Spend too long gazing at the face of God and the rest of one’s days descend into pedantry. One of the innovators in English poetry, William Wordsworth peaked early: the textbook example of reactionism taking the place of youthful radicalism. Yet I’m the weirdo who swooned over an excerpt from The Prelude we senors had to explicate for our AP English test — I’m the weirdo who remembered it.
May’s poem “Ode, Composed On A May Morning”
While from the purpling east departs
The star that led the dawn,
Blithe Flora from her couch upstarts,
For May All Nature welcomes Her s on the lawn.
A quickening hope, a freshening glee,
Foreran the expected Power,
Whose first-drawn breath, from bush and tree,
Shakes off that pearly shower.
All Nature welcomes Her whose sway
Tempers the year’s extremes;
Who scattereth lustres o’er noon-day,
Like morning’s dewy gleams;
While mellow warble, sprightly trill,
The tremulous heart excite;
And hums the balmy air to still
The balance of delight.
Time was, blest Power! when youth and maids
At peep of dawn would rise,
And wander forth, in forest glades
Thy birth to solemnize.
Though mute the song—to grace the rite
Untouched the hawthorn bough,
Thy Spirit triumphs o’er the slight;
Man changes, but not Thou!
Thy feathered Lieges bill and wings
In love’s disport employ;
Warmed by thy influence, creeping things
Awake to silent joy:
Queen art thou still for each gay plant
Where the slim wild deer roves;
And served in depths where fishes haunt
Their own mysterious groves.
Cloud-piercing peak, and trackless heath,
Instinctive homage pay;
Nor wants the dim-lit cave a wreath
To honor thee, sweet May!
Where cities fanned by thy brisk airs
Behold a smokeless sky,
Their puniest flower-pot-nursling dares
To open a bright eye.
And if, on this thy natal morn,
The pole, from which thy name
Hath not departed, stands forlorn
Of song and dance and game;
Still from the village-green a vow
Aspires to thee addrest,
Wherever peace is on the brow,
Or love within the breast.
Yes! where Love nestles thou canst teach
The soul to love the more;
Hearts also shall thy lessons reach
That never loved before.
Stript is the haughty one of pride,
The bashful freed from fear,
While rising, like the ocean-tide,
In flow the joyous year.
Hush, feeble lyre! weak words refuse
The service to prolong!
To yon exulting thrush the Muse
Entrusts the imperfect song;
His voice shall chant, in accents clear,
Throughout the live-long day,
Till the first silver star appear,
The sovereignty of May.