And After the Smackdown--Some Tenderness

William Wordsworth has an enhanced sense of childhood and youth, to say the least.  His image of that innocent time propels much of what he writes, including this lengthy autobiographical poem.  But rarely is what he has to say said so beautifully as in today's passage.

from The Prelude Book 5
William Wordsworth

There was a Boy: ye knew him well, ye cliffs
And islands of Winander!—many a time
At evening, when the earliest stars began
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone
Beneath the trees or by the glimmering lake,
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm, and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls,
That they might answer him; and they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call, with quivering peals,
And long halloos and screams, and echoes loud,
Redoubled and redoubled, concourse wild
Of jocund din; and, when a lengthened pause
Of silence came and baffled his best skill,
Then sometimes, in that silence while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind,
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.

What I find most appealing about this passage is the sheer wantonness of the joy it expresses.  We hoot to the owls, just to hoot, just to hear back, just to get a reaction.  And when that "jocund din" has fallen quiet and our best efforts do not surprise from nature a new response--lo and behold, our ears catch hold of something else that swells the heart with some new feeling and meaning.  


Popular posts from this blog

Structures--Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway

Lewis Carroll and James Joyce

Another Queen of Night