The other day The Solitary Walker and I paid a visit to Dove Cottage in the Lake District, the house where Wordsworth spent what were probably the nine most productive years of his life. There was much to see - from Wordsworth's cuckoo clock to his skates. The skates may have inspired great poetry but, according to De Quincey, the poet, when skating "sprawled on the ice like a cow dancing a cotillion". De Quincey's opium scales lurked in the same glass case.
It was raining so heavily that going out into the garden was out of the question - which was a shame, as Wordsworth composed a great deal of poetry there, returning to the house to dictate it to either his wife or his sister. I left feeling an overwhelming urge to read some - something I hadn't done for a while.
When I finally got a chance to fish out the collected poems, I opened the book -as I was most likely to do- at one I didn't know, although I'm sure it's well-known to Wordsworth fans. I ought to read more. Ezra Pound once urged aspiring poets to "read as much Wordsworth as [they could] stand". Anyway, this poem dates from the poet's time at the cottage and turned out, with its intimate tone, to be a very appropriate poem, I thought, to read straight after a visit to it:
To A Butterfly
I've watched you now a full half-hour,
Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless! Not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!
This plot of Orchard-ground is ours;
My trees they are, my Sister's flowers;
Here rest your wings when they are weary;
Here lodge as in a sanctuary!
Come often to us, fear no wrong;
Sit near us on the bough!
We'll talk of sunshine and of song;
And summer days, when we were young;
Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now.
5 years ago