And as the desert hath green spots, the sea Small islands scattered amid stormy waves, So that disastrous period did not want Bright sprinklings of all human excellence, To which the silver wands of saints in Heaven 485 Might point with rapturous joy. Yet not the less, For those examples in no age surpassed Of fortitude and energy and love, And human nature faithful to herself Under worst trials, was I driven to think 490 Of the glad times when first I traversed France A youthful pilgrim; [V] above all reviewed That eventide, when under windows bright With happy faces and with garlands hung, And through a rainbow-arch that spanned the street, 495 Triumphal pomp for liberty confirmed, [W] I paced, a dear companion at my side, The town of Arras, [X] whence with promise high Issued, on delegation to sustain Humanity and right, that Robespierre, 500 He who thereafter, and in how short time! Wielded the sceptre of the Atheist crew. When the calamity spread far and wide— And this same city, that did then appear To outrun the rest in exultation, groaned 505 Under the vengeance of her cruel son, As Lear reproached the winds—I could almost Have quarrelled with that blameless spectacle For lingering yet an image in my mind To mock me under such a strange reverse. 510
O Friend! few happier moments have been mine Than that which told the downfall of this Tribe So dreaded, so abhorred. [Y] The day deserves A separate record. Over the smooth sands Of Leven's ample estuary lay 515 My journey, and beneath a genial sun, With distant prospect among gleams of sky And clouds, and intermingling mountain tops, In one inseparable glory clad, Creatures of one ethereal substance met 520 In consistory, like a diadem Or crown of burning seraphs as they sit In the empyrean. Underneath that pomp Celestial, lay unseen the pastoral vales Among whose happy fields I had grown up 525 From childhood. On the fulgent spectacle, That neither passed away nor changed, I gazed Enrapt; but brightest things are wont to draw Sad opposites out of the inner heart, As even their pensive influence drew from mine. 530 How could it otherwise? for not in vain That very morning had I turned aside To seek the ground where, 'mid a throng of graves, An honoured teacher of my youth was laid, [Z] And on the stone were graven by his desire 535 Lines from the churchyard elegy of Gray. [a] This faithful guide, speaking from his death-bed, Added no farewell to his parting counsel, But said to me, "My head will soon lie low;" And when I saw the turf that covered him, 540 After the lapse of full eight years, [b] those words, With sound of voice and countenance of the Man, Came back upon me, so that some few tears Fell from me in my own despite. But now I thought, still traversing that widespread plain, 545 With tender pleasure of the verses graven Upon his tombstone, whispering to myself: He loved the Poets, and, if now alive, Would have loved me, as one not destitute Of promise, nor belying the kind hope 550 That he had formed, when I, at his command, Began to spin, with toil, my earliest songs. [c]
As I advanced, all that I saw or felt Was gentleness and peace. Upon a small And rocky island near, a fragment stood 555 (Itself like a sea rock) the low remains (With shells encrusted, dark with briny weeds) Of a dilapidated structure, once A Romish chapel, [d] where the vested priest Said matins at the hour that suited those 560 Who crossed the sands with ebb of morning tide. Not far from that still ruin all the plain Lay spotted with a variegated crowd Of vehicles and travellers, horse and foot, Wading beneath the conduct of their guide 565 In loose procession through the shallow stream Of inland waters; the great sea meanwhile Heaved at safe distance, far retired. I paused, Longing for skill to paint a scene so bright And cheerful, but the foremost of the band 570 As he approached, no salutation given In the familiar language of the day, Cried, "Robespierre is dead!"—nor was a doubt, After strict question, left within my mind That he and his supporters all were fallen. 575
Great was my transport, deep my gratitude To everlasting Justice, by this fiat Made manifest. "Come now, ye golden times," Said I forth-pouring on those open sands A hymn of triumph: "as the morning comes 580 From out the bosom of the night, come ye: Thus far our trust is verified; behold! They who with clumsy desperation brought A river of Blood, and preached that nothing else Could cleanse the Augean stable, by the might 585 Of their own helper have been swept away; Their madness stands declared and visible; Elsewhere will safety now be sought, and earth March firmly towards righteousness and peace."— Then schemes I framed more calmly, when and how 590 The madding factions might be tranquillised, And how through hardships manifold and long The glorious renovation would proceed. Thus interrupted by uneasy bursts Of exultation, I pursued my way 595 Along that very shore which I had skimmed In former days, when—spurring from the Vale Of Nightshade, and St. Mary's mouldering fane, [e] And the stone abbot, after circuit made In wantonness of heart, a joyous band 600 Of school-boys hastening to their distant home Along the margin of the moonlight sea— We beat with thundering hoofs the level sand. [f]
* * * * *
FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: He left Blois for Paris in the late autumn of 1792—Ed.]
[Footnote B: King Louis the Sixteenth, dethroned on August 10th, 1792.—Ed.]
[Footnote C: "The Ormrahs or lords of the Moghul's court." See Francois Besnier's letter 'Concerning Hindusthan'.—Ed.]
[Footnote D: The "Republic" was decreed on the 22nd of September 1792.—Ed.]
[Footnote E: The "September Massacres" lasted from the 2nd to the 6th of that month.—Ed.]
[Footnote F: He reached Paris in the beginning of October 1792.—Ed.]
[Footnote G: The Place du Carrousel.—Ed.]
[Footnote H: See notes [E] and [F].—Ed.]
"One day, among the last of October, Robespierre, being summoned to the tribune by some new hint of that old calumny of the Dictatorship, was speaking and pleading there, with more and more comfort to himself; till rising high in heart, he cried out valiantly: Is there any man here that dare specifically accuse me? ''Moi!'' exclaimed one. Pause of deep silence: a lean angry little Figure, with broad bald brow, strode swiftly towards the tribune, taking papers from its pocket: 'I accuse thee, Robespierre,—I, Jean Baptiste Louvet!' The Seagreen became tallow-green; shrinking to a corner of the tribune, Danton cried, 'Speak, Robespierre; there are many good citizens that listen;' but the tongue refused its office. And so Louvet, with a shrill tone, read and recited crime after crime: dictatorial temper, exclusive popularity, bullying at elections, mob-retinue, September Massacres;—till all the Convention shrieked again," etc. etc.
Carlyle's 'French Revolution', vol. iii. book ii. chap. 5.—Ed.]
[Footnote K: Robespierre got a week's delay to prepare a defence.
"That week he is not idle. He is ready at the day with his written Speech: smooth as a Jesuit Doctor's, and convinces some. And now?...poor Louvet, unprepared, can do little or nothing. Barrere proposes that these comparatively despicable personalities be dismissed by order of the day! Order of the day it accordingly is."
Carlyle, ut supra.—Ed.]
[Footnote L: Harmodius and Aristogiton of Athens murdered the tyrant Hipparchus, 514 B.C., and delivered the city from the rule of the Pisistratidae, much as Brutus rose against Caesar.—Ed.]
[Footnote M: He crossed the Channel, and returned to England reluctantly, in December 1792. Compare p. 376, l. 349:
'Since I withdrew unwillingly from France.'
[Footnote N: Had he remained longer in Paris, he would probably have fallen a victim, amongst the Brissotins, to the reactionary fury of the Jacobin party.—Ed.]
[Footnote O: He left England in November 1791, and returned in December 1792.—Ed.]
[Footnote P: He stayed in London during the winter of 1792-3 and spring of 1793, probably with his elder brother Richard (who was a solicitor there), writing his remarkable letter on the French Revolution to the Bishop of Landaff, and doubtless making arrangements for the publication of the 'Evening Walk'. The 'Descriptive Sketches' were not written till the summer of 1793 (compare the thirteenth book of 'The Prelude', p. 366); but in a letter dated "Forncett, February 16th, 1793," his sister sends to a friend an interesting criticism of her brother's verses. The 'Evening Walk' must therefore have appeared in January 1793.—Ed.]
[Footnote Q: The movement for the abolition of slavery, led by Clarkson and Wilberforce. Compare the sonnet 'To Thomas Clarkson, on the final passing of the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, March' 1807, in vol. iv.—Ed.]
[Footnote R: The red-cross flag, i. e. the British ensign.
"On the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, James I. issued a proclamation that all subjects of this isle and the kingdom of Great Britain should bear in the main-top the red cross commonly called St. George's Cross, and the white cross commonly called St. Andrew's Cross, joined together according to the form made by our own heralds. This was the first Union Jack."
'Encyclopaedia Britannica' (ninth edition), article "Flag."—Ed.]
[Footnote S: In the Isle of Wight. Wordsworth spent a month of the summer of 1793 there, with William Calvert. (See the Advertisement to 'Guilt and Sorrow', vol. i. p. 77.)—Ed.]
[Footnote T: The goddess of Reason, enthroned in Paris, November 10th, 1793.—Ed.]
[Footnote U: Jeanne-Marie Phlipon—Madame Roland—was guillotined on the 8th of November 1793.
"Arrived at the foot of the scaffold, she asked for pen and paper to write the strange thoughts that were rising in her: a remarkable request; which was refused. Looking at the Statue of Liberty which stands there, she says bitterly: O Liberty, what things are done in thy name! ... Like a white Grecian Statue, serenely complete," adds Carlyle, "she shines in that black wreck of things,—long memorable."
'French Revolution', vol. iii. book v. chap. 2.
Madame Roland's apostrophe was
'O Liberte, que de crimes l'on commet en ton nom!'
[Footnote V: In the long vacation of 1790, with his friend Jones.—Ed.]
[Footnote W: Compare the sonnet, vol. ii. p. 332, beginning:
'Jones! as from Calais southward you and I Went pacing side by side, this public Way Streamed with the pomp of a too-credulous day, When faith was pledged to new-born Liberty.'
[Footnote X: Robespierre was a native of Arras.—Ed.]
[Footnote Y: Robespierre was guillotined with his confederates on the 28th July 1794. Wordsworth lived in Cumberland—at Keswick, Whitehaven, and Penrith—from the winter of 1793-4 till the spring of 1795. He must have made this journey across the Ulverston Sands, in the first week of August 1794. Compare Wordsworth's remarks on Robespierre, in his 'Letter to a Friend of Burns',—Ed.]
[Footnote Z: The "honoured teacher" of his youth was the Rev. William Taylor, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who was master at Hawkshead School from 1782 to 1786, who died while Wordsworth was at school, and who was buried in Cartmell Churchyard. See the note to the 'Address to the Scholars of the Village School of——' (vol. ii. p. 85).—Ed.]
[Footnote a: The following is the inscription on the head-stone in Cartmell Churchyard:
'In memory of the Rev. William Taylor, A. M., son of John Taylor of Outerthwaite, who was some years a Fellow of Eman. Coll., Camb., and Master of the Free School at Hawkshead. He departed this life June the 12th 1786, aged 32 years 2 months and 13 days.
His Merits, stranger, seek not to disclose, Or draw his Frailties from their dread abode, There they alike in trembling Hope repose, The Bosom of his Father and his God.'
[Footnote b: This is exact. Taylor died in 1786. Robespierre was executed in 1794, eight years afterwards.—Ed.]
[Footnote c: He refers to the 'Lines written as a School Exercise at Hawkskead, anno aetatis' 14; and, probably, to 'The Summer Vacation', which is mentioned in the "Autobiographical Memoranda" as "a task imposed by my master," but whether by Taylor, or by his predecessors at Hawkshead School in Wordsworth's time—Parker and Christian—is uncertain.—Ed.]
[Footnote d: Compare Hausman's 'Guide to the Lakes' (1803), p. 209.
"Chapel Island on the right is a desolate object, where there are yet some remains of an oratory built by the monks of Furness, in which Divine Service was daily performed at a certain hour for passengers who crossed the sands with the morning tide."
This, evidently, is the ruin referred to by Wordsworth.—Ed.]
[Footnote e: See note, book ii. ll. 103-6.—Ed.]
[Footnote f: By Arrad Foot and Greenodd, beyond Ulverston, on the way to Hawkshead.—Ed.]
* * * * *
From that time forth, [A] Authority in France Put on a milder face; Terror had ceased, Yet every thing was wanting that might give Courage to them who looked for good by light Of rational Experience, for the shoots 5 And hopeful blossoms of a second spring: Yet, in me, confidence was unimpaired; The Senate's language, and the public acts And measures of the Government, though both Weak, and of heartless omen, had not power 10 To daunt me; in the People was my trust, And, in the virtues which mine eyes had seen.  I knew that wound external could not take Life from the young Republic; that new foes Would only follow, in the path of shame, 15 Their brethren, and her triumphs be in the end Great, universal, irresistible. This intuition led me to confound One victory with another, higher far,— Triumphs of unambitious peace at home, 20 And noiseless fortitude. Beholding still Resistance strong as heretofore, I thought That what was in degree the same was likewise The same in quality,—that, as the worse Of the two spirits then at strife remained 25 Untired, the better, surely, would preserve The heart that first had roused him. Youth maintains, In all conditions of society, Communion more direct and intimate With Nature,—hence, ofttimes, with reason too—30 Than age or manhood, even. To Nature, then, Power had reverted: habit, custom, law, Had left an interregnum's open space For her to move about in, uncontrolled. Hence could I see how Babel-like their task, 35 Who, by the recent deluge stupified, With their whole souls went culling from the day Its petty promises, to build a tower For their own safety; laughed with my compeers At gravest heads, by enmity to France 40 Distempered, till they found, in every blast Forced from the street-disturbing newsman's horn, For her great cause record or prophecy Of utter ruin. How might we believe That wisdom could, in any shape, come near 45 Men clinging to delusions so insane? And thus, experience proving that no few Of our opinions had been just, we took Like credit to ourselves where less was due, And thought that other notions were as sound, 50 Yea, could not but be right, because we saw That foolish men opposed them. To a strain More animated I might here give way, And tell, since juvenile errors are my theme, What in those days, through Britain, was performed 55 To turn all judgments out of their right course; But this is passion over-near ourselves, Reality too close and too intense, And intermixed with something, in my mind, Of scorn and condemnation personal, 60 That would profane the sanctity of verse. Our Shepherds, this say merely, at that time Acted, or seemed at least to act, like men Thirsting to make the guardian crook of law A tool of murder; [B] they who ruled the State, 65 Though with such awful proof before their eyes That he, who would sow death, reaps death, or worse, And can reap nothing better, child-like longed To imitate, not wise enough to avoid; Or left (by mere timidity betrayed) 70 The plain straight road, for one no better chosen Than if their wish had been to undermine Justice, and make an end of Liberty. [B]
But from these bitter truths I must return To my own history. It hath been told 75 That I was led to take an eager part In arguments of civil polity, Abruptly, and indeed before my time: I had approached, like other youths, the shield Of human nature from the golden side, 80 And would have fought, even to the death, to attest The quality of the metal which I saw. What there is best in individual man, Of wise in passion, and sublime in power, Benevolent in small societies, 85 And great in large ones, I had oft revolved, Felt deeply, but not thoroughly understood By reason: nay, far from it; they were yet, As cause was given me afterwards to learn, Not proof against the injuries of the day; 90 Lodged only at the sanctuary's door, Not safe within its bosom. Thus prepared, And with such general insight into evil, And of the bounds which sever it from good, As books and common intercourse with life 95 Must needs have given—to the inexperienced mind, When the world travels in a beaten road, Guide faithful as is needed—I began To meditate with ardour on the rule And management of nations; what it is 100 And ought to be; and strove to learn how far Their power or weakness, wealth or poverty, Their happiness or misery, depends Upon their laws, and fashion of the State.
O pleasant exercise of hope and joy! [C] 105 For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood Upon our side, us who were strong in love! Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very Heaven! [D] O times, In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways 110 Of custom, law, and statute, took at once The attraction of a country in romance! When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights When most intent on making of herself A prime enchantress—to assist the work, 115 Which then was going forward in her name! Not favoured spots alone, but the whole Earth, The beauty wore of promise—that which sets (As at some moments might not be unfelt Among the bowers of Paradise itself) 120 The budding rose above the rose full blown. What temper at the prospect did not wake To happiness unthought of? The inert Were roused, and lively natures rapt away! They who had fed their childhood upon dreams, 125 The play-fellows of fancy, who had made All powers of swiftness, subtilty, and strength Their ministers,—who in lordly wise had stirred Among the grandest objects of the sense, And dealt with whatsoever they found there 130 As if they had within some lurking right To wield it;—they, too, who of gentle mood Had watched all gentle motions, and to these Had fitted their own thoughts, schemers more mild, And in the region of their peaceful selves;—135 Now was it that both found, the meek and lofty Did both find helpers to their hearts' desire, And stuff at hand, plastic as they could wish,— Were called upon to exercise their skill, Not in Utopia,—subterranean fields,—140 Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where! But in the very world, which is the world Of all of us,—the place where, in the end, We find our happiness, or not at all!
Why should I not confess that Earth was then 145 To me, what an inheritance, new-fallen, Seems, when the first time visited, to one Who thither comes to find in it his home? He walks about and looks upon the spot With cordial transport, moulds it and remoulds, 150 And is half pleased with things that are amiss, 'Twill be such joy to see them disappear.
An active partisan, I thus convoked From every object pleasant circumstance To suit my ends; I moved among mankind 155 With genial feelings still predominant; When erring, erring on the better part, And in the kinder spirit; placable, Indulgent, as not uninformed that men See as they have been taught—Antiquity 160 Gives rights to error; and aware, no less, That throwing off oppression must be work As well of License as of Liberty; And above all—for this was more than all— Not caring if the wind did now and then 165 Blow keen upon an eminence that gave Prospect so large into futurity; In brief, a child of Nature, as at first, Diffusing only those affections wider That from the cradle had grown up with me, 170 And losing, in no other way than light Is lost in light, the weak in the more strong.
In the main outline, such it might be said Was my condition, till with open war Britain opposed the liberties of France. [E] 175 This threw me first out of the pale of love; Soured and corrupted, upwards to the source, My sentiments; was not, as hitherto, A swallowing up of lesser things in great, But change of them into their contraries; 180 And thus a way was opened for mistakes And false conclusions, in degree as gross, In kind more dangerous. What had been a pride, Was now a shame; my likings and my loves Ran in new channels, leaving old ones dry; 185 And hence a blow that, in maturer age, Would but have touched the judgment, struck more deep Into sensations near the heart: meantime, As from the first, wild theories were afloat, To whose pretensions, sedulously urged, 190 I had but lent a careless ear, assured That time was ready to set all things right, And that the multitude, so long oppressed, Would be oppressed no more.
But when events Brought less encouragement, and unto these 195 The immediate proof of principles no more Could be entrusted, while the events themselves, Worn out in greatness, stripped of novelty, Less occupied the mind, and sentiments Could through my understanding's natural growth 200 No longer keep their ground, by faith maintained Of inward consciousness, and hope that laid Her hand upon her object—evidence Safer, of universal application, such As could not be impeached, was sought elsewhere. 205
But now, become oppressors in their turn, Frenchmen had changed a war of self-defence For one of conquest, [F] losing sight of all Which they had struggled for: now mounted up, Openly in the eye of earth and heaven, 210 The scale of liberty. I read her doom, With anger vexed, with disappointment sore, But not dismayed, nor taking to the shame Of a false prophet. While resentment rose Striving to hide, what nought could heal, the wounds 215 Of mortified presumption, I adhered More firmly to old tenets, and, to prove Their temper, strained them more; and thus, in heat Of contest, did opinions every day Grow into consequence, till round my mind 220 They clung, as if they were its life, nay more, The very being of the immortal soul.
This was the time, when, all things tending fast To depravation, speculative schemes— That promised to abstract the hopes of Man 225 Out of his feelings, to be fixed thenceforth For ever in a purer element— Found ready welcome. Tempting region that For Zeal to enter and refresh herself, Where passions had the privilege to work, 230 And never hear the sound of their own names. But, speaking more in charity, the dream Flattered the young, pleased with extremes, nor least With that which makes our Reason's naked self The object of its fervour. What delight! 235 How glorious! in self-knowledge and self-rule, To look through all the frailties of the world, And, with a resolute mastery shaking off Infirmities of nature, time, and place, Build social upon personal Liberty, 240 Which, to the blind restraints of general laws Superior, magisterially adopts One guide, the light of circumstances, flashed Upon an independent intellect. Thus expectation rose again; thus hope, 245 From her first ground expelled, grew proud once more. Oft, as my thoughts were turned to human kind, I scorned indifference; but, inflamed with thirst Of a secure intelligence, and sick Of other longing, I pursued what seemed 250 A more exalted nature; wished that Man Should start out of his earthy, worm-like state, And spread abroad the wings of Liberty, Lord of himself, in undisturbed delight— A noble aspiration! yet I feel 255 (Sustained by worthier as by wiser thoughts) The aspiration, nor shall ever cease To feel it;—but return we to our course.
Enough, 'tis true—could such a plea excuse Those aberrations—had the clamorous friends 260 Of ancient Institutions said and done To bring disgrace upon their very names; Disgrace, of which, custom and written law, And sundry moral sentiments as props Or emanations of those institutes, 265 Too justly bore a part. A veil had been Uplifted; why deceive ourselves? in sooth, 'Twas even so; and sorrow for the man Who either had not eyes wherewith to see, Or, seeing, had forgotten! A strong shock 270 Was given to old opinions; all men's minds Had felt its power, and mine was both let loose, Let loose and goaded. After what hath been Already said of patriotic love, Suffice it here to add, that, somewhat stern 275 In temperament, withal a happy man, And therefore bold to look on painful things, Free likewise of the world, and thence more bold, I summoned my best skill, and toiled, intent To anatomise the frame of social life, 280 Yea, the whole body of society Searched to its heart. Share with me, Friend! the wish That some dramatic tale, endued with shapes Livelier, and flinging out less guarded words Than suit the work we fashion, might set forth 285 What then I learned, or think I learned, of truth, And the errors into which I fell, betrayed By present objects, and by reasonings false From their beginnings, inasmuch as drawn Out of a heart that had been turned aside 290 From Nature's way by outward accidents, And which was thus confounded, more and more Misguided, and misguiding. So I fared, Dragging all precepts, judgments, maxims, creeds, Like culprits to the bar; calling the mind, 295 Suspiciously, to establish in plain day Her titles and her honours; now believing, Now disbelieving; endlessly perplexed With impulse, motive, right and wrong, the ground Of obligation, what the rule and whence 300 The sanction; till, demanding formal proof, And seeking it in every thing, I lost All feeling of conviction, and, in fine, Sick, wearied out with contrarieties, Yielded up moral questions in despair. 305
This was the crisis of that strong disease, This the soul's last and lowest ebb; I drooped, Deeming our blessed reason of least use Where wanted most: "The lordly attributes Of will and choice," I bitterly exclaimed, 310 "What are they but a mockery of a Being Who hath in no concerns of his a test Of good and evil; knows not what to fear Or hope for, what to covet or to shun; And who, if those could be discerned, would yet 315 Be little profited, would see, and ask Where is the obligation to enforce? And, to acknowledged law rebellious, still, As selfish passion urged, would act amiss; The dupe of folly, or the slave of crime." 320
Depressed, bewildered thus, I did not walk With scoffers, seeking light and gay revenge From indiscriminate laughter, nor sate down In reconcilement with an utter waste Of intellect; such sloth I could not brook, 325 (Too well I loved, in that my spring of life, Pains-taking thoughts, and truth, their dear reward) But turned to abstract science, and there sought Work for the reasoning faculty enthroned Where the disturbances of space and time—330 Whether in matters various, properties Inherent, or from human will and power Derived—find no admission. [G] Then it was— Thanks to the bounteous Giver of all good!— That the beloved Sister in whose sight 335 Those days were passed, [H] now speaking in a voice Of sudden admonition—like a brook [I] That did but cross a lonely road, and now Is seen, heard, felt, and caught at every turn, Companion never lost through many a league—340 Maintained for me a saving intercourse With my true self; for, though bedimmed and changed Much, as it seemed, I was no further changed Than as a clouded and a waning moon: She whispered still that brightness would return, 345 She, in the midst of all, preserved me still A Poet, made me seek beneath that name, And that alone, my office upon earth; And, lastly, as hereafter will be shown, If willing audience fail not, Nature's self, 350 By all varieties of human love Assisted, led me back through opening day To those sweet counsels between head and heart Whence grew that genuine knowledge, fraught with peace, Which, through the later sinkings of this cause, 355 Hath still upheld me, and upholds me now In the catastrophe (for so they dream, And nothing less), when, finally to close And seal up all the gains of France, a Pope Is summoned in, to crown an Emperor—[K] 360 This last opprobrium, when we see a people, That once looked up in faith, as if to Heaven For manna, take a lesson from the dog Returning to his vomit; when the sun That rose in splendour, was alive, and moved 365 In exultation with a living pomp Of clouds—his glory's natural retinue— Hath dropped all functions by the gods bestowed, And, turned into a gewgaw, a machine, Sets like an Opera phantom. Thus, O Friend! 370 Through times of honour and through times of shame Descending, have I faithfully retraced The perturbations of a youthful mind Under a long-lived storm of great events— A story destined for thy ear, who now, 375 Among the fallen of nations, dost abide Where Etna, over hill and valley, casts His shadow stretching towards Syracuse, [L] The city of Timoleon! [M] Righteous Heaven! How are the mighty prostrated! They first, 380 They first of all that breathe should have awaked When the great voice was heard from out the tombs Of ancient heroes. If I suffered grief For ill-requited France, by many deemed A trifler only in her proudest day; 385 Have been distressed to think of what she once Promised, now is; a far more sober cause Thine eyes must see of sorrow in a land. To the reanimating influence lost Of memory, to virtue lost and hope, 390 Though with the wreck of loftier years bestrewn.
But indignation works where hope is not, And thou, O Friend! wilt be refreshed. There is One great society alone on earth: The noble Living and the noble Dead. 395
Thine be such converse strong and sanative, A ladder for thy spirit to reascend To health and joy and pure contentedness; To me the grief confined, that thou art gone From this last spot of earth, where Freedom now 400 Stands single in her only sanctuary; A lonely wanderer art gone, by pain Compelled and sickness, [N] at this latter day, This sorrowful reverse for all mankind. I feel for thee, must utter what I feel: 405 The sympathies erewhile in part discharged, Gather afresh, and will have vent again: My own delights do scarcely seem to me My own delights; the lordly Alps themselves, Those rosy peaks, from which the Morning looks 410 Abroad on many nations, are no more For me that image of pure gladsomeness Which they were wont to be. Through kindred scenes, For purpose, at a time, how different! Thou tak'st thy way, carrying the heart and soul 415 That Nature gives to Poets, now by thought Matured, and in the summer of their strength. Oh! wrap him in your shades, ye giant woods, On Etna's side; and thou, O flowery field Of Enna! [O] is there not some nook of thine, 420 From the first play-time of the infant world Kept sacred to restorative delight, When from afar invoked by anxious love?
Child of the mountains, among shepherds reared, Ere yet familiar with the classic page, 425 I learnt to dream of Sicily; and lo, The gloom, that, but a moment past, was deepened At thy command, at her command gives way; A pleasant promise, wafted from her shores, Comes o'er my heart: in fancy I behold 430 Her seas yet smiling, her once happy vales; Nor can my tongue give utterance to a name Of note belonging to that honoured isle, Philosopher or Bard, Empedocles, [P] Or Archimedes, [Q] pure abstracted soul! 435 That doth not yield a solace to my grief: And, O Theocritus, [R] so far have some Prevailed among the powers of heaven and earth, By their endowments, good or great, that they Have had, as thou reportest, miracles 440 Wrought for them in old time: yea, not unmoved, When thinking on my own beloved friend, I hear thee tell how bees with honey fed Divine Comates, [S] by his impious lord Within a chest imprisoned; how they came 445 Laden from blooming grove or flowery field, And fed him there, alive, month after month, Because the goatherd, blessed man! had lips Wet with the Muses' nectar. Thus I soothe The pensive moments by this calm fire-side, 450 And find a thousand bounteous images To cheer the thoughts of those I love, and mine. Our prayers have been accepted; thou wilt stand On Etna's summit, above earth and sea, Triumphant, winning from the invaded heavens 455 Thoughts without bound, magnificent designs, Worthy of poets who attuned their harps In wood or echoing cave, for discipline Of heroes; or, in reverence to the gods, 'Mid temples, served by sapient priests, and choirs 460 Of virgins crowned with roses. Not in vain Those temples, where they in their ruins yet Survive for inspiration, shall attract Thy solitary steps: and on the brink Thou wilt recline of pastoral Arethuse; 465 Or, if that fountain be in truth no more, Then, near some other spring—which, by the name Thou gratulatest, willingly deceived— I see thee linger a glad votary, And not a captive pining for his home. 470
* * * * *
VARIANTS ON THE TEXT
[Variant 1: In the editions of 1850 and 1857, the punctuation is as follows, but is evidently wrong:
in the People was my trust: And, in the virtues which mine eyes had seen, I knew ...
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FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: The Reign of Terror ended with the downfall of Robespierre and his "Tribe."—Ed.]
[Footnote B: He refers doubtless to the effect, upon the Government of the day, of the dread of Revolution in England. There were a few partisans of France and of the Revolution in England; and the panic which followed, though irrational, was widespread. The Habeas Corpus Act was suspended, a Bill was passed against seditious Assemblies, the Press was prosecuted, some Scottish Whigs who clamoured for reform were sentenced to transportation, while one Judge expressed regret that the practice of torture for sedition had fallen into disuse.—Ed.] TWO
[Footnote C: See p. 35 ['French Revolution'].—Ed.]
[Footnote D: Compare 'Ruth', in vol. ii. p. 112:
'Before me shone a glorious world— Fresh as a banner bright, unfurled To music suddenly: I looked upon those hills and plains, And seemed as if let loose from chains, To live at liberty.'
[Footnote E: In 1795.—Ed.]
[Footnote F: Referring probably to Napoleon's Italian campaign in 1796.—Ed.]
[Footnote G: In 1794 he returned, with intermittent ardour, to the study of mathematics and physics.—Ed.]
[Footnote H: In the winter of 1794 he went to Halifax, and there joined his sister, whom he accompanied in the same winter to Kendal, Grasmere, and Keswick. They stayed for several weeks at Windybrow farm-house, near Keswick. The brother and sister had not met since the Christmas of 1791. It is to those "days," in 1794, that he refers.—Ed.]
[Footnote I: Compare in the first book of 'The Recluse', l. 91:
Her voice was like a hidden Bird that sang; The thought of her was like a flash of light, Or an unseen companionship.
[Footnote K: In 1804 Bonaparte sent for the Pope to anoint him as 'Empereur des Francais'. Napoleon wished the title to be as remote as possible from "King of France."—Ed.]
[Footnote L: Coleridge was then living in Sicily, whither he had gone from Malta. He ascended Etna. See Cottles' 'Early Recollections, chiefly relating to the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge' (vol. ii. p. 77), and also compare note [Book 6, Footnote U], p. 230 of this volume.—Ed.]
[Footnote M: Timoleon, one of the greatest of the Greeks, was sent in command of an expedition to reduce Sicily to order; and was afterwards the Master, but not the Tyrant, of Syracuse. He colonised it afresh from Corinth, and from the rest of Sicily; and enacted new laws of a democratic character, being ultimately the ruler of the whole island; although he refused office and declined titles, remaining a private citizen to the end. (See Plutarch's Life of him.)—Ed.]
[Footnote N: See book vi. l. 240.—Ed.]
[Footnote O: Compare 'Paradise Lost', book iv. l. 269.—Ed.]
[Footnote P: Empedpocles, the philosopher of Agrigentum, physicist, metaphysician, poet, musician, and hierophant.—Ed.]
[Footnote Q: The geometrician of Syracuse.—Ed.]
[Footnote R: The pastoral poet of Syracuse.—Ed.]
[Footnote S: Theocrit. Idyll vii. 78. (Mr. Carter, 1850.)]
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IMAGINATION AND TASTE, HOW IMPAIRED AND RESTORED
Long time have human ignorance and guilt Detained us, on what spectacles of woe Compelled to look, and inwardly oppressed With sorrow, disappointment, vexing thoughts, Confusion of the judgment, zeal decayed, 5 And, lastly, utter loss of hope itself And things to hope for! Not with these began Our song, and not with these our song must end.— Ye motions of delight, that haunt the sides Of the green hills; ye breezes and soft airs, 10 Whose subtle intercourse with breathing flowers, Feelingly watched, might teach Man's haughty race How without injury to take, to give Without offence [A]; ye who, as if to show The wondrous influence of power gently used, 15 Bend the complying heads of lordly pines, And, with a touch, shift the stupendous clouds Through the whole compass of the sky; ye brooks, Muttering along the stones, a busy noise By day, a quiet sound in silent night; 20 Ye waves, that out of the great deep steal forth In a calm hour to kiss the pebbly shore, Not mute, and then retire, fearing no storm; And you, ye groves, whose ministry it is To interpose the covert of your shades, 25 Even as a sleep, between the heart of man And outward troubles, between man himself, Not seldom, and his own uneasy heart: Oh! that I had a music and a voice Harmonious as your own, that I might tell 30 What ye have done for me. The morning shines, Nor heedeth Man's perverseness; Spring returns,— I saw the Spring return, and could rejoice, In common with the children of her love, Piping on boughs, or sporting on fresh fields, 35 Or boldly seeking pleasure nearer heaven On wings that navigate cerulean skies. So neither were complacency, nor peace, Nor tender yearnings, wanting for my good Through these distracted times; in Nature still 40 Glorying, I found a counterpoise in her, Which, when the spirit of evil reached its height. Maintained for me a secret happiness.
This narrative, my Friend! hath chiefly told Of intellectual power, fostering love, 45 Dispensing truth, and, over men and things, Where reason yet might hesitate, diffusing Prophetic sympathies of genial faith: So was I favoured—such my happy lot— Until that natural graciousness of mind 50 Gave way to overpressure from the times And their disastrous issues. What availed, When spells forbade the voyager to land, That fragrant notice of a pleasant shore Wafted, at intervals, from many a bower 55 Of blissful gratitude and fearless love? Dare I avow that wish was mine to see, And hope that future times would surely see, The man to come, parted, as by a gulph, From him who had been; that I could no more 60 Trust the elevation which had made me one With the great family that still survives To illuminate the abyss of ages past, Sage, warrior, patriot, hero; for it seemed That their best virtues were not free from taint 65 Of something false and weak, that could not stand The open eye of Reason. Then I said, "Go to the Poets, they will speak to thee More perfectly of purer creatures;—yet If reason be nobility in man, 70 Can aught be more ignoble than the man Whom they delight in, blinded as he is By prejudice, the miserable slave Of low ambition or distempered love?"
In such strange passion, if I may once more 75 Review the past, I warred against myself— A bigot to a new idolatry— Like a cowled monk who hath forsworn the world, Zealously laboured to cut off my heart From all the sources of her former strength; 80 And as, by simple waving of a wand, The wizard instantaneously dissolves Palace or grove, even so could I unsoul As readily by syllogistic words Those mysteries of being which have made, 85 And shall continue evermore to make, Of the whole human race one brotherhood.
What wonder, then, if, to a mind so far Perverted, even the visible Universe Fell under the dominion of a taste 90 Less spiritual, with microscopic view Was scanned, as I had scanned the moral world?
O Soul of Nature! excellent and fair! That didst rejoice with me, with whom I, too, Rejoiced through early youth, before the winds 95 And roaring waters, and in lights and shades That marched and countermarched about the hills In glorious apparition, Powers on whom I daily waited, now all eye and now All ear; but never long without the heart 100 Employed, and man's unfolding intellect: O Soul of Nature! that, by laws divine Sustained and governed, still dost overflow With an impassioned life, what feeble ones Walk on this earth! how feeble have I been 105 When thou wert in thy strength! Nor this through stroke Of human suffering, such as justifies Remissness and inaptitude of mind, But through presumption; even in pleasure pleased Unworthily, disliking here, and there 110 Liking; by rules of mimic art transferred To things above all art; but more,—for this, Although a strong infection of the age, Was never much my habit—giving way To a comparison of scene with scene, 115 Bent overmuch on superficial things, Pampering myself with meagre novelties Of colour and proportion; to the moods Of time and season, to the moral power, The affections and the spirit of the place, 120 Insensible. Nor only did the love Of sitting thus in judgment interrupt My deeper feelings, but another cause, More subtle and less easily explained, That almost seems inherent in the creature, 125 A twofold frame of body and of mind. I speak in recollection of a time When the bodily eye, in every stage of life The most despotic of our senses, gained Such strength in me as often held my mind 130 In absolute dominion. Gladly here, Entering upon abstruser argument, Could I endeavour to unfold the means Which Nature studiously employs to thwart This tyranny, summons all the senses each 135 To counteract the other, and themselves, And makes them all, and the objects with which all Are conversant, subservient in their turn To the great ends of Liberty and Power. But leave we this: enough that my delights 140 (Such as they were) were sought insatiably. Vivid the transport, vivid though not profound; I roamed from hill to hill, from rock to rock, Still craving combinations of new forms, New pleasure, wider empire for the sight, 145 Proud of her own endowments, and rejoiced To lay the inner faculties asleep. Amid the turns and counterturns, the strife And various trials of our complex being, As we grow up, such thraldom of that sense 150 Seems hard to shun. And yet I knew a maid, [B] A young enthusiast, who escaped these bonds; Her eye was not the mistress of her heart; Far less did rules prescribed by passive taste, Or barren intermeddling subtleties, 155 Perplex her mind; but, wise as women are When genial circumstance hath favoured them, She welcomed what was given, and craved no more; Whate'er the scene presented to her view, That was the best, to that she was attuned 160 By her benign simplicity of life, And through a perfect happiness of soul, Whose variegated feelings were in this Sisters, that they were each some new delight. Birds in the bower, and lambs in the green field, 165 Could they have known her, would have loved; methought Her very presence such a sweetness breathed, That flowers, and trees, and even the silent hills, And every thing she looked on, should have had An intimation how she bore herself 170 Towards them and to all creatures. God delights In such a being; for her common thoughts Are piety, her life is gratitude.
Even like this maid, before I was called forth From the retirement of my native hills, 175 I loved whate'er I saw: nor lightly loved, But most intensely; never dreamt of aught More grand, more fair, more exquisitely framed Than those few nooks to which my happy feet Were limited. I had not at that time 180 Lived long enough, nor in the least survived The first diviner influence of this world, As it appears to unaccustomed eyes. Worshipping then among the depth of things, As piety ordained; could I submit 185 To measured admiration, or to aught That should preclude humility and love? I felt, observed, and pondered; did not judge, Yea, never thought of judging; with the gift Of all this glory filled and satisfied. 190 And afterwards, when through the gorgeous Alps Roaming, I carried with me the same heart: In truth, the degradation—howsoe'er Induced, effect, in whatsoe'er degree, Of custom that prepares a partial scale 195 In which the little oft outweighs the great; Or any other cause that hath been named; Or lastly, aggravated by the times And their impassioned sounds, which well might make The milder minstrelsies of rural scenes 200 Inaudible—was transient; I had known Too forcibly, too early in my life, Visitings of imaginative power For this to last: I shook the habit off Entirely and for ever, and again 205 In Nature's presence stood, as now I stand, A sensitive being, a creative soul.
There are in our existence spots of time, That with distinct pre-eminence retain A renovating virtue, whence, depressed 210 By false opinion and contentious thought, Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight, In trivial occupations, and the round Of ordinary intercourse, our minds Are nourished and invisibly repaired; 215 A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced, That penetrates, enables us to mount, When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen. This efficacious spirit chiefly lurks Among those passages of life that give 220 Profoundest knowledge to what point, and how, The mind is lord and master—outward sense The obedient servant of her will. Such moments Are scattered everywhere, taking their date From our first childhood. [C] I remember well, 225 That once, while yet my inexperienced hand Could scarcely hold a bridle, with proud hopes I mounted, and we journeyed towards the hills: [D] An ancient servant of my father's house Was with me, my encourager and guide: 230 We had not travelled long, ere some mischance Disjoined me from my comrade; and, through fear Dismounting, down the rough and stony moor I led my horse, and, stumbling on, at length Came to a bottom, where in former times 235 A murderer had been hung in iron chains. The gibbet-mast had mouldered down, the bones And iron case were gone; but on the turf, Hard by, soon after that fell deed was wrought, Some unknown hand had carved the murderer's name. 240 The monumental letters were inscribed In times long past; but still, from year to year, By superstition of the neighbourhood, The grass is cleared away, and to this hour The characters are fresh and visible: 245 A casual glance had shown them, and I fled, Faltering and faint, and ignorant of the road: Then, reascending the bare common, saw A naked pool that lay beneath the hills, The beacon on the summit, and, more near, 250 A girl, who bore a pitcher on her head, And seemed with difficult steps to force her way Against the blowing wind. It was, in truth, An ordinary sight; but I should need Colours and words that are unknown to man, 255 To paint the visionary dreariness Which, while I looked all round for my lost guide, Invested moorland waste, and naked pool, The beacon crowning the lone eminence, The female and her garments vexed and tossed 260 By the strong wind. When, in the blessed hours Of early love, the loved one at my side, [E] I roamed, in daily presence of this scene, Upon the naked pool and dreary crags, And on the melancholy beacon, fell 265 A spirit of pleasure and youth's golden gleam; And think ye not with radiance more sublime For these remembrances, and for the power They had left behind? So feeling comes in aid Of feeling, and diversity of strength 270 Attends us, if but once we have been strong. Oh! mystery of man, from what a depth Proceed thy honours. I am lost, but see In simple childhood something of the base On which thy greatness stands; but this I feel, 275 That from thyself it comes, that thou must give, Else never canst receive. The days gone by Return upon me almost from the dawn Of life: the hiding-places of man's power Open; I would approach them, but they close. 280 I see by glimpses now; when age comes on, May scarcely see at all; and I would give, While yet we may, as far as words can give, Substance and life to what I feel, enshrining, Such is my hope, the spirit of the Past 285 For future restoration.—Yet another Of these memorials;— One Christmas-time, [F] On the glad eve of its dear holidays, Feverish, and tired, and restless, I went forth Into the fields, impatient for the sight 290 Of those led palfreys that should bear us home; My brothers and myself. There rose a crag, That, from the meeting-point of two highways [F] Ascending, overlooked them both, far stretched; Thither, uncertain on which road to fix 295 My expectation, thither I repaired, Scout-like, and gained the summit; 'twas a day Tempestuous, dark, and wild, and on the grass I sate half-sheltered by a naked wall; Upon my right hand couched a single sheep, 300 Upon my left a blasted hawthorn stood; With those companions at my side, I watched, Straining my eyes intensely, as the mist Gave intermitting prospect of the copse And plain beneath. Ere we to school returned,—305 That dreary time,—ere we had been ten days Sojourners in my father's house, he died, And I and my three brothers, orphans then, Followed his body to the grave. The event, With all the sorrow that it brought, appeared 310 A chastisement; and when I called to mind That day so lately past, when from the crag I looked in such anxiety of hope; With trite reflections of morality, Yet in the deepest passion, I bowed low 315 To God, Who thus corrected my desires; And, afterwards, the wind and sleety rain, And all the business of the elements, The single sheep, and the one blasted tree, And the bleak music from that old stone wall, 320 The noise of wood and water, and the mist That on the line of each of those two roads Advanced in such indisputable shapes; All these were kindred spectacles and sounds To which I oft repaired, and thence would drink, 325 As at a fountain; and on winter nights, Down to this very time, when storm and rain Beat on my roof, or, haply, at noon-day, While in a grove I walk, whose lofty trees, Laden with summer's thickest foliage, rock 330 In a strong wind, some working of the spirit, Some inward agitations thence are brought, Whate'er their office, whether to beguile Thoughts over busy in the course they took, Or animate an hour of vacant ease. 335
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FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: Compare Shakespeare's "Stealing and giving odour." ('Twelfth Night', act I. scene i. l. 7.)—Ed.]
[Footnote B: Mary Hutchinson.—Ed.]
[Footnote C: Compare the 'Ode, Intimations of Immortality', stanzas v. and ix.—Ed.]
[Footnote D: Either amongst the Lorton Fells, or the north-western slopes of Skiddaw.—Ed.]
[Footnote E: His sister.—Ed.]
[Footnote F: The year was evidently 1783, but the locality is difficult to determine. It may have been one or other of two places. Wordsworth's father died at Penrith, and it was there that the sons went for their Christmas holiday. The road from Penrith to Hawkshead was by Kirkstone Pass, and Ambleside; and the "led palfreys" sent to take the boys home would certainly come through the latter town. Now there are only two roads from Ambleside to Hawkshead, which meet at a point about a mile north of Hawkshead, called in the Ordnance map "Outgate." The eastern road is now chiefly used by carriages, being less hilly and better made than the western one. The latter would be quite as convenient as the former for horses. If one were to walk out from Hawkshead village to the place where the two roads separate at "Outgate," and then ascend the ridge between them, he would find several places from which he could overlook both roads "far stretched," were the view not now intercepted by numerous plantations. (The latter are of comparatively recent growth.) Dr. Cradock,—to whom I am indebted for this, and for many other suggestions as to localities alluded to by Wordsworth,—thinks that
"a point, marked on the map as 'High Crag' between the two roads, and about three-quarters of a mile from their point of divergence, answers the description as well as any other. It may be nearly two miles from Hawkshead, a distance of which an active eager school-boy would think nothing. The 'blasted hawthorn' and the 'naked wall' are probably things of the past as much as the 'single sheep.'"
Doubtless this may be the spot,—a green, rocky knoll with a steep face to the north, where a quarry is wrought, and with a plantation to the east. It commands a view of both roads. The other possible place is a crag, not a quarter of a mile from Outgate, a little to the right of the place where the two roads divide. A low wall runs up across it to the top, dividing a plantation of oak, hazel, and ash, from the firs that crown the summit. These firs, which are larch and spruce, seem all of this century. The top of the crag may have been bare when Wordsworth lived at Hawkshead. But at the foot of the path along the dividing wall there are a few (probably older) trees; and a solitary walk beneath them, at noon or dusk, is almost as suggestive to the imagination, as repose under the yews of Borrowdale, listening to "the mountain flood" on Glaramara. There one may still hear the bleak music from the old stone wall, and "the noise of wood and water," while the loud dry wind whistles through the underwood, or moans amid the fir trees of the Crag, on the summit of which there is a "blasted hawthorn" tree. It may be difficult now to determine the precise spot to which the boy Wordsworth climbed on that eventful day—afterwards so significant to him, and from the events of which, he says, he drank "as at a fountain"—but I think it may have been to one or other of these two crags. (See, however, Mr. Rawnsley's conjecture in Note V. in the Appendix to this volume, p. 391.)—Ed.]
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IMAGINATION AND TASTE, HOW IMPAIRED AND RESTORED—concluded.
From Nature doth emotion come, and moods Of calmness equally are Nature's gift: This is her glory; these two attributes Are sister horns that constitute her strength. Hence Genius, born to thrive by interchange 5 Of peace and excitation, finds in her His best and purest friend; from her receives That energy by which he seeks the truth, From her that happy stillness of the mind Which fits him to receive it when unsought. [A] 10
Such benefit the humblest intellects Partake of, each in their degree; 'tis mine To speak, what I myself have known and felt; Smooth task! for words find easy way, inspired By gratitude, and confidence in truth. 15 Long time in search of knowledge did I range The field of human life, in heart and mind Benighted; but, the dawn beginning now To re-appear, 'twas proved that not in vain I had been taught to reverence a Power 20 That is the visible quality and shape And image of right reason; that matures Her processes by steadfast laws; gives birth To no impatient or fallacious hopes, No heat of passion or excessive zeal, 25 No vain conceits; provokes to no quick turns Of self-applauding intellect; but trains To meekness, and exalts by humble faith; Holds up before the mind intoxicate With present objects, and the busy dance 30 Of things that pass away, a temperate show Of objects that endure; and by this course Disposes her, when over-fondly set On throwing off incumbrances, to seek In man, and in the frame of social life, 35 Whate'er there is desirable and good Of kindred permanence, unchanged in form And function, or, through strict vicissitude Of life and death, revolving. Above all Were re-established now those watchful thoughts 40 Which, seeing little worthy or sublime In what the Historian's pen so much delights To blazon—power and energy detached From moral purpose—early tutored me To look with feelings of fraternal love 45 Upon the unassuming things that hold A silent station in this beauteous world.
Thus moderated, thus composed, I found Once more in Man an object of delight, Of pure imagination, and of love; 50 And, as the horizon of my mind enlarged, Again I took the intellectual eye For my instructor, studious more to see Great truths, than touch and handle little ones. Knowledge was given accordingly; my trust 55 Became more firm in feelings that had stood The test of such a trial; clearer far My sense of excellence—of right and wrong: The promise of the present time retired Into its true proportion; sanguine schemes, 60 Ambitious projects, pleased me less; I sought For present good in life's familiar face, And built thereon my hopes of good to come.
With settling judgments now of what would last And what would disappear; prepared to find 65 Presumption, folly, madness, in the men Who thrust themselves upon the passive world As Rulers of the world; to see in these, Even when the public welfare is their aim, Plans without thought, or built on theories 70 Vague and unsound; and having brought the books Of modern statists to their proper test, Life, human life, with all its sacred claims Of sex and age, and heaven-descended rights, Mortal, or those beyond the reach of death; 75 And having thus discerned how dire a thing Is worshipped in that idol proudly named "The Wealth of Nations," where alone that wealth Is lodged, and how increased; and having gained A more judicious knowledge of the worth 80 And dignity of individual man, No composition of the brain, but man Of whom we read, the man whom we behold With our own eyes—I could not but inquire— Not with less interest than heretofore, 85 But greater, though in spirit more subdued— Why is this glorious creature to be found One only in ten thousand? What one is, Why may not millions be? What bars are thrown By Nature in the way of such a hope? 90 Our animal appetites and daily wants, Are these obstructions insurmountable? If not, then others vanish into air. "Inspect the basis of the social pile: Inquire," said I, "how much of mental power 95 And genuine virtue they possess who live By bodily toil, labour exceeding far Their due proportion, under all the weight Of that injustice which upon ourselves Ourselves entail." Such estimate to frame 100 I chiefly looked (what need to look beyond?) Among the natural abodes of men, Fields with their rural works; [B] recalled to mind My earliest notices; with these compared The observations made in later youth, 105 And to that day continued.—For, the time Had never been when throes of mighty Nations And the world's tumult unto me could yield, How far soe'er transported and possessed, Full measure of content; but still I craved 110 An intermingling of distinct regards And truths of individual sympathy Nearer ourselves. Such often might be gleaned From the great City, else it must have proved To me a heart-depressing wilderness; 115 But much was wanting: therefore did I turn To you, ye pathways, and ye lonely roads; Sought you enriched with everything I prized, With human kindnesses and simple joys.
Oh! next to one dear state of bliss, vouchsafed 120 Alas! to few in this untoward world, The bliss of walking daily in life's prime Through field or forest with the maid we love, While yet our hearts are young, while yet we breathe Nothing but happiness, in some lone nook, 125 Deep vale, or any where, the home of both, From which it would be misery to stir: Oh! next to such enjoyment of our youth, In my esteem, next to such dear delight, Was that of wandering on from day to day 130 Where I could meditate in peace, and cull Knowledge that step by step might lead me on To wisdom; or, as lightsome as a bird Wafted upon the wind from distant lands, Sing notes of greeting to strange fields or groves, 135 Which lacked not voice to welcome me in turn: And, when that pleasant toil had ceased to please, Converse with men, where if we meet a face We almost meet a friend, on naked heaths With long long ways before, by cottage bench, 140 Or well-spring where the weary traveller rests.
Who doth not love to follow with his eye The windings of a public way? the sight, Familiar object as it is, hath wrought On my imagination since the morn 145 Of childhood, when a disappearing line, One daily present to my eyes, that crossed The naked summit of a far-off hill Beyond the limits that my feet had trod, Was like an invitation into space 150 Boundless, or guide into eternity. [C] Yes, something of the grandeur which invests The mariner who sails the roaring sea Through storm and darkness, early in my mind Surrounded, too, the wanderers of the earth; 155 Grandeur as much, and loveliness far more. Awed have I been by strolling Bedlamites; From many other uncouth vagrants (passed In fear) have walked with quicker step; but why Take note of this? When I began to enquire, 160 To watch and question those I met, and speak Without reserve to them, the lonely roads Were open schools in which I daily read With most delight the passions of mankind, Whether by words, looks, sighs, or tears, revealed; 165 There saw into the depth of human souls, Souls that appear to have no depth at all To careless eyes. And-now convinced at heart How little those formalities, to which With overweening trust alone we give 170 The name of Education, have to do With real feeling and just sense; how vain A correspondence with the talking world Proves to the most; and called to make good search If man's estate, by doom of Nature yoked 175 With toil, be therefore yoked with ignorance; If virtue be indeed so hard to rear, And intellectual strength so rare a boon— I prized such walks still more, for there I found Hope to my hope, and to my pleasure peace 180 And steadiness, and healing and repose To every angry passion. There I heard, From mouths of men obscure and lowly, truths Replete with honour; sounds in unison With loftiest promises of good and fair. 185
There are who think that strong affection, love [D] Known by whatever name, is falsely deemed A gift, to use a term which they would use, Of vulgar nature; that its growth requires Retirement, leisure, language purified 190 By manners studied and elaborate; That whoso feels such passion in its strength Must live within the very light and air Of courteous usages refined by art. True is it, where oppression worse than death 195 Salutes the being at his birth, where grace Of culture hath been utterly unknown, And poverty and labour in excess From day to day pre-occupy the ground Of the affections, and to Nature's self 200 Oppose a deeper nature; there, indeed, Love cannot be; nor does it thrive with ease Among the close and overcrowded haunts Of cities, where the human heart is sick, And the eye feeds it not, and cannot feed. 205 —Yes, in those wanderings deeply did I feel How we mislead each other; above all, How books mislead us, seeking their reward From judgments of the wealthy Few, who see By artificial lights; how they debase 210 The Many for the pleasure of those Few; Effeminately level down the truth To certain general notions, for the sake Of being understood at once, or else Through want of better knowledge in the heads 215 That framed them; nattering self-conceit with words, That, while they most ambitiously set forth Extrinsic differences, the outward marks Whereby society has parted man From man, neglect the universal heart. 220
Here, calling up to mind what then I saw, A youthful traveller, and see daily now In the familiar circuit of my home, Here might I pause, and bend in reverence To Nature, and the power of human minds, 225 To men as they are men within themselves. How oft high service is performed within, When all the external man is rude in show,— Not like a temple rich with pomp and gold, But a mere mountain chapel, that protects 230 Its simple worshippers from sun and shower. Of these, said I, shall be my song; of these, If future years mature me for the task, Will I record the praises, making verse Deal boldly with substantial things; in truth 235 And sanctity of passion, speak of these, That justice may be done, obeisance paid Where it is due: thus haply shall I teach, Inspire, through unadulterated ears Pour rapture, tenderness, and hope,—my theme 240 No other than the very heart of man, As found among the best of those who live, Not unexalted by religious faith, Nor uninformed by books, good books, though few, In Nature's presence: thence may I select 245 Sorrow, that is not sorrow, but delight; And miserable love, that is not pain To hear of, for the glory that redounds Therefrom to human kind, and what we are. Be mine to follow with no timid step 250 Where knowledge leads me: it shall be my pride That I have dared to tread this holy ground, Speaking no dream, but things oracular; Matter not lightly to be heard by those Who to the letter of the outward promise 255 Do read the invisible soul; by men adroit In speech, and for communion with the world Accomplished; minds whose faculties are then Most active when they are most eloquent, And elevated most when most admired. 260 Men may be found of other mould than these, Who are their own upholders, to themselves Encouragement, and energy, and will, Expressing liveliest thoughts in lively words As native passion dictates. Others, too, 265 There are among the walks of homely life Still higher, men for contemplation framed, Shy, and unpractised in the strife of phrase; Meek men, whose very souls perhaps would sink Beneath them, summoned to such intercourse: 270 Theirs is the language of the heavens, the power, The thought, the image, and the silent joy: Words are but under-agents in their souls; When they are grasping with their greatest strength, They do not breathe among them: this I speak 275 In gratitude to God, Who feeds our hearts For His own service; knoweth, loveth us, When we are unregarded by the world.
Also, about this time did I receive Convictions still more strong than heretofore, 280 Not only that the inner frame is good, And graciously composed, but that, no less, Nature for all conditions wants not power To consecrate, if we have eyes to see, The outside of her creatures, and to breathe 285 Grandeur upon the very humblest face Of human life. I felt that the array Of act and circumstance, and visible form, Is mainly to the pleasure of the mind What passion makes them; that meanwhile the forms 290 Of Nature have a passion in themselves, That intermingles with those works of man To which she summons him; although the works Be mean, have nothing lofty of their own; And that the Genius of the Poet hence 295 May boldly take his way among mankind Wherever Nature leads; that he hath stood By Nature's side among the men of old, And so shall stand for ever. Dearest Friend! If thou partake the animating faith 300 That Poets, even as Prophets, each with each Connected in a mighty scheme of truth, Have each his own peculiar faculty, Heaven's gift, a sense that fits him to perceive Objects unseen before, thou wilt not blame 305 The humblest of this band who dares to hope That unto him hath also been vouchsafed An insight that in some sort he possesses, A privilege whereby a work of his, Proceeding from a source of untaught things, 310 Creative and enduring, may become A power like one of Nature's. To a hope Not less ambitious once among the wilds Of Sarum's Plain, [E] my youthful spirit was raised; There, as I ranged at will the pastoral downs 315 Trackless and smooth, or paced the bare white roads Lengthening in solitude their dreary line, Time with his retinue of ages fled Backwards, nor checked his flight until I saw Our dim ancestral Past in vision clear; 320 Saw multitudes of men, and, here and there, A single Briton clothed in wolf-skin vest, With shield and stone-axe, stride across the wold; The voice of spears was heard, the rattling spear Shaken by arms of mighty bone, in strength, 325 Long mouldered, of barbaric majesty. I called on Darkness—but before the word Was uttered, midnight darkness seemed to take All objects from my sight; and lo! again The Desert visible by dismal flames; 330 It is the sacrificial altar, fed With living men—how deep the groans! the voice Of those that crowd the giant wicker thrills The monumental hillocks, and the pomp Is for both worlds, the living and the dead. 335 At other moments (for through that wide waste Three summer days I roamed) where'er the Plain Was figured o'er with circles, lines, or mounds, [F] That yet survive, a work, as some divine, Shaped by the Druids, so to represent 340 Their knowledge of the heavens, and image forth The constellations; gently was I charmed Into a waking dream, a reverie That, with believing eyes, where'er I turned, Beheld long-bearded teachers, with white wands 345 Uplifted, pointing to the starry sky, Alternately, and plain below, while breath Of music swayed their motions, and the waste Rejoiced with them and me in those sweet sounds.
This for the past, and things that may be viewed 350 Or fancied in the obscurity of years From monumental hints: and thou, O Friend! Pleased with some unpremeditated strains That served those wanderings to beguile, [G] hast said That then and there my mind had exercised 355 Upon the vulgar forms of present things, The actual world of our familiar days, Yet higher power; had caught from them a tone, An image, and a character, by books Not hitherto reflected. [H] Call we this 360 A partial judgment—and yet why? for then We were as strangers; and I may not speak Thus wrongfully of verse, however rude, Which on thy young imagination, trained In the great City, broke like light from far. 365 Moreover, each man's Mind is to herself Witness and judge; and I remember well That in life's every-day appearances I seemed about this time to gain clear sight Of a new world—a world, too, that was fit 370 To be transmitted, and to other eyes Made visible; as ruled by those fixed laws Whence spiritual dignity originates, Which do both give it being and maintain A balance, an ennobling interchange 375 Of action from without and from within; The excellence, pure function, and best power Both of the object seen, and eye that sees.
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FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: Compare 'Expostulation and Reply', vol. i. p. 273:
'Nor less I deem that there are Powers Which of themselves our minds impress; That we can feed this mind of ours In a wise passiveness.
Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum Of things for ever speaking, That nothing of itself will come, But we must still be seeking?'
Mr. William Davies writes:
"Is he absolutely right in attributing these powers to the objects of Nature, which are only symbols after all? Is there not a more penetrative and ethereal perceptive power in the human mind, which is able to transfer itself immediately to the spiritual plane, transcending that of visible Nature? Plato saw it; the old Vedantist still more clearly—and what is more—reached it. He arrived at the knowledge and perception of essential Being: though he could neither define nor limit, in a human formula, because it is undefinable and illimitable, but positive and abstract, universally diffused, 'smaller than small, greater than great,' the internal Light, Monitor, Guide, Rest, waiting to be seen, recognised, and known in every heart; not depending on the powers of Nature for enlightenment and instruction, but itself enlightening and instructing: not merely a receptive, but the motive power of Nature; which bestows itself upon Nature, and only receives from it that which it bestows. Is it not, as he says farther on, better 'to see great truths,' even if not so strictly in line and form, 'touch and handle little ones,' to take the highest point of view we can reach, not a lower one? And surely it is a higher thing to rule over and subdue Nature, than to lie ruled and subdued by it? The highest form of Religion has always done this."
[Footnote B: Compare 'The Old Cumberland Beggar', l. 49 (vol. i. p. 301).—Ed.]
[Footnote C: For a hint in reference to this road, I am indebted to the late Dr. Henry Dodgson of Cockermouth. Referring to my suggestion that it might be the road from Cockermouth to Bridekirk, he wrote (July 1878),
"I scarcely think that road answers to the description. The hill over which it goes is not naked but well wooded, and has probably been so for many years. Besides, it is not visible from Wordsworth's house, nor from the garden behind it. This garden extends from the house to the river Derwent, from which it is separated by a wall, with a raised terraced walk on the inner side, and nearly on a level with the top. I understand that this terrace was in existence in the poet's time.... Its direction is nearly due east and west; and looking eastward from it, there is a hill which bounds the view in that direction, and which fully corresponds to the description in 'The Prelude'. It is from one and a half to two miles distant, of considerable height, is bare and destitute of trees, and has a road going directly over its summit, as seen from the terrace in Wordsworth's garden. This road is now used only as a footpath; but, fifty or sixty years ago it was the highroad to Isel, a hamlet on the Derwent, about three and a half miles from Cockermouth, in the direction of Bassenthwaite Lake. The hill is locally called 'the Hay,' but on the Ordnance map it is marked 'Watch Hill.'"
There can be little doubt as to the accuracy of this suggestion. No other hill-road is visible from the house or garden at Cockermouth. The view from the front of the old mansion is limited by houses, doubtless more so now than in last century; but there is no hill towards the Lorton Fells on the south or south-east, with a road over it, visible from any part of the town. Besides, as this was a very early experience of Wordsworth's—it was in "the morn of childhood" that the road was "daily present to his sight"—it must have been seen, either from the house or from the garden. It is almost certain that he refers to the path over the Hay or Watch Hill, which he and his "sister Emmeline" could see daily from the high terrace, at the foot of their garden in Cockermouth, where they used to "chase the butterfly" and visit the "sparrow's nest" in the "impervious shelter" of privet and roses.
Dr. Cradock wrote to me (January 1886),
"an old map of the county round about Keswick, including Cockermouth, dated 1789, entirely confirms Dr. Dodgson's statement. The road over 'Hay Hill' is marked clearly as a carriage road to Isel. The miles are marked on the map. The 'summit' of the hill is 'naked': for the map marks woods, where they existed, and none are marked on Hay Hill."—Ed.]
[Footnote D: A part of the following paragraph is written with sundry variations of text, in Dorothy Wordsworth's MS. book, dated May to December 1802.—Ed.]
[Footnote E: In the summer of 1793, on his return from the Isle of Wight, and before proceeding to Bristol and Wales, he wandered with his friend William Calvert over Salisbury plain for three days.—Ed.]
[Footnote F: Compare the reference to "Sarum's naked plain" in the third book of 'The Excursion', l. 148.—Ed.]
[Footnote G: The reference is to 'Guilt and Sorrow'. See the introductory, and the Fenwick, note to this poem, in vol. i. pp. 77-79.—Ed.]
[Footnote H: Coleridge read 'Descriptive Sketches' when an undergraduate at Cambridge in 1793—before the two men had met—and wrote thus of them:
"Seldom, if ever, was the emergence of a great and original poetic genius above the literary horizon more evidently announced."
See 'Biographia Literaria', i. p. 25 (edition 1842).—Ed.]
* * * * *
In one of those excursions (may they ne'er Fade from remembrance!) through the Northern tracts Of Cambria ranging with a youthful friend, [A] I left Bethgelert's huts at couching-time, And westward took my way, to see the sun 5 Rise from the top of Snowdon. To the door Of a rude cottage at the mountain's base We came, and roused the shepherd who attends The adventurous stranger's steps, a trusty guide; Then, cheered by short refreshment, sallied forth. 10
It was a close, warm, breezeless summer night, Wan, dull, and glaring, with a dripping fog Low-hung and thick that covered all the sky; But, undiscouraged, we began to climb The mountain-side. The mist soon girt us round, 15 And, after ordinary travellers' talk With our conductor, pensively we sank Each into commerce with his private thoughts: Thus did we breast the ascent, and by myself Was nothing either seen or heard that checked 20 Those musings or diverted, save that once The shepherd's lurcher, who, among the crags, Had to his joy unearthed a hedgehog, teased His coiled-up prey with barkings turbulent. This small adventure, for even such it seemed 25 In that wild place and at the dead of night, Being over and forgotten, on we wound In silence as before. With forehead bent Earthward, as if in opposition set Against an enemy, I panted up 30 With eager pace, and no less eager thoughts. Thus might we wear a midnight hour away, Ascending at loose distance each from each, And I, as chanced, the foremost of the band; When at my feet the ground appeared to brighten, 35 And with a step or two seemed brighter still; Nor was time given to ask or learn the cause, For instantly a light upon the turf Fell like a flash, and lo! as I looked up, The Moon hung naked in a firmament 40 Of azure without cloud, and at my feet Rested a silent sea of hoary mist. A hundred hills their dusky backs upheaved All over this still ocean; and beyond, Far, far beyond, the solid vapours stretched, 45 In headlands, tongues, and promontory shapes, Into the main Atlantic, that appeared To dwindle, and give up his majesty, Usurped upon far as the sight could reach. Not so the ethereal vault; encroachment none 50 Was there, nor loss; only the inferior stars Had disappeared, or shed a fainter light In the clear presence of the full-orbed Moon, Who, from her sovereign elevation, gazed Upon the billowy ocean, as it lay 55 All meek and silent, save that through a rift— Not distant from the shore whereon we stood, A fixed, abysmal, gloomy, breathing-place— Mounted the roar of waters, torrents, streams Innumerable, roaring with one voice! 60 Heard over earth and sea, and, in that hour, For so it seemed, felt by the starry heavens.
When into air had partially dissolved That vision, given to spirits of the night And three chance human wanderers, in calm thought 65 Reflected, it appeared to me the type Of a majestic intellect, its acts And its possessions, what it has and craves, What in itself it is, and would become. There I beheld the emblem of a mind 70 That feeds upon infinity, that broods Over the dark abyss, [B] intent to hear Its voices issuing forth to silent light In one continuous stream; a mind sustained By recognitions of transcendent power, 75 In sense conducting to ideal form, In soul of more than mortal privilege. One function, above all, of such a mind Had Nature shadowed there, by putting forth, 'Mid circumstances awful and sublime, 80 That mutual domination which she loves To exert upon the face of outward things, So moulded, joined, abstracted, so endowed With interchangeable supremacy, That men, least sensitive, see, hear, perceive, 85 And cannot choose but feel. The power, which all Acknowledge when thus moved, which Nature thus To bodily sense exhibits, is the express Resemblance of that glorious faculty That higher minds bear with them as their own. 90 This is the very spirit in which they deal With the whole compass of the universe: They from their native selves can send abroad Kindred mutations; for themselves create A like existence; and, whene'er it dawns 95 Created for them, catch it, or are caught By its inevitable mastery, Like angels stopped upon the wind by sound Of harmony from Heaven's remotest spheres. Them the enduring and the transient both 100 Serve to exalt; they build up greatest things From least suggestions; ever on the watch, Willing to work and to be wrought upon, They need not extraordinary calls To rouse them; in a world of life they live, 105 By sensible impressions not enthralled, But by their quickening impulse made more prompt To hold fit converse with the spiritual world, And with the generations of mankind Spread over time, past, present, and to come, 110 Age after age, till Time shall be no more. Such minds are truly from the Deity, For they are Powers; and hence the highest bliss That flesh can know is theirs—the consciousness Of Whom they are, habitually infused 115 Through every image and through every thought, And all affections by communion raised From earth to heaven, from human to divine; Hence endless occupation for the Soul, Whether discursive or intuitive; [C] 120 Hence cheerfulness for acts of daily life, Emotions which best foresight need not fear, Most worthy then of trust when most intense Hence, amid ills that vex and wrongs that crush Our hearts—if here the words of Holy Writ 125 May with fit reverence be applied—that peace Which passeth understanding, that repose In moral judgments which from this pure source Must come, or will by man be sought in vain.
Oh! who is he that hath his whole life long 130 Preserved, enlarged, this freedom in himself? For this alone is genuine liberty: Where is the favoured being who hath held That course unchecked, unerring, and untired, In one perpetual progress smooth and bright?—135 A humbler destiny have we retraced, And told of lapse and hesitating choice, And backward wanderings along thorny ways: Yet—compassed round by mountain solitudes, Within whose solemn temple I received 140 My earliest visitations, careless then Of what was given me; and which now I range, A meditative, oft a suffering man— Do I declare—in accents which, from truth Deriving cheerful confidence, shall blend 145 Their modulation with these vocal streams— That, whatsoever falls my better mind, Revolving with the accidents of life, May have sustained, that, howsoe'er misled, Never did I, in quest of right and wrong, 150 Tamper with conscience from a private aim; Nor was in any public hope the dupe Of selfish passions; nor did ever yield Wilfully to mean cares or low pursuits, But shrunk with apprehensive jealousy 155 From every combination which might aid The tendency, too potent in itself, Of use and custom to bow down the soul Under a growing weight of vulgar sense, And substitute a universe of death 160 For that which moves with light and life informed, Actual, divine, and true. To fear and love, To love as prime and chief, for there fear ends, Be this ascribed; to early intercourse, In presence of sublime or beautiful forms, 165 With the adverse principles of pain and joy— Evil, as one is rashly named by men Who know not what they speak. By love subsists All lasting grandeur, by pervading love; That gone, we are as dust.—Behold the fields 170 In balmy spring-time full of rising flowers And joyous creatures; see that pair, the lamb And the lamb's mother, and their tender ways Shall touch thee to the heart; thou callest this love, And not inaptly so, for love it is, 175 Far as it carries thee. In some green bower Rest, and be not alone, but have thou there The One who is thy choice of all the world: There linger, listening, gazing, with delight Impassioned, but delight how pitiable! 180 Unless this love by a still higher love Be hallowed, love that breathes not without awe; Love that adores, but on the knees of prayer, By heaven inspired; that frees from chains the soul, Lifted, in union with the purest, best, 185 Of earth-born passions, on the wings of praise Bearing a tribute to the Almighty's Throne.
This spiritual Love acts not nor can exist Without Imagination, which, in truth, Is but another name for absolute power 190 And clearest insight, amplitude of mind, And Reason in her most exalted mood. This faculty hath been the feeding source Of our long labour: we have traced the stream From the blind cavern whence is faintly heard 195 Its natal murmur; followed it to light And open day; accompanied its course Among the ways of Nature, for a time Lost sight of it bewildered and engulphed: Then given it greeting as it rose once more 200 In strength, reflecting from its placid breast The works of man and face of human life; And lastly, from its progress have we drawn Faith in life endless, the sustaining thought Of human Being, Eternity, and God. 205
Imagination having been our theme, So also hath that intellectual Love, For they are each in each, and cannot stand Dividually.—Here must thou be, O Man! Power to thyself; no Helper hast thou here; 210 Here keepest thou in singleness thy state: No other can divide with thee this work: No secondary hand can intervene To fashion this ability; 'tis thine, The prime and vital principle is thine 215 In the recesses of thy nature, far From any reach of outward fellowship, Else is not thine at all. But joy to him, Oh, joy to him who here hath sown, hath laid Here, the foundation of his future years! 220 For all that friendship, all that love can do, All that a darling countenance can look Or dear voice utter, to complete the man, Perfect him, made imperfect in himself, All shall be his: and he whose soul hath risen 225 Up to the height of feeling intellect Shall want no humbler tenderness; his heart Be tender as a nursing mother's heart; Of female softness shall his life be full, Of humble cares and delicate desires, 230 Mild interests and gentlest sympathies.
Child of my parents! Sister of my soul! Thanks in sincerest verse have been elsewhere Poured out [D] for all the early tenderness Which I from thee imbibed: and 'tis most true 235 That later seasons owed to thee no less; For, spite of thy sweet influence and the touch Of kindred hands that opened out the springs Of genial thought in childhood, and in spite Of all that unassisted I had marked 240 In life or nature of those charms minute That win their way into the heart by stealth (Still to the very going-out of youth), I too exclusively esteemed that love, And sought that beauty, which, as Milton sings, 245 Hath terror in it. [E] Thou didst soften down This over-sternness; but for thee, dear Friend! My soul, too reckless of mild grace, had stood In her original self too confident, Retained too long a countenance severe; 250 A rock with torrents roaring, with the clouds Familiar, and a favourite of the stars: But thou didst plant its crevices with flowers, Hang it with shrubs that twinkle in the breeze, And teach the little birds to build their nests 255 And warble in its chambers. At a time When Nature, destined to remain so long Foremost in my affections, had fallen back Into a second place, pleased to become A handmaid to a nobler than herself, 260 When every day brought with it some new sense Of exquisite regard for common things, And all the earth was budding with these gifts Of more refined humanity, thy breath, Dear Sister! was a kind of gentler spring 265 That went before my steps. Thereafter came One whom with thee friendship had early paired; She came, no more a phantom to adorn A moment, [F] but an inmate of the heart, And yet a spirit, there for me enshrined 270 To penetrate the lofty and the low; Even as one essence of pervading light Shines, in the brightest of ten thousand stars, And the meek worm that feeds her lonely lamp Couched in the dewy grass. With such a theme, 275 Coleridge! with this my argument, of thee Shall I be silent? O capacious Soul! Placed on this earth to love and understand, And from thy presence shed the light of love, Shall I be mute, ere thou be spoken of? 280 Thy kindred influence to my heart of hearts Did also find its way. Thus fear relaxed Her over-weening grasp; thus thoughts and things In the self-haunting spirit learned to take More rational proportions; mystery, 285 The incumbent mystery of sense and soul, Of life and death, time and eternity, Admitted more habitually a mild Interposition—a serene delight In closelier gathering cares, such as become 290 A human creature, howsoe'er endowed, Poet, or destined for a humbler name; And so the deep enthusiastic joy, The rapture of the hallelujah sent From all that breathes and is, was chastened, stemmed 295 And balanced by pathetic truth, by trust In hopeful reason, leaning on the stay Of Providence; and in reverence for duty, Here, if need be, struggling with storms, and there Strewing in peace life's humblest ground with herbs, 300 At every season green, sweet at all hours.
And now, O Friend! this history is brought To its appointed close: the discipline And consummation of a Poet's mind, In everything that stood most prominent, 305 Have faithfully been pictured; we have reached The time (our guiding object from the first) When we may, not presumptuously, I hope, Suppose my powers so far confirmed, and such My knowledge, as to make me capable 310 Of building up a Work that shall endure. [G] Yet much hath been omitted, as need was; Of books how much! and even of the other wealth That is collected among woods and fields, Far more: for Nature's secondary grace 315 Hath hitherto been barely touched upon, The charm more superficial that attends Her works, as they present to Fancy's choice Apt illustrations of the moral world, Caught at a glance, or traced with curious pains. 320
Finally, and above all, O Friend! (I speak With due regret) how much is overlooked In human nature and her subtle ways, As studied first in our own hearts, and then In life among the passions of mankind, 325 Varying their composition and their hue, Where'er we move, under the diverse shapes That individual character presents To an attentive eye. For progress meet, Along this intricate and difficult path, 330 Whate'er was wanting, something had I gained, As one of many schoolfellows compelled, In hardy independence, to stand up Amid conflicting interests, and the shock Of various tempers; to endure and note 335 What was not understood, though known to be; Among the mysteries of love and hate, Honour and shame, looking to right and left, Unchecked by innocence too delicate, And moral notions too intolerant, 340 Sympathies too contracted. Hence, when called To take a station among men, the step Was easier, the transition more secure, More profitable also; for, the mind Learns from such timely exercise to keep 345 In wholesome separation the two natures, The one that feels, the other that observes.
Yet one word more of personal concern— Since I withdrew unwillingly from France, I led an undomestic wanderer's life, 350 In London chiefly harboured, whence I roamed, Tarrying at will in many a pleasant spot Of rural England's cultivated vales Or Cambrian solitudes. [H] A youth—(he bore The name of Calvert [I]—it shall live, if words 355 Of mine can give it life,) in firm belief That by endowments not from me withheld Good might be furthered—in his last decay By a bequest sufficient for my needs Enabled me to pause for choice, and walk 360 At large and unrestrained, nor damped too soon By mortal cares. Himself no Poet, yet Far less a common follower of the world, He deemed that my pursuits and labours lay Apart from all that leads to wealth, or even 365 A necessary maintenance insures, Without some hazard to the finer sense; He cleared a passage for me, and the stream Flowed in the bent of Nature. [K] Having now Told what best merits mention, further pains 370 Our present purpose seems not to require, And I have other tasks. Recall to mind The mood in which this labour was begun, O Friend! The termination of my course Is nearer now, much nearer; yet even then, 375 In that distraction and intense desire, I said unto the life which I had lived, Where art thou? Hear I not a voice from thee Which 'tis reproach to hear? Anon I rose As if on wings, and saw beneath me stretched 380 Vast prospect of the world which I had been And was; and hence this Song, which like a lark I have protracted, in the unwearied heavens Singing, and often with more plaintive voice To earth attempered and her deep-drawn sighs, 385 Yet centring all in love, and in the end All gratulant, if rightly understood.
Whether to me shall be allotted life, And, with life, power to accomplish aught of worth, That will be deemed no insufficient plea 390 For having given the story of myself, Is all uncertain: but, beloved Friend! When, looking back, thou seest, in clearer view Than any liveliest sight of yesterday, That summer, under whose indulgent skies, 395 Upon smooth Quantock's airy ridge we roved Unchecked, or loitered 'mid her sylvan combs, [L] Thou in bewitching words, with happy heart, Didst chaunt the vision of that Ancient Man, The bright-eyed Mariner, [L] and rueful woes 400 Didst utter of the Lady Christabel; [L] And I, associate with such labour, steeped In soft forgetfulness the livelong hours, Murmuring of him who, joyous hap, was found, After the perils of his moonlight ride, 405 Near the loud waterfall; [L] or her who sate In misery near the miserable Thorn; [L] When thou dost to that summer turn thy thoughts, And hast before thee all which then we were, To thee, in memory of that happiness, 410 It will be known, by thee at least, my Friend! Felt, that the history of a Poet's mind Is labour not unworthy of regard: To thee the work shall justify itself.
The last and later portions of this gift 415 Have been prepared, not with the buoyant spirits That were our daily portion when we first Together wantoned in wild Poesy, But, under pressure of a private grief, [M] Keen and enduring, which the mind and heart, 420 That in this meditative history Have been laid open, needs must make me feel More deeply, yet enable me to bear More firmly; and a comfort now hath risen From hope that thou art near, and wilt be soon 425 Restored to us in renovated health; When, after the first mingling of our tears, 'Mong other consolations, we may draw Some pleasure from this offering of my love.
Oh! yet a few short years of useful life, 430 And all will be complete, thy race be run, Thy monument of glory will be raised; Then, though (too weak to tread the ways of truth) This age fall back to old idolatry, Though men return to servitude as fast 435 As the tide ebbs, to ignominy and shame By nations sink together, we shall still Find solace—knowing what we have learnt to know, Rich in true happiness if allowed to be Faithful alike in forwarding a day 440 Of firmer trust, joint labourers in the work (Should Providence such grace to us vouchsafe) Of their deliverance, surely yet to come. Prophets of Nature, we to them will speak A lasting inspiration, sanctified 445 By reason, blest by faith: what we have loved, Others will love, and we will teach them how; Instruct them how the mind of man becomes A thousand times more beautiful than the earth On which he dwells, above this frame of things 450 (Which, 'mid all revolution in the hopes And fears of men, doth still remain unchanged) In beauty exalted, as it is itself Of quality and fabric more divine.
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FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT
[Footnote A: With Robert Jones, in the summer of 1793.—Ed.]
[Footnote B: Compare 'Paradise Lost', book i. l. 21.—Ed.]
[Footnote C: Compare 'Paradise Lost', book v. l. 488.—Ed.]
[Footnote D: Compare 'The Sparrow's Nest', vol. ii. p. 236.—Ed.]
[Footnote E: See 'Paradise Lost', book ix. ll. 490, 491.—Ed.]
[Footnote F: Mary Hutchinson. Compare the lines, p. 2, beginning:
'She was a Phantom of delight.'
[Footnote G: Compare the preface to 'The Excursion'. "Several years ago, when the author retired to his native mountains, with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary work that might live," etc.—Ed.]
[Footnote H: After leaving London, he went to the Isle of Wight and to Salisbury Plain with Calvert; then to Bristol, the Valley of the Wye, and Tintern Abbey, alone on foot; thence to Jones' residence in North Wales at Plas-yn-llan in Denbighshire; with him to other places in North Wales, thence to Halifax; and with his sister to Kendal, Grasmere, Keswick, Whitehaven, and Penrith.—Ed.]
[Footnote I: Raisley Calvert.-Ed.]
[Footnote K: His friend, dying in January 1795, bequeathed to Wordsworth a legacy of L900. Compare the sonnet, in vol. iv., beginning
'Calvert! it must not be unheard by them,'
and the 'Life of Wordsworth' in this edition.—Ed.]
[Footnote L: The Wordsworths went to Alfoxden in the end of July, 1797. It was in the autumn of that year that, with Coleridge,
'Upon smooth Quantock's airy ridge they roved Unchecked, or loitered 'mid her sylvan combs;'
when the latter chaunted his 'Ancient Mariner' and 'Christabel', and Wordsworth composed 'The Idiot Boy' and 'The Thorn'. The plan of a joint publication was sketched out in November 1797. (See the Fenwick note to 'We are Seven', vol. i. p. 228.)—Ed.]
[Footnote M: The death of his brother John. Compare the 'Elegiac Verses' in memory of him, p. 58.—Ed.]
* * * * *
FROM THE ITALIAN OF MICHAEL ANGELO
Translated 1805?—Published 1807
[Translations from Michael Angelo, done at the request of Mr. Duppa, whose acquaintance I made through Mr. Southey. Mr. Duppa was engaged in writing the life of Michael Angelo, and applied to Mr. Southey and myself to furnish some specimens of his poetic genius.—I. F.]
Compare the two sonnets entitled 'At Florence—from Michael Angelo', in the "Memorials of a Tour in Italy" in 1837.
The following extract from a letter of Wordsworth's to Sir George Beaumont, dated October 17, 1805, will cast light on the next three sonnets.
"I mentioned Michael Angelo's poetry some time ago; it is the most difficult to construe I ever met with, but just what you would expect from such a man, shewing abundantly how conversant his soul was with great things. There is a mistake in the world concerning the Italian language; the poetry of Dante and Michael Angelo proves, that if there be little majesty and strength in Italian verse, the fault is in the authors, and not in the tongue. I can translate, and have translated two books of Ariosto, at the rate, nearly, of one hundred lines a day; but so much meaning has been put by Michael Angelo into so little room, and that meaning sometimes so excellent in itself, that I found the difficulty of translating him insurmountable. I attempted, at least, fifteen of the sonnets, but could not anywhere succeed. I have sent you the only one I was able to finish; it is far from being the best, or most characteristic, but the others were too much for me."