IMAGINING AN UP-TO-DATE PLATO’S CAVE.

(Please not this is a reblogged post as part of the series on Old Stories That Tell Us Where We Are Now following the earlier ones on the Tower of Babel and Plato’s Cave).

I made the claim a few week’s ago that Plato’s cave, along with the Tower of Babel, are two ancient stories that help to tell us where we are in the modern world. (I also included Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” but it is hardly ancient.)

What is the state of modern knowledge? How advanced is our human consciousness?

Plato considered that knowledge based totally on sense experience-what we might learnedly call empiricism- shows only images and reflections of reality, not the real thing. The real thing is consciousness of ideal forms in the eternal world that lead us to understanding of what, for instance, true beauty and goodness and justice are. Only the clear- minded who have escaped the imitation world of shadows and reflections can attain this knowledge. They draw on the light of the sun, the source of all true seeing and representing the Good. He tells the allegory of the Cave to reveal the process.

That summary is my very simple reading of the philosophy behind the allegory. But the significance of the allegory seems to spread far beyond Plato’s world-picture to challenge ours.

For the cave still exists. Indeed it is ubiquitous; it cannot be escaped. Plato’s prisoners were only to understand reality through media that distorts, from reflections thrown by a fire, of things-artefacts- supposedly making up the real world. In the modern cave there need be no such obvious prisoners. People are free to inhabit the cave and are apparently happy to do so. The media of the fire, with its images, has been replaced by the vastly more efficient and powerful media of modern technology. Imagine not a cave stretching back some little way but a great underground cavern, that stretches interminably on all sides, full of screens. Some of these are great public screens for mass viewing-you might see there important political happenings or speeches or sporting events, as on television screens ; others are huge banks of small screens like you see in the background of a news studio with people able to choose their own chosen programme. But apart from these public areas there are built into the sides of the cavern masses of tiny cells for private viewing. Almost magically everyone has access to this world of screen by their own route-from home, from work. So people might gather in crowds before the big screens; or else they retire to private viewing screens. People inter-relate with the screens. In their hands they hold a mobile which enables them to connect with any of a forest of screens. They connect with others through screens: “Friends” they know only by media. “Enemies” they engage with and condemn through media. A world that is all social media. A place of distractions, a place where you can be assured your illusions are real and you can meet with others to confirm the illusions. A place where there is factual news reporting and a place which claims the factual is fake. A place where you can feed your mind on fantasy sex, on aggression, on revenge, on hate and where you can express your own outraged feelings on a screen held before you.

You will say I am missing the good stuff, the beneficial information, the positive interactions between people far apart, the beauty of places you cannot see nor will ever see in person. There is very much of course that is good, that provides us with information that is useful to us. There are interactions with family and friends who live far away; opportunities for sending and receiving positive messages are available. If it were not so I’d be a hypocrite typing this blog post from my little private cell to you in yours!

But the good stuff is dependent on another world. It is dependent on people knowing the reality of the world beyond, and the beauty of the world beyond and communicating that to others within the cave who recognise the same or want to recognise the same.

But if people fail to draw on sources of life and strength in the world beyond then the world of screens has the power to dominate and diminish their consciousness and limit them to a world of images and reflections that lead them away from reality rather than towards it. You see people “distracted from distraction by distraction, Filled with fancies and empty of meaning” (T.S. Eliot “Burnt Norton”). You see people with short attention spans, looking for the image that will excite attention and switching rather desperately from picture to picture. You see children particularly adept and smart in their handling of the technology. This is the world they have grown up with. You fear for them, that their very proficiency makes it difficult for them to understand other sources of knowledge. They think they have it all here.

To revert to questions asked earlier you have probably forgotten What is the state of modern knowledge and consciousness? In so far as knowledge is information it is, most of it, there in our metaphorical cavern. But information does not “form” the inner -me. It does not inwardly form my mind and character. It merely gives us facts to possess. Only through being inwardly formed, mind and spirit is our consciousness-our knowledge of the good, the beautiful , the true developed. Only then do we see clearly, not in the cave, but in the sunshine of the upper world. It is there reality is to be known and lived.

THE MAKING OF “GENIUS”.

LOOKING AT THE WORD “ROMANTIC (3)

So great a genius was Shakespeare that the very word “genius” had to be adapted in meaning to account for him.

That is quite a fact so please read the first sentence again to make sure you have taken it in!

For earlier meanings I refer again to our authority Logan Pearson Smith:

In classical Latin the word “genius” meant promarily a person’s tutelary god or attendant spirit…… It was also used , but rarely in Latin, as more or less a synonym for ingenum, “natural bent and disposition”. in this latter sense the word frequently appears in English in the seventeenth century, meaning both with endowment of natural ability or capacity, and also, occasionally, the person so endowed. Dr. Johnson (who in his Dictionary 1755) defined the “true genius” as ” a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some particular direction.” But long before Dr. Johnson’s time the word had begun to acquire other meanings and associations.

Other meanings derived from the Latin ingenum emphasised the connection with a particular, special talent.

So far so straightforward but then like other words which developed in the pre-Romantic era that we have noted (“original”, “create”, “creative”-see previous posts on the word “romantic”) the word took off from religious roots.

One association was the Arabic word “jinn”. Jinn are supernatural spirits or demons often harmful, sometimes supportive associated with Arabian mythology and then adopted by Islam. We are likely to know this association through the genie (jinn) in the story of Aladdin and the genie of the magic lamp . The first edition of Arabian Nights in English appeared in the early 18th century.

The second influence was “inspiration.” Let Pearson Smith take up the story:

the word (genius) came to be connected with the ancient term inspiration, which, with its half-evaporated classical and religious associations, lingered on in the poetical vocabulary, with its meaning, as Dr. Johnson gives it of “infusion into the mind of a superior power”.

Confer the frequency with which the Muse is addressed by poets when seeking inspiration. In Greek mythology the Muses were nine sister-goddesses who presided over various arts and branches of learning.

This idea of inspiration managed to continue in an age of increasing scepticism set by rationalist minded intellectuals of the seventeenth century who regarded words like inspiration and enthusiasm as doubtful (as they treated the word “Romantic”- see post (1) of this series). Following the Civil War there was a reaction against words associated with the enthusiasm of religious fanatics and with the philosopher Hobbes this included invocations to the Muses by those who should know better : “by which a man enabled to speak wisely from the principles of Nature and his own meditations, loves rather to be thought to speak by inspiration, like a Bagpipe”. Pearson Smith, however, goes on to show that this prevailing intellectual reaction was a limited view:

Every Ass that’s Romantick believes he’s inspired”…..and the notion that the pretence to inspiration was either a delusion. or more probably an imposture of the poets, devised to give worth to their poetry in vulgar minds, recurs not infrequently in the criticism of the time. But no ridicule could banish this idea of inspiration, based as it was on real experience; for poets, finding that their idea came to them in special moments of excitement, and from some source as it were outside themselves, would by natural symbolism still call the poetic impulse a gift from the gods.

So where does Shakespeare come in all this? Until the Romantics there seemed to be no satisfactory explanation for Shakespeare. His genius was such that mere “talent” could not explain (were not contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson also exceptionally talented?) It was such that learning was not the explanation. From his contemporary Ben Johnson (Shakespeare “had small Latin and less Greek”) to the learned Milton to whom Shakespeare was “Fancy’s child” whose “strains were native woodnotes wild” the explanation for his outpouring of creative work was “natural genius”.

It was in fact the tremendous achievement of Shakespeare , his “originality”, his miraculous power of “creating” supernatural beings as well as his unprecedented and untutored genius as they conceived it, which did more than anything else to disintegrate the neo-classical theory of poetry.”

A last flurry of opposition to the idea of “natural genius” was raised by Dr Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds, the classical artist in the grand style and President of the Royal Academy who in his Discourses warned “students against what he called “the phantom of Inspiration” the false opinion, “too prevalent among artists, of the imaginary powers of native genius, and its sufficiency in great works”.

The contradictory attempt to explain Shakespeare despite his classical short-comings was transformed by the appearance of the great Romantics, particularly by the criticism of Samuel Talor Coleridge.

But, before Coleridge, the word “genius” was strongly reinforced by taking a trip to Germany. The starting point for this curious journey was a work by a writer you have likely never heard of ,Edward Young, entitled Conjectures on Original Composition (1759), which you are even less likely to have heard of, which got translated into German very quickly where it had an “electrical effect” (Herder). Let Pearson Smith again take up the story.

The new generation [in Germany] were eager to free themselves from the tyranny of French classism; and in the book by Young they found the faith, the gospel and the watchwords which they needed. Young boldly proclaimed the superiority of the original genius, who went direct to Nature, who performed great things by the force of his inborn powers, untaught by rules and precedents and models; and declared that Shakespeare was the great original genius of modern times.

In England the popular conception of Shakespeare as a wild, untutored genius was generally stated apologetically; he had, it was admitted, great faults, but these were condoned by his great and original merits. Above all things he was regarded as inimitable; but Young, on the contrary declared that he must be imitated; writers should try to be original like Shakespeare, should imitate, not his works but his methods; they should, like him, disregard all rules and traditions and go direct to Nature.

It was on this conception of Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s methods, and on Young’s belief that they could and should be imitated, that the Germans seized with propagandist zeal. The duty of every artist to rely on his own gifts and inspiration became the fashionable doctrine; and in that wild period, which was called at the time Genieperiode, but has since acquired the name of Sturm and Drang, the great watchwords Genius, Originalty, Creative acquired a resonance, an aggressive and propagandist momentum, which they had certainly never possessed in England. And these terms acquired moreover in Germany a much greater profundity of philosophical meaning, and became the foundation stones of a metaphysical aesthetic; when we read in Kant that ” creative imagination is the true source of genius and the basis of originality”; that Genius makes rules instead of receiving them; that it embodies in art aesthetic ideas which are creations of the imagination, and suggest more than can be exhausted by any definite concept, we become aware that our home-bred English words have indeed undergone a strange sea-change by being so deeply immersed in the vast and bottomless ocean of Teutonic thought.

The great Romantic poets – Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats- brought in a new poetic, individual to each, but stressing imaginative creativity and the originality of genius. Coleridge, had absorbed the new German thinking and both as a critic and philosopher he made the positive case for Shakespeare as being the great poet to celebrate, one whose poetic genius was based on a rooted imaginative art rather than a more cerebral, willed deployment of poetic fancy. (We shall return to this in a future post).

Appreciation of Shakespeare’s creativity had led to a new understanding of what the word “genius” meant. In the more prosaic language of the Shorter English Oxford Dictionary genius had predominantly come to mean:

inborn, exalted, intellectual power; instinctive and extraordinary imaginative, creative or inventive capacity, freq.opp.to talent”.

Without the struggle to make sense of the capacity of Shakespeare that definition would have been wanting. And from Shakespeare it would come to be applied to other exalted company such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Einstein.

“Enjambment! Or would You Prefer the French Version, Sir?”

( PLEASE NOTE. Having mentioned the term “enjambement” once or twice in my last blog on The Marriage of Cana : A Poem I here present this from an earlier August 2020 post )

Is there a word the sound of which-whether uttered correctly or incorrectly -makes you wince?

In French -for me, “enjambement” is not like that. It is rather such a sweet sounding, elegant intonation. I love to hear it pronounced by a good French speaker. And I , in turn, attempted, in my rudimentary French to repeat that sound as best I could when I used it teaching in tutorial.

But, turn the beautiful French sound into English and the resulting sound is a crude horror. It certainly does make me wince. “Enjambement” becomes “Enjambment” and with the silent “b” the English jam, then with the “m” doubled becomes your central syllable : so “Enjamment”. In French (la) “jambe ” refers to leg and “enjambement” is the action of straddling, which in verse becomes a meaning crossing two lines. It makes sense. In English “jam” in relation to the meaning makes no sense. “En-jamming” sounds as if it is the word for a trapped child in a lift unable to move or get out because hemmed in by hulking adults. Or it reminds me of that disgustingly cruel ways wasps were lured into a jammy jar filled with water into which intoxicated with the sugar they would inevitably eventually drop trapped and drowned: “Enjam-ment”.

So it was excruciating in poetry discussion having demonstrated the subtlety with which a poet had created a particularly effective way of conveying a meaning by the use of the technique my carefully enunciated French was responded with “Ah you mean “en-jam-(b)ment”!

We noted the subtlety in “There Was a Boy”:

Then sometimes in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise 

Here the suspense, the hanging action, listening for a sound is perfectly conveyed by the pause caused in moving from one line to the next.

Another example follows later in the poem:

A long half-hour together I have stood
Mute -looking at the grave in which he lies. 

where the sense of standing long and quiet at the graveside is strengthened by the lengthening of the movement between “stood” and “Mute” (both rhythically accented)

Perhaps the most famous observation on an example of enjambement that first enabled me to understand the power of the technique (before that it was just a word without point) comes where the famous critic F. R. Leavis writing on Keats in Revaluation takes the example of the gleaner in “To Autumn”:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across the brook. 

The gleaner’s task is to carry a basket of gleaned grain on their head. Leavis writes of this description:

In the step from the rime-word “keep”, across (so to speak) the pause enforced by the line-division to “Steady” the balancing movement of the gleaner is enacted.

Exactly like the movement of easing your way over stepping stones with a basket on your head, showing perfect balance! Leavis’ comment puts into words perfectly what is being done by the poet to achieve the effect. Once demonstrated we see the kind of enactment that the enjambement brings that enhances our identification with what is happening in the poem.

Such subtle enhancement deserves the pleasingly subtle French intonation of enjambement

GUEST POST: A WELCOME RETURN TO THE SONGWRITER WHO CONTAINS MULTITUDES.

A Review of Bob Dylan’s Album “Rough and Rowdy Ways” by Duncan C. Eddie.

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. There was considerable debate and discussion around whether he ought to have received such an esteemed award. Is he not primarily a songwriter and musician? Singer Patti Smith went on Dylan’s behalf to receive the Award. He waited for some considerable time before giving his speech for receiving it, which he presented in recorded form.

His new album “Rough and Rowdy Ways” presents some of Dylan’s distinctive traits in a thoughtfully composed, convincingly performed,and well produced way. The album reveals the consistently prominent themes which are to be found in the course of his rich catalogue of songs.

Dylan loves words. He plays with them.He covers a broad spectrum of themes with them. He loves reading; he has great respect for writers. As a young singer arriving in New York and being a temporary guest in friends’ homes, he would absorb the literature available along with the record collection. I use the word “absorb” with deliberation. His hosts referred to him being like a sponge, which absorbed the the songs, poems and literature available to him. Following this process of digestion, they would later resurface with Dylan’s own reshaping of them.

Dylan loves books; he loves plays; he loves songs and he loves movies. The striking uniting theme through these different media, is that he loves a good story. In his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize , he refers primarily to three literary works: Homer’s Odyssey, Moby Dick and All quiet on the Western Front . For him, such universally applicable stories are engaged with through literature, songs and movies. Life itself in its rich complexity is refected through these media. Much of Dylan’s song-writing skills have crafted a mirror that reflects society, culture, politics, ourselves as we are.

Dylan’s album “Rough and Rowdy Ways” pays tribute to many of the influences of Western society and culture. For Dylan there is no distinction between “highbrow” and popular movies and songs. They all have an impact across the board, one way or another, for good and for ill. A prime example of this cognizance is the song which he released at the time when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were being imposed across the Western world and Asia: the song “Murder Most Foul”. The story base of the song is the assassination of the American president John F. Kennedy. The 17-minute reflection broadens the scope to several universal themes and a recognition of many cultural influences. The expansive list of song references with apposite coin phrases reveals how Dylan engages with culture and life. Themes of goodness, sacrifice, betrayal, and destruction pave the way for the apocalyptic atmosphere of the song. The experience of listening to it in its entirety is deep and mesmerising.

Another song with a story, which Dylan gives an interesting twist on is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in ” My Version of You”. With dark, macabre humour, he retells the story. Is he suggesting that we all have a Dr. Frankenstein element to us which wants to recreate people as we would like them to be or to use them for our purposes? We struggle with people as we find them, so the solution is to make our own version of them. It is an intriguing and uncomfortable thought, hypnotically presented.

Interestingly the above song with its narcissitic and manipulative effects is followed by the most faith base song on the album “I’ve madeup my mind to give myself to you”. As with several of Dylan’s romantic songs, declaring love and longing, there is often an ambiguity regarding who is the object of his love. Other examples from his back catalogue are “To make you feel my love” and “Forgetful Heart”. My understanding of the song is that it is Dylan’s statement of his ongoing faith in and commitment to God.

If I had the wings of a snow-white dove 
I'd preach the gospel, the gospel of love
A love so real-a love so true
I made up my mind to give myself to you.

A feature of this album is the forthright expressions of very different and contrasting themes with the accompanying emotions. The album is a rich tapestry describing the complexity of human nature with personal reference from the author, as conveying what you might call the overture song of the album “I contain multitudes”, using a quotation from Walt Whitman’s “Song Of Myself”.

Let me briefly indicate the flavour of some of the other songs. “Black Rider”is sombre in tone, expressing hostility and foreboding towards this mysterious presence. Is it the Grim reaper, the Devil, the dark side of oneself? “Good-bye Jimmy Reed” an up-tempo rocking songwith suggestive and earthy use of language. This is followed by the sublime “Mother of Muses”. In interviews, Dylan has referred to his song-writing as being an activity he has no choice in. He was chosen by the mysterious persistent presence of the Muse/God and was an instrument or channel for the songs top be written and sung.. Again the sense of reverence for the other is expressed:

Mother of muses unleash your wrath
Things I can't see-they're blocking my path
Show me your wisdom-tell me my fate
Put me upright-make me walk straight
Forge my identity from the inside out
You know what I'm talking about.

There are other wonderful songs on the album; “Crossing the Rubicon” and “Key West”, which would need another post to give them reasonable consideration.

This album very clearly shows that Dylan, the prophet, the poet, the growling, searching, reflective and meditative songwriter is alive and well. He continues to exercise his gift of crafting songs with a rich tapestry of words from a variety of textures and frames of reference. He accompanies his love of words, stories and verbally constructe images with well suited musical accompaniment. He is aware of his contradictions, but he has faith in a God who works through and with him. These new songs by Dylan performed strongly and sensitively, communicates the treasuresof grace and art, which we can all continue to be blesse by. The man of contradictions has much of value to say to us with our contradictions. And Dylan once again points beyond himself to his Maker and ours.

Duncan C. Eddie ( Minister of Holburn West Church, Aberdeen)

“THERE WAS A BOY”

This poem was initially written as a separate one and then was later incorporated in “The Prelude” (Book5), the long autobiographical poem in twelve books, which Wordsworth subtitled “Growth of a Poet’s Mind” The work in these early books, as in this poem here, follows Wordsworth’s early development and his boyhood love of Nature in the Lake District where he was brought up, before moving in later books to his student days at Cambridge, his walking tours in the Alps, and the record of being caught up in the French Revolution and its effects on his understanding. Fascinating as the whole work is, it is probably the early books on childhood that readers find most appealing.

There was a Boy: ye knew him well, ye cliffs
 And islands of Winnander!-many a time 
At evening when the earliest stars began 
To move along the edges of the hills, 
Rising or setting, would he stand alone 
Beneath the trees or by the glimmering lake,
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands 
Pressed closely palm to palm, and to his mouth 
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument, 
With mimic hootings to the silent owls, 
That they might answer him; and they would shout 
Across the watery vale, and shout again, 
Responsive to his call, with quivering peals, 
And long halloos and screams, and echoes loud,
Redoubled and redoubled, concourse wild 
Of jocund din; and when a lenghthened pause 
Of silence came and baffled his best skill ,
Then sometimes, in that silence while he hung 
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise 
Has carried far into his heart the voice 
Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene 
Would enter unawares into his mind, 
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven receive 
Into the bosom of the steady lake.

The Boy was taken from his mates, and died 
In childhood, ere he was full twelve years old. 
Fair is the spot, most beautiful the vale 
Where he was born; the grassy churchyard hangs 
Upon a slope above the village school, 
And through the churchyard when my way has led 
On summer evenings, I believe that there 
A long half hour together I have stood 
Mute, looking at the grave in which he lies.

William Wordsworth, The Prelude Bk5

Whisling, hooting, mimicking are all second nature to many boys. The Boy of this poem has obviously become expert at owl-hooting and loves the effect it creates. The poem invites us to identify and enjoy the boy’s creative gift and the resulting “wild concourse” of sound. It does so, not simply by description of the outer effects, but by entering the consciousness of the boy in relation to the wider surroundings.

What is given by the poem in the opening sequence is shared experience with a reflection on the significance of that experience. The poem calls to something within us- certainly, at least, if we are lovers of wild natural beauty.

You may read this verse and think of it at first as simple and prosaic in expression. Actually it is neither. The form is blank verse, the traditional narrative form of Miltonic epic and Shakespearian drama. It lends itself to the speaking voice. And the movement of the reflective speaking voice-not the dramatic voice like Shakespeare or the exalted one of the epic -is Wordsworth’s distinctive speaking voice in his narrative poems.

If you want best to get into reading William Wordsworth-if you want truly to recognise what a great poet he is-it is best , I think,- at least this was my advice to my students -to follow the movement of his sentences. The Wordsworth sentence is a marvel of meander, but it is a progressive meander, a delaying of its ultimate development to enable a deeper and wider perspective, a more profound possession of and inwardness with what is being described.

So, look at the start! It begins with a simple straightforward statement with a suggestion of portent : “There was a Boy” but , then there follows a delay of five lines before we have a verb connected to this subject : “would he stand alone” with another pause before the nature of the activity : “He”,- further delay- “blew mimic hootings”. We cannot read Wordsworth in a hurry. In our day we epect sentences to be linear, to move directly from subject to verb to object. Wordsworth does not do linear. Correction: when Wordsworth does linear, because it is exceptional, it has exceptional power.

The delays enable the reader to place the setting and the Boy’s habitual place within it (” ye knew him well, ye cliffs and islands of Winnander”-Winnander is the name given to Lake Windermere , perhaps the most famous of the English Lakes.) added to place is time of day, with the movement of the stars, causing the glimmer on the lake, so expanding, universalising our sense of the scene before it moves back to the boy (“would he stand alone”-this is no showing off in company-” Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake”) before at last the action . Note again the interjections, clause by clause, creating the precision of preparation. And so it goes on, wonderfully, to show the reaction of the birds building up to “concourse wild, of jocund din.”

But, curiously, that is not the finale being aimed at: leaving the reader with a beautiful picture and an appealing image of the boy and the build up of the owls’ responding. It is what Wordsworth goes on to do that makes him a special poet, one of the great poets. The outer effect has been described. Now, the verse takes the reader into the consciousness of the boy and by doing so extends our consciousness as readers:

Then sometimes in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise 
Has carried far into his heart the voice 
Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene 
Would enter unawares into his mind  
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks, 
Its woods and that uncertain heaven received 
Into the bosom of the steady lake.      

There is so much that could be said of this passage that this post could be three times longer. Look at the effect of the enjambement in the first quoted line (“enjambement”: continuing the sense of a line beyond its end without a punctuated pause) creating that pause of intense listening has led to the hearing of what was before unnoticed: “Can I really hear that? Gosh!”- that is the far away sound of the mountain torrents up in the hills and the peacefulness that enables that far sound to be heard enters deep: “Carried far into his heart”. “Or” we are given an alternative potential (unconscious) absorption in the beauty of the scene.

A possible criticism of Wordsworth here might be we cannot be sure he is not transposing upon the boy his own subjective reaction. Yet the conjecture of the poet is based on what is likely to have penetrated the listener’s focus on the barest sound he can hear, as he is listening for sounds, and the “unawares” does point to whar we know to be a common experience-the apprehension of natural beauty, even if at an unconscious level. Wordsworth’s interest is , I think, likely to be shared by every reader who finds the poem moving: that the awareness of natural sounds and beauty of landscape is something we prize especially if we have been opened to the experience of it ( and what is the owl -hooting boy who is on his own doing if that potential is not there within him?)

The final stanza is as it were prepare for by the wonderful finale of the previous stanza, which is beautifully fitting in itself, but with its use of the phrase “uncertain heaven”- “uncertain” refers to the shadows of the sky reflected in the waters of the lake but there is a carry-over of the wider meanings of the two words -uncertainty held by the “steady lake” (Arnold’s phrase comes to mind ” to see life steady and to see it whole” as reflecting Wordsworth’s endeavour) to the recording of the death of the boy stated here in stark, (linear), plain, simplicity. We are left at the end of the poem with the poet thinking of the significance of that young life-seeking to hold it in “steady” view where the the loss of the boy’s future is balanced by the quality and meaning of the boy’s actual experience as glimpsed through this wonderful poem.

The reader feels he has known him and can celebrate the fact!