|Basic English as an International Language Elsie Graham||153|
|Basic English -- its Position and Plans J. A. Lauwerys||161|
|Basic English in Literature William Empson||169|
|Basic English Today, A Postscript Norman Pritchard||174|
The sea was laughing at a distance, allThat is Wordsworth, and in Basic, and good poetry ; we will come back to it later on. You might get an idea that the Basic words are dead and uninteresting, because they are so simple; that all the bright and living English words are outside the list. This is clearly not true in the two lines from Wordsworth; they may be simple, but there is nothing “dead” about them.
The solid mountains were as bright as clouds
Now an attempt at the sense in Basic. “The morning seemed strong and beautiful. I had a respect for it, as if it was a king, a ruler, coming out before the eyes of his nation, and with a train of servants round him. It seemed that this would never go out of my memory. The morning was more brightly and clearly beautiful than I had ever seen it before. The sea was laughing at a distance; all the solid mountains were as bright as clouds.” Well, that took a great number of words. And one trouble is, in giving all those words for pomp we get a detailed picture, not a general idea. Magnificent and glorious seem all right; we are able to say why they are different; one is strong, the other bright. But there is another trouble here. We have made these three words seem much more different than they were in the poetry. In them all, the morning (or the sun) is making itself seem great, like the ruler. When we see this we see why they are in that order. First the morning seems strong, maybe like a ruler who is doing great things (magnificent); then this gives the idea of the ruler coming out on view (pomp). But you are not to have any protest in your mind against rulers and the way they make themselves important. So the morning was truly bright in itself (glorious), and the sea was not self-important, it was laughing. There is a sort of pull here between two ideas, that of the authority of the good ruler and the natural good of being free. And the effect is that this beautiful morning is like a sign of some good secret at the back of all experience. As so frequently in Wordsworth, in fact, there is an idea of religion not clearly in view. It seems to me that putting the lines into Basic makes this turn of thought much clearer, for the very reason that Basic is so short of words like “magnificent”. The effect is like taking the cover off a machine.
The morning was, in memorable pomp,
More glorious than I ever had beheld.
The sea was laughing at a distance, all
The solid mountains were as bright as clouds.
The solid mountains were as bright as clouds.The mountains are solid because they are great hard masses, a cause of danger; commonly they are dark; they have a cruel authority; they have a connection with the sad experiences down here on earth. But now they have given up all that, and they are bright, like the clouds in the air. So all the parts of this morning view are working together; they are all a sign of the good secret about everything. And there is the same pull here as before between the ideas of authority and of being free.
The chief changes are in “the morning rose” for “the morning was”; “the sea lay laughing” for “the sea was laughing”; the “mountains shone” for “mountains were”, and the new words in front and near. Now certainly this seems tighter verse. There are more facts in it. One writer says that this makes it clearer. For example, it is now clear that the sea was in the middle of the view, in front, and that the mountains were nearer to Wordsworth than the sea was. But here it is time to make a protest against something I was saying before. I said that it was important for poetry to get ideas crushed together. But what ideas ? Why, after all, is it important for us to get the right picture here ? Maybe some readers of the old lines had got the right feeling, though they took the sea to be nearer than the mountains. But now Wordsworth says to them : “You are making a foolish error. In fact, at the time when I had this important feeling, the sea was not nearer than the mountains.” That is, in the new lines Wordsworth is painting a picture. This is as good a morning as even he, William Wordsworth, has ever seen, and he is giving a clear account of it. You see how cold this makes him; he is an expert on views of mountains. But in the old lines it was his feelings about the sea and the mountains and the morning which were important, and the forces working in his heart. And that is what is interesting in the lines, if anything is interesting. The idea that pushing in more facts about the view makes the lines more interesting is simply an error.
The morning rose, in memorable pomp,
Glorious as e’er I had beheld—in front
The sea lay laughing at a distance; near,
The solid mountains shone, bright as the clouds.