The other day, after ruminating at some length about American Idol
, I facetiously said I was going to read some Wordsworth--as a sort of cerebral palate cleanser. On that occasion, I didn't follow through. But last night, after watching a few dismal performances from the diminishing pool of contestants (goodbye, Scott Savol), I did actually curl up with some of Wordsworth's greatest hits. I always resisted the Romantics as a student, because they sounded too full of poetic vapor and I thought the elliptical modernists were more my speed. (Plus they didn't, you know, rhyme.) Now, however, my resistance is crumbling. When I was in London last summer, I stayed at a B&B in Hampstead, just a few blocks from Keats's house, and was oddly moved by my pilgrimage to that deserted suburban bungalow. On the lawn was a scrawny plum tree, whose meager foliage had supposedly shaded the poet while he wrote--now I've forgotten what. It turned out to be a replacement tree: the original had died. Still, I stood in front of that shrubby little growth for a long time, considering whether I should steal a piece of fruit and eat of the Keatsian tree. And there I was last night, rereading "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" and sharing the poet's monosyllabic melancholy: "The things which I have seen I now can see no more." For me childhood was a less visionary affair. Still, the poem has it all: wrenching loss and consolation, all in one package. I also read this peculiar recollection of Wordsworth's, about his life as a playground Platonist: "I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence, and I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature. Many times while going to school I have grasped at a wall or a tree to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality." So that's
why the other kids at P.S. 90 were always making fun of me!