256. (Samuel Beckett)

Beckett said Samuel Johnson was always with him; yet reading the trilogy, Molloy etc, one feels also (Kenner remarked on it in his 1968 study) that Wordsworth was often with him too. Parts of it seem to have come from an experiment: what if Wordsworth’s solitaries, the leech-gatherer above all, attempted to write their own Recherche du Temps Perdu? How Johnson in this? An answer … Continue reading 256. (Samuel Beckett)

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)

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)

133. (William Wordsworth)

Poetry consoles the feelings of betrayal and disappointment as it does no other feelings because poetry is inherently awakened by anxieties and realities of both: why else deviate into meter, novelties of metaphor, and disorienting patterns of language unless motivated somewhat by the sense that language, as it appears in various other, more normal combinations and arrangements, would betray and disappoint? In the past week, … Continue reading 133. (William Wordsworth)

127. (George Eliot)

This post will open with George Eliot and then drift, possibly to return. For a starting point, consider one of the most beguiling and frustrating of passages in nineteenth-century British literature: Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great … Continue reading 127. (George Eliot)

111. (John Keats)

On either side of John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” sit Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence” and Tennyson’s “Vision of Sin.” All three are poems about encounters with pictures of strikingly alien people: Wordsworth’s, characteristically, about the imagination’s projection interfering with what is before him; Tennyson’s, characteristically, framed by an account of the vision’s arrival and dissipation. Wordsworth’s poem, then, founded on the conflict between … Continue reading 111. (John Keats)