Tags: wordsworth

Daffodils

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

Of late, while walking about the neighborhood with my sweetheart, I've been spying daffodils in bloom here and there. The rest of my post is a reprise from April of 2010, with a bit of tweaking.

Some of you may know this poem as "Daffodils", though that's not its actual name; its real name is "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", and it's an extremely popular, much-anthologized poem.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth

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.


Form: Each stanza has 6 lines, is written in iambic tetrameter (four iambic feet per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), and has a rhyme scheme of ABABCC; this form, essentially an open form in "sixain" (six lines to a stanza), was first developed by Shakespeare in "Venus and Adonis", and was later used by Wordsworth in this poem, which he wrote in 1804.

Discussion: If you read this one aloud, it is easy to fall into a "pause-at-the-end-of-each-line" mentality, as a means of emphasizing the rhyme scheme, but this is something you SHOULD NOT DO, because you will be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the rhythm and sing-song rhyme effect you achieve, and you will not truly hear the poem. Don't believe me?Here's the first stanza written out with pauses only where they naturally occur:

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.


My point is, if you go back and read the poem aloud, following the punctuation, you will be able to better hear what Wordsworth is saying. And while references to nature and use of metaphor are common devices in modern poetry, they are used in part because Wordsworth came along and wrote in the way that he did, with a reverence for and appreciation of nature, and with a focus on emotional response to nature and other stimuli. As a result, Wordsworth is widely credited as being one of the first poets in the Romantic era, along with his friend Coleridge, whose poems were included in the 1798 publication Lyrical Ballads, which I referenced in a now-old quoteskimming post.

Today's poem is one of the best-loved and most well-known in the English language, and that is with good reason: its imagery is lovely, its rhyme and metre make it easy to memorize, and the story it tells (of seeing something beautiful and unexpected in nature and reliving it in memory) is one that resonates with a lot of people.

Wordsworth also looks at psychological aspects of memory here - he relates the actual story of his walk with his sister, Dorothy, and their happenining upon a large swath of daffodils by a lake. But the point isn't that he took a walk and saw daffodils; it's the emotional journey he took (from loneliness to happiness), and the effect of the memory of the daffodils on his present mood. At the time he wrote the poem, he was breaking new ground, although it may seem tame to some now. But I rather think that those who take the time to read the poem aloud will not think it tame, but will instead take the journey along with Wordsworth from lonely wandering to a happy view of blinding yellow daffodils to an appreciation of the joy the memory must hold.

Speaking of Dorothy Wordsworth, she accompanied her brother most everywhere he went, and she was a poet as well as a diligent diarist. Wordsworth is believed to have relied on her diaries when calling up details to write some of his poems. Here, for instance, is Dorothy's journal entry from the excursion with her brother when they saw daffodils by the lake:

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It's pretty obvious that Wordsworth and his sister observed the same field of flowers, not just because we know that they were together when they came upon the lake and its flowers, but also because their writings share some other commonalities, such as the description of the daffodils dancing in the wind. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but I rather think not. I also think that it's possible that Mr. Wordsworth relied on his sister's diaries when writing his poems. Which he wrote and then gave to her for transcription, where it's possible and even likely that she made some revisions of her own. Just saying.




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How can I find words? Poets have taken t

All sonnets, all the time - a National Poetry Month celebration

Well, hello there!

I've decided that for National Poetry Month, which started today, I'm going to post a sonnet a day. Not always (or even usually) an original one, but still . . . a sonnet each day in April.

For today, I'll begin by linking to a post I wrote in 2005, in which I explain the sonnet form (14 lines, in one of two basic rhyme schemes, one of which has wrinkles). In case you're interested in writing one yourself or deconstructing the ones you read, this post is for you.

And I'll follow with "Scorn Not the Sonnet" by William Wordsworth:

Scorn Not the Sonnet
by William Wordsworth

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakspeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
With it Camöens soothed an exile's grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faeryland
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains--alas, too few!


In these 14 lines, which he claimed were "composed, almost extempore, in a short walk on the western side of Rydal Lake," Wordsworth has provided a brief bibliography of the masters of the sonnet, beginning with Shakesepare, moving throughout Europe, and ending with John Milton.

Francesco Petrarch was a Renaissance man -- literally. He's known as the father of humanism, in addition to being a scholar and poet. He fell in love with a woman named Laura from afar (while in church, no less), and wrote 366 poems about her, eventually collected by others and called Il Canzoniere. He used a form of the sonnet inherited from Giacamo da Lentini, which became known as the Petrarchan or Italianate sonnet. (Poor Lentini.) I covered the different types of sonnets in an earlier post.

Torquato Tasso was a 16th-century Italian poet most famous for his epic work, Gerusalemme Liberata, an epic poem about the battle between Christians and Muslims for Jerusalem in the First Crusades. He was welcomed by many royal patrons, but suffered from mental illness that prevented his enjoying it. Based on modern psychology, it would seem he was schizophrenic.

Luís de Camões, usually rendered in English as Camöens, was Portugal's greatest poet. Born in the 16th century, he wrote an epic poem called Os Lusídas about the glory of Portugal, along with a significant amount of lyrical poetry, including a great number of sonnets, ranging from a paraphrased version of the book of Job to poems about ideas (akin to what Wordsworth excelled at).

Dante Alighieri's life spanned the transition between the 13th and 14th centuries. His masterwork, La Commedia ("The Divine Comedy"), continues to be a source of inspiration for artists, authors and poets, even seven centuries later. The Commedia was broken into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, and features in part his beloved Beatrice, who was immortalised in another work, La Vita Nuova, from which I quoted in a post after my grandmother's death. (My guess is that the name Beatrice was chosen by Daniel Handler to be Lemony Snicket's unrequited love based on Dante's writings.)

Edmund Spenser was Poet Laureate of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. His most famous work is The Faerie Queene, which was essentially a huge sycophantic poem for the Queen and her Tudor ancestry. He was venerated by Wordsworth, Byron and others alive at the turn of the 19th century. For those fans of the 1995 movie version of Sense & Sensibility, the lines which Colonel Brandon reads to Marianne near the end are from The Faerie Queen.

John Milton was a 17th-century poet known for his epic poems written in blank verse*, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes. Milton was opposed to the monarchy, and supported the republican ideas of Thomas Cromwell, which went swimmingly for him until the Restoration, when he was forced to go into hiding. He emerged after a general pardon was issued, only to be arrested. He was eventually released, and died a free man. During the course of his life, Milton went blind, probaby from glaucoma; as a result, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes were all dictated to others. Although they are frequently construed as religious works, Milton was writing about the revolution and restoration; his religious beliefs were outside the bounds of Christianity. In addition to his work in blank verse, Milton wrote a number of excellent sonnets, which were revered by Wordsworth and others.

*blank verse is the term for unrhymed iambic pentameter, used by Milton in his masterworks, by Shakespeare in his plays, and by many others as well. It remained quite popular as a means of composing verse until at least the late 19th century.


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Emma and Knightley

Emma, Volume III, Chapter 13 (Chapter 49)



Jane Austen and the Romantic Movement

I promise we'll get to the "good stuff" in just a minute, but first, I wanted to take a brief moment to appreciate the Romantic nature of the start of this chapter. And I refer here to the movement known as romanticism, defined by Merriam-Webster as:

a literary, artistic, and philosophical movement originating in the 18th century, characterized chiefly by a reaction against neoclassicism and an emphasis on the imagination and emotions, and marked especially in English literature by sensibility and the use of autobiographical material, an exaltation of the primitive and the common man, an appreciation of external nature, an interest in the remote, a predilection for melancholy, and the use in poetry of older verse forms

Let's look at the first few sentences of the first paragraph, shall we? (I will assume that you agreed. If not, skip on down to the rest of the post.)

The weather continued much the same all the following morning; and the same loneliness, and the same melancholy, seemed to reign at Hartfield— but in the afternoon it cleared; the wind changed into a softer quarter; the clouds were carried off; the sun appeared; it was summer again. With all the eagerness which such a transition gives, Emma resolved to be out of doors as soon as possible. Never had the exquisite sight, smell, sensation of nature, tranquil, warm, and brilliant after a storm, been more attractive to her. She longed for the serenity they might gradually introduce; and on Mr Perry's coming in soon after dinner, with a disengaged hour to give her father, she lost no time in hurrying into the shrubbery.

First off, we have an emphasis on setting and weather. We are told that the bad weather of the night before continued for the morning. (In the previous chapter, Austen wrote: "A cold stormy rain set in, and nothing of July appeared but in the trees and shrubs, which the wind was despoiling".) The weather is decidedly echoing Emma's emotions in this (and the prior) chapter, as she mopes about realizing that she is in love with Mr Knightley and fairly convinced that he is not only not in love with her, but also possibly in love with Harriet Smith. But suddenly, the weather clears and becomes balmy and summery again, just in time for Mr Knightley to arrive. It's like he brought that wonderful weather with him. Oh symbolism, how do we love thee? (It will surprise some of you to learn that there are readers who don't think that Austen ever uses symbolism. Or foreshadowing. Or any of the other things we've been discussing as we talk about her books. But there it is.)

Secondly, we have an emphasis on Emma's wanting to be outside, to be soothed by nature - a hallmark of the Romantic movement, as anyone who has read Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads can tell you. For a prior post touching on this, in context with discussing Austen, I refer you to this post. It's not entirely surprising to find this level of romanticism in Austen's work, since the novel she completed immediately prior to Emma was Mansfield Park, which has quite a bit to say about using nature as one's guide (and/or quite a bit to say about Nature versus nurture, where Nature means the out-of-doors and natural sense rather than genetics - but we haven't done Mansfield Park here yet, so I digress).

Mr Knightley is back from London!

Moving on to the "good part" of this chapter, we are immediately told that soon after Emma "hurries into the shrubbery" (love that - she's just walking the paths in the garden, but it sounds so funny the way Austen puts it), Mr Knightley arrives. Emma is, of course, surprised almost to the point of shock, since she thought he was still in London. "She asked after their mutual friends; they were all well.--When had he left them?--Only that morning. He must have had a wet ride.--Yes.--He meant to walk with her, she found."

I love how the characters are at cross-purposes here for a while, each of them operating under a serious misunderstanding as to what the other is thinking and feeling. Emma is certain that Mr Knightley has been telling John Knightley that he means to marry Harriet, and is in a serious mood because it didn't go well, and Mr Knightley is sure that Emma is severely disappointed that Frank Churchill is to marry Jane Fairfax, because he thinks Emma has the hots for Frank. So they sort of dance around each other in a (delightful to the reader) way, trying to suss out what's going on.

When Emma confesses that she didn't see the Churchill/Fairfax marriage coming, Mr Knightley assumes that her sinking voice and sigh represent her own loss and disappointment (and he takes her arm in his - *swoon*). He's correct that Emma is disappointed, but she is disappointed in herself and in her own failure to have seen things clearly. And I think it's a HUGE credit to Emma that she owns up to it to Mr Knightley in detail, telling him what her own failings and misdeeds were - in great detail, no less - and making clear that she wasn't attached to Mr Churchill.

It's noteworthy that once Mr Knightley has processed Emma's words, he starts thinking slightly less ill of Frank Churchill, and expresses hope that perhaps he'll turn out well after all. Later in the chapter, of course, he's ready to wish Frank all the happiness in the world. Jealousy is such an interesting emotion, and writers should take note that Austen has never, ever summarized things by saying "Knightley was/seemed jealous" - she has always showed his resentment and jealousy through detailed conduct and statements. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

What Mr Knightley feels at the minute is no longer jealousy, but envy. Frank Churchill has just landed the woman of his (Frank's) dreams, and appears to be set to get his "happily ever after" (though I must report that according to family lore, Austen told family members that Jane Fairfax only lived a few years after he marriage to Frank Churchill, leaving him widowed much as his own father had been. But I digress). Mr Knightley, it turns out, is envious because he, too, is in love, and he doubts that he's in line for a "happily ever after" anytime soon - if ever. He displays his envy vociferously, in this lengthy paragraph where he lays out Frank Churchill's many shortcomings and the many strokes of luck he's encountered. It is only after his recitation that he confirms that it is, in fact, envy that he feels:

"He is a most fortunate man!" returned Mr Knightley, with energy. "So early in life--at three-and-twenty--a period when, if a man chooses a wife, he generally chooses ill. At three-and-twenty to have drawn such a prize! What years of felicity that man, in all human calculation, has before him!
--Assured of the love of such a woman--the disinterested love, for Jane Fairfax's character vouches for her disinterestedness; every thing in his favour,--equality of situation--I mean, as far as regards society, and all the habits and manners that are important; equality in every point but one--and that one, since the purity of her heart is not to be doubted, such as must increase his felicity, for it will be his to bestow the only advantages she wants.--A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.--Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favorite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good.--He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment--and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.--His aunt is in the way.--His aunt dies.--He has only to speak.--His friends are eager to promote his happiness.--He had used every body ill--and they are all delighted to forgive him.--He is a fortunate man indeed!"

"You speak as if you envied him."

"And I do envy him, Emma. In one respect he is the object of my envy."

We come to the heart of the matter

Emma, of course, thinks Mr Knightley has a thing for Harriet and tries to steer the conversation elsewhere. Mr Knightley, of course, like Harriet Smith and Frank Churchill before him thought about Emma, thinks that Emma sees what his romantic intention is, and wants to head him off because she's not interested. But she realizes that she has just mortified and hurt Mr Knightley, so she resumes the conversation "as a friend," which brings us to Mr Knightley's declaration of love, which is terribly romantic (in the love-sense, not the romanticism sense), because it's swoonily sweet and really a bit out of character for practical man-of-action Knightley:

"As a friend!"--repeated Mr Knightley.--"Emma, that I fear is a word--No, I have no wish--Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?--I have gone too far already for concealment.--Emma, I accept your offer--Extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend.--Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?"

He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.

"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma--tell me at once. Say 'No,' if it is to be said."--She could really say nothing.--"You are silent," he cried, with great animation; "absolutely silent! at present I ask no more."

Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominent feeling.

"I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.--"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.--You hear nothing but truth from me.--I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.--Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.--But you understand me.--Yes, you see, you understand my feelings--and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."(Emphasis is mine.)

Mr Knightley's talking about how he has blamed and lectured her and she has put up with it is often remarked on and is included in all the film versions, but only the Beckinsale/Strong version includes the extremely romantic second part of the idea, which is that he really wants to declare his love to her in some great detail, and he's hoping that she would put up with that just as much. "Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma" means that he's hoping she won't wig out because he's telling her he loves her. So, so, so, so sweet, once you parse it.

Austen then treats us to Emma's thoughts on the matter, which are (as always) lightning-quick. And if you've ever taken a second to figure out your own thoughts in response to something, which can dart it lots of directions really quickly, this rings true, even though textually it's kind of odd to have so very many words between Mr Knightley's words and Emma's response. Here 'tis:

While he spoke, Emma's mind was most busy, and, with all the wonderful velocity of thought, had been able--and yet without losing a word--to catch and comprehend the exact truth of the whole; to see that Harriet's hopes had been entirely groundless, a mistake, a delusion, as complete a delusion as any of her own--that Harriet was nothing; that she was every thing herself; that what she had been saying relative to Harriet had been all taken as the language of her own feelings; and that her agitation, her doubts, her reluctance, her discouragement, had been all received as discouragement from herself.--And not only was there time for these convictions, with all their glow of attendant happiness; there was time also to rejoice that Harriet's secret had not escaped her, and to resolve that it need not, and should not.--It was all the service she could now render her poor friend; for as to any of that heroism of sentiment which might have prompted her to entreat him to transfer his affection from herself to Harriet, as infinitely the most worthy of the two--or even the more simple sublimity of resolving to refuse him at once and for ever, without vouchsafing any motive, because he could not marry them both, Emma had it not. She felt for Harriet, with pain and with contrition; but no flight of generosity run mad, opposing all that could be probable or reasonable, entered her brain. She had led her friend astray, and it would be a reproach to her for ever; but her judgment was as strong as her feelings, and as strong as it had ever been before, in reprobating any such alliance for him, as most unequal and degrading. Her way was clear, though not quite smooth.--She spoke then, on being so entreated.--What did she say?--Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.(Emphasis mine.)

Emma demonstrates to the reader how improved her character is here: she thinks of Harriet, and feels badly for her (coming) disappointment, but she also is really pleased with herself for not having told anyone else that Harriet has a thing for Mr Knightley, because she knows it would have been embarrassing for Harriet's feelings to be exposed and mortifying for Harriet if others knew that Harriet had had the temerity to think she could rise so far above her station in life as to marry him. (And yes, that is every bit as snobbish as it sounds, but it represents the way things were at that time, so Austen wouldn't have thought it snobbish much at all.)

Austen glosses over Emma's reply to Mr Knightley and their subsequent conversation (including the fact that he's a bit confused as to how she can be so enthused about his declaration of love when she so rudely cut him off right before he was about to make it, because she never explains that she thought he might be about to tell her he wanted to marry Harriet) much in the same way that she glossed over Darcy's reaction to Elizabeth's acceptance of his proposal in Pride and Prejudice, where Austen tells us that "[t]he happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do."

Mr Knightley, Man of Action, wins the day

I have to say that as Men of Action go, Mr Knightley is the one who wins in declaring his love in person to his beloved, even though Captain Frederick Wentworth usually gets the winning nod for romance from most Janeites for "the letter", in which he declares his love plainly - including his famous "you have pierced my soul" line. Mr Darcy does an admirable job, of course, but much of his declaration of love takes place off the page, in the space created by Austen's indirect discourse. Colonel Brandon's proposal is off-page in Sense & Sensibility, Henry Tilney's is glossed over, and the men of inaction (Edward Ferrars in S&S and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park) don't declare much at all, although Edward Ferrars waxes rather eloquent on his relationship with Lucy Steele. But I digress.

The chapter closes with two long paragraphs of indirect discourse where Austen fills us in on the content of their conversation and their feelings toward one another, followed by a short, comical, omniscient paragraph in which Austen sums up how Mr Knightley's feelings about Frank Churchill changed during the course of his conversation with Emma.

The swoony goodness of film

And now, some clips. The first one is Jeremy Northam (my favorite screen Knightley) - it cuts the scene in parts, but you can click on the scene of them kissing at the end to see most of the remainder:



And here is the full, lovely scene between Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai:



And for yet another take on it, here is the slightly squashed-looking version with Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Mark Strong as Mr Knightley. (The proposal/garden scene ends at 5:25.)



Only a few chapters to go to get to the end of this book!


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Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth

"What are men to rocks and mountains?"

In Volume II, chapter 4 (or, if you prefer, Chapter 27) of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen writes "What are men to rocks and mountains?" As noted in a previous post about the chapter, Elizabeth Bennet (and perhaps Austen herself) is expressing an affinity with the Romantic movement of the time, which asserted the importance of Nature.

Instead of an associated poem today, here's an excerpt of William Wordsworth's "Introduction" to Lyrical Poems, a collection of poems by Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge:

Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity, and, consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings, and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and, lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.


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Daffodils

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

On my way home from this morning's writing session with Angela De Groot (angeladegroot, who, by the way, just won an award from Writer's Digest for a poem she wrote), I spied daffodils in bloom on a hill. No further explanation is needed for today's poem choice - the rest of my post is a reprise from last April.

Some of you may know this poem as "Daffodils", though that's not its actual name; its real name is "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", and it's an extremely popular, much-anthologized poem.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth

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.


Form: Each stanza has 6 lines, is written in iambic tetrameter (four iambic feet per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), and has a rhyme scheme of ABABCC; this form, essentially an open form in "sixain" (six lines to a stanza), was first developed by Shakespeare in "Venus and Adonis", and was used by Wordsworth in this poem, written in 1804.

Discussion: If you read this one aloud, it is easy to fall into a "pause-at-the-end-of-each-line" mentality, as a means of emphasizing the rhyme scheme, but this is something you SHOULD NOT DO, because you will be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the rhythm and sing-song rhyme effect you achieve, and you will not truly hear the poem.

Here's the first stanza written out with pauses only where they naturally occur:

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.


If you go back and read the poem aloud, following the punctuation, you will be able to better hear what Wordsworth is saying. And while references to nature and use of metaphor are common devices in modern poetry, they are used in part because Wordsworth came along and wrote in the way that he did, with a reverence for and appreciation of nature, and with a focus on emotional response to nature and other stimuli. As a result, Wordsworth is widely credited as being one of the first poets in the Romantic era, along with his friend Coleridge, whose poems were included in the 1798 publication Lyrical Ballads, which I referenced in a now-old quoteskimming post.

Today's poem is one of the best-loved and most well-known in the English language, and that is with good reason: its imagery is lovely, its rhyme and metre make it easy to memorize, and the story it tells (of seeing something beautiful and unexpected in nature and reliving it in memory) is one that resonates with a lot of people. Wordsworth also looks at psychological aspects of memory here - he relates the actual story of his walk with his sister, Dorothy, and their happenining upon a large swath of daffodils by a lake. But the point isn't that he took a walk and saw daffodils; it's the emotional journey he took (from loneliness to happiness), and the effect of the memory of the daffodils on his present mood. At the time he wrote the poem, he was breaking new ground, although it may seem tame to some now. But I rather think that those who take the time to read the poem aloud will not think it tame, but will instead take the journey along with Wordsworth from lonely wandering to a happy view of blinding yellow daffodils to an appreciation of the joy the memory must hold.

Speaking of Dorothy Wordsworth, she accompanied her brother most everywhere he went, and she was a poet as well as a diligent diarist. Wordsworth is believed to have relied on her diaries when calling up details to write some of his poems. Here, for instance, is Dorothy's journal entry from the excursion with her brother when they saw daffodils by the lake:

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It's pretty obvious that Wordsworth and his sister observed the same field of flowers, not just because we know that they were together when they came upon the lake and its flowers, but also because their writings share some other commonalities, such as the description of the daffodils dancing in the wind. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but I rather think not.

I hope you enjoyed your day, and I hope you found daffodils or some other bit of loveliness to hold in your mind's eye. My friend Andi is hosting Poetry Friday today over at A Wrung Sponge - you can see all the entries by clicking the Poetry Friday box below.


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Poetry defined

A bit of Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth

I spent about half an hour yesterday looking through my computer files for an article I'd written relating to the quote from Chapter 27 of Pride & Prejudice, "what are men to rocks and mountains?", only to come up empty. But I couldn't get Wordsworth out of my head, so today, I found a post I wrote in 2009 while on retreat in New Hampshire. Most of what follows is a reprise, but it seems appropriate for our P&P reading and for Poetry Friday.

Here's the quote from Chapter 27 of Pride & Prejudice:

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "My dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing. We will know where we have gone -- we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."

As noted yesterday, I rather expect that Elizabeth's raptures about nature in conjunction with a mention of the Lake District are a nod to William Wordsworth, whose poem Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, and in particular this effusively meditative (yes, probably an oxymoron) passage pulled from its fifth stanza, were well-known and appear to have been loved by Austen, given that she references this poem in other novels as well, including Mansfield Park:

The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led -more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all. -I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. -That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear -both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

Form: Wordsworth's poem is written in what is called "blank verse", a term which means "unrhymed iambic pentameter." This means that each line contains five iambs, an iamb being a two-syllable poetic foot made up of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one: taDUM.

Discussion: As Wordsworth noted in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, he and Coleridge were breaking new ground with their work. The poems read unlike much poetry that came before it, most of which was rhymed (to the point that the Preface indicates that some readers may question whether what they are reading is poetry at all - it reads more like one of Shakespeare's plays than like what most nineteenth century readers would have recognized as verse). It's not just the absence of end rhyme that makes this work different, but also the use of enjambment, a poetic term meaning that a single line of text is split between two or more lines of verse. It was quite common in the days before the Romantic poets (such as Wordsworth) for each line to contain a logical phrase that could be set apart from the ones that came before it with a comma or period. Although older poets sometimes played with enjambment (heck, Shakespeare certainly did in his Sonnet 116 "Let me not to the marriage of true minds/admit impediments"), Wordsworth took it to new levels in poems such as Tintern Abbey.


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reading

Pride & Prejudice, Volume II, chapter 4 (ch 27)

Welcome to the merry month of March. Ordinarily, March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, but I rather expect that whatever the weather does, the emotional climate is just opposite in this book. But I get ahead of myself.

Turns out that when Elizabeth promised to visit Charlotte, she wasn't initially serious, but stuck at home with Jane in London and Charlotte moved to Kent, she's decided to make the trip, which will allow her an overnight visit with her sister on the way.

There was novelty in the scheme; and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake. . . . The only pain was in leaving her father, who would certainly miss her, and who, when it came to the point, so little liked her going that he told her to write to him, and almost promised to answer her letter.

Gotta love a snarky narrator. Elizabeth sees Wickham before she leaves, and there's this lovely bit of foreshadowing: "[S]he parted from him convinced that, whether married or single, he must always be her model of the amiable and pleasing."

About that carriage ride

The journey to London is twenty-four miles, and they are travelling in a chaise - in this case, probably a hired coach that seats three people inside. The chaise might have been pulled by two or four horses - each pair of horses would have been steered by a postilion - a rider astride one of the horses. A team of four horses would travel faster than a team of two - in fair weather on good roads, a single team would be able to travel 5-8 miles per hour, a team of four probably 8-12 miles per hour. Of course, the faster you go, the sooner you have to stop to change teams, and it is likely that Elizabeth's trip required at least one stop to change horses - and quite possibly more than one stop to pay a toll, which was based on the number of horses and the distance to be travelled. The More You Know*

They arrived by noon, and then spent the morning shopping - in case that is confusing, you ought to know that the entire time period before dinner was known as the "morning" - hence, "morning calls" were paid during the daytime (usually not until after eleven o'clock, in case the family breakfasted late). "Dinner" occurred between five and, say, eight in the evening, depending on whether one was in the country or town and on the particular custom of the family. (Those in the country tended to dine earlier.)

Elizabeth and Mrs Gardiner discuss Wickham's engagement to Miss King, and whether Wickham's motives are merceneary. Elizabeth asks "Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin?" and I believe Mrs Gardiner's analysis is a good one: Wickham paid no attention to Miss King until she inherited her boatload of money.

Lizzy closes the chapter by casting aspersions on men in general, then promising to take a pleasure tour to the Lake District in the summer with her aunt and uncle.

Austen displays her connection with the Romantic movement of her times

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "My dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing. We will know where we have gone -- we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."

I particularly adore the phrase "What are men to rocks and mountains?" for its beauty and for its echoes of the Romantic poets such as George Gordon, Lord Byron, Walter Scott, and William Wordsworth, who, in Lyrical Odes, asserted the importance of nature, as in this bit from the Preface:

Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity, and, consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings, and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and, lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.


Tomorrow: Chapter 28
Back to Chapter 26


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at the boardwalk

Hoya saxa!

Georgetown alums will recognize the title of the post as being the source of the team name "hoyas". The phrase is Greek and Latin, traditionally rendered hoia saxa, and literally means "What rocks!" (Of all the Latin phrases I picked up at Georgetown Law, this nonlegal one really stuck.)

Looking out at the sunny day today here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I cannot help but think of Elizabeth Bennet's delight in Chapter 27 of Pride and Prejudice at being invited to accompany her aunt and uncle on a tour of England that might take them as far as the Lake District.

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "My dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing. We will know where we have gone -- we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."

And yes, I rather expect that Elizabeth's raptures about nature in conjunction with a mention of the Lake District are a nod to William Wordsworth, whose poem Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, and in particular this effusively meditative (yes, probably an oxymoron) passage pulled from its fifth stanza, were well-known and appear to have been loved by Austen, given that she references this poem in other novels as well, including Mansfield Park:

The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led -more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all. -I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. -That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear -both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

Note to self: Consider writing an article about this. Also, GET OUTSIDE AFTER LUNCH!

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Daffodils

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

Before I even hit "post" on yesterday's poem, "Home-Thoughts from Abroad" by Robert Browning, I knew that this was today's choice. Amazing that it took me until after dinner to get around to posting it, huh? But I spent the morning reading Volume II of Sense and Sensibility, and the afternoon on writing and errands, and the day got away from me. But I digress. The reason that I knew I wanted to post this poem today is because of Robert Browning's description of the yellow buttercups that so reminded him of April in England; today's poem also involves yellow flowers and memory.

Some of you may know this poem as "Daffodils", though that's not its actual name; its real name is "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", and it's an extremely popular, much-anthologized poem.


I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth

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.



Form: Each stanza has 6 lines, is written in iambic tetrameter (four iambic feet per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), and has a rhyme scheme of ABABCC; this form, essentially an open form in "sixain" (six lines to a stanza), was first developed by Shakespeare in "Venus and Adonis", and was used by Wordsworth in this poem, written in 1804.

Discussion: If you read this one aloud, it is easy to fall into a "pause-at-the-end-of-each-line" mentality, as a means of emphasizing the rhyme scheme, but this is something you SHOULD NOT DO, because you will be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the rhythm and sing-song rhyme effect you achieve, and you will not truly hear the poem.

Here's the first stanza written out with pauses only where they naturally occur:

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.


If you go back and read the poem aloud, following the punctuation, you will be able to better hear what Wordsworth is saying. And while references to nature and use of metaphor are common devices in modern poetry, they are used in part because Wordsworth came along and wrote in the way that he did, with a reverence for and appreciation of nature, and with a focus on emotional response to nature and other stimuli. As a result, Wordsworth is widely credited as being one of the first poets in the Romantic era, along with his friend Coleridge, whose poems were included in the 1798 publication Lyrical Ballads, which I referenced in a now-old quoteskimming post.

Today's poem is one of the best-loved and most well-known in the English language, and that is with good reason: its imagery is lovely, its rhyme and metre make it easy to memorize, and the story it tells (of seeing something beautiful and unexpected in nature and reliving it in memory) is one that resonates with a lot of people. Wordsworth also looks at psychological aspects of memory here - he relates the actual story of his walk with his sister, Dorothy, and their happenining upon a large swath of daffodils by a lake. But the point isn't that he took a walk and saw daffodils; it's the emotional journey he took (from loneliness to happiness), and the effect of the memory of the daffodils on his present mood. At the time he wrote the poem, he was breaking new ground, although it may seem tame to some now. But I rather think that those who take the time to read the poem aloud will not think it tame, but will instead take the journey along with Wordsworth from lonely wandering to a happy view of blinding yellow daffodils to an appreciation of the joy the memory must hold.

Speaking of Dorothy Wordsworth, she accompanied her brother most everywhere he went, and she was a poet as well as a diligent diarist. Wordsworth is believed to have relied on her diaries when calling up details to write some of his poems. Here, for instance, is Dorothy's journal entry from the excursion with her brother when they saw daffodils by the lake:

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It's pretty obvious that Wordsworth and his sister observed the same field of flowers, not just because we know that they were together when they came upon the lake and its flowers, but also because their writings share some other commonalities, such as the description of the daffodils dancing in the wind. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but I rather think not.

I hope you enjoyed your day, and I hope you found daffodils or some other bit of loveliness to hold in your mind's eye.


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at the boardwalk

It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free by William Wordsworth

Yesterday's poem, Among School Children by William Butler Yeats, immediately brought to mind two famous poems about swans - "Leda and the Swan" and "The Wild Swans at Coole", both of which are by William Butler Yeats (I am nothing if not a Yeats fan). Rather than selecting two poems in a row by Yeats, I opted to go another way, and one of the images that spoke to me is the opening reference to a "kind old nun in a white hood." It brought to mind the phrase "quiet as a Nun", a line from a poem by one of my favorite poets (Spoiler: I have many favorites), William Wordsworth. Turns out I've posted about this poem before (back in 2007) - since it's been so long, I figured I'd go ahead and repost it.

It Is a Beauteous Evening
by William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder -- everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.


This poem is a form of sonnet: it has fourteen lines, and the end rhyme and iambic pentameter give it away. But it's not a traditional sonnet; it starts out looking like an Italian/Petrarchan sonnet, which is generally rhymed ABBAABBA/CDECDE or CDCDCD or CDEEDC. But in the second half of the first octave (first eight lines), he skews the traditional rhyme scheme. Instead of ABBAABBA, he goes with ABBAACCA. In the closing sestet, he departs from any of the traditional rhyme schemes for the ending (DEFDEF, DFDFEE, DFDFDF,DFEEFD) and goes DEFDFE. Still within the sonnet tradition, but a bit of a nonce form sonnet (a nonce form poem is one created by a poet for a particular poem).

It makes the rhyme scheme less obvious, of course, when you move it around semi-unpredictably like that. Now, maybe Wordsworth moved the rhyme around because he couldn't say what he wanted otherwise, or maybe he made a conscious choice to half-bury the rhyme.

For those of you interested in back story, this is a good poem. The poem was written shortly after Wordsworth decided to visit his former mistress, a French woman, with whom he had a 10-year old daughter. Wordsworth had been separated from his French Republican mistress by the war between Republican France and England. Wordsworth had returned to England in 1793, and was unable to travel to France for nearly a decade. In 1802, during the temporary peace between the two countries, he travelled to France, where he again saw Annette. It is believed that this poem was about time spent walking with his daughter, Caroline, at sunset along the beach.

Wordsworth is praising the child's closeness to God, which he views as innate - she is not lost in "solemn thought" as he is, but he believed that children came to earth "trailing clouds of glory" (see his Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood, and were in a nearer state of grace than adults. This comports with his view that a closeness to nature was akin to religion in some respects as well.

Whither tomorrow? Who can say? In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a beauteous evening tonight.

Later today, a review of a new children's poetry collection.



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