Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind—
But how could I forget thee?—Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.
This poem captures so much, so accurately: the way we can instinctively want to share a thought, pleasure or experience with someone, before remembering that they are no longer there to share it with; how grief floods back in that moment of remembering, grief which feels so nearly as bad, all over again, as that first felt understanding of our loss (‘the worst pang… save only one’); how we can feel guilty for losing sight of the sorrow ‘even for the least division of an hour’, as if somehow the moment’s relief has been a betrayal, a failure to honour the belovedness of the lost person or thing; and how strange and uncomfortable it can feel to discover that we can be ‘beguiled’—how we can almost resent it. For it is another part of a loss to realise that we can survive it.
For me, the poem tails off a bit: I think its power is in the octet, and how it renders the ghastly moment in which so much happens: transport, desire to share, remembering, guilt… The sonnet’s “turn” feels less inspired, more formulaic. Nonetheless, it’s undeniable that Wordsworth captures an emotional experience with the clarity and insight which only come from lived experience. He knew about grief.