Wordsworth was twenty-eight years old when he composed Lines in 1798.
190 years later, I was twenty-eight when I first read his poem, and immortality touched me.
I had tried repeatedly to appreciate Wordsworth’s poems. I trudged through them only because they had been assigned and I was a dutiful student. But I found his poems difficult and tiresome, like a cranky old man who prefers the sound of his own voice best.
- Then, In 1988, I discovered the seductive power of his Lines.
All at once I heard, in this poem, the intimate voice reserved for sacred longings. I fell in love.
I read Lines aloud, over and over, singing without melody, soaring without any combustible power to hold me in the heavens, flying on pure inertia.
I returned to Wordsworth’s lengthy Lines as some people return to a ritual of tea, seeking a restorative moment.
I suddenly understood, how foolish it is to attempt, too early in a relationship, to analyze my love. When a romantic poem and I are getting to know one another, it works out best if I simply, unabashedly adore it.
- My Reading of Lines, these days…
could be like a long marriage–on a bad day I know too much about Wordsworth to find him anything but irritatingly full of himself. I’ve not only read most of his poetry, I’ve analyzed it ad nauseam and written lengthy, dreary papers about him. Here is an excerpt from my essay called “The Creative and Critical Mind in Wordsworth’s The Prelude.”
“Charles Lamb, essayist and critic who had known Coleridge since their school days, held a dinner party to which he invited Wordsworth and Coleridge. As young men the two poets had been the best of friends. In later years they became estranged from one another. Lamb meant to facilitate reconciliation. At the party, they were seated some distance from one another, each the center of a conversation. One of the guests, Mr. Robinson, reported that when he went to mingle among the people listening to Coleridge, he was edified to note that Coleridge was reciting lines from Wordsworth’s poems. Then when Robinson went to mingle among the people gathered around Wordsworth, he noticed Wordsworth was reciting and proclaiming the glories of… Wordsworth.”
Despite his egocentricities, my relationship with Wordsworth has been a happy, long one. I love the old duff more than ever. He remains charmingly seductive. Although I am well-acquainted with his idiosyncrasies and foibles, he has become comfortable to be with, like my favorite tattered quilt. I even find myself making excuses for his weaknesses.
You’ll understand why I’m disinclined to ramble on about the things he does to annoy me. He’s only human, after all, and after all the solace he has given me, he has earned my heartfelt admiration.
Amazingly, he himself penned the words that sum up what Lines does to me when I read it.
The poem leads me into reverie, puts me in a