An English In Kentucky


















Tuesday July 2nd 2019Tim Candler9


     The Period of the Romantic Poets celebrated thoughts, emotions, and feelings about nature. The period included Wordsworth, and, all though he wasn't a poet, it included John Walking Stewart. Nature was a preoccupation almost and oddly enough included romantic attitudes toward revolutionary change. The main spring of this area of contemplation was in my view that "a love of nature would lead (or could lead) to a more enduring love of man." You can never be sure with poets, and stuff's got to have some kind of rhyme for poets, but "Erewhile my verse played idly with the flowers, enwrought upon thy mantle; satisfied with that amusement, and a simple look of child-like inquisition now and then cast upwards on thy countenance, to detect some inner meanings which might harbor there."  Erewhile means a little while ago and enwrought means made of material. Then the poet goes to stay in a big city, he's gained a bit of a reputation and yet something's missing. Not least an absence of wild things, but more than that it felt like a sort a madding wilderness of people, some of them rude, unkind, not very nice, many of them pushy, crooked, but at the same time it was what people become when they were removed from nature. At least that was the gist of it, I think. Nor, it might be safe to say, had many of the Romantic Poets engaged for a living in agricultural or factory labor. Their hands would have been soft, their nails probably clean. Meanwhile Curlews might well have "tolled the knell of parting day" but no word from the actual ploughman as "homeward he wends his weary way," but maybe it was so much a part of him the ploughman didn't have to wonder at it.



    Walking Stewart described himself as the "First Man of Nature." Nor was he much known for anything like modesty, and you have to think that the Armenian private soldiers tunic that he chose to wear was a badge of some sort that set him aside from the company of the intelligentsia that he was so anxious to become a part of. It was a company many of whom were inclined to considered him a "untutored" although they couldn't hide their admiration for his adventures and his feats of endurance, even if some suspected he maybe exaggerated a little. And yet the Wordsworth crowd, romantic or otherwise, conceded that in their opinion John Walking Stewart knew a lot about nature. Why did they think this? It's almost two hundred years since Walking Stewart put an end to himself, so not easy to be certain. But I'd venture to suggest it was his materialist understanding of the way in which the world as Nature was interconnected, and it was this ecology, that appealed to the Romantics. It touched their vague feelings about what the modern society was losing. Add this to Walking Stewart's assertion that mathematics had more to say about metaphysics than probably anything, and you got a sort of theory which might be supported by evidence, "enwrought upon the mantle," a basis with which to rationally detect some "inner meaning which might harbor there" instead of going on about "gathering ye rosebuds while ye may." Then your government decides to do away with funding science and rather than discuss those findings attempts to silence them. Worth remembering Walking Stewart was friends with Thomas Paine. "Common Sense" was the title of one of Paine's contributions to the American Revolution.


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