Wordsworth, Browning & Rao
My Poetry Teacher
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Daffodils don’t flash upon my inward eye, when I lie on a couch, as they did for Wordsworth, but the day we had his poem for Poetry Class does. So do the sessions with his Solitary Reaper, or with How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix by Robert Browning.
All due to the passion our Principal had for poetry.
Mr U B Rao, may his tribe prosper, had a booming voice, vast knowledge of the life and times of the poet under study, and the ability to infect us with love for poetry. It was a concert, his class! Still fills my heart with a longing, and a resolve that, when I take a class of any sort, I must match that fervour.
If I remember right, The Solitary Reaper was the first he did for us. After an intro speech on Wordsworth, the Lakeschool Fellows, ballads and the highlands, this purveyor of poetic delights began reading the first stanza.
“Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.”
He asked us to note how the poet had stressed on the reaper’s lack of company with these words: single, solitary, by herself, alone. That was the first time I realized how each word in a poem had a purpose. In prose, too, for that matter.
When we explored a Browning together, How They Brought The Good News From Ghent To Aix, he brought to our kind attention the rhythm of the rhymes. The protagonists are on horseback most of the time, and the words were designed to mimic that pace and rhythm. Read the following aloud please, and see for yourself:
I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he:
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
“Good speed!” cried the watch as the gate-bolts undrew;
“Speed” echoed the wall to us galloping through.
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
When I read it aloud, it does not just help me picture the scene; I am there, riding with them! Such is the power of poetry, and such was the great mentor who started me off on the road to its appreciation with a ‘Good Speed!’
God bless him.
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