Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Dorothy Wordsworth: The moon had the old moon in her arms

The columbine … is a graceful slender creature, a female seeking retirement, and growing freest and most graceful where it is most alone. I observed that the more shaded plants were always the tallest.

I verily believe that I never took infant in my arms that did not the moment it was there by its cries beg to be removed.

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils close to the waterside. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a county turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew about the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake.

Every question was like the snapping of a little thread about my heart.

I found a strawberry blossom in a rock. The little slender flower had more courage than the green leaves, for they were but half expanded and half grown, but the blossom was spread full out. I uprooted it rashly, and I felt as if I had been committing an outrage, so I planted it again. It will have but a stormy life of it, but let it live if it can.

Upon the highest ridge of that round hill covered with planted oaks, the shafts of the trees showed in the light like the columns of a ruin.

The moon had the old moon in her arms.

It is a pleasure to a real lover of Nature to give winter all the glory he can, for summer will make its own way, and speak its own praises.


 

These passages are selected from The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals by Dorothy Wordsworth, edited by Pamela Woof. Oxford University Press (2008).

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Dorothy Mae Ann Wordsworth (1771 – 1855) was an English author, poet, and diarist; and she was the sister of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. Born in Cumberland, she was the third of five children. Her mother died when Wordsworth was six, and she and her siblings spent the rest of their childhoods being passed around among various relatives. All her life, she remained close to her brother William, and the siblings lived together in Dorset and Alfoxden before William married her best friend, Mary Hutchinson, in 1802. Thereafter Dorothy Wordsworth made her home with the couple. An avid naturalist, Wordsworth enjoyed daily nature walks with her brother, and images from the notes she took of these walks often recur in her brother’s poems. Most of her writing explores the natural world. Although Wordsworth did not publish her work, many of her journals, travelogues, and poems have been posthumously collected and published, including her four-volume Alfoxden journal, which she kept from May 1799 to December 1802, and her journals from 1824 to 1835, which include a travelogue and notes on life at Rydal Mount, where she lived with William and his family beginning in 1813. Wordsworth also wrote several children’s stories. In her later years, she struggled with addictions to opium and laudanum, and her mental health deteriorated. Until his death in 1850, her brother was her main caretaker. [Bio adapted from Poetry Foundation]

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Dorothy Wordsworth

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