Our meddling intellect

The poet Wordsworth get’s a lot of love from Owen Barfield. He is probably quoted and admired more than anyone frequently than anyone else I’ve seen so far in his writings.

…but perhaps the most brilliant, even epigrammatic, expression which has ever been given to the everlasting war between the unconscious, because creative, vital principle and the conscious, because destructive, calculating principle, is contained in four lines from a little peom of Wordsworth’s…

-Owen Barfield, History in English Words (Reader p. 42)

Here is that peom Barfield is talking about, with the pertinent verse in bold. (It’s a good one!)

The Tables Turned
by William Wordsworth

Up! up! my friend, and quit your books,
Or surely you’ll grow double.
Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble. . . .

Books! ’tis a dull and endless trifle:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it. . . .

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Misshapes the beauteous forms of things–
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art,
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.