Noticing feels like love


Viburnum in front garden, delicious  sweet clove scent


Wordsworth’s  Intimations of Immortality.

I’m picking up yesterday’s reading, which I was suggesting could be good in a Shared Reading group.  I hadn’t got beyond the title, so this morning I am determined to crack on and  make some progress.

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

Wordsworth begins with a loss and memories of what is lost (‘there was a time when…’) but we quickly move from the expected, ‘earth and every common sight’ to something extraordinary. ‘Every common sight’ was ‘apparelled in celestial light’.  This opening stanza hinges on the third line, ‘ To me did seem’. This is personal.

I notice now the rhymes (stream, seem, dream/sight, light) which at first I didn’t notice. They give a kind of order to what at first seemed a slight sense of  disorder – lines are of different lengths and the whole stanza seems to me like something broken. It’s all heading towards

It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

I feel as if Wordsworth is looking, distractedly, worriedly for  the thing that is lost, the way of seeing, or being, that is gone. It’s like having woken up in a grey rainy concrete reality, no light. Is it like being depressed? You can’t fix it by trying to see things differently.  (I’m still noticing the way the rhymes cut against the line length chaos (‘yore/more’, ‘may/day’.)

He looks again, seeing something, yes but it feels as if everything is prefaced with an invisible ‘but’;

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

It’s  worth giving these lines a time to unfold –  it’s good to remember the joy we feel sometimes at catching a glimpse of a rainbow, at the loveliness of a rose.  It’s worth stopping to notice how the  objects Wordsworth is describing seem to have agency;

The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,

It’s not just the way we look at them, Wordsworth seems to be suggesting, but  how these natural wonders are active in the universe. Yes – accept all that, know it. And can appreciate it each day, the ‘sunshine is a glorious birth’  – which makes me think this is not like depression, not the grey concrete hat. He is able to  recognise joy, enjoy joy. There is even something ‘glorious’ in it all. But even so something is missing;

But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

I wonder about the relation of  ‘glorious’ to ‘a glory’. Does ‘glorious’ seem a shadow, an off-shoot? Is  ‘ glory’ something  particular, magnificent, a massive noun denoting a real thing.  and that thing is gone. Is ‘past away’ (wonder if that was synonym for death in Wordsworth’s time as it is now

What I’m doing this morning as I read is trying to get back to fresh, uncluttered reading of the poem, without my old memories of having read it many times before. I’m not trying to connect it to my own experiences  – not yet – I’m just trying to read what is there as best as I can.  But at some point I am going to want to ask myself – do I know what he is talking about? Is this  known, or is it new information about something I haven’t experienced

If I was reading this in a Shared Reading group I’d be asking a lot of questions to get people thinking about memories of ‘rose’, ‘moon’, feelings of ‘glorious’. And I’d want to spend time talking about the difference between ‘glorious’ and ‘a glory’. And then at some point, I’d want to know, has anyone ever felt this?

I think  I experience it but I’m not sure I’m conscious of it. I know that  I am on the look out for  the ‘glorious’ and see it everywhere in nature, trees, moss, flowers, all natural forms, rock, water, the buzzards flying slow and circular overhead in the park yesterday. That noticing feels like love. I’m not sure it is the same thing Wordsworth is mourning when he says,

But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

I don’t think I know what he is talking about. I don’t recognise it. That’s ok – I’d be saying to my group. Let’s read on and see if it gets any clearer. But not today – out of time.

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