The other day I pointed my car at the interstate for another dismal, mad rush home. I hate commuting, dodging cars with distracted drivers, and the endless stops and starts. It was another dreary day in a string of gray, drizzly days, with lower than average temperatures. Northeast Ohio Winter is easily summed up with one word. Gray.
As my car gathered speed to join the pack, I sighed audibly, feeling the weight of oppressive, depressing weather and circumstances. Then my eye caught a flash of yellow peeking out of the brown grass beside the road berm. I merged into the line-up, but took the time to examine the little ray of sunshine that had caught my eye. Sure enough, there they were. A tiny little cluster of daffodils waving their heads with optimism to any fortunate passerby taking the time to notice. These little sprites of spring cheered me. Their image transformed my thoughts of drudgery to the words of William Wordsworth, I couldn’t help but recite.
In third grade, my teacher made the class memorize a poem! Such drudgery. Such uselessness. Or so we all thought. The words were strange and awkward to our young minds. “Who cares about daffodils”? We all asked one another. Our teacher not only had the audacity to make us memorize the words of a dead poet, but she also made us perform the poem for each other. We were convinced the adults in charge of our education had lost their minds. We were sure there would be no lasting benefit to memorizing a poem about flowers.
I cannot tell you how often in my adult life I have been ashamed of my 3rd grade attitude. I do understand where it probably originated. I believe we are a product of our culture more times than we would like to admit, and it is only through education that we overcome it. How often in American culture do we honor the poet? Why do we fail to realize the value of beautiful words, words that bring forth the rhythm of life and give birth to deep emotion and meaning? It is a shameful thing.
If it were not for Mr. Wordsworth’s gift of poetry, my heart and mind would not be transformed by a vision of tiny daffodils on a road embankment. My gray day would have remained lackluster and tiring. My thoughts upon an initial vision of yellow quickly passing my window, would not tap a memory engrained through the efforts of my 3rd grade teacher. I would not have perceived the hope, promise, and joy these beautiful words ignite:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Today as we rushed out the door, my daughter announced, “It’s “poem in your pocket day”.
“It is?!” I responded. “How lovely. How absolutely lovely”.
Thank you Mr. Wordsworth for the poem that will always remain in my “pocket”. It enriches my adult life more than I could ever imagine .