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The Real Meaning Of Splendour In The Grass Is Enough To Make Your Jaw Drop

The phrase is 213 years old and contains a hidden message to live by.

21/07/2017 3:32 PM AEST | Updated 21/07/2017 3:33 PM AEST
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Second row dude is desperate to go stare at some splendid grass ASAP.

Life comes at you fast. One day, the whole god-damned world sparkles like a trio of bindis on your forehead. The next, you're jaded and your only solace is a vague nostalgic sense of how glorious things once were.

Why do we put forward such a bleak vision of the world as a lovely sunny winter weekend descends upon us?

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We're confident that 18th century Romantic poets almost certainly never experienced the joy of tie-dyed outfits. which is a shame, really.

Because this was pretty much the world view of Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). And it's Wordsworth who originally coined the phrase "Splendour In The Grass" in his poem Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.

Wait, the phrase "Splendour in the Grass" is over 200 years old?

It is. People often think it originates from a 1961 Oscar-winning film of the same name. But they're wrong.

HuffPost Australia is at the festival this weekend and spoke to its founders. They said they almost called the festival "Home and Away", but eventually settled upon the name of the 1961 film.

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Not much grass but loads of splendour.

But if they'd seen the film lately, they'd recall that it pays direct homage to old Wordsie. Indeed, Natalie Wood's character reads key Wordsworth lines at the end of the film. Here's the stanza she reads:

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;

So what does these words mean and why does it matter?

We put that question to Professor Will Christie at the Australian National University. He's an English literature expert and thoroughly good bloke who knows his Wordsworth backwards. Among other things he said:

"What the poem's about is a sense in a particular kind of nostalgia, the idea of childhood as a time of extraordinary visionary clarity.

The challenge is how do you overcome this [as you get older], and that's where the idea of the splendour of the grass comes in.

What is more ordinary than grass? Grass is not supposed to be splendid, but if you see it with the right eyes...

The answer is there. We have to recover the sense of importance of even the most ordinary things."

So there you have it. The name of this festival has a lovely message tied in.

And to reiterate, that message is to savour your youthful years, which are the best, clearest, most wonderful years of your life.

But when those years fade, don't get washed-up and cynical and despairing. Instead, find beauty and inspiration and yes, even splendour, in the most mundane situations and objects -- and what could be a better metaphor for ordinariness than boring old grass?

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Grass is even more splendid when you turn it into slidey mud.

One last thought...

Wordsworth was obsessed with youth in other poems too. In his poem My Heart Leaps Up, he famously wrote "The Child is father of the Man", implying that we're pure in our precious early years before world-weariness sets in and the grass is no longer so splendid.

The people who named "Splendour in the Grass" likely had none of that in mind. Seems like they pretty much chose the phrase because it has an upbeat feel to it suggesting excitement, outdoorsiness, even sexiness.

But it's nice to know there's a deeper message we can all take home, don't you think?

ullstein bild via Getty Images
He won't be there this year because he hates Queens of the Stone Age. Oh, and also because he's dead.


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