Wordsworth and the Motions of the Mind

By Gordon Kent Thomas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
"He Treated the Human Mind Well, and with an Absolute Trust"

Lost
Amid the moving pageant, I was smitten
Abruptly, with the view (a sight not rare)
Of a blind Beggar, who, with upright face,
Stood, propped against a wall, upon his chest
Wearing a written paper, to explain
His story, whence he came, and who he was.
Caught by the spectacle my mind turned round
As with the might of waters; an apt type
This label seemed of the utmost we can know,
Both of ourselves and of the universe,
And, on the shape of that unmoving man
His steadfast face and sightless eyes, I gazed,
As if admonished from another world.

( 1850 Prelude 7.636-49)

These famous lines on Wordsworth's encounter with a source of knowledge on the mob-filled streets of London typically gain a good deal of their power and effect by their placement. They come but a few lines following the poet's portrait of another London guide, the preacher, that "pretty Shepherd, pride of all the plains" --including, no doubt, those ancient cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah--he who mingles vanity with insensitivity and affected eloquence with insincere artifice, "To rule and guide his captivated flock" (see 7.551-72). As Wordsworth sits in this fraud's "holy church" ( 1805 7.546), he could well be hearing

-189-

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