Monday, March 9, 2009

Poetic Eccentricity

Wordsworth is one of the best known and one of the most ridiculed of the Romantic poets. Who among us, Gentle Readers, has not had to read "I wandered as lonely as a cloud" and wondered why on earth the poet was so obsessed with daffodils? (The Amateur Historian wishes to mention that her favorite flowers are daffodils and she has, on occasion, quoted said poem while buying daffodils.) Those familiar with his sister Dorothy and her journals will also wonder why the well-documented entry in which she and her brother take and walk and stumble across a host of golden daffodils turned into a poem in which she was not present?

William Wordsworth's ambivalence towards his sister is one of his least endearing traits (Richard E. Matlak suggests that Wordsworth's Lucy poems, a series of elegaic poems in which the narrator has a presage of his beloved's death and then angsts on about his loss for three more poems, stem from Wordsworth's ambivalence about his sister and his subconscious wish that she was dead). One of his more entertaining traits is one which he mentions in Book IV of his incredibly long and somewhat (in the Amateur Historian's opinion) eye-rollingly narcissistic poem, The Prelude. Wordsworth composed outloud while taking walks. On these walks he brought his dog with him. After a particularly good bit of verse, Wordsworth would pet his dog. Most of the time the dog ran ahead, and would bark and run back if it saw anyone.

Wordsworth writes: "Punctual to such admonishment, I hushed/ My voice, composed my gait, and shaped myself/ To give and take a greeting that might save/ My name from piteous rumours, such as wait/ On men suspected to be crazed in brain."


  1. Wordsworth isn't one of my favourite poets although I share his passion for daffodils! I haven't read that much of his life story but his sister seems to have been absolutely obsessed with him and she probably would have driven any brother quite mad.

  2. I've heard her described as the president of William Wordsworth's fanclub. She was... er, devoted. To a degree that caused several historians to speculate that there was incest involved and outrage a whole lot of Romantic scholars.