Poesie: Wordsworth’s Daffodils

Cherish your memories.

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

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Not exactly a host of daffodils, but enough to remind us of Wordsworth’s well-known poem.  Methinks it’s message is really rather relevant in this day and age.

Poesie: March Thoughts

Daffy-down-dilly is come up to town, / In her yellow petticoat and her green gown.

When daffodils begin to peer,
With hey the doxy over the dale,
Why then comes in the sweet of the year
And the red blood reigns in the winter’s pale.

~ William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

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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.

~ William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

march eggs

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
The snowdrop and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet;
And their breath was mixed with sweet-odour sent
from the turf like the voice and the instrument.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

violets shelley

All poems and drawings are taken from Edith Holden’s “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady”, first published in 1977.  A delightful book!

Poesie: Landor’s I Strove with None

These lines are a heroic quatrain in more than one sense. Such pure stoicism is rare in English.

In 1849, Walter Savage Landor wrote this epitaph for himself on his 74th birthday.

I Strove with None

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife:
Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art:
I warmed both hands before the fire of Life;
It sinks; and I am ready to depart.

from The Last Fruit off an Old Tree

~ Walter Savage Landor (1775 – 1864)

Poesie: Scott’s Proud Maisie

I guess here’s what you might get if no-one seems good enough.

Incidentally, Sir Walter Scott is responsible for the modern meaning of the word ‘glamour’, thus removing from the word its original connection with enchantment and magic.  Did you know ‘glamour’ comes from the word ‘grammar’?  Would it have changed your attitude towards learning grammar in school, had you known?

Proud Maisie

Proud Maisie is in the wood,
Walking so early;
Sweet Robin sits on the bush,
Singing so rarely.

“Tell me, thou bonny bird,
When shall I marry me?”—
“When six braw gentlemen
Kirkward shall carry ye.”

“Who makes the bridal bed,
Birdie, say truly?”—
“The gray-headed sexton
That delves the grave duly.

“The glowworm o’er grave and stone
Shall light thee steady;
The owl from the steeple sing,
‘Welcome, proud lady.'”

~ Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), from The Heart of Midlothian

Poesie: Wordsworth’s The World Is Too Much with Us

The form of this Wordsworthian sonnet refers back to 16th and 17th century sonnets, much like the reference to Proteus recalls Milton’s description of the Old Man of the Sea, and Triton Spenser’s figure of the sea-god.

It is almost silly to introduce William Wordsworth, this 18th/19th century English poet who was so much in love with nature.  Here is what I learned from him:  He and his sister re-used their tea leaves three times before they passed them on to their poorer neighbors to use.  Surely I do not need to use fresh tea leaves every time I brew tea, do I now?

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 wreathèd horn.

~ William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Poesie: Blake’s Hear the Voice of the Bard

A Bard used to be much more than a mere wordsmith.

Hear the Voice of the Bard

Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who present, past, and future sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word,
That walked among the ancient trees,

Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen, light renew!

‘O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.

‘Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day.’

~ William Blake

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In medieval Gaelic and Welsh society, a bard was a professional poet, employed to compose eulogies for his lord. In other Indo-European societies, the same function was fulfilled by skalds, rhapsodes, minstrels and scops, among others.  A hereditary caste of professional poets in Proto-Indo-European society has been reconstructed by comparison of the position of poets in medieval Ireland and in ancient India in particular.  Bards were those who sang the songs recalling tribal history, family history and genealogies in Celtic societies.  The pre-Christian Celtic peoples maintained an intricate oral history committed to memory and transmitted by bards.

 

William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker.  Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered one of the most important poets and visual artists of the Romantic Age.

Poesie: Cowper’s Poplar Field

Trees aren’t just still standing timber. Not even poplars.

The Poplar Field

The poplars are felled, farewell to the shade
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade:
The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.

Twelve years have elapsed since I first took a view
Of my favourite field, and the bank where they grew,
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade.

The blackbird has fled to another retreat
Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat;
And the scene where his melody charmed me before
Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.

My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast and a stone at my head,
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.

‘Tis a sight to engage me, if anything can,
To muse on the perishing pleasures of man;
Short-lived as we are, our enjoyments, I see,
Have a still shorter date, and die sooner than we.

~ William Cowper

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William Cowper (26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800) was an English poet and hymnodist. Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside, thus becoming one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry.  He was one of the most popular poets of his time.

Poesie: Collins’ How Sleep the Brave

William Collins (1721–1759) was a gifted and learned poet, but had to content with unfavorable circumstances and work amid uncongenial surroundings.  Melancholy was his companion, and by the time he died, he was classified as insane.

This poem is also known as William Collins‘ Ode Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746.  In 1745 and early 1746, the British army suffered defeat in one battle in Belgium and two in Scotland.  How Sleep the Brave

How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
By all their country’s wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallow’d mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy’s feet have ever trod.

By fairy hands their knell is rung;
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair
To dwell, a weeping hermit, there!

~ William Collins (1721–1759)

WilliamCollinsPoet
The only known portrait of William Collins

Poesie: Pope’s Know Then Thyself

Alexander Pope was most successful as a translator of Homer, but his reputation stems from his genius as a satirist, mostly. He was also among the finest epistolary poets in English.

This is but the first part of Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man: Epistle II”.  In this first part, the master satirist lays out how man in his pride constantly makes a fool of himself.  The second part of the epistle deals with how man can remedy his own folly.  If you feel browbeaten enough and want to know Pope solutions, head over to the PoetryFoundation for the complete Epistle II.

Know Then Thyself

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Skeptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d, or disabus’d;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the Sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his follow’rs trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the Sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule —
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal Man unfold all Nature’s law,
Admir’d such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And showed a Newton as we shew an ape.

Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
Explain his own beginning, or his end?
Alas what wonder! Man’s superior part
Uncheck’d may rise, and climb from art to art;
But when his own great work is but begun,
What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone.

~ Alexander Pope

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