CXL

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.”

He who would write traditional poetry in this degenerate age treads a lonely path.  One finds oneself looking for companionship in the past.  At least there one can find actual Poets instead of purveyors of fractured prose!

TO MY PREDECESSORS

Sonnet XLV

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Their glory has not faded!  Though the years

Have been kind to barbarians, and, worse,

Have yielded to their hands the realm of verse;

Though students cannot scan; though I have fears

That Keats may cease to be read by my peers

Except as an assignment and a curse;

Yet still this melody I will rehearse:

I come to sing the English sonneteers.

Portrait-Milton

Their glory cannot fade!  My tongue repeats

The words with wonder, hour after hour,

Of Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats,

Of Wordsworth, Hopkins—tastes within their bower

Rich viands, cates, and soul-sustaining meats:

Each line a world of wit compressed to power.

Hopkins
Hopkins

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.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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XLVI

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.”

Oh, really?

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

XXIX

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.”

 

By now I have made good progress as an English Major in discovering something of the range of what poetry can do.  The English Romantics—Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats—teach us how effectively Nature can mirror our own moods back to us and help us to explore them, and they showed how poetry could mirror that mirror.  They thought (see Wordsworth in “Expostulation and Reply” and “The Tables Turned”) that Nature could do more than that, that it had positive content, and so an impulse from a vernal wood could teach us more of moral evil and of good than all the sages can.  From this critical distance it is easy to see that they imported their own propositional content into those experiences, content they got somewhere else.  So must we all do, and find other ways of testing the validity those beliefs than how well they fit Nature’s moods.  What Nature—and nature poetry—can do is to help us find the perfect language for expressing them.

 

MEDITATION XIV

 

The music of the dripping leaves,

A booming frog, a cricket’s song,

The night-owl’s call to one who grieves

Remind me of that of which I’m bereaved

And that I don’t belong.

 

And often when the brittle stars

Flame out in Midnight’s deep, dark dome,

Their pristine light, remote, unmarred,

Reminds me of how small men are

And that I’m not at home.

 

But when I turn, Lord, to your Book

And read the things that you have done:

How although Man your law forsook

You pity on your creatures took

And gave your only Son

 

To die for an undeserving race,

My stubborn heart’s bowed down

To think of how you took my place

That my weak eyes might see your face

And I, your sheep, be found.

 

Then Nature has different things to say:

Your handiwork in wood and stone,

In starlit night and rainy day

Remind me of the price you paid,

And that I’m not alone.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order Stars Through the Clouds!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

XIV

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.” 

            I think this was my first experiment with, or at least approach toward, that wonderfully versatile form the Irregular Ode.  The Irregular Ode is a lyric poem in praise of some idea or specimen of beauty, using meter and rhyme but varying the rhyme scheme and line length at will.  There are also various regular forms that use repeating stanzas.  The ode was a favorite form of the Romantics.  Wordsworth is at his best in “Tintern Abbey” and the “Ode on Intimations of Immortality,” and Keats raised the form to its ultimate perfection in the odes to a Skylark, to a Grecian Urn, and to Autumn.  Here I combine a fascination with natural lighting effects that would continue to occupy me with a certain youthful energy, the disappearance of which could lead us to further classic motifs such as ubi sunt

ONE WHOLE DAY

The bricks of the library have a different hue

Given by early rising sun.

It won’t last the whole day through,

For sunrise soon is done.

The world will be a bit more dead

And bricks not rose but merely red.

Apollo ‘cross the sky will tread

Until, no longer o’er our heads,

He crawls into a well-earned bed;

With sunset-golden clouds he spreads

His blanket.

My friends follow and rest their heads

But I’ll stay up a while instead

To watch the stars ‘til they come out

And a gentle ray is the sun’s first scout

And I know that my vigil is through.

The bricks of the library have a different hue

Given by early rising sun.

It won’t last the whole day through,

For sunrise soon is done.

The world will be a bit more dead

And bricks not rose but merely red;

So not that one whole day has fled,

I at last will go to bed.

(But not for long while this day’s new,

For it has something for me too!)

Donald T. Williams, PhD

I

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in interminable blank verse on “the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I am told that there are still people who read it of their own free will.  Lacking the skill and the endurance to sustain such an ambitious project, I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, combining short bursts of prose with verse of various kinds.  Lacking also both the arrogance and the faith in subjectivity for its own sake which would be necessary to think that the growth of this poetic mind should be of even the passing interest which a blog can generate, I shall also attempt a more modest topic:  “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”  I shall illustrate those lessons with some of the poems I wrote in the process of learning them.  I hope my readers will be charitable enough to think that sometimes the lessons are shown by my successes.  I know that one can often learn even more from one’s failures.  No doubt the reader will have plenty of chances to observe that truth in action.  The most egregious examples of it will be passed over in silence, in courteous consideration for the reader’s patience and the author’s ego.

Donald T. Williams, PhD