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  • Kirk Barbera

Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth

Updated: Dec 14, 2019





What does contemplation look like and how can we know it when we are doing it? This will be one of the themes to be explored on this episode.


On this Sunday Morning Poetry I'll be reading not only the Lines poem but a passage from Wordsworth's The Prelude and a poem from Robert Burns. We will learn much about a pivotal shift in the early Wordsworth's philosophy and poetry. It is the shift that made Romanticism... Well... Romanticism.


In Lyrical Ballads there are several poems by Wordsworth with the title simply "lines" and then a subtitle like (written in early spring) or (left upon a yew tree...). The most famous of these, and the most famous of all Wordsworth's poetry is the finale of the 1798 Lyrical Ballads, Lines (written a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wy during a tour, July 13th, 1798).


These "lines" poems have at their core a certain way of contemplation reality. It is one that has changed English writing and thinking ever since. And it is a way of contemplation that will make your life worth living.



Lines

Written in Early Spring


BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH


I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.


To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.


Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.


The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure:—

But the least motion which they made

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.


The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.


If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature’s holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?






Man was Made to Mourn

By Robert Burns


When chill November's surly blast

Made fields and forests bare,

One ev'ning, as I wander'd forth

Along the banks of Ayr,

I spied a man, whose aged step

Seem'd weary, worn with care;

His face furrow'd o'er with years,

And hoary was his hair.


"Young stranger, whither wand'rest thou?"

Began the rev'rend sage;

"Does thirst of wealth thy step constrain,

Or youthful pleasure's rage?

Or haply, prest with cares and woes,

Too soon thou hast began

To wander forth, with me to mourn

The miseries of man.


"The sun that overhangs yon moors,

Out-spreading far and wide,

Where hundreds labour to support

A haughty lordling's pride;-

I've seen yon weary winter-sun

Twice forty times return;

And ev'ry time has added proofs,

That man was made to mourn.


"O man! while in thy early years,

How prodigal of time!

Mis-spending all thy precious hours-

Thy glorious, youthful prime!

Alternate follies take the sway;

Licentious passions burn;

Which tenfold force gives Nature's law.

That man was made to mourn.


"Look not alone on youthful prime,

Or manhood's active might;

Man then is useful to his kind,

Supported in his right:

But see him on the edge of life,

With cares and sorrows worn;

Then Age and Want-oh! ill-match'd pair-

Shew man was made to mourn.


"A few seem favourites of fate,

In pleasure's lap carest;

Yet, think not all the rich and great

Are likewise truly blest:

But oh! what crowds in ev'ry land,

All wretched and forlorn,

Thro' weary life this lesson learn,

That man was made to mourn.


"Many and sharp the num'rous ills

Inwoven with our frame!

More pointed still we make ourselves,

Regret, remorse, and shame!

And man, whose heav'n-erected face

The smiles of love adorn, -

Man's inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn!


"See yonder poor, o'erlabour'd wight,

So abject, mean, and vile,

Who begs a brother of the earth

To give him leave to toil;

And see his lordly fellow-worm

The poor petition spurn,

Unmindful, tho' a weeping wife

And helpless offspring mourn.


"If I'm design'd yon lordling's slave,

By Nature's law design'd,

Why was an independent wish

E'er planted in my mind?

If not, why am I subject to

His cruelty, or scorn?

Or why has man the will and pow'r

To make his fellow mourn?


"Yet, let not this too much, my son,

Disturb thy youthful breast:

This partial view of human-kind

Is surely not the last!

The poor, oppressed, honest man

Had never, sure, been born,

Had there not been some recompense

To comfort those that mourn!


"O Death! the poor man's dearest friend,

The kindest and the best!

Welcome the hour my aged limbs

Are laid with thee at rest!

The great, the wealthy fear thy blow

From pomp and pleasure torn;

But, oh! a blest relief for those

That weary-laden mourn!"