Communing with Dorothy Wordsworth, 16th May

On this day in the year 1800, Dorothy
went for a walk overlooking Grasmere.
It brought the heart home to quietness, she said,
in as lovely a line as any of William’s.

She kept a journal while he was away,
she had no desire to be a poet too.
She wrote him letters, she looked for his
return days before he did come home.

Her life was full, of jobs and duties,
walks to get the post, walks to take the air,
friends who came calling and friends to
write to, beggars coming daily to the door.

Yet her mind was given to melancholy,
and on her walk above Grasmere she felt
particularly sad; she needed all the beauty
of that calm place to bring her peace.

She had frequent headaches, and was often
poorly after dinner, and had to lie down.
She doesn’t say why this was, simply notes,
without emphasis, such symptoms of ill health.

To read her journal (written to share
with William – she seems to have had
nothing to hide) is to get to know
a dear and intimate friend.

Her life’s outward details sound like
my life might seem: an enviable Paradise
of following her heart in peaceful occupations;
and yet she, like me, was inwardly troubled.

She would not have found my need
to lie down after dinner for a little sleep
anything out of the ordinary, and

she understood, behind her wild eyes,
what a lifetime’s difficult work it is,
to bring the heart home to quietness.