May 15 2020

William Wordsworth – Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows

Published by at 7:10 am under Poetry

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows (from The Prelude, Book 1)
by William Wordsworth

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!

— from Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty, Edited by Alan Jacobs


/ Image by Viewminder /

It has been a while since I have turned to Wordsworth, but reading these lines I have to wonder why I have stayed away so long.

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music

Even that beginning line is worth rereading a few times. Here Wordsworth distills everything into this one elegant image of the transitory human being that is somehow, miraculously home to the immortal spirit. And that immortal spirit emerges within us, or, rather, we slowly become more aware of it throughout life as if it is an underlying harmony within music. When focused on the individual notes, as we focus on the details and specific events of life when we are younger, it can seem chaotic and fugue-like, but when we relax and allow our awareness to take it all in, we begin to recognize the underlying musical beauty:

there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society.

Then the poet shares the revelation that comes to him:

How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself!

Let’s unpack that statement because it is so rich, we don’t want to miss its beauty. He has that wonderful phrase, “when I am worthy of myself.” That is, when our identity rests in the vastness of the immortal spirit we all are, that is when the whole symphony, the entire tapestry of life reveals itself to us. The amazing thing is that is not just the lovely, delightful experiences that have a place in that blissful wholeness; the terrors and struggles have played a part too, and an essential part. How can such beauty and fulfillment emerge from such a complex patchwork of life experiences that includes suffering? Somehow it does. The bliss of that grand vision, when witnessed from the fullness of the full Self — it embraces it all, integrating everything, recognizing an all-encompassing harmony. The ego-mind that desires only pleasant, self-aggrandizing experiences rebels at this possibility, but the true self witnesses it all with a smile that heals even the cruelest wounds as it rests amidst unassailable calm. To some this may sound like one more spiritual platitude amidst life’s difficulties, but this is the actual experience when we settle into the Self we all inherently are.

Religious belief has nothing to do with this holistic vision of life. Even the impious find themselves stammering–

“Praise to the end!”

Be well, look out for one another, and discover the hidden wonders of the day.

=

PS- During the recent Covid stay at home period, we have been doing some gardening. This morning my wife said something that I thought was worth sharing: The good thing about gardening is that there is no social distancing with plants.


Recommended Books: William Wordsworth

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse Complete Poetical Works William Wordsworth: Selected Poems
More Books >>


William Wordsworth, William Wordsworth poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Wordsworth

England (1770 – 1850) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

William Wordsworth was one of the fathers of the Romantic poetry movement. His poetry often discovers meditative insights and transcendence amidst the natural world.

Wordsworth was born in the scenic Lake District of northwest England. His father acted as a legal representative to the Earl of Lonsdale, a position which provided his family with a prosperous living and a mansion. His mother died while William was still a child, and he was sent away to grammar school. He went on to study at Cambridge, receiving his B.A. degree at the age of 21. Prior to graduation, Wordsworth took a walking tour of Europe, particularly reveling in the beauty of the Alps.

After graduation, in the early 1790s, Wordsworth spent time in Revolutionary France, imbibing the country’s Republican idealism.

He briefly moved to Germany with his sister, Dorothy, and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, eventually returning to England and settling once more in the Lake District.

William married and had five children.

Wordsworth began to publish poetry in the mid 1790s. Among his most loved poems are “Tintern Abbey,” “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” and “The Prelude.”

Wordsworth received honorary doctorates from Durham and Oxford Universities. In 1843 he was named England’s Poet Laureate.

He died of lung disease in 1850. His widow, Mary, published his long autobiographical poem The Prelude posthumously.

More poetry by William Wordsworth

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6 responses so far

6 Responses to “William Wordsworth – Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows”

  1. Franceson 15 May 2020 at 8:42 am

    Loved this poem, and the timeless connection it has for me, us now.
    Thanks as always for your thought of the day…I love trees/plants and the visual you painted is clear and easy to access today. Roots first to connect w heaven!
    I am hyper-sensative to how thoughts show up for me in my body and the instant change that comes over me should I dare recall or entertain a dark or frightening thought or past traumatic experience. Usually, before sleep. So I succumb to the fact that I will awake feeling better, and I do! This poem tho shows me that I can safely explore those darker pieces as a whole and not as a thread that is unwanted in the tapestry… Thx for a calm blanket of worthiness for all my parts, William Wordsworth…Be Well and enjoy your Garden!! Great Docu out now called WE NEED TO GROW , free on FB .

  2. Harvey Gillmanon 15 May 2020 at 11:43 am

    I have never come across this passage before and I’m amazed just how much it chimes with at the same time a very modern and a Buddhist sensibility of the coming together in a deep unity of seemingly opposite elements of our humanity. I loved also Ivan’s commentary on the passage. It is really is something I need to hear at this time. Thank you.

  3. Carolon 16 May 2020 at 1:36 am

    Thank You Ivan. beautiful poem by Wadsworth and it is right where I find myself after
    an extended mental health illness of my daughter, She is healing so well and I
    believe this poem, your Thought for the Day, and beautiful commentary will help her.
    Love Wordsworth line ‘The calm existence that is mine when I am worthy of myself’,
    so very meaningful, so very true.

    And I love not having to keep social distance from my plants on my porch with the
    coming of Spring. Great thought from your wife! Thank You.

  4. marrobon 16 May 2020 at 3:04 am

    Good to read this poem now, in the early hours, accompanied by birdsong, that,
    mercifully does not respect lockdown regulations. Makes me think they too just naturally
    respond to light and come out of the dark. ‘dark, inscrutable workmanship that reconciles…’ I love the sound of that phrase, even without fully understanding it, though your reflections helped …the chaotic fugue of youth mellowing into harmony. Music helps understand this, doesn’t it? Again, like a Bach variation…starting in simple harmony, going all beautifully haywire and coming to rest again. Makes one / me feel kinder towards one’s/my ‘chaotic variations ‘ especially at this time.

    Thank you, Ivan, thnx Wordsworth, the day begins well. Truly, praise to the end.
    Happy weekend, happy gardening, your wife is SO right about the plants. They make for
    good company!

  5. Anna M.on 17 May 2020 at 8:28 am

    I feel, the key word in this poem is DUST.
    When I started to read the poem,
    this word just was hitting me, deeply, deeply,
    like a remembrance…

    It seems we all have remnants imprints deep in our
    cellular memory about the dust, we have been…the spirit,
    the longing for the stars…free…

    By the way, thanks to marrob, he always give me good ideas,
    to coming back and re-listen again a beautiful music like Bach.

    Bach’s Toccata and Fugue really
    “reconciles Discordant elements,
    makes them cling together
    In one society.”

    Our Higher Self communicate with us trough
    the emotional intelligence of the music and poetry,
    revealing its wisdom in our behaviour…

    Enjoy the music…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho9rZjlsyYY

    Gratitude, Ivan…

  6. Julie Perkinson 17 May 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Ivan, thank you for the years of wonderful poetry shared in such a timely and heartfelt manner.

    ~ Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
    Like harmony in music ~

    Wordsworth is spot-on for this inward and outward look at our immersion in Nature, and the continual emergence of the Human Spirit. I appreciate your bringing him forward at this time.
    As the nature and earth are our great Initiators in this current pandemic,
    may we all learn to weave a more harmonious melody now.

    I did donate on another page, and it seems that once a year, I manage to go online and express a small bit of gratitude for your gifts and efforts.

    Peace and health,
    Julie Ann

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