Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hopkins on the shock of Wordworth's Immortality Ode

I'm going back to Wordsworth's famous Ode again (and maybe Blake) since reading this:

"There have been in all history a few, a very few, men whom common repute, even where it did not trust them, has treated as having had something happen to them that does not happen to other men — as having seen something, whatever that really was. Plato is the most famous of these. Or, to put it as it seems to meI must somewhere have written to you or to somebody, human nature in these men saw something, got a shock—wavers in opinion, looking back, whether there was anything in it or no—but is in a tremble ever since. Now what Wordsworthians mean is that in Wordsworth, when he wrote that Ode, human nature got another of those shocks, and the tremble from it is spreading. This opinion I do strongly share; I am, ever since I knew the Ode, in that tremble. You know what happened to crazy Blake, himself a most poetically electrical subject, both active and passive, at his first hearing: when the reader came to ‘the pansy at my feet’, he fell into a hysterical excitement. Now commonsense forbid we should take on like these unstrung hysterical creatures! Still, it was a proof of the power of the shock."
     --- from a letter by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89)  to R.W.Dixon

No comments: