'I was reared In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim.'
[Footnote b: Compare 'Stanzas written in my Pocket Copy of Thomsons "Castle of Indolence,"' vol. ii. p. 305.—Ed.]
* * * * *
RESIDENCE AT CAMBRIDGE
It was a dreary morning when the wheels Rolled over a wide plain o'erhung with clouds, And nothing cheered our way till first we saw The long-roofed chapel of King's College lift Turrets and pinnacles in answering files, 5 Extended high above a dusky grove, [A]
Advancing, we espied upon the road A student clothed in gown and tasselled cap, Striding along as if o'ertasked by Time, Or covetous of exercise and air; 10 He passed—nor was I master of my eyes Till he was left an arrow's flight behind. As near and nearer to the spot we drew, It seemed to suck us in with an eddy's force. Onward we drove beneath the Castle; caught, 15 While crossing Magdalene Bridge, a glimpse of Cam; And at the 'Hoop' alighted, famous Inn. [B]
My spirit was up, my thoughts were full of hope; Some friends I had, acquaintances who there Seemed friends, poor simple school-boys, now hung round 20 With honour and importance: in a world Of welcome faces up and down I roved; Questions, directions, warnings and advice, Flowed in upon me, from all sides; fresh day Of pride and pleasure! to myself I seemed 25 A man of business and expense, and went From shop to shop about my own affairs, To Tutor or to Tailor, as befel, From street to street with loose and careless mind.
I was the Dreamer, they the Dream; I roamed 30 Delighted through the motley spectacle; Gowns, grave, or gaudy, doctors, students, streets, Courts, cloisters, flocks of churches, gateways, towers: Migration strange for a stripling of the hills, A northern villager. As if the change 35 Had waited on some Fairy's wand, at once Behold me rich in monies, and attired In splendid garb, with hose of silk, and hair Powdered like rimy trees, when frost is keen. My lordly dressing-gown, I pass it by, 40 With other signs of manhood that supplied The lack of beard.—The weeks went roundly on, With invitations, suppers, wine and fruit, Smooth housekeeping within, and all without Liberal, and suiting gentleman's array. 45
The Evangelist St. John my patron was: Three Gothic courts are his, and in the first Was my abiding-place, a nook obscure; [C] Right underneath, the College kitchens made A humming sound, less tuneable than bees, 50 But hardly less industrious; with shrill notes Of sharp command and scolding intermixed. Near me hung Trinity's loquacious clock, Who never let the quarters, night or day, Slip by him unproclaimed, and told the hours 55 Twice over with a male and female voice. Her pealing organ was my neighbour too; And from my pillow, looking forth by light Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold The antechapel where the statue stood 60 Of Newton with his prism and silent face, The marble index of a mind for ever Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
Of College labours, of the Lecturer's room All studded round, as thick as chairs could stand, 65 With loyal students faithful to their books, Half-and-half idlers, hardy recusants, And honest dunces—of important days, Examinations, when the man was weighed As in a balance! of excessive hopes, 70 Tremblings withal and commendable fears, Small jealousies, and triumphs good or bad, Let others that know more speak as they know. Such glory was but little sought by me, And little won. Yet from the first crude days 75 Of settling time in this untried abode, I was disturbed at times by prudent thoughts, Wishing to hope without a hope, some fears About my future worldly maintenance, And, more than all, a strangeness in the mind, 80 A feeling that I was not for that hour, Nor for that place. But wherefore be cast down? For (not to speak of Reason and her pure Reflective acts to fix the moral law Deep in the conscience, nor of Christian Hope, 85 Bowing her head before her sister Faith As one far mightier), hither I had come, Bear witness Truth, endowed with holy powers And faculties, whether to work or feel. Oft when the dazzling show no longer new 90 Had ceased to dazzle, ofttimes did I quit My comrades, leave the crowd, buildings and groves, And as I paced alone the level fields Far from those lovely sights and sounds sublime With which I had been conversant, the mind 95 Drooped not; but there into herself returning, With prompt rebound seemed fresh as heretofore. At least I more distinctly recognised Her native instincts: let me dare to speak A higher language, say that now I felt 100 What independent solaces were mine, To mitigate the injurious sway of place Or circumstance, how far soever changed In youth, or to be changed in manhood's prime; Or for the few who shall be called to look 105 On the long shadows in our evening years, Ordained precursors to the night of death. As if awakened, summoned, roused, constrained, I looked for universal things; perused The common countenance of earth and sky: 110 Earth, nowhere unembellished by some trace Of that first Paradise whence man was driven; And sky, whose beauty and bounty are expressed By the proud name she bears—the name of Heaven. I called on both to teach me what they might; 115 Or turning the mind in upon herself Pored, watched, expected, listened, spread my thoughts And spread them with a wider creeping; felt Incumbencies more awful, visitings Of the Upholder of the tranquil soul, 120 That tolerates the indignities of Time, And, from the centre of Eternity All finite motions overruling, lives In glory immutable. But peace! enough Here to record that I was mounting now 125 To such community with highest truth— A track pursuing, not untrod before, From strict analogies by thought supplied Or consciousnesses not to be subdued. To every natural form, rock, fruit or flower, 130 Even the loose stones that cover the high-way, I gave a moral life: I saw them feel, Or linked them to some feeling: the great mass Lay bedded in a quickening soul, and all That I beheld respired with inward meaning. 135 Add that whate'er of Terror or of Love Or Beauty, Nature's daily face put on From transitory passion, unto this I was as sensitive as waters are To the sky's influence in a kindred mood 140 Of passion; was obedient as a lute That waits upon the touches of the wind. Unknown, unthought of, yet I was most rich— I had a world about me—'twas my own; I made it, for it only lived to me, 145 And to the God who sees into the heart. Such sympathies, though rarely, were betrayed By outward gestures and by visible looks: Some called it madness—so indeed it was, If child-like fruitfulness in passing joy, 150 If steady moods of thoughtfulness matured To inspiration, sort with such a name; If prophecy be madness; if things viewed By poets in old time, and higher up By the first men, earth's first inhabitants, 155 May in these tutored days no more be seen With undisordered sight. But leaving this, It was no madness, for the bodily eye Amid my strongest workings evermore Was searching out the lines of difference 160 As they lie hid in all external forms, Near or remote, minute or vast, an eye Which from a tree, a stone, a withered leaf, To the broad ocean and the azure heavens Spangled with kindred multitudes of stars, 165 Could find no surface where its power might sleep; Which spake perpetual logic to my soul, And by an unrelenting agency Did bind my feelings even as in a chain.
And here, O Friend! have I retraced my life 170 Up to an eminence, and told a tale Of matters which not falsely may be called The glory of my youth. Of genius, power, Creation and divinity itself I have been speaking, for my theme has been 175 What passed within me. Not of outward things Done visibly for other minds, words, signs, Symbols or actions, but of my own heart Have I been speaking, and my youthful mind. O Heavens! how awful is the might of souls, 180 And what they do within themselves while yet The yoke of earth is new to them, the world Nothing but a wild field where they were sown. This is, in truth, heroic argument, This genuine prowess, which I wished to touch 185 With hand however weak, but in the main It lies far hidden from the reach of words. Points have we all of us within our souls Where all stand single; this I feel, and make Breathings for incommunicable powers; 190 But is not each a memory to himself? And, therefore, now that we must quit this theme, I am not heartless, for there's not a man That lives who hath not known his god-like hours, And feels not what an empire we inherit 195 As natural beings in the strength of Nature.
No more: for now into a populous plain We must descend. A Traveller I am, Whose tale is only of himself; even so, So be it, if the pure of heart be prompt 200 To follow, and if thou, my honoured Friend! Who in these thoughts art ever at my side, Support, as heretofore, my fainting steps.
It hath been told, that when the first delight That flashed upon me from this novel show 205 Had failed, the mind returned into herself; Yet true it is, that I had made a change In climate, and my nature's outward coat Changed also slowly and insensibly. Full oft the quiet and exalted thoughts 210 Of loneliness gave way to empty noise And superficial pastimes; now and then Forced labour, and more frequently forced hopes; And, worst of all, a treasonable growth Of indecisive judgments, that impaired 215 And shook the mind's simplicity.—And yet This was a gladsome time. Could I behold— Who, less insensible than sodden clay In a sea-river's bed at ebb of tide, Could have beheld,—with undelighted heart, 220 So many happy youths, so wide and fair A congregation in its budding-time Of health, and hope, and beauty, all at once So many divers samples from the growth Of life's sweet season—could have seen unmoved 225 That miscellaneous garland of wild flowers Decking the matron temples of a place So famous through the world? To me, at least, It was a goodly prospect: for, in sooth, Though I had learnt betimes to stand unpropped, 230 And independent musings pleased me so That spells seemed on me when I was alone, Yet could I only cleave to solitude In lonely places; if a throng was near That way I leaned by nature; for my heart 235 Was social, and loved idleness and joy.
Not seeking those who might participate My deeper pleasures (nay, I had not once, Though not unused to mutter lonesome songs, Even with myself divided such delight, 240 Or looked that way for aught that might be clothed In human language), easily I passed From the remembrances of better things, And slipped into the ordinary works Of careless youth, unburthened, unalarmed. 245 Caverns there were within my mind which sun Could never penetrate, yet did there not Want store of leafy arbours where the light Might enter in at will. Companionships, Friendships, acquaintances, were welcome all. 250 We sauntered, played, or rioted; we talked Unprofitable talk at morning hours; Drifted about along the streets and walks, Read lazily in trivial books, went forth To gallop through the country in blind zeal 255 Of senseless horsemanship, or on the breast Of Cam sailed boisterously, and let the stars Come forth, perhaps without one quiet thought.
Such was the tenor of the second act In this new life. Imagination slept, 260 And yet not utterly. I could not print Ground where the grass had yielded to the steps Of generations of illustrious men, Unmoved. I could not always lightly pass Through the same gateways, sleep where they had slept, 265 Wake where they waked, range that inclosure old, That garden of great intellects, undisturbed. Place also by the side of this dark sense Of noble feeling, that those spiritual men, Even the great Newton's own ethereal self, 270 Seemed humbled in these precincts thence to be The more endeared. Their several memories here (Even like their persons in their portraits clothed With the accustomed garb of daily life) Put on a lowly and a touching grace 275 Of more distinct humanity, that left All genuine admiration unimpaired.
Beside the pleasant Mill of Trompington [D] I laughed with Chaucer in the hawthorn shade; Heard him, while birds were warbling, tell his tales 280 Of amorous passion. And that gentle Bard, Chosen by the Muses for their Page of State— Sweet Spenser, moving through his clouded heaven With the moon's beauty and the moon's soft pace, I called him Brother, Englishman, and Friend! 285 Yea, our blind Poet, who, in his later day, Stood almost single; uttering odious truth— Darkness before, and danger's voice behind, Soul awful—if the earth has ever lodged An awful soul—I seemed to see him here 290 Familiarly, and in his scholar's dress Bounding before me, yet a stripling youth— A boy, no better, with his rosy cheeks Angelical, keen eye, courageous look, And conscious step of purity and pride. 295 Among the band of my compeers was one Whom chance had stationed in the very room Honoured by Milton's name. O temperate Bard! Be it confest that, for the first time, seated Within thy innocent lodge and oratory, 300 One of a festive circle, I poured out Libations, to thy memory drank, till pride And gratitude grew dizzy in a brain Never excited by the fumes of wine Before that hour, or since. Then, forth I ran 305 From the assembly; through a length of streets, Ran, ostrich-like, to reach our chapel door In not a desperate or opprobrious time, Albeit long after the importunate bell Had stopped, with wearisome Cassandra voice 310 No longer haunting the dark winter night. Call back, O Friend! [E] a moment to thy mind, The place itself and fashion of the rites. With careless ostentation shouldering up My surplice, [F] through the inferior throng I clove 315 Of the plain Burghers, who in audience stood On the last skirts of their permitted ground, Under the pealing organ. Empty thoughts! I am ashamed of them: and that great Bard, And thou, O Friend! who in thy ample mind 320 Hast placed me high above my best deserts, Ye will forgive the weakness of that hour, In some of its unworthy vanities, Brother to many more. In this mixed sort The months passed on, remissly, not given up 325 To wilful alienation from the right, Or walks of open scandal, but in vague And loose indifference, easy likings, aims Of a low pitch—duty and zeal dismissed, Yet Nature, or a happy course of things 330 Not doing in their stead the needful work. The memory languidly revolved, the heart Reposed in noontide rest, the inner pulse Of contemplation almost failed to beat. Such life might not inaptly be compared 335 To a floating island, an amphibious spot Unsound, of spongy texture, yet withal Not wanting a fair face of water weeds And pleasant flowers. [G] The thirst of living praise, Fit reverence for the glorious Dead, the sight 340 Of those long vistas, sacred catacombs, Where mighty minds lie visibly entombed, Have often stirred the heart of youth, and bred A fervent love of rigorous discipline.— Alas! such high emotion touched not me. 345 Look was there none within these walls to shame My easy spirits, and discountenance Their light composure, far less to instil A calm resolve of mind, firmly addressed To puissant efforts. Nor was this the blame 350 Of others, but my own; I should, in truth, As far as doth concern my single self, Misdeem most widely, lodging it elsewhere: For I, bred up 'mid Nature's luxuries, Was a spoiled child, and rambling like the wind, 355 As I had done in daily intercourse With those crystalline rivers, solemn heights, And mountains, ranging like a fowl of the air, I was ill-tutored for captivity; To quit my pleasure, and, from month to month, 360 Take up a station calmly on the perch Of sedentary peace. Those lovely forms Had also left less space within my mind, Which, wrought upon instinctively, had found A freshness in those objects of her love, 365 A winning power, beyond all other power. Not that I slighted books, [H]—that were to lack All sense,—but other passions in me ruled, Passions more fervent, making me less prompt To in-door study than was wise or well, 370 Or suited to those years. Yet I, though used In magisterial liberty to rove, Culling such flowers of learning as might tempt A random choice, could shadow forth a place (If now I yield not to a flattering dream) 375 Whose studious aspect should have bent me down To instantaneous service; should at once Have made me pay to science and to arts And written lore, acknowledged my liege lord, A homage frankly offered up, like that 380 Which I had paid to Nature. Toil and pains In this recess, by thoughtful Fancy built, Should spread from heart to heart; and stately groves, Majestic edifices, should not want A corresponding dignity within. 385 The congregating temper that pervades Our unripe years, not wasted, should be taught To minister to works of high attempt— Works which the enthusiast would perform with love. Youth should be awed, religiously possessed 390 With a conviction of the power that waits On knowledge, when sincerely sought and prized For its own sake, on glory and on praise If but by labour won, and fit to endure The passing day; should learn to put aside 395 Her trappings here, should strip them off abashed Before antiquity and stedfast truth And strong book-mindedness; and over all A healthy sound simplicity should reign, A seemly plainness, name it what you will, 400 Republican or pious. If these thoughts Are a gratuitous emblazonry That mocks the recreant age we live in, then Be Folly and False-seeming free to affect Whatever formal gait of discipline 405 Shall raise them highest in their own esteem— Let them parade among the Schools at will, But spare the House of God. Was ever known The witless shepherd who persists to drive A flock that thirsts not to a pool disliked? 410 A weight must surely hang on days begun And ended with such mockery. Be wise, Ye Presidents and Deans, and, till the spirit Of ancient times revive, and youth be trained At home in pious service, to your bells 415 Give seasonable rest, for 'tis a sound Hollow as ever vexed the tranquil air; And your officious doings bring disgrace On the plain steeples of our English Church, Whose worship, 'mid remotest village trees, 420 Suffers for this. Even Science, too, at hand In daily sight of this irreverence, Is smitten thence with an unnatural taint, Loses her just authority, falls beneath Collateral suspicion, else unknown. 425 This truth escaped me not, and I confess, That having 'mid my native hills given loose To a schoolboy's vision, I had raised a pile Upon the basis of the coming time, That fell in ruins round me. Oh, what joy 430 To see a sanctuary for our country's youth Informed with such a spirit as might be Its own protection; a primeval grove, Where, though the shades with cheerfulness were filled, Nor indigent of songs warbled from crowds 435 In under-coverts, yet the countenance Of the whole place should bear a stamp of awe; A habitation sober and demure For ruminating creatures; a domain For quiet things to wander in; a haunt 440 In which the heron should delight to feed By the shy rivers, and the pelican Upon the cypress spire in lonely thought Might sit and sun himself.—Alas! Alas! In vain for such solemnity I looked; 445 Mine eyes were crossed by butterflies, ears vexed By chattering popinjays; the inner heart Seemed trivial, and the impresses without Of a too gaudy region. Different sight Those venerable Doctors saw of old, 450 When all who dwelt within these famous walls Led in abstemiousness a studious life; When, in forlorn and naked chambers cooped And crowded, o'er the ponderous books they hung Like caterpillars eating out their way 455 In silence, or with keen devouring noise Not to be tracked or fathered. Princes then At matins froze, and couched at curfew-time, Trained up through piety and zeal to prize Spare diet, patient labour, and plain weeds. 460 O seat of Arts! renowned throughout the world! Far different service in those homely days The Muses' modest nurslings underwent From their first childhood: in that glorious time When Learning, like a stranger come from far, 465 Sounding through Christian lands her trumpet, roused Peasant and king; when boys and youths, the growth Of ragged villages and crazy huts, Forsook their homes, and, errant in the quest Of Patron, famous school or friendly nook, 470 Where, pensioned, they in shelter might sit down, From town to town and through wide scattered realms Journeyed with ponderous folios in their hands; And often, starting from some covert place, Saluted the chance comer on the road, 475 Crying, "An obolus, a penny give To a poor scholar!" [I]—when illustrious men, Lovers of truth, by penury constrained, Bucer, Erasmus, or Melancthon, read Before the doors or windows of their cells 480 By moonshine through mere lack of taper light.
But peace to vain regrets! We see but darkly Even when we look behind us, and best things Are not so pure by nature that they needs Must keep to all, as fondly all believe, 485 Their highest promise. If the mariner, When at reluctant distance he hath passed Some tempting island, could but know the ills That must have fallen upon him had he brought His bark to land upon the wished-for shore, 490 Good cause would oft be his to thank the surf Whose white belt scared him thence, or wind that blew Inexorably adverse: for myself I grieve not; happy is the gowned youth, Who only misses what I missed, who falls 495 No lower than I fell.
I did not love, Judging not ill perhaps, the timid course Of our scholastic studies; could have wished To see the river flow with ampler range And freer pace; but more, far more, I grieved 500 To see displayed among an eager few, Who in the field of contest persevered, Passions unworthy of youth's generous heart And mounting spirit, pitiably repaid, When so disturbed, whatever palms are won. 505 From these I turned to travel with the shoal Of more unthinking natures, easy minds And pillowy; yet not wanting love that makes The day pass lightly on, when foresight sleeps, And wisdom and the pledges interchanged 510 With our own inner being are forgot.
Yet was this deep vacation not given up To utter waste. Hitherto I had stood In my own mind remote from social life, (At least from what we commonly so name,) 515 Like a lone shepherd on a promontory Who lacking occupation looks far forth Into the boundless sea, and rather makes Than finds what he beholds. And sure it is, That this first transit from the smooth delights 520 And wild outlandish walks of simple youth To something that resembles an approach Towards human business, to a privileged world Within a world, a midway residence With all its intervenient imagery, 525 Did better suit my visionary mind, Far better, than to have been bolted forth; Thrust out abruptly into Fortune's way Among the conflicts of substantial life; By a more just gradation did lead on 530 To higher things; more naturally matured, For permanent possession, better fruits, Whether of truth or virtue, to ensue. In serious mood, but oftener, I confess, With playful zest of fancy did we note 535 (How could we less?) the manners and the ways Of those who lived distinguished by the badge Of good or ill report; or those with whom By frame of Academic discipline We were perforce connected, men whose sway 540 And known authority of office served To set our minds on edge, and did no more. Nor wanted we rich pastime of this kind, Found everywhere, but chiefly in the ring Of the grave Elders, men unsecured, grotesque 545 In character, tricked out like aged trees Which through the lapse of their infirmity Give ready place to any random seed That chooses to be reared upon their trunks.
Here on my view, confronting vividly 550 Those shepherd swains whom I had lately left, Appeared a different aspect of old age; How different! yet both distinctly marked, Objects embossed to catch the general eye, Or portraitures for special use designed, 555 As some might seem, so aptly do they serve To illustrate Nature's book of rudiments— That book upheld as with maternal care When she would enter on her tender scheme Of teaching comprehension with delight, 560 And mingling playful with pathetic thoughts.
The surfaces of artificial life And manners finely wrought, the delicate race Of colours, lurking, gleaming up and down Through that state arras woven with silk and gold; 565 This wily interchange of snaky hues, Willingly or unwillingly revealed, I neither knew nor cared for; and as such Were wanting here, I took what might be found Of less elaborate fabric. At this day 570 I smile, in many a mountain solitude Conjuring up scenes as obsolete in freaks Of character, in points of wit as broad, As aught by wooden images performed For entertainment of the gaping crowd 575 At wake or fair. And oftentimes do flit Remembrances before me of old men— Old humourists, who have been long in their graves, And having almost in my mind put off Their human names, have into phantoms passed 580 Of texture midway between life and books.
I play the loiterer: 'tis enough to note That here in dwarf proportions were expressed The limbs of the great world; its eager strifes Collaterally pourtrayed, as in mock fight, 585 A tournament of blows, some hardly dealt Though short of mortal combat; and whate'er Might in this pageant be supposed to hit An artless rustic's notice, this way less, More that way, was not wasted upon me—590 And yet the spectacle may well demand A more substantial name, no mimic show, Itself a living part of a live whole, A creek in the vast sea; for, all degrees And shapes of spurious fame and short-lived praise 595 Here sate in state, and fed with daily alms Retainers won away from solid good; And here was Labour, his own bond-slave; Hope, That never set the pains against the prize; Idleness halting with his weary clog, 600 And poor misguided Shame, and witless Fear, And simple Pleasure foraging for Death; Honour misplaced, and Dignity astray; Feuds, factions, flatteries, enmity, and guile Murmuring submission, and bald government, 605 (The idol weak as the idolater), And Decency and Custom starving Truth, And blind Authority beating with his staff The child that might have led him; Emptiness Followed as of good omen, and meek Worth 610 Left to herself unheard of and unknown.
Of these and other kindred notices I cannot say what portion is in truth The naked recollection of that time, And what may rather have been called to life 615 By after-meditation. But delight That, in an easy temper lulled asleep, Is still with Innocence its own reward, This was not wanting. Carelessly I roamed As through a wide museum from whose stores 620 A casual rarity is singled out And has its brief perusal, then gives way To others, all supplanted in their turn; Till 'mid this crowded neighbourhood of things That are by nature most unneighbourly, 625 The head turns round and cannot right itself; And though an aching and a barren sense Of gay confusion still be uppermost, With few wise longings and but little love, Yet to the memory something cleaves at last, 630 Whence profit may be drawn in times to come.
Thus in submissive idleness, my Friend! The labouring time of autumn, winter, spring, Eight months! rolled pleasingly away; the ninth Came and returned me to my native hills. 635
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FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: Wordsworth went from York to Cambridge, entering it by the coach road from the north-west. This was doubtless the road which now leads to the city from Girton. "The long-roofed chapel of King's College" must have been seen from that road.—Ed.]
[Footnote B: The Hoop Inn still exists, not now so famous as in the end of last century.—Ed.]
[Footnote C: He entered St. John's College in October 1787. His rooms in the College were unknown to the officials a dozen years ago, although they are pretty clearly indicated by Wordsworth in this passage. They were in the first of the three courts of St. John's; they were above the College kitchens; and from the window of his bedroom he could look into the antechapel of Trinity, with its statue of Newton. They have been recently removed in connection with sundry improvements in the college kitchen. For details, see the 'Life of Wordsworth' which will follow this edition of his Works.—Ed.]
[Footnote D: A village two and a half miles south of Cambridge.
"There are still some remains of the mill here celebrated by Chaucer in his Reve's Tale."
(Lewis' 'Topographical Dictionary of England', vol. iv. p. 390.)—Ed.]
[Footnote E: S. T. C., who entered Cambridge when Wordsworth left it.—Ed.]
[Footnote F: On certain days a surplice is worn, instead of a gown, by the undergraduates.—Ed.]
[Footnote G: Compare the poem 'Floating Island', by Dorothy Wordsworth.—Ed.]
[Footnote H: The following extract from a letter of Dorothy Wordsworth's illustrates the above and other passages of this book. It was written from Forncett, on the 26th of June, 1791. She is speaking of her two brothers, William and Christopher. Of Christopher she says:
"His abilities, though not so great, perhaps, as his brother's, may be of more use to him, as he has not fixed his mind upon any particular species of reading or conceived an aversion to any. He is not fond of mathematics, but has resolution sufficient to study them; because it will be impossible for him to obtain a fellowship without them. William lost the chance, indeed the certainty, of a fellowship, by not combating his inclinations. He gave way to his natural dislike to studies so dry as many parts of the mathematics, consequently could not succeed in Cambridge. He reads Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, Latin, and English; but never opens a mathematical book.... Do not think from what I have said that he reads not at all; for he does read a great deal, and not only poetry, in these languages he is acquainted with, but History also," etc. etc.
[Footnote I: 'Date obolum Belisario'. Belisarius, a general of the Emperor Justinian's, died 564 A.D. The story of his begging charity is probably a legend, but the "begging scholar" was common in Christendom throughout the Middle Ages, and was met with in the last century.—Ed.]
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Bright was the summer's noon when quickening steps Followed each other till a dreary moor Was crossed, a bare ridge clomb, upon whose top [A] Standing alone, as from a rampart's edge, I overlooked the bed of Windermere, 5 Like a vast river, stretching in the sun. With exultation, at my feet I saw Lake, islands, promontories, gleaming bays, A universe of Nature's fairest forms Proudly revealed with instantaneous burst, 10 Magnificent, and beautiful, and gay. I bounded down the hill shouting amain For the old Ferryman; to the shout the rocks Replied, and when the Charon of the flood Had staid his oars, and touched the jutting pier, [B] 15 I did not step into the well-known boat Without a cordial greeting. Thence with speed Up the familiar hill I took my way [C] Towards that sweet Valley [D] where I had been reared; 'Twas but a short hour's walk, ere veering round 20 I saw the snow-white church upon her hill [E] Sit like a throned Lady, sending out A gracious look all over her domain. [F] Yon azure smoke betrays the lurking town; With eager footsteps I advance and reach 25 The cottage threshold where my journey closed. Glad welcome had I, with some tears, perhaps, From my old Dame, so kind and motherly, [G] While she perused me with a parent's pride. The thoughts of gratitude shall fall like dew 30 Upon thy grave, good creature! While my heart Can beat never will I forget thy name. Heaven's blessing be upon thee where thou liest After thy innocent and busy stir In narrow cares, thy little daily growth 35 Of calm enjoyments, after eighty years, And more than eighty, of untroubled life, [H] Childless, yet by the strangers to thy blood Honoured with little less than filial love. What joy was mine to see thee once again, 40 Thee and thy dwelling, and a crowd of things About its narrow precincts all beloved, [I] And many of them seeming yet my own! Why should I speak of what a thousand hearts Have felt, and every man alive can guess? 45 The rooms, the court, the garden were not left Long unsaluted, nor the sunny seat Round the stone table under the dark pine, [K] Friendly to studious or to festive hours; Nor that unruly child of mountain birth, 50 The famous brook, who, soon as he was boxed Within our garden, [L] found himself at once, As if by trick insidious and unkind, Stripped of his voice [M] and left to dimple down (Without an effort and without a will) 55 A channel paved by man's officious care. [N] I looked at him and smiled, and smiled again, And in the press of twenty thousand thoughts, [O] "Ha," quoth I, "pretty prisoner, are you there!" Well might sarcastic Fancy then have whispered, 60 "An emblem here behold of thy own life; In its late course of even days with all Their smooth enthralment;" but the heart was full, Too full for that reproach. My aged Dame Walked proudly at my side: she guided me; 65 I willing, nay—nay, wishing to be led. —The face of every neighbour whom I met Was like a volume to me; some were hailed Upon the road, some busy at their work, Unceremonious greetings interchanged 70 With half the length of a long field between. Among my schoolfellows I scattered round Like recognitions, but with some constraint Attended, doubtless, with a little pride, But with more shame, for my habiliments, 75 The transformation wrought by gay attire. Not less delighted did I take my place At our domestic table: and, [P] dear Friend In this endeavour simply to relate A Poet's history, may I leave untold 80 The thankfulness with which I laid me down In my accustomed bed, more welcome now Perhaps than if it had been more desired Or been more often thought of with regret; That lowly bed whence I had heard the wind 85 Roar and the rain beat hard, where I so oft Had lain awake on summer nights to watch The moon in splendour couched among the leaves Of a tall ash, that near our cottage stood; [Q] Had watched her with fixed eyes while to and fro 90 In the dark summit of the waving tree She rocked with every impulse of the breeze.
Among the favourites whom it pleased me well To see again, was one by ancient right Our inmate, a rough terrier of the hills; 95 By birth and call of nature pre-ordained To hunt the badger and unearth the fox Among the impervious crags, but having been From youth our own adopted, he had passed Into a gentler service. And when first 100 The boyish spirit flagged, and day by day Along my veins I kindled with the stir, The fermentation, and the vernal heat Of poesy, affecting private shades Like a sick Lover, then this dog was used 105 To watch me, an attendant and a friend, Obsequious to my steps early and late, Though often of such dilatory walk Tired, and uneasy at the halts I made. A hundred times when, roving high and low 110 I have been harassed with the toil of verse, Much pains and little progress, and at once Some lovely Image in the song rose up Full-formed, like Venus rising from the sea; Then have I darted forwards to let 115 My hand upon his back with stormy joy, Caressing him again and yet again. And when at evening on the public way I sauntered, like a river murmuring And talking to itself when all things 120 Are still, the creature trotted on before; Such was his custom; but whene'er he met A passenger approaching, he would turn To give me timely notice, and straightway, Grateful for that admonishment, I 125 My voice, composed my gait, and, with the air And mien of one whose thoughts are free, advanced To give and take a greeting that might save My name from piteous rumours, such as wait On men suspected to be crazed in brain. 130
Those walks well worthy to be prized and loved— Regretted!—that word, too, was on my tongue, But they were richly laden with all good, And cannot be remembered but with thanks And gratitude, and perfect joy of heart—135 Those walks in all their freshness now came back Like a returning Spring. When first I made Once more the circuit of our little lake, If ever happiness hath lodged with man, That day consummate happiness was mine, 140 Wide-spreading, steady, calm, contemplative. The sun was set, or setting, when I left Our cottage door, and evening soon brought on A sober hour, not winning or serene, For cold and raw the air was, and untuned; 145 But as a face we love is sweetest then When sorrow damps it, or, whatever look It chance to wear, is sweetest if the heart Have fulness in herself; even so with me It fared that evening. Gently did my soul 150 Put off her veil, and, self-transmuted, stood Naked, as in the presence of her God. While on I walked, a comfort seemed to touch A heart that had not been disconsolate: Strength came where weakness was not known to be, 155 At least not felt; and restoration came Like an intruder knocking at the door Of unacknowledged weariness. I took The balance, and with firm hand weighed myself. —Of that external scene which round me lay, 160 Little, in this abstraction, did I see; Remembered less; but I had inward hopes And swellings of the spirit, was rapt and soothed, Conversed with promises, had glimmering views How life pervades the undecaying mind; 165 How the immortal soul with God-like power Informs, creates, and thaws the deepest sleep That time can lay upon her; how on earth, Man, if he do but live within the light Of high endeavours, daily spreads abroad 170 His being armed with strength that cannot fail. Nor was there want of milder thoughts, of love Of innocence, and holiday repose; And more than pastoral quiet, 'mid the stir Of boldest projects, and a peaceful end 175 At last, or glorious, by endurance won. Thus musing, in a wood I sate me down Alone, continuing there to muse: the slopes And heights meanwhile were slowly overspread With darkness, and before a rippling breeze 180 The long lake lengthened out its hoary line, And in the sheltered coppice where I sate, Around me from among the hazel leaves, Now here, now there, moved by the straggling wind, Came ever and anon a breath-like sound, 185 Quick as the pantings of the faithful dog, The off and on companion of my walk; And such, at times, believing them to be, I turned my head to look if he were there; Then into solemn thought I passed once more. 190
A freshness also found I at this time In human Life, the daily life of those Whose occupations really I loved; The peaceful scene oft filled me with surprise Changed like a garden in the heat of spring 195 After an eight-days' absence. For (to omit The things which were the same and yet appeared Fair otherwise) amid this rural solitude, A narrow Vale where each was known to all, 'Twas not indifferent to a youthful mind 200 To mark some sheltering bower or sunny nook, Where an old man had used to sit alone, Now vacant; pale-faced babes whom I had left In arms, now rosy prattlers at the feet Of a pleased grandame tottering up and down; 205 And growing girls whose beauty, filched away With all its pleasant promises, was gone To deck some slighted playmate's homely cheek.
Yes, I had something of a subtler sense, And often looking round was moved to smiles 210 Such as a delicate work of humour breeds; I read, without design, the opinions, thoughts, Of those plain-living people now observed With clearer knowledge; with another eye I saw the quiet woodman in the woods, 215 The shepherd roam the hills. With new delight, This chiefly, did I note my grey-haired Dame; Saw her go forth to church or other work Of state, equipped in monumental trim; Short velvet cloak, (her bonnet of the like), 220 A mantle such as Spanish Cavaliers Wore in old time. Her smooth domestic life, Affectionate without disquietude, Her talk, her business, pleased me; and no less Her clear though shallow stream of piety 225 That ran on Sabbath days a fresher course; With thoughts unfelt till now I saw her read Her Bible on hot Sunday afternoons, And loved the book, when she had dropped asleep And made of it a pillow for her head. 230
Nor less do I remember to have felt, Distinctly manifested at this time, A human-heartedness about my love For objects hitherto the absolute wealth Of my own private being and no more: 235 Which I had loved, even as a blessed spirit Or Angel, if he were to dwell on earth, Might love in individual happiness. But now there opened on me other thoughts Of change, congratulation or regret, 240 A pensive feeling! It spread far and wide; The trees, the mountains shared it, and the brooks, The stars of Heaven, now seen in their old haunts— White Sirius glittering o'er the southern crags, Orion with his belt, and those fair Seven, 245 Acquaintances of every little child, And Jupiter, my own beloved star! Whatever shadings of mortality, Whatever imports from the world of death Had come among these objects heretofore, 250 Were, in the main, of mood less tender: strong, Deep, gloomy were they, and severe; the scatterings Of awe or tremulous dread, that had given way In later youth to yearnings of a love Enthusiastic, to delight and hope. 255
As one who hangs down-bending from the side Of a slow-moving boat, upon the breast Of a still water, solacing himself With such discoveries as his eye can make Beneath him in the bottom of the deep, 260 Sees many beauteous sights—weeds, fishes, flowers. Grots, pebbles, roots of trees, and fancies more, Yet often is perplexed and cannot part The shadow from the substance, rocks and sky, Mountains and clouds, reflected in the depth 265 Of the clear flood, from things which there abide In their true dwelling; now is crossed by gleam Of his own image, by a sun-beam now, And wavering motions sent he knows not whence, Impediments that make his task more sweet; 270 Such pleasant office have we long pursued Incumbent o'er the surface of past time With like success, nor often have appeared Shapes fairer or less doubtfully discerned Than these to which the Tale, indulgent Friend! 275 Would now direct thy notice. Yet in spite Of pleasure won, and knowledge not withheld, There was an inner falling off—I loved, Loved deeply all that had been loved before, More deeply even than ever: but a swarm 280 Of heady schemes jostling each other, gawds, And feast and dance, and public revelry, And sports and games (too grateful in themselves, Yet in themselves less grateful, I believe, Than as they were a badge glossy and fresh 285 Of manliness and freedom) all conspired To lure my mind from firm habitual quest Of feeding pleasures, to depress the zeal And damp those yearnings which had once been mine— A wild, unworldly-minded youth, given up 290 To his own eager thoughts. It would demand Some skill, and longer time than may be spared, To paint these vanities, and how they wrought In haunts where they, till now, had been unknown. It seemed the very garments that I wore 295 Preyed on my strength, and stopped the quiet stream Of self-forgetfulness. Yes, that heartless chase Of trivial pleasures was a poor exchange For books and nature at that early age. 'Tis true, some casual knowledge might be gained 300 Of character or life; but at that time, Of manners put to school I took small note, And all my deeper passions lay elsewhere. Far better had it been to exalt the mind By solitary study, to uphold 305 Intense desire through meditative peace; And yet, for chastisement of these regrets, The memory of one particular hour Doth here rise up against me. 'Mid a throng Of maids and youths, old men, and matrons staid, 310 A medley of all tempers, I had passed The night in dancing, gaiety, and mirth, With din of instruments and shuffling feet, And glancing forms, and tapers glittering, And unaimed prattle flying up and down; [R] 315 Spirits upon the stretch, and here and there Slight shocks of young love-liking interspersed, Whose transient pleasure mounted to the head, And tingled through the veins. Ere we retired, The cock had crowed, and now the eastern sky 320 Was kindling, not unseen, from humble copse And open field, through which the pathway wound, And homeward led my steps. Magnificent The morning rose, in memorable pomp, Glorious as e'er I had beheld—in front, 325 The sea lay laughing at a distance; near, The solid mountains shone, bright as the clouds, Grain-tinctured, drenched in empyrean light; And in the meadows and the lower grounds Was all the sweetness of a common dawn—330 Dews, vapours, and the melody of birds, [S] And labourers going forth to till the fields. Ah! need I say, dear Friend! that to the brim My heart was full; I made no vows, but vows Were then made for me; bond unknown to me 335 Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly, A dedicated Spirit. On I walked In thankful blessedness, which yet survives. [T]
Strange rendezvous! My mind was at that time A parti-coloured show of grave and gay, 340 Solid and light, short-sighted and profound; Of inconsiderate habits and sedate, Consorting in one mansion unreproved. The worth I knew of powers that I possessed, Though slighted and too oft misused. Besides, 345 That summer, swarming as it did with thoughts Transient and idle, lacked not intervals When Folly from the frown of fleeting Time Shrunk, and the mind experienced in herself Conformity as just as that of old 350 To the end and written spirit of God's works, Whether held forth in Nature or in Man, Through pregnant vision, separate or conjoined.
When from our better selves we have too long Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop, 355 Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, How gracious, how benign, is Solitude; How potent a mere image of her sway; Most potent when impressed upon the mind With an appropriate human centre—hermit, 360 Deep in the bosom of the wilderness; Votary (in vast cathedral, where no foot Is treading, where no other face is seen) Kneeling at prayers; or watchman on the top Of lighthouse, beaten by Atlantic waves; 365 Or as the soul of that great Power is met Sometimes embodied on a public road, When, for the night deserted, it assumes A character of quiet more profound Than pathless wastes. Once, when those summer months 370 Were flown, and autumn brought its annual show Of oars with oars contending, sails with sails, Upon Winander's spacious breast, it chanced That—after I had left a flower-decked room (Whose in-door pastime, lighted up, survived 375 To a late hour), and spirits overwrought Were making night do penance for a day Spent in a round of strenuous idleness—[U] My homeward course led up a long ascent, Where the road's watery surface, to the top 380 Of that sharp rising, glittered to the moon And bore the semblance of another stream Stealing with silent lapse to join the brook That murmured in the vale. [V] All else was still; No living thing appeared in earth or air, 385 And, save the flowing water's peaceful voice, Sound there was none—but, lo! an uncouth shape, Shown by a sudden turning of the road, So near that, slipping back into the shade Of a thick hawthorn, I could mark him well, 390 Myself unseen. He was of stature tall, A span above man's common measure, tall, Stiff, lank, and upright; a more meagre man Was never seen before by night or day. Long were his arms, pallid his hands; his mouth 395 Looked ghastly in the moonlight: from behind, A mile-stone propped him; I could also ken That he was clothed in military garb, Though faded, yet entire. Companionless, No dog attending, by no staff sustained, 400 He stood, and in his very dress appeared A desolation, a simplicity, To which the trappings of a gaudy world Make a strange back-ground. From his lips, ere long, Issued low muttered sounds, as if of pain 405 Or some uneasy thought; yet still his form Kept the same awful steadiness—at his feet His shadow lay, and moved not. From self-blame Not wholly free, I watched him thus; at length Subduing my heart's specious cowardice, 410 I left the shady nook where I had stood And hailed him. Slowly from his resting-place He rose, and with a lean and wasted arm In measured gesture lifted to his head Returned my salutation; then resumed 415 His station as before; and when I asked His history, the veteran, in reply, Was neither slow nor eager; but, unmoved, And with a quiet uncomplaining voice, A stately air of mild indifference, 420 He told in few plain words a soldier's tale— That in the Tropic Islands he had served, Whence he had landed scarcely three weeks past: That on his landing he had been dismissed, And now was travelling towards his native home. 425 This heard, I said, in pity, "Come with me." He stooped, and straightway from the ground took up An oaken staff by me yet unobserved— A staff which must have dropt from his slack hand And lay till now neglected in the grass. 430 Though weak his step and cautious, he appeared To travel without pain, and I beheld, With an astonishment but ill suppressed, His ghostly figure moving at my side; Nor could I, while we journeyed thus, forbear 435 To turn from present hardships to the past, And speak of war, battle, and pestilence, Sprinkling this talk with questions, better spared, On what he might himself have seen or felt. He all the while was in demeanour calm, 440 Concise in answer; solemn and sublime He might have seemed, but that in all he said There was a strange half-absence, as of one Knowing too well the importance of his theme, But feeling it no longer. Our discourse 445 Soon ended, and together on we passed In silence through a wood gloomy and still. Up-turning, then, along an open field, We reached a cottage. At the door I knocked, And earnestly to charitable care 450 Commended him as a poor friendless man, Belated and by sickness overcome. Assured that now the traveller would repose In comfort, I entreated that henceforth He would not linger in the public ways, 455 But ask for timely furtherance and help Such as his state required. At this reproof, With the same ghastly mildness in his look, He said, "My trust is in the God of Heaven, And in the eye of him who passes me!" 460
The cottage door was speedily unbarred, And now the soldier touched his hat once more With his lean hand, and in a faltering voice, Whose tone bespake reviving interests Till then unfelt, he thanked me; I returned 465 The farewell blessing of the patient man, And so we parted. Back I cast a look, And lingered near the door a little space, Then sought with quiet heart my distant home.
* * * * *
FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: On the road from Kendal to Windermere.—Ed.]
[Footnote B: At the Ferry below Bowness.—Ed.]
[Footnote C: From the Ferry over the ridge to Sawrey.—Ed.]
[Footnote D: The Vale of Esthwaite.—Ed.]
[Footnote E: Hawkshead Church; an old Norman structure, built in 1160, the year of the foundation of Furness Abbey. It is no longer "snow-white," a so-called Restoration having taken place within recent years, on architectural principles. The plaster is stripped from the outside of the church, which is now of a dull stone colour.
"Apart from poetic sentiment," wrote Dr. Cradock (the late Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford), "it may be doubted whether the pale colour, still preserved at Grasmere and other churches in the district, does not better harmonize with the scenery and atmosphere of the Lake country.".
The most interesting feature in the interior is the private chapel of Archbishop Sandys.—Ed.]
[Footnote F: Hawkshead Church is a conspicuous object as you approach the town, whether by the Ambleside road, or from Sawrey. It is the latter approach that is here described.—Ed.]
[Footnote G: Anne Tyson,—Ed.]
[Footnote H: Anne Tyson seems to have removed from Hawkshead village to Colthouse, on the opposite side of the Vale, and lived there for some time before her death. Along with Dr. Cradock I examined the Parish Registers of Hawkshead in the autumn of 1882, and we found the following entry belonging to the year 1796.
"Anne Tyson of Colthouse, widow, died May 25th buried 28th, in Churchyard, aged 83."
Her removal to Colthouse is confirmed, in a curious way, by a reminiscence of William Wordsworth's (the poet's son), who told me that if asked where the dame's house was, he would have pointed to a spot on the eastern side of the valley, and out of the village altogether; his father having taken him from Rydal Mount to Hawkshead when a mere boy, and pointed out that spot. Doubtless Wordsworth took his son to the cottage at Colthouse, where Anne Tyson died, as the earlier abode in Hawkshead village is well known, and its site is indisputable.—Ed.]
[Footnote I: Compare book i. ll. 499-506, p. 148.—Ed.]
[Footnote K: There is no trace and no tradition at Hawkshead of the "stone table under the dark pine," For a curious parallel to this
'sunny seat Round the stone table under the dark pine,'
I am indebted to Dr. Cradock. He points out that in the prologue to 'Peter Bell', vol. ii p.9, we have the lines,
'To the stone-table in my garden, Loved haunt of many a summer hour,'
[Footnote L: There can be little doubt as to the identity of "the famous brook" "within our garden" boxed, which gives the name of Flag Street to one of the alleys of Hawkshead.
"Persons have visited the cottage," wrote Dr. Cradock, "without discovering it; and yet it is not forty yards distant, and is still exactly as described. On the opposite side of the lane leading to the cottage, and a few steps above it, is a narrow passage through some new stone buildings. On emerging from this, you meet a small garden, the farther side of which is bounded by the brook, confined on both sides by larger flags, and also covered by flags of the same Coniston formation, through the interstices of which you may see and hear the stream running freely. The upper flags are now used as a footpath, and lead by another passage back into the village. No doubt the garden has been reduced in size, by the use of that part of it fronting the lane for building purposes. The stream, before it enters the area of buildings and gardens, is open by the lane side, and seemingly comes from the hills to the westwards. The large flags are extremely hard and durable, and it is probably that the very flags which paved the channel in Wordsworth's time may still be doing the same duty."
The house adjoining this garden was not Dame Tyson's but a Mr. Watson's. Possibly, however, some of the boys had free access to the latter, so that Wordsworth could speak of it as "our garden;" or, Dame Tyson may have rented it. See Note II. in the Appendix to this volume, p. 386.—Ed.]
[Footnote M: Not wholly so.—Ed.]
[Footnote N: See note on preceding page.—Ed.]
[Footnote O: Compare the sonnet in vol. iv.:
'Beloved Vale!' I said, 'when I shall con ... By doubts and thousand petty fancies crost.'
There can be little doubt that it is to the "famous brook" of 'The Prelude' that reference is made in the later sonnet, and still more significantly in the earlier poem 'The Fountain', vol. ii. p. 91. Compare the MS. variants of that poem, printed as footnotes, from Lord Coleridge's copy of the Poems:
'Down to the vale with eager speed Behold this streamlet run, From subterranean bondage freed, And glittering in the sun.'
with the lines in 'The Prelude':
'The famous brook, who, soon as he was boxed Within our garden, found himself at once, ... Stripped of his voice and left to dimple down, etc.'
This is doubtless the streamlet called Town Beck; and it is perhaps the most interesting of all the spots alluded to by Wordsworth which can be traced out in the Hawkshead district, I am indebted to Mr. Rawnsley for the following note:
"From the village, nay, from the poet's very door when he lived at Anne Tyson's, a good path leads on, past the vicarage, quite to its upland place of birth. It has eaten its way deeply into the soil; in one place there is a series of still pools, that overflow and fall into others, with quiet sound; at other spots, it is bustling and busy. Fine timber is found on either side of it, the roots of the trees often laid bare by the passing current. In one or two places by the side of this beck, and beneath the shadow of lofty oaks, may be found boulder stones, grey and moss-covered. Birds make hiding-places for themselves in these oak and hazel bushes by the stream. Following it up, we find it receives, at a tiny ford, the tribute of another stream from the north-west, and comes down between the adjacent hills (well wooded to the summit) from meadows of short-cropped grass, and to these from the open moorland, where it takes its rise. Every conceivable variety of beauty of sound and sight in streamlet life is found as we follow the course of this Town Beck. We owe much of Wordsworth's intimate acquaintance with streamlet beauty to it."
Compare 'The Fountain' in detail with this passage in 'The Prelude'.—Ed.]
[Footnote P: So it is in the editions of 1850 and 1857; but it should evidently be "nor, dear Friend!"—Ed.]
[Footnote Q: The ash tree is gone, but there is no doubt as to the place where it grew. Mr. Watson, whose father owned and inhabited the house immediately opposite to Mrs. Tyson's cottage in Wordsworth's time (see a previous note), told me that a tall ash tree grew on the proper right front of the cottage, where an outhouse is now built. If this be so, Wordsworth's bedroom must have been that on the proper left, with the smaller of the two windows. The cottage faces nearly south-west. In the upper flat there are two bedrooms to the front, with oak flooring, one of which must have been Wordsworth's. See Note II. (p. 386) in Appendix to this volume.—Ed.]
[Footnote R: In one of the small mountain farm-houses near Hawkshead.—Ed.]
[Footnote S: Compare 'Paradise Lost', book viii. l. 528:
'Walks, and the melody of birds.'
[Footnote T: Dr. Cradock has suggested to me the probable course of that morning walk.
"All that can be safely said as to the course of that memorable morning walk is that, in that neighbourhood, a view of the sea can only be obtained at a considerable elevation; also that if the words 'in front the sea lay laughing' are to be taken as rigidly exact, the poet's progress towards Hawkshead must have been in a direction mainly southerly, and therefore from the country north of that place. These and all other conditions of the description are answered in several parts of the range of hills lying between Elterwater and Hawkshead."
See Appendix, Note III. p. 389.—Ed.]
[Footnote U: Compare the sixth line of the poem, beginning
'This Lawn, a carpet all alive.'
(1829.) And Horace, 'Epistolae', lib. i. ep. xi. l. 28:
'Strenua nos exercet inertia.'
[Footnote V: The "brook" is Sawrey beck, and the "long ascent" is the second of the two, in crossing from Windermere to Hawkshead, and going over the ridge between the two Sawreys. It is only at that point that a brook can be heard "murmuring in the vale." The road is the old one, above the ferry, marked in the Ordnance Survey Map, by the Briers, not the new road which makes a curve to the south, and cannot be described as a "sharp rising."—Ed.]
* * * * *
When Contemplation, like the night-calm felt Through earth and sky, spreads widely, and sends deep Into the soul its tranquillising power, Even then I sometimes grieve for thee, O Man, Earth's paramount Creature! not so much for woes 5 That thou endurest; heavy though that weight be, Cloud-like it mounts, or touched with light divine Doth melt away; but for those palms achieved, Through length of time, by patient exercise Of study and hard thought; there, there, it is 10 That sadness finds its fuel. Hitherto, In progress through this Verse, my mind hath looked Upon the speaking face of earth and heaven As her prime teacher, intercourse with man Established by the sovereign Intellect, 15 Who through that bodily image hath diffused, As might appear to the eye of fleeting time, A deathless spirit. Thou also, man! hast wrought, For commerce of thy nature with herself, Things that aspire to unconquerable life; 20 And yet we feel—we cannot choose but feel— That they must perish. Tremblings of the heart It gives, to think that our immortal being No more shall need such garments; and yet man, As long as he shall be the child of earth, 25 Might almost "weep to have" [A] what he may lose, Nor be himself extinguished, but survive, Abject, depressed, forlorn, disconsolate. A thought is with me sometimes, and I say,— Should the whole frame of earth by inward throes 30 Be wrenched, or fire come down from far to scorch Her pleasant habitations, and dry up Old Ocean, in his bed left singed and bare, Yet would the living Presence still subsist Victorious, and composure would ensue, 35 And kindlings like the morning—presage sure Of day returning and of life revived. [B] But all the meditations of mankind, Yea, all the adamantine holds of truth By reason built, or passion, which itself 40 Is highest reason in a soul sublime; The consecrated works of Bard and Sage, Sensuous or intellectual, wrought by men, Twin labourers and heirs of the same hopes; Where would they be? Oh! why hath not the Mind 45 Some element to stamp her image on In nature somewhat nearer to her own? [C] Why, gifted with such powers to send abroad Her spirit, must it lodge in shrines so frail?
One day, when from my lips a like complaint 50 Had fallen in presence of a studious friend, He with a smile made answer, that in truth 'Twas going far to seek disquietude; But on the front of his reproof confessed That he himself had oftentimes given way 55 To kindred hauntings. Whereupon I told, That once in the stillness of a summer's noon, While I was seated in a rocky cave By the sea-side, perusing, so it chanced, The famous history of the errant knight 60 Recorded by Cervantes, these same thoughts Beset me, and to height unusual rose, While listlessly I sate, and, having closed The book, had turned my eyes toward the wide sea. On poetry and geometric truth, 65 And their high privilege of lasting life, From all internal injury exempt, I mused, upon these chiefly: and at length, My senses yielding to the sultry air, Sleep seized me, and I passed into a dream. 70 I saw before me stretched a boundless plain Of sandy wilderness, all black and void, And as I looked around, distress and fear Came creeping over me, when at my side, Close at my side, an uncouth shape appeared 75 Upon a dromedary, mounted high. He seemed an Arab of the Bedouin tribes: A lance he bore, and underneath one arm A stone, and in the opposite hand a shell Of a surpassing brightness. At the sight 80 Much I rejoiced, not doubting but a guide Was present, one who with unerring skill Would through the desert lead me; and while yet I looked and looked, self-questioned what this freight Which the new-comer carried through the waste 85 Could mean, the Arab told me that the stone (To give it in the language of the dream) Was "Euclid's Elements;" and "This," said he, "Is something of more worth;" and at the word Stretched forth the shell, so beautiful in shape, 90 In colour so resplendent, with command That I should hold it to my ear. I did so, And heard that instant in an unknown tongue, Which yet I understood, articulate sounds, A loud prophetic blast of harmony; 95 An Ode, in passion uttered, which foretold Destruction to the children of the earth By deluge, now at hand. No sooner ceased The song, than the Arab with calm look declared That all would come to pass of which the voice 100 Had given forewarning, and that he himself Was going then to bury those two books: The one that held acquaintance with the stars, And wedded soul to soul in purest bond Of reason, undisturbed by space or time; 105 The other that was a god, yea many gods, Had voices more than all the winds, with power To exhilarate the spirit, and to soothe, Through every clime, the heart of human kind. While this was uttering, strange as it may seem, 110 I wondered not, although I plainly saw The one to be a stone, the other a shell; Nor doubted once but that they both were books, Having a perfect faith in all that passed. Far stronger, now, grew the desire I felt 115 To cleave unto this man; but when I prayed To share his enterprise, he hurried on Reckless of me: I followed, not unseen, For oftentimes he cast a backward look, Grasping his twofold treasure.—Lance in rest, 120 He rode, I keeping pace with him; and now He, to my fancy, had become the knight Whose tale Cervantes tells; yet not the knight, But was an Arab of the desert too; Of these was neither, and was both at once. 125 His countenance, meanwhile, grew more disturbed; And, looking backwards when he looked, mine eyes Saw, over half the wilderness diffused, A bed of glittering light: I asked the cause: "It is," said he, "the waters of the deep 130 Gathering upon us;" quickening then the pace Of the unwieldy creature he bestrode, He left me: I called after him aloud; He heeded not; but, with his twofold charge Still in his grasp, before me, full in view, 135 Went hurrying o'er the illimitable waste, With the fleet waters of a drowning world In chase of him; whereat I waked in terror, And saw the sea before me, and the book, In which I had been reading, at my side. [D] 140
Full often, taking from the world of sleep This Arab phantom, which I thus beheld, This semi-Quixote, I to him have given A substance, fancied him a living man, A gentle dweller in the desert, crazed 145 By love and feeling, and internal thought Protracted among endless solitudes; Have shaped him wandering upon this quest! Nor have I pitied him; but rather felt Reverence was due to a being thus employed; 150 And thought that, in the blind and awful lair Of such a madness, reason did lie couched. Enow there are on earth to take in charge Their wives, their children, and their virgin loves, Or whatsoever else the heart holds dear; 155 Enow to stir for these; yea, will I say, Contemplating in soberness the approach Of an event so dire, by signs in earth Or heaven made manifest, that I could share That maniac's fond anxiety, and go 160 Upon like errand. Oftentimes at least Me hath such strong enhancement overcome, When I have held a volume in my hand, Poor earthly casket of immortal verse, Shakespeare, or Milton, labourers divine! 165
Great and benign, indeed, must be the power Of living nature, which could thus so long Detain me from the best of other guides And dearest helpers, left unthanked, unpraised, Even in the time of lisping infancy; 170 And later down, in prattling childhood even, While I was travelling back among those days, How could I ever play an ingrate's part? Once more should I have made those bowers resound, By intermingling strains of thankfulness 175 With their own thoughtless melodies; at least It might have well beseemed me to repeat Some simply fashioned tale, to tell again, In slender accents of sweet verse, some tale That did bewitch me then, and soothes me now. 180 O Friend! O Poet! brother of my soul, Think not that I could pass along untouched By these remembrances. Yet wherefore speak? Why call upon a few weak words to say What is already written in the hearts 185 Of all that breathe?—what in the path of all Drops daily from the tongue of every child, Wherever man is found? The trickling tear Upon the cheek of listening Infancy Proclaims it, and the insuperable look 190 That drinks as if it never could be full.
That portion of my story I shall leave There registered: whatever else of power Or pleasure sown, or fostered thus, may be Peculiar to myself, let that remain 195 Where still it works, though hidden from all search Among the depths of time. Yet is it just That here, in memory of all books which lay Their sure foundations in the heart of man, Whether by native prose, or numerous verse, [E] 200 That in the name of all inspired souls— From Homer the great Thunderer, from the voice That roars along the bed of Jewish song, And that more varied and elaborate, Those trumpet-tones of harmony that shake 205 Our shores in England,—from those loftiest notes Down to the low and wren-like warblings, made For cottagers and spinners at the wheel, And sun-burnt travellers resting their tired limbs, Stretched under wayside hedge-rows, ballad tunes, 210 Food for the hungry ears of little ones, And of old men who have survived their joys— 'Tis just that in behalf of these, the works, And of the men that framed them, whether known, Or sleeping nameless in their scattered graves, 215 That I should here assert their rights, attest Their honours, and should, once for all, pronounce Their benediction; speak of them as Powers For ever to be hallowed; only less, For what we are and what we may become, 220 Than Nature's self, which is the breath of God, Or His pure Word by miracle revealed.
Rarely and with reluctance would I stoop To transitory themes; yet I rejoice, And, by these thoughts admonished, will pour out 225 Thanks with uplifted heart, that I was reared Safe from an evil which these days have laid Upon the children of the land, a pest That might have dried me up, body and soul. This verse is dedicate to Nature's self, 230 And things that teach as Nature teaches: then, Oh! where had been the Man, the Poet where, Where had we been, we two, beloved Friend! If in the season of unperilous choice, In lieu of wandering, as we did, through vales 235 Rich with indigenous produce, open ground Of Fancy, happy pastures ranged at will, We had been followed, hourly watched, and noosed, Each in his several melancholy walk Stringed like a poor man's heifer at its feed, 240 Led through the lanes in forlorn servitude; Or rather like a stalled ox debarred From touch of growing grass, that may not taste A flower till it have yielded up its sweets A prelibation to the mower's scythe. [F] 245
Behold the parent hen amid her brood, Though fledged and feathered, and well pleased to part And straggle from her presence, still a brood, And she herself from the maternal bond Still undischarged; yet doth she little more 250 Than move with them in tenderness and love, A centre to the circle which they make; And now and then, alike from need of theirs And call of her own natural appetites, She scratches, ransacks up the earth for food, 255 Which they partake at pleasure. Early died My honoured Mother, she who was the heart And hinge of all our learnings and our loves: [G] She left us destitute, and, as we might, Trooping together. Little suits it me 260 To break upon the sabbath of her rest With any thought that looks at others' blame; Nor would I praise her but in perfect love. Hence am I checked: but let me boldly say, In gratitude, and for the sake of truth, 265 Unheard by her, that she, not falsely taught, Fetching her goodness rather from times past, Than shaping novelties for times to come, Had no presumption, no such jealousy, Nor did by habit of her thoughts mistrust 270 Our nature, but had virtual faith that He Who fills the mother's breast with innocent milk, Doth also for our nobler part provide, Under His great correction and control, As innocent instincts, and as innocent food; 275 Or draws for minds that are left free to trust In the simplicities of opening life Sweet honey out of spurned or dreaded weeds. This was her creed, and therefore she was pure From anxious fear of error or mishap, 280 And evil, overweeningly so called; Was not puffed up by false unnatural hopes, Nor selfish with unnecessary cares, Nor with impatience from the season asked More than its timely produce; rather loved 285 The hours for what they are, than from regard Glanced on their promises in restless pride. Such was she—not from faculties more strong Than others have, but from the times, perhaps, And spot in which she lived, and through a grace 290 Of modest meekness, simple-mindedness, A heart that found benignity and hope, Being itself benign. My drift I fear Is scarcely obvious; but, that common sense May try this modern system by its fruits, 295 Leave let me take to place before her sight A specimen pourtrayed with faithful hand. Full early trained to worship seemliness, This model of a child is never known To mix in quarrels; that were far beneath 300 Its dignity; with gifts he bubbles o'er As generous as a fountain; selfishness May not come near him, nor the little throng Of flitting pleasures tempt him from his path; The wandering beggars propagate his name, 305 Dumb creatures find him tender as a nun, And natural or supernatural fear, Unless it leap upon him in a dream, Touches him not. To enhance the wonder, see How arch his notices, how nice his sense 310 Of the ridiculous; not blind is he To the broad follies of the licensed world, Yet innocent himself withal, though shrewd, And can read lectures upon innocence; A miracle of scientific lore, 315 Ships he can guide across the pathless sea, And tell you all their cunning; he can read The inside of the earth, and spell the stars; He knows the policies of foreign lands; Can string you names of districts, cities, towns, 320 The whole world over, tight as beads of dew Upon a gossamer thread; he sifts, he weighs; All things are put to question; he must live Knowing that he grows wiser every day Or else not live at all, and seeing too 325 Each little drop of wisdom as it falls Into the dimpling cistern of his heart: For this unnatural growth the trainer blame, Pity the tree.—Poor human vanity, Wert thou extinguished, little would be left 330 Which he could truly love; but how escape? For, ever as a thought of purer, birth Rises to lead him toward a better clime, Some intermeddler still is on the watch To drive him back, and pound him, like a stray, 335 Within the pinfold of his own conceit. Meanwhile old grandame earth is grieved to find The playthings, which her love designed for him, Unthought of: in their woodland beds the flowers Weep, and the river sides are all forlorn. 340 Oh! give us once again the wishing cap Of Fortunatus, and the invisible coat Of Jack the Giant-killer, Robin Hood, And Sabra in the forest with St. George! The child, whose love is here, at least, doth reap 345 One precious gain, that he forgets himself.
These mighty workmen of our later age, Who, with a broad highway, have overbridged The froward chaos of futurity, Tamed to their bidding; they who have the skill 350 To manage books, and things, and make them act On infant minds as surely as the sun Deals with a flower; the keepers of our time, The guides and wardens of our faculties, Sages who in their prescience would control 355 All accidents, and to the very road Which they have fashioned would confine us down, Like engines; when will their presumption learn, That in the unreasoning progress of the world A wiser spirit is at work for us, 360 A better eye than theirs, most prodigal Of blessings, and most studious of our good, Even in what seem our most unfruitful hours? [H]
There was a Boy: ye knew him well, ye cliffs And islands of Winander!—many a time 365 At evening, when the earliest stars began To move along the edges of the hills, Rising or setting, would he stand alone Beneath the trees or by the glimmering lake, And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands 370 Pressed closely palm to palm, and to his mouth Uplifted, he, as through an instrument, Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls, That they might answer him [I]; and they would shout Across the watery vale, and shout again, 375 Responsive to his call, with quivering peals, And long halloos and screams, and echoes loud, Redoubled and redoubled, concourse wild Of jocund din; and, when a lengthened pause Of silence came and baffled his best skill, 380 Then sometimes, in that silence while he hung Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise Has carried far into his heart the voice Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene Would enter unawares into his mind, 385 With all its solemn imagery, its rocks, Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received Into the bosom of the steady lake.
This Boy was taken from his mates, and died In childhood, ere he was full twelve years old. 390 Fair is the spot, most beautiful the vale Where he was born; the grassy churchyard hangs Upon a slope above the village school, [K] And through that churchyard when my way has led On summer evenings, I believe that there 395 A long half hour together I have stood Mute, looking at the grave in which he lies! [L] Even now appears before the mind's clear eye That self-same village church; I see her sit (The throned Lady whom erewhile we hailed) 400 On her green hill, forgetful of this Boy Who slumbers at her feet,—forgetful, too, Of all her silent neighbourhood of graves, And listening only to the gladsome sounds That, from the rural school ascending, [M] play 405 Beneath her and about her. May she long Behold a race of young ones like to those With whom I herded!—(easily, indeed, We might have fed upon a fatter soil Of arts and letters—but be that forgiven)—410 A race of real children; not too wise, Too learned, or too good; [N] but wanton, fresh, And bandied up and down by love and hate; Not unresentful where self-justified; Fierce, moody, patient, venturous, modest, shy; 415 Mad at their sports like withered leaves in winds; Though doing wrong and suffering, and full oft Bending beneath our life's mysterious weight Of pain, and doubt, and fear, yet yielding not In happiness to the happiest upon earth. 420 Simplicity in habit, truth in speech, Be these the daily strengtheners of their minds; May books and Nature be their early joy! And knowledge, rightly honoured with that name— Knowledge not purchased by the loss of power! 425
Well do I call to mind the very week When I was first intrusted to the care Of that sweet Valley; when its paths, its shores, And brooks [O] were like a dream of novelty To my half-infant thoughts; that very week, 430 While I was roving up and down alone, Seeking I knew not what, I chanced to cross One of those open fields, which, shaped like ears, Make green peninsulas on Esthwaite's Lake: Twilight was coming on, yet through the gloom 435 Appeared distinctly on the opposite shore A heap of garments, as if left by one Who might have there been bathing. Long I watched, But no one owned them; meanwhile the calm lake Grew dark with all the shadows on its breast, 440 And, now and then, a fish up-leaping snapped The breathless stillness. [P] The succeeding day, Those unclaimed garments telling a plain tale Drew to the spot an anxious crowd; some looked In passive expectation from the shore, 445 While from a boat others hung o'er the deep, Sounding with grappling irons and long poles. At last, the dead man, 'mid that beauteous scene Of trees and hills and water, bolt upright Rose, with his ghastly face, a spectre shape 450 Of terror; yet no soul-debasing fear, Young as I was, a child not nine years old, Possessed me, for my inner eye had seen Such sights before, among the shining streams Of faery land, the forest of romance. 455 Their spirit hallowed the sad spectacle With decoration of ideal grace; A dignity, a smoothness, like the works Of Grecian art, and purest poesy.
A precious treasure had I long possessed, 460 A little yellow, canvas-covered book, A slender abstract of the Arabian tales; And, from companions in a new abode, When first I learnt, that this dear prize of mine Was but a block hewn from a mighty quarry—465 That there were four large volumes, laden all With kindred matter, 'twas to me, in truth, A promise scarcely earthly. Instantly, With one not richer than myself, I made A covenant that each should lay aside 470 The moneys he possessed, and hoard up more, Till our joint savings had amassed enough To make this book our own. Through several months, In spite of all temptation, we preserved Religiously that vow; but firmness failed, 475 Nor were we ever masters of our wish.
And when thereafter to my father's house The holidays returned me, there to find That golden store of books which I had left, What joy was mine! How often in the course 480 Of those glad respites, though a soft west wind Ruffled the waters to the angler's wish For a whole day together, have I lain Down by thy side, O Derwent! murmuring stream, On the hot stones, and in the glaring sun, 485 And there have read, devouring as I read, Defrauding the day's glory, desperate! Till with a sudden bound of smart reproach, Such as an idler deals with in his shame, I to the sport betook myself again. 490
A gracious spirit o'er this earth presides, And o'er the heart of man: invisibly It comes, to works of unreproved delight, And tendency benign, directing those Who care not, know not, think not what they do. 495 The tales that charm away the wakeful night In Araby, romances; legends penned For solace by dim light of monkish lamps; Fictions, for ladies of their love, devised By youthful squires; adventures endless, spun 500 By the dismantled warrior in old age, Out of the bowels of those very schemes In which his youth did first extravagate; These spread like day, and something in the shape Of these will live till man shall be no more. 505 Dumb yearnings, hidden appetites, are ours, And they must have their food. Our childhood sits, Our simple childhood, sits upon a throne That hath more power than all the elements. I guess not what this tells of Being past, 510 Nor what it augurs of the life to come; [Q] But so it is, and, in that dubious hour, That twilight when we first begin to see This dawning earth, to recognise, expect, And in the long probation that ensues, 515 The time of trial, ere we learn to live In reconcilement with our stinted powers; To endure this state of meagre vassalage, Unwilling to forego, confess, submit, Uneasy and unsettled, yoke-fellows 520 To custom, mettlesome, and not yet tamed And humbled down; oh! then we feel, we feel, We know where we have friends. Ye dreamers, then, Forgers of daring tales! we bless you then, Impostors, drivellers, dotards, as the ape 525 Philosophy will call you: then we feel With what, and how great might ye are in league, Who make our wish, our power, our thought a deed, An empire, a possession,—ye whom time And seasons serve; all Faculties to whom 530 Earth crouches, the elements are potter's clay, Space like a heaven filled up with northern lights, Here, nowhere, there, and everywhere at once.
Relinquishing this lofty eminence For ground, though humbler, not the less a tract 535 Of the same isthmus, which our spirits cross In progress from their native continent To earth and human life, the Song might dwell On that delightful time of growing youth, When craving for the marvellous gives way 540 To strengthening love for things that we have seen; When sober truth and steady sympathies, Offered to notice by less daring pens, Take firmer hold of us, and words themselves Move us with conscious pleasure.
I am sad 545 At thought of raptures now for ever flown; [R] Almost to tears I sometimes could be sad To think of, to read over, many a page, Poems withal of name, which at that time Did never fail to entrance me, and are now 550 Dead in my eyes, dead as a theatre Fresh emptied of spectators. Twice five years Or less I might have seen, when first my mind With conscious pleasure opened to the charm Of words in tuneful order, found them sweet 555 For their own sakes, a passion, and a power; And phrases pleased me chosen for delight, For pomp, or love. Oft, in the public roads Yet unfrequented, while the morning light Was yellowing the hill tops, I went abroad 560 With a dear friend, [S] and for the better part Of two delightful hours we strolled along By the still borders of the misty lake, [T] Repeating favourite verses with one voice, Or conning more, as happy as the birds 565 That round us chaunted. Well might we be glad, Lifted above the ground by airy fancies, More bright than madness or the dreams of wine; And, though full oft the objects of our love Were false, and in their splendour overwrought, [U] 570 Yet was there surely then no vulgar power Working within us,—nothing less, in truth, Than that most noble attribute of man, Though yet untutored and inordinate, That wish for something loftier, more adorned, 575 Than is the common aspect, daily garb, Of human life. What wonder, then, if sounds Of exultation echoed through the groves! For, images, and sentiments, and words, And everything encountered or pursued 580 In that delicious world of poesy, Kept holiday, a never-ending show, With music, incense, festival, and flowers!
Here must we pause: this only let me add, From heart-experience, and in humblest sense 585 Of modesty, that he, who in his youth A daily wanderer among woods and fields With living Nature hath been intimate, Not only in that raw unpractised time Is stirred to extasy, as others are, 590 By glittering verse; but further, doth receive, In measure only dealt out to himself, Knowledge and increase of enduring joy From the great Nature that exists in works Of mighty Poets. Visionary power 595 Attends the motions of the viewless winds, Embodied in the mystery of words: There, darkness makes abode, and all the host Of shadowy things work endless changes,—there, As in a mansion like their proper home, 600 Even forms and substances are circumfused By that transparent veil with light divine, And, through the turnings intricate of verse, Present themselves as objects recognised, In flashes, and with glory not their own. 605
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VARIANTS ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: This quotation I am unable to trace.—Ed.]
[Footnote B: Compare Emily Bronte's statement of the same, in the last verse she wrote:
'Though Earth and Man were gone, And suns and universes ceased to be, And Thou wert left alone, Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death, Nor atom that His might could render void; Thou—THOU art Being and Breath, And what THOU art may never be destroyed.'
"Because she would then become farther and farther removed from the source of essential life and being, diffused instead of concentrated."
[Footnote D: Mr. A. J. Duffield, the translator of Don Quixote, wrote me the following letter on Wordsworth and Cervantes, which I transcribe in full.
"So far as I can learn Wordsworth had not read any critical work on Don Quixote before he wrote the fifth book of 'The Prelude', [a] nor for that matter had any criticism of the master-piece of Cervantes then appeared. Yet Wordsworth,
'by patient exercise Of study and hard thought,'
has given us not only a most poetical insight into the real nature of the 'Illustrious Hidalgo of La Mancha'; he has shown us that it was a nature compacted of the madman and the poet, and this in language so appropriate, that the consideration of it cannot fail to give pleasure to all who have found a reason for weighing Wordsworth's words.
'Oh! why hath not the Mind Some element to stamp her image on?'
then falls asleep, 'his senses yielding to the sultry air,' and he sees before him
'stretched a boundless plain Of sandy wilderness, all black and void, And as I looked around, distress and fear Came creeping over me, when at my side, Close at my side, an uncouth shape appeared Upon a dromedary, mounted high. He seemed an Arab ...'
Here we have the plains of Montiel, and the poet realising all that Don Quixote felt on that day of July, 'the hottest of the year,' when he first set out on his quest and met with nothing worth recording.
'The uncouth shape'
is of course the Don himself,
is Rozinante, and
doubtless is Cid Hamete Benengeli.
"Taking such an one for the guide,
'who with unerring skill Would through the desert lead me,'
is a most sweet play of humour like to the lambent flame of his whose satire was as a summer breath, and who smiled all the time he wrote, although he wrote chiefly in a prison.
'The loud prophetic blast of harmony'
is doubtless a continuation of this humour, down to the lines
'Nor doubted once but that they both were books, Having a perfect faith in all that passed.'
"Our poet now becomes positive,
'Lance in rest, He rode, I keeping pace with him; and now He, to my fancy, had become the knight Whose tale Cervantes tells; yet not the knight But was an Arab of the desert too, Of these was neither, and was both at once.'
This is absolutely true, and was one of the earliest complaints made a century and a half ago, when Spaniards began to criticise their one great book. They could not tell at times whether Don Quixote was speaking, or Cervantes, or Cid Hamete Benengeli.
'A bed of glittering light'
is a delightful description of the attitude of Don Quixote's mind towards external nature while passing through the desert.
'It is,' said he, 'the waters of the deep Gathering upon us.'
"It was, of course, only the mirage; but this he changed to suit his own purpose into the 'waters of the deep,' as he changed the row of Castilian wind-mills into giants, and the roar of the fulling mills into the din of war.
"Wordsworth is now awake from his dream, but turning all he saw in it into a reality, as only the poet can, he feels that
'Reverence was due to a being thus employed; And thought that, in the blind and awful lair Of such a madness, reason did lie couched.'
Here again is a most profound description of the creation of Cervantes. Don Quixote was mad, but his was a madness that proceeded from that 'blind and awful lair,' a disordered stomach, rather than from an injured brain. Had Don Quixote not forsaken the exercise of the chase and early rising, if he had not taken to eating chestnuts at night, cold spiced meat, together with onions and 'ollas podridas', then proceeding to read exciting, unnatural tales of love and war, he would not have gone mad.
"But his reason only lay 'couched,' not overthrown. Only give him a dose of the balsam of Fierabras, his reason shall spring out of its lair, like a lion from out its hiding-place, as indeed it did; and you then have that wonderful piece of rhetoric, which describes the army of Alifanfaron in the eighteenth chapter, Part I.
"There are many other things worthy of note, such as
'crazed By love and feeling, and internal thought Protracted among endless solitudes,'
all of which are 'fit epithets blessed in the marriage of pure words,' which the author of 'The Prelude', without any special learning, or personal knowledge of Spain, has given us, and are so striking as to compel us once again to go to Wordsworth and say, 'we do not all understand thee yet, not all that thou hast given us.'
Very truly yours, A. J. Duffield."
[Footnote E: Compare 'Paradise Lost', v. 1. 150:
'In prose or numerous verse.'
[Footnote F: Wordsworth's earliest teachers, before he was sent to Hawkshead School, were his mother and the Rev. Mr. Gilbanks at Cockermouth, and Mrs. Anne Birkett at Penrith. His mother and Dame Birkett taught him to read, and trained his infant memory. Mr. Gilbanks also gave him elementary instruction; while his father made him commit to memory portions of the English poets. At Hawkshead he read English literature, learned Latin and Mathematics, and wrote both English and Latin verse. There was little or no method, and no mechanical or artificial drill in his early education. Though he was taught both languages and mathematics he was left as free to range the "happy pastures" of literature, as to range the Hawkshead woods on autumn nights in pursuit of woodcocks. It is likely that the reference in the above passage is to his education both in childhood and in youth, although specially to the former. In his 'Autobiographical Memoranda', Wordsworth says,
"Of my earliest days at School I have little to say, but that they were very happy ones, chiefly because I was left at liberty, then and in the vacations, to read whatever books I liked. For example, I read all Fielding's works, 'Don Quixote', 'Gil Blas', and any part of Swift that I liked; 'Gulliver's Travels' and the 'Tale of a Tub' being both much to my taste."
As Wordsworth alludes to Coleridge's education, along with his own, "in the season of unperilous choice," the reference is probably to Coleridge's early time at the vicarage of Ottery St. Mary's, Devonshire, and at the Grammar School there, as well as at Christ's Hospital in London, where (with Charles Lamb as school-companion) he was as enthusiastic in his exploits in the New River, as he was an eager student of books.—Ed.]
[Footnote G: Mrs. Wordsworth died at Penrith, in the year 1778, the poet's eighth year.—Ed.]
[Footnote H: Compare, in 'Expostulation and Reply' (vol. i. p. 273),
'Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum Of things for ever speaking, That nothing of itself will come, But we must still be seeking?'
[Footnote I: See the Fenwick note to the poem, 'There was a Boy', vol. ii. p. 57, and Wordsworth's reference to his schoolfellow William Raincock.—Ed.]
[Footnote K: Hawkshead Grammar School.—Ed.]
[Footnote L: Lines 364-97 were first published in "Lyrical Ballads," 1800, and appeared in all the subsequent collective editions of the poems, standing first in the group of "Poems of the Imagination."
The grave of this "immortal boy" cannot be identified. His name, and everything about him except what is here recorded, is unknown; but he was, in all likelihood, a school companion of Wordsworth's at Hawkshead.
'And through that churchyard when my way has led On summer evenings.'
One may localize the above description almost anywhere at Hawkshead—Ed.]
[Footnote M: Hawkshead School, in which Wordsworth was taught for eight years—from 1778 to 1786—was founded by Archbishop Sandys of York, in 1585, and the building is still very much as it was in Wordsworth's time. The main school-room is on the ground floor. One small chamber on the first floor was used, in the end of last century, by the head master, as a private class-room, for teaching a few advanced pupils. In another is a small library, formed in part by the donations of the scholars; it having been a custom for each pupil to present a volume on leaving the school, or to send one afterwards. Very probably one of the volumes now in the library was presented by Wordsworth. There are several which were presented by his school-fellows, during the years in which Wordsworth was at Hawkshead. The master, in 1877, promised me that he would search through his somewhat musty treasures, to see if he could discover a book with the poet's autograph; but I never heard of his success. On the wall of the room containing the library is a tablet, recording the names of several masters. There also, in an old oak chest, is kept the original charter of the school. The oak benches downstairs are covered with the names or initials of the boys, deeply cut; and, amongst them, the name of William Wordsworth—but not those of his brothers Richard, John, or Christopher—may be seen. For further details as to the Hawkshead School, see the 'Life' of the Poet in this edition. Towards the close of last century, when Wordsworth and his three brothers were educated there, the school was one of the best educational institutions in the north of England.—Ed.]