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.”
It is now 1978-79, the third year of my classwork for the PhD in English at the University of Georgia. My apprenticeship to the great Poets of the past was proceeding apace, in other words. And I was fortunate to have as one of my closest friends Ted Georgian, a man working on his doctorate in ecology who shared my love of the mountains and of hiking. So manner and matter were both being richly supplied. The manner this time was the Pearl stanza, used only once before to my knowledge, in a medieval poem by a contemporary of Chaucer; the matter was the same water cycle I celebrated in the previous entry. The combination was, I hope, more profound but no less playful.
A String of Pearls
The light lit on the light leaves, lost
All its momentum there, and made
A curious transition, crossed
Into the softer light of shade.
The leaves, new light shed on them, glossed
With new significances, played
A game of wit and lightly tossed
Off puns and paradoxes, prayed
The wind to answer. She obeyed
And joined her most light-hearted voice:
Thus air-light leaves in serenade
May teach the spirit to rejoice.
The soul also rejoices when
The growling thunderstorm comes near
To scare away the heat that’s been
Clogging up the atmosphere.
The subtle intensity within
That’s not, but is akin to, fear
Is suddenly shattered by the din
That lets you know the thing is here.
With washing rain and lightning clear
The storm is sent; it has no choice
But to go on its wild career
And teach the spirit to rejoice.
Likewise the joyful mountain stream,
Hearing the voices of the leaves
And wind and rain and lightning, teams
Them all together; whence she weaves
One flowing tapestry which seems
A richer thing than man conceives
In sleep or in his waking dreams.
Beneath enchanted forest eaves
He hears it, and almost believes
It is a nymph’s or naiad’s voice.
It soothes, stings deep, enriches, grieves,
And makes the spirit to rejoice.
Rejoicing in the verbal skills
Displayed by her melodic strains,
The stream leaps lightly down the hills,
Spending all the speed she gains
In song and laughter, as she spills
Herself toward the coastal plains.
Gradually then her song she stills:
A stately current which contains
The echoes of a thousand rains,
She bows before a greater voice,
Flows all into it, yet retains
Her own full spirit to rejoice.
Rejoicing in the gift, the sea
Receives her homage and returns
The voices to the air, and we
Hear once again the song that burns
In Nature’s heart. Wild and free,
Our own blood answers it and yearns
To fly with the light wind and see
The water’s path as it returns
To light on mountain leaves and ferns
And once more in the streams to voice
The song, where air-light-leaf-rain learns
To teach the spirit to rejoice.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.