“Several years ago, when the Author retired to his native mountains with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how far Nature and Education had qualified him for such an employment.
“As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as he was acquainted with them.
“That work, addressed to a dear friend, most distinguished for his knowledge and genius, and to whom the author’s intellect is deeply indebted, has been long finished; and the result of the investigation which gave rise to it, was a determination to compose a philosophical Poem, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society, and to be entitled the ‘Recluse;’ as having for its principal subject the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement.
“The preparatory poem is biographical, and conducts the history of the Author’s mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his faculties were sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labour which he had proposed to himself; and the two works have the same kind of relation to each other, if he may so express himself, as the Ante-chapel has to the body of a Gothic Church. Continuing this allusion, he may be permitted to add, that his minor pieces, which have been long before the public, when they shall be properly arranged, will be found by the attentive reader to have such connection with the main work as may give them claim to be likened to the little cells, oratories, and sepulchral recesses, ordinarily included in those edifices.”
And so it was. And so it must be that a teacher of literature should venture out one afternoon into the choppy waters of GCSE revision. After stealing a boat before lunch, he feasted before returning to the lake.
The students were bloated from their own repast of fizzy drinks, crisps and other such snacks, and bone-melted candy. Nevertheless with a wind in behind him, he set off on the guilty adventure of rowing this group through the last waters of their preparation for the next day’s examination.
The lake of tumultuous despair had already quietened. It was flat as glass, straightforward, nothing that could challenge his recently found boatmanship. And, I hear you think, there would be catch, the vault-face, the moment when the teacher’s vain-glorious nature would be sunk.
And in the other world of words, that is what should have happened.
In my classroom, on that sunny afternoon, with no sight of overbearing peaks, or undue currents, and with the aid of a four-wheeled swivel-chair for a boat, he rowed up and down, the classroom door to his back then the windows, and his lesson ended with a note of things having reached their natural end, and he being able to square himself with what had gone before and what was still waiting for him.
That was The Prelude to his next chapter.