William Wordsworth had decided to go for a walk.
He was in a vacant and a pensive mood. That morning’s Lake District Gazette had brought the news that the Poem of the Year award had gone to Keats. For some poem about a Greek pot.
Jammy bastard. Wordsworth hoped he caught consumption.
Wordsworth himself, meanwhile, was suffering badly from writer‘s block. His main problem was that he lived in a cottage in the middle (sorry, midst, he was a poet, after all) of nowhere, and there was little to write about.
First prize at the local village’s recent Summer Fete had been won by a humorously-shaped cucumber. Try getting something to rhyme with that.
Back in London the literary papers were suggesting that he was too staid and boring. People like Coleridge and Byron better fitted the public‘s notion of what a poet should be, living lives full of wenching, Bohemian excess and fatal diseases. Shelley openly mocked him, saying that he had written nothing since Tintern Abbey, while (whilst) even Shelley’s own sister Mary – a mere woman (his words, NOT mine, I’m not Andy Gray) – had literally created a monster.
His own sister Dorothy had taken to looking up from her sewing in the evenings and hinting that money was starting to run tight, and that perhaps it was time he tried another career – the clergy, perhaps, or maybe the military (a poet’s sales did tend to rise if he died heroically in battle, Dorothy had murmured one night, slightly more loudly than she had intended to).
And that is why this morning he was wandering, lonely, through this countryside that was frankly starting to get on his nerves. All he needed was one last great poem, one that would immortalise him forever (which is pretty much tautology). But how to start?
He had read in another local paper, The Word Press, about something called free writing, where one simply wrote about anything at all in order to stir the creative juices. Well, he reflected, it was worth a shot, if only to prevent him having to enlist, and get shot at.
As he crossed o’er a vale and started up a hill, he decided he would write about the next thing he saw.
He reached the
top brow breast of the hill and gazed downwards. His heart with pleasure filled. There they were, beside the lake, beneath the trees (they were fluttering and dancing in the breeze, he realised excitedly, his talent was already returning). There were hundreds of them. They were a crowd, nay, they were not than that. They were a host.
It’s funny how little things change history.