Report to Wordsworth

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You should be here, Nature has need of you.
She has been laid waste. Smothered by the smog,
the flowers are mute, and the birds are few
in a sky slowing like a dying clock.
All hopes of Proteus rising from the sea
have sunk; he is entombed in the waste
we dump. Triton’s notes struggle to be free,
his famous horns are choked, his eyes are dazed,
and Neptune lies helpless as beached as a whale,
while insatiate man moves in for the kill.
Poetry and piety have begun to fail,
As Nature’s mighty heart is lying still.
O see the widening in the sky,
God is labouring to utter his last cry.
Wordsworth: the English nature-poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) Proteus: Greek mythology, a sea-god that used shells as wind instruments Neptune: the Roman god of the sea
Insatiate: never satisfied

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‘So, We’ll Go No More A-Roving’ by George Gordon, Lord Byron → 36 Responses to ‘Report To Wordsworth’ by Boey Kim Cheng 1. -------------------------------------------------
coreachick says:
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February 20, 2011 at 10:28 am
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Boey Kim Cheng was born in Singapore in 1965. He now lives
and works in Australia. This poem has echoes of several sonnets by Wordsworth. As the references are not merely cosmetic, but have real relevance to the themes of the poem, they need to be referred to as background. -------------------------------------------------

Three in particular are referred to in the next section. Students must read these three poems before the class lesson: -------------------------------------------------
They are the sonnets ‘London 1802’ (http://tinyurl.com/23gqfpw); ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ (http://tinyurl.com/2886c4) and most important of all, ‘The world is too much with us . . .’ (http://tinyurl.com/3yoe9em). -------------------------------------------------

It might be noted that, while Wordsworth used the Petrarchan (or Italian) form of the sonnet (like Keats – see ‘On the Grasshopper and the Cricket’), Boey prefers here to use the Shakespearian (or English) form with the final rhyming couplet. -------------------------------------------------

Line 1: the line starts with a direct echo of Wordsworth’s “Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour: England hath need of thee . . .’
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The poet traces a direct line from himself to Wordsworth to Milton. The themes of Wordsworth’s poem in which he regrets the passing of certain values are similar to Cheng’s. Wordsworth’s ‘We are selfish men’ is reflected in ‘insatiate man moves in for the kill’. -------------------------------------------------

Line 2: There are many echoes of ‘The world is too much with us . . .’ (These notes do not intend to be exhaustive in exploring the references.) Here Boey alters the context of Wordsworth’s phrase, ‘we lay waste our powers’ to ‘She [Nature] has been laid waste . . .’’ -------------------------------------------------

Lines 5 to 10: The references to the sea-gods are explicable with reference to Wordsworth’s sestet in the poem mentioned above: -------------------------------------------------
‘It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn:
Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea;
Or hear old Triton, blow his wreathed horn.’
However, Boey moves us out of mythology to contemporary reality with his image of the beached whale and man moving in for the kill. -------------------------------------------------
Lines 7 to 8: Triton was the son of Poseidon. He stilled the waves by blowing trumpets in the shape of conch shells. As with the image of the whale above, Boey brings a twentieth-century reality to the mythology as he...
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