Which is Wordsworth’s finest poem? How can one even ask such a question? He has written so many memorable poems, it seems impossible to single out any one as the very best. Yet the question has been on my mind these past two days since the birthday of Wordsworth (April 7, 1770 – April 23, 1850). And my answer?
I love the Beach Boys’ song, I Can Hear Music. The ardour of young love and the sweet harmony capture all that is beautiful in life. Yes, it’s just a teenage love song, but listen to the jangling guitars, insistent beat and plaintive voices. Isn’t that what life is all about: wishing and hoping and, if you are lucky, getting what you want?
Popular music perhaps most faithfully articulates our feelings, for it changes with every generation, and no two generations have ever seen eye to eye. I can’t stand rap music any more than the rappers have time for the Beach Boys and the Beatles. This evanescence is what makes popular music so appealing, for it mirrors our own lives. We know it’s going to fade away, just as we will, but that’s why it’s all the more dear to us, because we can identify with it.
This must be one of the shortest, heavily anthologized poems in the English language. On Julia’s Clothes, by Robert Herrick, runs to only six lines. But, witty and playful, this 17th century poem is one of the 100 most anthologized poems in the English language, according to the Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry. Here are links to the top 100. But first…
On Julia’s Clothes
By Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!
Roguish but charming, isn’t it?