Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, Book 4: “Need I say, dear friend, that to the brim my heart was full?”

Anthology: Poems on How to Live Human Voices Wake Us

Tonight I read a handful of poems on the theme of How to live, what to do? How to get by in the world as a devotee of culture, solitude, ritual, beauty, tradition and individuality? There is of course no one answer, and anyway, poetry should stay as far away from direct “advice,” or proscription of any kind. Still, when I sit back and think about the kind of poems that help me through the day – and the months, and the years – these are some of them. Let me know the poems you rely on in this way: send me a message at humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com. As I also mention, after this episode I’ll be taking a break from Human Voices Wake Us for at least a month. The best way to support the podcast is to preorder my book Notes from the Grid (coming out February 23), or check out any of my other books: To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, Bone Antler Stone The poems I read are: Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), How to Live What to Do Galway Kinnell (1927-2014), Tillamook Journal Edith Nesbit (1858-1924), Things That Matter Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), #2 from Lightenings Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Joy Louise Glück (1943-), Summer Night W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), A Prayer on Going into My House Emily Brontë (1818-1848), “Often rebuked, yet always back returning” Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), Man Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here.  — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/humanvoiceswakeus/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/humanvoiceswakeus/support
  1. Anthology: Poems on How to Live
  2. Anthology: Love Poems from the Last Four Centuries
  3. Advice from Charles Dickens & Alice Munro
  4. First Person: Voices from 1900-1914
  5. The Great Myths #22: The Story of Ragnarok in the Norse Eddas



Excerpts from Book 4 of Wordsworth’s 1805 Prelude, on his time home from college. Other excerpts are here.


Why should I speak of what a thousand hearts
Have felt, and every man alive can guess?

Book 4: 33-34

Delighted did I take my place again
At our domestic table; and, dear friend,
Relating simply as my wish hath been
A poet’s history, can I leave untold
The joy with which I laid me down at night
In my accustomed bed, more welcome now
Perhaps than if it had been more desired,
Or been more often thought of with regret –
That bed whence I had heard the roaring wind
And clamorous rain, that bed where I so oft
Had lain awake on breeze nights to watch
The moon in splendor couched among the leaves
Of a tall ash that near our cottage stood,
Had watched her with fixed eyes, while to and fro
In the dark summit of the moving tree
She rocked with every impulse of the wind.

Book 4: 68-83

Gently did my soul
Put off her veil, and, self-transmuted, stood
Naked as in the presence of her God.
As on I walked, a comfort seemed to touch
A heart that had not been disconsolate,
Strength came where weakness was not known to be,
At least not felt; and restoration came
Like an intruder knocking at the door
Of unacknowledged weariness. I took
The balance in my hand and weighed myself:
I saw but little, and thereat was pleased;
Little did I remember, and even this
Still pleased me more – but I had hopes and peace
And swellings of the spirits, was rapt and soothed,
Conversed with promises, had glimmering views
How life pervades the undecaying mind,
How the immortal soul with godlike power
Informs, creates, and thaws the deepest sleep
That time can lay upon her, how on earth
Man if he do but live within the light
Of high endeavours, daily spreads abroad
His being with a strength that cannot fail.
Nor was there want of milder thoughts, of love,
Of innocence, and holiday repose,
And more than pastoral quiet in the heart
Of amplest projects, and a peaceful end
At last, or glorious, by endurance won.
Thus musing, in a wood I sate me down
Alone, continuing there to muse. Meanwhile
The mountain heights were slowly overspread
With darkness, and before a rippling breeze
The long lake lengthened out its hoary line,
And in the sheltered coppice where I sate,
Around me, from among the hazel leaves –
Now here, no there, stirred by the straggling wind –
Came intermittingly a breath-like sound,
A respiration short and quick, which oft,
Yea, might I say, again and yet again,
Mistaking for the panting of a dog,
The off-and-on companion of my walk,
I turned my head to look if he was there.

Book 4: 140-180

Far better had it been to exalt the mind
By solitary study, to uphold
Intense desire by thought and quietness.
And yet, in chastisement of these regrets,
The memory of one particular hour
Doth here rise up against me. In a throng,
A festal company of maids and youths,
Old men and matrons, staid, promiscuous rout,
A medley of all tempers, I had passed
The night in dancing, gaiety and mirth –
With din of instruments, and shuffling feet,
And glancing forms, and tapers glittering,
And unaimed prattle flying up and down,
Spirits upon the stretch, and here and there
Slight shocks of young love-liking interspersed
That mounted up like joy into the head,
And tingled through the veins. Ere we retired
The cock had crowed, the sky was bright with day;
Two miles I had to walk along the fields
Before I reached my home. Magnificent
The morning was, a memorable pomp,
More glorious than I ever had beheld.
The sea was laughing at a distance; all
The solid mountains were as bright as clouds,
Grain-tinctured, drenched in empyrean light;
And in the meadows and the lower grounds
Was all sweetness of a common dawn –
Dews, vapours, and the melody of birds,
And labourers going forth into the fields.
Ah, need I say, dear friend, that to the brim
My heart was full? I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me: bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be – else sinning greatly –
A dedicated spirit. On I walked
In blessedness, which even yet remains.

Book 4: 311-345