Nineteenth-Century Poetry – 14 (Wordsworth – 3)

Allen Ginsberg on William Wordsworth continues from  here

AG: Then there’s one other.  Do you want to hear the last?  There’s one other before we get “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal”

Three years she grew in sun and shower,/Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower/On earth was never sown;/This Child I to myself will take;/She shall be mine, and I will make/ A Lady of my own./  Myself will to my darling be/ Both law and impulse: and with me/ The Girl, in rock and plain,/In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,/Shall feel an overseeing power/ To kindle or restrain./  She shall be sportive as the fawn/ That wild with glee across the lawn/Or up the mountain springs;/And hers shall be the breathing balm,/And hers the silence and the calm/Of mute insensate things..” – (This is nature talking about how it’s going to take Lucy and turn her into rocks and stones and trees).

And hers the silence and the calm/Of mute insensate things./  The floating clouds their state shall lend/To her; for her the willow bend;/ Nor shall she fail to see/ Even in the motions of the Storm/ Grace that shall mold the Maiden’s form/ By silent sympathy…” – (Well, “the Maiden’s form” is now just part of the landscape).

“The stars of midnight shall be dear/To her; and she shall lean her ear/In many a secret place/ Where rivulets dance their wayward round,/And beauty born of murmuring sound/ Shall pass into her face.” – (It’s actually sort of surrealistic.  He’s mixing the living image of a person with this impersonal nature).

Peter Orlovsky:  (Where’s she gone?)

AG:  It’s not over yet.

“And vital feelings of delight/Shall rear her form to stately height,/Her virgin bosom swell;/ Such thoughts to Lucy I will give/ While she and I together live/ Here in this happy dell.” – (Unquote) – “Thus Nature spake – the word was done -/ How soon my Lucy’s race was run!/ She died, and left to me/ This heath, this calm, and quiet scene;/ The memory of what has been,/And never more will be.”

That’s pretty absolute.  For getting at death – for getting at the idea of death, or not the idea of death but the conscious take on death that people have on death unconsciously, or first flash of death, the first realization of something immovably forever removed.  Each one of these poems is really good at getting one angle or another on it.

And then the last one was:

A slumber did my spirit seal;/ I had no human fears..” – (Because he’s left with “This heath, this calm, and quiet scene”) – “She seemed a thing that could not feel/The touch of earthly years./  No motion has she now, no force;/ She neither hears nor sees;/Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,/ With rocks, and stones, and trees.”

So that’s the conclusive (poem).  The last eight lines completing the whole sequence.  Known as “Lucy poems”, which are worth reading, worth looking at because it’s kind of rare for a poet to capture that immediate … almost like a drama, like you would at the end of a novel or at the end of a play when you kill off … when the character dies and you’ve been following it all along and all of a sudden there’s this big emptiness.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-six-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-and-three-quarter minutes in

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