Friday, April 8, 2022

Strolling With that Old Romantic William Wordsworth—Me! for National Poetry Month 2022

William Wordsworth is often considered the godfather of English romantic poets.  Older than the rest of the pack, he was born on April 7, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland.  He was not dashing like John Keats or heroic like Lord Byron.  He was a writing partner, mentor, and benefactor to Samuel Coleridge but did not share his enthusiasm for the epic and esoteric. Instead, often enthused about nature and the beautiful Lake District where he lived and tramped on foot.  This identification with nature deeply influenced American Ralph Waldo Emerson who visited him on his Grand Tour of Europe.  He was raised to Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and served from 1843 until his death on April 23, 1850.  He remains widely anthologized and admired in Britain.  His star dimmed in the U.S. with changing tastes and the almost complete abandonment of studying poetry as literature in American schools.  Interest has somewhat revived with the ecological movement which sees him as a pioneering voice.

Early April is the perfect time for Wordsworth, not only for his birthday, but for his nature verse, the best known of which is Daffodils.


I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.


The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:


For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils


William Wordsworth


Wordsworth setting off on one of his tramps from Dove Cottage in the English Lake District.

This poem plows that ground as well but is a useful reminder to us now so concerned with the science and technology of trying to save the Earth from eminent destruction to literally take time to smell the flowers.


The Tables Turned


UP! up! my Friend, and quit your books;

Or surely you'll grow double:

Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;

Why all this toil and trouble?


The sun, above the mountain's head,

A freshening lustre mellow

Through all the long green fields has spread,

His first sweet evening yellow.


Books! ‘tis a dull and endless strife:

Come, hear the woodland linnet,

How sweet his music! on my life,

There’s more of wisdom in it.


And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!

He, too, is no mean preacher:

Come forth into the light of things,

Let Nature be your teacher.


She has a world of ready wealth,

Our minds and hearts to bless—

Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,

Truth breathed by cheerfulness.


One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man,

Of moral evil and of good,

Than all the sages can.


Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;

Our meddling intellect

Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—

We murder to dissect.


Enough of Science and of Art;

Close up those barren leaves;

Come forth, and bring with you a heart

That watches and receives.


—William Wordsworth


An uncharacteristically dour portrait of William Wadsworth now remembered best for his sunny nature verse inspired by the English Lake District.

This late life verse puts nature in the perspective of his own mortality.


I Have Thoughts that Are Fed by the Sun


I have thoughts that are fed by the sun:

The things which I see

Are welcome to me,

Welcome every one –

I do not wish to lie

Dead, dead,

Dead, without any company.

Here alone on my bed

With thoughts that are fed by the sun,

And hopes that are welcome every one,

Happy am I.

Oh life there is about thee

A deep delicious peace;

I would not be without thee,

Stay, oh stay!

Yet be thou ever as now –

Sweetness and breath, with the quiet of death –

Be but thou ever as now,

Peace, peace, peace.


—William Wordsworth 

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