Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”
By now I have made good progress as an English Major in discovering something of the range of what poetry can do. The English Romantics—Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats—teach us how effectively Nature can mirror our own moods back to us and help us to explore them, and they showed how poetry could mirror that mirror. They thought (see Wordsworth in “Expostulation and Reply” and “The Tables Turned”) that Nature could do more than that, that it had positive content, and so an impulse from a vernal wood could teach us more of moral evil and of good than all the sages can. From this critical distance it is easy to see that they imported their own propositional content into those experiences, content they got somewhere else. So must we all do, and find other ways of testing the validity those beliefs than how well they fit Nature’s moods. What Nature—and nature poetry—can do is to help us find the perfect language for expressing them.
The music of the dripping leaves,
A booming frog, a cricket’s song,
The night-owl’s call to one who grieves
Remind me of that of which I’m bereaved
And that I don’t belong.
And often when the brittle stars
Flame out in Midnight’s deep, dark dome,
Their pristine light, remote, unmarred,
Reminds me of how small men are
And that I’m not at home.
But when I turn, Lord, to your Book
And read the things that you have done:
How although Man your law forsook
You pity on your creatures took
And gave your only Son
To die for an undeserving race,
My stubborn heart’s bowed down
To think of how you took my place
That my weak eyes might see your face
And I, your sheep, be found.
Then Nature has different things to say:
Your handiwork in wood and stone,
In starlit night and rainy day
Remind me of the price you paid,
And that I’m not alone.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://www.createspace.com/3562314 and order Stars Through the Clouds!
Donald T. Williams, PhD