Language Is Beauty
One of the most central aspects of a country’s culture is its language. When you think of France, French comes with it. When you think of Japanese, Japan isn’t far from your thoughts. But what about countries that speak your native language? What if you’re trying to delve into England’s culture? When you think of England, you may not automatically think of English. So how can you understand the uniqueness of England’s culture through its language?
Look at what the English have used their language for, then go experience that.
Most students have had to read a lot of poetry, and I’ll bet much of it was British. And while that’s fun for lots of students (myself included), I don’t know if we all got it. It’s nice to read beautiful poetry in a classroom or in the aesthetic of a college apartment. The words are moving. But it’s an entirely different thing to read those same words when you’re actually looking at what the poet was looking at. Then you know England.
I grew up foster’d by beauty and by fear.
You may have heard of William Wordsworth. He grew up loving nature and exploring the scenery of the Lake District in northern England as anyone would if they lived in such a beautiful place. Perhaps that’s why we can feel nostalgia in his words.
Visit Tintern Abbey, and you can really see why Wordsworth wrote lines like these:
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her.
There is something about standing on the grounds of the abandoned, roofless abbey, reading the words of someone who loved this place, that impresses a traveler’s mind much more than just reading the words at any old location. Now you’re the one standing on the banks of the River Wye, looking up at the abbey, seeing the abundant white moss and the green grass where the floor used to be. Perhaps you would want to write a poem or two of your own. There’s a rich history of poetry in England, so you’d fit right in.
Those words can also bring the place back to you when you’re no longer there. After all, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” was, as the title suggests, not composed at Tintern Abbey itself. This is not the only time Wordsworth wrote while thinking about places he had been to in the past. When Wordsworth missed the beauty of the daffodil fields in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” he wrote,
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
And then he took himself back to those fields with language alone.
While the English may speak the same language as you do, their culture can still be accessed through the same words you use. Read some of these words, especially the ones about the country itself, and perhaps you’ll also wander lonely as a cloud through a field of daffodils without a care in the world.
“The Prelude: Book 1” by William Wordsworth
“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth