Nineteenth-Century Poetry – 13. (Wordsworth – 2).

Allen Ginsberg on William Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems continues from here

The Lucy poem that he did comes from a series on her death.  Want to hear some more of those?  That’s the conclusive one.  Before that he has a lot of lyric painful ones when he’s really mourning her.  Written in Germany.  Who Lucy is is unknown, actually.

Strange fits of passion have I known:/And I will dare to tell,/But in the Lover’s ear alone,/ What once to me befell./When she I loved looked every day/Fresh as a rose in June/.I to her cottage bent my way,/Beneath an evening moon./  Upon the moon I fixed my eye,/All over the wide lea…” – What’s a lea?  Anybody English here?

Student:  It’s a meadow.
AG:  Meadow.
Student:  Meadow.
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  Meadow.

AG (continues): “Upon the moon I fixed my eye,/All over the wide lea;/With quickening pace my horse drew nigh/Those paths so dear to me./ And now we reached the orchard plot;/And, as we climbed the hill,/ The sinking moon to Lucy’s cot” – (Cottage) – “Came near, and nearer still..”

It’s kind of a pretty picture.  The moon going down toward her cottage as he gets close.

“In one of those sweet dreams I slept,/Kind Nature’s gentlest boon!  = (Sleep) – “And all the while my eyes I kept/On the descending moon./  My horse moved on; hoof after hoof/He raised, and never stopped:/When down behind the cottage roof,/At once, the bright moon dropped./. What fond and wayward thoughts will slide/Into a Lover’s head!/”O mercy!” to myself I cried/”If Lucy should be dead!”

So there he’s just fantasizing the disappearance, and just getting that take of strangeness and phantomness or emptiness or empty vast out of the thought that she might be dead.

And then she did die:

“She dwelt among the untrodden ways/Beside the springs of Dove..”(Actually that’s a river -the Dove River) – “She dwelt among the untrodden ways/Beside the springs of Dove./ A Maid whom there were none to praise/And very few to love;/. A violet by a mossy stone/Half hidden from the eye!/ -Fair as a star, when only one/Is shining in the sky./  She lived unknown, and few could know/ When Lucy ceased to be;/ But she is in her grave, and, oh,/ The difference to me!

So that’s the totally personal thing of the loss and also maybe some sub-theme of the emptiness, like that strange disjunction, the take of someone suddenly disappearing, making a little gap in his mind and also whatever grief there is there.

And then another way of dealing with it is making believe it’s still going on, making believe it’s still alive:

“I traveled among unknown men,/In lands beyond the sea;/Nor, England! did I know till then/ What love I bore to thee./. ‘Tis past, that melancholy dream!/Nor will I quit thy shore/A second time; for still I seem/ To love thee more and more./ Among thy mountains did I feel/The joy of my desire;/And she I cherished turned her wheel/Beside an English fire./ Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,/ The bowers where Lucy played;/And thine too is the last green field/ That Lucy’s eyes surveyed.”

So that’s a funny way of putting it.

Peter Orlovsky:  And what?

AG:  “And thine too” – England – “is the last green field/That Lucy’s eyes surveyed.”  So he gets at the absence emptiness – death gap – by remembering the last thing that she saw while living.

to be continued

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *