Poetry Review: Written in Very Early Youth, by William Wordsworth

"Late Summer" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Late Summer” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

In addition to reading about baseball and St. Francis, I have been re-reading Wordsworth of late. As is true with all great poets, Wordsworth gets better on each re-read. That in the end is what distinguishes a great poem (and a great poet) from a merely good one, inexhaustible depth.

This is one of Wordsworth’s earliest poems. Even though it is early in his career, it contains much that we would consider to be lyrical and “Wordsworthian”: nature, emotion, and the individual.


Written in Very Early Youth
by William Wordsworth

Calm is all nature as a resting wheel.
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass;
The horse alone, seen dimly as I pass,
Is cropping audibly his later meal:
Dark is the ground; a slumber seems to steal
O’er vale, and mountain, and the starless sky.
Now, in this blank of things, a harmony,
Home-felt, and home-created, comes to heal
That grief for which the senses still supply
Fresh food; for only then, when memory
Is hushed, am I at rest. My Friends! restrain
Those busy cares that would allay my pain;
Oh! leave me to myself, nor let me feel
The officious touch that makes me droop again.


Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

 for only then, when memory
Is hushed, am I at rest.


It is amazing to find these lines about the burden of memory in the poetry of one so young. But  Wordsworth, like Milton and Yeats, seems to have begun his poetical life at a place and perspective that most poets arrive at only at the end of a long career.

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