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#1 2nd February 2006, 04:52 PM

David

 

Here are my promised poems as a spin-off from Peter Ackroyd's series, The Romantics. They are two poems by Wordsworth, who I think best encapsulates the spirit and approaches of Romanticism in poetry. If people enjoy this then I'll post some second generation poems later. The two poems are similar in what they are trying to explore, but different in the way they do it. The first might seem more conventionally 'poetic', whilst the second a little more 'philosophical'. See what you think!

 

The first is 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' - probably his most famous, and I think pretty generally misunderstood.

 

"I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils,

Beside the lake, beneath the trees

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

The waves beside them danced, but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: -

A poet could not but be gay

In such a jocund company:

I gazed -and gazed -but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought.

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils."

 

 

Second is an extract, the middle section of 'Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey', which featured in Ackroyd's programme. Wordsworth has revisited Tintern Abbey with his sister, Dorothy, and is reflecting on how he has changed over the interim.

 

"And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought

With many recognitions dim and faint,

And somewhat of a sad perplexity,

The picture of the mind revives again:

While here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led -more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all. -I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye. -That time is past,

And all its aching joys are now no more,

And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this

Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts

Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,

Abundant recompense. For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes

The still, sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue. And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods,

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye, and ear -both what they half create,

And what perceive; well pleased to recognise

In nature and the language of the sense

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being."

 

I have chosen these two because they cut to the heart of what so much Romantic poetry is trying to do and what the Romantic vision is all about. It is about ways of seeing, and the fact that the eye is not everything.

 

Anyway, I won't say any more for the moment. Have a few read-throughs and post your thoughts.

 

(A cataract is an archaic term for 'waterfall', by the way)

 

#2 2nd February 2006, 05:45 PM

elfstar

 

This must be the first time in ages I have actually read Daffodils if i ever have. there is much more in it than I thought.

 

 

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils.

 

This verse in particular strikes a resonance with me. Often when feeling low. or just quiet I summon an image of something beauutiful or of emotional significance to me and enjoy the feelings it brings.

 

 

Tintern is not a place that particuarly impressed me when I passed by however, I do understand the sentiments. Although I regret my lost youth I revel in the understanding that age and experience has brought BUT the feeling of a greater presence escapes me.

 

 

There we go shallow and ignorant again!

 

#3 2nd February 2006, 06:10 PM

Claire

 

Thanks for posting these, David. They're too long for me to read off a screen, so I'll print them out and read them, and then come back.

 

There we go shallow and ignorant again!

 

Keep up the good work - you're an inspiration to the rest of us! (And better that than silence, for sure. Us Shallow and Ignorant types have just as much right to talk about poetry as clever people )

 

#4 2nd February 2006, 07:53 PM

David

 

This verse in particular strikes a resonance with me. Often when feeling low. or just quiet I summon an image of something beauutiful or of emotional significance to me and enjoy the feelings it brings.

 

That is indeed the most important stanza, Elfstar, and one that's vital to understanding the poem, yet most people just think of the start, as if it's simply a pretty poem about flowers! You sound well in-tune with Wordsworth's thinking. Please don't keep thinking your comments aren't up to much; you straight away were focusing on the emotive response and that is at the very core of what Wordsworth was trying to achieve. He would value that response in his readers far more than some arty-farty analysis of metrical structure/imagery etc.!

 

Thanks for the comments.

 

#5 3rd February 2006, 06:50 AM

elfstar

 

That is indeed the most important stanza, Elfstar, and one that's vital to understanding the poem, yet most people just think of the start, as if it's simply a pretty poem about flowers! You sound well in-tune with Wordsworth's thinking. Please don't keep thinking your comments aren't up to much; you straight away were focusing on the emotive response and that is at the very core of what Wordsworth was trying to achieve. He would value that response in his readers far more than some arty-farty analysis of metrical structure/imagery etc.!

 

Thanks for the comments.

 

#6 3rd February 2006, 07:51 AM

megustaleer

 

I am also going to have to go away and look at these on paper.

 

The trouble I have with 'Daffodils' is that as soon as I start reading it I can 'hear' a class of 10 year-olds chanting it, and robbing it of all meaning!

 

I have always enjoyed the reflective feeling of its last verse, but rarely get that far these days because of the above image.

 

I am not very familiar with 'Tintern Abbey', which might be a good thing for the current exercise!

 

I will return!

 

#7 3rd February 2006, 09:58 AM

Adrian

 

Thanks to Stephen Fry I now read poetry.

 

Like others I had to print the poems off as I couldn't appreciate them on the screen (sorry, David, but the italics didn't help).

 

After a few readings, 'I wandered Lonely as a cloud' seems such a personal work, but it was the third verse that got me, when Wordsworth breaks the 'fourth wall' and talks about himself "a poet."

 

I felt the fifth and sixth lines of each verse seemed like an aside to the reader, and I'm now reading it as the first four lines spoken out to the gods, the last two out the side to the wings.

 

Any teacher who has the whole class saying it out loud together should resign.

 

This verse in particular strikes a resonance with me. Often when feeling low. or just quiet I summon an image of something beauutiful or of emotional significance to me and enjoy the feelings it brings.

 

 

which I think leads back to Lonely in the first line, which I interpreted as the poet being down / melancholy / depressed until the daffodils.

 

Tintern will take more readings.

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#8 3rd February 2006, 10:55 AM

David

 

After a few readings, 'I wandered Lonely as a cloud' seems such a personal work, but it was the third verse that got me, when Wordsworth breaks the 'fourth wall' and talks about himself "a poet."

 

I felt the fifth and sixth lines of each verse seemed like an aside to the reader, and I'm now reading it as the first four lines spoken out to the gods, the last two out the side to the wings.

 

Interesting comments, Adrian, and it's really good to have you on board the poetry discussions! (Good ol' Stephen Fry, eh?)

 

If you think this reference to being a poet is a bit much, you should try some other Romantic writings! I'll try and dig out a few examples when I have the time, but - much as I love them - they were a pretty egocentric bunch and saw themselves as 'chosen ones' (by whom or what is an interesting question) who had special gifts of insight not shared by most mortals, and it was their task to communicate this through their poetry. In that sense, whilst this is, as you rightly say, highly personal, it is also conscious of the audience and the emotional, spritual message it is trying to convey.

 

I like your thoughts on the final two lines, but for me that only works on the last two stanzas, where, if anything, I feel it becomes a great deal more personal, more internalised.

 

I look forward to your thoughts on 'Tintern Abbey' (and Claire and Meg's!). Sorry about the italics! Old habit of highlighting quotations. I've taken them out now - thanks for the suggestion.

 

#9 3rd February 2006, 11:32 AM

Adrian

 

Thanks for your comments David. I've not seen The Romantics so I'm not sure what the programme is. Daisy Somebody did a programme a while back on poetry and I thought she was fine, but the programme was too visual. Give me the old OU programmes any day!

 

Like authors who incorporate their own lives into their work (eg, Saturday, Lunar Park) I didn't know that The Romantics were so self-aware as to refer to the audience and themselves in such a way. It's the first time I've studied 'I wandered...' and it's a revelation.

 

I like your thoughts on the final two lines, but for me that only works on the last two stanzas, where, if anything, I feel it becomes a great deal more personal, more internalised.

 

You're spot on there, and now I split this poem and others up, not just by lines and stanzas, but also into halves and quarters, and I get more out of it when I reread it that way.

 

#10 3rd February 2006, 02:40 PM

megustaleer

 

You're spot on there, and now I split this poem and others up, not just by lines and stanzas, but also into halves and quarters, and I get more out of it when I reread it that way.

 

Is this something you are doing as a result of reading Stephen Fry's book? I have put that to one side to read when I have time enough to concentrate on it.

 

#11 3rd February 2006, 10:18 PM

Adrian

 

Is this something you are doing as a result of reading Stephen Fry's book? I have put that to one side to read when I have time enough to concentrate on it.

 

One of my reasons for joining BGO was to get me reading different kinds of literature, as I was in a reading rut of sticking to the same genres and authors. The Ode Less Travelled has helped me widen my poetry reading.

 

But now I've leant it to someone and they're taking a long time to read it. I'd better get it back!

 

#12 5th February 2006, 12:38 PM

Claire

 

Many thanks for your posts, Adrian. The way you've divided the poem up into "voices" has given me a really fresh way of looking at it.

 

I've got stuck half way through Tintern Abbey, I'm afraid

 

I was enjoying it much more than I expected, and I was finding that it's far more about the poet and how he's changed as he's got older and experienced more, than it is about the actual landscape. I was enjoying exploring with him how his experiences have shaped him. But about two thirds of the way through, I've hit confusion. I just can't make out the sense of what on earth he's saying, in his convoluted way of expressing it. I will persevere though - I do badly want to know where the train of thought ends up.

 

There was a line at the beginning about his youth, that struck me as very odd.

 

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led -more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads than one

Who sought the thing he loved.

 

I just found that an odd comparison to apply to a young, enthusiastic nature lover - fleeing from something he dreads. (What might he be fleeing from, for starters?) I found it attracted my attention, because it jarred and was so unexpected.

 

#13 5th February 2006, 05:53 PM

megustaleer

 

It seems to me that on his first visit he was driven, (like the hunted roe) by his passion for nature with a physicality and appetite that was of the moment.

He was not seeking anything, not knowing then that the 'coarser pleasures', the 'glad animal movement' of his explorations were to provide him with 'life and food for future years'.

 

Alternatively, there may be a historical context that would not have occurred to me a month ago. Where did that first visit fit in relation to his return from France? Was he perhaps flying from thoughts of things he had seen there?

 

#14 5th February 2006, 06:37 PM

David

 

Those are interesting thoughts, Meg. Your theory about the Revolution could work. He wrote this is 1798, and the five years earlier would make it 1793. He visited France twice in the early 1790s - I think the second time 1792, or at the latest 1793.

 

It is an intriguing way of describing his experience, isn't it! Another thought is that - especially in youth - Nature was a force to be feared as well as loved and respected by Wordsworth. Do you remember the extract from The Prelude in Ackroyd's The Romantics when Wordsworth as a boy stole the boat? That's a cracking section of the poem (just tried to find it online to quote for you, but can't find it) and describes WW's sensations of the surrounding hills in the semi-darkness as if they were alive and pursuing him (reminds me of Pip believing the natural world has turned against him when he steals the 'wittles' for the convict in Great Expectations). He saw Nature as a powerful entity, so 'pursuing' it could well fill him with strange fears.

 

Glad you're enjoying 'Tintern Abbey', Claire! What you say is exactly what I'd hoped Ackroyd's series would achieve in relation to the Romantics: make people aware that they were not pretty poets of nature, but rather introspective radicals, turning the focus of poetry remorselessly inwards to explore the nature of the self. Stick with it!

 

Just as a little extra thought, "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is one of the most famous lines in literature, but what do you make of it as an image? I think it's one of those that we've heard so much we don't think about it very much, but is a cloud an analogy you might have chosen to describe loneliness?

 

#15 5th February 2006, 06:57 PM

megustaleer

 

I've actually been cogitating on that during the past few days. Clouds in this country rarely come singly (and I'm in the dry east, I should think it's even less likely in the Lake District!).

 

I desperately want to put a comma after 'lonely', so that he can both wander lonely, and wander as a cloud that floats, rather than have lonely and cloud so closely connected.

 

I have even looked the poem up in books, as well as on line in case it was a printing error. I knew it was futile, as it has bothered me in the past and I've looked before.

 

I'm sure WW intended a comma there!

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8th February 2006, 03:44 AM

Adrian

 

It is an intriguing way of describing his experience, isn't it! Another thought is that - especially in youth - Nature was a force to be feared as well as loved and respected by Wordsworth. Do you remember the extract from The Prelude in Ackroyd's The Romantics when Wordsworth as a boy stole the boat? That's a cracking section of the poem (just tried to find it online to quote for you, but can't find it) and describes WW's sensations of the surrounding hills in the semi-darkness as if they were alive and pursuing him.

I think this is The Prelude, though I leave all interpretations and explanations to others :

 

The Prelude (1850), Book First, lines 357-400:

 

One summer evening (led by [Nature]) I found

A little boat tied to a willow tree

Within a rocky cave, its usual home.

Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in

Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth

And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice

Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;

Leaving behind her still, on either side,

Small circles glittering idly in the moon,

Until they melted all into one track

Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,

Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point

With an unswerving line, I fixed my view

Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,

The horizon's utmost boundary; for above

Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.

She was an elfin pinnace;<1> lustily

I dipped my oars into the silent lake,

And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat

Went heaving through the water like a swan

When, from behind that craggy steep till then

The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,

As if with voluntary power instinct

Upreared its head.<2> I struck and struck again,

And growing still in stature the grim shape

Towered up between me and the stars, and still,

For so it seemed, with purpose of its own

And measured motion like a living thing,

Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,

And through the silent water stole my way

Back to the covert of the willow tree;

There in her mooring-place I left my bark,<3>--

And through the meadows homweard wen, in grave

And serious mood; but after I had seen

That spectacle, for many days, my brain

Worked with a dim and undetermined sense

Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts

There hung a darkness, call it solitude

Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes

Remained, no pleasant images of trees,

Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;

But huge and mighty forms, that do not live

Like living men, moved slowly through the mind

By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

 

<1>A light sailing ship; any of various ship's boats.

<2>Wordsworth faces the shore as he rows. While he is still close to shore, a "craggy steep" hides the higher summits behind. But as he moves out into the lake, the changing angle of vision allows him to see over the "craggy steep." A "huge peak" seems suddenly to rise up, and the farther he rows the larger it appears. [Perkins.]

<3>Boat

 

Norton Anthology (Sixth edition) pp. 215-216; Perkins pp. 217-218.

 

#17 8th February 2006, 07:55 AM

Adrian

 

My thoughts on Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.

 

First, structure. At first I didn't like the layout at all. It's a little daunting at first to confront such a text, and this is only an extract! Wordsworth must have written it as an unbroken passage of text for some reason, and all I could come up with is that it was a 'stream of consciousness' (if such a thing was around at that time) and chosen deliberately for that reason instead of being neatly split into parts.

 

And perhaps David chose this poem partly for the startling change in structure to I wandered lonely as a cloud!

 

Secondly, I'm not a fan of the split-sentence lines, for example:

 

To me was all in all. -I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract,

 

as they break the flow, not helped by all lines starting with a capital letter. Subconsciously I want "paint" to complete the thought, but of course reading it this way makes no sense. It took a while before I could read each complete sentence as I would a prose sentence (I successfully resisted restructuring the whole excerpt, again because if Wordsworth wrote it that way, that's the way I'll read it). No doubt this is just me, and scanning ahead helps, and its less of a problem the more I read it.

 

That was the easy bit, now I'm going to have to read it all over again to get at the meaning.

 

#18 8th February 2006, 11:24 AM

David

 

[quote name=Adrian}

And perhaps David chose this poem partly for the startling change in structure to I wandered lonely as a cloud![/quote]

 

That's certainly part of the reason, Adrian. As I said at the start, I think 'I wandered...' is the more conventionally 'poetic', whilst 'Tintern Abbey' seems more 'philosophical'. Also, though, because they both look at the same idea, only in different ways.

 

I absolutely understand where you're coming from in your difficulties with the form, but the answer lies in what you observe towards the end:

 

its less of a problem the more I read it.

 

Familiarity with this form can quickly evolve. Poetry isn't written like this any more and we simply aren't used to the 'big' poems, but it was quite common in times gone by. One of Wordsworth's central aims was to return poetry to the common man, to strip away the crafted artiness that to his mind potentially distanced poetry from ordinary people, who he felt should be at its heart. Consequently, part of what he's doing here is to make his verse more 'conversational', imitating more closely the patterns of ordinary speech by undercutting the regularity of the lines' flow with what's called enjambment: allowing the sense of a line to extend into the next without any pause (I'm taking a cue from your liking for Stephen Fry's book that you might like a few 'technical' details! Let me know if you don't!). I remember this felt pretty jarring to me at first, but you quickly acclimatise to it and the verse then takes on a strange beauty - carrying the thoughtful weight bestowed by verse (because the rhythm, poetic diction etc. are still there), but having the natural accessibility of someone simply talking to you. For me this carries a sort of rustic lyricism that is part of Wordsworth's strong appeal.

 

Mind you, this is becoming a theme: Meg wanted to insert her own commas in 'I wandered...' !

 

Stream of consciousness - of sorts - does indeed pre-date The Prelude. The current film release A Cock and Bull Story is loosely drawn from Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, which is of this ilk in its highly experimentational approach. Nevertheless, the term really refers to sequences of thought that have no logical connection, but instead mimic the free and subjective associations of the mind. If you work it through, Wordsworth is actually following some clear and connected lines of thought.

 

Thanks for finding the extract! I just love his evocation of a child's fears growing out of guilt, which then evolve into a radical new awareness of an independent life in Nature. It was partly this experience that led him to believe that children - who are unobstructed by the personas of adulthood that act out of habit and ritual rather than instinctively feel - have access to the most fundamental truths of our existence. To quote from another of his poems, "The child is father of the man."

 

#19 8th February 2006, 10:58 PM

megustaleer

 

I seem to remember Ackroyd saying in the second of his programes that the Romantic Poets changed the way we see nature...that we consider a sunset etc to be beautiful because of the way they taught us to appreciate them.

 

Since then, when reading 'Daffodils', I imagine Wordsworth seeing that bank of daffodils as though he was the first person ever to see them, and certainly the first person to make such a vivid word-picture of the experience that we cannot see a massed display of them without thinking of this first description, and having our hearts lifted.

And not only us, but he discovers, to his surprise,that the beauty he sees in nature can be recalled, and give him pleasure in the remembrance.

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

 

He is more aware of this phenomenon as he gazes on the landscape above Tintern Abbey. He can recall how it was when he first saw it, even though he has changed and realises

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years.

 

Although this thought is expressed more clearly in earlier lines of this poem, as his remembrance of the previous visit has provided him

With tranquil restoration:

 

I am struggling with the form and length of Tintern Abbey. I start to read sentences whose end disappears in various asides and explanatory paragraphs!

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9th February 2006, 11:09 AM

David

I seem to remember Ackroyd saying in the second of his programes that the Romantic Poets changed the way we see nature...that we consider a sunset etc to be beautiful because of the way they taught us to appreciate them.

To be honest I thought he overstated that. There are plenty of examples of artisitic appreciation of nature before that, but part of their legacy in terms of our appreciation of nature is very much in what you go on to identify, Meg. I think that personal relationship with the flowers that you explain is central, not only in the sense of being the first person to see them, but also in the concept of taking them with him, forging a link with the natural world that is ultimately invigorating and sustaining. This seems to be invaluable at times when he is cut off from nature (on his couch - i.e. in a construction of man; maybe even in a town or city), then he can re-connect through his mind's eye ('that inward eye').

 

"The bliss of solitude" is another interesting one. Is WW a little misanthropic? Are humans secondary to Nature? Exactly what produces 'bliss'?

 

#21 9th February 2006, 03:52 PM

megustaleer

 

I don't think you can isolate 'the bliss of solitude' from 'the inward eye' that precedes it. In the busy-ness of day-to-day life, and interaction with other people, there is little opportunity to use that 'inner eye', which I should think is a major poetic resource!

 

#22 9th February 2006, 07:54 PM

Claire

Just as a little extra thought, "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is one of the most famous lines in literature, but what do you make of it as an image? I think it's one of those that we've heard so much we don't think about it very much, but is a cloud an analogy you might have chosen to describe loneliness?

Do you know, that's never occured to me. As you say, it's so familiar it's easy to take for granted....

 

I guess a cloud does have connatations of something "rootless", unattached to anything else, and very separate from the surrounding landscape. But it's not a great image for loneliness, given the way they tend to hang about in large groups, over the Lakes.

 

Given that image of a single, white, fluffy cloud floating along under it's own violition, over a field of primary coloured flowers.....I'm now imagining that Wordsworth was wandering through TellyTubby Land!! Did the sun have a babies face, do you think? And were the rabbits alarmingly huge??

 

#23 9th February 2006, 08:03 PM

David

...I'm now imagining that Wordsworth was wandering through TellyTubby Land!! Did the sun have a babies face, do you think? And were the rabbits alarmingly huge??

Never mind stolen boats, those mountains will be after you now, Claire! I'm laughing through the tears...

:cry::lmao::cry:

 

#24 16th February 2006, 01:58 PM

David

 

The discussion seems to have run its course, so I'll just add my last thoughts on 'Tintern Abbey'. I love the second half of the section I posted at the start; it is perhaps the most purely condensed expression of a sense and joy that permeates so much of Wordsworth's poetry. It is part of the radical and exciting new vision that characterised the Romantics, and what I really wanted to stress is that it's not just lyrical poeticism.

 

And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.

 

This is Wordsworth's pantheism - the belief in a unifying force that runs through all things and which provides access to universal, eternal truths of existence. It is most accessible through nature, but even more than that, through nature as perceived through the mind's eye. It is the power of the imagination that reveals the truth, which is why he seems to obtain even more pleasure and sustenance through his memory of the daffodils, seen in solitude by the 'inward eye'. I've long been inspired by these thoughts, and whilst I might not take them to WW's extremes (he backtracked on them himself in later life), I have always felt the imagination is a powerful tool not just for enjoyment, but also for understanding. Ackroyd talked about the legacy of the Romantics, and I think this is one of their greatest - one of the most significant non-religious oppositions to science as the key to all human understanding.

 

#25 16th February 2006, 05:28 PM

Claire

 

I may be back, on Tintern Abbey, but yes, I agree that the discussion has more or less expired. Many, many thanks for setting it going, David, it's been really rewarding to read other people's comments and see the poems in different ways because of that.

 

Are you proposing to start "The Romantics - II"? (Please do!)

 

#26 16th February 2006, 05:33 PM

David

Are you proposing to start "The Romantics - II"? (Please do!)

That was my thinking! Something second generation. Watch this space!

 

#27 16th February 2006, 06:54 PM

Claire

 

Look forward to it

 

#28 16th February 2006, 07:08 PM

Adrian

 

Looking forward to it too. Great thread. Thanks, David.

 

#29 16th February 2006, 10:58 PM

megustaleer

 

I may also be back on 'Tintern Abbey', as I haven't spent enough time thinking about it.

 

One of the problems of coming to BGO via the Latest Posts routes is that I tend to forget the ones that are not highlighted...and as a moderator I'm obliged to keep an eye on how all the active threads are developing, (however boring the football ones get!)

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Many thanks again David for reviving this thread. I have read through it all with great interest.

 

I was interested in the comments on I wandered lonely as a cloud . Do you know for years I thought it was titled Daffodils. I went back to my copy of Norton and found it littered with pencil notes from my studies at Uni. The most resonant part for me has always been the final stanza, which came to mind when I was learning a relaxation technique during my first pregnancy. We were instructed to clear our minds of thought and find one vision on which to focus that was pure and peaceful; and immediately 'A host, of golden daffodils' came into my mind's eye. And that technique still works by the way - not that I am pregnant any more but just when I need to make myself relax and try and get some sleep.

 

Apart from that frivolous aside, it was good to read again and study in more detail. I was particularly interested in the discussion on 'lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills'. There have been times when I have seen just that; one small and seemingly lonely cloud floating across the hills in The Lakes. I have always assumed Wordsworth saw one in his time and felt connected in some way by that.

 

Have to admit I am still making my way through Tintern Abbey. It's not a poem I know and having read all the comments am much more interested to apply some thought and consideration to it.

 

Cheers David, you are a star.

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Do you know for years I thought it was titled Daffodils.

I missed this when you first posted it, Barblue. You're right, it's frequently referred to in anthologies as 'Daffodils', but Wordsworth never gave it a title and as is the usual convention for untitled poems it is more properly known by its first line.

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'Daffodils' was the poem that every schoolchild used to know by heart when he or she came into the first form of secondary school. It was always a point of reference for the teacher. Sadly, these days . . . but now I'm in danger of falling into the Wordsworth trap of looking back - 'There was a time when . . . ' and 'There was a boy . . . ' etc.

 

So Wordsworth didn't give it a title? Odd for one who was often so specific, almost pedantic, in entitling his poems. Can any poetry buff remember offhand the full and correct titles of 'The Immortality Ode' 'The Prelude' and 'Tintern Abbey'?

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Can any poetry buff remember offhand the full and correct titles of 'The Immortality Ode' 'The Prelude' and 'Tintern Abbey'?

Well, off hand 'Ode - Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood' (although I believe in its original publication it was just 'Ode' - a great reviser was our Will), can't remember the full Prelude and 'Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey' (and before air travel too!).

 

A great many of his poems lack a title.

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Like most poets WW would leave some small poems untitled. What interests me, though, is his frequent obsession with precise titles that involve not only his mood at the time of writing, but the time and place of composition.

 

In addition to those previously mentioned in this thread I cite: 'Lines Composed at Grasmere, During a Walk, One Evening, The Author Having Just Read in a Newspaper that the Dissolution of Mr Fox was Hourly Expected' and 'Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle, in a Storm, Painted by Sir George Beaumont.'

 

Of course these poems are familiarly referred to as 'Lines', 'Elegiac Stanzas' or 'Peele Castle' but the urge to be pedantically honest and to particularise in this way is part and parcel of the man at that time. It seems to me that WW is harking back to those well known principles of the Lyrical Ballad Preface, where the need to eschew poetic diction and classical reference so prevalent in 18th Century verse is being subverted by a new realism, based on personal experience. Hence the need for accuracy and specificity.

 

Later, after the first edition of LB, as you suggest, David, WW revised a good deal; he glossed and became a lot less simple. Thus 'pin-point of a soul' becomes 'ever-dwindling soul' and so on. I suppose the growth of the poet's mind was underway and The Prelude was in embryo.

 

Incidentally, what a marvellously insightful poem The Prelude is. It makes nonsense of the notion of a 'Simple Wordsworth.' There he prefers the word 'philosophy' to the word 'cow.'

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Like most poets WW would leave some small poems untitled.

And some big ones too - after all, The Prelude was titled by his widow after his death. He had no name for it. As I mentioned earlier, 'Intimations of Immortality' wasn't given a name until, I think, the 1815 edition. It wasn't so common then and part of his revolution in poetic thinking (Lyrical Ballads is generally considered one of the most important texts in literary history for its influence on the develpoment of literature).

 

Really there are two impulses at work. The unnamed pieces (including the very famous Lucy poems) leave the sense of a lack of embellishment that he claims to strive for; it is simply the poem for the reader to make of what he or she will. On the other hand, he wants poetry to seem open and honest, so he sometimes focuses our attention very heavily on the 'moment', the concept of the instant in which the raw material of the poem came into being, which leads to the considerable and even mundane specificity. We are meant to see poetry not as the laboured artifice of men detached from what is vital in life, but instead as the spontaneous inspiration of the instant, which is carefully spelled out for us in those titles.

 

It's an illusion, of course, in that he would work on these poems quite a bit and they were far more crafted than the impression suggests. But then the likes of Shelley did much the same. Even so, it leads to such odd little titles as 'Lines: Written With a Slate Pencil'. Ri-i-i-ght...thanks, Will.

 

The initial philosophy expounded in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads could never really be maintained; it was partly just appearance even there but necessary as a clear shift from the formulaic productions of the Eighteenth Century. So he does progressively fall into more overt crafting and of course in his later years when he's been properly absorbed into the establishment against which he once railed he falls off the true Romantic wagon completely and engages in his wholesale revision, stripping the spirit from his earlier work. This was the decline rather than the growth of the poetic mind, I think partly because Romanticism is the poetry of youth and rebellion; it can't really be sustained in the same way over the years, which is perhaps why in terms of poetic legacy it's as well that Keats, Shelley and Byron perished young. Wordsworth lived long enough to sell out, as Byron wasn't afraid to lampoon in Don Juan.

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Is it just me, or does anyone else have problems with Wordsworth's rhythm and scansion? In 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' the first verse runs smoothly enough, then in the second we encounter 'Ten thousand saw I at a glance', and to me it feels like riding a bike over a pot-hole. It would actually have worked to have written 'I saw ten thousand at a glance'; I imagine (I hope) that he used the inversion in order to place more emphasis on the number. However, he sacrificed the rhythm to do it, and licensed countless lesser writers to mess about with the word order whenever they had trouble finding a rhyme.

 

'What wealth the show to me had brought' is another one. The accents go clunk, clunk, clunk, as though the bike now has a flat (and bent) tyre. As for 'And dances with the daffodils', now we're back in Teletubby Land.

 

In this mood I find myself darkly suspecting that he put 'cloud' in the first line purely for the rhyme, without bothering about whether clouds are a good example of loneliness.

 

I'm not very good at the Romantics!

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I think you're right, Heather, about 'cloud' being there for the rhyme. Are clouds lonely? How about 'I wandered boozy through the crowd' - better?

 

It may not be WW's greatest poem, but there is The Prelude. And for the Romantics elsewhere, how about Don Juan, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Ode to the Nightingale?

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I can't say I have any problems with the rhythm and scansion. It's pretty regular iambic tetrameter and I certainly feel the flow of its progression. The 'ten thousand' line fits the established metre, but there is a climactic pause built into the scheme with a colon pausing the flow after the previous enjambement and a single comma, so there is a deliberate heavy emphasis to provide the sense of the rush of emotion he feels. The rhythm throughout I find creates a strong link to the emotional state he is trying to engender.

 

I think in isolation the idea of his heart 'dancing with the daffodils' is always at risk of sounding twee, but as part of his general exploration of pantheistic truth it fits well. This is why I noted at the start that the poem's excessive anthologisation and false naming tends to lead to a misunderstanding of what it's really trying to do.

 

Keats' 'Ode to a Nightingale' (assuming that's what you meant, nonsuch, and not 'Ode to the Nightingale' by Coleridge's friend and the Prince Regent's paramour Mary Robinson) is briefly discussed here.

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'Ode to a Nightingale,' of course, David, and thanks for the correction. I don't know of Coleridge's poem 'Ode to the Nightingale,' but I do llove STC's Conversational Poem simply called 'The Nightingale.'

 

How many birds flit in and out of the Romantics! (My favourite is Wordswoth's Cuckoo, heard 'At once far off and near.'). In this it is like the 'sad' bird Philomena, so often etherialised as a half-woman/half deity. This perhaps culminates in Becky Sharp's performance at Gaunt House where her coy performance as Le Rossignol enchants everyone including the Royal Personage.

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Poor old Clare - 'Little Trotty Wagtail' was written after he ended up in an asylum! His earlier bird poems are much better, with masses of completely accurate detail. He seems interested in nature for its own sake, whereas Wordsworth seems mainly interested in the effect the daffodils had on him.

 

I agree about Keats and 'The Ancient Mariner' - they're wonderful.

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His earlier bird poems are much better, with masses of completely accurate detail. He seems interested in nature for its own sake, whereas Wordsworth seems mainly interested in the effect the daffodils had on him.

That's very true and perhaps explains our different preferences! I must admit I'm much more drawn to the metaphysical introspectiveness Wordsworth explores and my favourite Clare is 'I Am' from his asylum days, which also looks within. I'm always saddened by his story!

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