Contemplation in the 19th


Contemplation in the 19th Century

Behold, this extract, which was long in coming, but hard won from a poet that I have mixed feelings about. He has some of the most undeniably beautiful lyrics in the language and some of the most dreadfully maudlin doggerel to every have made its way onto a page. But then Wordsworth was a prodigiously prolific poet--few poets, have an Oeuvre nearly so great--Blake and Browning come to mind in sheer volume of words (cummings if you are merely counting pages).

From "Tintern Abbey" William Wordsworth

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:--feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

Although no real mention is made of it here, this seems to be a perfect picture of what the prayer of recollection and contemplation are all about. One gets away from the cares of the world--not necessarily to a place remote, as the description here, but to a space of silence that has been carefully cultivated over years of practice and prayer. In so doing, one moves to spend time with the ground of our being, "Almost suspended, we are laid asleep/in body" is a line almost out of St. John of the Cross. Now Wordsworth is rather like Blake, an ambiguous Christian at best, combining with Christianity the seeds of that which would become transcendentalism--a kind of pantheism. But there is no question, that a line like "while with an eye made quiet by the power/ Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,/We see into the life of things," is highly suggestive of a very well formed life of prayer and contemplation. Because this is precisely what can happen in the course of contemplation. What is described is one of the "consolations" of prayer that are not to be sought after for themselves. But in the course of seeking after Jesus in prayer, we find ourselves, from time to time in possession of such a state--and that is a grace from God to be treasured. So, in reading Wordsworth, we have a momentary taste of this (or as Omar Khayyam would have it--"A momentary taste of being from the well amid the waste. . .") and perhaps are given reason to continue on what may be an arduous journey. However we take it, "Tintern Abbey," provides us with some beautiful pictures of what it is to be able to stop for a moment and truly appreciate all that we have been given in this magnificent creation and wondrous life.

Bookmark and Share



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 17, 2002 8:27 AM.

Opening the Treasure of Scripture was the previous entry in this blog.

The "Welborn Protocol" I am is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll