On Wordsworth

Rich Russell
Jay Peterson
Brit Lit II

1 Feb. 2018

[Reading Response #2: Wordsworth]

As I re-read Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a Cloud,” I kept thinking of two concepts: ecotherapy and 9th Grade English. I remember having to recite this poem in front of the class for some reason (because it was in the textbook? because I have always been fond of flowers?), and though I only still have committed to memory the first four lines, I have inflicted them in spontaneous recitation upon many since that time: when visiting the Lake District, for example, or the floral department at Shop Rite around Easter. What’s interesting in this poem is both the experience of the “host, of golden daffodils” and then the recollection of that experience from the couch; and then, for me now, my initial experience with the poem in English class and now the memory of that initial experience: remembering a poem about remembered daffodils. Memory has come up several times this week: in World Literature (though I can’t remember why; ha!––something in a Richard Blanco poem, I think, about his memories of Cuba) and also as we discuss facts and truth in Creative Writing. I have found myself thinking about William James, too, trying to remember something in his theory of memory about the experience and then how there is a copy or image made of that experience which is what we actually “recollect in tranquility:” almost a treachery of recollection, then––there is always a distancing (like an insistent em-dash), several removes from what has actually occurred.

But there has also been so much written recently about ecotherapy: how nature can lower our stress levels and improve our physical health (I mean, duh), even if we are just staring at trees while sitting for hours munching chips and sipping Pimm’s cup in the shade. I remember the title of one Atlantic article from a few years ago, “The Nature Cure,” and also a recent book called The Nature Fixthat discuss doctors who are prescribing nature as a remedy for certain illnesses and to help speed recovery after surgery. This seemed obvious to the Romantics and to the Transcendentalists of two hundred years ago; only now are scientists coming to study the reasons how. What’s interesting, though, is that for those who can’t have ready access to nature, scientists have supposedly shown that there are benefits to even just having a computer wallpaper of a beach scene set or a picture of a forest taped up on a windowless office wall. This had me wondering if there isn’t some study to be had about the psychological and physiological benefits of reading Wordsworth. Has a study like this already been done? It feels like it must have. Can the act of reading about daffodils lower the blood pressure while filling the heart with pleasure? Somewhere, someone must be studying the intersection of ecotherapy and bibliotherapy; some scientists floating above the readers above the poem, seeing the host of words and measuring their worth (had to be done).

But back to the treachery of tranquility(is that what I said?), those beginning two lines with the wandering, floating speaker––which have always reminded me of Emerson’s transparent floating eyeball––conjure someone who seems already removed from the action: not part of the dance at all but only able to participate when in recollection.

landscape photography of field covered with yellow flowers

Photo by Takao Numata on Pexels.com

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