Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, October 03, 2009

While waiting in the longest line I've ever seen at the grocery store today,
I re-read Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," a/k/a “Lines Composed Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour. July 13, 1798”, for the first time in many years, and caught for the first time the style of so much modern poetry, the low-key seriousness and nature-worship pre-figuring a lot of the work of Rexroth, as well as the modern American English style of translating classical Chinese poetry, whose nature-reverence pre-dated Western nature-reverence by many centuries. The mode of philosophical meditation influenced Whitman, Pound, Williams, H.D., Rexroth, and even Ginsberg, I think. It really is a gorgeous, remarkable poem.

Until the ending, which almost wrecks it for me,
where Wordsworth predicts -- boasts, really, influencing Jay-Z? -- that his poem will serve as a comfort and a joy to his sister in the years to come. It was not to be. His sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, according to some accounts, struggled with mental illness late in life. She had lived with her brother and helped him with his poetry during his early years. Wordsworth's overconfidence reminded me of Milton, his rude ordering of the muses around at the beginning of "Lycidas." But the comparison isn't fair, as I just now reread that passage in Milton. He threatens to rape the muses, basically: “Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse.” No, no violence in Wordsworth, just an unfortunately incorrect boast:
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations!
Even if it had proved true, I don't find the confidence attractive. Other than that, though, it's a fabulous poem.

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