Wednesday, 29 August 2012

To A Butterfly

The other day The Solitary Walker and I paid a visit to Dove Cottage in the Lake District, the house where Wordsworth spent what were probably the nine most productive years of his life. There was much to see - from Wordsworth's cuckoo clock to his skates. The skates may have inspired great poetry but, according to De Quincey, the poet, when skating "sprawled on the ice like a cow dancing a cotillion". De Quincey's opium scales lurked in the same glass case.

It was raining so heavily that going out into the garden was out of the question - which was a shame, as Wordsworth composed a great deal of poetry there, returning to the house to dictate it to either his wife or his sister. I left feeling an overwhelming urge to read some - something I hadn't done for a while.

When I finally got a chance to fish out the collected poems, I opened the book -as I was most likely to do- at one I didn't know, although I'm sure it's well-known to Wordsworth fans. I ought to read more. Ezra Pound once urged aspiring poets to "read as much Wordsworth as [they could] stand". Anyway, this poem dates from the poet's time at the cottage and turned out, with its intimate tone, to be a very appropriate poem, I thought, to read straight after a visit to it:

To A Butterfly

I've watched you now a full half-hour,
Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! Not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!

This plot of Orchard-ground is ours;
My trees they are, my Sister's flowers;
Here rest your wings when they are weary;
Here lodge as in a sanctuary!
Come often to us, fear no wrong;
Sit near us on the bough!
We'll talk of sunshine and of song;
And summer days, when we were young;
Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now.


Jenny Woolf said...

Charming poem and not one I associate with Wordsworth. I hadn't read it before, either.

Titus said...

Thanks Dominic, I somehow feel the rain must have made it a more authentic experience. I've never been to the Lake District when it wasn't raining.

The only Worthsworth butterfly poem I knew had 'Historian of my infancy' in it, so this one new to me.

George said...

A lovely poem, Dominic. Thanks for providing it here. Sounds like you and Robert had a fine time at Dove Cottage and the environs.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I think one of the reasons why people don't read Wordworth so much these days is that somehow, rather like Tennyson, he seems a little dated. Odd that, as I don't think it applies to earlier poets like John Donne etc.

Gwil W said...

A pity about the rain but that's the way it is in the Lakes. Be less crowded though.

Ruth said...

Like George I envy your forays with Robert into these byways that are legendary. The age and grace of England with her eternal poets keeps us keeping on in these days of forgetfulness.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Lovely poem Dominic and one that I was not aware of - must read more.

Anna :o]

The Solitary Walker said...

And in the frosty season, when the sun
Was set, and, visible for many a mile,
The cottage-windows through the twilight blazed,
I heeded not the summons: happy time
It was indeed for all of us; for me
It was a time of rapture! Clear and loud 30
The village-clock tolled six--I wheeled about,
Proud and exulting like an untired horse
That cares not for his home.--All shod with steel
We hissed along the polished ice, in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures,--the resounding horn,
The pack loud-chiming, and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle: with the din
Smitten, the precipices rang aloud; 40
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tinkled like iron; while far-distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy, not unnoticed while the stars,
Eastward, were sparkling clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay, or sportively
Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
To cut across the reflex of a star; 50
Image, that, flying still before me, gleamed
Upon the glassy plain: and oftentimes,
When we had given our bodies to the wind,
And all the shadowy banks on either side
Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still
The rapid line of motion, then at once
Have I, reclining back upon my heels,
Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs
Wheeled by me--even as if the earth had rolled
With visible motion her diurnal round! 60
Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,
Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched
Till all was tranquil as a summer sea.

GOAT said...

Great post and poem, Dominic. I'm sure you saw this when it was on, but I loved this show and you've reminded me of this episode:

Anonymous said...

New to me and something of a delight. Thanks for it.

Gwil W said...

I've never seen a butterfly sit on a flower for a full half hour as Wordsworth claims to have done. I put this Wordsworthian 'observation' in the same category as his lonely wandering Lake District cloud, a subject I have chastised him for on my blog. As he was a close friend Coleridge he was probably not averse to the odd snort of coke etc., I excuse Wordsworth in the belief that he may have well been something of a closet sniffer himself and maybe hallucinated on the odd occasion. I have posted an image of a butterfly which alighted on a poisonous flower for a full 5 minutes.

Gwil W said...

Dominic, thanks for that FW link which I've saved in my list. It's 89 mins long so I need to find some time. The first 10 mins of it looks really good. Thanks again. GW

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments, everyone!

Jessica Maybury said...

that's so wonderful! what an experience. I have to say though, I prefer De Quincey to Wordsworth.

Also, I've started quoting you... :D

Md Rajon said...