Wordsworth Dances With Daffodils

To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

— Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.

“William Wordsworth (1770-1850) … emphasized the vitality of everyday life, the importance of human emotions, and the illuminating power of nature. … Wordsworth was expressly concerned with discovering a sort of spiritual ecstasy that, for him, could be found only in nature and the innocence of childhood. With a mind ever wandering after the wonders of nature and the emotions of the heart, Wordsworth was initially criticized for his sentiment and the informality of his verse by his contemporaries.”
— from the article on Wordsworth in the New World EncyclopediaIn his classic piece, The Tables Turned (below), Wordsworth says in the last stanza, “Enough of science and art,” that is, dismissive of them.  May we say it is hyperbole?

The line between reality and rhetoric is thin.  The poem declares emphatically academic learning grossly lacking when compared with nature immersion, which confers wisdom, blessings upon our minds and hearts, health, cheerfulness, moral insight and mindfulness (or a call to it).

In the opening line he seems to say that too much at the books will make you gain weight … DOUBLE!


The Tables Turned

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet [type of finch],
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.


We’ll get to the daffodil dancing soon …


From the website of Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum:  “William Wordsworth is Britain’s most famous poet, whose thoughts and writing about man, nature and society are so current, they could have been written yesterday.”

Indeed, as we’ll see in his poem, The World is Too Much With Us, “the world” of “getting and spending” existed in his time, 200 years ago.  Imagine what he would think of our world, our culture today, where HyperCapitalizm and Olympic Consumerizm are national religions, running rife with greed, hypocrisy, materialism and alienation from nature more than ever.  Wordsworth said we have “given our hearts away” for the sake of a “sordid boon.”

[synonyms of SORDID: sleazy, seedy, seamy, unsavory, shoddy, vile, foul, tawdry, louche, cheap, base, low, low-minded, debased, degenerate, corrupt, dishonest, dishonorable, disreputable, despicable, discreditable, contemptible, ignominious, ignoble, shameful, wretched, abhorrent, abominable, disgusting]

Wordsworth said that nature-disconnected life puts us out of tune with everything.  That’s a plain declaration that should be scary because we know in our hearts that it’s true.  Communities, families, society, culture, institutions, government, and health in mind and body all benefit from nature-immersed membership, the more the better.

Wordsworth’s prescription for healing and improving our world?  Do you suppose he might say something like NATURE IMMERSION?

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.


ONE MORE taste of Wordsworth’s poetry inspired by nature immersion,
a sweet, lovely, cheerful one contrasting with the one above:

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

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.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company;
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

Amen, Brother.


Notice the recurrence of “wandering” here and in the preceding Hermann Hesse post?  Wandering, solitude, meditation, contemplation, imagination … themes recurring among immersive nature writers, artists and scientists.  The case has been made also for nature immersion improving us socially.  (A report on that is forthcoming.)  Nature immersion does not necessarily mean isolation.  Solitude and isolation are not the same, nor required of each other.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

Where in nature does your heart dance when you are “in vacant or in pensive mood?”  Send it there.

Has Wordsworth inspired you to feel, say, do, seek, pursue something?

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