Okay I thought I was done but I need to do a little more. Essay Part One.
Allow me to put two more bits of notion into our meditation on the rule of bliss and its opposite, the swing-and-the-miss (and solitude, and its opposing number too) (which for me, right now, is you).
Note the first is the excerpt from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal commonly, wonderfully offered in tandem with Will’s poem. Read it like you have been staring hungry too long a tin of grav lox missing its key, and then entered the theater to deliver it as a monolog to the ghost of Stanislavski:
When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up— But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road . . . some rested their heads on stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway... —Rain came on, we were wet.
April 15, 1802
I wandered lonely as a cloud, indeed.
Note the second is that William wrote, and it has been oft repeated, that the two best lines of his poem were written by his wife, Mary, these being, “They flash upon that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude.”
Well the winner is whosoever’s work is long remembered and in this case the palm goes to all three. Also I don’t mind noting that while Will is a good man to go publically gloating about the wonders of his spouse’s mind, he was to himself a little too unkind, as the best line of the poem is the first one, the one that no who hears it, or perhaps speaks it aloud, ever quite forgets: I wandered lonely as a cloud.
The second best lines are indeed the ones Will called out as best, his wife’s apt description of something usually hidden and damn difficult to describe: that there is an inward eye, that things flash upon it, that solitude can be tasty and what is most tasty about it is the opportunity for day dreaming wherein spiced heights of passion and tangential sour lows of gross revenge play out a thousand times. That is the bliss of solitude when nothing, even so divine as love, is suffered gladly to intrude.
The third best lines of the poem are “Ten thousand saw I at a glance,/ Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.” I’m kidding of course with this beauty-pageant ranking, but the other lines that describe the wind tickling the lake into a million flickers of lightnesses and darks, then without dropping a stitch switches to tickling the flowers into a million flickers of yellow, lilting in brightness and weakness and power.
To continue, the forth best lines of the event are Dorothy’s: “some rested their heads on stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them.”
I could have stopped the quote at “laughed” which as the moment awakens into full-on magic, as in fairy tales when candles stand up and sing or when the color comes on in the Wizard of Oz, because here the flowers are Pinocchioed into humanity, when the daffodils, giggle themselves from that to they, but I was loath to lose Dot’s repetition about the wind and the lake and the blooms. What was so transfixing to them all, Will, Mary, and Dot, was the oneness of the water and the petals in their response to the wind. It created a scene of simplicity, and unity, and life, and that is the wind we all long to get caught up in.
Our own little heads are heads among ten thousand and when we too are too weary to dance, we rest noggins on rocks and are still parts of the program. The wind blows. Each tiny patch of water responds with a new reflection of the sky or matte introspection. On the shore, each leaf responds, each alone, each uncertain and certain, all in concert. Our hearts respond, each an only, each uncertain and certain, all in concert, and something lifts that often keeps us drastically darkened and lonely, somehow nature and art lift that murky curtain, and we join again the light fantastic.
Such togetherness abounds and is as thick and sweet as candied meat, but what about Crusoe, truly alone, perched on a little dead volcano, watching things of unquenchable beauty, like roving, giant, test-tubes of glass arising from hot pits in the magma, with boiling water spouting out of them like screaming kettles abandoned on their stove. Actually, let’s return to the text for a listen:
The beaches were all lava, variegated,
black red, and white, and gray;
the marbled colors made a fine display.
And I had waterspouts. Oh,
half a dozen at a time, far out,
they’d come and go, advancing and retreating,
their heads in cloud, their feet in moving patches
of scuffed-up white.
Glass chimneys, flexible, attenuated,
sacerdotal beings of glass...I watched
the water spiral up in them like smoke.
Beautiful, yes, but not much company.
I often gave way to self-pity.
“Do I deserve this? I suppose I must.
I wouldn’t be here otherwise. Was there
a moment when I actually chose this?
I don’t remember, but there could have been.”
What’s wrong about self-pity anyway?
Whenever I read this I’m like, "What the what?" I’m a nut for this kind of question and answer, the commitment to the notion that I know this world is of my making, clue one was that it is so perfectly tailored to unnerve me. She tells us it is our fault, this mess we’re in, but that it is okay to cry about it.
We are all back from somewhere, each a Doberman among Chihuahuas, but we are also on our way elsewhere to birdland, when we will look back on sharing dogness and a scene together, Will, Dot, and Mary, will seem something only the impossibly young could do, and what might never again be done.
Then we’ll know that we have passed the lake-afire-with-light part of life and are into a new one this time full of laughing fellows and full on sunny yellow where every glint of golden shimmer is perfectly opposed by one mustard and dimmer. As in the past it is the next ancient world I am trying to get through to, to which I am trying to get through. As I’ve told you before, I may play with a noun or a verb but prepositions must get all their tits in the right bra cups if I am going to proceed.
And I mean to. So, yes, there is Crusoe remembering Will and Mary and Dorothy’s memory, but not quite remembering their communal memory to the finish, leaving him diminished by three lines and the crucial, I repeat, crucial information that the bliss of blank is Solitude, where one has time enough to start seeing picture shows, unasked for but awaited, running unabated upon the inner screen of mind, “that inward eye.” Crusoe remembers the Wordsworths, and later remembers himself remembering, and is then remembered by Bishop, who is remembered by me, who is remembered by you, all of us wandering lonely as a cloud, building up to a bit of a storm.
Which is where I’ll leave you. Get home safe now. DKY and ISRTEYA.*
*Don’t Kill Yourself. I Shall Return To Encourage You Again.