Wordsworth on Contemplative Silence


Though he would not have called it that. Look at this second strophe of Tintern Abbey and see if it does not recall the states described by the mystics. Wordsworth does not attribute it to God, and yet, in his own way, I think that it is because he encounters God most directly in the freedom of nature, as Paul said in Romans (?), the second scripture.

from Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798

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.

We see into the life of things. We see into the life of the most important things, the life of the three persons of God. We do not understand it, nor can we begin to grasp it in its fullness. Nevertheless, the contemplative experience is a window into the life of God, a glimpse into His Holiness and His perfection. And with a window into God, we have a window into all that matters in life. Wordsworth captured it well here. He summarizes it in a way that would befit St. John of the Cross in his mystical transports. Go and read the whole thing and enjoy. Literature is not the highest good, but it is certainly a great good--greater yet when it offers us a picture of the divine.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 14, 2004 6:47 AM.

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