218. (William Wordsworth)

Perverse as it is to redefine words against conventional meanings, it is nonetheless possible to loosen from conventional meanings an implication that enlarges the significance of a word. The word “tact” seems to me susceptible to such an operation, where beneath its concern for social proprieties, for the embarrassment of others, and for good manners is a suggestion of tactility, so that the word might … Continue reading 218. (William Wordsworth)

215. (Marcel Proust)

In the fifth volume of Recherche, The Captive, Baron de Charlus refers to a visit he has recently paid to the famed writer, Bergotte, who has been for some time dead. Even after reading the explanatory note, I wanted to believe that the Baron was supposed to be shown in a lie, but even the aging Charlus would not commit such a blunder. Neither, though, … Continue reading 215. (Marcel Proust)

207. (Amy Clampitt)

Amy Clampitt’s “Nothing Stays Put” opens with an allusion to Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much With Us,” and the turn her allusion takes is indicative of what she makes of the excess of the world: “The strange and wonderful are too much with us.” That line itself can be heard numerous ways: the description itself, “how strange and wonderful” is too often spoken and … Continue reading 207. (Amy Clampitt)

204. (John Donne)

An exemplary poem by Donne, “The Expiration”: So, so breake off this last lamenting kisse,      Which sucks two soules, and vapours Both away,  Turne thou ghost that way, and let mee turne this,      And let our selves benight our happiest day,  We ask’d none leave to love; nor will we owe      Any, so cheape a death, as saying, Goe;  Goe; and if … Continue reading 204. (John Donne)

201. (Sarah Kirsch)

The 2014 Ice Roses: Selected Poems of the German poet Sarah Kirsch, published a year after her death (Kirsch was born in 1935), and translated into superb English poems by Anne Stokes, opens with “By the white daisies”: . By the white daisies In the park I stand Underneath the willow as he instructed me Unkempt ld woman without leaves See she says he isn’t … Continue reading 201. (Sarah Kirsch)

195. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

One story of Romanticism (mostly true, however simplified) goes: some poets from 1790s onwards find their freedom in their capacity to imagine the world. It reflects a distortion and exaggeration of idealist philosophy: freedom arrives as man imposes his understanding onto reality. The better, defensible, fruitful story about German idealism goes: in self-conscious actions and beliefs about the world, humanity finds its freedom. (That is … Continue reading 195. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)