Thursday, January 3, 2013

Aimless Reading: The W's, Part 32.1 (William Wordsworth)

Selected Poems
Wordsworth, William
Selected Poems

Purchased at the Niagara Falls outlet mall discount bookstore.

In the two college courses that I took on the the Romantics, we used a thick, sturdy, expensive hardcover anthology. Even in 1990 I think it cost thirty dollars, which was a lot for a book. I am not sure you can even order it anymore, which is a shame, as it happens to be a great anthology: comprehensive, well-chosen, nicely set.

There are very few collections of 18th and 19th century poets that are readable. Either they are overloaded with footnotes and critical analysis or they are crammed into small formats that force all kinds of typographic compromises on the poems. One of my regrets in life is that I sold it back to the bookstore.

As these things go, the Penguin selected is pretty good. It's fairly thorough, although there is no good reason for them not to have published the entirety of The Prelude, at least one version. It's not that long, and it's kind of essential. And it would let me get rid of my Norton Critical edition, which is an absolute nightmare to read, unless you happen to be a textual scholar, which, ahem, I am not.

I few years ago I used this to memorize the entirety of Tintern Abbey. It took two weeks of practicing everyday. I was able to recite it start to finish about five times before I moved on to something else. It disappeared from my memory almost immediately.

I can remember the content of the poem, but not the order of the words. I also memorized all of Keats' Odes. I can recite pretty close to the entirety of "Ode to a Nightingale" still, which is no small feat, but the rest disappeared rather quickly.

This may have to do with the fact that I studied that poem thoroughly at a younger age and so still retained some of it from twenty years ago. I didn't much like Wordsworth in college, making this a kind of first go at his work, which I have come to appreciate more than I did then.

It may also have to do with the fact that Ode is written in digestible stanzas that I can visualize when I recite it, where as Tintern Abbey is more prose-y, with relatively few stanzas (not to mention it's about twice as long as the other).

Somethings we remember, others we don't. Not much use ascribing meaning to such things, I guess.

from Selected Poems


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. 

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