A Prediction from Wordsworth


From one of the great long poems of modern times by a poet for whom I cared little in my college years, but whose attraction grows with each passing year. I am not at the place described below yet, not quite yet dug out from the avalanche that consumes me, however, soon. . .

from The Prelude "Book First--Introduction--Childhood and School-time"
William Wordsworth

OH there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
A visitant that while it fans my cheek
Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
To none more grateful than to me; escaped
From the vast city, where I long had pined
A discontented sojourner: now free,
Free as a bird to settle where I will.
What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale
Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
The earth is all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!

It is times like what I am enduring now that I turn to God and to poetry to be sustained. Nothing earthly lasts forever and so this too shall pass. And in this particular instance, it is rather like a kidney stone, once passed it will not be missed.

The Prelude is a poem some 200 pages in length. So far as I know it is the only book-length autobiography in poetry. (One could make arguments for La Vita Nuova but I think that is a different category of things.) When I had to read this in college I thought I would die. I didn't care for Wordworth--to my mind the blandest of the Romantic Poets. But the riches of his thought and poetry become all the more clear as time passes. Wordsworth, unlike Keats, Byron, and Shelley (Coleridge falls into a different class) is not a poet for youth. He is a poet for maturity. The attractions of his poetry are likely to be lost on those who rush from day to day crowding in all that can be done in a day. He is a poet of leisurely, deep thought--a poet who rewards close reading and careful attention. One might wish to start with shorter lyrics--"Tintern Abbey" "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality Recollected from Early Childhood," "Daffodils," and the Lucy poems. But eventually The Prelude looms, like Browning's The Ring and the Book a magnificent epic. Whereas the latter is a chronicle of another life, the former is the chronicle of the poet's life commited to poetry and thus all the stronger a representation of the man.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 21, 2005 7:43 AM.

A Note for Lofted Nest and Other Poetry Fans was the previous entry in this blog.

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