Poetry: Wordsworth – A Night Thought

Lo! where the Moon along the sky
Sails with her happy destiny;
Oft is she hid from mortal eye
Or dimly seen,
But when the clouds asunder fly
How bright her mien!

Far different we—a froward race,
Thousands though rich in Fortune’s grace
With cherished sullenness of pace
Their way pursue,
Ingrates who wear a smileless face
The whole year through.

If kindred humours e’er would make
My spirit droop for drooping’s sake,
From Fancy following in thy wake,
Bright ship of heaven!
A counter impulse let me take
And be forgiven.

A Night Thought, Wordsworth

I came across this poem a couple of weeks ago, but I find it fitting I should study it today, considering how fickle my emotions are. In such a few short verses, Wordsworth captures the perfect scene of deep musings during that hour between sleep and the ending rush of the day, when our mind pauses to consider the weighty things of life and our response to them. I place this poem with Holy Sonnet X and Sonnet 146, and I think it is one I shall come back to again.

Look now, and see the moon. Such simple splendor, such hidden glory. For most of the day, we do not see her, much less think of her and her tasks, her design. Yet faithfully she completes her duties, happy, looking not for fame or fortune but only to serve her Creator. Reflect now on the focus of rhymes. The sky is her destiny, but though we do not see her often, when we look up, her demeanor is bright and content.

Yet there is mankind. We are fickle, contrary, and disobedient. We have been blessed with life, fortune, and even the moon herself. But how do we go about our tasks? With a cherished sullenness. How I resent that phrase, yet am ashamed in it. How often do I hold onto bitterness rather than glance up and see? How often do I choose irritation rather than thankfulness? But we pursue our own way, ungrateful and unjoyful throughout each season. Here, the poem focuses our minds on this: our race has been given grace, but we choose to walk with a downcast face, pursuing our own way in life instead of the joyful path we have been given.

And now, Wordsworth reflects on these contrasts of joy and despair. If contrary times should come, and his impulse is to hold onto sadness for sadness’ sake, let him and the moon becomes friends so that he might learn from her joy and respond differently. Instead of holding to his path of misery, he hopes her example may teach him to take hold of joy as someone in grace and be forgiven of his ingratitude or lack of faith. And look now, look at the rhyming answer found in lines four and six: We glance to heaven, and are forgiven.

And so, I reflect on these musings today. My life is blessed, and today I nearly let myself become consumed with sullenness over an inconvenience that was partially of my own making. And yes, there is a time to be sad. But there is always a time to turn to heaven and remember the grace we stand in, the blessedness, the hope, and be thankful along with the bright face that God has put there. Even if we turn with tears, the Lord’s arms are open to us. Thus, let us reflect on the contentment demonstrated by this blessing from God and find such blessedness in our own life, especially when we are inclined to a smileless face.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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