I came across this sonnet the other day, published in 1807 by William Wordsworth. As a founder of the Romantic movement, he reacted against the dark side effects of the Industrial Revolution. I believe poetry can continue to serve as a reminder of what we are missing in the modern world.
Here is a poem by William Wordsworth, that always has been a favorite, because it promotes the importance of doing nothing, an aimless aim completely lost to modern society. Many great ideas have been the result of long walks, of moments of reflection, of daydreaming. This is a skill you must cultivate if you want new insights and flashes of inspiration to emerge from the unconscious depths of your mind. Ideas must be given time to bubble to the surface — and those tiny bubbles will never be noticed if your life is an endlessly churning, stormy sea of distraction. Sometimes, you have to put everything aside. Even the books!
Expostulation and Reply
Why, William, on that old grey stone,
Thus for the length of half a day,
Why, William, sit you thus alone,
And dream your time away?
“Where are your books? — that light bequeathed
To Beings else forlorn and blind!
Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed
From dead men to their kind.
“You look round on your Mother Earth,
As if she for no purpose bore you;
As if you were her first-born birth,
And none had lived before you!”
One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
When life was sweet, I knew not why,
To me my good friend Matthew spake,
And thus I made reply:
“The eye — it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
Against or with our will.
“Nor less I deem that there are Powers
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours
In a wise passiveness.
“Think you, ‘mid all this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?
“– Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
Conversing as I may,
I sit upon this old grey stone,
And dream my time away.”