in response

in praise, an anniversary:

“2020 = Wordsworth 250; a year of seismic events and deep reflection which we must ensure effects positive change, the old normal was an aberration. Wordsworth also lived through seismic events and saw the 1790s as a time of ‘dereliction and despair’, borne out of disillusionment at the course of the French Revolution and written about extensively in The Prelude. Could we see the present time also of one of despair? Wordsworth says that if he retains a faith in human nature, then that is due to benevolence of Nature.”

If in this time
Of dereliction and dismay, I yet
Despair not of our nature; but retain
A more than Roman confidence, a faith
That fails not, in all sorrow my support,
The blessing of my life, the gift is yours,
Ye mountains! thine, O Nature!

Extract from The Prelude, William Wordsworth


And for this cause to Thee

I speak, unapprehensive of contempt,

The insinuated scoff of coward tongues,

And all that silent language which so oft

In conversation betwixt man and man

Blots from the human countenance all trace

Of beauty and of love.

Wordsworth, The Prelude (Book II)


Those who are most active in promoting entire and immediate Abolition do not seem sufficiently to have considered that slavery

is not in itself and at all times and under all circumstances to be deplored. In many states of society it has been a check upon

worse evils; so much inhumanity has prevailed among men that the best way of protecting the weak from the powerful has

often been found in what seems at first sight a monstrous arrangement; viz., in one man having a property in many of his fellows.

Wordsworth, (Letter to Benjamin Dockray, April 1833, The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Later Years, ed. E. de Selincourt, p. 648)


“Wear . . . in thy bonds a cheerful brow”

Wordsworth, To Toussaint L’Ouverture

When we choose which words to forefront and which to omit, we align ourselves with their power. Soft power: still capable of violence, not luxurious or abstract. With whose words and with which we chose to examine the past and the present will, inevitably, hold influence in every tense. From the vantage point of retrospect our choices can be made aware of their own weight, our quotes can be deliberate, perceptive. Or we can choose to repeat, in an endless play of imperial call and response, words which would deny us.

To offer the benevolence of nature’, ideological transcendence, in place of material freedom in a time – like now – of extreme urgency for many of the non-white, non-middle class, non-cis-gender-male populations of this world is denial*. To remove oneself, one’s proud green country, from having played any part in that is denial**.

Denial serves in the maintenance of dominance, in the displacement of historical and political burden, in repression, deflection and diversion from threat. This is the ‘old normal’, the current normal – and until we choose to arm ourselves with more than the fragments we are handed, it will continue to be normal too.

*See:  Wordsworth: The Prelude, To Toussaint L’Ouverture

**See:  Wordsworth: The Prelude (Book X), The Banished Negroes, The Convention of Cintra

//that silent language

his words stand like guards

at the chapel of white dawns

asking me:

not to remember

that our mothers

like our grandmothers

bore hopes

hopes which

would have had turned

in their turn

to tumors



stifled, silenced years

muted against all nature

words veiled in cursive

through the push and pull of all things

dare ask me again:

not to remember


it’s not the land that would make her sick

it’s not the land that would save her


remember the swerve of your poets

pulling heavy curtains

over wet dreams

the curve of romance

verbs sounding out cataracts

like promises

his assurance

that in some-ways

we were all already free


don’t offer her pity

or praise the tropics in her eyes

she learnt

a mispronunciation

to eclipse the rhetoric of conquer’d tides

learnt to leave

a hundred thousand fingerprints

on dusks soft hide


that this land was hers

as much as it is mine

“Long may the finished Monument last as a tribute to departed worth, and as a check and restraint upon intemperate desires for change, to which the Inhabitants of the Island may hereafter be liable.”

Wordsworth, Letters of the Wordsworth Family from 1787 – 1855, collected and edited by William Knight