Unspeakable Nature in Wordsworth's Prelude: A Poetry Recital
Tonight I read Crashaw's 'The Flaming Heart'. I recited poorly but the poem didn't bear repeating. Crashaw's 'Flaming Heart' is a fiery rush of sexual-religious rhetoric.
The poem is inspired by (a better word would be 'ejeculated from') Crashaw's reading of the life of Saint Teresa: the resulting gush of verbiage represents his unmediated transposition of female orgasm into Crashaw's intellectual process. That is to say, Crashaw's sustained passion for Teresa's piety, the images of fire and melting, the forceful accumulation of ornate figures that when read aloud are so isomorphic to a desperate squirming of the body - all this and more makes Crashaw's poem 'The Flaming Heart' just NSFW.
Crashaw's poem is an example of that obscure subgenre, Catholic erotica, at its finest.
Then I turned to Wordsworth's 'Two Part Prelude (1799)'; altogether a different order of poem. Really for the first time I got the shamanic darkness of the poem. As I read I heard a roaring in the inner ears and felt, as if from a shadowy second body which stood right behind me, mine and yet not me but the body of a dream, shadowing the physical body.
I'm not ashamed to say it frightened me a bit, this darkness and motion and words that name things which I knew no names for. I stopped reciting and turned on the TV.
But it was no use: the entire field of awareness went on vibrating inexplicably with the impact of Wordsworth's greatest poem.
The unutterableness of Wordsworth's poem, neither pre- or trans-verbal, has that quality of Nature Herself which also storms uneasily beneath the verse of William Shakespeare.
Perhaps it was the recital of Crashaw that evoked it; the darkness of Wordsworth was drawn by the fire of Crashaw. I don't know.
It made me uneasy all the next day.