Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Wordsworth Rap
4 August, 2007

Check out this 21st century version of Wordsworth’s classic ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’. This updated version by MC Nuts who dresses up as a squirrel for the video is a nice fusion of hip-hop and literary poetry.  It’s interesting to compare the updated lyrics and the original.

I wandered lonely along as if I was a cloud – MC Nuts

I wandered lonely along as if I was a cloud
That floats on high over vales and hills
When all at once I looked down and saw a crowd
And in my path there was a host of golden daffodils, so check it,
It’s the kind of sight that puts your mind at ease
I saw beside the lake and beneath the trees,
And they kind of moved me, like they were base on the keys,
They were fluttering and dancing inside the breeze,

And seemed infinite, just like the stars that shine up in the belt of Orion,
Across to the milky-way, they stretched along the coast in a never ending line,
All across the water margin of the golden silty bay
I must admit, ten thousand I say in my retina,
No more than a glance than I registered that they’re beautiful etc.
I never knew in advance but they were tossing up their heads like a pogo dance

In a contrast to the plants they where waste beside them,
The way they crushed and sparkled, added to the marvel,
And the writer couldn’t help but feeling bright like a sunbeam,
The flowers and the waves they were quite something, yeah
Across the spot – just lost the plot –
Just watched and watched all the yellow and green
And at the time I didn’t really have to pay them no mind,
But when I think back to the day it was a hell of a scene

So often, when I’m on my coach just sitting,
in a vacant mood or idle position, with nothing to do, my face screwed, time ticking,
Gotta rewind to my vision, I get a flashback in my mind’s eye
Feel the bliss of solitude from the hindsight
My heart fills up, until the pleasure is spilled, yo
I’m taken back to dancing with the daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud – Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Which version do you prefer?

William Hazlitt – On Poetry
26 June, 2007

William Hazlitt

William Hazlitt’s ‘Lectures on the English Poets’ from 1818 is one of the best descriptions, defenses and demonstrations of poetry that I’ve read. He writes beautifully, with strong, illuminating metaphors, and his love of poetry shines out. When writing about flow and rhyme in poetry, he shows all of these things. Poetry, he writes: “is to common language, what springs are to a carriage.”

He explains: “The jerks, the breaks, the inequalities, and harshnesses of prose, are fatal to the flow of a poetical imagination, as a jolting road or a stumbling horse disturbs the reverie of an absent man.”

What an analogy! And what of the place of poetry; what is it’s use? For Hazlitt poetry is a necessary reaction to human life and consciousness, paraphrasing Aristotle (I imagine) he says: “Man is a poetical animal.”

And what does the poet do?: “the poet does no more than describe what all the others think and act.”  Which includes…”the rich depths of the human soul: the whole of our existence, the sum total of our passions and pursuits, of that which we desire and that which we dread.”

For Hazlitt, it is the human condition to be: “as prone to make a torment of our fears, as to luxuriate in our hopes of good.”  And therefore, we love to read of the passions, tragedies and loves of others.

He is also very clear on the power and place of imagination in life, and the place of poetry in an age of scientific advancement. This is a beautiful passage that contrasts two ways of looking at the world.

“We can no more take away the faculty of the imagination, than we can see all objects without light or shade. Some things must dazzle us by their preternatural light; others must hold us in suspense, and tempt our curiosity to explore their obscurity. Those who would dispel these various illusions, to give us their drab-coloured creation in their stead, are not very wise. Let the naturalist, if he will, catch the glow-worm, carry it home with him in a box, and find it next morning nothing but a little grey worm; let the poet or the lover of poetry visit it at evening, when beneath the scented hawthorn and the crescent moon it has built itself a palace of emerald light.”

Although his phrases may seem high-brow or old-fashioned, I found his writing clear and unpretentious. Indeed, he writes of those who talk about what they don’t know, brilliantly.

“When artists or connoisseurs talk on stilts about the poetry of painting, they shew that they know little about poetry, and have little love for the art.”

To ‘talk on stilts’: what a good picture! Most of these quotes come from the first section of his ‘Lectures’ which is a fascinating introduction to poetry in general. Most of the essay, however, is taken up with a description and interpretation of English poets from Chaucer to poets of his day, like Wordsworth. He quotes each at length, bringing out their most striking features. I’m certain that a general reader will get more out of this paragraph than out of one hundred pages of modern poetic criticism:

“Chaucer excels as the poet of manners, or of real life; Spenser, as the poet of romance; Shakspeare as the poet of nature (in the largest use of the term); and Milton, as the poet of morality. Chaucer most frequently describes things as they are; Spenser, as we wish them to be; Shakspeare, as they would be; and Milton as they ought to be. As poets, and as great poets, imagination, that is, the power of feigning things according to nature, was common to them all: but the principle or moving power, to which this faculty was most subservient in Chaucer, was habit, or inveterate prejudice; in Spenser, novelty, and the love of the marvellous; in Shakspeare, it was the force of passion, combined with every variety of possible circumstances; and in Milton, only with the highest. The characteristic of Chaucer is intensity; of Spenser, remoteness; of Milton, elevation; of Shakspeare, every thing.”

His description of Chaucer as “the most practical of all the great poets, the most a man of business and the world”, inspired me to read the Canterbury Tales (in Coghill’s modern English version) which entertained and delighted me. I’m sure if either author was read more widely they would entertain and delight many more.

Hazlitt’s ‘Lectures on the English Poets’ at Project Gutenberg:
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/16209
Hazlitt’s wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hazlitt