J.B. Priestley on William Wordsworth

This quote from J.B. Priestley really struck a chord with me:

‘A good deal of [Wordsworth’s poetry], perhaps most of it, is very dull, like a long walk on a grey day. But just as somewhere on that walk there might be a sudden and superb flash of beauty, so in Wordsworth’s poetry there are short passages, perhaps only a line or so, that are miraculous. An apparently simple unadorned phrase will suddenly blaze in the reader’s imagination. These moments of his, once experienced, are never forgotten, and we never entirely lose our response to them.’
J. B. Priestley, Literature and Western Man (Collins, 1960)

4 comments

  1. I didn’t find examples from Priestley, just this quote, but for myself I would nominate the line from the Prelude telling us that nature sanctifies: “Both pain and fear, until we recognise / A grandeur in the beatings of the heart” (The Prelude, I.439-41).

  2. Priestly strikes a chord with me as well. Five lines come back to me every so often as I get older:

    “And is there one, the wisest and best
    Of all mankind, who does not wish
    For things which cannot be – who would not give,
    If so he might, to duty and to truth
    The eagerness of infantine desire?”

    I guess for everyone there are different triggers and I do think there are gems within his body of work which resonate in our hearts and stay with us forever. I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s favourites.

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