The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
By William Wordsworth

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
         The earth, and every common sight,
         To me did seem
         Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
         Turn wheresoe'er I may,
         By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

         The rainbow comes and goes,
         And lovely is the rose;
         The moon doth with delight
         Look round her when the heavens are bare;
         Waters on a starry night
         Are beautiful and fair;
         The sunshine is a glorious birth;
         But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth.

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
         And while the young lambs bound
         As to the tabor's sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
         And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
         And all the earth is gay;
         Land and sea
         Give themselves up to jollity,
         And with the heart of May
         Doth every beast keep holiday;--
         Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy

Ye blessed creatures, I have heard the call
         Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
         My heart is at your festival,
         My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel--I feel it all.
         O evil day! if I were sullen
         While Earth herself is adorning,
         This sweet May-morning,
         And the children are culling
         On every side,
         In a thousand valleys far and wide,
         Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother's arm:--
         I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
         --But there's a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look'd upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
         The pansy at my feet
         Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
         Hath had elsewhere its setting,
         And cometh from afar:
         Not in entire forgetfulness,
         And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
         From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
         Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
         He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
         Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
         And by the vision splendid
         Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother's mind,
         And no unworthy aim,
         The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her Inmate Man,
         Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years' darling of a pigmy size!
See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses,
With light upon him from his father's eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
         A wedding or a festival,
         A mourning or a funeral;
         And this hath now his heart,
         And unto this he frames his song:
         Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
         But it will not be long
         Ere this be thrown aside,
         And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his 'humorous stage'
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
         As if his whole vocation
         Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
         Thy soul's immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read'st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,--
         Mighty prophet! Seer blest!
         On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a master o'er a slave,
A presence which is not to be put by;
         To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed without the sense or sight
         Of day or the warm light,
A place of thought where we in waiting lie;
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being's height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight,
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!

         O joy! that in our embers
         Is something that doth live,
         That nature yet remembers
         What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest--
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:--
         Not for these I raise
         The song of thanks and praise;
         But for those obstinate questionings
         Of sense and outward things,
         Fallings from us, vanishings;
         Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
         But for those first affections,
         Those shadowy recollections,
         Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
         Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
         To perish never:
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
         Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
         Hence in a season of calm weather
         Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
         Which brought us hither,
         Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
         And let the young lambs bound
         As to the tabor's sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
         Ye that pipe and ye that play,
         Ye that through your hearts to-day
         Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
         Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
         We will grieve not, rather find
         Strength in what remains behind;
         In the primal sympathy
         Which having been must ever be;
         In the soothing thoughts that spring
         Out of human suffering;
         In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish'd one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripp'd lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
         Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.


In this week's Washington Post Book World, Michael Dirda reviews The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge by Adam Sisman. Of Wordsworth, he says, "His 'Tintern Abbey' might well be the best medium-length poem in English," while the ode above "never fails to elicit that thrill to the back of the neck that A.E. Housman maintained was the only infallible sign of poetic genius." The note of loss in lines like "Whither is fled the visionary gleam?" is one that Dirda associates "even more strongly with Wordsworth's friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose 'Kubla Khan' concludes with the youthful poet's agonizing cry, 'Could I revive within me/ Her symphony and song.'" Sisman's account of the friendship between the poets is not a happy story: "a brief period of dazzling poetic brilliance, followed by decades of artistic confusion and failure. Both men repeatedly likened the imagination to the wind -- Coleridge's ancient mariner is saved from death-in-life when the wind begins to blow again on his becalmed ship; Wordsworth's 'Prelude' famously speaks of the poet's creative powers as 'a correspondent breeze' within his soul that will gradually build to a raging tempest. Alas, all too soon, Coleridge's poems had virtually stopped coming, and Wordsworth's verse had grown arthritic and dull...Sisman naturally focuses on the 10 or so good years -- roughly from the early 1790s through the early 1800s -- when the pair formed a kind of mutual admiration society."

My plan for Sunday afternoon was to go celebrate the Lupercalia with vertigo66, beeej and the rest of our circle, but beeej unhappily had a death in the family at the end of last week and this morning I got a call from the woman who coordinates the group to say that the woman who was going to host had had a family crisis, so the ritual was called off. This made me sad, but I got to talk on the phone with both vertigo66 and Nancy who puts together the rituals. She asked me for links about Jewish Pagan sites since I had told her about Tu B'Shvat and Imbolc falling on the same day, so I put together a bunch and spent some time reading them.

Then we took the kids for a walk at Cabin John Park, where there was ice over half the creek and we were surprised to see lots of evidence of beaver activity -- numerous gnawed trees, it looked the way Huntley Meadows did once upon a time! It was in the 30s all day but clear and not very cold in the sun, so lovely to be in the woods. Came home and, since I was not driving to Frederick, listened to a long Leonard Nimoy interview for a TrekToday article and wrote up some silly Trek news -- oh, and GMR finally has my Happy Feet review up! And speaking of penguins, sparowe sent me an article from the Christian Science Monitor on rare yellow-eyed penguins in New Zealand; I linked to it here in penguinpics.

One of the tributaries of Cabin John Creek frozen partway as it winds through the park.

There were ice crystals across the surface of the creek.

It was cold but partly sunny, a beautiful day to be on the trail.

There was also distinct evidence of other activity in the woods.

This could have been done by hungry deer...

...but these gnawed stumps are definitely the work of beavers.

And this whole tree down? Busy beavers!

Watched the first two hours of the Grammys. Was bummed only to get one Police song, and not "Message in a Bottle" or "Every Breath You Take" at that, but loved the Eagles tribute and was delighted to see the Dixie Chicks pick up so many trophies (and even more after I turned it off, I see). Had to watch Battlestar I did not like the way Sharon was written in this -- she was great with Six but that is not the same woman sniveling to her husband that she doesn't want any more trouble on top of being constantly regarded as a Cylon. I loved Adama's apology after his self-righteous speech about how he was dealing with an epidemic, a possible riot and all the rest, demanding that people do their jobs without unfounded accusations.

As always it's the acting that makes the show for me, because the scripts are always uneven...this time everyone ultimately ducked the question of how decisions would be made in the face of an unchecked epidemic, who would get the medicine first (betting the Viper pilots, just like Dr. Roberts said -- in a fleet where the president would ban abortion because the population is so low, making such decisions is not at all outside the realm of the possible or even the likely). That's the really interesting underlying issue here because it's the one that hits home for the world at large. Not that I'm discounting the evil racist doctor and the parallels with the experiments conducted on Africans by European and American doctors rationalizing that they were trying to cure plagues, but I remember when there were rumblings among people in AIDS activism about having their ribbons "appropriated" for breast cancer research and the like...the bottom line is that lack of funding and poor distribution of resources among the most well-meaning practitioners will kill far more people than deliberate cruelty or even indifference by homophobic or misogynistic doctors.

Then we watched the late rerun of The Dresden Files, which was great fun -- werewolves! Another show where I'm up and down on the writing, but the acting is terrific and I really like the lead woman character, though I hope that like on Torchwood they let her be less gullible very quickly. (I prefer shows where the women are less sidekick-y and, if not in the Dresden-Doctor Who position, at least in a true ensemble like Boston Legal or Heroes.) Hey, at least Harvard will finally have a woman president, a former Penn prof no less. Ironically, I know the wife of the outgoing president -- she's the daughter of a friend of my mother's who used to teach at my alma mater as well.

They're threatening us with half a foot of snow tomorrow night! What are the odds? And could Daniel Radcliffe mention one more time that Gary Oldman advised him on how to be naked onstage, and manage to show off his belly while taking his coat off for an interview? I did like finding out that Kenneth Branagh was the one who told him to do Equus...I'm still holding out hope that Gilderoy Lockhart will return to the screen somehow, even though I'm sure his scenes from Order of the Phoenix were excised for the movie. I don't see why put him in the book at all except to remind us that he still exists so he can come back and do something in the last book!

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