Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”
In “Expostulation and Reply” and “The Tables Turned,” Wordsworth defends his practice of mooning around the Lake Country waiting for inspiration against those who think he ought to be doing something more edifying, like reading a book. Nature, he claims, is a superior teacher. “One impulse from a vernal wood / Can teach me more of man, / Of moral evil and of good, / Than all the sages can.”
A REJOINDER TO MR. WORDSWORTH
“Will” bids us Nature’s students be
And treats book learning with contempt.
We wonder if his poetry
From this fine maxim is exempt?
I think that what we learn from her
Of moral good and ill is fine;
But after all, I must aver,
It’s Man that has a mind!
And God supremely, who doth teach
Truth absolute in Holy Books,
In number sixty-six, and each
A guide to help us look
At Nature’s pages, there to see
Aright and not be sore confused.
For Arrogance, who tries to be
His own guide, is with ease abused.
I do not seek to minimize
That which from Nature we can know;
I only wish to emphasize
We cannot hope to learn it so.
An impulse from a vernal wood
Could never do me half the good
Without long, careful, studious looks
Between the pages of my books.
Nature does not and cannot teach positive moral content. Look at her from one angle and she is our benevolent mother; from another and she is red in tooth and claw. What she can provide is a metaphorical language that gives meaning to our concepts. That is a great gift. So we need the Library Carrel and the Lake Country to be whole men and women.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order Stars Through the Clouds!
Donald T. Williams, PhD