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'Nutting' by William Wordsworth.

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

For those familiar with Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, imagine for a moment what Roark's childhood might have been like. He talked a great deal about his love of the material world and, equally, his love of his own ability to transform that material as he saw fit.

I believe some of Wordsworth's poetry, particularly Nutting, illustrates a similar view.

In this simple poem, a young boy enters an unvisited nook in the woods. After appreciating and reveling in his own power, he suddenly and maniacally tears, rips and sullies the hazel nut bower. 

In this discussion, I explain the importance of this poem, how it is emblematic of Romanticism and, most importantly, how the essential interest of Wordsworth was the development of consciousness--our faculty of awareness.


                               —It seems a day (I speak of one from many singled out) One of those heavenly days that cannot die; When, in the eagerness of boyish hope, I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth With a huge wallet o'er my shoulders slung, A nutting-crook in hand; and turned my steps Tow'rd some far-distant wood, a Figure quaint, Tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds Which for that service had been husbanded, By exhortation of my frugal Dame— Motley accoutrement, of power to smile At thorns, and brakes, and brambles,—and, in truth, More ragged than need was! O'er pathless rocks, Through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets, Forcing my way, I came to one dear nook Unvisited, where not a broken bough Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign Of devastation; but the hazels rose Tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung, A virgin scene!—A little while I stood, Breathing with such suppression of the heart As joy delights in; and, with wise restraint Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed The banquet;—or beneath the trees I sate Among the flowers, and with the flowers I played; A temper known to those, who, after long And weary expectation, have been blest With sudden happiness beyond all hope. Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves The violets of five seasons re-appear And fade, unseen by any human eye; Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on For ever; and I saw the sparkling foam, And—with my cheek on one of those green stones That, fleeced with moss, under the shady trees, Lay round me, scattered like a flock of sheep— I heard the murmur, and the murmuring sound, In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay Tribute to ease; and, of its joy secure, The heart luxuriates with indifferent things, Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones, And on the vacant air. Then up I rose, And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash And merciless ravage: and the shady nook Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower, Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up Their quiet being: and, unless I now Confound my present feelings with the past; Ere from the mutilated bower I turned Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings, I felt a sense of pain when I beheld The silent trees, and saw the intruding sky.— Then, dearest Maiden, move along these shades In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand Touch—for there is a spirit in the woods.


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