Thursday, September 27, 2007

On teaching "The Mill on the Floss"

This majestic (arguably world-historical) poem sums up my attitude to teaching The Mill on the Floss.

-- The Tables Turned --

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

-- William Wordsworth --

I love the beauty and the gentleness and the balance and the flow and the ease and the cool flow of narrative confidence that Eliot has created in what is simply a work of highest art, tout court. I want to enjoy and participate in the artistic masterpience, not pull it apart and look at the guts.

I hope that you too are enjoying the book, and that we can reach & appreciative understanding in lecture with the body still leaping and growing and flowing alive.

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