To: Milton From: Wordsworth

The Wordsworth sonnet “Milton, Thou Shouldst Be Living at this Hour” stood out to me in the readings this week. Wordsworth starts the poem with the first word being “Milton.” Starting the poem with his name and having the first full sentence be ended with an exclamation point shows the urgency in which Milton is needed. Wordsworth continues the poem and personifies England as he addresses England as “she.” “England hath need of thee! She is a fen / Of stagnant waters! Altar, sword, and pen, / Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, / Have forfeited their ancient English dower / Of inward happiness. We are selfish men” (2-6). In these lines, Wordsworth presents Milton with the idea of what England currently is and of what she lacks, the inward happiness that people once had. Wordsworth talks about how England is a fen, somewhere that needs groundwater to survive, however, the waters are stagnant so that means England is not changing or growing. Instead, if it continues this path, it will die out. Not only this, in these lines Wordsworth groups things in threes, the later, sword, and pen as well as the fireside, heroic wealth and bower. In my opinion, the altar, sword, and pen are all means in which to convince people of certain things. People use an altar to get married or to preach whereas a sword is used to take lives or defend others. A pen is used to write and writing usually leads to art that convinces people of certain things or expresses emotions. All three of these objects can be used to cause/express one’s pain or to defend/make something beautiful happen. In this group, it seems as though Wordsworth includes these to show how there is no more “inward happiness” in these three objects, instead, their use and art is stagnant. Not only this, the second group of three is about home, they are all locations like buildings or near a fire. The wealth of a hall is something that can cause greed and I believe Wordsworth includes this in the group of three to show that England’s homes and places they are near too are being consumed by greed. These few lines show what England had lost, homes where greed does not exist and the proper use of weapons (the altar, sword, and pen).

As the poem continues, Wordsworth continues to “speak” to Milton. The poem seems to follow a Petrarchan form in which the rhyme scheme is abba abba cddece. The last six lines are vastly different from the first eight, they seem to talk more about Milton, it is praising him and his soul. Wordsworth uses this Petrarchan form to pose a question, asking Milton to help England, and then releasing the tension by creating a turn in the poem that leads to a peaceful description of Milton. Overall, this poem is a cry for help followed by a praise. Wordsworth does not think he can fix England on his own, he needs the help of the poets that have passed. In a world without Milton, selfishness grows, and virtue and manners are lost.

The Echoing Greens and Childhood Joys

In the poem, “The Echoing Green” by William Blake, there is a sense of peace and an ultimate rest. The first stanza of the poem talks about the sun rising and how everything is alive on the “echoing green,” there are birds singing. The second stanza of the poem continues this youthful theme as there are old people talking about their childhoods “on the echoing green.” The last stanza of the poem is the one that ultimately breaks the cycle. While the first two stanzas end with “on the echoing green,” this one ends with “on the darkening green,” (30). This subtle difference in the ending of the stanza shows how this stanza becomes a turning point. The first line is “Till the little ones weary” (21). Starting the stanza with this, there is already this connotation of the day ending and it contrasts the first line “the sun does arise,” as does the “darkening green.” Not only this, the sun descends in the third stanza, showing that their day comes to an end. “Round the laps of their mothers, / Many sisters and brothers, / Like birds in their nest, / Are ready for rest;” (25-28). These few lines in the third stanza create a peaceful scene, one of bedtime and the resting of children. For most kids, their mother’s lap is where they find comfort, where they feel safe. Blake compares the children to birds; this is intriguing as previously mentioned he talks about the birds singing. It is though the playful children are like birds in the way that their play provides joy for others much like the birds singing provides joy for those listening. Like birds, the children cannot play forever, they must rest at some point and be in their safe space. By including the word “ready” while talking about rest, it seems that Blake is conveying that the children cannot play anymore, they are exhausted. Slowly, the children will turn into the “old folk” in the second stanza, those who reminisce on their past joys that they no longer have. As the children get more and more tired, their youth fades.

The poem seems to be about finding rest and joy in nature. However, the old folk in the poem do not seem to find their joy, instead they just look fondly at the past and remember when they were once young. “The Echoing Green” becomes much sadder when focusing more on the second stanza in which they appear. “’Such, such were the joys. / When we all girls & boys, / In our youth-time were seen, / On the echoing green.’” (17-20). The old folk are pitied in a light-hearted way as they talk about the joys in past tense, they no longer enjoy the echoing green as they once did. The rhyme here of the old folk talking gives them a wistful voice and because the rhyme does not break, it shows how they are still connected to this echoing green although they are old. However, they do not feel the joy much like the speaker in “To The South Downs,” a poem by Charlotte Smith. The speaker in her poem tries to find the peace that she had as a child by returning to nature but it is no longer there.

The poem also talks about the cycle of human life in the metaphor of the sun rising and setting as mentioned before. Youth does not last forever and as the sun sets, the children begin to rest and ultimately turn into the old folk. When people age, their joy fades as shown in this poem, they are no longer the singing birds, instead, they are the old folk sitting on the green, wishing they had the joy that the children have.

A Child in Nature

The poem “To the South Downs,” by Charlotte Smith, is a very romantic poem filled with nature, music, and intense emotions. Lines three and four of the poem speak to a personal connection with nature. “I wove your bluebells into garlands wild, / And woke your echoes with my artless song.” (3-4). In these lines, there is the use of your and I. The speaker personally addresses what seems to be the “South Downs.” This is important because it shows that the narrator of the poem is not speaking to the reader, instead they are speaking to these hills. The reader is an overseer of this connection of the narrator and this place of nature. It can be interpreted that the reader is supposed to be there, it is not an accident. This may be because the narrator wants to show their connection and how most people were once connected. This prods the question of how people are truly in tune with nature, and it brings about ideas of childhood and the wonders of it in the next few lines.

The first words of Smith’s poem are “Ah, hills beloved!” (1). This is also present in the beginning of line four. It seems that the narrator is calling out to these hills to hear their plea which is that they should give them a restored sense of peace that they lost after growing up. By using words like “soothe,” “restore,” “throb no more,” the hills seem to be the narrator’s last place of hope, they want to be saved and healed by these homelands that they once sung to. This plea matters because it shows a sense of childhood hope coming back into their life. When people grow old, their imagination begins to fade and the tree that they once hugged, the plants they once sung to, and the forts they built in the woods become a thing of the past. When humans grow older, there is less of a sense of connection to nature. The narrator is clearly showing this and being the representation for this loss. By doing so, the narrator sets an example and reminds people of the nature that once brought them peace that they can no longer return to for reasons unknown.

Unfortunately, the end of the poem is very depressing and ends on a note of death. Instead of repeating the first line, the narrator instead says “Ah, no! – when all, e’en Hope’s last ray, is gone,” (13). This line breaks after the ah very much like the ones before it and the change wording make it stand out. By creating this difference, the narrator seems to reach a conclusion in their ideas of their relationship with nature. In the last two lines, there is also no use of I and you which provide the idea that the narrator is no longer talking to nature but instead perhaps talking to themself. This is different because the narrator seems to abandon the idea of going back to this “happy child” and singing their “artless song” anymore. Instead, they state that “There’s no oblivion – but in Death alone.” (14). Overall, this ending connects to the narrator’s ideas of wanting to live in ignorant bliss with her beloved hills and going back to her childhood ways. However, she concludes that Death is oblivion. This speaks to readers as it shows how childhood obliviousness cannot always be restored. However, people should search to reconnect with the nature around them and search for their own personal peace.