Saturday, June 3, 2017

William Wordsworth's Anecdote For Fathers

Anecdote For Fathers

                                                             - William Wordsworth

I have a boy of five years old;
His face is fair and fresh to see;
His limbs are cast in beauty's mold
And dearly he loves me.
One morn we strolled on our dry walk,
Or quiet home all full in view,
And held such intermitted talk
As we are wont to do.
My thoughts on former pleasures ran;
I thought of Kilve's delightful shore,
Our pleasant home when spring began,
A long, long year before.
A day it was when I could bear
Some fond regrets to entertain;
With so much happiness to spare,
I could not feel a pain.
The green earth echoed to the feet
Of lambs that bounded through the glade,
From shade to sunshine, and as fleet
From sunshine back to shade.
Birds warbled round me---and each trace
Of inward sadness had its charm;
Kilve, thought I, was a favoured place,
And so is Liswyn farm.
My boy beside me tripped, so slim
And graceful in his rustic dress!
And, as we talked, I questioned him,
In very idleness.
"Now tell me, had you rather be,"
I said. and took him by the arm,
"On Kilve's smooth shore, by the green sea,
Or here at Liswyn farm?"
In careless mood he looked at me,
While still I held him by the arm,
And said, "At Kilve I'd rather be
Than here at Liswyn farm."
"Now, little Edward, say why so:
My little Edward, tell me why."---
"I cannot tell, I do not know."---
"Why, this is strange," said I;
"For, here are woods, hills smooth and warm:
There surely must one reason be
Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm
For Kilve by the green sea."
At this, my boy hung down his head,
He blushed with shame, nor made reply;
And three times to the child I said,
"Why, Edward, tell me why?"
His head he raised---there was in sight,
It caught his eye, he saw it plain---
Upon the house-top, glittering bright,
A broad and gilded vane.
Then did the boy his tongue unlock,
And eased his mind with this reply:
"At Kilve there was no weather-cock;
And that's the reason why."
O dearest, dearest boy! my heart
For better lore would seldom yearn,
Could I but teach the hundredth part
Of what from thee I learn.

 William Wordsworth's Anecdote For Fathers    

"Anecdote For Fathers" is a poem penned by William Wordsworth. This poem is somewhat funny but also heartwarming. It is a story of a boy of five years walking along with his farm with his father and talking. The father is at first daydreaming but then changes his attention to his boy. He asks him, would you rather be here or at the shore? The boy thinks about it for a while, but then says he would rather be on the shore because there isn't a weather-cock there.
"Anecdote For Fathers" is a fifteen-stanza poem with four lines in each. The poem is rhymed as ABAB and is written in iambic tetrameter and triambic-diameter.


How many times have you witnessed an artist contrast the simple wisdom of children with the folly of corrupt adults? Many artists throughout history have portrayed issues such as wars and poverty as the consequence of adults losing their youthful innocence and curiosity. One terrific example of this is William Wordsworth's poem 'Anecdote for Fathers', which was originally published in 1798 in an influential collection of poems titled Lyrical Ballads.
Lyrical Ballads marks the beginning of what is known as the Romantic era of literature. The start of Romantic literature was the end of Neoclassical literature, which had begun in 1660 and emphasised the importance of reason and logic. The Neoclassical era witnessed the birth of modern science and what is known as the Industrial Revolution, a period of technological improvement and economic growth that lasted from 1760 to around 1830. The Industrial Revolution produced larger factories and cities, and although a handful of people grew wealthy during this period, a significant part of Europe's population suffered from poverty, sickness, pollution, and poor working conditions. Romantic poets saw these social problems as evidence of the failures of the Neoclassical philosophy and poetry that emphasised reason and science.
In contrast to the Neoclassical emphasis on strict logic and reason, Romantic writers praised imagination, nature, and simplicity. Many of Wordsworth's poems, for example, are set in rural areas and portray the return to an earlier and more agrarian lifestyle as desirable. Additionally, it's fairly common to find Romantic poets depicting a more childlike perspective towards the world as a solution to the problems caused by formal reason and science.

 The ballad “Anecdote For Fathers” by William Wordsworth portrays how adults seek for more rationality and logic than children and capture how much adults can learn from children’s innocence and purity. The poem consists of 15 stanzas à 4 lines. Through this light and simple structure, the simplicity and innocence of children is underlined. The effect is further emphasised by the simple rhyme scheme abab. Moreover, in consideration of the title “Anecdote For Fathers,” it can be observed that the poem is a teaching little depiction of a situation while fulfilling the features of a true anecdote: The characterization of one or more characters, a punchline, and the concentration on the basics.
             Contentwise, the poem can be divided into three parts: The first 6 stanzas are introduction of the father including a short and simple description of his son, a mentioning of the fact that they walk and talk one morning, a reminiscence of their previous home in Kilve, and lastly a description of the setting where he and his son walk together on that morning. The following 8 stanzas are a dialogue between the two figures where the father asks his son whether he would rather live in Kilve or at Liswyn farm. When his son answers that he would rather still live in Kilve, the father does not let go of the question why until the son finally takes the first suggestion that comes into his head when he sees a weather-cock: “At Kilve there was no weather-cock” (line 55). The poem ends with a short reflection of the father upon what he can learn from his son through his simple answer.
              It is interesting that the father himself seems to prefer Kilve as a home, which can be interpreted from stanzas three and four (line 9: “My thoughts on former pleasures ran”); but then he pulls himself together to focus on the walk with his son instead of following the train of thought of his “regrets” (line 14). However, it can be assumed that he lies to himself or at least tries to suppress his longing for “Kilve’s delightful shore” (line 10) and their “pleasant home” (line 11) there. He tries to convince himself that he “could not feel a pain” (line 16) with all the good things that he has around him right then (Line 15: “With so much happiness to spare”). The repetition in lines 19 – 20 (“From shade to the sunshine (...) from sunshine (...) to shade”) suggests that he thinks that things inevitably change and that life goes on, and also those good things follow on bad things but simultaneously bad things follow on good things. Nature then seems to wake him out of his thoughts completely: Through the acknowledgement of the “birds warbl(ing) round” him, the father seems to realize that there can be joy and freedom through taking things easier, as he says “each trace of inward sadness had its charm” but comes to the conclusions that living in either place – Kilve or Liswyn farm – should be fine in the end. He sets himself confident with the present situation. Thereafter, he asks his son, where he would “rather be” (line 28), at Kilve or Liswyn farm. His son “careless(ly)” (line 32) answers that he would rather be at Kilve. The father then tediously asks why, which makes him represent most adults’ need for logical evidence and rational thinking. The son’s answer seems to be too simple for the father to understand. It also seems as if he tries to control what the boy prefers by offering him what is at Liswyn farm: “For, here are woods, hills smooth and warm” (line 41). Repeatedly, he questions the child’s answer, which is emphasised be the alliteration in line 47: “Three times to”. Through the constant questioning Edward, as he is called in line 37, feels guilty and may feel to be unable to fulfil his fathers demands; maybe he senses that he hurt or at least surprised his father, which can be interpreted line 46: “He blushed with shame.” However, the child just said what he felt, without reasoning – he just happened to feel that way. As the son senses the father’s disapproval of the answer, he tries to please him by providing the first suggestion that comes into his head when he sees a weather-cock. The weather-cock represents a scientific way of thinking and thereby logic, measurement, and reasoning, and it can be interpreted that in Liswyn, things are more controlled than at Kilve. This could be the real reason why Edward would rather live at Kilve. The father seems to be touched that “the boy (unlocked) his tongue” (line 52), a metaphor that stands for the independent decision of the boy to give an answer, even if any answer, to protect his father’s feelings which also strengthens line 4: “(...) dearly he loves me.” The father finds excellence in the child’s simple answer, even if it was just a pretence, and sees that he can learn from it: Namely that it might be sometimes better to just accept things without any reasoning.
             The poem is a great reminder for humans to listen to their spiritual intelligence instead of trying to figure out everything with logic. Wordsworth thereby suggests to accept things and let go of the need for rationalisation. It could be the key to more happiness, freedom and easiness of life, features that can also all be found in childhood.

William Wordsworth's Anecdote For Fathers 

No comments:

Post a Comment