordsworth, ideas and poetry come together for me most beautifully. I find his ‘trailing clouds of glory’ philosophy very appealing; likewise his respect for nature, for children and childhood and – separate but related – his emphasis on the power of ‘stored’ positive memory to act positively on the present. I also like the steady way his poetry ‘proves’ his thought.

Add to that (after the high-calorie luscious verbal high-drive of Keats) his relatively plain and low-key but still rocking diction, and you have a winning combination, in my book.

Wordsworth take-aways are not new, but all feel much the richer to me for my recent focus on his thought, and back-story reading — Tintern Abbey, Intimations of Immortality, Lonely As A Cloud and The Solitary Reaper most particularly.

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Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

2 thoughts on “dead Brits — Wordsworth”

  1. I was never overly fond of Wordsworth until I read The Prelude, and then I understood the respect that’s heaped on him. He’s one of those poets who needed to learn how to edit — for me, torture would be being tied down and forced to listen to, oh, say, the “Lucy” poems from morning to night. I think my head would burst. I found Coleridge far more reliable. But when I had to teach Wordsworth one year and read these lines:

    One summer evening (led by her) I found
    A little boat tied to a willow tree
    Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
    Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
    Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
    And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
    Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
    Leaving behind her still, on either side,
    Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
    Until they melted all into one track
    Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
    Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
    With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
    Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
    The horizon’s utmost boundary; far above
    Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
    She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
    I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
    And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
    Went heaving through the water like a swan;
    When, from behind that craggy steep till then
    The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
    As if with voluntary power instinct,
    Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
    And growing still in stature the grim shape
    Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
    For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
    And measured motion like a living thing,
    Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
    And through the silent water stole my way
    Back to the covert of the willow tree;
    There in her mooring-place I left my bark,–
    And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
    And serious mood; but after I had seen
    That spectacle, for many days, my brain
    Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
    Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts
    There hung a darkness, call it solitude
    Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
    Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
    Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
    But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
    Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
    By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

    I reconsidered. He’s worth every accolade. I just want to pick the poems I read by ol’ uncle William, that’s all.

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