We’re embracing ‘Throwback Thursday’ with a blog first published by our founder and director Dr Jane Davis in September 2013.
As Burns Night approaches we thought no better time to start celebrating than with our weekly Featured Poem, My love is like a red, red rose by Robert Burns.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devon in 1772 and passed away on 25 July 1834 in the Highgate area of London, making today the 182nd anniversary of his death.
We’ve spotted a few daffodils springing up around our HQ – whether there are quite enough to be deemed a ‘host’, we couldn’t say, but they did put us in mind of hopeful days of Spring and the chance to spend more time out of doors. This week’s Featured Poem, quite coincidentally penned by William Wordsworth, contemplates the merits of staying indoors and poring over books (of the academic variety, it would seem) as opposed to learning lessons from the world around us. Naturally, we would advise combining the two, but why not take a read and see which line of thinking you fall towards.
The Tables Turned
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
The sun above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it.
And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
We’re still on a figurative high after the highest shared reading group ever at the summit of Mount Snowdon over the weekend, so for this week’s Featured Poem we’re staying with the theme of ascending mountains. Perhaps with the inspiration of Wordsworth, Helvellyn might be our next shared reading target – we’ll already have the reading material sorted…
On Her First Ascent to Helvellyn
Inmate of a mountain-dwelling,
Thou hast clomb aloft, and gazed
From the watch-towers of Helvellyn;
Awed, delighted, and amazed!
Potent was the spell that bound thee
Not unwilling to obey;
For blue Ether’s arms, flung round thee,
Stilled the pantings of dismay.
Lo! the dwindled woods and meadows;
What a vast abyss is there!
Lo! the clouds, the solemn shadows,
And the glistenings–heavenly fair!
And a record of commotion
Which a thousand ridges yield;
Ridge, and gulf, and distant ocean
Gleaming like a silver shield!
Maiden! now take flight;–inherit
Alps or Andes–they are thine!
With the morning’s roseate Spirit,
Sweep their length of snowy line;
Or survey their bright dominions
In the gorgeous colours drest
Flung from off the purple pinions,
Evening spreads throughout the west!
Thine are all the coral fountains
Warbling in each sparry vault
Of the untrodden lunar mountains;
Listen to their songs!–or halt,
To Niphates’ top invited,
Whither spiteful Satan steered;
Or descend where the ark alighted,
When the green earth re-appeared;
For the power of hills is on thee,
As was witnessed through thine eye
Then, when old Helvellyn won thee
To confess their majesty!
It seems like the weather will take a turn for the better this week, and this particular poem by William Wordsworth is a great one to read to compliment the summer days – even if you can’t make it to a beach and go shell-hunting, it’s bound to bring back fond memories of ‘sonorous cadences’ and more besides.
Wordsworth is a popular choice amongst our shared reading groups, with members commenting that ‘there is something about Wordsworth!’. We would definitely have to agree, and this poem speaks to that notion loud and clear.
The Sea Shell
A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;
To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
Brightened with joy; for murmurings from within
Were heard, sonorous cadences! whereby
To his belief, the monitor expressed
Mysterious union with his native sea.
Even in such a shell the Universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith: and there are times,
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow and ever-during power;
And central peace, subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation.
Better late than never, here’s this week’s Featured Poem – think of it as a midweek recharge over a cup of tea (or your preferred beverage). We’ve been unpicking this verse from Wordsworth in our latest Communications and Marketing team meeting, and had a particular ponder over what it might mean to be ‘surprised by joy’.
There’s lots to consider, so why not take a read.
Surprised by Joy
Surprised by joy- impatient as the Wind
I wished to share the transport- Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love recalled thee to my mind-
But how could I forget thee! – Through what power
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss?-That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.
£30 (including lunch)/£15 concessions
With just over a month to go to the big day, Christmas is beginning to surround us everywhere. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the stresses and strains of seasonal preparation, don’t tear your hair out – instead, turn to some classic and calming literature in our special Short Course for Serious Readers, designed to provide an oasis amidst the pre-Christmas rush.
Take a break away from the heaving high streets, still the jingle of the Christmas bells and forget about present-buying pressure for this day long course where we’ll spend the day looking at moments of literary escape from the whirling world. Join Kate McDonnell, The Reader Organisation’s Quality Practice Manager, to read a selection of poetry and prose by the likes of Wordsworth, Louis Macneice and many others, considering how we make take the peace their words offer us back into the fray to prepare for the final furlong of festive organising.
Give yourself some space with great literature and good company at this seasonal Short Course for Serious Readers. To book your place, contact Literary Learning Coordinator Sophie Johnson on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0151 207 7207.
For more information on upcoming Short Courses for Serious Readers, including our New Year 2014 course asking ‘Can a Book Change Your Life?’, visit the Courses section on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/courses.aspx