Poetry Porch: Poetry


The Romantic Poets
by Eamon Grennan

Setting out to skate the lake at Rydale (covered with ice, clear as polished steel) Wordsworth told Coleridge he intended to give his body to the wind, though not, he added, without reasonable caution. It’s how his poems work, too, their lines a steady motion between skating and walking, unlike those of STC, whose bodily state, skating, (says WW) renders caution necessary, and whose emblem is the waterfall, at once formal and wild—its relation to time and space an affair of turbulence, on-goingness, and headlong glancing lights till rocks put a stop to it. He might step outside, then, like Basho, simply to see the moon he’d later show his child. But when was it he became kin to Dorothy’s chaffinch, the skabby, that sate quietly in its nest, racked by the wind and beaten by the rain?

Busy in composition, says Dorothy, William sate down upon the wall. Here is the ordinary life of long snow walks, pocketfuls of cold mutton, the poet clearing a path to the necessary as he composes the poem for Coleridge. She sets down, too, the lake of a rich purple, the fields a soft yellow, the island yellowish green, the copse red-brown, the mountain purple, each detail tempering the migraine that would keep her in bed till noon, trying to catch her breath and not think too much upon poor Coleridge. But then she will draw out of the air and save for us a pretty cluster of houses and some naked forest trees, or one country-woman at her own back door—who looks up at the sky and unfurls with care into a quickening, eye-watering winter breeze the flag of no nation, her family tablecloth.

Copyright © 2010 by Eamon Grennan.