Expostulation and Reply
|Overlooking Esthwaite Lake|
"WHY, William, on that old grey stone,
Thus for the length of half a day,
Why, William, sit you thus alone,
And dream your time away?
"Where are your books?--that light bequeathed
To Beings else forlorn and blind!
Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed
From dead men to their kind.
"You look round on your Mother Earth,
As if she for no purpose bore you;
As if you were her first-born birth,
And none had lived before you!"
One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
When life was sweet, I knew not why,
To me my good friend Matthew spake,
And thus I made reply:
"The eye--it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where'er they be,
Against or with our will.
"Nor less I deem that there are Powers
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours
In a wise passiveness.
"Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?
"--Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
Conversing as I may,
I sit upon this old grey stone,
And dream my time away,"
So, here we have yet another Wordsworth ballad in rhyming iambic tetrameter arranged as several quatrains with one foot deliberately omitted from the last line of each quatrain for emphasis. The comma at the end of the last line is not a typo, as there is a companion or sequel poem to this one, "The Tables Turned--An Evening Scene on the Same Subject,"that might immediately follow "Expostulation and Reply" in a Wordsworth collection, and which will be presented in the Review on June 8, 2014.
And, yet again, here we have another Wordsworth poem that promotes the value of the appreciation of nature and the peace, quiet, and powerful wisdom that such appreciation may bring versus the more accepted approach to life that is "breathed from dead men to their kind." Wordsworth does not mean that academic studies are a waste of time--he certainly studied the works of "dead men," as, ironically, do we right now as you, the reader, read my words, and I, the writer, write them. I believe that Wordsworth wants to warn us against living a "virtual" life lost in books and study while missing out on the "actual" life that surrounds us. This advice is more relevant today than ever in our world where "virtual reality" and "connectivity" (a misnomer if I ever heard one) continue to permeate more and more of our lives.