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Thursday 30 October 2014

Chance meeting

Sonnet: On coming across WW's The Prelude

For I was schooled beyond his silent bay,
That refuge from a painful ignorance,
I lacked the grace of learning's unity,
I was the sum of all my malcontents.

An empty gourd, oh time's futility,
Unteachable yet wanting to be taught,
I'd turned my mind from light's felicity.
And stumbled on, a thing as yet unwrought.

I'd flicked through pages, passing most unseen,
A dabbler blind to any exemplar,
Blind to so much, but caught by this sharp sheen:
"To cut across the reflex of a star"

Within the lines I sensed a northern hue,
A name that could be worth a word or two.

Revised version, November 1


  1. A dabbler mostly blind to exemplar.
    This is so you, Robbie...the self deprecation, the recurring theme of academic aimlessness, the (now) easily Googleable quotation followed by the clever old school hint. Gorgeous tribute.

  2. Am I allowed to say that this would have been worth a few nudges.

  3. MikeM: If one lacks versification skills it's best to be lucky. The WW line is perfect iambic pentameter; all I had to do was add the quotes.

    Just taken a sonnet speedwriting course and it seems it works. I started this one at 06.37 and posted at 08.49. On the other hand I first read the line at school when I was 13 - say about 1949. Harvested 65 years later but it's thrummed in my mind ever since.

    Joe (then blogging as Plutarch) posted about the line independently on December 17, 2007, but used Wordsworh's earlier version. I commented. Gracious always, Joe wrote:

    My friend, the journalist who shelters behind the nom de plume of the fictional mariner, Barret Bonden, is right (see my post two days ago): "The reflex of a star" is much more powerful than the "image of a star". This was one of the real improvements

    Self-deprecating or not, I appreciate what you've said.

    Ellena: You may say what you wish. All I may say is I'm grateful.

  4. 'I was the sum of all my malcontents' is terrific.

    I like this very much.

  5. Lucy: I'm not sure malcontent exists as a noun. But of course discontent does. I was briefly tempted to do the replacement but quickly rejected it. "Malcontent" arrived impromptu, whereas "discontent" was universally available. It's those arrivals one treasures.

  6. I think normally a malcontent as a noun is in fact a person who is perpetually discontent. I did think about whether 'discontents ' would have been more correct there, and it may have been but it would not have been better.