Wordsworth on Poetry Recollected

Poetry, as though one could doubt, was central to Wordsworth's life, for much of it.  And below he relates a pleasure I have never had though I could wish to have:

from The Prelude Book V
William Wordsworth

Relinquishing this lofty eminence
For ground, though humbler, not the less a tract
Of the same isthmus, which our spirits cross
In progress from their native continent
To earth and human life, the Song might dwell
On that delightful time of growing youth,
When craving for the marvellous gives way
To strengthening love for things that we have seen;
When sober truth and steady sympathies,
Offered to notice by less daring pens,
Take firmer hold of us, and words themselves
Move us with conscious pleasure.

                I am sad
At thought of raptures now for ever flown;
Almost to tears I sometimes could be sad
To think of, to read over, many a page,
Poems withal of name, which at that time
Did never fail to entrance me, and are now
Dead in my eyes, dead as a theatre
Fresh emptied of spectators. Twice five years
Or less I might have seen, when first my mind
With conscious pleasure opened to the charm
Of words in tuneful order, found them sweet
For their own sakes, a passion, and a power;
And phrases pleased me chosen for delight,
For pomp, or love. Oft, in the public roads
Yet unfrequented, while the morning light
Was yellowing the hill tops, I went abroad
With a dear friend, and for the better part
Of two delightful hours we strolled along
By the still borders of the misty lake,
Repeating favourite verses with one voice,
Or conning more, as happy as the birds
That round us chaunted. Well might we be glad,
Lifted above the ground by airy fancies,
More bright than madness or the dreams of wine;
And, though full oft the objects of our love
Were false, and in their splendour overwrought,
Yet was there surely then no vulgar power
Working within us,—nothing less, in truth,
Than that most noble attribute of man,
Though yet untutored and inordinate,
That wish for something loftier, more adorned,
Than is the common aspect, daily garb,
Of human life. What wonder, then, if sounds
Of exultation echoed through the groves!
For, images, and sentiments, and words,
And everything encountered or pursued
In that delicious world of poesy,
Kept holiday, a never-ending show,
With music, incense, festival, and flowers!

He recalls here first the time in youth in which novelty gives way to treading the old ground over and over.  In fact, as any parent knows, this is not an advance, but a reversion.  How many times does one read a story to a child to have the child say, "Again!  Again!"  And they want it right away and without revision or alteration of any element.  So this is a return to the primal pleasure of the worn and comfortable.  But Wordsworth is a little embarrassed at the objects of his affections--though not at the memory of sharing them with a walking companion,

and for the better part
Of two delightful hours we strolled along
By the still borders of the misty lake,
Repeating favourite verses with one voice

Now there is a pleasure I have never had and long desired--to have a companion knowledgeable enough to wander for any length of time and recite verse.  He points out that their choices were not of the best:

And, though full oft the objects of our love
Were false, and in their splendour overwrought,
Yet was there surely then no vulgar power
Working within us,—nothing less, in truth,
Than that most noble attribute of man,
Though yet untutored and inordinate,
That wish for something loftier, more adorned,
Than is the common aspect, daily garb,
Of human life.

And often it is so--in youth we like that which appeals to us whether or not it has been deemed worthy.  And perhaps we might all do well to like what we like whether it has received the imprimatur of the cultured elite--who too often have chosen to seal themselves off from the great pleasures of the "less worthy."  For who is to say what is less worthy--it is easier by far to say what we like and what we don't like and leave it at that.

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