On this special episode I will read The Idiot Boy by William Wordsworth. This poem was published in the 1798 Lyrical Ballads and it was very controversial. Yet, it is a beautifully written poem.
I spend the majority of the time simply reading the poem. I hope you enjoy the reading! At the end I give a small critique of Wordsworth's philosophy, but mostly I defend him and Romanticism from the cliche attacks toward Romanticism.
THE IDIOT BOY
By William Wordsworth
‘Tis eight o’clock, – a clear March night,
The moon is up– the sky is blue,
The owlet in the moonlight air,
He shouts from nobody knows where ;
He lengthens out his lonely shout,
Halloo ! halloo ! a long halloo !
–Why bustle thus about your door,
What means this bustle, Betty Foy?
Why are you in this mighty fret?
And why on horseback have you set
Him whom you love, your idiot boy?
Beneath the moon that shines so bright,
Till she is tired, let Betty Foy
With girt and stirrup fiddle-fiddle;
But wherefore set upon a saddle
Him whom she loves, her idiot boy?
There’s scarce a soul that’s out of bed;
Good Betty! put him down again;
His lips with joy they burr at you,
But, Betty! what has he to do
With stirrup, saddle, or with rein?
The world will say ’tis very idle,
Bethink you of the time of night;
There’s not a mother, no not one,
But when she hears what you have done,
Oh! Betty she’ll be in a fright.
But Betty’s bent on her intent,
For her good neighbour, Susan Gale,
Old Susan, she who dwells alone,
Is sick, and makes a piteous moan,
As if her very life would fail.
There’s not a house within a mile,
No hand to help them in distress:
Old Susan lies a bed in pain,
And sorely puzzled are the twain,
For what she ails they cannot guess.
And Betty’s husband’s at the wood,
Where by the week he doth abide,
A woodman in the distant vale;
There’s none to help poor Susan Gale,
What must be done? what will betide?
And Betty from the lane has fetched
Her pony, that is mild and good,
Whether he be in joy or pain,
Feeding at will along the lane,
Or bringing faggots from the wood.
And he is all in travelling trim,
And by the moonlight, Betty Foy
Has up upon the saddle set,
The like was never heard of yet,
Him whom she loves, her idiot boy.
And he must post without delay
Across the bridge that’s in the dale,
And by the church, and o’er the down,
To bring a doctor from the town,
Or she will die, old Susan Gale.
There is no need of boot or spur,
There is no need of whip or wand,
For Johnny has his holly-bough,
And with a hurly-burly now
He shakes the green bough in his hand.
And Betty o’er and o’er has told
The boy who is her best delight,
Both what to follow, what to shun,
What do, and what to leave undone,
How turn to left, and how to right.
And Betty’s most especial charge,
Was, “ Johnny! Johnny! mind that you
“Come home again, nor stop at all,
“Come home again, whate’er befal,
“My Johnny do, I pray you do.”
To this did Johnny answer make,
Both with his head, and with his hand,
And proudly shook the bridle too,
And then! his words were not a few,
Which Betty well could understand.
And now that Johnny is just going,
Though Betty’s in a mighty flurry,
She gently pats the pony’s side,
On which her idiot boy must ride,
And seems no longer in a hurry.
But when the pony move