04 December 2010


Locus Focus: Take Thirty!

Let Wild Card Month Begin!

No need to check the date on your desktop. I know how late I am this week. (So late that it's now next week.) All I'm going to tell you is that offline life--which is, of course, real life--has been crazy of late; and so my blogging had to take a hit.

This month is probably going to be more erratic than usual, but that won't keep me from looking ahead to January. Which is kind of appropriate because I want to do "futuristic" settings then. You know: any setting which existed in a time that was still in the future when the text was written. So Oceania of George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty Four is perfectly acceptable, although 1984 is, for everyone reading this, now in the past.

Of course, I know I won't be the only one doing this, so feel free to weigh in with other seasonally appropriate suggestions in the combox. Note that while I love my readers' suggestions, I'll likely give more weight to the votes of those who also participate in Locus Focus. =)

Mount Snowdon
Thirteen Book Prelude: Book XIII
by William Wordsworth

The moon stood naked in the heavens at height
Immense above my head, and on the shore
I found myself of a huge sea of mist,
Which meek and silent rested at my feet.
A hundred hills their dusky backs upheaved
All over this still ocean; and beyond,
Far, far beyond, the vapours shot themselves
In headlands, tongues, and promontory shapes,
Into the sea--the real sea, that seemed
To dwindle and give up its majesty,
Usurped upon as far as sight could reach . . .

I've always wanted to do one of Wordsworth's settings (which many might argue actually work as symbols), and was originally planning to write about Tintern Abbey when my old Romanticism textbook fell open in the middle of the last book of his Thirteen Book Prelude and I found myself hiking with his young self (and a friend) up Mount Snowdon. Or should I say, hiking with his older self (and that same young eternally young friend) up the memory of Mount Snowdon? The landscapes of Wordsworth's psyche are unrivalled by even the peaks and valleys of Europe on which he modeled them.

He is not yet at the peak when he beholds the scene described above--which reminds me very much of Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Mists--

--although the wandering Wordsworth has a view lit by the moon rather than the sun.
This view also includes "a blue chasm, a fracture in the vapour" which marks the path of rushing, roaring water,
which he can hear but cannot see.

And many hours later, when he does reach his intended destination, it is not the sunrise he set out to see which occupies him, but the surprise which came courtesy of the previous night's moon. Then all he can think about is what has started to appear to him as--

The perfect image of a mighty mind,
Of one that feeds upon infinity,
That is exalted by an under-presence,
The sense of God, or whatsoe'er is dim
Or vast in its own being . . .

And thanks to his own mighty mind, a seemingly straightforward hike becomes a natural contemplative's pilgrimage with luminous intellectual fruits. Whenever I reread Wordsworth, the world seems more beautiful, the human mind more sublime, all problems more fixable.

Then I depart his idealised inner landscapes and find myself back in one of the ugliest cities in the world.

There isn't much of nature's majesty over here. We get, on occasion, a spectacular sunset that moves me to silence (or to a psalm); but even if there were one every evening--and even if each one weren't partly due to Manila's magnificent pollution problem--I know in my soul that one would have to go to the mountains for the kind of sublime experience Wordsworth is describing in this poem. For what he believed he saw during the ascent of Mount Snowdon was insight into the mind of man--a mind with heights, depths, strengths, and sensibilities that are easily forgotten when the only mirror a soul has for itself is a city filling up with high rises and commercial centres.

Image Sources: a) Major Works by William Wordsworth, b) The Wanderer above the Mists by Caspar David Friedrich

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