For I am convinced that a true System of Philosophy - the Science of Life - is best taught in Poetry.
S.T. Coleridge in a letter to H.J. Rose,
25 September 1816
Why should we read Wordsworth († 1850) or Coleridge († 1832), two poets from a past era? Why, for that matter, do we read poetry?
Poetry fulfills many functions: it comforts unhappiness, helps cope with grief, provides a language for love. But there is more. We also read poetry purely to entertain ourselves or take pleasure in wordplay (On the Ning Nang Nong / Where the Cows go Bong! / and the monkeys all say BOO! - Spike Milligan). The obituary, the love poem, the nonsense verse: from amusing to serious, poetry gives shelter to almost every thought, to almost every feeling.
Poetry also makes us better understand reality. Not by rationally explaining the how and whereby of natural phenomena, as science does. Nor by speculating, like religion, on the why and by whom of creation. Poetry, in its philosophical appearance, cleanses our perception of reality by showing the order in the apparent chaos of the world that surrounds us and which we are part of. For this it uses all available means: the mind, the senses, intuition, feeling. The Australian poet Les Murray calls such poetry the only whole thinking. It harmonises our conscious thinking with our unconscious striving, concerts our daylight and dreaming mind.
According to William Wordsworth, every human being, but the poet most of all, has the ability to bring everything contradictory - in our thinking and in our experience - under one denominator, forge one consonant melody.
The mind of Man is framed even like the breath
And harmony of Music. There is a dark
Invisible workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, and makes them move
In one society.
The Prelude, I (1805), 351/5
Wordsworth himself, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, stands among the great poets who, time and again, manage to lend words to the experience of universal harmony that Coleridge describes as the one Life within us and abroad. In their best moments, these two poets practise the only whole thinking that clarifies both the light and dark sides of everlasting reality. Their poetry meets the definition of that other Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley:
A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.
With this website we endeavour to show a glimpse of that truth as it shimmers in the imaginative musings of William Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge.
1 November 2020