For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 17 May 2009

A Heart That Watches And Receives

Here's an alternative slant on education. (Wordsworth had been strongly influenced by the nature philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and had definitely read Rousseau's Émile; or on Education, which was published in 1762. Early in the New Year I posted a 3-part sequence about Rousseau, which starts here.)

The Tables Turned
An Evening Scene on the Same Subject

Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double.

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow,
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife;
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher;
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your Teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless -
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous form of things -
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.


WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

8 comments:

Dominic Rivron said...

Cheerfulness. Not to be underestimated. I am reminded that the three-fold rule of St Columba on Iona was, as I remember it, "courage, faith and cheerfulness".

Phoenix C. said...

Love this poem.

Interesting to consider the different aspects of learning; with the heart, the mind and the senses.

I like the idea of 'spontaneous wisdom' and the 'One impulse from a vernal wood'. I usually think of slowly imbibed wisdom acquired over years, ( a bit Treebeard-ish!) so it is refreshing to realize wisdom can be spontaneous too.

Best of all I like to be in a vernal wood, with my heart watching and receiving ...

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hm - not sure I agree with the sentiments here Robert - sounds a bit of a get-out to me. Don't bother with your learning kids just hop out into the great outdoors and enjoy the view (or have I misread it?)

jay said...

It's long been a belief of mine that we put too much emphasis on academic learning at the expense of experience and hands-on learning about the world we live in.

Schools would do well to get their pupils out and about more, just listening and looking, pond dipping, earth digging, mineral examining, sky watching, weather monitoring .. just ordinary everyday stuff that our ancestors learned long before they got to school. We're too scared to let our kids out to experience life these days.

No wonder if they're out of touch with their spirituality.

The Solitary Walker said...

'Reasons to be cheerful' - wasn't that an Ian Drury song?

Phoenix - I love that idea too, that wisdom can sometimes be instantaneous, that enlightenment may be a sudden, unexpected
shaft of sunlight within nature - an act of given grace.

You haven't always got to literally agree or disagree with its perceived sentiments, Weaver, in order to like and appreciate a poem? I think here that W. is poetically exaggerating so he can dramatically get across his Rousseau-ish 'point'. Not for an instant does he really mean quit your book learning for ever. Ah, poets are such devious liars! But W's 'point' remains a real and a true one, I think: that you may intuit more from one blade of grass one secret, sylvan waterfall or 'one impulse from a vernal wood' than a hundred books by Bill Bryson or Richard Dawkins (so to speak, and tongue firmly wedged in cheek). So - you may have ever so slightly misread it, Weaver, or perhaps not read behind it or through it enough? Only three out of ten this time, no detention, but please reread and memorize off by heart ;)

Jay - I just couldn't agree more!

am said...

Up!up! my Friend, and quit your iBooks and MacBooks

(-:

I've been feeling gloomy. Thanks for posting "The Tables Turned." Not feeling so gloomy now!

I like Wordworth's poem. Sets me to wondering if I read that poem when I was a young girl who spent an inordinate amount of time in her bedroom reading books, but began balancing that with long solitary walks, exploring the natural world just outside city limits in the coast hills above San Francisco Bay.

I love that Wordsworth rhymes "linnet" and "in it."

Rachel Fox said...

Memorize by heart...I bet you know this one already, SW. You could record it and be the first man to contribute a 'someone else's poem aloud' to my little collection. Please!
x

molly said...

Long Sigh...what amazing words.