One Last Wordsworthian Word

I promise not to belabor the point, nor to make the reading of this blog a labor by my enthusiasm for a poet who has come to my attention as though for the first time.  That is what most intrigues me.  I've said in my ruminations before that while in college I forced myself through at least part of The Prelude and didn't much enjoy it.  But truth to tell, college courses are largely designed to enforce dislike of the subject matter--you have to read a hundred books in a semester and none of them are given the time that they are really worth.  A whole semester could be devoted to a careful and proper reading of Wordsworth's poem--and probably should have been.  To have it thrown in among a hundred other poems scarcely does the work justice.  In defense of the poor teachers, though, one needs to provide a broad sense of things before diving in deep and so this is a necessary risk in our reading.

College was then, this is now, and I find that Wordsworth speaks to me in the now because I can take as long as I like to wander with him through the Lake Country, through Cambridge and London.  I can listen to him again and again if I find I don't really understand something the first time.  There is nothing pushing me to get through the entire poem.  If I don't, well then, I don't, but I've lost nothing that I've obtained in reading so far.  All of these conditions make for much more congenial and relaxed reading.  Add to that greater maturity, greater experience, greater acquaintance with other related works, and authors whom we may have passed over in fretful youth are more welcome visitors with the passing of time.

And so I share this last point that helps to support the points made in the post below.  I think its purpose will be clear once you read it.

from The Prelude: Book II
William Wordsworth

How shall I seek the origin? where find
Faith in the marvellous things which then I felt?
Oft in these moments such a holy calm
Would overspread my soul, that bodily eyes
Were utterly forgotten, and what I saw
Appeared like something in myself, a dream,
A prospect in the mind.

If you follow from the previous post about the mystical approach to experience, I think the purport of this passage is both fairly clear and much in line with the mystical tradition from The Cloud of Unknowing through Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle, and Julian of Norwich, down through William Law, Thomas Traherne, finally to Blake and Wordsworth himself.  Go back again to the previous post and note that all of these transports take place according to St. John of the Cross in "a dark night"  ("holy calm. . . that bodily eyes were utterly forgotten.")

Let's not belabor it.  I merely introduce the point to say that Wordsworth need not be read as Wordsworth himself may have intended, and explanations of Wordsworth that rely ONLY on his intent, are likely to become cumbersome (which is not to say that authorial intention is not important--but it is only part of the reading of any work--because in any work a great deal that an author does not intend makes it into the work as well.)

Comments

  1. With me as the reader, you are preaching to the choir about Wordsworth. Only Blake, Keats, and Hopkins (among English poets) can tear me away from my steadfast devotion to Wordsworth. I, for one, am glad that you were willing to share so much of your time by blogging about your Wordworth experience. I regret that I did not have much opportunity to comment previously; however, your work here is much appreciated--even by one in the already converted choir.

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  2. I'll confess, Wordsworth's longer works didn't do it for me in college either, but these posts of yours have tempted me to take another look...

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  3. Dear RT and Jeff,

    Thank you both for the encouraging words. I, myself, am amazed at how I've taken to Wordsworth and what wonders I find within the poem and it gives me heart that such longer works as I have long ignored in the poetic realm might once again breathe for me. Perhaps the next step is Brownings _The Ring and the Book._

    shalom,

    Steven

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