Friday, September 30, 2016

Hot Flash Friday, William Wordsworth and the Ordinary



Hi everyone! I’m back from my trip. 1,100 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End in Cornwall. There is really no one word to describe my experience—though HARD comes first to mind. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Plus I had the pressure of trying to finish in less days than I originally planned because of a snafu at the beginning involving Air Canada. (Still trying to resolve getting reimbursed for my train tickets I had to re-purchase.) I plan to post my daily trip diary here starting next week and into the following weeks.

BUT since today is Hot Flash Friday I wanted to pull something from my bike trip, something that reinforced this writerly journey I’m on. It has to do with William Wordsworth.

While in the Lake District I stopped at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s residence for eight years, before marriage and then through 3 of his 5 children. He also seemed to have eternal houseguests, a sister and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Before moving to Dove Cottage Wordsworth had been somewhat itinerate, what we might call a tramp. He moved around a lot, carry only a small bag. He wrote much of his poetry while on the go; he especially loved to compose on long walks. While living at Dove Cottage he wrote most of the poems that have come to be loved.

He wasn’t always so well-read, so well-loved. (It was only later in life and after much coaxing that he agreed to be Poet Laureate for a short spell.) In fact Byron and Shelley were much more popular than Wordsworth because much of their verse was “exotic,” based in foreign lands, out of the ordinary. Thus, Wordsworth’s writings were considered local, homely, of little consequence because his topics dealt with the everyday, with people we know well and scenes of the English countryside.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Or . . .
Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.

Or . . .
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

He is writing what he sees, what he’s experiencing. He is in the NOW. And because of this propensity to record everyday life, he now surpasses Byron and Shelley in popularity. People turn to Wordsworth for that sense of England during that time, to re-capture the mood of the time. He also was someone who could encapsulate the sublime, that is create with a few words a feeling that one can’t quite put their finger on. Beauty! Peace! Well being! That all is right.
Wordsworth translated his world into words.

Right now, plein air, go outside and compose. Take a walk along the lakefront, or along the bicycle path, or into your garden, now subsided into mid-autumn. Go to the Friday night football game, or take a Sunday drive out into the country. Go outside and write, give me a sense of where you are and how it feels to be alive. NOW.

Eric Ravilious - Sussex Landscape, 1933, wood engraving

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