The Lyric Impulse
[About a poem by John Clare produced during his confinement in Northampton Asylum] This, to me, is a test poem. If any student of English literature failed to respond to it, I would advise him to take up some other course: if I heard a teacher or critic dismissing it, or adopting a supercilious attitude towards it, I would wish to have him instantly deprived of his post. It is a test poem, because we can only accept it on its own terms and at its own level […] To feel it as it should be felt entails an act of joyful submission. such an act of submission may be difficult for a modern reader, habituated by the earnestness or officiousness of literary critics to believe that no poem is worthwhile unless a fine dust of footnotes can be beaten out of it. But if the reader cannot make this surrender to simple poetry, his mastery of more complex kinds will be a little suspect, for it means that his channel to poetry’s source has become clogged.
One dusty note:
supercilious = behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others [I always thought this word meant “super silly”.]
And so with Wordsworth we are always ever “Surprised by joy” and mindful of loss. To this we gladly submit.
Wordsworth’s sonnets are disclosures of intense emotion. Whether or not they have an identified addressee, they seem to require a listener.
Carol Rumens. The Guardian. Poem of the week: Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind 22 September 2008
From one’s poet reading of another (of Lewis reading Clare) by the analogy of being open to surprise and submitting to the complex magic of simple poetry, we came to another (Rumens) reading another (Wordsworth) — a small leap across the years when impelled by a certain attentiveness which is all that is asked of us, all that is proposed, submitted to us.
And so for day 1308