Tuesday, September 02, 2008

W is for a Wild Surmise

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent upon a peak in Darien.”
-- Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

This year I hope to more often feel what “stout Cortez” and his men felt on that “peak in Darien”. Keats pictures them standing on a hill above the Pacific Ocean, utterly dumbfounded by the astonishing scene, and I’m hoping to feel that kind of wonder and bewilderment more often as an English teacher. Cortez and his men saw an ocean they had never before seen, or even imagined, and every day in class – every moment – I will be a witness to scenes equally as original and amazing. Hard as it is to remember during the often wearisome routines of the day, the scholars in my class are each as mystifying and unique as a nameless ocean, and really, the only proper response to them is one of honest amazement. I guess Room 2 is my “Darien”, and my seat at the round table is the “peak” where I can look “with a wild surmise” at the strange brilliance of the scholars. A “surmise” is a guess, a conjecture, a hunch, and that’s truthfully all I have when it comes to understanding the kids. In the end, they’re complete conundrums to me. If you ask me to explain my scholars to you, all I could do is make a rash guess, a “wild surmise”. A better response might be to remain “silent” like the explorer and his men.

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