Wordsworth is a key figure in Reggie’s understanding of dharma. Strange that a 19th Century Cumbrian poet should feature so strongly in a 20th Century American Buddhist scholar’s worldview but he does.
He recalls stealing a boat and rowing out into the centre of Derwent Water
I studied Wordsworth autobiographical poem, ‘The Prelude’, at school and was always struck by some of his childhood recollections of moments of sublime awe. Moments when the state of Pure Awareness that Reggie talks about breaks through and we are jarred into a new relationship with the world around us.
In this section from the first book, he recalls stealing a boat and rowing out into the centre of Derwent Water.
One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, it’s usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon’s utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared it’s head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars, I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place, I left my bark,—
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.
I’d love to know your thoughts about Wordsworth. Drop me a message with any thoughts, comments, questions, queries or insights that pop up while reading the blog. I’d love to hear from you!