I kind of hate riddles for the truly hideous reason that I’m just no good at them. When I sit there reading a book where a character is being told a riddle, my brain doesn’t even attempt a guess, I just read on until the riddle is answered by one of the characters and then I sit back and say, “Oh, of course, man is the creature walks four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three (or on wheels) in the evening, duh!”
In the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins has a riddle contest with the creature Gollum, and I’m sitting there, book in hand, thinking, “thank god I wasn’t me against Gollum, I’d be chicken-fried Gollum chow by now.” What does it has in its pockets? I can see how Gollum would have thought it cheats. But then again, I read a riddle in a riddles book that stated, “A man drank a cup of tea and stabbed himself in the eye?” I didn’t answer, I just thought, “that’s not even a riddle for crying out loud!” You want to know how he stabbed himself in the eye? I still think the answer is a bit bogus – I drink tea all the time and can’t see how it would happen.
Anyhow, those two meandering paragraphs were just to state the very simple fact that this poem reads a bit like a riddle and therefore is something I simply can’t decode. Old Wordsworth got me; I have no idea what the subject is. It’s a very pretty poem though, you’ll hear no argument from me on that. “A thing that could not feel/The touch of earthly years.” “No motion has she now, no force.” “Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course/With rocks, and stones, and trees.” The line, “Rolled round” makes whoever she is sound as if she is round and rolling slowly forward, the soft r sound spoken out loud has real movement.
She sounds quite eternal and yet tied somehow to the natural rhythms of the planet. I think that she is a forest, or perhaps Mother Nature, though MN is the last person I would accuse of having no force or motion, she is the most active of them all! If she is rolling, is she a river?
She might be otherworldly, because he seems to be seeing her in the world of dream. Perhaps he is seeing a beautiful scene from his childhood, a place that is now no more. A memory trapped in the amber of his dream. Perhaps this is why she has no force or motion, she’s long gone.
I don’t know. Can you decode this one?
A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal
by William Wordsworth
A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears –
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth’s dirunal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.