Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Most literary histories of the time will tell you:
Wordsworth’s talent died forty years before him
But only lately have the details of its last days
Begun to emerge. Dorothy Wordsworth wrote
A detailed letter to Coleridge which was found
In the summer of 2006 by a scholar cataloging
Coleridge’s opium visions who found a dream
Which had gone unread since it was deposited,
Mislabelled, in the Bodleian. In a wavering hand
(Yes, Dorothy drank; what of it?) the letter relates that
Late in the troubled year of 1810, Wordsworth
Had gone off on one of his compulsive walks
His long legs scissoring 40 miles or more a day
His talent, which had always a weak chest,
Could not keep up. It turned back, knocking
At the door just as dusk was gathering its forces
And the night birds were taking up their posts.
It was feverish and almost delirious speaking sometimes
In the German which Wordsworth had failed to master.
As far as she could tell, Dorothy said, it thought
It had offended the North Star der Nordstern;
And begged her to apologize for him. She and Anne Vincy
(Sometimes spelled Vincey), her maid, put it to bed
But later moved it to Thompson’s Castle of Indolence
Which was almost unvisited then; the National Trust
Would not refurbish it and open it to visitors
For a century and a half. They built a fire; a country doctor
Bled it and purged it but warned them against hope.
On the third night, with Dorothy dozing in a chair,
It sat bold upright and cried out in a loud voice
Words Dorothy tried later to remember but could not.
It sank back dead. It’s body has not been found;
It is presumed the two women, perhaps with the doctor,
Arranged a private burial in the castle’s boneyard.

When he came back from his tour the women
Told Wordsworth nothing of their failed efforts.
More, they did their best to make him think
His talent lived still. They would tell him
They’d seen it watching the sun set over the water
Or making a clumsy drawing of a cat. In time
He stopped asking about it.

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