Letters from the Pandemic 6: Dear Will

A letter to William Wordsworth, my favourite wordsmith
by Natalie Lang

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Dearest Will,

William Wordsworth

Today, the gloom has overtaken me. I can no longer picture what tomorrow will bring; every tomorrow for months has led me further away from the life I knew and even more far flung from the one I had been working towards. It seems that chaos continues to erode every corner of the globe with the shock of leadership, dashed hopes, failed romance, and daily struggles in completing everyday tasks. The threat of sickness has faded into a dull haze hanging in the spaces of my mind.

I know you will understand when I try to explain the state of the world and its impenetrable effect on us all. We are forced into seclusion, separated from companions and all manner of social interactions. Venturing out has become a dance of avoidance and anxiety. While change and the hope for better days is on the horizon, a dependable future seems more unattainable today than ever before. I know when I tell you this that you will sympathize and perhaps even provide some wisdom to keep the shadows at bay and tempt the arrival of hope for more dazzling days.

William Wordsworth, aged 28, by William Shuter. Courtesy Cornell University Library

You once told me that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of emotion. It seems all I have now is an excess of sentiment with no outlet. In my isolation I have tried to capture and keep what’s in my heart in the form of prose and poetry, but my deeper emotions seem to be at odds with the everyday clarity and direction of my thoughts. Instead, I reach out to you who has also ventured homeward in your own solitude, often separated from your Dorothy and Sam. What I find in your words is a great wisdom in their application to life in these difficult and strangled times. You once said,

… 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…

Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth (OUP, 1958)

I understand now, Will, that no matter how difficult these days might be, or how cut off and distant we have become from each other and from all that creates delight and excitement between people, I can still recognize the grandeur of the human heart and walk among the trees and creeks and gaze up at the stars at night, not completely lost in the gloom and despair that lurks in the twilight of loneliness. We are all in isolation at this trying time, yet in some strange way your words have brought a spark to my step and provided greater confidence in the wonder yet to come. Your words, visions, and philosophies of joy in the simplest things, a cloud or a daffodil, even now leave magic trailing out from your pen, onto the page, and into my heart. 

Thank you dear friend, for reminding me of the joy that resides in our world.

As you have written to me before with such wisdom and acuity, I wish you well using your own sage embossed words:

Fare thee well!
Health and the quiet of a healthful mind
And for thyself, so haply shall thy days
Be many, and a blessing to mankind

Your faithful companion,

Natalie Virginia Lang

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Natalie Lang

Natalie Lang is a teacher and writer. She is also currently a master’s student in the GLS (Graduate of Liberal Studies) program at SFU. She is based in Abbotsford, where she teaches literature at Rick Hansen Secondary and lives in a renovated barn in the heart of Sumas Mountain. Editor’s note: Natalie Lang has reviewed books by Dave Doroghy, Sheena KamalJae Wallercarla bergmanSonnet L’AbbéLarry HannantTanya dePapeEmily LycopolusAlicia Tobin, and Cait Flanders for The Ormsby Review.

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The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of B.C. books and authors. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

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