My son’s interpretation of a Wordsworth poem fragment: Spots of Time
I walk my kid to school every morning, and every morning we “philosophize” about stuff. It’s really just me asking questions about what he thinks about things (why is a leaf pile more fun than a dirt pile? for example) and sometimes me talking about how the world and nature works and him listening (the effects of the space vacuum on the resistance of things and gravity was the latest one), but “philosophizing” will do.
Yesterday as we walked to school I recited for him my favorite poem-within-a-poem, Wordsworth’s “Spots of Time”. The text of the poem is as follows:
There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.
To me, the poem has always been about the power of memory and imagination, and how when one is depressed one can call upon their memories to feel uplifted. I asked my kid what he thought it was about. “Trampolines”, he said. Confused, I asked him to elaborate.
“Spots are round right?” he asked.
“Sure”, I replied.
“Well trampolines are round too”, he asserted.
“Ok and what else?” I asked.
“And in a trampoline when you jump you jump really really really high and when you fall down it it YOU JUMP ANYWAYS HURAGHRGUFRAGHUR” (that last bit was him laughing at the idea of falling on a trampoline).
So he explained the spot, he explained the “when high more high and lifts us up when fallen” parts, but then I asked him “what about the part of the poem that says that spots of time make you feel nourished and refreshed when you feel sad?” He simply replied “well trampolines are fun”.
The only problem with his interpretation is that the trampoline was invented some 80-ish years after the first publication of The Prelude (where one can find Spots of Time), but my kid is 7 he doesn’t know that. His interpretation was fun and inventive, and while it may not have the grandiose metaphysical implications of more accepted interpretations, I think it was brilliant and incredibly relevant to him.
And what does this has to do with education? Maybe it’s time for adults to let kids interpret poetry more often and not stifle them when they suggest something. Adults should encourage kids to think and push them with critical thinking prompts (why?), not just tell them, as I was often told during my early education, “your interpretation is wrong” or “I don’t think that’s it”. Foster and build up curiosity, don’t rip it out and tear it down.