Updated: Dec 9, 2019
in the spring of 1798 William Wordsworth was going through a reckoning. His work on his elusive life project, The Recluse, was draining him. He had set out to study ALL knowledge up to that point in human history, and use it in an epic poem greater than The Iliad, Aeneid, Paradise Lost and all epics before it.
But Wordsworth began to question the relevance of his project and his ability to accomplish it.
In this poem, “lines written a small distance from my house,” he challenges the idea of learning from books alone and advocates for putting down your books and leaving the joyless world of the mundane and entering an awe-filled, joyful world of nature and love.
Special thanks to Don Watkins for his article "The Reckoning: Why 'Serving a cause greater than yourself' cannot give life meaning."
Written at a small distance from my House, and sent by
my little boy to the person to whom they are addressed.
It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The red-breast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.
There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field.
My Sister! ('tis a wish of mine)
Now that our morning meal is done,
Make haste, your morning task resign;
Come forth and feel the sun.
Edward will come with you, and pray,
Put on with speed your woodland dress,
And bring no book, for this one day
We'll give to idleness.
No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living Calendar:
We from to-day, my friend, will date
The opening of the year.
Love, now an universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth,
--It is the hour of feeling.
One moment now may give us more
Than fifty years of reason;
Our minds shall drink at every pore
The spirit of the season.