AG: Now we find Wordsworth later (at the very end) writing poems on Law and Order!
A group of “Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty and Order”! I’m not reading them because they’re great poems (although they are interesting), but I’m reading them because, well, what happened? .. what’s the evidence? how did he.. what did he do?
“Composed After Reading a Newspaper of the Day” (this is now 1831, so, thirty years later, it’s really an after-thought) – [Allen reads Wordsworth’s “Composed After Reading a Newspaper of the Day”] – “People!, your chains are severing link by link,/ Soon shall the Rich be levelled down – the Poor/Meet them half way” Vain boast for These, the more/They thus would rise, must low and lower sink…”..”Thou wilt provoke a heavier penalty”.
I’m going to read little pieces from these Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty and Order – “Upon The Late General Fast, March 1832” – (“Reluctant call it was, the rite delayed…”… “The People, once so happy, so renowned/For liberty, would seek from God defence/Against far heavier ill, the pestilence/Of revolution, impiously unbound!”)
Herman Melville‘s on the Draft Riots in New York, hearing it from his roof. It’s called “The Rooftop – A Night Piece” [editorial note: actually “The House-top – A Night Piece”] and he hears “the Atheist roar of riot“ – The Draft Riot years in New York – refusing to be drafted to the Civil War. Prophesying – “Wise Draco comes, deep in the midnight, roll/ Of black artillery..” – the heavy King who was going to impose Law and Order, Draconian order.
Well, he (Wordsworth) concludes another little sonnet (“Blest Statesman He, Who’s Mind’s Unselfish Will“) – “Knowing, things rashly sought are rarely found/That, for the functions of an ancient State..”..”Perilous is sweeping change, all chance unsound.” – So he’s getting worried, really conservative”. …”(W)oe for him/Who thus deceived shall lend an eager hand to social havoc…”..”Long-favoured England! be not thou misled/By monstrous theories of alien growth” – This could be published in the National Review! – [Allen reads on] – “”Long-favoured England! be not thou misled/By monstrous theories of alien growth/Lest alien frenzy seize thee, waxing wrath/Self-smitten till thy garments reek dyed red..”..
Actually, in a certain respect, he’s criticizing…very similar to Chogyam Trungpa’s criticism of the Hippies, as we’ve heard over the summer, criticizing the aggression, that is, the personal aggression built in a lot of revolutionary fantasy – or, I think that’s one thing that Wordsworth is laying out – “Let thy scope/Be one fixed mind for all, thy rights approve/To thy own conscience gradually renewed,/ Learn to make Time the father of wise Hope” – That’s pretty interesting – “Learn to make Time the father of wise Hope”, rather than Instant Revolution. What else? Huh?
Student: (So revolutionaries automatically (inevitably) become more conservative?)
AG: Well, I wouldn’t prejudge it. Actually I was just trying to get the evidence, see what he’s saying – before making (in Wordsworth’s phrase) “rash schemes”. Well (in “At Bologna, In remembrance of the late Insurrections, 1837″), he’s proposing, “Thought that should teach the zealot to forego/Rash schemes, to abjure all selfish agitation” – “to abjure all selfish agitation” – [Allen continues] – “And seek through noiseless pains and moderation/The unblemished good they only can bestow”… (and from “Young England – What Is Then Become of Old”) – “Go where at least meek Innocency dwells,/Let Babes and Sucklings be thy oracles” – So it’s, sort of like, psychological criticism of the revolutionary. But then he finally gets to… [tape runs out here, then resumes]
[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty-one minutes in..]