Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eye of the Beholder

I'm sure you've heard the expression "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Beauty, yes. And so much more. I think meaning is in the eye of the beholder. Nowadays, poets such as Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver and others prefer to consider and portray ordinary experiences and ordinary things in their poems in extraordinary ways. For instance, here is a poem by Ted Kooser titled "Tattoo":

TATTOO

What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

Or consider this splendid little gem by Billy Collins:


Some Days


Some days I put the people in their places at the table,
bend their legs at the knees,
if they come with that feature,
and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs.

All afternoon they face one another,
the man in the brown suit,
the woman in the blue dress,
perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved.

But other days, I am the one
who is lifted up by the ribs,
then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse
to sit with the others at the long table.

Very funny,
but how would you like it
if you never knew from one day to the next
if you were going to spend it

striding around like a vivid god,
your shoulders in the clouds,
or sitting down there amidst the wallpaper,
staring straight ahead with your little plastic face?


Poetry is so great, isn't it? Here's one more. This one's by Mary Oliver:

Breakage

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.


Such eyes they have. Such capacity to see beauty. And how nice of them to take the time to put their vision into such clever little things for us.

Of course, beauty may be other than what is easy to observe. For instance, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. It's been nearly 30 years since they've been on TV. But, if you watch the 2004 Disney production titled "Miracle", you may see beauty in the determination of the coach to prepare the team to beat the Soviets who had dominated Olympic hockey since the 60s.

Or consider the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Initially, the Court was weak when compared to Congress and the President. The Justices first met in an official capacity early in 1790, and it wasn't until 1792 that they heard and decided their first case. Until 1801 or so, Congress and the President had nothing to fear when it came to having limits imposed on their powers by the judicial branch. That changed after President John Adams
appointed John Marshall to the position of Chief Justice in 1801. At least one judicial scholar regards Marshall as the Babe Ruth of Supreme Court justices. No other Chief Justice has served longer than Marshall's 34 years. During his tenure, the U.S. Supreme Court became much stronger than it had been - some would even say that today it is the strongest branch of U.S. government - chiefly by claiming for itself the powers to A) interpret the Constitution and B) determine the constitutionality of laws passed by the U.S. Congress and by the state legislatures. I think there is great beauty in the growth of power seen in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. I think this beauty constitutes reason for existentialists, among others, to rejoice: men are capable of living within legal limits imposed by themselves.

I've got to change the subject a bit before I begin to sound too naive or optimistic. Who trusts an optimist? Anyway, in recent decades, some people regard the American experiment to be in its death throes. Men seek office not to serve a constituency but to see if they can achieve their vision or some portion of it. Such men want to win at any cost. Of course, when they embrace such an ambition they have already lost themselves. They are then in the service of an ideal they neither created nor control, perhaps confusing their commitment with that of a happy, successful marriage. In addition, some people regard the so-called "fourth estate" - the media - as impotent, toothless, incapable of effecting any meaningful change. I beg to differ.

The way I see it, the media create for citizens something like George Orwell's "Big Brother"; however, the ones being monitored are not the general population but the people elected and appointed to office. I mean, people in Czechoslovakia, for instance, could not believe it when "Dr. Strangelove" was produced and shown in the U.S. Likewise, what a tribute to the media that A) the Watergate break-in could be exposed and that B) David Frost could interview President Nixon and ascertain for viewers everywhere the arrogance that otherwise may have escaped history books. Fast-forward to 16 October 2007 when the PBS series "Frontline" aired an episode titled "Cheney's Law" and featured the Vice-President's collusion with attorneys. According to the program, Cheney wanted to restore to the Presidency what he saw as the beautiful, dignified importance of the power of the office of the President of the United States which, according to Cheney, had been lost after Nixon's resignation. Viewers need not have a law degree or pass the bar exam to recognize arrogance.

By keeping your heart and mind open, you can find beauty all around you.




Only you can improve the audience for poetry.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Simic and Sudoku

Sometime in the mid 90s, my friend Al (Hellus) - God rest his soul - told me about Charles Simic. On Al's recommendation, I read Simic's Pulitzer Prize-winning (prose) poems in The World Doesn't End. I was blown away. I thought they were great. I'd never read poems that twisted logic to its own ends like that before.

Since then, I've talked to other poets who say of these poems that they "don't get them". I understand that because, the first time - at least the first time - I read the poems, I often didn't know what to make of them either. More than half of the poems are untitled. Clearly though, the poems feature recurring atmospheric elements such as life after wartime, barking dogs, poverty and an overhanging sense of a distant governing authority that may use force to obtain the cooperation of the governed. Occasionally a poem will allude somehow to art and/or literature.

More recently I read the 51 poems in Simic's book of poems (2005, Harcourt) titled my noiseless entourage. In these poems, Simic continues to twist logic according to the needs of his poems. Gone, however, are the atmospheric elements of life after wartime, barking dogs, poverty and the sense of a ruling stultifying political power. And each poem has a title.

To Simic's would-be readers who "don't get" his poems, I recommend reading my noiseless entourage before The World Doesn't End. Here is the initial poem of my noiseless entourage:

Description of a Lost Thing

by Charles Simic

It never had a name,
Nor do I remember how I found it.
I carried it in my pocket
Like a lost button
Except it wasn't a button.

Horror movies,
All-night cafeterias,
Dark barrooms
And poolhalls,
On rain-slicked streets.

It led a quiet, unremarkable existence
Like a shadow in a dream,
An angel on a pin,
And then it vanished.
The years passed with their row

Of nameless stations,
Till somebody told me this is it!
And fool that I was,
I got off on an empty platform
With no town in sight.

Now, what if, instead of going after the meaning of this poem with hammer and tongs, we use instead our powers of inference, conjecture and surmise? Our initial inference is likely to be that the lost thing is small enough to fit in his pocket. Because I've read enough poems by Simic, my conjecture at the end of the first stanza is that the poem is not going to tell me what the lost thing is. But I see at that point that three stanzas remain. As I continue reading, I keep an eye open for what else might be going on, since the lost thing is probably not going to matter much to this poem. Immediately (2nd stanza) the reader is given several places where the lost thing was taken as a matter of course, being part or parcel of the speaker. Then (3rd stanza) we learn that the lost thing did not draw attention to itself but was small and quiet. The poem ends (4th stanza) by telling how life has been for the one who lost the thing and does not mention any more the lost thing.

We can surmise a generosity on the part of the speaker of the poem. At some point, the speaker took the time to notice a seemingly insignificant thing which was then kept for some time in a pocket. Although the thing was small and quiet, the speaker remembers it and composes this poem on its behalf. We can also surmise a sense of humility on the part of the speaker. When "somebody" tells him "this is it!" he disembarks onto "an empty platform/With no town in sight." Because of this, he regards himself as foolish. But we know he isn't stupid by the way he talks about the years passing as a ride on a train. It is neither similie nor metaphor. We might call it surrealism. In Simic's poetry, there's a lot more where that came from.

If you enjoy solving Sudoku puzzles, I'm sure you've noticed that inference, conjecture and surmise are also useful for solving those puzzles. In my writing here, I haven't included any wrong inferences, conjectures or surmises I made while reading "Description of a Lost Thing". That doesn't mean I didn't make any. Part of the fun of reading Simic's poems is figuring out what's important and what isn't so important. As with Sudoku, sometimes one has to erase incorrect interpretations of Simic poems before arriving at a satisfying understanding.


Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is Poetry?

I didn't think anyone else could be more enthused for poetry than I am, but I may have met my match in Charles Ghigna. He teaches kids how to understand and write poems. A brief introduction to poetry that Charles wrote is online at the Poetry Teachers website. Here is an excerpt from that introduction - which he titled "What Is Poetry?":

Poetry is a natural part of our lives. It's not just something we have to memorize and recite in front of the class. Losing ourselves in a poem is one of the best ways of finding out who we are. The act of writing brings us to that point of discovery, of discovering on the page something we didn't know we knew until we wrote it.

Read the full introduction at the Poetry Teachers website.

Toward the end of his introduction, Charles included a few poems of his own to illustrate ballad stanzas. Here is one of them:

A POEM IS A LITTLE PATH

A poem is a little path
That leads you through the trees.
It takes you to the cliffs and shores,
To anywhere you please.

Follow it and trust your way
With mind and heart as one,
And when the journey's over,
You'll find you've just begun.


Find out more about Charles Ghigna at his website.

In your poetry reading, I wish you A) happy trails and B) many happy returns!







Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Coffee at Home

One of my favorite poets, William Stafford (pictured at right), wrote a poem called "A Day at Home". Here it is:

A Day at Home
by William Stafford

On the near pine rain hangs
the way I suppose it hangs
on the far.

Being yourself, you are always
on time - right where your kind
of person should be.

Why not wait here while the rest
of the world happens? It is better as
history than it is as news.

The dog, his head on the coffee table,
gazes tranquilly, resting his chin
on a volume of Martin Buber.


I especially like the rhetorical question - "Why not wait here while the rest/of the world happens?" and then what seems like an offhand remark: "It is better as/history than it is as news." And perhaps it is meant to be taken as a casual, offhand remark. Off course, in poetry, what seems like an offhand remark makes our ears perk up.

If you are willing to wait "while the rest of the world happens", consider what that reveals about you. It means you are willing to take yourself out of the picture, so to speak. It means that you are willing to consider whether the world is better as history or as news.

The rhetorical question and the offhand remark constitute nothing less than an invitation to an intellectual discussion. But there's more: the last stanza illustrates animal nature at ease with profundities such as those available in the writings of Martin Buber (1878 - 1965), a Jew so highly respected that the Nazis did not kill him - a fact that becomes especially interesting when you consider that Buber was known for his "philosophical dialogue". He believed in an apolitical Zionism. Even more, he believed in Hasidism.

I prefer here to focus on Stafford's poetics rather than on issues we may or may not be able to find in Stafford's poems. Consider, in contrast to the hospitality of "A Day at Home", the fiercely private posturing in the often-anthologized "Ask Me":

Ask Me
by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.

What the river says, that is what I say.


What seems at first an entirely cold facade turns out to be a very nice (i.e., thoughtful and engaging) way of saying "wait and see".

In the spirit of hospitality, I offer the reader the following poem by Derek Walcott and also a series of pictures I took at home the other day.

Love After Love
by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.













































































"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
Ri
ver Junction Poets Mission Statement

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Reading writing ... equals literacy

The recent article I wrote on my blog, Our Educational System, spurred me on to re-examine how this system affects our young students and their skills. As a social worker who worked in our system in public high schools with teens from 13 to 21 years old for 16 years and then worked with pre-k children for another 5 years, I’d like to share what I learned about our children and their skills. This necessitates a comparison.
Back when I was in school we had five classes per grade, beginning with the number 1 class and proceeding to the number 5 class. Thus, there was 1-1, 2-1 etc. Logically speaking one would have thought that the 5 class would have been the slowest and the number 1 would have been the fast learners, however in my school, the 1 class was the “quick learners” and the number 2 class was the "health education class," which included wheelchair bound children and very slow learners. What really was strange was that everyone knew how to read albeit some read more slowly than others. Also everyone eventually learned to write as well. The slower learners weren’t as good with grammar and spelling and for many of the slower learners, spelling and grammar problems remained. I was always in the number 1 class as I was very precocious and generally learned anything to do with reading or writing very fast. My deficits were about where things are, so maps and map memorization was a problem for me. There were always more than 30 children in each class. In those days, my neighborhood, Washington Heights, (now called Hudson Heights by all the realtors) had many foreigners.
The difference is that they were from many places, not like now when there are a handful of Russians and mostly Dominicans. There was a great influx of Puerto Ricans and Greeks to my area, and people from Russia and other Slavic nations (the nations now have since changed names). From the time when I was very young, all my teachers complained that I couldn’t keep quiet. Any foreigner was seated next to me and usually learned English quickly as I would share my notes and help them. This situation also seems unique now.
The first 5 years I worked with pregnant teens in high schools, I learned that over half of our students could not write a proper sentence. About half could write within two years of their grade level. About another quarter could write with many spelling and grammatical errors but the words would make sense. And the last quarter or 20% could not logically string one sentence to the next to write a cohesive paragraph on any given subject matter – even on one they know about. For example, if they were asked to write a paragraph on who is their favorite rapper and why, only half of them could do this successfully.
I was dismayed to observe how poor their writing, reading and comprehension skills were. Teenagers 15 years old were writing at what I judged to be a second or third grade level. At this time, some of the high schools I worked at tried to get around this issue by teaching their youngsters to think and to argue out a point verbally. The principals applied for waivers from the state so the children could do a series of oral defenses and speeches instead of taking regents, where they learned to argue a thesis from beginning to end. I was impressed by what I saw but still, again, there was at least 40% who could not keep up to the regiment or structure and this was in spite of the judges trying hard to be very lenient. I wondered why our society had changed this much from the time I was a teen to now and I still don’t have an answer.
I have met writers too who are good writers, and they cannot spell and don’t know proper grammar. Professional agents and book companies have told me, that they feel basic academic writing skill is unnecessary and unimportant. They say, what is important is that the person write well or rhyme well. I can round this out by adding that they will further say that's why they hire someone like me to do the editing and clean it up. And the weird thing here is that I know how to make street lit sound street lit enough and put in enough modernisms to make it a go on both sides too. White people and everyone else in the public schools now write Ebonics if they write at all. Proper writing is a dying skill today.
A few years back, a young man was sent to me from 9th grade. I was told to find out how he had gotten to this grade and couldn’t read or write at all. I did as I was told and apparently, he was such a sweet personality, that no one had paid attention to the fact that he couldn’t read an entire sentence. Even when given a children’s book for 5 to 7 year olds, he could barely read any of the words. OK, I admit this is unusual, but not as unusual as it seems. I have also met special education students who could barely write, but who could spout beautiful rhymes instantaneously apparently effortlessly as well.
I grew up without a television. Our radio broke when I was about 6 and wasn’t replaced for a few years. Books was my only entertainment, without which, I would have suffered even more than I did. As I tell everyone, my childhood was fraught with anxiety and despair. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was a few months old and the first year of my life welfare sent a series of caregivers to care for us so my dad could go to work. My mom was in hospital for about 6 months. We were have-nots in every way. I had two dolls which I had been given after I’d turned 6. I washed my own clothes and ironed them at 7 years old. Sorry, I wish I knew what childhood meant. One sister liked to play teacher and I learned to read and write to please her originally. I was reading and writing at 4 years old. I read and wrote for love.
Obviously I have no idea where this dilemma of our literacy is headed but one place it is headed is to put the entire onus for literacy on the teachers in the way of statistics like I described in the previous article. I also think that perhaps our society is going to return to a previous age when letter writers got paid and people got paid to read to others too. In the middle ages there was a particular class of people that were paid to perform this service for the general populace. Hey if I live long enough I can be one of those people. I urge you to talk to our teachers about this, talk to each other – you’ll see I’m not exaggerating.

Also check out this fascinating stuff:
John Taylor Gatto and his official website


"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
Ri
ver Junction Poets Mission Statement

William Wordsworth Study Questions


Penguin Editions has a nice volume of Wordsworth's Selected Poems that includes a twenty-page introduction, notes to poems and an index. I didn't know how important Plato's idea of pre-existence was to Wordsworth until I read about him and his poetry. I also didn't know about his skill with linguistics and rhetoric until I read about him and his poetry. Here is a brief selection of his most-anthologized poems along with a few questions to help get discussion started. We used some of this in our meeting last night.

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.

  • What role, if any, does memory play in this poem?

  • How does Wordsworth's "poetry of nature" in this poem transform itself into the "poetry of self-consciousness"?

The following is excerpted from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Gray

Lucy Gray is not one of Wordsworth's “Lucy” poems, even though it is a poem that mentions a character named Lucy. The poem is excluded from the series because the traditional "Lucy" poems are uncertain about the age of Lucy and her actual relationship with the narrator, and Lucy Gray provides exact details on both. Furthermore, the poem is different than the "Lucy" poems in that it relies on narrative storytelling and is a direct imitation of the traditional 18th century ballad form.

The narrator begins the poem by stating:

Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray:
And, when I crossed the wild,
I chanced to see at break of day
The solitary child. (lines 1–4)

She may be, as the narrator claims, the "sweetest thing that ever grew" (line 6), but she is dead, as the narrator explains:

But the sweet face of Lucy Gray
Will never more be seen. (lines 11–12)

The narrator transitions to say that she was told to "take a lantern, Child, to light/Your mother through the snow" (lines 15–16), to which she agrees. She left, and

The storm came on before its time:
She wandered up and down;
And many a hill did Lucy climb:
But never reached the town. (lines 29–32)

Her parents attempted to search for her, and

At day-break on a hill they stood
That overlooked the moor;
And thence they saw the bridge of wood,
A furlong from their door.
They wept—and, turning homeward, cried,
"In heaven we all shall meet;"
When in the snow the mother spied
The print of Lucy's feet. (lines 37–44)

They followed the footprints throughout the area,

And to the bridge they came.
They followed from the snowy bank
Those footmarks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank;
And further there were none! (lines 52–56)

Although she is probably dead, the narrator explains that her spirit, according to superstition, can still be seen:

Yet some maintain that to this day
She is a living child;
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonesome wild.
O'er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind. (lines 57–64)
  • What role, if any, does memory play in this poem? Compare to “I Wandered...”

  • Why is it important to Wordsworth's speaker that Lucy is solitary? What is the value of solitariness?


Questions for discussion of “A Few Lines Composed above Tintern Abbey”

  • See line 40 - why has the world become "unintelligible" to the speaker? What has happened to him over time?

  • What is the difference between the pleasure the speaker took in nature as a child and the pleasure he draws from it now? What does the poet gain from his reflections on the past?

  • What is the role of "affective memory" in "Tintern Abbey"? How, in other words, does this kind of memory help Wordsworth's lyric speaker first to recognize his problem and then to resolve it?

The following is excerpted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intimations_of_immortality_from_recollections_of_early_childhood

"Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood" is a long ode in eleven sections by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. It is a deeply philosophical work, with themes ranging from the Platonic belief in pre-existence, to Wordsworth's belief that children have an instinctive wisdom that adults lack. Composed at Grasmere, in the English Lake District, between 1802 and 1804, "Intimations of Immortality" was first published in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). Arranged in eleven stanzas of anywhere from eight to forty lines each, the poem is written in anisometric verse, with lines of varied iambic stresses.

Wordsworth applies memories of his early childhood to his adult philosophy of life. According to the author's prose introduction, "Intimations of Immortality" was inspired in part by Platonic philosophy. Plato taught pre-existence, meaning that the soul dwelled in an ideal alternate state prior to its present occupation of the body, and the soul will return to that ideal previous state after the body's death. The immortality the title refers to is the immortality of the soul, which Wordsworth maintains is felt or intimated during early childhood. Hence Wordsworth's famous line: "The Child is Father of the Man."

"Intimations of Immortality" begins with the speaker recalling how nature and "every common sight" once seemed divine to him. In Stanza II, he reminds himself that rainbows and the like are still "beautiful and fair" to him, but nevertheless he feels "there hath past [passed] away a glory from the earth." In Stanza III, he feels that no private grief can diminish the joyous quality of nature. He feels nature's joy in the fourth stanza, but the feeling quickly fades.

In Stanza V, Wordsworth begins to philosophize in earnest. "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting," he says, for our souls originate in a purer, more glorious realm: heaven itself. Small children retain some memory of paradise, which glorifies their experiences on earth, but youths begin to lose it, and adults, distracted by earthly concerns, entirely forget it (Stanza VI).

Next, the speaker observes a six-year-old boy mimicking adult behavior in his play, "as if his whole vocation / Were endless imitation." In Stanza VIII, the speaker addresses the child, wondering why he, "thou best Philosopher" and "Mighty Prophet," imitates adult behavior as though he were eager to hasten "the inevitable yoke" of earthly cares and customs ("freight").

In the ninth stanza, the speaker rejoices that his memories of childhood ("those shadowy recollections" that "are yet a master light of all our seeing") remain to inspire him. In the tenth stanza, he calls on the birds to sing and the lambs to bound, to share his joy. Instead of mourning the loss of childhood innocence and wisdom, the speaker vows to "find / Strength in what remains behind" and to develop a mature "philosophic mind", 'which stems from a consciousness of mortality, as opposed to the child's feeling of immortality.'

Wordsworth sums up his philosophy in the final stanza (XI). His mature mind, he says, 'enables him to love nature and natural beauty all the more, for each of nature's objects can stir him to thought, and even the simplest flower blowing in the wind can raise in him "thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."'

Stirringly written with 'linguistic strategies [that] are extraordinarily sophisticated and complex', "Intimations of Immortality" is Wordsworth's 'mature masterpiece' reflecting his belief that 'life on earth is a dim shadow of an earlier, purer existence, dimly recalled in childhood and then forgotten in the process of growing up.'

  • What two kinds of self-consciousness are described in "Intimations of Immortality"? Which type is more desirable? Why?

  • What differences, if any, do you find in this ode's "affective resolution" compared to the one in "Tintern Abbey"?



Three Years She Grew

Three years she grew in sun and shower,

Then Nature said, "A lovelier flower

On earth was never sown;

This Child I to myself will take;

She shall be mine, and I will make

A Lady of my own.


"Myself will to my darling be

Both law and impulse: and with me

The Girl, in rock and plain,

In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,

Shall feel an overseeing power

To kindle or restrain.


"She shall be sportive as the fawn

That wild with glee across the lawn

Or up the mountain springs;

And hers shall be the breathing balm,

And hers the silence and the calm

Of mute insensate things.


"The floating clouds their state shall lend

To her; for her the willow bend;

Nor shall she fail to see

Even in the motions of the Storm

Grace that shall mould the Maiden's form

By silent sympathy.


"The stars of midnight shall be dear

To her; and she shall lean her ear

In many a secret place

Where rivulets dance their wayward round,

And beauty born of murmuring sound

Shall pass into her face.


"And vital feelings of delight

Shall rear her form to stately height,

Her virgin bosom swell;

Such thoughts to Lucy I will give

While she and I together live

Here in this happy dell."


Thus Nature spake—The work was done—

How soon my Lucy's race was run!

She died, and left to me

This heath, this calm and quiet scene;

The memory of what has been,

And never more will be.

  • What will be the relationship between the child and nature? Is it a different one than is posited for the speaker? If so, how?

Questions from http://www.ajdrake.com/e212_spr_05/materials/authors/wordsworth_w_sq.htm accessed 1 April 2009.



Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry.