William Wordsworth, along with Samuel Coleridge, changed the landscape of Poetry during the 18th Century in England.
Heady times were afoot, both in England and abroad. The philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Burke et al were challenging both the Rationalism and Empiricism that had been championed in the Enlightenment (quite different from the Buddhist concept of “buddha”) of the preceding centuries following the Italian Renaissance from the so-called “Dark Ages” of ignorance.
Wordsworth, oft associated with the Lake District of England, was a harbinger of the movement that would nominally be called “Romanticism.” Nominally in the fact that those involved in said movement, specifically the German polymath Goethe, refused such nomenclature and taxonomy for what they were doing.
The limits of Reason and Logic were beginning to become quite a fly in the ointment of Man as the Measure of all things…Nature seems, as Parmenides was wont to say, to have more things up her sleeve than our feeble minds are able to either perceive, much less conceive of due to our limiting nature of prejudices and a lack of adequate language for describing the “Truth” of reality.
Poets and writers and artists of the so-called Romanticism era came to embrace the unfathomable of Infinity and the Sublime. In other words, one can either become paralyzed by the thought that we cannot truly know something “as it truly is,” or more disturbingly, communication between people is inherently flawed. Language fails us. Words are arbitrary.
Wordsworth’s most famous work is perhaps “The Prelude,” in which he goes down memory lane to some extent and reflects upon a life of reflection.
In the section named “Books,” the poet relates a dream that he has had in which a mysterious, nameless Bedouin Arab appears:
A lance he bore, and underneath one arm
A stone, and in the opposite hand a shell
Of a surpassing brightness. At the sight
Much I rejoiced, not doubting but a guide
Was present, one who with unerring skill
Would through the desert lead me; and while yet
I looked and looked, self-questioned, what this freight
Which the new-comer carried through the waste
Could mean, the Arab told me that the stone
(To give it in the language of the dream)
Was “Euclid’s Elments”; and “This,” said he,
“Is something of more worth”; and at the word
Stretched forth the shell, so beautiful in shape,
In colour so resplendent, with command
That I should hold it to my ear. I did so,
And heard that instant in an unknown tongue,
Which yet I understood, articulate sounds,
A loud prophetic blast of harmony;
An Ode, in passion uttered, which foretold
Destruction to the children of the earth
By deluge, now at hand. …
Traditional logic and reason may serve us with textbooks and making good grades, and at best, describing the world as we experience it, but, as with the unknown tongue of the seashell, there is much that we do not know, or fail to understand if it is provided in a means other than language.
Humans seem to tirelessly stem the tide of the Ocean with words, and yet, Nature has something to tell us, but it is not necessarily in the form of words, and names, and grammar.
But, are we listening?