Friday, June 13, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Nutting" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

The Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 13, 2014 is "Nutting" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  Information about the Songs of Eretz Poet of the Month feature as well as a biographical essay about William Wordsworth may be found here:  http://www.eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2014/06/songs-of-eretz-poetry-review-poet-of.html.

Nutting
A Nutting-crook
William Wordsworth


—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.


"Nutting" is presented as a fifty-six-line narrative poem in blank verse.  The lack of stanza breaks may indicate that Wordsworth wanted the narrative to be appreciated as a cohesive whole.  However, there there are four distinct parts to the poem where breaks might have appeared.  Had they, the poem might have been divided into four linked sonnets (or near sonnets) as below illustrated.  Having written so many sonnets, Wordsworth may having been unconsciously, or perhaps consciously, thinking in units of fourteen(ish) as he composed this poem.

I

-- 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!

II

-- 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.

III

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. 

IV

-- 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. 

In part I, the speaker, presumably Wordsworth, over the objections of his wife (the "Dame"), dresses rather shabbily and strikes out on a beautiful day to go gathering hazelnuts from a nearby wood.  

In part II, the speaker comes upon a secret grove that is completely unspoiled--something out of the land of "fairy."  In the grove is a glorious hazelnut tree bursting with fruit.  

In part III, the speaker revels in the beauty of the grove and communes with nature--a common theme for Wordsworth--listening to the "murmuring sound" of the energy of the wood.

Then suddenly and bafflingly, in part IV, the speaker brutally rips down the hazelnut tree and takes possession of its nuts.  At first, this makes the speaker feel "rich beyond the wealth of kings."  But then he looks around him and notices how his destructive behavior has despoiled the magic of the now ruined special place.  The "intruding sky," once blocked by the glorious hazelnut tree, exposes him, shining light upon his crime.  Now filled with pain and regret, he implores a "Maiden" to have a care not to make the mistake that he has made, but rather treat the sacred forest with gentleness and respect.

To whom the "Maiden" refers is not clear.  It is certainly not the "Dame" of part I, the two terms being mutually exclusive.  Perhaps the poet pictured himself reciting or giving this poem to one of his daughters or envisioned it being read for the most part by learned young ladies.
   

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