William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
The 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth's birth is on Tuesday 7th April. He was a great believer in the power of nature so we're celebrating it with a week of poems. Read on.
Friday 10th April
Wordsworth's poem written in July 1798 after revisiting Tintern Abbey on the River Wye was a summation of everything he had attempted to do with his poetry during his year in Somerset. This is an extract from it and not to be read quickly. And then to be read again!
Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey
…. 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...
Thursday 9th April
Some things should never cease to delight us.
My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
Wednesday 8th April
This is one of a pair of poems he wrote, one promoting the value of study and this one urging the reader to get and enjoy the world of nature. The verse which opens 'One impulse...' encapsulates Wordsworth's sense of the power of nature.
The Tables Turned
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.
And hark! How blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher;
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your Teacher.
She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless -
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things -
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up these barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
Tuesday 7th April - Wordsworth's birthday
The world is too much with us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Monday 6th April
I wandered lonely as a cloud
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.
William Wordsworth was one of the greatest poets writing in the English language. To modern readers even his best poems can sound simplistic, almost trite, but, at the time, they were truly revolutionary. In particular, during one year (mid 1797 to mid 1798) he created an outburst of a new style of poetry, collaborating with fellow poet Samuel Coleridge when they lived close to each other in the Somerset Quantock Hills. They published anonymously at first, fearful of the consequences, but the power of the work soon won over many fellow poets and English poetry was changed forever. He was appointed Poet Laureate in his later years.
To celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth we are sharing five of his poems, all from the early flowering of this genius. He was above all a believer in the power of nature and the importance it has for us. He has much to teach us as we realise what we are losing through the damage to (and separation from) our natural world. The poems for each day this week are from the early part of his life, all written between 1798 and 1802.
We'll add the poems to this page each day so that the latest poem appears first.