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Volume 5 (of 8), by William Wordsworth

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Title: The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Volume 5 (of 8)

Author: William Wordsworth

Editor: William Knight

Release Date: January 12, 2018 [EBook #56361]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK POETICAL WORKS OF WORDSWORTH, VOL 5 ***




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THE POETICAL WORKS
OF
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
VOL. V


Printed by Wittmann Paris

THE POETICAL WORKS
OF
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH


EDITED BY

WILLIAM KNIGHT

VOL. V

London

MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD.

NEW YORK: MACMILLAN & CO.
1896

All rights reserved


CONTENTS

  PAGE
THE EXCURSION—  
PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1814 20
BOOK FIRST—THE WANDERER 26
BOOK SECOND—THE SOLITARY 67
BOOK THIRD—DESPONDENCY 105
BOOK FOURTH—DESPONDENCY CORRECTED 142
BOOK FIFTH—THE PASTOR 195
BOOK SIXTH—THE CHURCH-YARD AMONG THE MOUNTAINS 235
BOOK SEVENTHTHE CHURCH-YARD AMONG THE MOUNTAINSContinued 283
BOOK EIGHTH—THE PARSONAGE 326
BOOK NINTH—DISCOURSE OF THE WANDERER, AND AN EVENING VISIT TO THE LAKE 352
NOTES 383
APPENDIX  
NOTE A 391
NOTE B 392
NOTE C 393
NOTE D 396
NOTE E 398

[1]

WORDSWORTH'S POETICAL WORKS


THE EXCURSION

Composed 1795-1814.—Published 1814

[Something must now be said of this poem, but chiefly, as has been done through the whole of these notes, with reference to my personal friends, and especially to her who has perseveringly taken them down from my dictation. Towards the close of the first book, stand the lines that were first written,—beginning "Nine tedious years," and ending "Last human tenant of these ruined walls." These were composed in 1795, at Racedown; and for several passages describing the employment and demeanour of Margaret during her affliction, I was indebted to observations made in Dorsetshire, and afterwards at Alfoxden, in Somersetshire, where I resided in 1797 and 1798. The lines towards the conclusion of the fourth book, "Despondency corrected,"—beginning "For the man who in this spirit," to the words "intellectual soul,"—were in order of time composed the next, either at Racedown or Alfoxden, I do not remember which. The rest of the poem was written in the vale of Grasmere, chiefly during our residence at Allan Bank. The long poem on my own education was, together with many minor poems, composed while we lived at the cottage at Town-end. Perhaps my purpose of giving an additional interest to these my poems, in the eyes of my nearest and dearest friends, may be promoted by saying a few words upon the character of the Wanderer, the Solitary, and the Pastor, and some other of the persons introduced. And first of the principal one, the Wanderer.

[2]

My lamented friend Southey (for this is written a month after his decease[A]) used to say that had he been born a Papist, the course of life which would in all probability have been his, was the one for which he was most fitted and most to his mind, that of a Benedictine monk, in a convent, furnished, as many once were, and some still are, with an inexhaustible library. Books, as appears from many passages in his writings, and was evident to those who had opportunities of observing his daily life, were in fact his passion; and wandering, I can with truth affirm, was mine; but this propensity in me was happily counteracted by inability from want of fortune to fulfil my wishes.

But had I been born in a class which would have deprived me of what is called a liberal education, it is not unlikely that, being strong in body, I should have taken to a way of life such as that in which my Pedlar passed the greater part of his days. At all events, I am here called upon freely to acknowledge that the character I have represented in his person is chiefly an idea of what I fancied my own character might have become in his circumstances. Nevertheless much of what he says and does had an external existence, that fell under my own youthful and subsequent observation.

An individual, named Patrick, by birth and education a Scotchman, followed this humble occupation for many years, and afterwards settled in the town of Kendal.[B] He married a kinswoman of my wife's, and her sister Sarah was brought up from her ninth year under this good man's roof.[C] My own imaginations I was happy to find clothed in reality, and fresh ones suggested, by what she reported of this man's tenderness of heart, his strong and pure imagination, and his solid attainments in literature, chiefly religious, whether in prose or verse. At Hawkshead also, while I was a schoolboy, there occasionally resided a Packman (the name then generally given to persons of this calling), with whom I had frequent conversations upon what had befallen him, and what he had observed, during his wandering life; and, as was natural, we took much to each other; and, upon the subject of Pedlarism in general, as then followed, and its favourableness to an intimate knowledge of human concerns, not merely among the humbler classes of[3] society, I need say nothing here in addition to what is to be found in The Excursion, and a note attached to it.

Now for the Solitary. Of him I have much less to say. Not long after we took up our abode at Grasmere, came to reside there, from what motive I either never knew or have forgotten, a Scotchman, a little past the middle of life, who had for many years been chaplain to a Highland regiment. He was in no respect, as far as I know, an interesting character, though in his appearance there was a good deal that attracted attention, as if he had been shattered in fortune, and not happy in mind. Of his quondam position I availed myself to connect with the Wanderer, also a Scotchman, a character suitable to my purpose, the elements of which I drew from several persons with whom I had been connected, and who fell under my observation during frequent residences in London at the beginning of the French Revolution. The chief of these was, one may now say, a Mr. Fawcett, a preacher at a Dissenting meeting-house at the Old Jewry. It happened to me several times to be one of his congregation through my connection with Mr. Nicholson of Cateaton Street, Strand, who, at a time when I had not many acquaintances in London, used often to invite me to dine with him on Sundays; and I took that opportunity (Mr. N. being a Dissenter) of going to hear Fawcett, who was an able and eloquent man. He published a poem on War, which had a good deal of merit, and made me think more about him than I should otherwise have done. But his Christianity was probably never very deeply rooted; and, like many others in those times of like shewy talents, he had not strength of character to withstand the effects of the French Revolution, and of the wild and lax opinions which had done so much towards producing it, and far more in carrying it forward in its extremes. Poor Fawcett, I have been told, became pretty much such a person as I have described, and early disappeared from the stage, having fallen into habits of intemperance, which I have heard (though I will not answer for the fact) hastened his death. Of him I need say no more. There were many like him at that time, which the world will never be without, but which were more numerous then, for reasons too obvious to be dwelt upon.

To what is said of the Pastor in the poem, I have little to add but what may be deemed superfluous. It has ever appeared to me highly favourable to the beneficial influence of the Church of England upon all gradations and classes of society, that the[4] patronage of its benefices is in numerous instances attached to the estates of noble families of ancient gentry; and accordingly I am gratified by the opportunity afforded me in The Excursion, to pourtray the character of a country clergyman of more than ordinary talents, born and bred in the upper ranks of society so as to partake of their refinements, and at the same time brought by his pastoral office and his love of rural life into intimate connection with the peasantry of his native district.

To illustrate the relation which in my mind this Pastor bore to the Wanderer, and the resemblances between them, or rather the points of community in their nature, I likened one to an oak, and the other to a sycamore; and having here referred to this comparison, I need only add, I had no one individual in my mind, wishing rather to embody this idea than to break in upon the simplicity of it by traits of individual character, or of any peculiarity of opinion.

And now for a few words upon the scene where these interviews and conversations are supposed to occur.

The scene of the first book of the poem is, I must own, laid in a tract of country not sufficiently near to that which soon comes into view in the second book, to agree with the fact. All that relates to Margaret, and the ruined cottage, etc., was taken from observations made in the south-west of England, and certainly it would require more than seven-league boots to stretch in one morning, from a common in Somersetshire, or Dorsetshire, to the heights of Furness Fells, and the deep valleys they embosom. For thus dealing with space, I need make, I trust, no apology; but my friends may be amused by the truth.

In the poem, I suppose that the Pedlar and I ascended from a plain country up the vale of Langdale, and struck off a good way above the chapel to the western side of the vale. We ascended the hill, and thence looked down upon the circular recess in which lies Blea Tarn, chosen by the Solitary for his retreat. After we quit his cottage, passing over a low ridge, we descend into another vale, that of Little Langdale, towards the head of which stands embowered, or partly shaded by yews and other trees, something between a cottage and a mansion, or gentleman's house, such as they once were in this country. This I convert into the parsonage, and at the same time, and as by the waving of a magic wand, I turn the comparatively confined vale of Langdale, its tarn, and the rude chapel which once adorned the valley, into the stately and comparatively[5] spacious vale of Grasmere and its ancient parish church; and upon the side of Loughrigg Fell, at the foot of the lake, and looking down upon it and the whole Vale and its encompassing mountains, the Pastor is supposed by me to stand, when at sunset he addresses his companions in words which I hope my readers will remember,[D] or I should not have taken the trouble of giving so much in detail the materials on which my mind actually worked.

Now for a few particulars of fact, respecting the persons whose stories are told or characters described by the different speakers. To Margaret I have already alluded. I will add here that the lines beginning,

She was a woman of a steady mind,

and ending

Live on earth a life of happiness,

faithfully delineate, as far as they go, the character possessed in common by many women whom it has been my happiness to know in humble life; and that several of the most touching things which she is represented as saying and doing are taken from actual observation of the distresses and trials under which different persons were suffering, some of them strangers to me, and others daily under my notice.

I was born too late to have a distinct remembrance of the origin of the American war; but the state in which I represent Robert's mind to be, I had frequent opportunities of observing at the commencement of our rupture with France in 1793; opportunities of which I availed myself in the story of the Female Vagrant, as told in the poem on Guilt and Sorrow. The account given by the Solitary, towards the close of the second book, in all that belongs to the character of the old man, was taken from a Grasmere pauper, who was boarded in the last house quitting the vale on the road to Ambleside; the character of his hostess, and all that befell the poor man upon the mountain, belongs to Paterdale. The woman I knew well; her name was Ruth Jackson, and she was exactly such a person as I describe. The ruins of the old chapel, among which the old man was found lying, may yet be traced, and stood upon the ridge that divides Paterdale from Boardale and Martindale, having been placed there for the convenience of both districts. The glorious appearance disclosed above and among the mountains, was described partly from what my friend Mr. Luff,[6] who then lived in Paterdale, witnessed upon that melancholy occasion, and partly from what Mary and I had seen, in company with Sir George and Lady Beaumont, above Hartshope Hall, on our way from Paterdale to Ambleside.

And now for a few words upon the Church, its Monuments, and of the Deceased who are spoken of as lying in the surrounding churchyard. But first for the one picture given by the Pastor and the Wanderer of the Living. In this nothing is introduced but what was taken from nature and real life. The cottage was called Hackett, and stands, as described, on the southern extremity of the ridge which separates the two Langdales. The pair who inhabited it were called Jonathan and Betty Yewdale. Once when our children were ill, of whooping-cough, I think, we took them for change of air to this cottage, and were in the habit of going there to drink tea upon fine summer afternoons, so that we became intimately acquainted with the characters, habits, and lives of these good, and let me say, in the main, wise people. The matron had, in her early youth, been a servant in a house at Hawkshead, where several boys boarded, while I was a schoolboy there. I did not remember her as having served in that capacity; but we had many little anecdotes to tell to each other of remarkable boys, incidents, and adventures, which had made a noise in their day in that small town. These two persons were induced afterwards to settle at Rydal, where they both died.

The church, as already noticed, is that of Grasmere. The interior of it has been improved lately and made warmer by underdrawing the roof, and raising the floor; but the rude and antique majesty of its former appearance has been impaired by painting the rafters; and the oak benches, with a simple rail at the back dividing them from each other, have given way to seats that have more the appearance of pews. It is remarkable that, excepting only the pew belonging to Rydal Hall, that to Rydal Mount, the one to the Parsonage, and I believe another, the men and women still continue, as used to be the custom in Wales, to sit separate from each other. Is this practice as old as the Reformation? and when and how did it originate? In the Jewish synagogues, and in Lady Huntingdon's chapels, the sexes are divided in the same way. In the adjoining churchyard greater changes have taken place. It is now not a little crowded with tombstones; and near the school-house, which stands in the churchyard, is an ugly structure, built to receive the hearse, which is recently come[7] into use. It would not be worth while to allude to this building, or the hearse-vehicle it contains, but that the latter has been the means of introducing a change much to be lamented in the mode of conducting funerals among the mountains. Now, the coffin is lodged in the hearse at the door of the house of the deceased, and the corpse is so conveyed to the churchyard gate. All the solemnity which formerly attended its progress, as described in this poem, is put an end to. So much do I regret this, that I beg to be excused for giving utterance here to a wish that, should it befall me to die at Rydal Mount, my own body may be carried to Grasmere Church after the manner in which, till lately, that of every one was borne to the place of sepulture here, namely, on the shoulders of neighbours; no house being passed without some words of a funeral psalm being sung at the time by the attendants bearing it. When I put into the mouth of the Wanderer, "Many precious rites and customs of our rural ancestry are gone, or stealing from us; this, I hope, will last for ever," and what follows, little did I foresee that the observance and mode of proceeding which had often affected me so much would so soon be superseded.

Having said much of the injury done to this churchyard, let me add, that one is at liberty to look forward to a time when, by the growth of the yew-trees thriving there, a solemnity will be spread over the place that will in some degree make amends for the old simple character which has already been so much encroached upon, and will be still more every year. I will here set down, by way of memorial, that my friend Sir George Beaumont, having long ago purchased the beautiful piece of water called Loughrigg Tarn, on the banks of which he intended to build, I told him that a person in Kendal who was attached to the place wished to purchase it. Sir George, finding the possession of no use to him, consented to part with it, and placed the purchase-money—£20—at my disposal, for any local use which I thought proper. Accordingly, I resolved to plant yew-trees in the churchyard; and had four pretty strong large oak enclosures made, in each of which was planted, under my own eye, and principally if not entirely by my own hand, two young trees, with the intention of leaving the one that throve best to stand. Many years after, Mr. Barber, who will long be remembered in Grasmere, Mr. Greenwood (the chief landed proprietor), and myself, had four other enclosures made in the churchyard at our own expense,[8] in each of which was planted a tree taken from its neighbour, and they all stand thriving admirably, the fences having been removed as no longer necessary. May the trees be taken care of hereafter, when we are all gone; and some of them will perhaps, at some far-distant time, rival in majesty the yew of Lorton, and those which I have described as growing at Borrowdale, where they are still to be seen[E] in grand assemblage.

And now for the persons that are selected as lying in the churchyard. But first for the individual whose grave is prepared to receive him.

His story is here truly related. He was a schoolfellow of mine for some years. He came to us when he was at least seventeen years of age, very tall, robust, and full grown. This prevented him from falling into the amusements and games of the school; consequently, he gave more time to books. He was not remarkably bright or quick, but by industry, he made a progress more than respectable. His parents not being wealthy enough to send him to college when he left Hawkshead, he became a schoolmaster, with a view to prepare himself for holy orders. About this time he fell in love, as related in the poem, and everything followed as there described, except that I do not know exactly when and where he died. The number of youths that came to Hawkshead School from the families of the humble yeomanry, to be educated to a certain degree of scholarship, as a preparation for the church, was considerable, and the fortunes of those persons in after life various of course, and some not a little remarkable. I have now one of this class in my eye who became an usher in a preparatory school, and ended in making a large fortune. His manners, when he came to Hawkshead, were as uncouth as well could be; but he had good abilities, with skill to turn them to account; and when the master of the school, to which he was usher, died, he stept into his place and became proprietor of the establishment. He contrived to manage it with such address, and so much to the taste of what is called high society and the fashionable world, that no school of the kind, even till he retired, was in such high request. Ministers of State, the wealthiest gentry, and nobility of the first rank, vied with each other in bespeaking a place for their sons in the[9] seminary of this fortunate teacher.[F] In the solitude of Grasmere, while living as a married man in a cottage of £8 per annum rent, I often used to smile at the tales which reached me of the brilliant career of this quondam clown—for such in reality he was, in manners, and appearance, before he was polished a little by attrition with gentlemen's sons trained at Hawkshead, rough and rude as many of our juveniles were. Not 200 yards from the cottage in Grasmere just mentioned, to which I retired, this gentleman, who many years afterwards purchased a small estate in the neighbourhood, is now erecting a boat-house, with an upper story to be resorted to as an entertaining room when he and his associates may feel inclined to take their pastime on the lake. Every passenger will be disgusted with the sight of this edifice, not merely as a tasteless thing in itself, but as utterly out of place, and peculiarly fitted, as far as it is observed (and it obtrudes itself on notice at every point of view), to mar the beauty and destroy the pastoral simplicity of the vale. For my own part, and that of my household, it is our utter detestation, standing by a shore to which, before the high road was made to pass that way, we used daily and hourly to repair for seclusion and for the shelter of a grove, under which I composed many of my poems—The Brothers especially; and for this reason we gave the grove that name.

That which each man loved
And prized in his peculiar nook of earth
Dies with him, or is changed.

So much for my old schoolfellow and his exploits. I will only add that, as the foundation has twice failed, from the Lake no doubt being intolerant of the intrusion, there is some ground for hoping that the impertinent structure will not stand. It has been rebuilt in somewhat better taste, and much as one wishes it away, it is not now so very unsightly. The structure is an emblem of the man. Perseverance has conquered difficulties, and given something of form and polish to rudeness.[G]

The Miner, next described as having found his treasure after twice ten years of labour, lived in Paterdale, and the story is[10] true to the letter. It seems to me, however, rather remarkable, that the strength of mind which had supported him through his long unrewarded labour, did not enable him to bear its successful issue. Several times in the course of my life I have heard of sudden influxes of great wealth being followed by derangement; and, in one instance, the shock of good fortune was so great as to produce absolute idiotcy. But these all happened where there had been little or no previous effort to acquire the riches, and therefore such a consequence might the more naturally be expected, than in the case of the solitary miner. In reviewing his story, one cannot but regret that such perseverance was not sustained by a worthier object. Archimedes leaped out of his bath and ran about the streets, proclaiming his discovery in a transport of joy; but we are not told that he lost either his life or his senses in consequence.

The next character, to whom the priest is led by contrast with the resoluteness displayed by the foregoing, is taken from a person born and bred in Grasmere, by name Dawson; and whose talents, dispositions, and way of life, were such as are here delineated. I did not know him, but all was fresh in memory when we settled at Grasmere in the beginning of the century. From this point the conversation leads to the mention of two individuals, who, by their several fortunes, were, at different times, driven to take refuge at the small and obscure town of Hawkshead on the skirt of these mountains. Their stories I had from the dear old dame with whom, as a schoolboy, and afterwards, I lodged for nearly the space of ten years. The elder, the Jacobite, was named Drummond, and was of a high family in Scotland; the Hanoverian Whig bore the name of Vandeput, and might, perhaps, be a descendant of some Dutchman who had come over in the train of King William. At all events, his zeal was such, that he ruined himself by a contest for the representation of London or Westminster, undertaken to support his Party, and retired to this corner of the world, selected (as it had been by Drummond) for that obscurity which, since visiting the Lakes became fashionable, it has no longer retained. So much was this region considered out of the way till a late period, that persons who had fled from justice used often to resort hither for concealment, and some were so bold as to not unfrequently make excursions from the place of their retreat for the purpose of committing fresh offences. Such was particularly the case with two brothers of the name of Weston, who took up their abode at Old Brathay, I[11] think about seventy years ago. They were highwaymen, and lived there some time without being discovered, though it was known that they often disappeared, in a way, and upon errands, which could not be accounted for. Their horses were noticed as being of a choice breed, and I have heard from the Relph family, one of whom was a saddler in the town of Kendal, that they were curious in their saddles, and housings, and accoutrements of their horses. They, as I have heard, and as was universally believed, were, in the end, both taken and hanged.

Tall was her stature; her complexion dark
And saturnine.

This person lived at Town-end, and was almost our next neighbour. I have little to notice concerning her beyond what is said in the poem. She was a most striking instance how far a woman may surpass in talent, in knowledge, and culture of mind, those with and among whom she lives, and yet fall below them in Christian virtues of the heart and spirit. It seemed almost, and I say it with grief, that in proportion as she excelled in the one, she failed in the other. How frequently has one to observe in both sexes the same thing, and how mortifying is the reflection!

As, on a sunny bank, a tender lamb
Lurks in safe shelter from the winds of March.

The story that follows was told to Mrs. Wordsworth and my sister, by the sister of this unhappy young woman. Every particular was exactly as I have related. The party was not known to me, though she lived at Hawkshead; but it was after I left school. The clergyman who administered comfort to her in her distress I knew well. Her sister, who told the story, was the wife of a leading yeoman in the vale of Grasmere, and they were an affectionate pair, and greatly respected by every one who knew them. Neither lived to be old; and their estate—which was, perhaps, the most considerable then in the vale, and was endeared to them by many remembrances of a salutary character, not easily understood or sympathised with by those who are born to great affluence—passed to their eldest son, according to the practice of these vales, who died soon after he came into possession. He was an amiable and promising youth, but was succeeded by an only brother, a good-natured man, who fell into habits of drinking, by which he gradually reduced his property; and the other day the last acre of it was[12] sold, and his wife and children, and he himself still surviving, have very little left to live upon; which it would not, perhaps, have been worth while to record here, but that through all trials this woman has proved a model of patience, meekness, affectionate forbearance, and forgiveness. Their eldest son, who through the vices of his father has thus been robbed of an ancient family inheritance, was never heard to murmur or complain against the cause of their distress, and is now (1843) deservedly the chief prop of his mother's hopes.

The Clergyman and his family described at the beginning of the seventh book were, during many years, our principal associates in the vale of Grasmere, unless I were to except our very nearest neighbours. I have entered so particularly into the main points of their history, that I will barely testify in prose that—with the single exception of the particulars of their journey to Grasmere, which, however, was exactly copied from real life in another instance—the whole that I have said of them is as faithful to the truth as words can make it. There was much talent in the family, and the eldest son was distinguished for poetical talent, of which a specimen is given in my notes to the Sonnets to the Duddon. Once, when in our cottage at Town-end I was talking with him about poetry, in the course of our conversation I presumed to find fault with the versification of Pope, of whom he was an enthusiastic admirer. He defended him with a warmth that indicated much irritation; nevertheless I would not abandon my point, and said, "In compass and variety of sound your own versification surpasses his." Never shall I forget the change in his countenance and tone of voice: the storm was laid in a moment; he no longer disputed my judgment, and I passed immediately in his mind, no doubt, for as great a critic as ever lived. I ought to add, he was a clergyman and a well-educated man, and his verbal memory was the most remarkable of any individual I have known, except a Mr. Archer, an Irishman, who lived several years in this neighbourhood, and who in this faculty was a prodigy: he afterwards became deranged, and I fear continues so if alive.

Then follows the character of Robert Walker, for which see notes to the Duddon.

That of the Deaf Man, whose epitaph may be seen in the churchyard at the head of Hawes Water, and whose qualities of mind and heart, and their benign influence in conjunction with his privation, I had from his relatives on the spot.

[13]

The Blind Man, next commemorated, was John Gough, of Kendal, a man known, far beyond his neighbourhood, for his talents and attainments in natural history and science.

Of the Infant's Grave next noticed, I will only say, it is an exact picture of what fell under my own observation; and all persons who are intimately acquainted with cottage life must often have observed like instances of the working of the domestic affections.

A volley thrice repeated o'er the corse
Let down into the hollow of that grave.

This young volunteer bore the name of Dawson, and was younger brother, if I am not mistaken, to the prodigal of whose character and fortunes an account is given towards the beginning of the preceding book. The father of the family I knew well; he was a man of literary education and considerable experience in society—much beyond what was common among the inhabitants of the Vale. He had lived a good while in the Highlands of Scotland as a manager of ironworks at Bunaw, and had acted as clerk to one of my predecessors in the office of Distributor of Stamps, when he used to travel round the country collecting and bringing home the money due to Government in gold, which it may be worth while to mention, for the sake of my friends, was deposited in the cell or iron closet under the west window, which still exists, with the iron doors that guarded the property. This, of course, was before the time of Bills and Notes. The two sons of this person had no doubt been led by the knowledge of their father to take more delight in scholarship, and had been accustomed, in their own minds, to take a wider view of social interests, than was usual among their associates. The premature death of this gallant young man was much lamented, and as an attendant upon the funeral, I myself witnessed the ceremony, and the effect of it as described in the poems.

... Tradition tells
That, in Eliza's golden days, a Knight
Came on a war-horse....
... The house is gone.

The pillars of the gateway in front of the mansion remained when we first took up our abode at Grasmere. Two or three cottages still remain which are called Nott Houses, from the name of the gentleman (I have called him a knight) concerning whom these traditions survive. He was the ancestor of the Knott family, formerly considerable proprietors in the district.[14] What follows in the discourse of the Wanderer, upon the changes he had witnessed in rural life by the introduction of machinery, is truly described from what I myself saw during my boyhood and early youth, and from what was often told me by persons of this humble calling. Happily, most happily, for these mountains, the mischief was diverted from the banks of their beautiful streams, and transferred to open and flat counties abounding in coal, where the agency of steam was found much more effectual for carrying on those demoralising works. Had it not been for this invention, long before the present time, every torrent and river in this district would have had its factory, large and populous in proportion to the power of the water that could there be commanded. Parliament has interfered to prevent the night-work which was once carried on in these mills as actively as during the day-time, and by necessity, still more perniciously; a sad disgrace to the proprietors and to the nation which could so long tolerate such unnatural proceedings.

Reviewing, at this late period, 1843, what I put into the mouths of my interlocutors a few years after the commencement of the century, I grieve that so little progress has been made in diminishing the evils deplored, or promoting the benefits of education which the Wanderer anticipates. The results of Lord Ashley's labours to defer the time when children might legally be allowed to work in factories, and his endeavours to limit still further the hours of permitted labour, have fallen far short of his own humane wishes, and of those of every benevolent and right-minded man who has carefully attended to this subject; and in the present session of Parliament (1843) Sir James Graham's attempt to establish a course of religious education among the children employed in factories has been abandoned, in consequence of what might easily be foreseen, the vehement and turbulent opposition of the Dissenters; so that for many years to come it may be thought expedient to leave the religious instruction of children entirely in the hands of the several denominations of Christians in the Island, each body to work according to its own means and in its own way. Such is my own confidence, a confidence I share with many others of my most valued friends, in the superior advantages, both religious and social, which attend a course of instruction presided over and guided by the clergy of the Church of England, that I have no doubt, that if but once its members, lay and clerical, were duly sensible of those benefits, their[15] Church would daily gain ground, and rapidly, upon every shape and fashion of Dissent; and in that case, a great majority in Parliament being sensible of these benefits, the Ministers of the country might be emboldened, were it necessary, to apply funds of the State to the support of education on church principles. Before I conclude, I cannot forbear noticing the strenuous efforts made at this time in Parliament by so many persons to extend manufacturing and commercial industry at the expense of agricultural, though we have recently had abundant proofs that the apprehensions expressed by the Wanderer were not groundless.

I spake of mischief by the wise diffused,
With gladness thinking that the more it spreads
The healthier, the securer, we become;
Delusion which a moment may destroy!

The Chartists are well aware of this possibility, and cling to it with an ardour and perseverance which nothing, but wiser and more brotherly dealing towards the many, on the part of the wealthy few, can moderate or remove.

While, from the grassy mountain's open side
We gazed, in silence hushed.

The point here fixed upon in my imagination is half way up the northern side of Loughrigg Fell, from which the Pastor and his companions are supposed to look upwards to the sky and mountain-tops, and round the vale, with the lake lying immediately beneath them.

But turned, not without welcome promise given
That he would share the pleasures and pursuits
Of yet another summer's day, consumed
In wandering with us.

When I reported this promise of the Solitary, and long after, it was my wish, and I might say intention, that we should resume our wanderings and pass the Borders into his native country, where, as I hoped, he might witness, in the society of the Wanderer, some religious ceremony—a sacrament say, in the open fields, or a preaching among the mountains—which, by recalling to his mind the days of his early childhood, when he had been present on such occasions in company with his parents and nearest kindred, might have dissolved his heart into tenderness, and so done more towards restoring the Christian faith in which he had been educated, and, with[16] that, contentedness and even cheerfulness of mind, and all that the Wanderer and Pastor by their several effusions and addresses had been unable to effect. An issue like this was in my intentions. But alas!

——'mid the wreck of is and was,
Things incomplete and purposes betrayed
Make sadder transits o'er thought's optic glass
Than noblest objects utterly decayed.[H]
RYDAL MOUNT, June 24, 1843.
St. John Baptist Day.—I. F.]

Although the Fenwick note to The Excursion has been printed here in full, extracts from it will be introduced as footnotes, in explanation of certain passages of the poem. The Excursion was written at intervals between 1795 and 1814. The story of Margaret, in the first book, was begun at Racedown in 1795, and continued at Alfoxden in 1797-8. But only two short fragments of the poem—the former in book first and the latter in book fourth (as indicated in the Fenwick note)—were written before Wordsworth's arrival at Grasmere. There the poem was thought out, arranged, written down, altered, and re-arranged; the first part during his residence at Dove Cottage, the second and longer part at Allan Bank. The following extracts from Miss Wordsworth's Grasmere Journal show how laboriously her brother worked at this poem:—

Tuesday, Dec. 22, 1801.— ... "Went to Rydal for letters. The road was covered with snow. We walked home almost without speaking. William composed a few lines of 'The Pedlar.' We talked about Lamb's tragedy."...

Wednesday, Dec. 23.— ... "Mary wrote out the Tales from Chaucer for Coleridge. William worked at 'The Ruined Cottage,' and made himself very ill."...

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 1802.— ... "We sate till we were both tired, for William wrote out part of his poem, and endeavoured to alter it, and so made himself ill. I copied out the rest for him."...

Monday, Feb. 1st.— ... "William worked hard at 'The Pedlar,' and tired himself."...

Tuesday, 2nd Feb.— ... "William worked at 'The Pedlar.'"...

[17]

Thursday, 4th.— ... "William thought a little about 'The Pedlar.'"

Friday, 5th.— ... "Sate up late at 'The Pedlar.'"

Sunday, 7th.—"William had a bad night, and was working at his poem. We sate by the fire, and did not walk, but read 'The Pedlar,' thinking it done; but lo! ... could find fault with no one part of it—it was uninteresting, and must be altered. Poor William!"

Wednesday, 10th Feb.—"We read the first part of the poem, and were delighted with it, but William afterwards got to some ugly place, and went to bed tired out." ...

Thursday, 11th.— ... "William sadly tired, and working at 'The Pedlar.'"

Friday, 12th.— ... "I re-copied 'The Pedlar'; but poor William all the time at work.... We sate a long time with the window unclosed, and almost finished writing 'The Pedlar,' but poor William wore himself out and me with labour. Went to bed at 12 o'clock."

Saturday, 13th.—"It snowed a little. Still at work at 'The Pedlar,' altering and re-fitting.... William read parts of his Recluse aloud to me."...

Sunday, 14th Feb.— ... "William left me at work altering some passages of 'The Pedlar,' and went into the orchard."

Sunday, Feb. 28.— ... "William very ill; employed himself with 'The Pedlar.'"

Friday morning.— ... "I wrote 'The Pedlar,' and finished it."...

These extracts—which will recall the laborious way in which he toiled over the poem Michael (see vol. ii. p. 233)—all refer to the close of the year 1801, and the beginning of the year 1802. It is impossible to find out, with exactness, what were the parts of The Excursion which were then so carefully written, and so fastidiously altered—since "The Pedlar" was the Wordsworth household name for the entire poem, until it was recast for publication, at Allan Bank. But after February 1802 he turned to other subjects of composition, chiefly lyrical, and laid aside "The Pedlar" for a time—his sister, at least, regarding it as "finished." What was completed, however, did not, probably, extend beyond the story of the Wanderer, and perhaps a part of that of the Solitary. The person, whose character gave rise to the Solitary, came to reside at Grasmere not long after the Wordsworths settled there; but as the[18] Fenwick note expressly says that the poem was written "chiefly during our residence at Allan Bank," I do not think that more than the first two books belong to the Town-end period.

The Excursion was originally published in quarto in 1814. The second edition, octavo, appeared in 1820.[I]

The Excursion was included in all the collected editions of 1827, 1832, 1836-7, 1840, 1845, 1849-50, in the Paris reprint of 1828, and in the American edition by Henry Reed. It was also republished by itself in 1836, 1844, and 1847. The textual changes in the several editions were numerous and significant. The longest and most important passage in the earlier ones, omitted after 1820, occurs at the close of the sixth book. Another (shorter) fragment, near the beginning of book seventh, refers to the Sympson household at the Wytheburn parsonage. No edition of The Excursion has as yet been issued with adequate notes, either topographical or literary. The first book—"The Wanderer"—has, however, been annotated, both by Mr. H. H. Turner (published in Rivington's English School Classics), and also by the Rev. H. G. Robinson, Prebendary of York, and published at Edinburgh, by Messrs. Oliver and Boyd.

The following letter from Charles Lamb to Wordsworth, after his first perusal of The Excursion has special interest:—

August 14, 1814.

"DEAR WORDSWORTH—I cannot tell you how pleased I was at the receipt of the great armful of poetry which you have sent me; and to get it before the rest of the world too! I have gone quite through with it, and was thinking to have accomplished that pleasure a second time before I wrote to thank you, but M. Burney came in the night (while we were out) and made holy theft of it, but we expect restitution in a day or two. It is the noblest conversational poem I ever read—a day in Heaven. The part (or rather main body) which has left the sweetest odour on my memory (a bad term[19] for the remains of an impression so recent) is the Tales of the Churchyard; the only girl among seven brethren, born out of due time, and not duly taken away again,—the deaf man and the blind man; the Jacobite and the Hanoverian, whom antipathies reconcile; the Scarron-entry of the rusticating parson upon his solitude;—these were all new to me too. My having known the story of Margaret (at the beginning), a very old acquaintance, even as long back as when I saw you first at Stowey, did not make her reappearance less fresh. I don't know what to pick out of this best of books upon the best subjects for partial naming. That gorgeous sunset[J] is famous; I think it must have been the identical one we saw on Salisbury Plain five years ago, that drew Phillips from the card-table, where he had sat from rise of that luminary to its unequalled set; but neither he nor I had gifted eyes to see those symbols of common things glorified, such as the prophets saw them in that sunset—the wheel, the potter's clay, the wash-pot, the wine-press, the almond-tree rod, the basket of figs, the fourfold visaged head, the throne, and Him that sat thereon. One feeling I was particularly struck with, as what I recognised so very lately at Harrow Church on entering in it after a hot and secular day's pleasure, the instantaneous coolness and calming, almost transforming properties of a country church just entered; a certain fragrance which it has, either from its holiness, or being kept shut all the week, or the air that is let in being pure country, exactly what you have reduced into words; but I am feeling that which I can-not express. Reading your lines about it fixed me for a time, a monument in Harrow Church. Do you know it? with its fine long spire, white as washed marble, to be seen, by vantage of its high site, as far as Salisbury spire itself almost."

In a letter written in the same year, 1814, Lamb tells Wordsworth of the spurious review of The Excursion, in The Quarterly Review, "which Mr. Baviad Gifford has palmed upon it for mine," calls his own review "the prettiest piece of prose I ever writ," and gives a specimen of it, viz.—

"The poet of the Excursion 'walks through common forests as through some Dodona or enchanted wood, and every casual bird that flits upon the boughs, like that miraculous one in Tasso, but in language more piercing than any articulate sounds, reveals to him far higher love-lays.'" (The Letters of Charles Lamb, edited by Alfred Ainger, vol. i. pp. 271-281.)

In the Notes to the text I have confined myself chiefly to the explanation of obscure allusions, topographical, historical, or legendary.—ED.

FOOTNOTES:

[A] Southey died on the 21st of March, 1843.—ED.

[B] See the Appendix to this volume, Note A, p. 391.—ED.

[C] "Sarah went to Kendal on our mother's death, but Mr. P. died in the course of a year or two.—M. W." Pencilled on the opposite page of the MS.—ED.

[D] See The Excursion, book ix. l. 614.—ED.

[E] Alas! no longer as they were in Wordsworth's time. See the note to Yew-Trees, vol. ii. p. 371.—ED.

[F] "Mr. Pearson." Pencilled on the opposite page of the MS.—ED.

[G] Pencilled on the opposite page of the MS.—"This boathouse, badly built, gave way, and was rebuilt. It again tumbled, and was a third time reconstructed, but in a better fashion than before. It is not now, per se, an ugly building, however obtrusive it may be."—ED.

[H] Compare the sonnet Malham Cove in volume vi., to which these lines belong.—ED.

[I] The following note from Wordsworth to Mr. Dyce, shews his estimation of the text of the first octavo edition, as compared with that of the earlier quarto edition.

"MY DEAR SIR,—When you read The Excursion do not read the quarto. It is improved in the 8vo E.:—but I thought the quarto might have its value with you as a collector.—Believe me, faithfully yours,
"W. WORDSWORTH."

7th April, my birthday—61,
12 Bryanston Street.

In 1820 there are very few departures from the text of 1814.—ED.

[J] In a subsequent letter (August 29th) he corrects this, and calls it "that celestial splendour of the mist going off."—ED.


[20]

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM,
EARL OF LONSDALE, K.G., ETC. ETC.

Oft, through thy fair domains,[K] illustrious Peer!
In youth I roamed, on youthful pleasures bent;
And mused in rocky cell or sylvan tent,
Beside swift-flowing Lowther's current clear.[L]
—Now, by thy care befriended, I appear
Before thee, LONSDALE, and this Work present,
A token (may it prove a monument!)
Of high respect and gratitude sincere.
Gladly would I have waited till my task
Had reached its close; but Life is insecure,
And Hope full oft fallacious as a dream:
Therefore, for what is here produced, I ask
Thy favour; trusting that thou wilt not deem
The offering, though imperfect, premature.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.
RYDAL MOUNT, WESTMORELAND,
July 29, 1814.

PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1814

The Title-page announces that this is only a portion of a poem; and the Reader must be here apprised that[21] it belongs to the second part of a long and laborious Work, which is to consist of three parts.—The Author will candidly acknowledge that, if the first of these had been completed, and in such a manner as to satisfy his own mind, he should have preferred the natural order of publication, and have given that to the world first; but, as the second division of the Work was designed to refer more to passing events, and to an existing state of things, than the others were meant to do, more continuous exertion was naturally bestowed upon it, and greater progress made here than in the rest of the poem; and as this part does not depend upon the preceding, to a degree which will materially injure its own peculiar interest, the Author, complying with the earnest entreaties of some valued Friends, presents the following pages to the Public.

It may be proper to state whence the poem, of which The Excursion is a part, derives its Title of THE RECLUSE.—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, it was a reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how far Nature and Education had qualified him for such employment. As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as he was acquainted with them. That Work,[A] addressed to a dear Friend, most distinguished for his knowledge and genius, and to whom the Author's Intellect is deeply indebted, has been long finished; and the result of the investigation which gave rise to it was a determination to compose a philosophical poem, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society; and to be entitled, The Recluse; as having for its principal subject the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement.—The preparatory poem[M] is biographical, and conducts the [22] history of the Author's mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his faculties were sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labour which he had proposed to himself; and the two Works have the same kind of relation to each other, if he may so express himself, as the ante-chapel has to the body of a gothic church. Continuing this allusion, he may be permitted to add, that his minor Pieces, which have been long before the Public, when they shall be properly arranged,[N] will be found by the attentive Reader to have such connection with the main Work as may give them claim to be likened to the little cells, oratories, and sepulchral recesses, ordinarily included in those edifices.

The Author would not have deemed himself justified in saying, upon this occasion, so much of performances either unfinished, or unpublished, if he had not thought that the labour bestowed by him upon what he has heretofore and now laid before the Public, entitled him to candid attention for such a statement as he thinks necessary to throw light upon his endeavours to please and, he would hope, to benefit his countrymen.—Nothing further need be added, than that the first and third parts of The Recluse will consist chiefly of meditations in the Author's own person; and that in the intermediate part (The Excursion) the intervention of characters speaking is employed, and something of a dramatic form adopted.

It is not the Author's intention formally to announce a system: it was more animating to him to proceed in a different course; and if he shall succeed in conveying to the mind clear thoughts, lively images, and strong feelings, the Reader will have no difficulty in extracting the system for himself. And in the mean time the following passage, taken from the conclusion of the first book of The Recluse, may be acceptable as a kind of Prospectus of the design and scope of the whole Poem.

[23]

"On Man, on Nature, and on Human Life,
Musing in solitude, I oft perceive
Fair trains of imagery before me rise,
Accompanied by feelings of delight
5
Pure, or with no unpleasing sadness mixed;
And I am conscious of affecting thoughts
And dear remembrances, whose presence soothes
Or elevates the Mind, intent to weigh
The good and evil of our mortal state.
10
—To these emotions, whencesoe'er they come,
Whether from breath of outward circumstance,
Or from the Soul—an impulse to herself—
I would give utterance in numerous verse.
Of Truth, of Grandeur, Beauty, Love, and Hope,
15
And melancholy Fear subdued by Faith;
Of blessed consolations in distress;
Of moral strength, and intellectual Power;
Of joy in widest commonalty spread;
Of the individual Mind that keeps her own
20
Inviolate retirement, subject there
To Conscience only, and the law supreme
Of that Intelligence which governs all—
I sing:—'fit audience let me find though few!'[O]
"So prayed, more gaining than he asked, the Bard—
25
In holiest mood.[1] Urania,[P] I shall need
Thy guidance, or a greater Muse, if such
Descend to earth or dwell in highest heaven!
For I must tread on shadowy ground, must sink
Deep—and, aloft ascending, breathe in worlds
30
To which the heaven of heavens is but a veil.
[24]
All strength—all terror, single or in bands,
That ever was put forth in personal form—
Jehovah—with his thunder, and the choir
Of shouting Angels, and the empyreal thrones—
35
I pass them unalarmed. Not Chaos, not
The darkest pit of lowest Erebus,
Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out
By help of dreams—can breed such fear and awe
As fall upon us often when we look
40
Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man—
My haunt, and the main region of my song.
—Beauty—a living Presence of the earth,
Surpassing the most fair ideal Forms
Which craft of delicate Spirits hath composed
45
From earth's materials—waits upon my steps;
Pitches her tents before me as I move,
An hourly neighbour. Paradise, and groves
Elysian, Fortunate Fields—like those of old
Sought in the Atlantic Main[Q]—why should they be
50
A history only of departed things,
Or a mere fiction of what never was?
For the discerning intellect of Man,
When wedded to this goodly universe
In love and holy passion, shall find these
55
A simple produce of the common day.
—I, long before the blissful hour arrives,
Would chant, in lonely peace, the spousal verse
Of this great consummation:—and, by words
Which speak of nothing more than what we are,
60
Would I arouse the sensual from their sleep
Of Death, and win the vacant and the vain
To noble raptures; while my voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
(And the progressive powers perhaps no less
65
Of the whole species) to the external World
[25]
Is fitted:—and how exquisitely, too—
Theme this but little heard of among men—
The external World is fitted to the Mind;
And the creation (by no lower name
70
Can it be called) which they with blended might
Accomplish:—this is our high argument.
—Such grateful haunts foregoing, if I oft
Must turn elsewhere—to travel near the tribes
And fellowships of men, and see ill sights
75
Of madding passions mutually inflamed;
Must hear Humanity in fields and groves
Pipe solitary anguish; or must hang
Brooding above the fierce confederate storm
Of sorrow, barricadoed evermore
80
Within the walls of cities—may these sounds
Have their authentic comment; that even these
Hearing, I be not downcast or forlorn!—
Descend, prophetic Spirit![2] that inspir'st
The human Soul of universal earth,
85
Dreaming on things to come;[R] and dost possess
A metropolitan temple in the hearts
Of mighty Poets: upon me bestow
A gift of genuine insight; that my Song
With star-like virtue in its place may shine,
90
Shedding benignant influence, and secure,
Itself, from all malevolent effect
Of those mutations that extend their sway
Throughout the nether sphere!—And if with this
I mix more lowly matter; with the thing
95
Contemplated, describe the Mind and Man
Contemplating; and who, and what he was—
The transitory Being that beheld
This Vision; when and where, and how he lived;—
Be not this labour useless. If such theme
May sort with highest objects, then—dread Power!
101
Whose gracious favour is the primal source
Of all illumination—may my Life
Express the image of a better time,
More wise desires, and simpler manners;—nurse
105
My Heart in genuine freedom:—all pure thoughts
Be with me;—so shall thy unfailing love
Guide, and support, and cheer me to the end!"

VARIANTS:

[1] 1845.

1814.
Holiest of Men.— ...

[2] 1827.

1814.
—Come thou prophetic Spirit, ...

FOOTNOTES:

[K] The grounds of Lowther Castle. Compare the sonnet in "Poems, composed or suggested during a Tour, in the Summer of 1833," beginning—

ED.
Lowther! in thy majestic Pile are seen.

[L] The Lowther stream, rising among the Shap Fells, joins the Emont at Brougham Castle.—ED.

[M] The Prelude.—ED.

[N] As they were—according to their Author's somewhat arbitrary classification—in the editions of 1815 and subsequent years.—ED.

[O] See Paradise Lost, book vii. l. 31.—ED.

[P] "Daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne. She was regarded as the Muse of Astronomy, and was represented with a celestial globe, to which she points with a little staff" (Hirt. Mythol. Bilderb. p. 210).—ED.

[Q] Compare The Prelude, book i. l. 191 (see vol. iii. p. 138, notes * and ☨); Strabo, 1; Pliny, 6, c. 31 and 32; Horace, Odes IV., 8, v. 27; Plutarch, The Life of Sertorius.—ED.

[R] See Wordsworth's note (p. 383).—ED.


[26]

Book First

THE WANDERER[S]

ARGUMENT

A summer forenoon—The Author reaches a ruined Cottage upon a Common, and there meets with a revered Friend, the Wanderer, of whose education and course of life he gives an account[3]The Wanderer, while resting under the shade of the Trees that surround the Cottage, relates the History of its last Inhabitant.

'Twas summer, and the sun had mounted high:
Southward the landscape indistinctly glared
Through a pale steam;[T] but all the northern downs,
In clearest air ascending, showed far off
5
A surface dappled o'er with shadows flung
[27]
From brooding clouds; shadows that lay in spots[4]
Determined and unmoved, with steady beams
Of bright and pleasant sunshine interposed;
To him most pleasant who on soft cool moss[5]
10
Extends his careless limbs along the front
Of some huge cave, whose rocky ceiling casts
A twilight of its own,[U] an ample shade,
Where the wren warbles, while the dreaming man,
Half conscious of the soothing melody,
15
With side-long eye looks out upon the scene,[V]
By power of that impending covert, thrown,
To finer distance. Mine was at that hour
Far other lot, yet with good hope that soon
Under a shade as grateful I should find
20
Rest, and be welcomed there to livelier joy.[6]
Across a bare wide Common I was toiling
[28]
With languid steps that by the slippery turf[7]
Were baffled; nor could my weak arm disperse
The host of insects gathering round my face,
25
And ever with me as I paced along.[8]
Upon that open moorland stood a grove,
The wished-for port to which my course was bound.[9]
Thither I came, and there, amid the gloom
Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elms,[W]
30
Appeared a roofless Hut; four naked walls
That stared upon each other!—I looked round,
And to my wish and to my hope espied
The Friend I sought;[10] a Man of reverend age,
But stout and hale, for travel unimpaired.
35
There was he seen upon the cottage-bench,
Recumbent in the shade, as if asleep;
An iron-pointed staff lay at his side.
Him had I marked the day before—alone
And stationed in the public way, with face
[29]
Turned toward the sun then setting, while that staff
41
Afforded, to the figure of the man[11]
Detained for contemplation or repose,
Graceful support; his countenance as he stood
Was hidden from my view, and he remained[12]
45
Unrecognised; but, stricken by the sight,
With slackened footsteps I advanced, and soon
A glad congratulation we exchanged
At such unthought-of meeting.—For the night
We parted, nothing willingly; and now
50
He by appointment waited for me here,
Under the covert[13] of these clustering elms.
We were tried Friends: amid a pleasant vale,
In the antique market-village where was passed
My school-time,[W1] an apartment he had owned,
55
To which at intervals the Wanderer drew,[14]
[30]
And found a kind of home or harbour there.
He loved me; from a swarm of rosy boys
Singled out me, as he in sport would say,
For my grave looks, too thoughtful for my years.
60
As I grew up, it was my best delight
To be his chosen comrade. Many a time,
On holidays, we rambled through the woods:
We sate—we walked; he pleased me with report[15]
Of things which he had seen; and often touched
65
Abstrusest matter, reasonings of the mind
Turned inward; or at my request would sing[16]
Old songs, the product of his native hills;[17]
A skilful distribution of sweet sounds,
Feeding the soul, and eagerly imbibed
70
As cool refreshing water, by the care
Of the industrious husbandman, diffused
Through a parched meadow-ground, in time of drought.
Still deeper welcome found his pure discourse:
How precious when in riper days I learned
75
To weigh with care his words, and to rejoice
In the plain presence of his dignity!
Oh! many are the Poets that are sown
By Nature; men endowed with highest gifts,
[31]
The vision and the faculty divine;[X]
80
Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse,
(Which, in the docile season of their youth,
It was denied them to acquire, through lack
Of culture and the inspiring aid of books,
Or haply by a temper too severe,
85
Or a nice backwardness afraid of shame)
Nor having e'er, as life advanced, been led
By circumstance to take unto the height
The measure of themselves, these favoured Beings,
All but a scattered few, live out their time,
90
Husbanding that which they possess within,
And go to the grave, unthought of. Strongest minds
Are often those of whom the noisy world
Hears least;[Y] else surely this Man had not left[Z]
His graces unrevealed and unproclaimed.
95
But, as the mind was filled with inward light,[AA]
So not without distinction had he lived,
Beloved and honoured—far as he was known.
And some small portion of his eloquent speech,
And something that may serve to set in view
100
The feeling pleasures of his loneliness,
His observations, and the thoughts his mind[18]
Had dealt with—I will here record in verse;
[32]
Which, if with truth it correspond, and sink
Or rise as venerable Nature leads,
105
The high and tender Muses shall accept
With gracious smile, deliberately pleased,
And listening Time reward with sacred praise.
Among the hills of Athol he was born;
Where,[19] on a small hereditary farm,
110
An unproductive slip of rugged ground,
His Parents, with their numerous offspring, dwelt;[20]
A virtuous household, though exceeding poor!
Pure livers were they all, austere and grave,
And fearing God;[AB] the very children taught
115
Stern self-respect, a reverence for God's word,
And an habitual piety, maintained
With strictness scarcely known on English ground.
From his sixth year, the Boy of whom I speak,
In summer, tended cattle on the hills;
120
But, through the inclement and the perilous days
[33]
Of long-continuing winter, he repaired,
Equipped with satchel, to a school, that stood[21]
Sole building on a mountain's dreary edge,
Remote from view[22] of city spire, or sound
125
Of minster clock! From that bleak tenement
He, many an evening, to his distant home
In solitude returning, saw the hills
Grow larger in the darkness; all alone
Beheld the stars come out above his head,
And travelled through the wood, with no one near
131
To whom he might confess the things he saw.
So the foundations of his mind were laid.
In such communion, not from terror free,[AC]
While yet a child, and long before his time,
135
Had he[23] perceived the presence and the power
Of greatness; and deep feelings had impressed
So vividly great objects that they lay
Upon his mind like substances, whose presence
Perplexed the bodily sense. He had received[24]
[34] 140
[25]A precious gift; for, as he grew in years,
With these impressions would he still compare
All his remembrances, thoughts, shapes, and forms;
And, being still unsatisfied with aught
Of dimmer character, he thence attained
145
An active power to fasten images
Upon his brain; and on their pictured lines
Intensely brooded, even till they acquired
The liveliness of dreams.[AD] Nor did he fail,
While yet a child, with a child's eagerness
150
Incessantly to turn his ear and eye
On all things which the moving seasons brought
To feed such appetite—nor this alone
Appeased his yearning:—in the after-day
Of boyhood, many an hour in caves forlorn,
155
And 'mid the hollow depths of naked crags
He sate, and even in their fixed lineaments,
Or from the power of a peculiar eye,
Or by creative feeling overborne,
Or by predominance of thought oppressed,
160
Even in their fixed and steady lineaments
He traced an ebbing and a flowing mind,
Expression ever varying!
Thus informed,
He had small need of books; for many a tale
[35]
Traditionary, round the mountains hung,
165
And many a legend, peopling the dark woods,
Nourished Imagination in her growth,
And gave the Mind that apprehensive power
By which she is made quick to recognise
The moral properties and scope of things.
170
But eagerly he read, and read again,
Whate'er the minister's old shelf supplied;
The life and death of martyrs, who sustained,
With will inflexible, those fearful pangs
Triumphantly displayed in records left
175
Of persecution, and the Covenant—times
Whose echo rings through Scotland to this hour!
And there, by lucky hap, had been preserved
A straggling volume, torn and incomplete,
That left half-told[AE] the preternatural tale,
180
Romance of giants, chronicle of fiends,
Profuse in garniture of wooden cuts
Strange and uncouth; dire faces, figures dire,
Sharp-kneed, sharp elbowed, and lean-ankled too,
With long and ghostly shanks—forms which once seen
Could never be forgotten!
185
In his heart,
Where Fear sate thus, a cherished visitant,
Was wanting yet the pure delight of love
By sound diffused, or by the breathing air,[AF]
Or by the silent looks of happy things,[AG]
[36] 190
Or flowing from the universal face
Of earth and sky. But he had felt the power
Of Nature, and already was prepared,
By his intense conceptions, to receive
Deeply the lesson deep of love which he,
195
Whom Nature, by whatever means, has taught
To feel intensely, cannot but receive.
Such was the Boy—but for the growing Youth
What soul was his, when, from the naked top
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun[26]
Rise up, and bathe the world in light![AH] He looked—
201
Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth
And ocean's liquid mass, in gladness lay
Beneath him[AI]:—Far and wide the clouds were touched,
And in their silent faces could he read[27]
205
Unutterable love. Sound needed none,
[37]
Nor any voice of joy;[AJ] his spirit drank
The spectacle: sensation, soul, and form.
All melted into him; they swallowed up
His animal being; in them did he live,
210
And by them did he live; they were his life.
In such access of mind, in such high hour
Of visitation from the living God,
Thought was not; in enjoyment it expired.
No thanks he breathed, he proffered no request;
215
Rapt into still communion that transcends
The imperfect offices of prayer and praise,
His mind was a thanksgiving to the power
That made him; it was blessedness and love!
A Herdsman on the lonely mountain tops,
220
Such intercourse was his, and in this sort
Was his existence oftentimes possessed.
O then how beautiful, how bright, appeared
The written promise! Early had he learned[28]
To reverence the volume that[29] displays
225
The mystery, the life which cannot die;
But in the mountains did he feel his faith.
All things, responsive to the writing, there[30]
Breathed immortality, revolving life,
And greatness still revolving; infinite:
[38] 230
There littleness was not; the least of things
Seemed infinite; and there his spirit shaped
Her prospects, nor did he believe,—he saw.
What wonder if his being thus became
Sublime and comprehensive! Low desires,
Low thoughts had there no place; yet was his heart
236
Lowly; for he was meek in gratitude,
Oft as he called those ecstasies to mind,
And whence they flowed; and from them he acquired
Wisdom, which works thro' patience; thence he learned
240
In oft-recurring hours[31] of sober thought
To look on Nature with a humble heart,
Self-questioned where it did not understand,
And with a superstitious eye of love.
So passed the time; yet to the nearest town[32]
245
He duly went with what small overplus
His earnings might supply, and brought away
The book that[33] most had tempted his desires
While at the stall he read. Among the hills
He gazed upon that mighty orb of song,
250
The divine Milton.[AK] Lore of different kind,
The annual savings of a toilsome life,
His School-master[34] supplied; books that explain
The purer elements of truth involved
In lines and numbers, and, by charm severe,
255
(Especially perceived where nature droops
[39]
And feeling is suppressed) preserve the mind
Busy in solitude and poverty.
These occupations oftentimes deceived
The listless hours, while in the hollow vale,
260
Hollow and green, he lay on the green turf
In pensive idleness. What could he do,
Thus daily thirsting, in that lonesome life
With blind endeavours?[35] Yet, still uppermost,
Nature was at his heart as if he felt,
265
Though yet he knew not how, a wasting power
In all things that[36] from her sweet influence
Might tend to wean him. Therefore with her hues,
Her forms, and with the spirit of her forms,
He clothed the nakedness of austere truth.
270
While yet he lingered in the rudiments
Of science, and among her simplest laws,
His triangles—they were the stars of heaven,
The silent stars! Oft did he take delight
To measure the altitude[37] of some tall crag
275
That[38] is the eagle's birth-place, or some peak
Familiar with forgotten years, that shows
Inscribed upon its visionary sides,[39]
The history of many a winter storm,
Or obscure records of the path of fire.[AL]
[40]
280
And thus before his eighteenth year was told,
Accumulated feelings pressed his heart
With still increasing weight;[40] he was o'erpowered
By Nature; by the turbulence subdued
Of his own mind; by mystery and hope,
285
And the first virgin passion of a soul
Communing with the glorious universe.[AM]
Full often wished he that the winds might rage
When they were silent: far more fondly now
Than in his earlier season did he love
290
Tempestuous nights—the conflict and the sounds
That live in darkness. From his intellect
And from the stillness of abstracted thought
He asked repose; and, failing oft to win[41]
The peace required, he scanned the laws of light
295
Amid the roar of torrents, where they send
From hollow clefts up to the clearer air
A cloud of mist, that smitten by the sun
[41]
Varies its rainbow hues.[42] But vainly thus,
And vainly by all other means, he strove
300
To mitigate the fever of his heart.
In dreams, in study, and in ardent thought,
Thus was he reared; much wanting to assist
The growth of intellect, yet gaining more,[43]
And every moral feeling of his soul
305
Strengthened and braced, by breathing in content
The keen, the wholesome, air of poverty,
And drinking from the well of homely life.[AN]
—But, from past liberty, and tried restraints,
He now was summoned to select the course
310
Of humble industry that[44] promised best
To yield him no unworthy maintenance.
Urged by his Mother, he essayed to teach
A village-school—but wandering thoughts were then
A misery to him; and the Youth resigned[45]
315
A task he was unable to perform.
[42]
That stern yet kindly Spirit,[AO] who constrains
The Savoyard to quit his naked rocks,
The free-born Swiss to leave his narrow vales,
(Spirit attached to regions mountainous
320
Like their own stedfast clouds) did now impel
His restless mind to look abroad with hope.
—An irksome drudgery seems it to plod on,
Through hot and dusty ways, or pelting storm,
A vagrant Merchant under a heavy load,
325
Bent as he moves, and needing frequent rest;[46]
Yet do such travellers find their own delight;
And their hard service, deemed debasing now,
Gained merited respect in simpler times;
When squire, and priest, and they who round them dwelt
330
In rustic sequestration—all dependent
Upon the PEDLAR'S toil—supplied their wants,
Or pleased their fancies, with the wares he brought.
Not ignorant was the Youth that still no few
Of his adventurous countrymen were led
335
By perseverance in this track of life
To competence and ease:—to him it offered[47]
[43]
Attractions manifold;—and this he chose.
—His Parents on the enterprise bestowed[48]
Their farewell benediction, but with hearts
340
Foreboding evil. From his native hills
He wandered far; much did he see of men,[AP]
Their manners, their enjoyments, and pursuits,
Their passions and their feelings; chiefly those
Essential and eternal in the heart,
345
That,[49] 'mid the simpler forms of rural life,
Exist more simple in their elements,
And speak a plainer language.[AQ] In the woods,
A lone Enthusiast, and among the fields,
Itinerant in this labour, he had passed
350
The better portion of his time; and there
Spontaneously had his affections thriven
Amid the bounties of the year, the peace
And liberty of nature;[50] there he kept
In solitude and solitary thought
355
His mind in a just equipoise of love.
Serene it was, unclouded by the cares
Of ordinary life; unvexed, unwarped
By partial bondage. In his steady course,
No piteous revolutions had he felt,
360
No wild varieties of joy and grief.
Unoccupied by sorrow of its own,
His heart lay open; and, by nature tuned
And constant disposition of his thoughts
[44]
To sympathy with man, he was alive
365
To all that was enjoyed where'er he went,
And all that was endured; for, in himself
Happy, and quiet in his cheerfulness,
He had no painful pressure from without
That made him turn aside from wretchedness
370
With coward fears. He could afford to suffer
With those whom he saw suffer. Hence it came
That in our best experience he was rich,
And in the wisdom of our daily life.
For hence, minutely, in his various rounds,
375
He had observed the progress and decay
Of many minds, of minds and bodies too;
The history of many families;
How they had prospered; how they were o'erthrown
By passion or mischance, or such misrule
380
Among the unthinking masters of the earth
As makes the nations groan.
This active course
He followed till provision for his wants
Had been obtained;—the Wanderer then resolved[51]
To pass the remnant of his days, untasked
385
With needless services, from hardship free.
His calling laid aside, he lived at ease:
But still he loved to pace the public roads
And the wild paths; and, by the summer's warmth
Invited, often would he leave his home
390
And journey far, revisiting the scenes
That to his memory were most endeared.[52]
[45]
—Vigorous in health, of hopeful spirits, undamped[53]
By worldly-mindedness or anxious care;
Observant, studious, thoughtful, and refreshed
395
By knowledge gathered up from day to day;
Thus had he lived a long and innocent life.
The Scottish Church, both on himself and those
With whom from childhood he grew up, had held
The strong hand of her purity; and still
400
Had watched him with an unrelenting eye.
This he remembered in his riper age
With gratitude, and reverential thoughts.
But by the native vigour of his mind,
By his habitual wanderings out of doors,
405
By loneliness, and goodness, and kind works,
Whate'er, in docile childhood or in youth,
He had imbibed of fear or darker thought
Was melted all away; so true was this,
That sometimes his religion seemed to me
410
Self-taught, as of a dreamer in the woods;
Who to the model of his own pure heart
Shaped[54] his belief, as grace divine inspired,
And[55] human reason dictated with awe.
—And surely never did there live on earth
415
A man of kindlier nature. The rough sports
And teasing ways of children vexed not him;
[56]Indulgent listener was he to the tongue
Of garrulous age; nor did the sick man's tale,
[46]
To his fraternal sympathy addressed,
Obtain reluctant hearing.
420
Plain his garb;
Such as might suit a rustic Sire, prepared
For sabbath duties; yet he was a man
Whom no one could have passed without remark.
Active and nervous was his gait; his limbs
425
And his whole figure breathed intelligence.
Time had compressed the freshness of his cheek
Into a narrower circle of deep red,
But had not tamed his eye;[AR] that, under brows
Shaggy and grey, had meanings which it brought
430
From years of youth;[AS] which, like a Being made
Of many Beings, he had wondrous skill
To blend with knowledge of the years to come,
Human, or such as lie beyond the grave.

So was He framed; and such his course of life
435
Who now, with no appendage but a staff,
The prized memorial of relinquished toils,
Upon that cottage-bench reposed his limbs,
Screened from the sun. Supine the Wanderer lay,
His eyes as if in drowsiness half shut,
440
The shadows of the breezy elms above
Dappling his face. He had not heard the sound
Of my approaching steps, and in the shade
Unnoticed did I stand some minutes' space.[57]
[47]
At length I hailed him, seeing that his hat
445
Was moist with water-drops, as if the brim
Had newly scooped a running stream. He rose,
And ere our lively greeting into peace
Had settled, "'Tis," said I,[58] "a burning day:
My lips are parched with thirst, but you, it seems,[59]
450
Have somewhere found relief." He, at the word,
Pointing towards a sweet-briar, bade me climb
The fence where that aspiring shrub looked out
Upon the public way.[60] It was a plot
Of garden ground run wild, its matted weeds
Marked with the steps of those, whom, as they passed,
456
The gooseberry trees that shot in long lank slips,
Or currants, hanging from their leafless stems,
In scanty strings, had tempted to o'erleap[61]
The broken wall. I looked around, and there,
460
Where two tall hedge-rows of thick alder boughs
Joined in a cold damp nook, espied a well
Shrouded with willow-flowers and plumy fern.
My thirst I slaked, and, from the cheerless spot
Withdrawing, straightway to the shade returned
465
Where sate the old Man on the cottage-bench;
And, while, beside him, with uncovered head,
[48]
I yet was standing, freely to respire,
And cool my temples in the fanning air,
Thus did he speak. "I see around me here
470
Things which you cannot see: we die, my Friend,
Nor we alone, but that which each man loved
And prized in his peculiar nook of earth
Dies with him, or is changed; and very soon
Even of the good is no memorial left.[AT]
475
—The Poets, in their elegies and songs
Lamenting the departed, call the groves,
They call upon the hills and streams to mourn,[AU]
And senseless rocks; nor idly; for they speak,
In these their invocations, with a voice
480
Obedient to the strong creative power
Of human passion. Sympathies there are
More tranquil, yet perhaps of kindred birth,
That steal upon the meditative mind,
And grow with thought. Beside yon spring I stood,
485
And eyed its waters till we seemed to feel
One sadness, they and I. For them a bond
Of brotherhood is broken: time has been
When, every day, the touch of human hand
Dislodged the natural sleep that binds them up
490
In mortal stillness; and they ministered
To human comfort. Stooping down[62] to drink,
[49]
Upon the slimy foot-stone I espied
The useless fragment of a wooden bowl,
Green with the moss of years, and subject only
495
To the soft handling of the elements:
There let it lie—how foolish are such thoughts!
Forgive them;—never—never did my steps
Approach this door but she who dwelt within[63]
A daughter's welcome gave me, and I loved her
500
As my own child. Oh, Sir! the good die first,[AV]
And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
Burn to the socket. Many a passenger
Hath blessed poor Margaret for her gentle looks,
When she upheld the cool refreshment drawn
505
From that forsaken spring; and no one came
But he was welcome; no one went away
But that it seemed she loved him. She is dead,
[50]
The light extinguished of her lonely hut,
The hut itself abandoned to decay,
510
And she forgotten in the quiet grave.
"I speak," continued he, "of One whose stock
Of virtues bloomed beneath this lowly roof.
She was a Woman of a steady mind,
Tender and deep in her excess of love;
515
Not speaking much, pleased rather with the joy
Of her own thoughts: by some especial care
Her temper had been framed, as if to make
A Being, who by adding love to peace
Might live on earth a life of happiness.
520
Her wedded Partner lacked not on his side
The humble worth that satisfied her heart:
Frugal, affectionate, sober, and withal
Keenly industrious. She with pride would tell
That he was often seated at his loom,[AW]
525
In summer, ere the mower was abroad
Among the dewy grass,—in early spring,
Ere the last star had vanished.—They who passed
At evening, from behind the garden fence
Might hear his busy spade, which he would ply,
530
After his daily work, until the light
Had failed, and every leaf and flower were lost
In the dark hedges. So their days were spent
In peace and comfort; and a pretty boy
Was their best hope, next to the God in heaven.
535
"Not twenty years ago, but you I think
Can scarcely bear it now in mind, there came
Two blighting seasons, when the fields were left
With half a harvest. It pleased Heaven to add
A worse affliction in the plague of war:
540
This happy Land was stricken to the heart!
[51]
A Wanderer then among the cottages,
I, with my freight of winter raiment, saw
The hardships of that season: many rich
Sank down, as in a dream, among the poor;
545
And of the poor did many cease to be,
And their place knew them not.[AX] Meanwhile, abridged
Of daily comforts, gladly reconciled
To numerous self-denials, Margaret
Went struggling on through those calamitous years
550
With cheerful hope, until the second autumn,
When her life's Helpmate on a sick-bed lay,[64]
Smitten with perilous fever. In disease
He lingered long; and, when his strength returned,
He found the little he had stored, to meet
555
The hour of accident or crippling age,
Was all consumed. A second infant now
Was added to the troubles of a time
Laden, for them and all of their degree,
With care and sorrow: shoals of artisans
560
From ill-requited labour turned adrift
Sought daily bread from public charity,[65]
They, and their wives and children—happier far
Could they have lived as do the little birds
That peck along the hedge-rows, or the kite
565
That makes her dwelling on the mountain rocks![66]
[52]
"A sad reverse it was for him who long
Had filled with plenty, and possessed in peace,
This lonely Cottage. At the door[67] he stood,
And whistled many a snatch of merry tunes
570
That had no mirth in them;[AY] or with his knife
Carved uncouth figures on the heads of sticks—
Then, not less idly, sought, through every nook
In house or garden, any casual work
Of use or ornament; and with a strange,
575
Amusing, yet uneasy, novelty,
He mingled,[68] where he might, the various tasks
Of summer, autumn, winter, and of spring.
But this endured not; his good humour soon
Became a weight in which no pleasure was:
580
And poverty brought on a petted mood
And a sore temper: day by day he drooped,
And he would leave his work—and to the town
Would turn without an errand his slack steps;[69]
Or wander here and there among the fields.
585
One while he would speak lightly of his babes,
And with a cruel tongue; at other times
He tossed them with a false unnatural joy:
And 'twas a rueful thing to see the looks
Of the poor innocent children. 'Every smile,'
590
Said Margaret to me, here beneath these trees,
'Made my heart bleed.'"
[53]
At this the Wanderer paused;
And, looking up to those enormous elms,
He said, "'Tis now the hour of deepest noon.[AZ]
At this still season of repose and peace,
595
This hour when all things which are not at rest
Are cheerful; while this multitude of flies
With tuneful hum is filling all the air;[70]
Why should a tear be on an old Man's cheek?[71]
Why should we thus, with an untoward mind,
600
And in the weakness of humanity,
From natural wisdom turn our hearts away;
To natural comfort shut our eyes and ears;
And, feeding on disquiet, thus disturb
The calm of nature with our restless thoughts?"

605
He spake with somewhat of a solemn tone:
But, when he ended, there was in his face
Such easy cheerfulness, a look so mild,[BA]
That for a little time it stole away
All recollection; and that simple tale
610
Passed from my mind like a forgotten sound.
A while on trivial things we held discourse,
To me soon tasteless. In my own despite,
I thought of that poor Woman as of one
Whom I had known and loved. He had rehearsed
615
Her homely tale with such familiar power,
With such an active countenance, an eye
[54]
So busy, that the things of which he spake
Seemed present; and, attention now relaxed,
A heart-felt chillness crept along my veins.
620
I rose; and, having left the breezy shade,
Stood drinking comfort from the warmer sun,
That had not cheered me long—ere, looking round[72]
Upon that tranquil Ruin, I returned,
And begged of the old Man that, for my sake,
He would resume his story.
625
He replied,
"It were a wantonness, and would demand
Severe reproof, if we were men whose hearts
Could hold vain dalliance with the misery
Even of the dead; contented thence to draw
630
A momentary pleasure, never marked
By reason, barren of all future good.
But we have known that there is often found
In mournful thoughts, and always might be found,
A power to virtue friendly; wer't not so,
635
I am a dreamer among men, indeed
An idle dreamer! 'Tis a common tale,
An ordinary sorrow of man's life,
A tale of silent suffering, hardly clothed
In bodily form.—But without further bidding
I will proceed.
640
"While thus it fared with them,
To whom this cottage, till those hapless years,
Had been a blessed home, it was my chance
To travel in a country far remote;
And[73] when these lofty elms once more appeared
[55] 645
What pleasant expectations lured me on
O'er the flat Common!—With quick step I reached
The threshold, lifted with light hand the latch;
But, when I entered, Margaret looked at me[74]
A little while; then turned her head away
650
Speechless,—and, sitting down upon a chair,
Wept bitterly. I wist not what to do,
Nor[75] how to speak to her. Poor Wretch! at last
She rose from off her seat, and then,—O Sir!
I cannot tell how she pronounced my name:—
655
With fervent love, and with a face of grief
Unutterably helpless, and a look
That seemed to cling upon me,[76] she enquired
If I had seen her husband. As she spake
A strange surprise and fear came to my heart,
660
Nor had I power to answer ere she told
That he had disappeared—not two months gone.
He left his house: two wretched days had past,
And on the third, as wistfully she raised
Her head from off her pillow, to look forth,
665
Like one in trouble, for returning light,
Within her chamber-casement she espied
A folded paper, lying as if placed
[56]
To meet her waking eyes. This tremblingly
She opened—found no writing, but beheld[77]
670
Pieces of money carefully enclosed,
Silver and gold. 'I shuddered at the sight,'
Said Margaret, 'for I knew it was his hand
That must have placed it there; and ere that day
Was ended, that long anxious day, I learned,
675
From one who by my husband had been sent
With the sad news, that he had joined a troop[78]
Of soldiers, going to a distant land.
—He left me thus—he could not gather heart
To take a farewell of me; for he feared
680
That I should follow with my babes, and sink
Beneath the misery of that wandering life.'
"This tale did Margaret tell with many tears:
And, when she ended, I had little power
684
To give her comfort, and was glad to take
Such words of hope from her own mouth as served
To cheer us both. But long we had not talked
Ere we built up a pile of better thoughts,
And with a brighter eye she looked around
As if she had been shedding tears of joy.
690
We parted.—'Twas the time of early spring;
I left her busy with her garden tools;
And well remember, o'er that fence she looked,
And, while I paced along the foot-way path,
Called out, and sent a blessing after me,
695
With tender cheerfulness, and with a voice
That seemed the very sound of happy thoughts.
[57]
"I roved o'er many a hill and many a dale,
With my accustomed load; in heat and cold,
Through many a wood and many an open ground,
700
In sunshine and in shade, in wet and fair,
Drooping or blithe of heart, as might befal;
My best companions now the driving winds,
And now the 'trotting brooks'[BB] and whispering trees,
And now the music of my own sad steps,
With many a short-lived thought that passed between,
And disappeared.
706
"I journeyed back this way,
When, in the warmth of midsummer, the wheat[79]
Was yellow; and the soft and bladed grass,[BC]
Springing afresh, had o'er the hay-field spread
710
Its tender verdure. At the door arrived,
I found that she was absent. In the shade,
Where now we sit, I waited her return.
Her cottage, then a cheerful object, wore
Its customary look,—only, it seemed,[80]
715
The honeysuckle, crowding round the porch,
Hung down in heavier tufts; and that bright weed,
The yellow stone-crop,[BD] suffered to take root
Along the window's edge, profusely grew
Blinding the lower panes. I turned aside,
720
And strolled into her garden. It appeared
To lag behind the season, and had lost
Its pride of neatness. Daisy-flowers and thrift[BE]
Had broken their trim border-lines, and straggled
[58]
O'er paths they used to deck:[81] carnations, once
725
Prized for surpassing beauty, and no less
For the peculiar pains they had required,
Declined their languid heads, wanting support.[82]
The cumbrous bind-weed,[BF] with its wreaths and bells,
729
Had twined about her two small rows of peas,
And dragged them to the earth.
"Ere this an hour
Was wasted.—Back I turned my restless steps;
[83]A stranger passed; and, guessing whom I sought,
He said that she was used to ramble far.—
The sun was sinking in the west; and now
735
I sate with sad impatience. From within
Her solitary infant cried aloud;
Then, like a blast that dies away self-stilled,
The voice was silent. From the bench I rose;
But neither could divert nor soothe my thoughts.
740
The spot, though fair, was very desolate—
The longer I remained, more desolate:
And, looking round me, now I first observed
The corner stones, on either side the porch,[84]
[59]
With dull red stains discoloured, and stuck o'er
745
With tufts and hairs of wool, as if the sheep,
That fed upon the Common, thither came
Familiarly, and found a couching-place
Even at her threshold. Deeper shadows fell
From these tall elms; the cottage-clock struck eight;—
750
I turned, and saw her distant a few steps.
Her face was pale and thin—her figure, too,
Was changed. As she unlocked the door, she said,
'It grieves me you have waited here so long,
But, in good truth, I've wandered much of late;
And, sometimes—to my shame I speak—have need
756
Of my best prayers to bring me back again.'
While on the board she spread our evening meal,
She told me—interrupting not the work
Which gave employment to her listless hands—
760
That she had parted with her elder child;
To a kind master on a distant farm
Now happily apprenticed.—'I perceive
You look at me, and you have cause; to-day
I have been travelling far; and many days
765
About the fields I wander, knowing this
Only, that what I seek I cannot find;
And so I waste my time: for I am changed;
And to myself,' said she, 'have done much wrong
And to this helpless infant. I have slept
770
Weeping, and weeping have I waked;[85] my tears
Have flowed as if my body were not such
As others are; and I could never die.
But I am now in mind and in my heart
More easy; and I hope,' said she, 'that God[86]
775
Will give me patience to endure the things
Which I behold at home.'
[60]
"It would have grieved
Your very soul to see her. Sir, I feel
The story linger in my heart; I fear
'Tis long and tedious; but my spirit clings
780
To that poor Woman:—so familiarly
Do I perceive her manner, and her look,
And presence; and so deeply do I feel
Her goodness, that, not seldom, in my walks
A momentary trance comes over me;
785
And to myself I seem to muse on One
By sorrow laid asleep; or borne away,
A human being destined to awake
To human life, or something very near
To human life, when he shall come again
790
For whom she suffered. Yes, it would have grieved
Your very soul to see her: evermore
Her eyelids drooped, her eyes downward were cast;[87]
And, when she at her table gave me food,
She did not look at me. Her voice was low,
795
Her body was subdued. In every act
Pertaining to her house-affairs, appeared
The careless stillness of a thinking mind
Self-occupied; to which all outward things
Are like an idle matter. Still she sighed,
800
But yet no motion of the breast was seen,
No heaving of the heart. While by the fire
We sate together, sighs came on my ear,
I knew not how, and hardly whence they came.
"Ere my departure, to her care I gave,
805
For her son's use, some tokens of regard,
Which with a look of welcome she received;
And I exhorted her to place her trust[88]
[61]
In God's good love, and seek his help by prayer.
I took my staff, and, when I kissed her babe,
810
The tears stood in her eyes. I left her then
With the best hope and comfort I could give:
She thanked me for my wish;—but for my hope
It seemed[89] she did not thank me.
"I returned,
And took my rounds along this road again
815
When[90] on its sunny bank the primrose flower
Peeped forth, to give an earnest of the Spring.
I found her sad and drooping: she had learned
No tidings of her husband; if he lived,[91]
819
She knew not that he lived; if he were dead,
She knew not he was dead. She seemed the same
In person and appearance; but her house
Bespake a sleepy hand of negligence;[BG]
The floor was neither dry nor neat, the hearth
Was comfortless, and her small lot of books,
825
Which, in the cottage-window, heretofore
Had been piled up against the corner panes
In seemly order, now, with straggling leaves
Lay scattered here and there, open or shut,
As they had chanced to fall. Her infant Babe
830
Had from its Mother caught the trick of grief,
[62]
And sighed among its playthings. I withdrew,
And once again entering the garden saw,[92]
More plainly still, that poverty and grief
Were now come nearer to her: weeds defaced
835
The hardened soil, and knots of withered grass:
No ridges there appeared of clear black mould,
No winter greenness; of her herbs and flowers,
It seemed the better part were gnawed away
Or trampled into earth; a chain of straw,
840
Which had been twined about the slender stem
Of a young apple-tree, lay at its root;
The bark was nibbled round by truant sheep.
—Margaret stood near, her infant in her arms,
And, noting that my eye was on the tree,
845
She said, 'I fear it will be dead and gone
Ere Robert come again.' When to the House
We had returned together, she enquired[93]
If I had any hope:—but for her babe
And for her little orphan boy, she said,
850
She had no wish to live, that she must die
Of sorrow. Yet I saw the idle loom
Still in its place; his sunday garments hung
Upon the self-same nail; his very staff
Stood undisturbed behind the door.
"And when,
855
In bleak December, I retraced this way,
She told me that her little babe was dead,
And she was left alone. She now, released
From her maternal cares, had taken up
[63]
The employment common through these wilds, and gained,
860
By spinning hemp, a pittance for herself;
And for this end had hired a neighbour's boy
To give her needful help. That very time
Most willingly she put her work aside,
And walked with me along the miry road,
865
Heedless how far; and, in such piteous sort
That any heart had ached to hear her, begged
That, wheresoe'er I went, I still would ask
For him whom she had lost. We parted then—
Our final parting; for from that time forth
870
Did many seasons pass ere I returned
Into this tract again.
"Nine tedious years;
From their first separation, nine long years,
She lingered in unquiet widowhood;
A Wife and Widow. Needs must it have been
875
A sore heart-wasting! I have heard, my Friend,
That in yon arbour oftentimes she sate
Alone, through half the vacant sabbath day;
And, if a dog passed by, she still would quit
The shade, and look abroad. On this old bench
880
For hours she sate; and evermore her eye
Was busy in the distance, shaping things
That made her heart beat quick. You see that path,
Now faint,—the grass has crept o'er its grey line;
There, to and fro, she paced through many a day
885
Of the warm summer, from a belt of hemp
That girt her waist, spinning the long-drawn thread
With backward steps. Yet ever as there passed
A man whose garments showed the soldier's red,
Or crippled mendicant in sailor's garb,
890
The little child who sate to turn the wheel
Ceased from his task; and she with faltering voice
Made many a fond enquiry; and when they,
Whose presence gave no comfort, were gone by,
Her heart was still more sad. And by yon gate,
895
That bars the traveller's road, she often stood,
[64]
And when a stranger horseman came, the latch
Would lift, and in his face look wistfully:
Most happy, if, from aught discovered there
Of tender feeling, she might dare repeat
900
The same sad question. Meanwhile her poor Hut
Sank to decay; for he was gone, whose hand,
At the first nipping of October frost,
Closed up each chink, and with fresh bands of straw
Chequered the green-grown thatch. And so she lived
905
Through the long winter, reckless and alone;
Until her house by frost, and thaw, and rain,
Was sapped; and while she slept, the nightly damps
Did chill her breast; and in the stormy day
Her tattered clothes were ruffled by the wind,
910
Even at the side of her own fire. Yet still
She loved this wretched spot, nor would for worlds
Have parted hence; and still that length of road,
And this rude bench, one torturing hope endeared,
Fast rooted at her heart: and here, my Friend,—
915
In sickness she remained; and here she died;
Last human tenant of these ruined walls!"[BH]
The old Man ceased: he saw that I was moved;
From that low bench, rising instinctively
I turned aside in weakness, nor had power
920
To thank him for the tale which he had told.
I stood, and leaning o'er the garden wall
Reviewed that Woman's sufferings; and it seemed
To comfort me while with a brother's love
I blessed her in the impotence of grief.
925
Then towards the cottage I returned; and traced
[65]
Fondly, though with an interest more mild,[94]
That secret spirit of humanity
Which, 'mid the calm oblivious tendencies
Of nature, 'mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers,
930
And silent overgrowings, still survived.
The old Man, noting this, resumed, and said,
"My Friend! enough to sorrow you have given,
The purposes of wisdom ask no more:
Nor more would she have craved as due to One
935
Who, in her worst distress, had oft-times felt
The unbounded might of prayer; and learned, with soul
Fixed on the Cross, that consolation springs,
From sources deeper far than deepest pain,
For the meek Sufferer.[95] Why then should we read
940
The forms of things with an unworthy eye?[96]
She sleeps in the calm earth, and peace is here.
I well remember that those very plumes,
Those weeds, and the high spear-grass on that wall,
By mist and silent rain-drops silvered o'er,
945
As once I passed, into my heart conveyed[97]
[66]
So still an image of tranquillity,[BI]
So calm and still, and looked so beautiful
Amid the uneasy thoughts which filled my mind,
That what we feel of sorrow and despair
950
From ruin and from change, and all the grief
That passing shows[98] of Being leave behind,
Appeared an idle dream, that could maintain,
Nowhere, dominion o'er the enlightened spirit
Whose meditative sympathies repose
955
Upon the breast of Faith. I turned away,[99]
And walked along my road in happiness."
He ceased. Ere long the sun declining shot
A slant and mellow radiance, which began
To fall upon us, while, beneath the trees,
960
We sate on that low bench: and now we felt,
Admonished thus, the sweet hour coming on.
A linnet warbled from those lofty elms,
A thrush sang loud, and other melodies,
At distance heard, peopled the milder air.
965
The old Man rose, and, with a sprightly mien
Of hopeful preparation, grasped his staff;
Together casting then a farewell look
Upon those silent walls, we left the shade;
And, ere the stars were visible, had reached
970
A village-inn,—our evening resting-place.

VARIANTS:

[3] 1836.

1814.
the Wanderer, of whom he gives an account

[4] 1827.

From many a brooding cloud; far as the sight
1814.
Could reach, those many shadows lay in spots

[5] 1845.

1814.
Pleasant to him who on the soft cool moss

[6] 1845.

By that impending covert made more soft,
More low and distant! Other lot was mine;
Yet with good hope that soon I should obtain
1814.
As grateful resting-place, and livelier joy.
By power of that impending covert thrown
1827.
To finer distance. Other lot was mine;
... Other lot was mine;
Though with good hope to cheer the sultry hour
That under shade as grateful I should soon
C.
Rest, and be welcomed there to livelier joy.
... Mine was at that hour
A toilsome lot, yet with good hope that soon
C.
Under a shade as grateful I should find

[7] 1845.

1814.
With languid feet, which by the slippery ground
1827.
With languid steps that ...

[8]

Across a bare wide common I was toiling
When oft each footstep by the slippery turf
Was baffled: nor could my arm disperse
The host of insects gathered round my face,
And ever with me as I paced along.
Now with eyes turned towards the far-distant hills,
Now towards a grove that from the wide-spread moor
C.
Rose up! the port to which my course was bound.

[9] 1845.

Upon that open level stood a Grove,
1814.
The wished-for Port to which my steps were bound.
1827.
... my course was bound.

[10] 1845.

1814.
Him whom I sought; ....

[11] 1827.

And in the middle of the public way
Stationed, as if to rest himself, with face
Turned tow'rds the sun then setting, while that staff
1814.
Afforded to his Figure, as he stood,
Him had I chanced to mark the day before
Alone, and stationed in the public way;
Westward he looked as if his gaze were fixed
C.
Upon the sun then setting, ...

[12] 1845.

... the countenance of the Man
1814.
Was hidden from my view, and he himself
... his countenance meanwhile
1827.
Was hidden from my view, and he remain'd

[13] C. and 1845.

1814.
Beneath the shelter ...

[14] 1845.

We were tried Friends: I from my Childhood up
Had known him.—In a little Town obscure,
A market-village, seated in a tract
Of mountains, where my school-day time was pass'd,
One room he owned, the fifth part of a house,
1814.
A place to which he drew, from time to time,
We were tried Friends: amid a pleasant vale,
In the antique market village where were pass'd
My school-days, an apartment he had own'd,
1827.
To which at intervals the Wanderer drew,

[15] 1827.

On holidays, we wandered through the woods,
A pair of random travellers; we sate—
1814.
We walked; he pleas'd me with his sweet discourse

[16] 1827.

1814.
... he sang

[17] 1814.

C.
Old songs brought with him from his native hills;

[18] 1827.

1814.
The doings, observations, which his mind
His habits, observations, and the thoughts
MS.
He cherished— ...

[19] 1827.

1814.
There, ...

[20] 1827

His Father dwelt; and died in poverty;
While He, whose lowly fortune I retrace,
The youngest of three sons, was yet a babe,
A little One—unconscious of their loss.
But ere he had outgrown his infant days
His widowed Mother, for a second Mate,
Espoused the Teacher of the Village School;
Who on her offspring zealously bestowed
Needful instruction; not alone in arts
Which to his humble duties appertained,
But in the lore of right and wrong, the rule
Of human kindness, in the peaceful ways
Of honesty, and holiness severe.
1814.
A virtuous Household ...

[21] 1827.

1814.
To his Step-father's School, that stood alone,

[22] 1827.

1814.
Far from the sight ...

[23] 1836.

1814.
He had ...

[24] 1845.

... had impressed
Great objects on his mind, with portraiture
And colour so distinct, that on his mind
They lay like substances, and almost seemed
1814.
To haunt the bodily sense. He had received
... had impressed
Upon his mind great objects so distinct
In portraiture, in colouring so vivid,
That on his mind they lay like substances,
And almost indistinguishably mixed
C.
With things of bodily sense....

[25]

(Vigorous in native genius as he was)

This line appeared only in 1814 and 1820.

[26] 1827.

From early childhood, even, as hath been said,
From his sixth year, he had been sent abroad
In summer to tend herds: such was his task
Thenceforward 'till the later day of youth.
O then what soul was his, when, on the tops
1814.
Of the high mountains, he beheld the sun

[27] 1845.

And ocean's liquid mass, beneath him lay
In gladness and deep joy. The clouds were touch'd,
1814.
And in their silent faces did he read
1836.
... could he read

[28] 1827.

1814.
... He had early learned

[29] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[30] 1832.

1814.
There did he see the writing;—all things there
1827.
Responsive to the writing, all things there

[31] 1827.

1814.
In many a calmer hour ...

[32] 1827.

1814.
... yet to a neighbouring town

[33] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[34] 1827.

1814.
His Step-father ...

[35] 1827.

... What could he do
With blind endeavours, in that lonesome life,
1814.
Thus thirsting daily?...

[36] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[37] 1832.

1814.
... th' altitude ...

[38] 1827.

1814.
Which ...

[39] 1845.

Inscribed, as with the silence of the thought,
1814.
Upon it's bleak and visionary sides,

[40] 1827.

1814.
With an increasing weight; ...

[41] 1827.

He asked repose; and I have heard him say
1814.
That often, failing at this time to gain

[42] 1827.

A cloud of mist, which in the sunshine frames
A lasting tablet—for the observer's eye
1814.
Varying it's rainbow hues....

[43] 1827.

Thus, even from Childhood upward, was he reared;
For intellectual progress wanting much,
1814.
Doubtless, of needful help—yet gaining more;

[44] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[45] 1827.

The Mother strove to make her Son perceive
With what advantage he might teach a School
In the adjoining Village; but the Youth,
Who of this service made a short essay,
Found that the wanderings of his thought were then
1814.
A misery to him; that he must resign

[46] 1836.

Through dusty ways, in storm, from door to door,
1814.
A vagrant Merchant bent beneath his load!
1827.
Through hot and dusty ways, or pelting storm,

[47] 1845.

1814.
... for him it bore

[48] 1827.

He asked his Mother's blessing; and, with tears
Thanking his second Father, asked from him
1814.
Paternal blessings. The good Pair bestowed

[49] 1827.

1814.
Which, ...

[50] 1827.

Upon the bounties of the year, and felt
1814.
The liberty of Nature; ...

[51] 1827.

... —This active course,
Chosen in youth, through manhood he pursued,
Till due provision for his modest wants
1814.
Had been obtained;—and, thereupon, resolved

[52] 1827.

... and, when the summer's warmth
Invited him, would often leave his home
And journey far, revisiting those scenes
1814.
Which to his memory were most endeared.

[53] 1827.

1814.
... untouched

[54] 1827.

1814.
Framed ...

[55] 1836.

1814.
Or ...

[56]

Nor could he bid them from his presence, tired
With questions and importunate demands:

These two lines appeared only in 1814 and 1820.

[57] 1827.

... He had not heard my steps
As I approached; and near him did I stand
1814.
Unnotic'd in the shade, some minutes' space.

[58] 1827.

And ere the pleasant greeting that ensued
1814.
Was ended, "'Tis," said I, ...

[59] 1827.

1814.
... but you, I guess,

[60] 1827.

... He, at the word,
Pointing towards a sweet briar, bade me climb
The fence hard by, where that aspiring shrub
1814.
Looked out upon the road ...
... He raised his hand,
C.
And to a sweet-briar pointing, bade me climb

[61] 1814.

The gooseberry-trees that showed their dwindled fruit
Hanging in long lank slips, or leafless strings
C.
Of currants might have tempted to o'erleap

[62] 1827.

1814.
... As I stooped ...

[63] 1836.

Green with the moss of years; a pensive sight
That moved my heart!—recalling former days
When I could never pass that road but She
1814.
Who lived within these walls, at my approach.
Green with the moss of years, and subject only
To the soft handling of the Elements:
There let the relic lie—fond thought—vain words!
Forgive them—never did my steps approach
1827.
This humble door but she who dwelt within
Forgive them;—never—never did my steps
1832.
Approach this door but she who dwelt within
Forgive them for the sake of her who dwelt
Within these walls, who here so oft hath giv'n
MS.
To me a daughter's greeting; and I loved her
Green with the moss of years. Upon the simple sight
As there it lay I could not look unmoved!
Forgive the weakness—never did step of mine
C.
Approach this door, but she who dwelt within

[64] 1827.

With chearful hope: but ere the second autumn
1814.
Her life's true Help-mate on a sick-bed lay,

[65] 1827.

Was all consumed. Two children had they now,
One newly born. As I have said, it was
A time of trouble; shoals of Artisans
Were from their daily labour turn'd adrift
1814.
To seek their bread from public charity,

[66] 1827.

That peck along the hedges, or the Kite
1814.
That makes his dwelling on the mountain Rocks!

[67] 1836.

1814.
... At his door ...

[68] 1836.

1814.
He blended, ...

[69] 1836.

1814.
Without an errand, would direct his steps,

[70] 1845.

1814.
Is filling all the air with melody;

[71] 1845.

1814.
... in an Old Man's eye?

[72] 1827.

There was a heart-felt chillness in my veins.—
I rose; and, turning from the breezy shade,
Went forth into the open air, and stood
To drink the comfort of the warmer sun.
1814.
Long time I had not staid, ere, looking round

[73] 1814.

MS.
But ...

[74] 1827.

... far remote.
And glad I was, when, halting by yon gate
That leads from the green lane, once more I saw
These lofty elm-trees. Long I did not rest:
With many pleasant thoughts I chear'd my way
O'er the flat Common.—Having reached the door
I knock'd,—and, when I entered with the hope
1814.
Of usual greeting, Margaret looked at me

[75] 1832.

1814.
Or ...

[76] 1814.

With fervent love, and with a look of grief
Unutterable, and with a helpless look
C.
That seemed to cling upon me, ...

[77] 1827.

1814.
... but therein

[78] 1836.

Which placed it there: and ere that day was ended,
That long and anxious day! I learned from One
Sent hither by my Husband to impart
1814.
The heavy news,—that he had joined a Troop.

[79] 1827.

1814.
Towards the wane of Summer; when the wheat

[80] 1827.

1814.
... only, I thought,

[81] 1845.

Its pride of neatness. From the border lines
Composed of daisy and resplendent thrift,
Flowers straggling forth had on those paths encroached
1814.
Which they were used to deck:— ...
... Daisy-flow'rs and thrift
Had broken their trim lines, and straggled o'er
1827.
The paths they used to deck:— ...

[82] 1832.

1814.
... without support.

[83]

And, as I walked before the door, it chanced

This line appeared only in 1814 and 1820.

[84] 1827.

And, looking round, I saw the corner stones,
1814.
Till then unnotic'd, on either side the door

[85] 1827.

1814.
... I have waked; ...

[86] 1832.

1814.
... "that heaven

[87] 1845.

1814.
... were downward cast;

[88] 1827.

1814.
... to have her trust

[89] 1836.

1814.
Methought ...

[90] 1845.

1814.
Ere ...

[91] 1814.

... sad and drooping. Time had brought
No tidings which might lead her anxious mind
C.
To a source of quiet; if her husband lived,

[92] 1845.

... Once again
1814.
I turned towards the garden gate, and saw,

[93] 1845.

... Towards the House
1814.
Together we returned; and she enquired
... Back to the house
MS.
We turned together, silent, till she asked

[94] 1836.

At length towards the Cottage I returned
1814.
Fondly,—and traced, with interest more mild,

[95] The lines from "Nor more would she" to "Sufferer" (934-9) were added in 1845.

[96] 1845.

... ask no more;
Be wise and chearful; and no longer read
1814.
The forms of things with an unworthy eye.
... ask no more:
Doubt not that oft-times in her soul she felt
The unbounded might of prayer—upon her knees
Was taught that heavenly consolation springs
From sources deeper far than deepest pain
For the meek Sufferer. Why then should we read
C.
The forms of things with a dejected eye?

[97] 1836.

1814.
... did to my heart convey

[98] 1845.

1814.
The passing shews ...

[99] 1845.

Appeared an idle dream, that could not live
1814.
Where meditation was. I turned away

FOOTNOTES:

[S] In a copy of the quarto edition of The Excursion (1814) bequeathed by the Poet to his grandson, the Rev. John Wordsworth, there are numerous changes of text in his own handwriting, or that of his wife. The majority of these were incorporated in later editions. Several of them, however, were not. These are reproduced in this edition, wherever it has been thought expedient to preserve them, and are indicated as "MS." readings. On the fly-leaf of the same presentation copy of the 1814 edition, Mrs. Wordsworth wrote out Mr. R. P. Gillies' sonnet, addressed to the author of The Excursion.—ED.

[T] Compare An Evening Walk (vol. i. p. 9)—

When, in the south, the wan noon, brooding still,
ED.
Breathed a pale steam around the glaring hill.

[U] Compare An Evening Walk (vol. i. p. 11)—

ED.
And its own twilight softens the whole scene.

[V] Compare the sonnet composed in boyhood, beginning—

Sweet was the walk along the narrow lane,

and printed in an Appendix to vol. viii.—ED.

[W] Compare the Sonnet composed at —— Castle, in the "Memorials of a Tour in Scotland," 1803 (vol. ii. p. 410)—

ED.
A brotherhood of venerable Trees.

[W1] Hawkshead. Compare the notes to The Prelude, in books i. and ii. The Fenwick note tells us, "At Hawkshead, while I was a schoolboy, there occasionally resided a Packman, with whom I had frequent conversations upon what had befallen him, and what he had observed, during his wandering life; and, as was natural, we took much to each other."—ED.

[X] Compare the Elegiac Stansas, suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle, in a Storm (vol. iii. p. 54)—

The consecration, and the Poet's dream;

and the Discourse on Poetry in the Preface to the "Lyrical Ballads" of 1800. See the Prose Works.—ED.

[Y] Compare Sir Henry Taylor, Philip van Artevelde, act 1. scene v.—

ED.
The world knows nothing of its greatest men.

[Z] Compare Horace, Epistles i. 17, 10—

ED.
Nec vixit male qui natus moriensque fefellit.

[AA] Compare Elegiac Stanzas, suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle (vol. iii. p. 54)—

ED.
The light that never was, on sea or land.

[AB] Compare Resolution and Independence, stanza xiv. (vol. ii. p. 319)—

Such as grave Livers do in Scotland use,
ED.
Religious men, who give to God and man their dues.

[AC] Compare Byron, Childe Harold, canto iv. stanza clxxxiv.—

From a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers—they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
ED.
Made them a terror,—'twas a pleasing fear.

[AD] Compare Ode, Intimations of Immortality, stanza ix. (vol. viii.)—

those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things, etc.

and The Prelude, book ii. l. 350 (vol. iii. p. 164)—

what I saw
Appeared like something in myself, a dream,
ED.
A prospect in the mind.

[AE] Compare Milton, Il Penseroso, l. 109—

Or call up him that left half told
ED.
The story of Cambuscan bold.

[AF] Compare Lines Written in Early Spring (vol. i. p. 269)—

And 'tis my faith that every flower
ED.
Enjoys the air it breathes.

[AG] Compare The Prelude, book ii. l. 411 (vol. iii. p. 166)—

Communing ...
With every form of creature, as it looked
Towards the Uncreated with a countenance
ED.
Of adoration, with an eye of love.

[AH] Compare book iv. ll. 111-14; also in Robert Browning's Old Pictures in Florence, stanza i.—

And washed by the morning water-gold,
ED.
Florence lay out on the mountain-side.

[AI] The sea is not visible from the hills of Athole, except from the summit of Ben y' Gloe, where it can be seen to the south-east in the clearest weather. Wordsworth did not care for local accuracy in this passage. It was quite unnecessary for his purpose. Compare his account of the morning walk near Hawkshead in The Prelude, and see the Appendix-note to book iv. l. 338 (vol. iii. p. 389).—ED.

[AJ] Compare Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey (vol. ii. p. 54), in which Wordsworth speaks of the rock, the mountain, and the wood, their colours and their forms, as an appetite, a feeling, and a love—

That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
ED.
Unborrowed from the eye.

[AK] Compare the line in the sonnet on Milton (vol. ii. p. 346)—

ED.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart.

[AL] In this description of the eagle's birth-place, and the peak "familiar with forgotten years," Wordsworth probably wandered in imagination from the Athole district to Westmoreland, as this part of the poem was in all likelihood written in 1801-2. He visited the Athole country, with his sister, in 1803; going up as far as Blair, and returning: but there is no peak in that district (at least none that he would see) that shows

Inscribed upon its visionary sides,
The history of many a winter storm,
Or obscure records of the path of fire,

as does, for example, the Stob Dearg in the Buchaile Etive Mor group in Argyll, a peak which he saw in the course of his Scottish tour in that year. —ED.

[AM] Compare Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey (vol. ii. p.54)—

The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood.
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
ED.
An appetite.

[AN] With this description of the boy and youth, compare Coleridge's words in The Friend, vol. iii. p. 46 (edition of 1818)—

"We have been discoursing of infancy, childhood, boyhood, and youth, of pleasures lying upon the unfolding intellect plenteously as morning dew-drops—of knowledge inhaled insensibly like the fragrance—of dispositions stealing into the spirit like music from unknown quarters—of images uncalled for and rising up like exhalations, of hopes plucked like beautiful wild flowers from the ruined tombs that border the highways of antiquity, to make a garland for a living forehead: in a word, we have been treating of nature as a teacher of truth through joy and through gladness, and as a creatress of the faculties by a process of smoothness and delight. We have made no mention of fear, shame, sorrow, nor of ungovernable and vexing thoughts; because, although these have been and have done mighty service, they are overlooked in that stage of life when youth is passing into manhood, overlooked or forgotten."—ED.

[AO] Enterprise. Compare the poem To Enterprise, which, Wordsworth says, "arose out of The Italian Itinerant, and The Swiss Goatherd." Compare also the latter poem, No. xxv. of the "Memorials of a Tour on the Continent" (1820).—ED.

[AP] See Wordsworth's note, p. 383.

[AQ] Compare the Preface to "Lyrical Ballads" (1800), in the Prose Works.—ED.

[AR] Compare Simon Lee, ll. 5-8 (vol. i. p. 263)—

Full five-and-thirty years he lived
A running huntsman merry;
And still the centre of his cheek
Is red as a ripe cherry.

Also the description of Margaret, p. 60 of this volume.—ED.

[AS] Compare Resolution and Independence, stanza xiii. (vol. ii. p. 318).

[AT] Compare Julius Cæsar, act III. scene ii. l. 81—

ED.
The good is oft interred with their bones.

[AU] See Moschus's epitaph on Bion, 1-7—

Αἴλινά μοι στοναχεῖτε νάπαι καὶ Δώρεον ὕδωρ,
καὶ ποταμοὶ κλαίοιτε τὸν ἰμερόεντα Βίωνα.
νῦν φυτά μοι μύρεσθε, καὶ ἄλσεα νῦν γοάοισθε.
ἄνθεα νῦν στυγνοῖσιν ἀποπνείοιτε κορύμβοις.
νῦν ῥόδα φοινίσσεσθε τὰ πένθιμα, νῦν ἀνεμῶναι,
νῦν ὑάκινθε λάλει τὰ σα γράμματα, καὶ πλέον αἲ αἲ
λάμβανε τοῖς πετάλοισι καλὸς τεθνακε μελικτάς.

And compare Virgil, Ecl. v. 27, 28; Georg. I. 466-488; Georg. IV. 461-463; Catullus, Carmen XXXI., Ad Sirmionem Peninsulam, the three last lines. See also Theocritus, Idyll 3, and compare the philosophic myths in the stories of Orpheus, Amphion, etc.—ED.

[AV] Compare δν οἱ θεοὶ ϕιλοῦσιν, ἀποθνήσκει νέος.

Whom the gods love, die young.

Menander, quoted (amongst others) by Plutarch, Consol. ad Apollonium, cap. 34. For other authorities, see Meineke's Comicorum Græcorum Fragmenta.—ED.

[AW] The hand-loom was common in many of the cottages of the country, as well as in the manufacturing towns of England and Scotland, until quite recently.—ED.

[AX] Psalm ciii. 16.—ED.

[AY] Compare λύοντες οὐκ ἤκουον.—(Æsch. Prom. v. 447.)

Also S. Matt. xiii. 13-15—

They seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not.

And Shakespeare, Richard III. act IV. scene iv. 1. 26—

ED.
Blind sight, dead life, poor mortal-living ghost.

[AZ] Compare The Waggoner, vol. iii. p. 77—

ED.
In silence deeper far than that of deepest noon!

[BA] Compare Resolution and Independence, stanza xiii. (vol. ii. p. 319)—

Ere he replied, a flash of mild surprise
ED.
Broke from the sable orbs of his yet-vivid eyes.

[BB] Compare Burns's Epistle to William Simpson, Ochiltree

ED.
Adoun some trotting burn's meander.

[BC] Compare Midsummer Night's Dream, act 1. scene i. l. 211—

ED.
Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass.

[BD] Sedum acre.—ED.

[BE] Statice armerium.—ED.

[BF] Convolvulus arvensis.—ED.

[BG] Mr. H. H. Turner suggests that this line would be more naturally written,

Bespake a hand of sleepy negligence.

The change would have been an improvement.—ED.

[BH] "The scene of the first book of the poem is, I must own, laid in a tract of country not sufficiently near to that which soon comes into view in the second book, to agree with the fact. All that relates to Margaret, and the ruined cottage, etc., was taken from observations made in the south-west of England; and certainly it would require more than seven-league boots to stretch in one morning, from a common in Somersetshire, or Dorsetshire, to the heights of Furness Fells, and the deep valleys they embosom."—I. F.

Compare with the first book of The Excursion the first three books of The Prelude.—ED.

[BI] Compare stanza xi. in the Ode, Intimations of Immortality (vol. viii.)—

To me the meanest flower that blows can give
ED.
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

[67]

Book Second

THE SOLITARY

ARGUMENT

The Author describes his travels with the Wanderer, whose character is further illustrated—Morning scene, and view of a Village Wake—Wanderer's account of a Friend whom he purposes to visit—View, from an eminence, of the Valley which his Friend had chosen for his retreat[100]Sound of singing from below—A funeral procession—Descent into the Valley—Observations drawn from the Wanderer at sight of a book accidentally discovered in a recess in the Valley—Meeting with the Wanderer's friend, the Solitary—Wanderer's description of the mode of burial in this mountainous district—Solitary contrasts with this, that of the individual carried a few minutes before from the cottage[101]The cottage entered—Description of the Solitary's apartment—Repast there—View, from the window, of two mountain summits; and the Solitary's description of the companionship they afford him—Account of the departed inmate of the cottage—Description of a grand spectacle upon the mountains, with its effect upon the Solitary's mind—Leave[102] the house.

In days of yore how fortunately fared
The Minstrel! wandering on from hall to hall,
Baronial court or royal; cheered with gifts
Munificent, and love, and ladies' praise;
5
Now meeting on his road an armed knight,
Now resting with a pilgrim by the side
Of a clear brook;—beneath an abbey's roof
[68]
One evening sumptuously lodged; the next,
Humbly in a religious hospital;
10
Or with some merry outlaws of the wood;
Or haply shrouded in a hermit's cell.
Him, sleeping or awake, the robber spared;
He walked—protected from the sword of war
By virtue of that sacred instrument
15
His harp, suspended at the traveller's side;
His dear companion wheresoe'er he went
Opening from land to land an easy way
By melody, and by the charm of verse.
Yet not the noblest of that honoured Race
20
Drew happier, loftier, more empassioned, thoughts
From his long journeyings and eventful life,
Than this obscure Itinerant had skill
To gather, ranging through the tamer ground[103]
Of these our unimaginative days;
25
Both while he trod the earth in humblest guise
Accoutred with his burthen and his staff;
And now, when free to move with lighter pace.
What wonder, then, if I, whose favourite school
Hath been the fields, the roads, and rural lanes,
30
[104]Looked on this guide with reverential love?
Each with the other pleased, we now pursued
Our journey, under[105] favourable skies.
Turn wheresoe'er we would, he was a light
Unfailing: not a hamlet could we pass,
[69] 35
Rarely a house, that[106] did not yield to him
Remembrances; or from his tongue call forth
Some way-beguiling tale. Nor less regard
Accompanied those strains of apt discourse,
Which nature's various objects might inspire;[107]
40
And in the silence of his face I read
His overflowing spirit. Birds and beasts,
And the mute fish that glances in the stream,
And harmless reptile coiling in the sun,
And gorgeous insect hovering in the air,
45
The fowl domestic, and the household dog—
In his capacious mind, he loved them all:
Their rights acknowledging he felt for all.
Oft was occasion given me to perceive
How the calm pleasures of the pasturing herd
50
To happy contemplation soothed his walk;
[108]How the poor brute's condition, forced to run
Its course of suffering in the public road,
Sad contrast! all too often smote his heart
With unavailing pity. Rich in love
55
And sweet humanity, he was, himself,
To the degree that he desired, beloved.
Smiles of good-will from faces that he knew
Greeted us all day long;[109] we took our seats
By many a cottage-hearth, where he received
60
The welcome of an Inmate from afar,[110]
[70]
And I at once forgot, I was a Stranger.[111]
—Nor was he loth to enter ragged huts,
Huts where his charity[112] was blest; his voice
64
Heard as the voice of an experienced friend.
And, sometimes—where the poor man held dispute
With his own mind, unable to subdue
Impatience through inaptness to perceive
General distress in his particular lot;
Or cherishing resentment, or in vain
70
Struggling against it; with a soul perplexed,
And finding in herself[113] no steady power
To draw the line of comfort that divides
Calamity, the chastisement of Heaven,
From the injustice of our brother men—
75
To him appeal was made as to a judge;
Who, with an understanding heart, allayed
The perturbation; listened to the plea;
Resolved the dubious point; and sentence gave
So grounded, so applied, that it was heard
80
With softened spirit, even when it condemned.
Such intercourse I witnessed, while we roved,
Now as his choice directed, now as mine;
Or both, with equal readiness of will,
Our course submitting to the changeful breeze
85
Of accident. But when the rising sun
Had three times called us to renew our walk,
My Fellow-traveller, with earnest voice,
As if the thought were but a moment old,
Claimed absolute dominion for the day.[114]
[71] 90
We started—and he led me toward the hills,[115]
Up through an ample vale, with higher hills
Before us, mountains stern and desolate;[BJ]
But, in the majesty of distance, now
Set off, and to our ken appearing fair
95
Of aspect, with aërial softness clad,
And beautified with morning's purple beams.
The wealthy, the luxurious, by the stress
Of business roused, or pleasure, ere their time,
May roll in chariots, or provoke the hoofs
100
Of the fleet coursers they bestride, to raise
From earth the dust of morning, slow to rise;
And they, if blest with health and hearts at ease,
Shall lack not their enjoyment:—but how faint
Compared with ours! who, pacing side by side,
105
Could, with an eye of leisure, look on all
That we beheld; and lend the listening sense
To every grateful sound of earth and air;
Pausing at will—our spirits braced, our thoughts
Pleasant as roses in the thickets blown,
110
And pure as dew bathing their crimson leaves.
Mount slowly, sun! that we may journey long,
[72]
By this dark hill protected from thy beams![116]
Such is the summer pilgrim's frequent wish;
But quickly from among our morning thoughts[117]
'Twas chased away: for, toward[118] the western side
116
Of the broad vale, casting a casual glance,
We saw a throng of people;—wherefore met?
Blithe notes of music, suddenly let loose
On the thrilled ear, and flags uprising, yield[119]
120
Prompt answer; they proclaim the annual Wake,[BK]
Which the bright season favours.—Tabor and pipe
In purpose join to hasten or[120] reprove
The laggard Rustic; and repay with boons
Of merriment a party-coloured knot,
125
Already formed upon the village-green.
—Beyond the limits of the shadow cast
By the broad hill,[BL] glistened upon our sight
That gay assemblage. Round them and above,
[73]
Glitter, with dark recesses interposed,
130
Casement, and cottage-roof, and stems of trees
Half-veiled in vapoury cloud, the silver steam
Of dews fast melting on their leafy boughs
By the strong sunbeams smitten. Like a mast
Of gold, the Maypole shines; as if the rays
135
Of morning, aided by exhaling dew,
With gladsome influence could re-animate
The faded garlands dangling from its sides.
Said I, "The music and the sprightly scene
Invite us; shall we quit our road, and join
140
These festive matins?"—He replied, "Not loth
To linger I would here[121] with you partake,
Not one hour merely, but till evening's close,
The simple pastimes of the day and place.
By the fleet Racers, ere the sun be set,
145
The turf of yon large pasture will be skimmed;
There, too, the lusty Wrestlers shall[122] contend:
But know we not that he, who intermits
The appointed task and duties of the day,
Untunes full oft the pleasures of the day;
150
Checking the finer spirits that refuse
To flow, when purposes are lightly changed?
A length of journey yet remains untraced:
Let us proceed."[123] Then, pointing with his staff
Raised toward those craggy summits,[124] his intent
He thus imparted:—
[74] 155
"In a spot that lies
Among yon mountain fastnesses concealed,[BM]
You will receive, before the hour of noon,
Good recompense, I hope, for this day's toil,
From sight of One who lives secluded there,
160
Lonesome and lost: of whom, and whose past life,
(Not to forestall such knowledge as may be
More faithfully collected from himself)
This brief communication shall suffice.
"Though now sojourning there, he, like myself,
165
Sprang from a stock of lowly parentage
Among the wilds of Scotland, in a tract
Where many a sheltered and well-tended plant,
Bears, on the humblest ground of social life,
Blossoms of piety and innocence.[125]
170
Such grateful promises his youth displayed:
And, having shown in study forward zeal,
He to the Ministry was duly called;
And straight, incited by a curious mind
Filled with vague hopes, he undertook the charge[126]
175
Of Chaplain to a military troop[BN]
Cheered by the Highland bagpipe, as they marched
[75]
In plaided vest,—his fellow-countrymen.
This office filling, yet[127] by native power
And force of native inclination made
180
An intellectual ruler in the haunts
Of social vanity, he walked the world,
Gay, and affecting graceful gaiety;
Lax, buoyant—less a pastor with his flock
184
Than a soldier among soldiers—lived and roamed
Where Fortune led:—and Fortune, who oft proves
The careless wanderer's friend, to him made known
A blooming Lady—a conspicuous flower,
Admired for beauty, for her sweetness praised;
Whom he had sensibility to love,
190
Ambition to attempt, and skill to win.
"For this fair Bride, most rich in gifts of mind,
Nor sparingly endowed with worldly wealth,
His office he relinquished; and retired
From the world's notice to a rural home.
195
Youth's season yet with him was scarcely past,
And she was in youth's prime. How free their love,
How full their joy! 'Till, pitiable doom![128]
In the short course of one undreaded year,
[76]
Death blasted all. Death suddenly o'erthrew
200
Two lovely Children—all that they possessed!
The Mother followed:—miserably bare
The one Survivor stood; he wept, he prayed
For his dismissal, day and night, compelled
To hold communion with the grave, and face
205
With pain the regions of eternity.[129]
An uncomplaining apathy displaced
This anguish; and, indifferent to delight,
To aim and purpose, he consumed his days,
To private interest dead, and public care.
So lived he; so he might have died.
210
"But now,
To the wide world's astonishment, appeared
A[130] glorious opening, the unlooked-for dawn,
That promised everlasting joy to France![BO]
Her voice of social transport[131] reached even him!
215
He broke from his contracted bounds, repaired
To the great City, an emporium then
Of golden expectations, and receiving
Freights every day from a new world of hope.
Thither his popular talents he transferred;
220
And, from the pulpit, zealously maintained
[77]
The cause of Christ and civil liberty,
As one, and moving to one glorious end.
Intoxicating service! I might say
A happy service; for he was sincere
225
As vanity and fondness for applause,
And new and shapeless wishes, would allow.
"That righteous cause (such power hath freedom) bound,
For one hostility, in friendly league,[132]
Ethereal natures and the worst of slaves;
230
Was served by rival advocates that came
From regions opposite as heaven and hell.
One courage seemed to animate them all:
And, from the dazzling conquests daily gained
By their united efforts, there arose
235
A proud and most presumptuous confidence
In the transcendent wisdom of the age,
And her[133] discernment; not alone in rights,
And in the origin and bounds of power
Social and temporal; but in laws divine,
240
Deduced by reason, or to faith revealed.
An overweening trust was raised; and fear
Cast out, alike of person and of thing.
Plague from this union spread, whose subtle bane
The strongest did not easily escape;
245
And He, what wonder! took a mortal taint.
How shall I trace the change, how bear to tell
That he broke faith with them[134] whom he had laid
In earth's dark chambers, with a Christian's hope!
An infidel contempt of holy writ
[78] 250
Stole by degrees upon his mind; and hence
Life, like that Roman Janus, double-faced;
Vilest hypocrisy—the laughing, gay
Hypocrisy, not leagued with fear, but pride.
Smooth words he had to wheedle simple souls;
255
But, for disciples of the inner school,
Old freedom was old servitude, and they
The wisest whose opinions stooped the least
To known restraints; and who most boldly drew
Hopeful prognostications from a creed,
260
That,[135] in the light of false philosophy,
Spread like a halo round a misty moon,
Widening its circle as the storms advance.
"His sacred function was at length renounced;
And every day and every place enjoyed
265
The unshackled layman's natural liberty;
Speech, manners, morals, all without disguise.
I do not wish to wrong him; though the course
Of private life licentiously displayed
Unhallowed actions—planted like a crown
270
Upon the insolent aspiring brow
Of spurious notions—worn as open signs
Of prejudice subdued—still he[136] retained,
'Mid much[137] abasement, what he had received
From nature, an intense and glowing mind.
275
Wherefore, when humbled Liberty grew weak,
And mortal sickness on her face appeared,
He coloured objects to his own desire
As with a lover's passion. Yet his moods
Of pain were keen as those of better men,
[79] 280
Nay keener, as his fortitude was less:
And he continued, when worse days were come,
To deal about his sparkling eloquence,
Struggling against the strange reverse with zeal
That showed like happiness. But, in despite
285
Of all this outside bravery, within,
He neither felt encouragement nor hope:
For moral dignity, and strength of mind,
Were wanting; and simplicity of life;
And reverence for himself; and, last and best,
Confiding thoughts, through[138] love and fear of Him
291
Before whose sight the troubles of this world
Are vain, as billows in a tossing sea.
"The glory of the times fading away—
The splendour, which had given a festal air
295
To self-importance, hallowed it, and veiled
From his own sight—this gone, he forfeited[139]
All joy in human nature; was consumed,
And vexed, and chafed, by levity and scorn,
And fruitless indignation; galled by pride;
300
Made desperate by contempt of men who throve
Before his sight in power or fame, and won,
Without desert, what he desired; weak men,
Too weak even for his envy or his hate!
Tormented thus, after a wandering course
305
Of discontent, and inwardly opprest[140]
With malady—in part, I fear, provoked
[80]
By weariness of life—he fixed his home,
Or, rather say, sate down by very chance,
Among these rugged hills; where now he dwells,
310
And wastes the sad remainder of his hours,
Steeped in a self-indulging spleen, that wants not[141]
Its own voluptuousness;—on this resolved,
With this content, that he will live and die
Forgotten,—at safe distance from 'a world
Not moving to his mind.'"[BP]
315
These serious words
Closed the preparatory notices
That served my Fellow-traveller to beguile[142]
The way, while we advanced up that wide vale.[BQ]
Diverging now (as if his quest had been[143]
320
Some secret of the mountains, cavern, fall
Of water, or some lofty eminence,[144]
Renowned for splendid prospect far and wide)
We scaled, without a track to ease our steps,
A steep ascent;[BR] and reached a dreary plain,[145][BS]
[81] 325
With a tumultuous waste of huge hill tops
Before us;[BT] savage region! which I paced
Dispirited:[146] when, all at once, behold!
Beneath our feet, a little lowly vale,[BU]
A lowly vale, and yet uplifted high
330
Among the mountains; even as if the spot
Had been from eldest time by wish of theirs
So placed, to be shut out from all the world!
Urn-like it was in shape, deep as an urn;[BU]
334
With rocks encompassed, save that to the south
Was one small opening,[BV] where a heath-clad ridge
Supplied a boundary less abrupt and close;
A quiet treeless nook, with two green fields,[BW]
A liquid pool that glittered in the sun,[BX]
And one bare dwelling; one abode, no more![BY]
340
It seemed the home of poverty and toil,
Though not of want: the little fields, made green
By husbandry of many thrifty years,
[82]
Paid cheerful tribute to the moorland house.
—There crows the cock, single in his domain:
345
The small birds find in spring no thicket there
To shroud them; only from the neighbouring vales
The cuckoo, straggling up to the hill tops,
Shouteth faint tidings of some gladder place.
Ah! what a sweet Recess, thought I, is here!
350
Instantly throwing down my limbs at ease
Upon a bed of heath;—full many a spot
Of hidden beauty have I chanced to espy
Among the mountains; never one like this;
So lonesome, and so perfectly secure;
355
Not melancholy—no, for it is green,
And bright, and fertile, furnished in itself
With the few needful things that[147] life requires.
—In rugged arms how softly does it lie,[148]
How tenderly protected! Far and near
360
We have an image of the pristine earth,
The planet in its nakedness: were this
Man's only dwelling, sole appointed seat,
First, last, and single, in the breathing world,
It could not be more quiet: peace is here
365
Or nowhere; days unruffled by the gale
Of public news or private; years that pass
Forgetfully; uncalled upon to pay
The common penalties of mortal life,
Sickness, or accident, or grief, or pain.
370
On these and kindred thoughts intent I lay
In silence musing by my Comrade's side,[149]
[83]
He also silent; when from out the heart
Of that profound abyss a solemn voice,
Or several voices in one solemn sound,
375
Was heard ascending; mournful, deep, and slow
The cadence, as of psalms—a funeral dirge![BZ]
We listened, looking down upon the hut,[150]
But seeing no one: meanwhile from below
The strain continued, spiritual as before;
380
And now distinctly could I recognise
These words:—'Shall in the grave thy love be known,
In death thy faithfulness?'—"God rest his soul!"[151]
Said the old man,[152] abruptly breaking silence,—
"He is departed, and finds peace at last!"
[84]
385
This scarcely spoken, and those holy strains
Not ceasing, forth appeared in view a band
Of rustic persons, from behind the hut
Bearing a coffin in the midst, with which
They shaped their course along the sloping side
390
Of that small valley, singing as they moved;[CA]
A sober company and few, the men
Bare-headed, and all decently attired!
Some steps when they had thus advanced, the dirge
Ended; and, from the stillness that ensued
395
Recovering, to my Friend I said, "You spake,
Methought, with apprehension that these rites
Are paid to Him upon whose shy retreat
This day we purposed to intrude."—"I did so,
But let us hence, that we may learn the truth:
400
Perhaps it is not he[153] but some one else
For whom this pious service is performed;
Some other tenant of the solitude."
So, to a steep and difficult descent
Trusting ourselves, we wound from crag to crag,
405
Where passage could be won;[CB] and, as the last
Of the mute train, behind[154] the heathy top
Of that off-sloping outlet,[CC] disappeared,
I, more impatient in my downward course,[155]
Had landed upon easy ground; and there
410
Stood waiting for my Comrade. When behold
An object that enticed my steps aside!
[85]
A narrow, winding, entry opened out[156]
Into a platform—that lay, sheepfold-wise,
Enclosed between an upright[157] mass of rock
415
And one old moss-grown wall;—a cool recess,
And fanciful! For where the rock and wall
Met in an angle, hung a penthouse, framed
By thrusting two rude staves into the wall[158]
And overlaying them with mountain sods;
420
To weather-fend a little turf-built seat
Whereon a full-grown man might rest, nor dread
The burning sunshine, or a transient shower;
But the whole plainly wrought by children's hands![CD]
Whose skill had thronged the floor with a proud show[159]
425
Of baby-houses, curiously arranged;
Nor wanting ornament of walks between,
With mimic trees inserted in the turf,
And gardens interposed. Pleased with the sight,
429
I could not choose but beckon to my Guide,
Who, entering, round him threw a careless glance,
Impatient to pass on, when I exclaimed,[160]
[86]
"Lo! what is here?" and, stooping down, drew forth
A book, that, in the midst of stones and moss
And wreck of party-coloured earthen-ware,[CE]
435
Aptly disposed, had lent its help to raise
One of those petty structures. "His it must be!"
Exclaimed the Wanderer, "cannot but be his,[161]
And he is gone!"[162] The book, which in my hand
Had opened of itself (for it was swoln
440
With searching damp, and seemingly had lain
To the injurious elements exposed
From week to week,) I found to be a work
In the French tongue, a Novel of Voltaire,
444
His famous Optimist. "Unhappy Man!"
Exclaimed my Friend: "here then has been to him
Retreat within retreat, a sheltering-place
Within how deep a shelter! He had fits,
Even to the last, of genuine tenderness,
And loved the haunts of children: here, no doubt,
Pleasing and pleased, he shared their simple sports,
451
Or sate companionless; and here the book,
Left and forgotten in his careless way,
Must by the cottage-children have been found:[163]
[87]
Heaven bless them, and their inconsiderate work!
455
To what odd purpose have the darlings turned
This sad memorial of their hapless friend!"
"Me," said I, "most doth it surprise, to find
Such book in such a place!"—" A book it is,"
He answered,"to the Person suited well,
460
Though little suited to surrounding things:
'Tis strange, I grant; and stranger still had been
To see the Man who owned it, dwelling here,[164]
With one poor shepherd, far from all the world!—
Now, if our errand hath been thrown away,
465
As from these intimations I forebode,
Grieved shall I be—less for my sake than yours,
And least of all for him who is no more."
By this, the book was in the old Man's hand;
469
And he continued, glancing on the leaves
An eye of scorn:—"The lover," said he, "doomed
To love when hope hath failed him—whom no depth
Of privacy is deep enough to hide,
Hath yet his bracelet or his lock of hair,
And that is joy to him. When change of times
475
Hath summoned kings to scaffolds, do but give
The faithful servant, who must hide his head
Henceforth in whatsoever nook he may,
A kerchief sprinkled with his master's blood,
And he too hath his comforter. How poor,
480
Beyond all poverty how destitute,
Must that Man have been left, who, hither driven,
Flying or seeking, could yet bring with him
No dearer relique, and no better stay,
[88]
Than this dull product of a scoffer's pen,[CF]
485
Impure conceits discharging from a heart
Hardened by impious pride!—I did not fear
To tax you with this journey;"—mildly said
My venerable Friend, as forth we stepped
Into the presence of the cheerful light—
490
"For I have knowledge that you do not shrink
From moving spectacles;—but let us on."
So speaking, on he went, and at the word
I followed, till he made a sudden stand:
For full in view, approaching through a[165] gate
495
That opened from the enclosure of green fields
Into the rough uncultivated ground,[CG]
Behold the Man whom he had fancied dead!
I knew from his deportment, mien, and dress,[166]
That it could be no other; a pale face,
500
A meagre person, tall, and in a garb[167]
Not rustic—dull and faded like himself!
He saw us not, though distant but few steps;
For he was busy, dealing, from a store
Upon a broad leaf carried, choicest strings
505
Of red ripe currants;[168] gift by which he strove,
With intermixture of endearing words,
[89]
To soothe a Child, who walked beside him, weeping
As if disconsolate.—"They to the grave
Are bearing him, my Little-one," he said,
510
"To the dark pit; but he will feel no pain;
His body is at rest, his soul in heaven."
More might have followed—but my honoured Friend
Broke in upon the Speaker with a frank
514
And cordial greeting.—Vivid was the light
That flashed and sparkled from the other's eyes;[169][CH]
He was all fire: no shadow on his brow
Remained, nor sign of sickness on his face.[170]
Hands joined he with his Visitant,—a grasp,
An eager grasp; and many moments' space—
520
When the first glow of pleasure was no more,
And, of the sad appearance which at once
Had vanished, much was come and coming back—[171]
An amicable smile retained the life
Which it had unexpectedly received,
525
Upon his hollow cheek. "How kind," he said,
"Nor could your coming have been better timed;
For this, you see, is in our narrow[172] world
[90]
A day of sorrow. I have here a charge"—
And, speaking thus, he patted tenderly
530
The sun-burnt forehead of the weeping child—
"A little mourner, whom it is my task
To comfort;—but how came ye?—if yon track
(Which doth at once befriend us and betray)
Conducted hither your most welcome feet,
535
Ye could not miss the funeral train—they yet
Have scarcely disappeared." "This blooming Child,"
Said the old Man, "is of an age to weep
At any grave or solemn spectacle,
Inly distressed or overpowered with awe,
540
He knows not wherefore;—but the boy to-day,
Perhaps is shedding orphan's tears; you also[173]
Must have sustained a loss."—"The hand of Death,"
He answered, "has been here; but could not well
Have fallen more lightly, if it had not fallen
545
Upon myself."—The other left these words
Unnoticed, thus continuing—
"From yon crag,
Down whose steep sides we dropped into the vale,
We heard the hymn they sang—a solemn sound
Heard any where; but in a place like this
550
'Tis more than human! Many precious rites
And customs of our rural ancestry
Are gone, or stealing from us; this, I hope,
Will last for ever.[CI] Oft on my way have I
Stood still, though but a casual passenger,
555
So much I felt the awfulness of life,[174]
[91]
In that one moment when the corse is lifted
In silence, with a hush of decency;
Then from the threshold moves with song of peace,
And confidential yearnings, tow'rds its home,
560
Its final home on earth.[175] What traveller—who—
(How far soe'er a stranger) does not own
The bond of brotherhood, when he sees them go,
A mute procession on the houseless road;
Or passing by some single tenement
565
Or clustered dwellings, where again they raise
The monitory voice? But most of all
It touches, it confirms, and elevates,
Then, when the body, soon to be consigned
Ashes to ashes, dust bequeathed to dust,
570
Is raised from the church-aisle, and forward borne
Upon the shoulders of the next in love,
The nearest in affection or in blood;
Yea, by the very mourners who had knelt
Beside the coffin, resting on its lid
575
In silent grief their unuplifted heads,[CJ]
And heard meanwhile the Psalmist's mournful plaint,
And that most awful scripture which declares
We shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed!
—Have I not seen—ye likewise may have seen—
580
Son, husband, brothers—brothers side by side,
[92]
And son and father also side by side,
Rise from that posture:—and in concert move,
On the green turf following the vested Priest,
Four dear supporters of one senseless weight,
585
From which they do not shrink, and under which
They faint not, but advance towards the open grave[176]
Step after step—together, with their firm
Unhidden faces: he that suffers most,
He outwardly, and inwardly perhaps,
590
The most serene, with most undaunted eye!—
Oh! blest are they who live and die like these,
Loved with such love, and with such sorrow mourned!"
"That poor Man taken hence to-day," replied
The Solitary, with a faint sarcastic smile
Which did not please me, "must be deemed, I fear,
596
Of the unblest; for he will surely sink
Into his mother earth without such pomp
Of grief, depart without occasion given
By him for such array of fortitude.
600
Full seventy winters hath he lived, and mark!
This simple Child will mourn his one short hour,
And I shall miss him; scanty tribute! yet,
This wanting, he would leave the sight of men,
If love were his sole claim upon their care,
605
Like a ripe date which in the desert falls
Without a hand to gather it."
At this
I interposed, though loth to speak, and said,
"Can it be thus among so small a band
As ye must needs be here? in such a place
610
I would not willingly, methinks, lose sight
Of a departing cloud."—"'Twas not for love"
Answered the sick Man with a careless voice—
"That I came hither; neither have I found
[93]
Among associates who have power of speech,
615
Nor in such other converse as is here,
Temptation so prevailing as to change
That mood, or undermine my first resolve."
Then, speaking in like careless sort, he said
To my benign Companion,—"Pity 'tis
620
That fortune did not guide you to this house
A few days earlier; then would you have seen
What stuff the Dwellers in a solitude,
That seems by Nature hollowed out to be
The seat and bosom of pure innocence,[177]
625
Are made of, an ungracious matter this!
Which, for truth's sake, yet in remembrance too
Of past discussions with this zealous friend
And advocate of humble life, I now
Will force upon his notice; undeterred
630
By the example of his own pure course,
And that respect and deference which a soul
May fairly claim, by niggard age enriched
In what she most doth value, love of God[178]
And his frail creature Man;—but ye shall hear.
635
I talk—and ye are standing in the sun
Without refreshment!"
Quickly had he spoken,
And, with light steps still quicker than his words,
Led toward the Cottage. Homely was the spot;[179]
[94]
And, to my feeling, ere we reached the door,
640
Had almost a forbidding nakedness;
Less fair, I grant, even painfully less fair,
Than it appeared when from the beetling rock[180]
We had looked down upon it. All within,
As left by the[181] departed company,
645
Was silent; save the solitary clock
That on mine ear ticked with a mournful sound.—[182]
Following our Guide, we clomb the cottage-stairs
And reached a small apartment dark and low,
Which was no sooner entered than our Host
650
Said gaily, "This is my domain, my cell,
My hermitage, my cabin, what you will—
I love it better than a snail his house.
But now ye shall be feasted with our best."[CK]
So, with more ardour than an unripe girl
655
Left one day mistress of her mother's stores,
He went about his hospitable task.
[95]
My eyes were busy, and my thoughts no less,
And pleased I looked upon my grey-haired Friend,
As if to thank him; he returned that look,
660
Cheered, plainly, and yet serious. What a wreck
Had we about us![183] scattered was the floor,
And, in like sort, chair, window-seat, and shelf,
With books, maps, fossils, withered plants and flowers,
And tufts of mountain moss. Mechanic tools
665
Lay intermixed with scraps of paper, some[184]
Scribbled with verse: a broken angling-rod
And shattered telescope, together linked
By cobwebs, stood within a dusty nook;
And instruments of music, some half-made,
670
Some in disgrace, hung dangling from the walls.
But speedily the promise was fulfilled;
A feast before us, and a[185] courteous Host
Inviting us in glee to sit and eat.
A napkin, white as foam of that rough brook
By which it had been bleached, o'erspread the board;
676
And was itself half-covered with a store[186]
Of dainties,—oaten bread, curd,[187] cheese, and cream;
And cakes of butter curiously embossed,
Butter that had imbibed from meadow-flowers
680
A golden hue, delicate as their own
Faintly reflected in a lingering stream."[188]
[96]
Nor lacked, for more delight on that warm day,
Our table small parade of garden fruits,
And whortle-berries from the mountain side.
685
The Child, who long ere this had stilled his sobs,
Was now[189] a help to his late comforter,
And moved, a willing Page, as he was bid,
Ministering to our need.
In genial mood,
While at our pastoral banquet thus we sate
690
Fronting the window of that little cell,
I could not, ever and anon, forbear
To glance an upward look on two huge Peaks,
That from some other vale peered into this.[CL]
"Those lusty twins," exclaimed our host, "if here
695
It were your lot to dwell, would soon become[190]
[97]
Your prized companions.—Many are the notes
Which, in his tuneful course, the wind draws forth
From rocks, woods, caverns, heaths, and dashing shores;
And well those lofty brethren bear their part
700
In the wild concert—chiefly when the storm
Rides high; then all the upper air they fill
With roaring sound, that ceases not to flow,
Like smoke, along the level of the blast,
In mighty current; theirs, too, is the song
705
Of stream and headlong flood that seldom fails;
And, in the grim and breathless hour of noon,
Methinks that I have heard them echo back
The thunder's greeting. Nor have nature's laws
Left them ungifted with a power to yield
710
Music of finer tone;[191] a harmony,
So do I call it, though it be the hand
Of silence, though there be no voice;—the clouds,
The mist, the shadows, light of golden suns,
Motions of moonlight, all come thither—touch,
715
And have an answer—thither come, and shape
A language not unwelcome to sick hearts
And idle spirits:—there the sun himself,
At the calm close of summer's longest day,[CM]
Rests his substantial orb;—between those heights
720
And on the top of either pinnacle,
More keenly than elsewhere in night's blue vault,
Sparkle the stars, as of their station proud.
Thoughts are not busier in the mind of man
Than the mute agents stirring there:—alone
Here do I sit and watch."—[CN]
[98] 725
A fall of voice,
Regretted like the nightingale's last note,
Had scarcely closed this high-wrought strain of rapture
Ere with inviting smile the Wanderer said:[192]
"Now for the tale with which you threatened us!"
730
"In truth the threat escaped me unawares:
Should the tale tire you, let this challenge stand
For my excuse. Dissevered from mankind,
As to your eyes and thoughts we must have seemed[193]
When ye looked down upon us from the crag,
735
Islanders mid[194] a stormy mountain sea,
We are not so;—perpetually we touch
Upon the vulgar ordinances[195] of the world;
And he, whom this our cottage hath to-day
Relinquished, lived[196] dependent for his bread
740
Upon the laws of public charity.
The Housewife, tempted by such slender gains
As might from that occasion be distilled,
Opened, as she before had done for me,
[99]
Her doors to admit this homeless Pensioner;
745
The portion gave of coarse but wholesome fare
Which appetite required—a blind dull nook,
Such as she had, the kennel of his rest!
This, in itself not ill, would yet have been
Ill borne in earlier life; but his was now
750
The still contentedness of seventy years.
Calm did he sit under[197] the wide-spread tree
Of his old age: and yet less calm and meek,
Winningly meek or venerably calm,
Than slow and torpid; paying in this wise
755
A penalty, if penalty it were,
For spendthrift feats, excesses of his prime.
I loved the old Man, for I pitied him!
A task it was, I own, to hold discourse
With one so slow in gathering up his thoughts,
760
But he was a cheap pleasure to my eyes;
Mild, inoffensive, ready in his way,
And helpful[198] to his utmost power: and there
Our housewife knew full well what she possessed
He was her vassal of all labour, tilled
765
Her garden, from the pasture fetched her kine;
And, one among the orderly array
Of hay-makers, beneath the burning sun
Maintained his place; or heedfully pursued
His course, on errands bound, to other vales,
770
Leading sometimes an inexperienced child
Too young for any profitable task.
So moved he like a shadow that performed
Substantial service.[CO] Mark me now, and learn
[100]
For what reward!—The moon her monthly round
775
Hath not completed since our dame, the queen
Of this one cottage and this lonely dale,
Into my little sanctuary rushed—
Voice to a rueful treble humanised,
And features in deplorable dismay.
780
I treat the matter lightly, but, alas!
It is most serious: persevering rain[199]
Had fallen in torrents; all the mountain tops
Were hidden, and black vapours coursed their sides;
This had I seen, and saw; but, till she spake,
785
Was wholly ignorant that my ancient Friend—
Who at her bidding, early and alone,
Had clomb aloft to delve the moorland[200] turf
For winter fuel—to his noontide meal
Returned not, and now, haply, on the heights[201]
790
Lay at the mercy of this raging storm.
'Inhuman!'—said I, 'was an old Man's life
Not worth the trouble of a thought?—alas!
This notice comes too late.' With joy I saw
Her husband enter—from a distant vale.
795
We sallied forth together; found the tools
Which the neglected veteran had dropped,
But through all quarters looked for him in vain.
We shouted—but no answer! Darkness fell
Without remission of the blast or shower,
800
And fears for our own safety drove us home.
"I, who weep little, did, I will confess,
The moment I was seated here alone,
Honour my little cell with some few tears
[101]
Which anger and[202] resentment could not dry.
805
All night the storm endured; and, soon as help
Had been collected from the neighbouring vale,
With morning we renewed our quest: the wind
Was fallen, the rain abated, but the hills
Lay shrouded in impenetrable mist;
810
And long and hopelessly we sought in vain:
'Till, chancing on that[203] lofty ridge to pass
A heap of ruin—almost without walls
And wholly without roof (the bleached remains
Of a small chapel, where, in ancient time,
815
The peasants of these lonely valleys used
To meet for worship on that central height)—
We there espied the object of our search,[204]
Lying full three parts buried among tufts
Of heath-plant, under and above him strewn,
820
To baffle, as he might, the watery storm:
And there we found him breathing peaceably,
Snug as a child that hides itself in sport
'Mid a green hay-cock in a sunny field.
We spake—he made reply, but would not stir
825
At our entreaty; less from want of power
Than apprehension and bewildering thoughts.[CP]
[102]
"So was he lifted gently from the ground,
And with their freight homeward the shepherds[205] moved
Through the dull mist, I following—when a step,
830
A single step, that freed me from the skirts
Of the blind vapour, opened to my view
Glory beyond all glory ever seen
By waking sense or by the dreaming soul!
The appearance,[206] instantaneously disclosed,
[103] 835
Was of a mighty city—boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a boundless[207] depth,
Far sinking into splendour—without end!
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
840
With alabaster domes, and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted; here, serene pavilions bright,
In avenues disposed; there, towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless fronts
845
Bore stars—illumination of all gems!
By earthly nature had the effect been wrought
Upon the dark materials of the storm
Now pacified; on them, and on the coves
And mountain-steeps and summits, whereunto
850
The vapours had receded, taking there
Their station under a cerulean sky.
Oh, 'twas an unimaginable sight!
Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf,
Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,
855
Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,
Molten together, and composing thus,
Each lost in each, that marvellous array
Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge
Fantastic pomp of structure without name,
860
In fleecy folds voluminous, enwrapped.
Right in the midst, where interspace appeared
Of open court, an object like a throne
Under[208] a shining canopy of state
[104]
Stood fixed; and fixed resemblances were seen
865
To implements of ordinary use,
But vast in size, in substance glorified;
Such as by Hebrew Prophets were beheld
In vision[CQ]—forms uncouth of mightiest power
For admiration and mysterious awe.
870
This little Vale, a dwelling-place of Man,[209]
Lay low beneath my feet; 'twas visible—
I saw not, but I felt that it was there.
That which I saw was the revealed abode
874
Of Spirits in beatitude: my heart
Swelled in my breast.—'I have been dead,' I cried,
'And now I live! Oh! wherefore do I live?'
And with that pang I prayed to be no more!—
—But I forget our Charge, as utterly
I then forgot him:—there I stood and gazed:
880
The apparition faded not away,
And I descended.[CR]
"Having reached the house,
I found its rescued inmate safely lodged,
And in serene possession of himself,
Beside a fire whose genial warmth seemed met
885
By a faint shining from the heart, a gleam
Of comfort, spread over his pallid face.[210]
Great show of joy the housewife made, and truly
Was glad to find her conscience set at ease;
And not less glad, for sake of her good name,
890
That the poor Sufferer had escaped with life.
But, though he seemed at first to have received
No harm, and uncomplaining as before
Went through his usual tasks, a silent change
Soon showed itself: he lingered three short weeks;
895
And from the cottage hath been borne to-day.
"So ends my dolorous tale, and glad I am
That it is ended." At these words he turned—
And, with blithe air of open fellowship,
Brought from the cupboard wine and stouter cheer,
900
Like one who would be merry. Seeing this,
My grey-haired Friend said courteously—"Nay, nay,
You have regaled us as a hermit ought;
Now let us forth into the sun!"—Our Host
Rose, though reluctantly, and forth we went.

VARIANTS:

[100]

—feelings of the Author at the sight of it—
Inserted from 1814 to 1832.

[101]

—Brief conversation—
Inserted from 1814 to 1832.

[102] 1836

1814.
Quit

[103] 1827.

Than this obscure Itinerant (an obscure,
But a high-souled and tender-hearted Man)
Had skill to draw from many a ramble, far
1814.
And wide protracted, through the tamer ground

[104]

And pathways winding on from farm to farm,
This line appeared only in 1814 and 1820.

[105] 1836.

1814.
... beneath ...

[106] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[107] 1827.

1814.
... supply:

[108]

Along the field, and in the shady grove;
This line appeared only in 1814 and 1820.

[109] C. and 1845.

—Greetings and smiles we met with all day long
1814.
From faces that he knew; ...

[110] 1845.

1814.
... come from far.

[111] This line was added in 1845.

[112] 1827.

1814.
Wherein his charity ...

[113] 1827.

1814.
... itself ...

[114] 1832.

My Fellow Traveller said with earnest voice,
As if the thought were but a moment old,
That I must yield myself without reserve
1814.
To his disposal. Glad was I of this:
My Fellow traveller claim'd with earnest voice,
As if the thought were but a moment old,
1827.
An absolute dominion for the day.

[115] 1836.

1814.
... and he led towards the hills,

[116] 1827.

Mount slowly, Sun! and may our journey lie
Awhile within the shadow of this hill,
1814.
This friendly hill, a shelter from thy beams!

[117] 1827.

... wish;
And as that wish, with prevalence of thanks
For present good o'er fear of future ill,
1814.
Stole in among the morning's blither thoughts,

[118] 1827.

1814.
... tow'rds ...

[119] 1827.

1814.
... ear, did to the question yield

[120] 1836.

1814.
... and ...

[121] C. and 1845.

1814.
Here would I linger, and ...

[122] 1827.

1814.
... will ...

[123] 1845.

We must proceed—a length of journey yet
1814.
Remains untraced." ...
A length of journey yet remains untrod,
C.
Let us proceed." ...

[124] 1832.

1814.
Towards those craggy summits, ...

[125] 1827.

Upon the humblest ground of social life,
Doth at this day, I trust, the blossoms bear
1814.
Of piety and simple innocence.

[126] 1827.

And, as he shewed in study forward zeal,
All helps were sought, all measures strained, that He,
By due scholastic discipline prepared,
Might to the Ministry be called: which done,
Partly through lack of better hopes—and part
Perhaps incited by a curious mind,
1814.
In early life he undertook the charge

[127] 1827.

1814.
... and, ...

[128] 1845.

... How full their joy,
How free their love! nor did their love decay;
1814.
Nor joy abate, till, pitiable doom!
1827.
... nor did that love decay,
How free their love, till all by death was blasted
In one undreaded year, Death swept away
C.
Two lovely ...

[129] 1845.

... compelled
By pain to turn his thoughts towards the grave,
1814.
And face the regions of Eternity.
... compelled
To commune with the grave soul-sick, and face
C.
With pain ...

[130] 1827.

1814.
The ...

[131] 1827.

... France!
That sudden light had power to pierce the gloom
In which his Spirit, friendless upon earth,
In separation dwelt, and solitude.
1814.
The voice of social transport ...

[132] 1827.

That righteous Cause of freedom did, we know,
1814.
Combine, for one hostility, as friends,

[133] 1827.

1814.
... its ...

[134] 1827.

1814.
... those ...

[135] 1827.

1814.
Which, ...

[136] 1836.

1814.
... he still ...

[137] 1836.

1814.
... such ...

[138] 1827.

1814.
... and ...

[139] 1827.

1814.
... this gone, therewith he lost

[140] 1827.

... hate!
—And thus beset, and finding in himself
Nor pleasure nor tranquillity, at last,
After a wandering course of discontent
1814.
In foreign Lands, and inwardly oppressed

[141] 1845.

1814.
In self-indulging spleen, that doth not want

[142] 1827.

1814.
With which my Fellow-traveller had beguiled

[143] 1827.

Now, suddenly diverging, he began
To climb upon its western side a Ridge
Pathless and smooth, a long and steep ascent;
1814.
As if the object of his quest had been

[144] 1845.

1814.
Of water—or some boastful Eminence,

[145] 1827.

We clomb without a track to guide our steps;
1814.
And, on the summit, reached a heathy plain,
MS.
A steep ascent, and reached at length a dreary plain,

[146]

... region! and I walked
1814.
In weariness: ...

[147] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[148] 1836.

1814.
... soft it seems to lie,

[149] 1827.

On these and other kindred thoughts intent,
1814.
In silence by my Comrade's side I lay,

[150] 1827.

1814.
... towards the Hut,

[151] 1814.

... These words,
Said my companion, sighing as he spoke,
C.
Were chosen by himself, God rest his soul.

[152] 1845.

1814.
The Wanderer cried, ...

[153] 1814.

C.
He is it not perhaps ...

[154] 1836.

1814.
... upon ...

[155] 1827.

1814.
... in the course I took,

[156] 1827.

... aside!
It was an Entry, narrow as a door;
1814.
A passage whose brief windings opened out

[157] 1827.

1814.
... a single ...

[158] 1827.

Met in an angle, hung a tiny roof,
Or penthouse, which most quaintly had been framed
1814.
By thrusting two rude sticks into the wall

[159] 1827.

Whose simple skill had thronged the grassy floor
1814.
With work of frame less solid, a proud show

[160] 1827.

Who, having entered, carelessly looked round,
1814.
And now would have passed on; when I exclaimed,

[161]1845.

... "Gracious Heaven!"
1814.
The Wanderer cried, "it cannot but be his,

[162]1814.

"It cannot," said the Wanderer, "but be his,
C.
And he is gone!" ...

[163]1827.

... here no doubt
He sometimes played with them; and here hath sate
Far oftener by himself. This Book, I guess,
Hath been forgotten in his careless way;
Left here when he was occupied in mind;
1814.
And by the Cottage Children has been found.

[164]1827.

... things;
Nor, with the knowledge which my mind possessed,
Could I behold it undisturbed: 'tis strange,
I grant, and stranger still had been to see
1814.
The Man, who was its Owner, dwelling here,

[165]1827.

1814.
... the

[166]1827.

1814.
I knew, from the appearance and the dress,

[167]1845.

1814.
A tall and meagre person, in a garb

[168]1827.

Which on a leaf he carried in his hand,
1814.
Strings of ripe currants; ...

[169]1827.

Glad was my Comrade now, though he at first,
I doubt not, had been more surprized than glad.
But now, recovered from the shock and calm,
He soberly advanced; and to the Man
Gave chearful greeting.—Vivid was the light
1814.
Which flashed at this from out the Other's eyes;

[170]1845.

He was all fire: the sickness from his face
1814.
Passed like a fancy that is swept away;

[171]1840.

... more,
1814.
And much of what had vanished was returned,

[172]1827.

1814.
... little

[173]1845.

He knows not why;—but he, perchance, this day,
1814.
Is shedding Orphan's tears; and you yourself

[174] 1836.

... Often have I stopped
When on my way, I could not chuse but stop,
1814.
So much I felt the awfulness of Life,
....Often have I stopped,
1827.
So much I felt the awfulness of life,

The text of 1832 returns to that of 1814.

[175] 1845.

... to its home,
1814.
Its final home in earth....
... to its home,
1836.
Its final home on earth....

[176] 1836.

1814.
... towards the grave

[177] 1827.

... in this Solitude,
(That seems by Nature framed to be the seat
1814.
And very bosom of pure innocence)

[178] 1845.

1814.
In what it values most—the love of God
1827.
In what she values most—the love of God
And more as years are multiplied
C.
With what she most delights in, love of God

[179] 1836.

... Saying this he led
1814.
Towards the Cottage;—homely was the spot;

[180] 1827.

1814.
... Valley's brink

[181] 1827.

1814.
... that ...

[182] 1845.

Was silent; and the solitary clock
1814.
Ticked, as I thought, with melancholy sound.—

[183] 1845.

1814.
We had around us! ...
1827.
Had we around us! ...

[184] 1827.

... moss; and here and there
Lay, intermixed with these, mechanic tools,
1814.
And scraps of paper,—some I could perceive

[185]

MS.
... the ...

[186] 1845.

1814.
... load

[187] 1827.

1814.
... curds, ...

[188] 1832.

Butter that had imbibed a golden tinge,
A hue like that of yellow meadow flowers
1814.
Reflected faintly in a silent pool.
From meadow flowers, hue delicate as theirs
1827.
Faintly reflected in a lingering stream;

[189]

MS.
Became ...

[190] 1827.

"Those lusty Twins on which your eyes are cast,"
1814.
Exclaimed our Host, "if here you dwelt, would be

[191] 1827.

1814.
... frame; ...

[192] 1845.

With brightening face
1814.
The Wanderer heard him speaking thus, and said,
A fall of voice,
Regretted like the Nightingale's last note,
1827.
Had scarcely closed this high-wrought Rhapsody,
C.
Had scarcely closed this strain of thankful rapture,
MS.
Ere with inviting voice ...

[193] 1827.

... unawares
And was forgotten. Let this challenge stand
For my excuse, if what I shall relate
Tire your attention.—Outcast and cut off
1814.
As we seem here, and must have seemed to you

[194] 1845.

1814.
... of ...

[195] 1836.

1814.
... ordinance ...

[196] 1827.

1814.
... was ...

[197]1836.

1814.
... beneath ...

[198]1827.

1814.
useful ...

[199]1827.

1814.
... from mid-noon the rain

[200]1827.

1814.
... mountain

[201]1827.

1814.
Came not, and now perchance upon the Heights

[202]1827.

1814.
... or ...

[203]1827.

1814.
Till, chancing by yon ...

[204]1827.

And wholly without roof (in ancient time
It was a Chapel, a small Edifice
In which the Peasants of these lonely Dells
For worship met upon that central height)—
Chancing to pass this wreck of stones, we there
Espied at last the Object of our search,
Couched in a nook, and seemingly alive.
It would have moved you, had you seen the guise
1814.
In which he occupied his chosen bed,

[205]1836.

1814.
... the Shepherds homeward ...

[206]1827.

... dreaming soul!
—Though I am conscious that no power of words
Can body forth, no hues of speech can paint
That gorgeous spectacle—too bright and fair
Even for remembrance; yet the attempt may give
Collateral interest to this homely Tale.
1814.
The Appearance, ...

[207] 1845.

1814.
... wondrous ...

[208]1836.

1814.
Beneath ...

[209]1845.

1814.
Below me was the earth; this little Vale

[210] 1836.

Beside a genial fire; that seemed to spread
1814.
A gleam of comfort o'er his pallid face.

FOOTNOTES:

[BJ] In the Fenwick note Wordsworth says, "In the poem, I suppose that the Pedlar and I ascended from a plain country up the vale of Langdale, and struck off a good way above the chapel to the western side of the vale." They start from Grasmere, cross over to Langdale by Red Bank and High Close, and walk up the lower part of the valley of Great Langdale, past Elter Water and Chapel Stile.—ED.

[BK] At Chapel Stile the villagers of Langdale are seen at their annual Fair. Dorothy Wordsworth thus alludes to one of these rural Fairs in her Grasmere Journal: "Tuesday, September 2nd, 1800.—We walked to the Fair. There seemed very few people and very few stalls, yet I believe there were many cakes and much beer sold.... It was a lovely moonlight night.... The moonlight shone only upon the village. It did not eclipse the village lights, and the sound of dancing and merriment came along the still air. I walked with Coleridge and Wm. up the lane and by the church, and then lingered with Coleridge in the garden...." See also the account of the "village merry-night," in The Waggoner, canto ii. ll. 307-443 (vol. iii. p. 89.)—ED.

[BL] Lingmoor.—ED.

[BM] At Blea Tarn, where the Solitary lived.—ED.

[BN] "Not long after we took up our abode at Grasmere, came to reside there, from what motive I either never knew or have forgotten, a Scotchman, a little past the middle of life, who had for many years been chaplain to a Highland regiment. He was in no respect, as far as I know, an interesting character, though in his appearance there was a good deal that attracted attention, as if he had been shattered in fortune, and not happy in mind. Of his quondam position I availed myself to connect with the Wanderer, also a Scotchman, a character suitable to my purpose, the elements of which I drew from several persons with whom I had been connected, and who fell under my observation during frequent residences in London at the beginning of the French Revolution."—I. F.

[BO] Compare The Prelude, books ix., x., and xi., passim.—ED.

[BP] I have not been able to trace this quotation.

Moving about in worlds not realised

occurs in the Ode, Intimations of Immortality.—ED.

[BQ] Langdale.—ED.

[BR] The flank of Lingmoor.—ED.

[BS] The flat heathery summit of Lingmoor. Note the text of 1814.—ED.

[BT] Bowfell, Great End, Shelter Crags, and Pike o' Blisco to the west straight before them, the Langdale Pikes to the north on the right, with Wrynose, Wetherlam, and the Coniston Mountains to the south-west.—ED.

[BU] The head of Little Langdale, with Blea Tarn in the centre, as seen from the top of Lingmoor, the only point, except the summit of Blake Rigg, from which it appears "urn-like."

With the six previous lines compare Beattie's Minstrel, book ii. stanza vi.—

It was his chance to wander far abroad,
And o'er a lonely eminence to climb,
Which, heretofore, his foot had never trode;
ED.
A vale appeared below, a deep retired abode.

[BV] The "small opening, where a heath-clad ridge supplied a boundary," is that which leads down into Little Langdale by Fell Foot and Busk.—ED.

[BW] The "nook" is not now "treeless," but the fir-wood on the western side of the Vale adds to its "quiet," and deepens the sense of seclusion.—ED.

[BX] Blea Tarn. "The scene in which this small piece of water lies, suggested to the Author the following description (given in his poem of The Excursion), supposing the spectator to look down upon it, not from the road, but from one of its elevated sides." (See Wordsworth's Description of the Scenery of the District of the Lakes in his Prose Works.)—ED.

[BY] The solitary cottage, called Blea Tarn house, which is passed on the left of the road under Side Pike.—ED.

[BZ] The following is from Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journal: Wednesday, 3rd September 1800.—"I went to a funeral at John Dawson's. About 10 men and 4 women.... The dead person 56 years of age, buried by the parish.... They set the corpse down at the door; and, while we stood within the threshold, the men, with their hats off, sang, with decent and solemn countenances, a verse of a funeral psalm. The corpse was then borne down the hill, and they sang till they had passed the Town-end. I was affected to tears while we stood in the house.... There were no near kindred, no children. When we got out of the dark house the sun was shining, and the prospect looked as divinely beautiful as I ever saw it. It seemed more sacred than I had ever seen it, and yet more allied to human life.... When we came to the bridge, they began to sing again, and stopped during four lines before they entered the churchyard." Compare this with such phrases in The Excursion as—

They shaped their course along the sloping side
Of that small valley, singing as they moved;
A sober company and few, the men
—(p. 84.)
Bare-headed,
We heard the hymn they sang—a solemn sound
Heard any where; but in a place like this
—(p. 90.)—ED.
'Tis more than human!

[CA] See the note on the preceding page.—ED.

[CB] Descending from the top of Lingmoor to Blea Tarn.—ED.

[CC] The upper part of Little Langdale, descending to Fell Foot.—ED.

[CD] A spot exactly similar to this can easily be found, about two hundred yards above the house, in the narrow gorge of Blea Tarn Ghyll, below a waterfall, where a "moss-grown wall" still approaches the rock on the other side of the stream, and where a "penthouse" might easily be made by children.—ED.

[CE] It may not be too trivial to note that, to this day, in the Cumberland and Westmoreland vales, one of the favourite games of children on the fell-sides near their cottages, is playing at mimic gardens and parterres, made out of fragments of broken pottery.—ED.

[CF] Compare Lamb's remark in a letter to Wordsworth, 14th August 1814. See Letters of Charles Lamb, edited by Canon Ainger, vol. i. p. 271.—ED.

[CG] The flat ground on the more level part of the valley near Blea Tarn cottage.—ED.

[CH] Compare Resolution and Independence, stanza xiii. (see vol. ii. p. 319).—ED.

[CI] Compare the note p. 83; also the Fenwick note, in which Wordsworth laments the change in the "manner in which, till lately, every one was borne to the place of sepulture."—ED.

[CJ] The custom of mourners kneeling round the coffin was, till quite lately, in common use. It is still observed in some churches in Cumberland and Westmoreland, but is gradually passing away.—ED.

[CK] Blea Tarn house is a humble cottage, resembling Anne Tyson's house at Hawkshead where Wordsworth lived when at school. On the ground-floor are a parlour, kitchen, and dairy. You ascend by nine stone steps to the upper flat, where there are four small rooms, and the window of one of them faces the north in the direction of the Langdale Pikes. The foundations of an older house may be seen a little lower down, about twenty yards nearer the tarn; but the present house was probably standing at the beginning of this century. As there are two poplars to the north of the cottage, and a sycamore near them, it is not likely that the place was entirely "treeless" in Wordsworth's time. In the Fenwick memoranda he says "the cottage was called Hackett, and stands, as described, on the southern extremity of the ridge which separates the two Langdales." In this he evidently confounds Hackett cottage, near Colwith—which separates the two Langdales as you ascend them from the lower country—with the Blea Tarn cottage, which stands on "the southern extremity of the ridge which separates the Langdale" valleys as you descend them.—ED.

[CL] It is generally supposed that the

two huge Peaks,
That from some other vale peered into this,

are the Langdale Pikes; and it is the most likely supposition. But, if the three were seated, as described, in the upper room of the cottage (which has one small window looking toward the Pikes), they could not possibly see them. Side Pike and Pike o' Blisco alone could be seen. Either then, these are the Peaks referred to; or, what is much more likely, the realism of the narrative here gives way; and the far finer pikes of Langdale are introduced—although they are not visible from the house—because they belong to the district, and can be seen from so many points around. The phrases "from some other vale" and "lusty twins" point unmistakably to those two characteristic pikes which "peer" over the crest of the ridge dividing the Langdale valleys. "Let a man," says Dr. Cradock, "as he approaches Blea Tarn from Little Langdale, see these slowly rising, and peering alone over the depression (or Haws) which divides the Langdales, and he cannot doubt that they are the 'lusty twins.' Let the Haws be in shadow, and the Pikes in sunlight, or the reverse, and the effect is one of the most striking in all the district." Compare the sonnet, November 1, 1815, beginning—

ED.
How clear, how keen, how marvellously bright.

[CM] This is strictly accurate. On and about the 21st June, the sun, as seen from Blea Tarn, sets just between the Langdale Pikes.—ED.

[CN] "Mark how the wind rejoices in these peaks, and they give back its wild pleasure; how all the things which touch and haunt them get their reply; how they are loved and love; how busy are the mute agents there; how proud the stars to shine on them." (Stopford A. Brooke's Theology in the English Poets, p. 108.)—ED.

[CO] "The account given by the Solitary, towards the close of the second book, in all that belongs to the character of the old man, was taken from a Grasmere pauper, who was boarded in the last house quitting the vale on the road to Ambleside."—I.F.

[CP] "The character of his hostess, and all that befell the poor man upon the mountain, belongs to Paterdale. The woman I knew well; her name was Ruth Jackson, and she was exactly such a person as I describe. The ruins of the old chapel, among which the old man was found lying, may yet be traced, and stood upon the ridge that divides Paterdale from Boardale and Martindale, having been placed there for the convenience of both districts."—I.F.

The following is Dorothy Wordsworth's account of the same occurrence, given in a record of what she called "a Mountainous Ramble," written in 1805. Her brother afterwards incorporated this passage, with a few alterations, in his Description of the Scenery of the Lakes.

"Looked into Boar Dale above Sanwick—deep and bare, a stream winding down it. After having walked a considerable way on the tops of the hills, came in view of Glenridding and the mountains above Grisdale. Luff then took us aside, before we had begun to descend, to a small ruin, which was formerly a chapel or place of worship where the inhabitants of Martindale and Paterdale were accustomed to meet on Sundays. There are now no traces by which you could discover that the building had been different from a common sheepfold; the loose stones and the few which yet remain piled up are the same as those which lie about on the mountain; but the shape of the building being oblong is not that of a common sheepfold, and it stands east and west. Whether it was ever consecrated ground or not I know not; but the place may be kept holy in the memory of some now living in Paterdale; for it was the means of preserving the life of a poor old man last summer, who, having gone up the mountain to gather peats, had been overtaken by a storm, and could not find his way down again. He happened to be near the remains of the old chapel, and, in a corner of it, he contrived, by laying turf and ling and stones from one wall to the other, to make a shelter from the wind, and there he lay all night. The woman who had sent him on his errand began to grow uneasy towards night, and the neighbours went out to seek him. At that time the old man had housed himself in his nest, and he heard the voices of the men, but could not make them hear, the wind being so loud, and he was afraid to leave the spot lest he should not be able to find it again, so he remained there all night; and they returned to their homes, giving him up for lost; but the next morning the same persons discovered him huddled up in the sheltered nook. He was at first stupefied and unable to move; but after he had eaten and drunk, and recollected himself a little, he walked down the mountain, and did not afterwards seem to have suffered."—ED.

[CQ] Compare Ezekiel, chap. i.—ED.

[CR] "The glorious appearance disclosed above and among the mountains, was described partly from what my friend Mr. Luff, who then lived in Paterdale, witnessed upon that melancholy occasion, and partly from what Mary and I had seen, in company with Sir George and Lady Beaumont, above Hartshope Hall, on our way from Paterdale to Ambleside."—I. F.

Compare the lines 827-881 with the account of the view from the top of Snowdon, in The Prelude, book xiv. II. 11-62 (vol. iii. pp. 367-68), and see Charles Lamb's remarks in his letter to Wordsworth (Aug. 14, 1814) on receiving a copy of The Excursion. (Letters of Charles Lamb, edited by Alfred Ainger, vol. i. p. 271.) In his Table Talk Coleridge expresses a wish "that the first two books of The Excursion had been published separately under the name of 'The Deserted Cottages.' They would have formed, what indeed they are, one of the most beautiful poems in the language." This advice has been followed more than once—ED.


[105]

Book Third

DESPONDENCY

ARGUMENT

Images in the Valley—Another Recess in it entered and described—Wanderer's sensations—Solitary's excited by the same objects—Contrast between these—Despondency of the Solitary gently reproved—Conversation exhibiting the Solitary's past and present opinions and feelings, till he enters upon his own History at length—His domestic felicity—Afflictions—Dejection—Roused by the French Revolution—Disappointment and disgust—Voyage to America—Disappointment[106] and disgust pursue him—His return—His languor and depression of mind, from want of faith in the great truths of Religion, and want of confidence in the virtue of Mankind.

A HUMMING BEE—a little tinkling rill—
A pair of falcons wheeling on the wing,
In clamorous agitation, round the crest
Of a tall rock, their airy citadel—
5
By each and all of these the pensive ear
Was greeted, in the silence that ensued,
When through the cottage threshold we had passed,
And, deep within that lonesome valley, stood
Once more beneath the concave of a[211] blue
10
And cloudless sky.—Anon exclaimed our Host,
Triumphantly dispersing with the taunt
The shade of discontent which on his brow
Had gathered,—"Ye have left my cell,—but see
How Nature hems you in with friendly arms!
15
And by her help ye are my prisoners still.
But which way shall I lead you?—how contrive,
In spot so parsimoniously endowed,
That the brief hours, which yet remain, may reap
Some recompense of knowledge or delight?"
20
So saying, round he looked, as if perplexed;
And, to remove those doubts, my grey-haired Friend
Said—"Shall we take this pathway for our guide?—
Upward it winds, as if, in summer heats,
Its line had first been fashioned by the flock
25
Seeking a place of refuge[212] at the root
Of yon black Yew-tree, whose protruded boughs
Darken the silver bosom of the crag,[CS]
[107]
From which she draws her[213] meagre sustenance.
There in commodious shelter may we rest.
30
Or let us trace this streamlet to its[214] source;
Feebly it tinkles with an earthy sound,
And a few steps may bring us to the spot
Where, haply, crowned with flowerets and green herbs,
The mountain infant to the sun comes forth,
35
Like human life from darkness."—A quick turn[215]
Through a strait passage of encumbered ground,
Proved that such hope was vain:—for now we stood
Shut out from prospect of the open vale,
And saw the water, that composed this rill,
40
Descending, disembodied, and diffused
O'er the smooth surface of an ample crag,
Lofty, and steep, and naked as a tower.
All further progress here was barred;—And who,
Thought I, if master of a vacant hour,
45
Here would not linger, willingly detained?
Whether to such wild objects he were led
When copious rains have magnified the stream
Into a loud and white-robed waterfall,
Or introduced at this more quiet time.
50
Upon a semicirque of turf-clad ground,
The hidden nook discovered to our view
A mass of rock, resembling, as it lay
Right at the foot of that moist precipice,
A stranded ship, with keel upturned, that rests
55
Fearless of winds and waves. Three several stones
Stood near, of smaller size, and not unlike
[108]
To monumental pillars: and, from these
Some little space disjoined, a pair were seen,
That with united shoulders bore aloft
60
A fragment, like an altar, flat and smooth:
Barren the tablet, yet thereon appeared[216]
A tall and shining holly, that[217] had found
A hospitable chink, and stood upright,
As if inserted by some human hand
65
In mockery, to wither in the sun,
Or lay its beauty flat before a breeze,
The first that entered. But no breeze did now
Find entrance;—high or low appeared no trace
Of motion, save the water that descended,
70
Diffused adown that barrier of steep rock,
And softly creeping, like a breath of air,
Such as is sometimes seen, and hardly seen,
To brush the still breast of a crystal lake.[CT]
[109]
"Behold a cabinet for sages built,
75
Which kings might envy!"—Praise to this effect
Broke from the happy old Man's reverend lip;
Who to the Solitary turned, and said,
"In sooth, with love's familiar privilege,
You have decried the wealth which is your own.[218]
80
Among these rocks and stones, methinks, I see
More than the heedless impress that belongs
To lonely nature's casual work: they bear
A semblance strange of power intelligent,
And of design not wholly worn away.
85
Boldest of plants that ever faced the wind,
How gracefully that slender shrub looks forth
From its fantastic birth-place! And I own,
Some shadowy intimations haunt me here,
That in these shows[219] a chronicle survives
90
Of purposes akin to those of Man,[CU]
[110]
But wrought with mightier arm than now prevails.
—Voiceless the stream descends into the gulf
With timid lapse;—and lo! while in this strait
I stand—the chasm of sky above my head
95
Is heaven's profoundest azure; no domain
For fickle, short-lived clouds to occupy,
Or to pass through; but rather an abyss
In which the everlasting stars abide;
And whose soft gloom, and boundless depth, might tempt
100
The curious eye to look for them by day.[CV]
—Hail Contemplation! from the stately towers,
Reared by the industrious hand of human art
To lift thee high above the misty air
And turbulence of murmuring cities vast;
105
From academic groves, that have for thee
Been planted, hither come and find a lodge
To which thou mayst resort for holier peace,—
From whose calm centre thou, through height or depth,
Mayst penetrate, wherever truth shall lead;
110
Measuring through all degrees, until the scale
Of time and conscious nature disappear,
Lost in unsearchable eternity!"[CW]
[111]
A pause ensued; and with minuter care
We scanned the various features of the scene:
115
And soon the Tenant of that lonely vale
With courteous voice thus spake—
"I should have grieved
Hereafter, not escaping self-reproach,[220]
If from my poor retirement ye had gone
Leaving this nook unvisited: but, in sooth,
120
Your unexpected presence had so roused
My spirits, that they were bent on enterprise;
And, like an ardent hunter, I forgot,
Or, shall I say?—disdained, the game that lurks[221]
At my own door. The shapes before our eyes,
125
And their arrangement, doubtless must be deemed
The sport of Nature, aided by blind Chance
Rudely to mock the works of toiling Man.
And hence, this upright shaft of unhewn stone,
From Fancy, willing to set off her stores
130
By sounding titles, hath acquired the name
Of Pompey's pillar; that I gravely style
My Theban obelisk; and, there, behold
A Druid cromlech!—thus I entertain
The antiquarian humour, and am pleased
135
To skim along the surfaces of things,
Beguiling harmlessly the listless hours.
But if the spirit be oppressed by sense
Of instability, revolt, decay,
And change, and emptiness, these freaks of Nature
140
And her blind helper Chance, do then suffice
To quicken, and to aggravate—to feed
Pity and scorn, and melancholy pride,
Not less than that huge Pile (from some abyss
[112]
Of mortal power unquestionably sprung)[CX]
145
Whose hoary diadem of pendent rocks
Confines the shrill-voiced whirlwind, round and round
Eddying within its vast circumference,
On Sarum's naked plain—than pyramid
Of Egypt, unsubverted, undissolved—
150
Or Syria's marble ruins towering high[CY]
Above the sandy desert, in the light
Of sun or moon.—Forgive me, if I say
That an appearance which hath raised your minds
To an exalted pitch (the self-same cause
155
Different effect producing) is for me
Fraught rather with depression than delight,
Though shame it were, could I not look around,[222]
By the reflection of your pleasure, pleased.
Yet happier, in my judgment, even than you
160
With your bright transports, fairly may be deemed
The wandering Herbalist,[223]—who, clear alike
From vain, and, that worse evil, vexing thoughts,
Casts, if he ever chance to enter here,
Upon these uncouth Forms[224] a slight regard
[113] 165
Of transitory interest, and peeps round
For some rare floweret of the hills, or plant
Of craggy fountain; what he hopes for wins,
Or learns, at least, that 'tis not to be won:
Then, keen and eager, as a fine-nosed hound
170
By soul-engrossing instinct driven along
Through wood or open field, the harmless Man
Departs, intent upon his onward quest!—
Nor is that Fellow-wanderer, so deem I,
Less to be envied, (you may trace him oft
175
By scars which his activity has left
Beside our roads and pathways, though, thank Heaven!
This covert nook reports not of his hand)
He who with pocket-hammer smites the edge
Of luckless rock or prominent stone, disguised
180
In weather-stains or crusted o'er by Nature
With her first growths,[225] detaching by the stroke
A chip or splinter—to resolve his doubts;
And, with that ready answer satisfied,
The substance classes by some barbarous name,
185
And[226] hurries on; or from the fragments picks
His specimen, if but haply interveined[227]
With sparkling mineral, or should crystal cube
Lurk in its cells—and thinks himself enriched,
Wealthier, and doubtless wiser, than before!
190
Intrusted safely each to his pursuit,
Earnest alike, let both from hill to hill
[114]
Range;[228] if it please them, speed from clime to clime;
The mind is full—and free from pain their pastime."[229]
"Then," said I, interposing, "One is near,
195
Who cannot but possess in your esteem
Place worthier still of envy. May I name,
Without offence, that fair-faced cottage-boy?
Dame Nature's pupil of the lowest form,
Youngest apprentice in the school of art!
200
Him, as we entered from the open glen,
You might have noticed, busily engaged,
Heart, soul, and hands,—in mending the defects
Left in the fabric of a leaky dam
Raised[230] for enabling this penurious stream
205
To turn a slender mill (that new-made plaything)
For his delight—the happiest he of all!"
"Far happiest," answered the desponding Man,
"If, such as now he is, he might remain!
Ah! what avails imagination high
210
Or question deep? what profits all that earth,
Or heaven's blue vault, is suffered to put forth
Of impulse or allurement, for the Soul
To quit the beaten track of life, and soar
Far as she finds a yielding element
215
In past or future; far as she can go
Through time or space—if neither in the one,
Nor in the other region, nor in aught
That Fancy, dreaming o'er the map of things,
Hath placed beyond these penetrable bounds,
[115] 220
Words of assurance can be heard; if nowhere
A habitation, for consummate good,
Or for[231] progressive virtue, by the search
Can be attained,—a better sanctuary
From doubt and sorrow, than the senseless grave?"
"Is this," the grey-haired Wanderer mildly said,
226
"The voice, which we so lately overheard,
To that same child, addressing tenderly
The consolations of a hopeful mind?
'His body is at rest, his soul in heaven.'
230
These were your words; and, verily, methinks
Wisdom is oft-times nearer when we stoop
Than when we soar."—
The Other, not displeased,
Promptly replied—"My notion is the same.
And I, without reluctance, could decline
235
All act of inquisition whence we rise,
And what, when breath hath ceased, we may become.
Here are we, in a bright and breathing world.
Our origin, what matters it? In lack
Of worthier explanation, say at once
240
With the American (a thought which suits
The place where now we stand) that certain men
Leapt out together from a rocky cave;[CZ]
And these were the first parents of mankind:
Or, if a different image be recalled
245
By the warm sunshine, and the jocund voice
Of insects chirping out their careless lives
On these soft beds of thyme-besprinkled turf,
Choose, with the gay Athenian, a conceit
As sound—blithe race! whose mantles were bedecked
[116] 250
With golden grasshoppers,[DA] in sign that they
Had sprung, like those bright creatures, from the soil
Whereon their endless generations dwelt.[232]
But stop!—these theoretic fancies jar
On serious minds: then, as the Hindoos draw[233]
255
Their holy Ganges from a skiey fount,[DB]
Even so deduce the stream of human life
From seats of power divine; and hope, or trust,
That our existence winds her[234] stately course
Beneath the sun, like Ganges, to make part
260
Of a living ocean; or, to sink engulfed,[235]
Like Niger, in impenetrable sands
And utter darkness:[DC] thought which may be faced,
Though comfortless!—
"Not of myself I speak;
Such acquiescence neither doth imply,
265
In me, a meekly-bending spirit soothed
By natural piety; nor a lofty mind,
By philosophic discipline prepared
For calm subjection to acknowledged law;
[117]
Pleased to have been, contented not to be.
270
Such palms I boast not;—no! to me, who find,
Reviewing my past way, much to condemn,
Little to praise, and nothing to regret,
(Save some remembrances of dream-like joys
That scarcely seem to have belonged to me)
275
If I must take my choice between the pair
That rule alternately the weary hours,
Night is than day more acceptable; sleep
Doth, in my estimate of good, appear
A better state than waking; death than sleep:
280
Feelingly sweet is stillness after storm,
Though under covert of the wormy ground!
"Yet be it said, in justice to myself,
That in more genial times, when I was free
To explore the destiny of human kind
285
(Not as an intellectual game pursued
With curious subtilty, from wish[236] to cheat
Irksome sensations; but by love of truth
Urged on, or haply by intense delight
In feeding thought, wherever thought could feed)
290
I did not rank with those (too dull or nice,
For to my judgment such they then appeared,
Or too aspiring, thankless at the best)
Who, in this frame of human life, perceive
An object whereunto their souls are tied
295
In discontented wedlock; nor did e'er,
From me, those dark impervious shades, that hang
Upon the region whither we are bound,
Exclude a power to enjoy the vital beams
Of present sunshine.—Deities that float
300
On wings, angelic Spirits! I could muse
O'er what from eldest time we have been told
Of your bright forms and glorious faculties,
[118]
And with the imagination rest[237] content,
Not wishing more; repining not to tread
305
The little sinuous path of earthly care,
By flowers embellished, and by springs refreshed.[238]
—'Blow winds of autumn!—let your chilling breath
Take the live herbage from the mead, and strip
The shady forest of its green attire,—
310
And let the bursting clouds to fury rouse
The gentle brooks!—Your desolating sway,
Sheds,' I exclaimed, 'no sadness upon me,[239]
And no disorder in your rage I find.
What dignity, what beauty, in this change
315
From mild to angry, and from sad to gay,
Alternate and revolving! How benign,
How rich in animation and delight,
How bountiful these elements—compared
With aught, as more desirable and fair,
320
Devised by fancy for the golden age;
Or the perpetual warbling that prevails
In Arcady,[DE] beneath unaltered skies,
Through the long year in constant quiet bound,
Night hushed as night, and day serene as day!'
325
—But why this tedious record?—Age, we know,
Is garrulous; and solitude is apt
To anticipate the privilege of Age.
From far ye come; and surely with a hope
Of better entertainment:—let us hence!"
[119]
330
Loth to forsake the spot, and still more loth
To be diverted from our present theme,
I said, "My thoughts, agreeing, Sir, with yours,
Would push this censure farther;—for, if smiles
Of scornful pity be the just reward
335
Of Poesy thus courteously employed
In framing models to improve the scheme
Of Man's existence, and recast the world,
Why should not grave Philosophy be styled,
Herself, a dreamer of a kindred stock,
340
A dreamer yet more spiritless and dull?
Yes, shall the fine immunities she boasts[240]
Establish sounder titles of esteem
For her, who (all too timid and reserved
For onset, for resistance too inert,
345
Too weak for suffering, and for hope too tame)
Placed, among[241] flowery gardens curtained round
With world-excluding groves, the brotherhood
Of soft Epicureans,[DF] taught—if they
The ends of being would secure, and win
350
The crown of wisdom—to yield up their souls
To a voluptuous unconcern, preferring
Tranquillity to all things. Or is she,"
I cried, "more worthy of regard, the Power,
Who, for the sake of sterner quiet, closed
[120] 355
The Stoic's[DG] heart against the vain approach
Of admiration, and all sense of joy?"
His countenance gave notice that my zeal
Accorded little with his present mind;
I ceased, and he resumed.—"Ah! gentle Sir,
360
Slight, if you will, the means; but spare to slight
The end of those, who did, by system, rank,
As the prime object of a wise man's aim,
Security from shock of accident,
Release from fear; and cherished peaceful days
365
For their own sakes, as mortal life's chief good,
And only reasonable felicity.
What motive drew, what impulse, I would ask,
Through a long course of later ages, drove
The hermit to his cell in forest wide;
370
Or what detained him, till his closing eyes
Took their last farewell of the sun and stars,
Fast anchored in the desert?—Not alone
Dread of the persecuting sword, remorse,
Wrongs unredressed, or insults unavenged
375
And unavengeable, defeated pride,
Prosperity subverted, maddening want,
Friendship betrayed, affection unreturned,
Love with despair, or grief in agony;—
379
Not always from intolerable pangs
He fled; but, compassed round by pleasure, sighed
For independent happiness; craving peace,
The central feeling of all happiness,
Not as a refuge from distress or pain,
A breathing-time, vacation, or a truce,
[121] 385
But for its absolute self; a life of peace,
Stability without regret or fear;
That hath been, is, and shall be evermore!—
Such the reward he sought; and wore out life,
There, where on few external things his heart
390
Was set, and those his own; or, if not his,
Subsisting under nature's stedfast law.
"What other yearning was the master tie
Of the monastic brotherhood, upon rock
Aërial, or in green secluded vale,
395
One after one, collected from afar,
An undissolving fellowship?—What but this,
The universal instinct of repose,
The longing for confirmed tranquillity,
Inward and outward; humble, yet sublime:
400
The life where hope and memory are as one;
Where earth is quiet and her face unchanged
Save by the simplest toil of human hands
Or seasons' difference; the immortal Soul[242]
Consistent in self-rule; and heaven revealed
405
To meditation in that quietness!—
Such was their scheme: and though the wished for end
By multitudes was missed, perhaps attained
By none, they for the attempt, and pains employed,[243]
Do, in my present censure, stand redeemed
410
From the unqualified disdain, that once
Would have been cast upon them by my voice
Delivering her[244] decisions from the seat
[122]
Of forward youth—that scruples not to solve
Doubts, and determine questions, by the rules
415
Of inexperienced judgment, ever prone
To overweening faith; and is inflamed,
By courage, to demand from real life
The test of act and suffering, to provoke
Hostility—how dreadful when it comes,
420
Whether affliction be the foe, or guilt!
"A child of earth, I rested, in that stage
Of my past course to which these thoughts advert,
Upon earth's native energies; forgetting
That mine was a condition which required
425
Nor energy, nor fortitude—a calm
Without vicissitude; which, if the like
Had been presented to my view elsewhere,
I might have even been tempted to despise.
But no—for the serene[245] was also bright;
430
Enlivened happiness with joy o'erflowing,
With joy, and—oh! that memory should survive
To speak the word—with rapture! Nature's boon,
Life's genuine inspiration, happiness
Above what rules can teach, or fancy feign;
435
Abused, as all possessions are[246] abused
That are not prized according to their worth.
And yet, what worth? what good is given to men,
More solid than the gilded clouds of heaven?
What joy more lasting than a vernal flower?
440
None! 'tis the general plaint of human kind
In solitude: and mutually addressed
From each to all, for wisdom's sake:—This truth
The priest announces from his holy seat:
And, crowned with garlands in the summer grove,
445
The poet fits it to his pensive lyre.
Yet, ere that final resting-place be gained,
[123]
Sharp contradictions may arise, by doom
Of this same life, compelling us to grieve[247]
That the prosperities of love and joy
450
Should be permitted, oft-times, to endure
So long, and be at once cast down for ever.
Oh! tremble, ye, to whom hath been assigned
A course of days composing happy months,
And they as happy years; the present still
455
So like the past, and both so firm a pledge
Of a congenial future, that the wheels
Of pleasure move without the aid of hope:
For Mutability is Nature's bane;
And slighted Hope will[248] be avenged; and, when
460
Ye need her favours, ye shall find her not;
But in her stead—fear—doubt—and agony!"
This was the bitter language of the heart:
But, while he spake, look, gesture, tone of voice,
Though discomposed and vehement, were such
465
As skill and graceful nature might suggest
To a proficient of the tragic scene
Standing before the multitude, beset
With dark events. Desirous to divert[249]
Or stem the current of the speaker's thoughts,
470
We signified a wish to leave that place
Of stillness and close privacy, a nook
That seemed for self-examination made;[250]
[124]
Or, for confession, in the sinner's need,
Hidden from all men's view.[DH] To our attempt
475
He yielded not; but, pointing to a slope
Of mossy turf defended from the sun,
And on that couch inviting us to rest,
Full on[251] that tender-hearted Man he turned
A serious eye, and his speech thus[252] renewed.
480
"You never saw, your eyes did never look
On the bright form of Her whom once I loved:—
Her silver voice was heard upon the earth,
A sound unknown to you; else, honoured Friend!
Your heart had borne a pitiable share
485
Of what I suffered, when I wept that loss,
And suffer now, not seldom, from the thought
That I remember, and can weep no more.—
Stripped as I am of all the golden fruit
Of self-esteem; and by the cutting blasts
490
Of self-reproach familiarly assailed;
Yet would I not be[253] of such wintry bareness
But that some leaf of your regard should hang
Upon my naked branches:—lively thoughts
Give birth, full often, to unguarded words;
495
I grieve that, in your presence, from my tongue
Too much of frailty hath already dropped;
But that too much demands still more.
"You know,
Revered Compatriot—and to you, kind Sir,
(Not to be deemed a stranger, as you come
[125] 500
Following the guidance of these welcome feet
To our secluded vale) it may be told—
That my demerits did not sue in vain
To One on whose mild radiance many gazed
With hope, and all with pleasure. This fair Bride—
505
In the devotedness of youthful love,
Preferring me to parents, and the choir
Of gay companions, to the natal roof,
And all known places and familiar sights
(Resigned with sadness gently weighing down
510
Her trembling expectations, but no more
Than did to her due honour, and to me
Yielded, that day, a confidence sublime
In what I had to build upon)—this Bride,
Young, modest, meek, and beautiful, I led
515
To a low cottage in a sunny bay,
Where the salt sea innocuously breaks,
And the sea breeze as innocently breathes,
On Devon's leafy shores;[DI]—a sheltered hold,
In a soft clime encouraging the soil
520
To a luxuriant bounty!—As our steps
Approach the embowered abode—our chosen seat—
See, rooted in the earth, her[254] kindly bed,
The unendangered myrtle, decked with flowers,
Before the threshold stands to welcome us!
525
While, in the flowering myrtle's neighbourhood,
Not overlooked but courting no regard,
Those native plants, the holly and the yew,
[126]
Gave modest intimation to the mind
How willingly their aid[255] they would unite
530
With the green myrtle, to endear the hours
Of winter, and protect that pleasant place.
—Wild were the walks upon those lonely Downs,[A]
Track leading into track; how marked, how worn
Into bright verdure, between fern and gorse,
535
Winding away its never ending line
On their smooth surface, evidence was none:
But, there, lay open to our daily haunt
A range of unappropriated earth,
Where youth's ambitious feet might move at large;
540
Whence, unmolested wanderers, we beheld
The shining giver of the day diffuse
His brightness o'er a tract of sea and land
Gay as our spirits, free as our desires;
As our enjoyments, boundless.—From those heights
545
We dropped, at pleasure, into sylvan combs;[DJ]
Where arbours of impenetrable shade,
And mossy seats, detained us side by side,
With hearts at ease, and knowledge in our hearts
'That all the grove and all the day was ours.'
550
"O happy time! still happier was at hand;
For Nature called my Partner to resign
Her share in the pure freedom of that life,[256]
Enjoyed by us in common.—To my hope,
To my heart's wish, my tender Mate became
[127] 555
The thankful captive of maternal bonds;
And those wild paths were left to me alone.
There could I meditate on follies past;
And, like a weary voyager escaped
From risk and hardship, inwardly retrace
560
A course of vain delights and thoughtless guilt,
And self-indulgence—without shame pursued.
There, undisturbed, could think of and could thank
Her whose submissive spirit was to me
Rule and restraint—my guardian—shall I say
565
That earthly Providence, whose guiding love
Within a port of rest had lodged me safe;
Safe from temptation, and from danger far?
Strains followed of acknowledgment addressed
569
To an Authority enthroned above
The reach of sight; from whom, as from their source,
Proceed all visible ministers of good
That walk the earth—Father of heaven and earth,
Father, and king, and judge, adored and feared!
These acts of mind, and memory, and heart,
575
And spirit—interrupted and relieved
By observations transient as the glance
Of flying sunbeams, or to the outward form
Cleaving with power inherent and intense,
579
As the mute insect fixed upon the plant
On whose soft leaves it hangs, and from whose cup
It draws its nourishment imperceptibly—[257]
Endeared my wanderings; and the mother's kiss
And infant's smile awaited my return.
"In privacy we dwelt, a wedded pair,
585
Companions daily, often all day long;
Not placed by fortune within easy reach
Of various intercourse, nor wishing aught
Beyond the allowance of our own fire-side,
[128]
The twain within our happy cottage born,
590
Inmates, and heirs of our united love;
Graced mutually by difference of sex,
And with[258] no wider interval of time
Between their several births than served for one
To establish something of a leader's sway;
595
Yet left them joined by sympathy in age;
Equals in pleasure, fellows in pursuit.
On these two pillars rested as in air
Our solitude.
"It soothes me to perceive,
Your courtesy withholds not from my words
600
Attentive audience. But, oh! gentle Friends,
As times of quiet and unbroken peace,
Though, for a nation, times of blessedness,
Give back faint echoes from the historian's page;
So, in the imperfect sounds of this discourse,
605
Depressed I hear, how faithless is the voice
Which those most blissful days reverberate.
What special record can, or need, be given
To rules and habits, whereby much was done,
But all within the sphere of little things;
610
Of humble, though, to us, important cares,
And precious interests? Smoothly did our life
Advance, swerving not[259] from the path prescribed;
Her annual, her diurnal, round alike
Maintained with faithful care. And you divine
615
The worst effects that[260] our condition saw
If you imagine changes slowly wrought,
[129]
And in their progress[261] unperceivable;[262]
Not wished for; sometimes noticed with a sigh,
(Whate'er of good or lovely they might bring)
620
Sighs of regret, for the familiar good
And loveliness endeared which they removed.
"Seven years of occupation undisturbed
Established seemingly a right to hold
That happiness; and use and habit gave
625
To what an alien spirit had acquired
A patrimonial sanctity. And thus,
With thoughts and wishes bounded to this world,
I lived and breathed; most grateful—if to enjoy
Without repining or desire for more,
630
For different lot, or change to higher sphere,
(Only except some impulses of pride
With no determined object, though upheld
By theories with suitable support)—
Most grateful, if in such wise to enjoy
635
Be proof of gratitude for what we have;
Else, I allow, most thankless.—But, at once,
From some dark seat of fatal power was urged
A claim that shattered all.—Our blooming girl,
Caught in the gripe of death, with such brief time
640
To struggle in as scarcely would allow
Her cheek to change its colour, was conveyed
From us to inaccessible worlds, to regions[263]
Where height, or depth, admits not the approach
Of living man, though longing to pursue.
645
—With even as brief a warning—and how soon,
With what short interval of time between,
I tremble yet to think of—our last prop,
[130]
Our happy life's only remaining stay—
The brother followed; and was seen no more![DK]
650
"Calm as a frozen lake when ruthless winds
Blow fiercely, agitating earth and sky,
The Mother now remained; as if in her,
Who, to the lowest region of the soul,
Had been erewhile unsettled and disturbed,
655
This second visitation had no power
To shake; but only to bind up and seal;
And to establish thankfulness of heart
In Heaven's determinations, ever just.
The eminence whereon[264] her spirit stood,
660
Mine was unable to attain. Immense
The space that severed us! But, as the sight
Communicates with heaven's ethereal orbs
Incalculably distant; so, I felt
That consolation may descend from far
665
(And that is intercourse, and union, too,)
While, overcome with speechless gratitude,
And, with a holier love inspired, I looked
On her—at once superior to my woes
And partner of my loss.—O heavy change!
670
Dimness o'er this clear luminary crept
Insensibly;—the immortal and divine
Yielded to mortal reflux; her pure glory,
As from the pinnacle of worldly state
Wretched ambition drops astounded, fell
[131] 675
Into a gulf obscure of silent grief,
And keen heart-anguish—of itself ashamed,
Yet obstinately cherishing itself:
And, so consumed, she melted from my arms;
And left me, on this earth, disconsolate!
680
"What followed cannot be reviewed in thought;
Much less, retraced in words. If she, of life
Blameless, so intimate with love and joy
And all the tender motions of the soul,
Had been supplanted, could I hope to stand—
685
Infirm, dependent, and now destitute?
I called on dreams and visions, to disclose
That which is veiled from waking thought; conjured
Eternity, as men constrain a ghost
To appear and answer; to the grave I spake
690
Imploringly;—looked up, and asked the Heavens
If Angels traversed their cerulean floors,
If fixed or wandering star could tidings yield
Of the departed spirit—what abode
It occupies—what consciousness retains
695
Of former loves and interests. Then my soul
Turned inward,—to examine of what stuff
Time's fetters are composed; and life was put
To inquisition, long and profitless!
By pain of heart—now checked—and now impelled—
700
The intellectual power, through words and things,
Went sounding on, a dim and perilous way![DL]
And from those transports, and these toils abstruse,
Some trace am I enabled to retain
Of time, else lost;—existing unto me
705
Only by records in myself not found.
"From that abstraction I was roused,—and how?
Even as a thoughtful shepherd by a flash
[132]
Of lightning startled in a gloomy cave
Of these wild hills. For, lo! the dread Bastile,[DM]
710
With all the chambers in its horrid towers,
Fell to the ground:—by violence overthrown
Of indignation; and with shouts that drowned
The crash it made in falling! From the wreck
A golden palace rose, or seemed to rise,
715
The appointed seat of equitable law
And mild paternal sway. The potent shock
I felt: the transformation I perceived,
As marvellously seized as in that moment
When, from the blind mist issuing, I beheld
720
Glory—beyond all glory ever seen,
Confusion infinite of heaven and earth,
Dazzling the soul. Meanwhile, prophetic harps
In every grove were ringing, 'War shall cease;
Did ye not hear that conquest is abjured?
725
Bring garlands, bring forth choicest flowers, to deck
The tree of Liberty.'[DN]—My heart rebounded;
My melancholy voice the chorus joined;
—'Be joyful all ye nations; in all lands,
Ye that are capable of joy be glad!
730
Henceforth, whate'er is wanting to yourselves
In others ye shall promptly find;—and all,
Enriched by mutual and reflected wealth,
Shall with one heart honour their common kind.'[265]
"Thus was I reconverted to the world;
735
Society became my glittering bride,
And airy hopes my children.—From the depths
[133]
Of natural passion, seemingly escaped,
My soul diffused herself[266] in wide embrace
Of institutions, and the forms of things,
740
As they exist, in mutable array,
Upon life's surface. What, though in my veins
There flowed no Gallic blood, nor had I breathed
The air of France, not less than Gallic zeal
Kindled and burnt among the sapless twigs
745
Of my exhausted heart. If busy men
In sober conclave met, to weave a web
Of amity, whose living threads should stretch
Beyond the seas, and to the farthest pole,
There did I sit, assisting. If, with noise
750
And acclamation, crowds in open air
Expressed the tumult of their minds, my voice
There mingled, heard or not. The powers of song
I left not uninvoked; and, in still groves,
Where mild enthusiasts tuned a pensive lay
755
Of thanks and expectation, in accord
With their belief, I sang Saturnian rule
Returned,—a progeny of golden years
Permitted to descend, and bless mankind.
—With promises the Hebrew Scriptures teem:
760
I felt their[267] invitation; and resumed
A long-suspended office in the House
Of public worship, where, the glowing phrase
Of ancient inspiration serving me,
I promised also,—with undaunted trust
765
Foretold, and added prayer to prophecy;
The admiration winning of the crowd;
The help desiring of the pure devout.
"Scorn and contempt forbid me to proceed!
But History, time's slavish scribe, will tell
[134] 770
How rapidly the zealots of the cause
Disbanded—or in hostile ranks appeared;
Some, tired of honest service; these, outdone,
Disgusted therefore, or appalled, by aims
Of fiercer zealots—so confusion reigned,
775
And the more faithful were compelled to exclaim,
As Brutus did to Virtue, 'Liberty,
I worshipped thee, and find thee but a Shade!'[DO]
"Such recantation had for me no charm,
Nor would I bend to it; who should have grieved
780
At aught, however fair, that[268] bore the mien
Of a conclusion, or catastrophe.
Why then conceal, that, when the simply[269] good
In timid selfishness withdrew, I sought
Other support, not scrupulous whence it came;
785
And, by what compromise it stood, not nice?
Enough if notions seemed to be high-pitched,
And qualities determined.—Among men
So charactered did I maintain a strife[270]
Hopeless, and still more hopeless every hour;
790
But, in the process, I began to feel
That, if the emancipation of the world
Were missed, I should at least secure my own,
And be in part compensated. For rights,
[135]
Widely—inveterately usurped upon,
795
I spake with vehemence; and promptly seized
All that[271] Abstraction furnished for my needs
Or purposes;[DP] nor scrupled to proclaim,
And propagate, by liberty of life,
Those new persuasions. Not that I rejoiced,
800
Or even found pleasure, in such vagrant course,
For its own sake; but farthest from the walk
Which I had trod in happiness and peace,
Was most inviting to a troubled mind;
That, in a struggling and distempered world,
805
Saw a seductive image of herself.[272]
Yet, mark the contradictions of which Man
Is still the sport! Here Nature was my guide,
The Nature of the dissolute; but thee,
O fostering Nature! I rejected—smiled
810
At others' tears in pity; and in scorn
At those, which thy soft influence sometimes drew
From my unguarded heart.—The tranquil shores
Of Britain circumscribed me; else, perhaps
I might have been entangled among deeds,
815
Which, now, as infamous, I should abhor—
Despise, as senseless: for my spirit relished
Strangely the exasperation of that Land,
Which turned an angry beak against the down
[136]
Of her own breast; confounded into hope
820
Of disencumbering thus her fretful wings.[273]
"But all was quieted by iron bonds
Of military sway. The shifting aims,
The moral interests, the creative might,
The varied functions and high attributes
825
Of civil action, yielded to a power
Formal, and odious, and contemptible.
—In Britain, ruled a panic dread of change;
The weak were praised, rewarded, and advanced;
And, from the impulse of a just disdain,
830
Once more did I retire into myself.
There feeling no contentment, I resolved
To fly, for safeguard, to some foreign shore,
Remote from Europe; from her blasted hopes;
834
Her fields of carnage, and polluted air.
"Fresh blew the wind, when o'er the Atlantic Main
The ship went gliding with her thoughtless crew;
And who among them but an Exile, freed
From discontent, indifferent, pleased to sit
Among the busily-employed, not more
840
With obligation charged, with service taxed,
Than the loose pendant—to the idle wind
Upon the tall mast streaming. But, ye Powers
Of soul and sense mysteriously allied,
O, never let the Wretched, if a choice
845
Be left him, trust the freight of his distress
To a long voyage on the silent deep!
For, like a plague, will memory break out;
And, in the blank and solitude of things,
[137]
Upon his spirit, with a fever's strength,
850
Will conscience prey.—Feebly must they have felt
Who, in old time, attired with snakes and whips
The vengeful Furies. Beautiful regards
Were turned on me—the face of her I loved;
The Wife and Mother pitifully fixing
855
Tender reproaches, insupportable!
Where now that boasted liberty? No welcome
From unknown objects I received; and those,
Known and familiar, which the vaulted sky
Did, in the placid clearness of the night,
860
Disclose, had accusations to prefer
Against my peace. Within the cabin stood
That volume—as a compass for the soul—
Revered among the nations. I implored
Its guidance; but the infallible support
865
Of faith was wanting. Tell me, why refused
To One by storms annoyed and adverse winds;
Perplexed with currents; of his weakness sick;
Of vain endeavours tired; and by his own,
869
And by his nature's, ignorance, dismayed!
"Long wished-for sight, the Western World appeared;
And, when the ship was moored, I leaped ashore
Indignantly—resolved to be a man,
Who, having o'er the past no power, would live
No longer in subjection to the past,
875
With abject mind—from a tyrannic lord
Inviting penance, fruitlessly endured:
So, like a fugitive, whose feet have cleared
Some boundary, which his followers may not cross
In prosecution of their deadly chase,
880
Respiring I looked round.—How bright the sun,
The breeze how soft! Can any thing produced[274]
In the old World compare, thought I, for power
[138]
And majesty with this gigantic stream,
884
Sprung from the desert?[DQ] And behold a city
Fresh, youthful, and aspiring![DR] What are these
To me, or I to them? As much at least
As he desires that they should be, whom winds
And waves have wafted to this distant shore,
In the condition of a damaged seed,
890
Whose fibres cannot, if they would, take root.
Here may I roam at large;—my business is,
Roaming at large, to observe, and not to feel
And, therefore, not to act—convinced that all
Which bears the name of action, howsoe'er
895
Beginning, ends in servitude—still painful,
And mostly profitless. And, sooth to say,
On nearer view, a motley spectacle
Appeared, of high pretensions—unreproved
But by the obstreperous voice of higher still;
900
Big passions strutting on a petty stage;
Which a detached spectator may regard
Not unamused.—But ridicule demands
Quick change of objects; and, to laugh alone,
At a composing distance[275] from the haunts
905
Of strife and folly, though it be a treat
As choice as musing Leisure can bestow;
Yet, in the very centre of the crowd,
To keep the secret of a poignant scorn,
Howe'er to airy Demons suitable,
910
Of all unsocial courses, is least fit[276]
[139]
For the gross spirit of mankind,—the one
That soonest fails to please, and quickliest turns
Into vexation.
"Let us, then, I said,
Leave this unknit Republic to the scourge
915
Of her[277] own passions; and to regions haste,
Whose shades have never felt the encroaching axe,
Or soil endured a transfer in the mart
Of dire rapacity. There, Man abides,
Primeval Nature's child. A creature weak
920
In combination, (wherefore else driven back
So far, and of his old inheritance
So easily deprived?) but, for that cause,
More dignified, and stronger in himself;
Whether to act, judge, suffer, or enjoy.
925
True, the intelligence of social art
Hath overpowered his forefathers, and soon
Will sweep the remnant of his line away;
But contemplations, worthier, nobler far
Than her destructive energies, attend
930
His independence, when along the side
Of Mississippi, or that northern stream[DS]
That[278] spreads into successive seas,[DT] he walks;
Pleased to perceive his own unshackled life,
And his innate capacities of soul,
935
There imaged: or when, having gained the top
Of some commanding eminence, which yet
Intruder ne'er beheld, he thence surveys
Regions of wood and wide savannah, vast
Expanse of unappropriated earth,
940
With mind that sheds a light on what he sees;
[140]
Free as the sun, and lonely as the sun,
Pouring above his head its radiance down
Upon a living and rejoicing world!
"So, westward, tow'rd the unviolated woods
945
I bent my way; and, roaming far and wide,
Failed not to greet the merry Mocking-bird;[DU]
And, while the melancholy Muccawiss
(The sportive bird's companion in the grove)
Repeated, o'er and o'er, his plaintive cry,[DV]
[141] 950
I sympathised at leisure with the sound;
But that pure archetype of human greatness,
I found him not. There, in his stead, appeared
A creature, squalid, vengeful, and impure;
Remorseless, and submissive to no law
955
But superstitious fear, and abject sloth.
"Enough is told! Here am I—ye have heard
What evidence I seek, and vainly seek;
What from my fellow-beings I require,
And either they have not to give, or I
960
Lack virtue to receive; what I myself,
Too oft by wilful forfeiture, have lost[279]
Nor can regain. How languidly I look
Upon this visible fabric of the world,
May be divined—perhaps it hath been said:—
965
But spare your pity, if there be in me
Aught that deserves respect: for I exist,
Within myself, not comfortless.—The tenour
Which my life holds, he readily may conceive
Whoe'er hath stood to watch a mountain brook
970
In some still passage of its course, and seen,
Within the depths of its capacious breast,
Inverted trees, rocks, clouds, and azure sky;[280]
And, on its glassy surface, specks of foam,
And conglobated bubbles undissolved,
975
Numerous as stars; that, by their onward lapse,
Betray to sight the motion of the stream,
Else imperceptible. Meanwhile, is heard
A softened roar, or murmur;[281] and the sound
Though soothing, and the little floating isles
980
Though beautiful, are both by Nature charged
With the same pensive office; and make known
Through what perplexing labyrinths, abrupt
Precipitations, and untoward straits,
The earth-born wanderer hath passed; and quickly,
985
That respite o'er, like traverses and toils
Must he again encounter.[282]—Such a stream
Is human Life; and so the Spirit fares
In the best quiet to her[283] course allowed;
And such is mine,—save only for a hope
990
That my particular current soon will reach
The unfathomable gulf, where all is still!"

VARIANTS:

[211] 1827.

1814.
... the ...

[212] 1836.

1814.
A place of refuge seeking ...

[213] 1827.

1814.
... it draws its ...

[214] 1814.

1832.
... his ...
1845 returns to 1814.

[215] 1827.

... At the word
1814.
We followed where he led:—a sudden turn

[216] 1827.

...yet thereon appeared
1814.
Conspicuously stationed, one fair Plant,

[217] 1827.

1814.
...which ...

[218] 1827.

You have decried, in no unseemly terms
1814.
Of modesty, that wealth which is your own.

[219] 1827.

I cannot but incline to a belief
1814.
That in these shows ...

[220] 1827.

1814.
... should perhaps have blamed myself,

[221] 1827.

1814.
... lurked

[222] 1827.

1814.
... look around me,

[223] 1827.

... deemed,
Is He (if such have ever entered here)
1814.
The wandering Herbalist,— ...

[224] 1827.

... vexing thoughts,
1814.
Casts on these uncouth Forms ...

[225] 1827.

Of every luckless rock or stone that stands
Before his sight, by weather-stains disguised,
Or crusted o'er with vegetation thin,
1814.
Nature's first growth, ...

[226] 1827.

Doth to the substance give some barbarous name,
1814.
Then ...

[227] 1845.

1814.
... if haply interveined

[228] 1827.

This earnest Pair may range from hill to hill,
1814.
And, ...

[229] 1845.

1814.
... no pain is in their sport."

[230] 1827.

1814.
Framed ...

[231] 1814.

1827.
Nor for ...

The text of 1845 returns to that of 1814.

[232] 1827.

As sound; with that blithe race who wore erewhile
Their golden Grasshoppers, in sign that they
1814.
Had sprung from out the soil whereon they dwelt.

[233] 1827.

On serious minds; for doubtless, in one sense,
1814.
The theme is serious; then, as Hindoos draw

[234] 1827.

1814.
... its ...

[235] 1827.

... or, if such may seem
1814.
Its tendency, to be engulphed and lost

[236] 1827.

1814.
... thereby ...

[237] 1845.

1814.
... be ...

[238] 1814.

C.
Embellished by sweet flowers, by springs refreshed.

[239] 1836.

1814.
Thus I exclaimed, "no sadness sheds on me,

[240] 1827.

Yes," said I, "shall the immunities to which
1814.
She doth lay claim, the precepts she bestows,

[241] 1827.

1814.
Did place, in ...

[242] 1845.

... memory are as one;
1814.
Earth quiet and unchanged; the human Soul

[243] 1845.

Such was their scheme:—thrice happy he who gained
The end proposed! And,—though the same were missed
By multitudes, perhaps obtained by none,—
1814.
They, for the attempt, and for the pains employed,

[244] 1832.

1814.
... its ...

[245] 1836.

1814.
But that which was serene ...

[246] Italics were first used in 1836.

[247] 1827.

Sharp contradictions hourly shall arise
To cross the way; and we, perchance, by doom
1814.
Of this same life, shall be compelled to grieve

[248] Italics were first used in 1832.

[249] 1827.

With sorrowful events; and we, who heard
1814.
And saw, were moved. Desirous to divert,
With trouble, conflict that he seeks and shuns
C.
With the same breath, desirous to divert

[250] 1827.

... which seemed
1814.
A nook for self-examination framed,

[251] 1827.

1814.
Towards ...

[252] 1836.

1814.
... thus his speech ...

[253] 1836.

1814.
I would not yet be ...

[254] 1827.

1814.
... its ...

[255] 1827.

1814.
Of willingness with which ...

[256] 1845.

But in due season Nature interfered,
And called my Partner to resign her share
1814.
In the pure freedom of that wedded life,
But Nature called my Partner to resign
1827.
Her share in the pure freedom of that life,

[257] 1845.

1814.
Draws imperceptibly its nourishment,—

[258] 1845.

... of sex,
By the endearing names of nature bound,
1814.
And with ...

[259] 1836.

1814.
... not swerving ...

[260] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[261] 1814.

1850.
... process ...

[262] 1845.

1814.
... imperceptible,

[263] 1845.

1814.
From us, to regions inaccessible;

[264] 1845.

1814.
... on which ...

[265] 1832.

1814.
"Be rich by mutual and reflected wealth."

[266] 1827.

1814.
... itself ...

[267] 1840.

1814.
... the ...

[268] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[269] 1827.

1814.
... simple ...

[270] 1827.

And qualities determined.—Ruling such,
1814.
And with such herding, I maintained a strife

[271] 1836.

1814.
Whate'er

[272] 1827.

1814.
Beheld a cherished image of itself.
MS.
Beheld a seductive image of herself.

[273] 1827.

... for I strangely relished
The exasperated spirit of that Land,
Which turned an angry beak against the down
Of its own breast; as if it hoped, thereby,
1814.
To disencumber its impatient wings.

[274] 1845.

1814.
How promising the Breeze! Can aught produced

[275] 1827.

... and, to laugh alone,
In woods and wilds, or any lonely place,
1814.
At a composing distance ...

[276] 1827.

May suit an airy Demon; but, of all
1814.
Unsocial courses, 'tis the one least fit

[277] 1827.

1814.
... its ...

[278] 1827.

1814.
Which ...

[279] 1845.

... I require,
1814.
And cannot find; what I myself have lost,

[280] 1836.

1814.
Inverted trees, and rocks, and azure sky;

[281] 1836.

1814.
Perchance, a roar or murmur; ...
1827.
A softened roar, a murmur; ...
... Meanwhile, a roar
MS.
Is heard or soften'd murmur; ...

[282] 1845.

1814.
Must be again encountered.— ...

[283] 1836.

1814.
... its ...

FOOTNOTES:

[CS] There is still a single "yew-tree" high up the eastern side of the valley on the face of Lingmoor Fell,

ED.
Darkening the silver bosom of the crag.

[CT] The local allusions in this passage, and in what follows, are most exact and literal. The three men are supposed to leave the cottage, and to cross to the west side of the tarn, just a little to the north of the fir-wood which overshadows it. The "barrier of steep rock" is the low perpendicular crag to the west of the tarn, immediately below the fir-wood, and the "semicirque of turf-clad ground" is apparent at a glance, whether seen from below the rock or from above it. There are many fragments of ice-borne rock, high up the flank of Blake Rigg to the west, and on the slopes of Lingmoor to the east, which might at first sight be mistaken for the stone, like

A stranded ship, with keel upturned, that rests
Fearless of winds and waves,

or the

fragment, like an altar;

but this particular mass of rock lay

Right at the foot of that moist precipice,

and there it still lies, obvious enough even to the casual eye. The "semicirque" is the cup-shaped recess between the fir-wood and the cliff; and on entering it, the mass of rock is seen lying north-west to north-east. It is not ice-borne, but a fragment dislodged from the crag above it. It is now broken into three smaller fragments, by the weathering of many years. Cracked probably when it fell, the rents have widened, and the fragments are separated by the frosts of many winters. A sycamore of average size is now growing at its side; its root being in the cleft, where the stone is broken. Holly grows luxuriantly all along the face of the crag above; so that the existence of the bush, described as growing in the stone which resembled an altar, is easily explained. The brook is a short one, flowing through the meadow-pastures of the wood, and after a hundred yards is lost in the turfy slope, but is seen again upon the face of the "moist precipice," "softly creeping"—precisely as described in the poem. The "three several stones" that "stand near" are, I think, the one to the front, in a line with the keel of the ship; and the other two to the right and left respectively. The "pair," with the "fragment like an altar, flat and smooth," are to the left, and close at hand.

In connection with all this a remark of Southey's to J. Neville White may be quoted. "Keswick, September 7, 1814.... Have you read Wordsworth's poem? If not, read it, if you can, before you see the author. You will see him with the more pleasure, and look with more interest at the scenery he describes." (Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey, vol. ii. p. 376.)—ED.

[CU] Lady Richardson writes thus of a visit Wordsworth paid to Lancrigg in 1841:—"We took a walk on the terrace, and he went as usual to his favourite points. On our return he was struck with the berries on the holly tree, and said, 'Why should not you and I go and pull some berries from the other side of the tree, which is not seen from the window? and then we can go and plant them in the rocky ground behind the house.' We pulled the berries, and set forth with our tools. I made the holes, and the poet put in the berries. He was as earnest and eager about it as if it had been a matter of importance, and, as he put the seeds in, he every now and then muttered, in his low, solemn tone, that beautiful verse from Burns' Vision:—

'And wear thou this,' she solemn said,
And bound the holly round my head:
The polish'd leaves, and berries red,
Did rustling play;
And, like a passing thought, she fled
In light away.

He clambered to the highest rocks in the 'Tom Intak,' and put in the berries in such situations as Nature sometimes does, with such true and beautiful effect. He said, 'I like to do this for posterity.'"—ED.

[CV]

—Voiceless the stream descends ...
With timid lapse ...

is a perfect description of this tiniest and gentlest of rills, flowing through the meadow-grass; while the "chasm of sky above," of which the Wanderer speaks, though an obvious exaggeration, is more appropriate to this spot than to any other in the vale.—ED.

[CW] See Wordsworth's note, p. 385.—ED.

[CX] Stonehenge. Old legends gave it a mythic origin. Geoffrey of Monmouth attributed it to Merlin, the stones having been brought over from Ireland by magic. It was not a Druid Temple, but a Saxon ring, set up—after the Romans had left Britain—for parliamentary and coronation purposes. "Roman pottery and coins have been found under the stones, and they are fitted with mortice and tenon, an art unknown in Britain till it was taught by the Romans." Compare Dryden's Epistle to Dr. Charleton (Ep. II.)

Stonehenge, once thought a temple, you have found
A throne, where kings, our earthly Gods, were crown'd.

and Henry Crabb Robinson's account of a visit to Stonehenge, in the second volume of his Diary and Correspondence, p. 230.—ED.

[CY] This must refer to Palmyra. The Baalbec ruins are, for the most part, not marble, but limestone.—ED.

[CZ] The Navagos and several other American tribes have this legend; but see Note B in the Appendix to this volume, p. 392.—ED.

[DA] Before the time of Solon, the Athenians wore golden τέττιγες—probably either brooches, or pins with a golden cicada for the head—as a sign that they considered themselves αὐτόχθονες, since the grasshopper τέττιξ (cicada) was supposed to spring out of the ground.—ED.

[DB] The Ganges—sacred river of India—rising in the snow-clad Himalaya, was believed to have a celestial origin.—ED.

[DC] The great river of Western Africa, which was supposed, until recent geographical discovery, to lose itself in the sand.—ED.

[DE] Compare The Prelude, book viii. I. 133 (see vol. iii. p. 276). Also In Memoriam, stanza xxiii.—

And round us all the thicket rang
ED.
To many a flute of Arcady.

[DF] The end sought by Epicurus, the summum bonum of the Epicurean school, was ἀταραξία, repose or peace of mind. This was to be obtained by freedom from pain of body or distraction of mind; but it consisted in the harmony or equilibrium that resulted, when disturbing influences were withdrawn. To attain to it, little was needed—mental enjoyments being superior to bodily ones, and the social joys of friendship the highest of all. Public life was renounced, and private friendship became the bond of union amongst the members of the Epicurean confraternity: but the root principle of the system was emotional, not intellectual.—ED.

[DG] Rational self-control being regarded as the chief good by the Stoics, the emotion of happiness was looked upon as an interruption of the equilibrium in which the wise man should live. All the emotions were diseases, or disturbances of human nature less or more. They had therefore to be uprooted, rather than regulated: and virtue consisted in being emotionless, passionless, apathetic, with life conformed to the laws of the pure reason, so that one came to be

A reasoning self-sufficing thing,
ED.
An intellectual all-in-all.

[DH] Compare the No. vi. Sonnet on The Trosachs (ll. 1-5), in "Yarrow Revisited, and other Poems" (1831).—ED.

[DI] These are reminiscences of Wordsworth's life at Racedown and Alfoxden. His sister wrote thus of their residence at Alfoxden:—"We are three miles from Stowey, and not two miles from the sea. Wherever we turn we have woods, smooth downs, and valleys with small brooks running down them, through green meadows, hardly ever intersected with hedgerows, but scattered over with trees. The hills that cradle these valleys are either covered with fern and bilberries, or oak woods, which are cut for charcoal.... Walks extend for miles over the hill-tops; the great beauty of which is their wild simplicity: they are perfectly smooth, without rocks."—Memoirs of William Wordsworth, by his nephew Christopher Wordsworth, late Bishop of Lincoln, vol. i. p. 103.—ED.

[DJ] See the note on the preceding page.—ED.

[DK] Wordsworth's own children, Catherine and Thomas, were removed by death, in a manner very similar to this, in June and December 1812, while they were living in the Grasmere Parsonage. Compare the two sonnets—

Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind,
(1815)

and

Desponding Father! mark this altered bough,
(1835).—ED.

[DL] Compare The Borderers, act IV. 11. 124, 125 (see vol. i. p. 198)—

Three sleepless nights I passed in sounding on,
ED.
Through words and things, a dim and perilous way.

[DM] See The Prelude, book ix. 1. 68 (vol. iii. p. 295).—ED.

[DN] During the American War of Independence, trees were planted as symbols of freedom. This custom passed over to France. The Jacobins planted the first tree of Liberty in Paris in 1790, and the practice spread rapidly. At each revolutionary period it was revived, and during the Empire again suppressed. A treatise has been written on the custom, by the Abbé Grégoire.—ED.

[DO] It is recorded by Dion Cassius (see Dionis Cassii Cocceiani Historiarum Romanarum quae supersunt, lib. xlvii. § 49) that Brutus before his death repeated this saying of Hercules,

O misera virtus, nomen inane. Te quidem
ED.
Ceu rem colebam; at serva tu Fortunae eras.

[DP] "At the commencement of the French Revolution, in the remotest villages every tongue was employed in echoing and enforcing the almost geometrical abstractions of the physiocratic politicians and economists. The public roads were crowded with armed enthusiasts disputing on the inalienable sovereignty of the people, the imprescriptible laws of the pure reason, and the universal constitution, which, as rising out of the nature and rights of man as man, all nations alike were under the obligation of adopting."-S.T. Coleridge, The Statesman's Manual, a Lay Sermon (1816), p. 19.—ED.

[DQ] The Hudson river, some of the sources of which rise in the Adirondack wilderness.—ED.

[DR] New York.—ED.

[DS] See Wordsworth's note, p. 386.—ED.

[DT] The St. Lawrence.—ED.

[DU] "The Mocking Bird (Turdus polyglottus, Linn.), the American nightingale. He has a voice full, strong, and musical, and capable of almost every modulation, from the clear mellow tones of the Wood Thrush, to the savage scream of the Bald Eagle. In measure and accent he faithfully follows his originals. In force and sweetness of expression he greatly improves upon them. In his native groves, his song rises pre-eminent over every competitor. Neither is his strain altogether imitative. His notes are bold and full, and varied seemingly beyond all limits. They consist of short expressions of two, three, or, at the most, five or six syllables; generally interspersed with imitations, and all of them uttered with great emphasis and rapidity, and continued with undiminished ardour for half an hour, or an hour at a time."—American Ornithology, by Wilson, Bonaparte, and Jardine, vol. i. p. 164, etc.—ED.

[DV] I was indebted to Mr. Edward B. Tylor, and also to the Rev. Charles M. Addison, of Arlington, Mass., for identifying the "melancholy Muccawiss" as the Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus, or Antrostomus vociferus). "Their melancholy night song has led some Indians to consider them the souls of ancestors killed in battle."—Mr. Tylor. For letters in reference to the Muccawiss, see Note C in the Appendix to this volume, p. 393; and compare Charles Waterton's Wanderings in South America, etc. etc. (1828), and Wordsworth's poem, A Morning Exercise, written in 1828.

Since Messrs. Tylor, Addison, and Col. Trumbull identified the Muccawiss with the Whip-poor-will, I have had access to the original MSS. of The Excursion; and have found that the point which is discussed—in the above note and in Note C in the Appendix—is set conclusively at rest, by one of the earlier (discarded) readings of the text in Wordsworth's own handwriting.

"and verily was cheered
By the blithe Mocking Bird, and heard alone
The melancholy cry of whip-pow-will."

Another version of the last line is also given,

"The plaintive cry repeated whip-poor-will."

I entertain no doubt that Wordsworth first of all met with the name of this bird, whip-pow-will, in Waterton's Wanderings (a copy of which he possessed), and that he afterwards exchanged it—before sending his Excursion to press, in 1814—for the more musical Indian name, Muccawiss.

It is also worthy of note that Southey had transferred to his Commonplace Book (see vol. ii. p. 567), Carver's account of the Whipper-will, or as it is termed by the Indians, Muckawiss. "As soon as night comes on these birds will place themselves on the fences, stumps, or stones that lie near some house, and repeat their melancholy note without any variation till midnight." (Travels, by Jonathan Carver, p. 467.)—ED.


[142]

Book Fourth

DESPONDENCY CORRECTED

ARGUMENT

State of feeling produced by the foregoing Narrative—A belief in a superintending Providence the only adequate support under affliction—Wanderer's ejaculation[284]Acknowledges[143] the difficulty of a lively faithHence immoderate sorrow[285]ExhortationsHow receivedWanderer applies[286] his discourse to that other cause of dejection in the Solitary's mind—Disappointment from[287] the French Revolution—States grounds[288] of hope, and insists[289] on the necessity of patience and fortitude with respect to the course of great revolutions[290]Knowledge the source of tranquillityRural Solitude favourable to[291] knowledge of the inferior Creatures; Study of their habits and ways recommended;[292] exhortation[144] to bodily exertion and communion[293] with NatureMorbid Solitude pitiable[294]Superstition better than apathyApathy and destitution unknown in the infancy of societyThe various modes of Religion prevented itIllustrated[295] in the Jewish, Persian, Babylonian, Chaldean, and Grecian modes of beliefSolitary interposesWanderer[296] points out the influence of religious and imaginative feeling in the humble ranks of society, illustrated[297] from present and past timesThese principles[298] tend to recal exploded superstitions and poperyWanderer rebuts this charge, and contrasts the dignities of the Imagination with the presumptuous[299] littleness of certain modern PhilosophersRecommends[300] other lights and guidesAsserts the power of the Soul to regenerate herself; Solitary asks how[301]ReplyPersonal appeal[302][145]Exhortation to activity of body renewedHow to commune with NatureWanderer concludes with a[303] legitimate union of the imagination, affections, understanding, and reason[304]Effect of his discourse[305]Evening; return to the Cottage.

HERE closed the Tenant of that lonely vale
His mournful narrative—commenced in pain,
In pain commenced, and ended without peace:
Yet tempered, not unfrequently, with strains
5
Of native feeling, grateful to our minds;
And yielding surely[306] some relief to his,
While we sate listening with compassion due.
A pause of silence followed; then, with voice
That did not falter though the heart was moved,[307]
The Wanderer said:—
10
"One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists—one only; an assured belief
[146]
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
15
Of infinite benevolence and power;
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good.
—The darts of anguish fix not where the seat
Of suffering hath been thoroughly fortified
20
By acquiescence in the Will supreme
For time and for eternity; by faith,
Faith absolute in God, including hope,
And the defence that lies in boundless love
Of his perfections; with habitual dread
25
Of aught unworthily conceived, endured
Impatiently, ill-done, or left undone,
To the dishonour of his holy name.
Soul of our Souls, and safeguard of the world!
Sustain, thou only canst, the sick of heart;
30
Restore their languid spirits, and recal
Their lost affections unto thee and thine!"[DW]
Then, as we issued from that covert nook,
He thus continued, lifting up his eyes
To heaven:—"How beautiful this dome of sky;
35
And the vast hills, in fluctuation fixed
At thy command, how awful! Shall the Soul,
Human and rational, report of thee
Even less than these?—Be mute who will, who can,
Yet I will praise thee with impassioned voice:
40
My lips, that may forgot[*printer's error?] thee in the crowd,
Cannot forget thee here; where thou hast built,
For thy own glory, in the wilderness!
Me didst thou constitute a priest of thine,
[147]
In such a temple as we now behold
45
Reared for thy presence: therefore, am I bound
To worship, here, and every where—as one
Not doomed to ignorance, though forced to tread,
From childhood up, the ways of poverty;
From unreflecting ignorance preserved,
50
And from debasement rescued.—By thy grace
The particle divine remained unquenched;
And, 'mid the wild weeds of a rugged soil,
Thy bounty caused to flourish deathless flowers,
From paradise transplanted: wintry age
55
Impends; the frost will gather round my heart;
If the flowers wither,[308] I am worse than dead!
—Come, labour, when the worn-out frame requires
Perpetual sabbath; come, disease and want;
And sad exclusion through decay of sense;
60
But leave me unabated trust in thee—
And let thy favour, to the end of life,
Inspire me with ability to seek
Repose and hope among eternal things—
Father of heaven and earth! and I am rich,
65
And will possess my portion in content!
"And what are things eternal?—powers depart,"
The grey-haired Wanderer stedfastly replied,
Answering the question which himself had asked,
"Possessions vanish, and opinions change,
70
And passions hold a fluctuating seat:
But, by the storms of circumstance unshaken,
And subject neither to eclipse nor[309] wane,
Duty exists;—immutably survive,
For our support, the measures and the forms,
75
Which an abstract intelligence supplies;
[148]
Whose kingdom is, where time and space are not.[DX]
Of other converse which mind, soul, and heart,
Do, with united urgency, require,
What more that may not perish?—Thou, dread source,
80
Prime, self-existing cause and end of all
That in the scale of being fill their place;
Above our human region, or below,
Set and sustained;—thou, who didst wrap the cloud
Of infancy around us, that thyself,
85
Therein, with our simplicity awhile
Might'st hold, on earth, communion undisturbed;[DY]
Who from the anarchy of dreaming sleep,
Or from its death-like void, with punctual care,
And touch as gentle as the morning light,
90
Restor'st us, daily, to the powers of sense
And reason's stedfast rule—thou, thou alone
Art everlasting, and the blessed Spirits,
Which thou includest, as the sea her waves:
For adoration thou endur'st; endure
95
For consciousness the motions of thy will;
For apprehension those transcendent truths
Of the pure intellect, that stand as laws
(Submission constituting strength and power)
Even to thy Being's infinite majesty!
100
This universe shall pass away—a work[310]
Glorious! because the shadow of thy might,
A step, or link, for intercourse with thee.
Ah! if the time must come, in which my feet
No more shall stray where meditation leads,
105
By flowing stream, through wood, or craggy wild,
Loved haunts like these; the unimprisoned Mind
[149]
May yet have scope to range among her own,
Her thoughts, her images, her high desires.
If the dear faculty of sight should fail,
110
Still, it may be allowed me to remember
What visionary powers of eye and soul
In youth were mine; when, stationed on the top
Of some huge hill—expectant, I beheld
The sun rise up,[DZ] from distant climes returned
115
Darkness to chase, and sleep; and bring the day
His bounteous gift! or saw him toward the deep[311]
Sink, with a retinue of flaming clouds
Attended; then, my spirit was entranced
With joy exalted to beatitude;[EA]
120
The measure of my soul was filled with bliss,
And holiest love; as earth, sea, air, with light,
With pomp, with glory, with magnificence!
"Those fervent raptures are for ever flown;[EB]
And, since their date, my soul hath undergone
125
Change manifold, for better or for worse:
Yet cease I not to struggle, and aspire[312]
Heavenward; and chide the part of me that flags,
Through sinful choice; or dread necessity
On human nature from above imposed.
130
'Tis, by comparison, an easy task
Earth to despise;[EC] but, to converse with heaven—
[150]
This is not easy:—to relinquish all
We have, or hope, of happiness and joy,
And stand in freedom loosened from this world,
135
I deem not arduous; but must needs confess
That 'tis a thing impossible to frame
Conceptions equal to the soul's desires;
And the most difficult of tasks to keep
Heights which the soul is competent to gain.
140
—Man is of dust: ethereal hopes are his,
Which, when they should sustain themselves aloft,
Want due consistence; like a pillar of smoke,
That with majestic energy from earth
Rises; but, having reached the thinner air,
145
Melts, and dissolves, and is no longer seen.
From this infirmity of mortal kind
Sorrow proceeds, which else were not; at least,
If grief be something hallowed and ordained,
If, in proportion, it be just and meet,
150
Yet, through this weakness of the general heart,
Is it enabled to maintain its hold[313]
In that excess which conscience disapproves.
For who could sink and settle to that point
Of selfishness; so senseless who could be
155
As long[314] and perseveringly to mourn
For any object of his love, removed
From this unstable world, if he could fix
A satisfying view upon that state
Of pure, imperishable, blessedness,
160
Which reason promises, and holy writ
Ensures to all believers?—Yet mistrust
[151]
Is of such incapacity, methinks,
No natural branch; despondency far less;[315]
164
And, least of all, is absolute despair.[316]
—And, if there be whose tender frames have drooped
Even to the dust; apparently, through weight
Of anguish unrelieved, and lack of power
An agonizing sorrow to transmute;
Deem not that proof is here of hope withheld[317]
170
When wanted most; a confidence impaired
So pitiably, that, having ceased to see
With bodily eyes, they are borne down by love
Of what is lost, and perish through regret.
Oh! no, the innocent Sufferer often sees[318]
175
Too clearly; feels too vividly; and longs
To realize the vision, with intense
And over-constant yearning;—there—there lies
The excess, by which the balance is destroyed.
Too, too contracted are these walls of flesh,
180
This vital warmth too cold, these visual orbs,
Though inconceivably endowed, too dim
For any passion of the soul that leads
To ecstasy; and, all the crooked paths
Of time and change disdaining, takes its course
185
Along the line of limitless desires.
I, speaking now from such disorder free,
Nor rapt, nor craving, but in settled peace,
I cannot doubt that they whom you deplore
Are glorified; or, if they sleep, shall wake
190
From sleep, and dwell with God in endless love.
Hope, below this, consists not with belief
[152]
In mercy, carried infinite degrees
Beyond the tenderness of human hearts:
Hope, below this, consists not with belief
195
In perfect wisdom, guiding mightiest power,
That finds no limits but her own pure will.[319]
"Here then we rest; not fearing for our creed
The worst that human reasoning can achieve,
To unsettle or perplex it:[320] yet with pain
200
Acknowledging, and grievous self-reproach,
That, though immovably convinced, we want
Zeal, and the virtue to exist by faith
As soldiers live by courage; as, by strength
Of heart, the sailor fights with roaring seas.
205
Alas! the endowment of immortal power
Is matched unequally with custom, time,[ED]
And domineering faculties of sense
In all; in most with superadded foes,
Idle temptations; open vanities,
210
Ephemeral offspring[321] of the unblushing world;
And, in the private regions of the mind,
Ill-governed passions, ranklings of despite,
Immoderate wishes, pining discontent,
Distress and care. What then remains?—To seek
215
Those helps for his occasions ever near
[153]
Who lacks not will to use them; vows, renewed
On the first motion of a holy thought;
Vigils of contemplation; praise; and prayer—
A stream, which, from the fountain of the heart
220
Issuing, however feebly, nowhere flows
Without access of unexpected strength.
But, above all, the victory is most sure
For him, who, seeking faith by virtue, strives
To yield entire submission to the law
225
Of conscience—conscience reverenced and obeyed,
As God's most intimate presence in the soul,
And his most perfect image in the world.
—Endeavour thus to live; these rules regard;
These helps solicit; and a stedfast seat
230
Shall then be yours among the happy few
Who dwell on earth, yet breathe empyreal air,
Sons of the morning.[EE] For your nobler part,
Ere disencumbered of her mortal chains,
Doubt shall be quelled and trouble chased away;
235
With only such degree of sadness left
As may support longings of pure desire;
And strengthen love, rejoicing secretly
In the sublime attractions of the grave."
While, in this strain, the venerable Sage
240
Poured forth his aspirations, and announced
His judgments, near that lonely house we paced
A plot of green-sward, seemingly preserved
By nature's care from wreck of scattered stones,
And from encroachment[322] of encircling heath:
245
Small space! but, for reiterated steps,
Smooth and commodious; as a stately deck
Which to and fro the mariner is used
To tread for pastime, talking with his mates,
[154]
Or haply thinking of far-distant friends,
250
While the ship glides before a steady breeze.
Stillness prevailed around us: and the voice
That spake was capable to lift the soul
Toward[323] regions yet more tranquil. But, methought,
That he, whose fixed despondency had given
255
Impulse and motive to that strong discourse,
Was less upraised in spirit than abashed;
Shrinking from admonition, like a man
Who feels that to exhort is to reproach.
Yet not to be diverted from his aim,
The Sage continued:—
260
"For that other loss,
The loss of confidence in social man,
By the unexpected transports of our age
Carried so high, that every thought, which looked
Beyond the temporal destiny of the Kind,
265
To many seemed superfluous—as, no cause
Could e'er for such exalted confidence[324]
Exist; so, none is now for fixed[325] despair:
The two extremes are equally disowned
By reason: if, with sharp recoil, from one
270
You have been driven far as its opposite,
Between them seek the point whereon to build
Sound expectations. So doth he advise[326]
[155]
Who shared at first the illusion; but was soon
Cast from the pedestal of pride by shocks
275
Which Nature gently gave, in woods and fields;
Nor unreproved by Providence, thus speaking
To the inattentive children of the world:
'Vain-glorious Generation! what new powers
On you have been conferred? what gifts, withheld
280
From your progenitors, have ye received,
Fit recompense of new desert? what claim
Are ye prepared to urge, that my decrees
For you should undergo a sudden change;
And the weak functions of one busy day,
285
Reclaiming and extirpating, perform
What all the slowly-moving years of time,
With their united force, have left undone?
By nature's gradual processes be taught;
By story be confounded! Ye aspire
290
Rashly, to fall once more; and that false fruit,
Which, to your over-weening spirits, yields
Hope of a flight celestial, will produce[327]
Misery and shame. But Wisdom of her sons
294
Shall not the less, though late, be justified.'[EF]
"Such timely warning," said the Wanderer, "gave
That visionary voice; and, at this day,
When a Tartarean darkness overspreads
The groaning nations; when the impious rule,
By will or by established ordinance,
300
Their own dire agents, and constrain the good
To acts which they abhor; though I bewail
[156]
This triumph, yet the pity of my heart
Prevents me not from owning, that the law,
By which mankind now suffers, is most just.
305
For by superior energies; more strict
Affiance in each other; faith more firm
In their unhallowed principles; the bad
Have fairly earned a victory o'er the weak,
The vacillating, inconsistent good.
310
Therefore, not unconsoled, I wait—in hope
To see the moment, when the righteous cause
Shall gain defenders zealous and devout
As they who have opposed her; in which Virtue
Will, to her efforts, tolerate no bounds
315
That are not lofty as her rights; aspiring
By impulse of her own ethereal zeal.
That spirit only can redeem mankind;
And when that sacred spirit shall appear,
Then shall our triumph be complete as theirs.
320
Yet, should this confidence prove vain, the wise
Have still the keeping of their proper peace;
Are guardians of their own tranquillity.
They act, or they recede, observe, and feel;
'Knowing[328] the heart of man is set to be[EG]
325
The centre of this world, about the which
Those revolutions of disturbances
Still roll; where all the aspècts of misery
Predominate; whose strong effects are such
As he must bear, being powerless to redress;
330
And that unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is Man!'[EH]
[157]
"Happy is he who lives to understand,
Not human nature only, but explores
All natures,—to the end that he may find
335
The law that governs each; and where begins
The union, the partition where, that makes
Kind and degree, among all visible Beings;
The constitutions, powers, and faculties,
Which they inherit,—cannot step beyond,—
340
And cannot fall beneath; that do assign
To every class its station and its office,
Through all the mighty commonwealth of things
Up from the creeping plant to sovereign Man.
Such converse, if directed by a meek,
345
Sincere, and humble spirit, teaches love:
For knowledge is delight; and such delight
Breeds love: yet, suited as it rather is
To thought and to the climbing intellect,
It teaches less to love, than to adore;
350
If that be not indeed the highest love!"
"Yet," said I, tempted here to interpose,
"The dignity of life is not impaired
By aught that innocently satisfies
The humbler cravings of the heart; and he
355
Is a still happier man, who, for those heights
Of speculation not unfit, descends;
And such benign affections cultivates
Among the inferior kinds; not merely those
That he may call his own, and which depend,
[158] 360
As individual objects of regard,
Upon his care, from whom he also looks
For signs and tokens of a mutual bond;
But others, far beyond this narrow sphere,
Whom, for the very sake of love, he loves.
365
Nor is it a mean praise of rural life
And solitude, that they do favour most,
Most frequently call forth, and best sustain,
These pure sensations; that can penetrate
The obstreperous city; on the barren seas
370
Are not unfelt; and much might recommend,
How much they might inspirit and endear,
The loneliness of this sublime retreat!"
"Yes," said the Sage, resuming the discourse
Again directed to his downcast Friend,
375
"If, with the froward will and grovelling soul
Of man, offended, liberty is here,
And invitation every hour renewed,
To mark their placid state, who never heard
Of a command which they have power to break,
380
Or rule which they are tempted to transgress:
These, with a soothed or elevated heart,
May we behold; their knowledge register;
Observe their ways; and, free from envy, find
Complacence there:—but wherefore this to you?
385
I guess that, welcome to your lonely hearth,
The redbreast, ruffled up by winter's cold
Into a 'feathery bunch,' feeds at your hand:[329]
A box, perchance, is from your casement hung
For the small wren to build in;—not in vain,
390
The barriers disregarding that surround
This deep abiding place, before your sight
Mounts on the breeze the butterfly; and soars,
Small creature as she is, from earth's bright flowers,
[159]
Into the dewy clouds. Ambition reigns
395
In the waste wilderness: the Soul ascends
Drawn towards her native firmament of heaven,[330]
When the fresh eagle, in the month of May,
Upborne, at evening, on replenished wing,
This shaded valley leaves;[331][EI] and leaves the dark
400
Empurpled hills, conspicuously renewing
A proud communication with the sun
Low sunk beneath the horizon!—List!—I heard,
From yon huge breast of rock, a voice sent forth[332]
As if the visible mountain made the cry.
405
Again!"—The effect upon the soul was such
As he expressed: from out the mountain's heart
The solemn voice appeared to issue, startling
The blank air—for the region all around
Stood empty of all shape of life, and silent
410
Save for that single cry, the unanswer'd bleat
Of a poor lamb—left somewhere to itself,[333]
[160]
The plaintive spirit of the solitude![EJ]
He paused, as if unwilling to proceed,
Through consciousness that silence in such place
415
Was best, the most affecting eloquence.
But soon his thoughts returned upon themselves,
And, in soft tone of speech, thus he[334] resumed.
"Ah! if the heart, too confidently raised,
Perchance too lightly occupied, or lulled
420
Too easily, despise or overlook
The vassalage that binds her to the earth,
Her sad dependence upon time, and all
The trepidations of mortality,
What place so destitute and void—but there
425
The little flower her vanity shall check;
The trailing worm reprove her thoughtless pride?
"These craggy regions, these chaotic wilds,
Does that benignity pervade, that warms
The mole contented with her darksome walk
430
In the cold ground; and to the emmet gives
Her foresight, and intelligence[335] that makes
The tiny creatures strong by social league;
[161]
Supports the generations, multiplies
Their tribes, till we behold a spacious plain
435
Or grassy bottom, all, with little hills—
Their labour, covered, as a lake with waves;[EK]
Thousands of cities, in the desert place
Built up of life, and food, and means of life!
Nor wanting here, to entertain the thought,
440
Creatures that in communities exist,
Less, as might seem, for general guardianship
Or through dependence upon mutual aid,
Than by participation of delight
And a strict love of fellowship, combined.
445
What other spirit can it be that prompts
The gilded summer flies to mix and weave
Their sports together in the solar beam,
Or in the gloom of twilight hum their joy?
449
More obviously the self-same influence rules
The feathered kinds; the fieldfare's pensive flock,[336][EL]
The cawing rooks, and sea-mews from afar,
Hovering above these inland solitudes,
By the rough wind unscattered, at whose call
Up through the trenches of the long-drawn vales
455
Their voyage was begun:[337] nor is its power
[162]
Unfelt among the sedentary fowl
That seek yon pool,[EM] and there prolong their stay
In silent congress; or together roused
Take flight; while with their clang the air resounds.
460
And, over all, in that ethereal vault,[338]
Is the mute company of changeful clouds;
Bright apparition, suddenly put forth,
The rainbow smiling on the faded storm;
The mild assemblage of the starry heavens;
465
And the great sun, earth's universal lord!
"How bountiful is Nature! he shall find
Who seeks not; and to him, who hath not asked,
Large measure shall be dealt. Three sabbath-days
Are scarcely told, since, on a service bent
470
Of mere humanity, you clomb those heights;
And what a marvellous and heavenly show
Was suddenly revealed![339]—the swains moved on,
And heeded not: you lingered, you perceived
And felt, deeply as living man could feel.
475
There is a luxury[340] in self-dispraise;
And inward self-disparagement affords
To meditative spleen a grateful feast.
Trust me, pronouncing on your own desert,
You judge unthankfully: distempered nerves
480
Infect the thoughts: the languor of the frame
Depresses the soul's vigour. Quit your couch—
Cleave not so fondly to your moody cell;
Nor let the hallowed powers, that shed from heaven
[163]
Stillness and rest, with disapproving eye
485
Look down upon your taper, through a watch
Of midnight hours, unseasonably twinkling
In this deep Hollow, like a sullen star
Dimly reflected in a lonely pool.
Take courage, and withdraw yourself from ways
490
That run not parallel to nature's course.
Rise with the lark! your matins shall obtain
Grace, be their composition what it may,
If but with hers performed;[EN] climb once again,
Climb every day, those ramparts;[EO] meet the breeze
495
Upon their tops, adventurous as a bee
That from your garden thither soars, to feed
On new-blown heath; let yon commanding rock
Be your frequented watch-tower; roll the stone
In thunder down the mountains; with all your might
500
Chase the wild goat; and if the bold red deer
Fly to those[341] harbours, driven by hound and horn
Loud echoing, add your speed to the pursuit;
So, wearied to your hut shall you return,
And sink at evening into sound repose."
505
The Solitary lifted toward[342] the hills
A kindling eye:—accordant feelings rushed
Into my bosom, whence these words broke forth:[343]
"Oh! what a joy it were, in vigorous health,
[164]
To have a body (this our vital frame
510
With shrinking sensibility endued,
And all the nice regards of flesh and blood)
And to the elements surrender it
As if it were a spirit!—How divine,
The liberty, for frail, for mortal, man
515
To roam at large among unpeopled glens
And mountainous retirements, only trod
By devious footsteps; regions consecrate
To oldest time! and, reckless of the storm
That keeps the raven quiet in her nest,
520
Be as a presence or a motion—one
Among the many there; and while the mists
Flying, and rainy vapours, call out shapes
And phantoms from the crags and solid earth
As fast as a musician scatters sounds
525
Out of an instrument; and while the streams
(As at a first creation and in haste
To exercise their untried faculties)
Descending from the region of the clouds,
And starting from the hollows of the earth
530
More multitudinous every moment, rend
Their way before them—what a joy to roam
An equal among mightiest energies;
And haply sometimes with articulate voice,
Amid the deafening tumult, scarcely heard
535
By him that utters it, exclaim aloud,
'Rage on ye elements! let moon and stars
Their aspects lend, and mingle in their turn
With this commotion (ruinous though it be)
From day to night, from night to day, prolonged!'"[344]
[165]
540
"Yes," said the Wanderer, taking from my lips
The strain of transport, "whosoe'er in youth
Has, through ambition of his soul, given way
To such desires, and grasped at such delight,
Shall feel congenial stirrings late and long,[345]
545
In spite of all the weakness that life brings,
Its cares and sorrows; he, though taught to own
The tranquillizing power of time, shall wake,
Wake sometimes to a noble restlessness—
Loving the sports[346] which once he gloried in.
550
"Compatriot, Friend, remote are Garry's hills,
The streams far distant of your native glen;
Yet is their form and image here expressed
With brotherly resemblance.[347] Turn your steps
Wherever fancy leads; by day, by night,
555
Are various engines working, not the same
As those with[348] which your soul in youth was moved,
But by the great Artificer endowed[349]
With no inferior power. You dwell alone;
You walk, you live, you speculate alone;
[166] 560
Yet doth remembrance, like a sovereign prince,
For you a stately gallery maintain
Of gay or tragic pictures. You have seen,
Have acted, suffered, travelled far, observed
With no incurious eye; and books are yours,
565
Within whose silent chambers treasure lies
Preserved from age to age; more precious far
Than that accumulated store of gold
And orient gems, which, for a day of need,
The Sultan hides deep in[350] ancestral tombs.
570
These hoards of truth you can unlock at will:
And music waits upon your skilful touch,
Sounds which the wandering shepherd from these heights
Hears, and forgets his purpose;—furnished thus,
How can you droop, if willing to be upraised?[351]
575
"A piteous lot it were to flee from Man—
Yet not rejoice in Nature. He, whose hours
Are by domestic pleasures uncaressed
And unenlivened; who exists whole years
Apart from benefits received or done
580
'Mid the transactions of the bustling crowd;
Who neither hears, nor feels a wish to hear,
Of the world's interests—such a one hath need
Of a quick fancy and an active heart,
That, for the day's consumption, books may yield
585
Food not unwholesome; earth and air correct
His morbid humour, with delight supplied
Or solace, varying as the seasons change.[352]
[167]
—Truth has her pleasure-grounds, her haunts of ease
And easy contemplation; gay parterres,
590
And labyrinthine walks, her sunny glades
And shady groves in studied contrast—each,
For recreation, leading into each:[353]
These may he range, if willing to partake
Their soft indulgences, and in due time
595
May issue thence, recruited for the tasks
And course of service Truth requires from those
Who tend her altars, wait upon her throne,
And guard her fortresses. Who thinks, and feels,
And recognises ever and anon
600
The breeze of nature stirring in his soul,
Why need such man go desperately astray,
And nurse 'the dreadful appetite of death?'
If tired with systems, each in its degree
Substantial, and all crumbling in their turn,
605
Let him build systems of his own, and smile
At the fond work, demolished with a touch;
If unreligious, let him be at once,
Among ten thousand innocents, enrolled
A pupil in the many-chambered school,
610
Where superstition weaves her airy dreams.
"Life's autumn past, I stand on winter's verge;
And daily lose what I desire to keep:
Yet rather would I instantly decline
To the traditionary sympathies
615
Of a most rustic ignorance, and take
A fearful apprehension from the owl
Or death-watch: and as readily rejoice,
If two auspicious magpies crossed my way;—
To this would rather bend[354] than see and hear
[168] 620
The repetitions wearisome of sense,
Where soul is dead, and feeling hath no place;
Where knowledge, ill begun in cold remark
On outward things, with formal inference ends;
Or, if the mind turn inward, she recoils
625
At once—or, not recoiling, is perplexed—
Lost in a gloom of uninspired research;[355]
Meanwhile, the heart within the heart, the seat
Where peace and happy consciousness should dwell,
On its own axis restlessly revolving,
630
Seeks, yet can nowhere find, the light of truth.[356][EQ]
"Upon the breast of new-created earth
Man walked; and when and wheresoe'er he moved,
Alone or mated, solitude was not.
He heard, borne on the wind,[357] the articulate voice
635
Of God;[ER] and Angels to his sight appeared
Crowning the glorious hills of paradise;
Or through the groves gliding like morning mist
Enkindled by the sun. He sate—and talked
With winged Messengers;[ES] who daily brought
640
To his small island in the ethereal deep
[169]
Tidings of joy and love.—From those pure heights[358]
(Whether of actual vision, sensible
To sight and feeling, or that in this sort
Have condescendingly been shadowed forth
645
Communications spiritually maintained,
And intuitions moral and divine)
Fell Human-kind—to banishment condemned[ET]
That flowing years repealed not: and distress
And grief spread wide;[EU] but Man escaped the doom
650
Of destitution;—solitude was not.
—Jehovah[EV]—shapeless Power above all Powers,
Single and one, the omnipresent God,
By vocal utterance, or blaze of light,
Or cloud of darkness, localised in heaven;[EW]
655
On earth, enshrined within the wandering ark;[EX]
Or, out of Sion, thundering from his throne
Between the Cherubim[EY]—on the chosen Race
Showered miracles,[EZ] and ceased not to dispense
Judgments, that filled the land from age to age
660
With hope, and love, and gratitude, and fear;[FA]
And with amazement smote;—thereby to assert
His scorned, or unacknowledged, sovereignty.
And when the One, ineffable of name,
Of[359] nature indivisible, withdrew
665
From mortal adoration or regard,
Not then was Deity engulfed; nor Man,
The rational creature, left, to feel the weight
[170]
Of his own reason, without sense or thought
Of higher reason and a purer will,
670
To benefit and bless, through mightier power:—
Whether the Persian—zealous to reject
Altar and image, and the inclusive walls
And roofs of temples built by human hands—[FB]
To[360] loftiest heights ascending, from their tops,
675
With myrtle-wreathed tiara on his brow,[361]
Presented sacrifice to moon and stars,
And to the winds and mother elements,
And the whole circle of the heavens, for him
A sensitive existence, and a God,[FC]
680
With lifted hands invoked, and songs of praise:
Or, less reluctantly to bonds of sense
Yielding his soul, the Babylonian framed
For influence undefined a personal shape;
And, from the plain, with toil immense, upreared
685
Tower eight times planted on the top of tower,
That Belus, nightly to his splendid couch
Descending, there might rest;[FD] upon that height
Pure and serene, diffused—to overlook[362]
[171]
Winding Euphrates, and the city vast
690
Of his devoted worshippers, far-stretched,
With grove and field and garden interspersed;
Their town, and foodful region for support
Against the pressure of beleaguering war.
"Chaldean Shepherds, ranging trackless fields,
695
Beneath the concave of unclouded skies
Spread like a sea, in boundless solitude,
Looked on the polar star, as on a guide
And guardian of their course, that never closed
His stedfast eye. The planetary Five[FE]
700
With a submissive reverence they beheld;
Watched, from the centre of their sleeping flocks,
Those radiant Mercuries,[FF] that seemed to move
Carrying through ether, in perpetual round,
Decrees and resolutions of the Gods;
705
And, by their aspects, signifying works
Of dim futurity, to Man revealed.
—The imaginative faculty was lord
Of observations natural; and, thus
Led on, those shepherds made report of stars
710
In set rotation passing to and fro,
[172]
Between the orbs of our apparent sphere
And its invisible counterpart, adorned
With answering constellations, under earth,
Removed from all approach of living sight
715
But present to the dead; who, so they deemed,
Like those celestial messengers beheld
All accidents, and judges were of all.
"The lively Grecian, in a land of hills,
Rivers and fertile plains, and sounding shores,—[FG]
720
Under a cope of sky more variable,[363]
Could find commodious place for every God,
Promptly received, as prodigally brought,
From the surrounding countries, at the choice
Of all adventurers. With unrivalled skill,
725
As nicest observation furnished hints
For studious fancy, his quick hand bestowed[364]
On fluent operations a fixed shape;
Metal or stone, idolatrously served.
And yet—triumphant o'er this pompous show
730
Of art, this palpable array of sense,
On every side encountered; in despite
Of the gross fictions chanted in the streets
By wandering Rhapsodists;[FH] and in contempt
Of doubt and bold denial[365] hourly urged
[173] 735
Amid the wrangling schools—a SPIRIT hung,
Beautiful region! o'er thy towns and farms,
Statues and temples, and memorial tombs;
And emanations were perceived; and acts
Of immortality, in Nature's course,
740
Exemplified by mysteries, that were felt
As bonds, on grave philosopher imposed
And armed warrior; and in every grove
A gay or pensive tenderness prevailed,
744
When piety more awful had relaxed.
—'Take, running river, take these locks of mine'—
Thus would the Votary say—'this severed hair,
'My vow fulfilling, do I here present,
'Thankful for my beloved child's return.
749
'Thy banks, Cephisus, he again hath trod,[FI]
'Thy murmurs heard; and drunk the crystal lymph
'With which thou dost refresh the thirsty lip,
'And, all day long, moisten[366] these flowery fields!'
And, doubtless, sometimes, when the hair was shed
Upon the flowing stream, a thought arose
755
Of Life continuous, Being unimpaired;
That hath been, is, and where it was and is
There shall endure,—existence unexposed[367]
To the blind walk of mortal accident;
From diminution safe and weakening age;
760
While man grows old, and dwindles, and decays;
And countless generations of mankind
Depart; and leave no vestige where they trod.
[174]
"We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love;
And, even as these are well and wisely fixed,
765
In dignity of being we ascend.
But what is error?"—"Answer he who can!"
The Sceptic somewhat haughtily exclaimed:
"Love, Hope, and Admiration—are they not
Mad Fancy's favourite vassals? Does not life
770
Use them, full oft, as pioneers to ruin,
Guides to destruction? Is it well to trust
Imagination's light when reason's fails,
The unguarded taper where the guarded faints?
—Stoop from those heights, and soberly declare
775
What error is; and, of our errors, which
Doth most debase the mind; the genuine seats
Of power, where are they? Who shall regulate,
With truth, the scale of intellectual rank?"
"Methinks," persuasively the Sage replied,
780
"That for this arduous office you possess
Some rare advantages. Your early days
A grateful recollection must supply
Of much exalted good by Heaven vouchsafed
To dignify the humblest state.[368]—Your voice
785
Hath, in my hearing, often testified
That poor men's children, they, and they alone,
By their condition taught, can understand
The wisdom of the prayer that daily asks
For daily bread. A consciousness is yours
790
How feelingly religion may be learned
In smoky cabins, from a mother's tongue—
Heard while the dwelling vibrates to the din
Of the contiguous torrent, gathering strength
At every moment—and, with strength, increase
795
Of fury; or, while snow is at the door,
[175]
Assaulting and defending, and the wind,
A sightless labourer, whistles at his work—
Fearful; but resignation tempers fear,
799
And piety is sweet to infant minds.
—The Shepherd-lad, that[369] in the sunshine carves,
On the green turf, a dial[FJ]—to divide
The silent hours; and who to that report
Can portion out his pleasures, and adapt,
Throughout a long and lonely summer's day
805
His round[370] of pastoral duties, is not left
With less intelligence for moral things
Of gravest import. Early he perceives,
Within himself, a measure and a rule,
Which to the sun of truth he can apply,
810
That shines for him, and shines for all mankind.
Experience daily fixing his regards
On nature's wants, he knows how few they are,
And where they lie, how answered and appeased.
This knowledge ample recompense affords
815
For manifold privations; he refers
His notions to this standard; on this rock
Rests his desires; and hence, in after life,
Soul-strengthening patience, and sublime content.
Imagination—not permitted here
820
To waste her powers, as in the worldling's mind,
On fickle pleasures, and superfluous cares,
And trivial ostentation—is left free
And puissant to range the solemn walks
Of time and nature, girded by a zone
[176] 825
That, while it binds, invigorates and supports.
Acknowledge, then, that whether by the side
Of his poor hut, or on the mountain top,
Or in the cultured field, a Man so bred[371]
(Take from him what you will upon the score
830
Of ignorance or illusion) lives and breathes
For noble purposes of mind: his heart
Beats to the heroic song of ancient days;
His eye distinguishes, his soul creates,
And those illusions, which excite the scorn
835
Or move the pity of unthinking minds,
Are they not mainly outward ministers
Of inward conscience? with whose service charged
They came and go, appeared and disappear,[372]
Diverting evil purposes, remorse
840
Awakening, chastening an intemperate grief,
Or pride of heart abating: and, whene'er
For less important ends those phantoms move,
Who would forbid them, if their presence serve,
On thinly-peopled mountains and wild heaths,[373]
845
Filling a space, else vacant, to exalt
The forms of Nature, and enlarge her powers?
"Once more to distant ages of the world
Let us revert, and place before our thoughts
The face which rural solitude might wear
850
To the unenlightened swains of pagan Greece.[374]
[177]
—In that fair clime, the lonely herdsman, stretched
On the soft grass through half a summer's day,
With music lulled his indolent repose:
And, in some fit of weariness, if he,
855
When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear
A distant strain, far sweeter than the sounds
Which his poor skill could make, his fancy fetched,
Even from the blazing chariot of the sun,
A beardless Youth, who touched a golden lute,[FK]
860
And filled the illumined groves with ravishment.
The nightly hunter, lifting a bright eye
Up towards the crescent moon,[375] with grateful heart
Called on the lovely wanderer who bestowed
That timely light, to share his joyous sport:[376]
865
And hence, a beaming Goddess with her Nymphs,[FL]
Across the lawn and through the darksome grove,
Not unaccompanied with tuneful notes
By echo multiplied from rock or cave,
Swept in the storm of chase; as moon and stars
[178] 870
Glance rapidly along the clouded heaven,[377]
When winds are blowing strong. The traveller slaked
His thirst from rill or gushing fount, and thanked
The Naiad.[FM] Sunbeams, upon distant hills
Gliding apace, with shadows in their train,
875
Might, with small help from fancy, be transformed
Into fleet Oreads[FM] sporting visibly.
The Zephyrs[FM] fanning, as they passed, their wings,
Lacked not, for love, fair objects whom they wooed
With gentle whisper. Withered boughs grotesque,
880
Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age,
From depth of shaggy covert peeping forth
In the low vale, or on steep mountain side;
And, sometimes, intermixed with stirring horns
Of the live deer, or goat's depending beard,—
885
These were the lurking Satyrs,[FM] a wild brood
Of gamesome Deities; or Pan himself,
The simple shepherd's awe-inspiring God!"
The strain was aptly chosen; and I could mark[378]
Its kindly influence, o'er[379] the yielding brow
890
Of our Companion, gradually diffused;
While, listening, he had paced the noiseless turf,
Like one whose untired ear a murmuring stream
Detains; but tempted now to interpose,
He with a smile exclaimed:—
[179]
"'Tis well you speak
895
At a safe distance from our native land,
And from the mansions where our youth was taught.
The true descendants of those godly men
Who swept from Scotland, in a flame of zeal,
Shrine, altar, image, and the massy piles
900
That harboured them,—the souls retaining yet
The churlish features of that after-race
Who fled to woods, caverns, and jutting rocks,[380]
In deadly scorn of superstitious rites,
Or what their scruples construed to be such—
905
How, think you, would they tolerate this scheme
Of fine propensities, that tends, if urged
Far as it might be urged, to sow afresh
The weeds of Romish phantasy, in vain
Uprooted; would re-consecrate our wells
910
To good Saint Fillan[FN] and to fair Saint Anne;
And from long banishment recal Saint Giles,[FO]
To watch again with tutelary love
O'er stately Edinborough throned on crags?
A blessed restoration,[FP] to behold
[180] 915
The patron, on the shoulders of his priests,
Once more parading through her crowded streets
Now simply guarded by the sober powers
Of science, and philosophy, and sense!"
This answer followed.—"You have turned my thoughts
920
Upon our brave Progenitors, who rose
Against idolatry with warlike mind,
And shrunk from vain observances, to lurk
In woods, and dwell under impending rocks
Ill-sheltered, and oft wanting fire and food;[381]
925
Why?—for this very reason that they felt,
And did acknowledge, wheresoe'er they moved,
A spiritual presence, oft-times misconceived,
But still a high dependence, a divine
Bounty and government, that filled their hearts
930
With joy, and gratitude, and fear, and love;
And from their fervent lips drew hymns of praise,
That through the desert rang.[382] Though favoured less,
Far less, than these, yet such, in their degree,
Were those bewildered Pagans of old time.
935
Beyond their own poor natures and above
They looked; were humbly thankful for the good
Which the warm sun solicited, and earth
Bestowed; were gladsome,—and their moral sense
They fortified with reverence for the Gods;
940
And they had hopes that overstepped the Grave.
"Now, shall our great Discoverers," he exclaimed,
Raising his voice triumphantly, "obtain
From sense and reason less than these obtained,
[181]
Though far misled? Shall men for whom our age
945
Unbaffled powers of vision hath prepared,
To explore the world without and world within,
Be joyless as the blind? Ambitious spirits—[383]
Whom earth, at this late season, hath produced
To regulate the moving spheres, and weigh
950
The planets in the hollow of their hand;
And they who rather dive than soar, whose pains
Have solved the elements, or analysed
The thinking principle—shall they in fact
Prove a degraded Race? and what avails
955
Renown, if their presumption make them such?
Oh! there is laughter at their work in heaven!
Inquire of ancient Wisdom; go, demand
Of mighty Nature, if 'twas ever meant
That we should pry far off yet be unraised;
960
That we should pore, and dwindle as we pore,
Viewing all objects unremittingly
In disconnexion dead and spiritless;
And still dividing, and dividing still,
Break down all grandeur, still unsatisfied
965
With the perverse attempt, while littleness
May yet become more little; waging thus
An impious warfare with the very life
Of our own souls!
"And if indeed there be
An all-pervading Spirit, upon whom
970
Our dark foundations rest, could he design
That this[384] magnificent effect of power,
The earth we tread, the sky that[385] we behold
[182]
By day, and all the pomp which night reveals;
That these—and that superior mystery
975
Our vital frame, so fearfully devised,
And the dread soul within it—should exist
Only to be examined, pondered, searched,
Probed, vexed, and criticised?[FR]—Accuse me not
Of arrogance, unknown Wanderer as I am,
980
If, having walked with Nature threescore years,
And offered, far as frailty would allow,
My heart a daily sacrifice to Truth,
I now affirm of Nature and of Truth,
Whom I have served, that their DIVINITY
985
Revolts, offended at the ways of men
Swayed by such motives, to such ends[386] employed;
Philosophers, who, though the human soul
Be[387] of a thousand faculties composed,
And twice ten thousand interests, do yet prize
990
This soul, and the transcendent universe,
No more than as a mirror that reflects
To proud Self-love her own intelligence;
That one, poor, finite object, in the abyss
Of infinite Being, twinkling restlessly!
995
"Nor higher place can be assigned to him
And his compeers—the laughing Sage of France.—[FS]
Crowned was he, if my memory do[388] not err,
With laurel planted upon hoary hairs,
In sign of conquest by his wit achieved
1000
And benefits his wisdom had conferred;
[183]
His stooping body tottered with wreaths of flowers[FT]
Opprest, far less becoming ornaments
Than Spring oft twines about a mouldering tree;[389]
Yet so it pleased a fond, a vain, old Man,
1005
And a most frivolous people. Him I mean
Who penned,[390] to ridicule confiding faith,
This sorry Legend; which by chance we found
Piled in a nook, through malice, as might seem,
Among more innocent rubbish."—Speaking thus,
1010
With a brief notice when, and how, and where,
We had espied the book, he drew it forth;
And courteously, as if the act removed,
At once, all traces from the good Man's heart
Of unbenign aversion or contempt,
1015
Restored it to its owner. "Gentle Friend,"
Herewith he grasped the Solitary's hand,
"You have known lights and guides better than these.[391]
[184]
Ah! let not aught amiss within dispose
A noble mind to practise on herself,
1020
And tempt opinion to support the wrongs
Of passion: whatsoe'er be[392] felt or feared,
From higher judgment-seats make no appeal
To lower: can you question that the soul
Inherits an allegiance, not by choice
1025
To be cast off, upon an oath proposed
By each new upstart notion? In the ports
Of levity no refuge can be found,
No shelter, for a spirit in distress.
He, who by wilful disesteem of life
1030
And proud insensibility to hope,
Affronts the eye of Solitude, shall learn
That her mild nature can be terrible;
That neither she nor Silence lack the power
To avenge their own insulted majesty.
1035
"O blest seclusion! when the mind admits
The law of duty; and can therefore move[393]
Through each vicissitude of loss and gain,
Linked in entire complacence with her choice;
When youth's presumptuousness is mellowed down,
1040
And manhood's vain anxiety dismissed;
When wisdom shows her seasonable fruit,
Upon the boughs of sheltering leisure hung
In sober plenty; when the spirit stoops
To drink with gratitude the crystal stream
1045
Of unreproved enjoyment; and is pleased
To muse, and be saluted by the air
Of meek repentance, wafting wall-flower scents
From out the crumbling ruins of fallen pride
And chambers of transgression, now forlorn.
1050
O, calm contented days, and peaceful nights!
[185]
Who, when such good can be obtained, would strive
To reconcile his manhood to a couch
Soft, as may seem, but, under that disguise,
Stuffed with the thorny substance of the past
1055
For fixed annoyance; and full oft beset
With floating dreams, black and disconsolate,[394]
The vapoury phantoms of futurity?
"Within the soul a faculty abides,
That with interpositions, which would hide
1060
And darken, so can deal that they become
Contingencies of pomp; and serve to exalt
Her native brightness. As the ample moon,
In the deep stillness of a summer even
Rising behind a thick and lofty grove,
1065
Burns, like an unconsuming fire of light,
In the green trees; and, kindling on all sides
Their leafy umbrage, turns the dusky veil
Into a substance glorious as her own,
Yea, with her own incorporated, by power
1070
Capacious and serene. Like power abides
In man's celestial spirit; virtue thus
Sets forth and magnifies herself; thus feeds
A calm, a beautiful, and silent fire,
From the encumbrances of mortal life,
1075
From error, disappointment—nay, from guilt;
And sometimes, so relenting justice wills,
From palpable oppressions of despair."
The Solitary by these words was touched
With manifest emotion, and exclaimed;
"But how begin? and whence?—'The Mind is free—
1081
Resolve,' the haughty Moralist would say,
'This single act is all that we demand.'
Alas! such wisdom bids a creature fly
[186]
Whose very sorrow is, that time hath shorn
1085
His natural wings!—To friendship let him turn
For succour; but perhaps he sits alone
On stormy waters, tossed in a little boat[395]
That holds but him, and can contain no more!
Religion tells of amity sublime
1090
Which no condition can preclude; of One
Who sees all suffering, comprehends all wants,
All weakness fathoms, can supply all needs:
But is that bounty absolute?—His gifts,
Are they not, still, in some degree, rewards
1095
For acts of service? Can his love extend
To hearts that own not him? Will showers of grace,
When in the sky no promise may be seen,
Fall to refresh a parched and withered land?
Or shall the groaning Spirit cast her load
At the Redeemer's feet?"
1100
In rueful tone,
With some impatience in his mien, he spake:
Back to my mind rushed all that had been urged
To calm the Sufferer when his story closed;
I looked for counsel as unbending now;
1105
But a discriminating sympathy
Stooped to this apt reply:—[396]
"As men from men
Do, in the constitution of their souls,
Differ, by mystery not to be explained;
And as we fall by various ways, and sink
1110
One deeper than another, self-condemned,
Through manifold degrees of guilt and shame;
So manifold and various are the ways
Of restoration, fashioned to the steps
[187]
Of all infirmity, and tending all
1115
To the same point, attainable by all—
Peace in ourselves, and union with our God.
For you, assuredly, a hopeful road[397]
Lies open: we have heard from you a voice
At every moment softened in its course
1120
By tenderness of heart; have seen your eye,
Even like an altar lit by fire from heaven,
Kindle before us.—Your discourse this day,
That, like the fabled Lethe, wished to flow
In creeping sadness, through oblivious shades
1125
Of death and night, has caught at every turn
The colours of the sun. Access for you
Is yet preserved to principles of truth,
Which the imaginative Will upholds
In seats of wisdom, not to be approached
1130
By the inferior Faculty that moulds,
With her minute and speculative pains,
Opinion, ever changing!
"I have seen
A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
1135
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;
To which, in silence hushed,[398] his very soul
Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
Brightened with joy; for from within were heard
Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed[399]
1140
Mysterious union with its native sea.
[188]
Even such a shell[FU] the universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith; and there are times,
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
1145
Of ebb and flow, and ever-during power;
And central peace, subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation. Here you stand,
Adore, and worship, when you know it not;
Pious beyond the intention of your thought;
1150
Devout above the meaning of your will.
—Yes, you have felt, and may not cease to feel.
The estate of man would be indeed forlorn
If false conclusions of the reasoning power
1154
Made the eye blind, and closed the passages
Through which the ear converses with the heart.
Has not the soul, the being of your life,
Received a shock of awful consciousness,
In some calm season, when these lofty rocks
At night's approach bring down the unclouded sky,
1160
To rest upon their circumambient walls;
A temple framing of dimensions vast,
And yet not too enormous for the sound
Of human anthems,—choral song, or burst
Sublime of instrumental harmony,
1165
To glorify the Eternal! What if these
Did never break the stillness that prevails
Here,—if the solemn nightingale[FV] be mute,
[189]
And the soft woodlark here did never chant
Her vespers,[FW]—Nature fails not to provide
1170
Impulse and utterance. The whispering air
Sends inspiration from the shadowy heights,
And blind recesses of the caverned rocks;
The little rills, and waters numberless,
Inaudible by daylight, blend their notes
1175
With the loud streams: and often, at the hour
When issue forth the first pale stars, is heard,
Within the circuit of this fabric huge,
One voice—the solitary raven, flying
Athwart the concave of the dark blue dome,
1180
Unseen, perchance above all[400] power of sight—
An iron knell! with echoes from afar
Faint—and still fainter—as the cry, with which
The wanderer accompanies her flight
Through the calm region, fades upon the ear,
1185
Diminishing by distance till it seemed
To expire; yet from the abyss is caught again,
And yet again recovered![FX]
"But descending
From these imaginative heights, that yield
Far-stretching views into eternity,
[190] 1190
Acknowledge that to Nature's humbler power
Your cherished sullenness is forced to bend
Even here, where her amenities are sown
With sparing hand. Then trust yourself abroad
To range her blooming bowers, and spacious fields,
1195
Where on the labours of the happy throng
She smiles, including in her wide embrace
City, and town, and tower,—and sea with ships
Sprinkled;—be our Companion while we track
1199
Her rivers populous with gliding life;
While, free as air, o'er printless sands we march,
Or[401] pierce the gloom of her majestic woods;
Roaming, or resting under grateful shade
In peace and meditative cheerfulness;
1204
Where living things, and things inanimate,
Do speak, at Heaven's command, to eye and ear,
And speak to social reason's inner sense,
With inarticulate language.
"For, the Man—
Who, in this spirit, communes with the Forms
Of nature, who with understanding heart
1210
Both knows and loves[402] such objects as excite
No morbid passions, no disquietude,
No vengeance, and no hatred—needs must feel
The joy of that pure principle of love
So deeply, that, unsatisfied with aught
1215
Less pure and exquisite, he cannot choose
But seek for objects of a kindred love
In fellow-natures and a kindred joy.
Accordingly he by degrees perceives
His feelings of aversion softened down;
1220
A holy tenderness pervade his frame.
His sanity of reason not impaired,
[191]
Say rather, all his thoughts now flowing clear,
From a clear fountain flowing, he looks round
And seeks for good; and finds the good he seeks:
1225
Until abhorrence and contempt are things
He only knows by name; and, if he hear,
From other mouths, the language which they speak,
He is compassionate; and has no thought,
No feeling, which can overcome his love.
1230
"And further; by contemplating these Forms
In the relations which they bear to man,
He shall discern, how, through the various means
Which silently they yield, are multiplied
The spiritual presences of absent things.
1235
Trust me,[403] that for the instructed, time will come
When they shall meet no object but may teach
Some acceptable lesson to their minds
Of human suffering, or of human joy.
So shall they learn, while all things speak of man,
1240
Their duties from all forms;[404] and general laws,
And local accidents, shall tend alike
To rouse, to urge; and, with the will, confer
The ability to spread the blessings wide
Of true philanthropy. The light of love
1245
Not failing, perseverance from their steps
Departing not, for them shall be confirmed[405]
The glorious habit by which sense is made
[192]
Subservient still to moral purposes,
Auxiliar to divine. That change shall clothe
1250
The naked spirit, ceasing to deplore
The burthen of existence. Science then
Shall be a precious visitant; and then,
And only then, be worthy of her name:
For then her heart shall kindle; her dull eye,
1255
Dull and inanimate, no more shall hang
Chained to its object in brute slavery;
But taught with patient interest to watch
The processes of things, and serve the cause
Of order and distinctness, not for this
1260
Shall it forget that its most noble use,
Its most illustrious province, must be found
In furnishing clear guidance, a support
Not treacherous, to the mind's excursive power.
—So build we up the Being that we are;
1265
Thus deeply drinking—in the soul of things,
We shall be wise perforce; and, while inspired
By choice, and conscious that the Will is free,
Shall move unswerving, even as if impelled[406]
By strict necessity, along the path
1270
Of order and of good. Whate'er we see,
Or feel, shall tend to quicken and refine;
Shall fix, in calmer seats of moral strength,
Earthly desires; and raise, to loftier heights
Of divine love, our intellectual soul."[407]
[193]
1275
Here closed the Sage that eloquent harangue,
Poured forth with fervour in continuous stream,
Such as, remote, 'mid savage wilderness,
An Indian Chief discharges from his breast
Into the hearing of assembled tribes,[408]
1280
In open circle seated round, and hushed
As the unbreathing air, when not a leaf
Stirs in the mighty woods.—So did he speak:
The words he uttered shall not pass away
Dispersed, like music that the wind takes up
1285
By snatches, and lets fall, to be forgotten;
No—they sank into me,[409] the bounteous gift
Of one whom time and nature had made wise,
Gracing his doctrine[410] with authority
Which hostile spirits silently allow;
1290
Of one accustomed to desires that feed
On fruitage gathered from the tree of life;
To hopes on knowledge and experience built;
Of one in whom persuasion and belief
Had ripened into faith, and faith become
1295
A passionate intuition; whence the Soul,
[194]
Though bound to earth by ties of pity and love,
From all injurious servitude was free.
The Sun, before his place of rest were reached,
Had yet to travel far, but unto us,
1300
To us who stood low in that hollow dell,
He had become invisible,—a pomp
Leaving behind of yellow radiance spread
Over[411] the mountain sides, in contrast bold
1304
With ample shadows, seemingly, no less
Than those resplendent lights, his rich bequest;
A dispensation of his evening power.
—Adown the path that[412] from the glen had led
The funeral train, the Shepherd and his Mate
Were seen descending:—forth to greet them ran[413]
1310
Our little Page: the rustic pair approach;
And in the Matron's countenance may be read
Plain indication[414] that the words, which told
How that neglected Pensioner was sent
Before his time into a quiet grave,
1315
Had done to her humanity no wrong:
But we are kindly welcomed—promptly served
With ostentatious zeal.—Along the floor
Of the small Cottage in the lonely Dell
A grateful couch was spread for our repose;
1320
Where, in the guise of mountaineers, we lay,[415]
Stretched upon fragrant heath, and lulled by sound
Of far-off torrents charming the still night,
And, to tired limbs and over-busy thoughts,
Inviting sleep and soft forgetfulness.[416]

VARIANTS:

[284] 1827.

1814.
Wanderer's ejaculation to the supreme Being—

1836.

1814.
Account of his own devotional feelings in youth involved in it—
1827.
account of his own devotional feelings in youth involved

1827.

Implores that he may retain in age the power to find
1814.
repose among enduring and eternal things
MS.
What he wishes for in age

1827.

1814.
What these latter are

[285] 1836.

1814.
sorrow—but doubt or despondence not therefore to be inferred
1827.
sorrow—doubt

1836.

1814.
And proceeds to administer consolation to the Solitary
1827.
Consolation to the Solitary
MS.
Consolation administered to the Solitary

[286] 1827.

1814.
How these are received—Wanderer resumes—and applies

[287] 1827.

1814.
the disappointment of his expectations from

[288] 1827.

1814.
States the rational grounds

[289] 1814.

1827.
hope—insists

The text of 1836 returns to that of 1814.

[290] 1827.

1814.
to the great revolutions of the world

[291] 1827.

1814.
Rural life and Solitude particularly favourable to a

[292] 1827.

recommended for its influence on the affections and the
1814.
imagination

[293] 1827

1814.
and an active Communion

[294] 1827

a pitiable thing—If the elevated imagination cannot be
1814.
exerted—try the humbler fancy—

[295] 1827.

1814.
—this illustrated

[296] 1827.

1814.
Wanderer, in answer,

[297] 1827.

feeling on the mind in the humble ranks of society, in
1814.
rural life especially—This illustrated

[298] 1827.

1814.
Observation that these principles

[299] 1845.

1814.
presumptive

The text of 1847 reverts to that of 1814.

[300] 1827.

Philosophers, whom the Solitary appears to esteem
1814.
Recommends to him
MS.
Recommends to the Solitary—

[301] 1827.

1814.
Solitary agitated, and asks how—

[302] 1836.

Happy for us that the imagination and affections in our
own despite mitigate the evils of that state of intellectual
Slavery which the calculating understanding is so apt to
1814.
produce—
MS.
is apt to
Happy that the imagination and the affections mitigate
the evils of that intellectual slavery which the calculating
1827.
understanding is apt to produce—

[303] 1827.

How Nature is to be communed with—Wanderer concludes
1814.
with a prospect of a

[304] 1827.

1814.
the affections, the understanding, and the reason—

[305] 1827.

1814.
Effect of the Wanderer's discourse—

[306] 1845.

1814.
And doubtless yielding ...

[307] 1845.

Such pity yet surviving, with firm voice,
1814.
That did not falter though the heart was moved,
Such pity yet surviving, with clear voice
1836.
That falter'd not, albeit the heart was moved,

[308] 1836.

1814.
And, if they wither, ...

[309] 1827.

1814.
... or ...

[310] 1827.

1814.
... frame

[311] 1827.

1814.
... tow'rds the Deep

[312] 1827.

1814.
... and to aspire

[313] 1836.

... it be just and meet,
1814.
Through this, 'tis able to maintain its hold,

[314] 1827.

... so senseless who could be
In framing estimates of loss and gain,
1814.
As long ...
MS.
In making estimates ...

[315] 1836.

1814.
... less.

[316] This line was added in 1836.

[317] 1836.

1814.
Infer not hence a hope from those withheld

[318] 1836.

1814.
Oh! no, full oft the innocent Sufferer sees

[319] 1827

1814.
... its own pure Will.

[320] 1827

Here then we rest: not fearing to be left
In undisturbed possession of our creed
For aught that human reasoning can achieve,
1814.
To unsettle or perplex us: ...

[321] 1827.

... open vanities
Of dissipation; countless, still-renewed,
1814.
Ephemeral offspring ...

[322] 1827.

1814.
And from the encroachment ...

[323] 1827.

1814.
Tow'rds ...

[324] 1845.

1814.
For such exalted confidence could e'er

[325] 1827.

1814.
... such

[326] 1827.

The two extremes are equally remote
From Truth and Reason;—do not, then, confound
One with the other, but reject them both;
And choose the middle point, whereon to build
1814.
Sound expectations. This doth he advise
... despair
Tho' transcient sadness were as natural
As that a cloud albeit silver bright
Should fling yon dark spot on the mountain side.
MS.
Forced by sharp recoil from one extreme

[327] 1814.

Which to your over-weening spirits feeds
C.
Hope of a godlike flight, ...

[328] 1827.

"Knowing"—(to adopt the energetic words
Which a time-hallowed Poet hath employed)
1814.
"Knowing ...

[329] 1836.

1814.
The Redbreast feeds in winter from your hand;

[330] 1836.

1814.
Towards her native firmament of heaven,

[331] 1820.

1814.
This shady valley leaves,— ...

[332] 1845.

... a solemn bleat;
1814.
Sent forth as if it were the Mountain's voice,

[333] 1845.

As he expressed; for, from the mountain's heart
The solemn bleat appeared to come; there was
No other—and the region all around
Stood silent, empty of all shape of life.
1814.
—It was a Lamb—left somewhere to itself,
As he expressed; from out the mountain's heart
The solemn bleat appeared to issue, startling
The blank air—for the region all around
1827.
Stood silent, empty of all shape of life:
As he described, the regions all around
Stood silent, empty of all shape of life.
And from the mountain's stony heart the voice
C.
Appeared to come, though but the unanswered bleat
Again! in the surrounding vacancy
C.
The effect upon the soul was ...

[334] 1836.

1814.
... he thus ...

[335] 1827.

1814.
Her foresight; and the intelligence ...

[336] 1827.

1814.
... flocks,

[337] 1836.

Unscattered by the wind, at whose loud call
1814.
Their voyage was begun: ...
By the rough wind unscattered, at whose call
1827.
Their voyage was begun: ...
C.
Their voyage they began: ...

[338] 1832.

1814.
... etherial arch

[339] 1836.

1814.
Was to your sight revealed! ...

[340] 1836.

... and perceived.
1814.
There is a luxury ...

[341] 1836.

1814.
... these ...

[342] 1827.

1814.
... towards ...

[343] 1845.

An animated eye; and thoughts were mine
1814.
Which this ejaculation clothed in words—
A kindling eye;—poetic feelings rushed
1827.
Into my bosom, whence these words broke forth:

[344] 1845.

... exclaim aloud
Be this continued so from day to day,
1814.
Nor let it have an end from month to month!"
'Be this continued so from day to day,
Nor let the fierce commotion have an end,
1827.
Ruinous though it be, from month to month!'"
May this wild uproar last from day to day
Nor let from month to month the fierce commotion,
C.
Ruinous though it be, abate its rage.

[345] 1827.

1814.
Shall feel the stirrings of them late and long;

[346] 1827.

1814.
... spots[EP] ...

[347] 1827.

... expressed
As by a duplicate, at least set forth
1814.
With brotherly resemblance....

[348] 1836.

1814.
... by ...

[349] 1836.

1814.
... endued

[350] 1836.

1814.
The Sultan hides within ...

[351] 1836.

1814.
... raised?

[352] 1845.

A not unwholesome food, and earth and air
1814.
Supply his morbid humour with delight.
Food not unwholesome; earth and air correct
1836.
His morbid humour, with delight supplied.

[353] 1836.

1814.
And shady groves, for recreation framed:

[354] 1827.

1814.
This rather would I do ...

[355] 1836.

Or if the Mind turn inward 'tis perplexed,
1814.
Lost in a gloom of uninspired research;

[356] 1845.

... restlessly revolves,
1814.
Yet nowhere finds the cheering light of truth.
Rests not but on its axis, evermore
C.
Revolving, nowhere finds the light of truth.
C.
Seeks, yet can nowhere find the light of truth.

[357] 1836.

1814.
He heard, upon the wind, ...

[358] 1836.

1814.
... these pure Heights

[359] 1827.

1814.
In ...

[360] 1827.

1814.
The ...

[361] 1827.

1814.
... brows—

[362] 1827.

... and, from that Height
1814.
Pure and serene, the Godhead overlook

[363] 1836.

1814.
... of variegated sky,

[364] 1836.

1814.
... did his hand bestow

[365] 1836.

1814.
... denials

[366] 1845.

1814.
"And moisten all day long ...

[367] 1827.

There shall be,—seen, and heard, and felt, and known,
1814.
And recognized,—existence unexposed

[368] 1827.

Of much exalted good that may attend
1814.
Upon the very humblest state.— ...

[369] 1836.

1814.
... who ...

[370] 1836.

... and adapt
1814.
His round ...

[371] 1827.

1814.
... a Man like this

[372] 1827.

1814.
They come and go, appear and disappear;
MS.
... disappear'd,

[373] 1845.

1814.
Among wild mountains and unpeopled heaths,
C.
Among wild hills, and thinly-peopled shores,

[374] 1814.

Once more to distant ages of the world
Let us revert and contemplate the face,
That face which rural solitude might wear
C.
To the unenlightened sons of pagan Greece.
C.
Which Nature in her solitudes might wear.

[375] 1836.

... lifting up his eyes
1814.
Towards the crescent Moon, ...

[376] 1814.

Helped by the reflection of her own fair face,
Or rather say the lover at her side,
Looking with earnest eyes into the depth
Of a still lake amid the glimmering growth
C.
Of plants that there were nourished.
Helped by reflection of her own fair face,
Or, if not she, the lover at her side,
Some beautiful inhabitant who there
Might dwell in calm security unknown
C.
To mortal credence. Hence the green haired brood.

[377] 1827.

1814.
... heavens,

[378] 1845.

1814.
No apter Strain could have been chosen: I marked
1827.
As this apt strain proceeded, I could mark

[379] 1827.

1814.
... on ...

[380] 1836.

1814.
Who fled to caves, and woods, and naked rocks

[381] 1845.

In caves, and woods, and under dismal rocks,
1814.
Deprived of shelter, covering, fire, and food;
In woods, and dwell beneath impending rocks
1836.
Ill-sheltered, and oft wanting fire and food;

[382] 1827.

1814.
With which the desarts rang ...

[383] 1836.

1814.
... Souls—

[384] 1827.

... could He design,
Or will his rites and services permit,
1814.
That this ...

[385] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[386] 1836.

1814.
... end ...

[387] 1827.

... when the human soul
1814.
Is ...

[388] 1827.

1814.
... doth ...

[389] 1840.

His tottering Body was oppressed with flowers;
Far less becoming ornaments than those
1814.
With which Spring often decks a mouldering Tree!
His tottering Body was with wreaths of flowers
Opprest, far less becoming ornaments
1827.
Than Spring oft twines about a mouldering Tree;

[390] 1827.

1814.
... framed, ...

[391] 1845.

... better Lights and Guides than
1814.
these—

[392] 1827.

1814.
... is ...

[393] 1827.

1814.
... and thereby can live,

[394] 1836.

1814.
... disconsolate and black,

[395] 1836.

1814.
On stormy waters, in a little Boat

[396] 1827.

In rueful tone,
With some impatience in his mien he spake;
1814.
And this reply was given.—

[397] 1827.

1814.
—For Him, to whom I speak, an easy road
MS.
Then do not droop, a hopeful road for you.

[398] 1814.

C.
And while in silence hushed ...

[399] 1845.

Brightened with joy; for murmurings from within
Were heard,—sonorous cadences! whereby,
1814.
To his belief, the Monitor expressed

[400] 1827.

1814.
... the ...

[401] 1827.

1814.
And ...

[402] 1836.

1814.
Doth know and love ...

[403] 1827.

... of absent Things,
Convoked by knowledge; and for his delight
Still ready to obey the gentle call.
1814.
Trust me, ...

[404] 1827.

For them shall all things speak of Man, they read
1814.
Their duties in all forms; ...

[405] 1827.

1814.
Departing not, they shall at length obtain ...

[406] 1836.

1814.
Unswerving shall we move, as if impelled

[407] 1845.

... Whate'er we see,
Whate'er we feel, by agency direct
Or indirect shall tend to feed and nurse
Our faculties, shall fix in calmer seats
Of moral strength, and raise to loftier heights
1814.
Of love divine, our intellectual Soul."
Whate'er we feel, shall tend to feed and nurse,
By agency direct or indirect,
Our faculties, shall fix in calmer seats
Of moral strength, and raise to loftier heights
1836.
Of divine love, ...
... Whate'er we see
Or feel shall tend to quicken and refine
C.
The humbler functions of corporeal sense.
... or refine
MS.
The humblest ...

[408] 1827.

1814.
... of the assembled Tribes,

[409] 1836.

... shall not pass away;
1814.
For they sank into me— ...

[410] 1836.

1814.
... language ...

[411] 1836.

1814.
Upon ...

[412] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[413] 1827.

1814.
... forth in transport ran

[414] 1845.

... aspect may be read
1814.
A plain assurance ...

[415] 1845.

1814.
... slept,

[416] Added in C.

Till every thought as gently as a flower,
That shuts its eyes at close of every day
Had folded up itself in dreamless sleep.[FY]

FOOTNOTES:

[DW] In January 1849, the year before Wordsworth's death, he was asked by Mr. Francis C. Yarnall of Philadelphia for his autograph, for a lady in America; and, in reply, he wrote the four lines, beginning

Soul of our Souls, and safeguard of the world!

They were doubtless suggested to him at the time by the death of his own daughter. See Mr. Yarnall's paper on "Wordsworth's Influence in America," in the Transactions of the Wordsworth Society, No. v.—ED.

[DX] With this whole passage compare the teaching of Kant's three Kritiken.—ED.

[DY] Compare the Ode, Intimations of Immortality

Trailing clouds of glory do we come
ED.
From God, who is our home.

[DZ] Compare book i. l. 200.—ED.

[EA] Compare book i. ll. 215-16.—ED.

[EB] Compare Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, ll. 83-85 (vol. ii. p. 54)—

That time is past
And all its aching joys are now no more,
ED.
And all its dizzy raptures.

[EC] See Matthew Sylvester's Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, or the Life of Richard Baxter, book i. part i. l. 213, p. 32: "To despise earth is easy to me; but not so easy to be acquainted and conversant in Heaven. I have nothing in this world which I could not easily let go: but to get satisfying apprehension of the other world is the great and grievous difficulty."

See also Wordsworth's note, p. 387.—ED.

[ED] See Wordsworth's note, p. 387.—ED.

[EE] Compare Milton's Ode on the Nativity, l. 119.—ED.

[EF] St. Matt. xi. 19.—ED.

[EG] See Wordsworth's note, p. 387.—ED.

[EH] Samuel Daniel; from his poem, To the Lady Margaret, Countess of Cumberland. In his note Wordsworth says, "The two last lines printed in italics, are by him" (i.e. Daniel) "translated from Seneca." The passage is: "O quam contempta res est homo, nisi supra humana surrexerit" (Natur. quaest. lib. i. praef. 4). The discovery of this passage cost the late Bishop of St. Andrews several long days' hunting through Seneca's works. He wrote me afterwards: "The passage has nothing to do with moral elevation, the next words are 'quam diu cum affectibus colluctamur quid magnifici facimus.'"

The following occurs in The Soul's Conflict, by Richard Sibbes (1635), ch. ix.—"We see likewise hence a necessity of having something in the soul above itself. It must be partaker of a diviner nature than itself; otherwise, when the most refined part of our souls, the very spirit of our minds, is out of frame, what shall bring it in again?" See also the extract from Bacon's Essay, XVI., prefixed to The White Doe of Rylstone (vol. iv. p. 105).—ED.

[EI] The fact of the eagle having once haunted the Cumbrian and Westmoreland valleys is proved by the number of rocks, crags, etc., that are named from it.—ED.

[EJ] The following occurs in the Fenwick note to the lines addressed To Joanna in the "Poems on the naming of Places" (vol. ii. p. 157): "The effect of the reverberation of voices in some parts of the mountains is very striking. There is, in The Excursion, an allusion to the bleat of a lamb thus re-echoed, and described without any exaggeration, as I heard it, on the side of Stickle Tarn, from the precipice that stretches on to Langdale Pikes." The "precipice" referred to is Pavy Ark.—ED.

[EK] There are many ant-hills in this district of Westmoreland. Note that the description here is of the effect of a lake seen from above, looking down on it.—ED.

[EL] The fieldfares have a habit of settling together, and sitting perfectly still, till they are disturbed; when they fly off, and settling again, sit silently as before.—ED.

[EM] Blea Tarn.—ED.

[EN] Compare "Rules and Lessons" in Henry Vaughan's Silex Scintillans.—ED.

[EO] The heights of Blake Rigg and Lingmoor.—ED.

[EP] Possibly a misprint in the editions of 1814 and 1820.—ED.

[EQ] Compare the Poet's Epitaph (vol. ii. p. 75).—ED.

[ER] Compare Genesis iii. 8.—ED.

[ES] Genesis xviii. 1, 2.—ED.

[ET] Genesis iii. 24.—ED.

[EU] Genesis iii. 16, 17.—ED.

[EV] Exodus vi. 3.—ED.

[EW] Exodus xxxiii. 9; xxxiv. 5.—ED.

[EX] Exodus xxxvii. 1; Hebrews ix. 4.—ED.

[EY] Exodus xxv. 22.—ED.

[EZ] Exodus xv. 25; xvi. 4, etc. etc.—ED.

[FA] Exodus vii.-xi.—ED.

[FB] The ancient Persian religion was nature worship.—ED.

[FC] Compare Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, II. 100-102 (vol. ii. p. 55)—

A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
ED.
And rolls through all things.

[FD] Herodotus thus describes the temple of Belus:—"... A square enclosure two furlongs each way, with gates of solid brass; which were also remaining in my time. In the middle of the precinct there was a tower of solid masonry, a furlong in length and breadth, upon which was raised a second tower, and on that a third, and so up to eight. The ascent to the top is on the outside, by a path which winds round all the towers. When one is about half way up, one finds a resting place and seats, where persons are wont to sit some time in their way to the summit. On the topmost tower there is a spacious Temple, and inside the Temple stands a couch of unusual size, richly adorned, with a golden table by its side. There is no statue of any kind set up in the place.... The Chaldeans, the priests of this God, declare—but I, for my part, do not credit it—that the God comes down nightly into this chamber and sleeps upon the couch."—Herodotus, i. 181. See Rawlinson's version, vol. i. pp. 319, 320. Compare also Josephus, Ant. Jud. x. 11, and Strabo, 16.—ED.

[FE] Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury—the only planets known to the ancients, the Earth not being included.—ED.

[FF] The reference here is still apparently to the "planetary Five," which are all described as "radiant Mercuries" (although one of them was Mercury), because they all—

seemed to move
Carrying through ether, in perpetual round,
Decrees and resolutions of the Gods;
And, by their aspects, signifying works
Of dim futurity.

This astrological allusion makes it clear that the reference is to the supposed "planetary influence," and to the movements of these bodies—controlled by the gods—with which the fate of mortals was believed to be upbound. For an account of the Gods of the Five Planets, see Chaldean Magic, by François Lenormant, pp. 26 and 118.—ED.

[FG] Compare Lycidas, 1. 154—

Ay me! whilst thee the shores and sounding seas,

and note that Charles Lamb, who was familiar with The Excursion, quotes the above line ("Distant Correspondents") thus—

ED.
Aye me! while thee the seas and sounding shores.

[FH] The strolling Greek minstrels from Homer onwards, predecessors of the Troubadours.—ED.

[FI] The reference is doubtless to Pausanias, i. 37, 3. "Before you cross the Cephisus, there is the monument of Theodorus, who excelled all his contemporaries as an actor in tragedy; and near to the river, there are [two] statues, one of Mnesimache, another of her son, in the act of cutting off his hair [over the stream and presenting it] as a votive offering to the Cephisus." See Note D in the Appendix to this volume, p. 396.—ED.

[FJ] Compare King Henry VI., Part III. act ii. scene v. ll. 23-35—

To sit upon a hill, as I do now,
To carve out dials quaintly, point by point,
ED.
Thereby to see the minutes how they run.

[FK] Apollo.—ED.

[FL] Diana.—ED.

[FM] The ναἴάδες (water-nymphs) and ὁρειάδες (mountain-nymphs), with others of the meadows woods and dales, sprung from the fertile imagination of the Greeks. Wordsworth's explanation of the origin of these myths from natural causes is not peculiar to him, although his lines are a locus classicus on the subject; but his explanation of the "lurking Satyrs," as due to the sight of the horns of the deer, or the goats, in the woods, is probably his own.—ED.

[FN] St. Fillan. There were two Scottish saints of that name. The first, and most famous, the particulars of whose life are recorded in the Breviary of Aberdeen, Felanus, or Fœlanus, Fælan, Fillanus, Filane, or Phillane, the son of Kentigern. In Perthshire, the scene of his labours, a river and a strath are called after him, and a Church dedicated to him. He was associated with the battle of Bannockburn. (See Kalendars of Scottish Saints, by A. P. Forbes, Bishop of Brechin.)—ED.

[FO] For the legendary History of St. Giles see the Breviary of the Roman Church. (It has been translated recently by the Marquis of Bute.) Dr. Cameron Lees, minister of St. Giles' Cathedral Church, Edinburgh, sends me the following notice of the Saint:—"How St. Giles became the patron Saint of Edinburgh is not known. His 'hind' is upon the arms of the city.[FQ] An arm bone of St. Giles was one of the chief treasures of the church. It was brought from France by Preston of Gorton, who procured it by the 'assistance of the King of France.' This relic was contained in a richly jewelled shrine, and carried through Edinburgh in procession on the Saint's day, the 1st September. An account of this procession is given by Sir D. Lindsay and by Knox. The only other church in Scotland under the dedication of St. Giles was at Elgin."—ED.

[FP] Now happily accomplished through the labour and the munificence of the late Dr. Chambers.—ED.

[FQ] For reference to the "Hind," see the Breviary.—ED.

[FR] Compare the Poet's Epitaph (vol. ii. p. 75).—ED.

[FS] Voltaire.—ED.

[FT] In his eighty-fourth year, Voltaire went up to Paris from Ferney in Switzerland (where he had lived for twenty years), and amid the tumultuous enthusiasm of the Parisians, he was crowned at the Comédie Française, as the Athenian poets used to be. "The Court of the Louvre, vast as it is, was full of people waiting for him. As soon as his notable vehicle came in sight, the cry arose, Le voilà! The Savoyards, the apple-women, all the rabble of the quarter had assembled there, and the acclamations Vive Voltaire! resounded as if they would never end.... There was no end till he placed himself on the front seat, beside the ladies. Then rose a cry La Couronne! and Brizard, the actor, came and put the garland on his head. Ah Dieu! vous voulez donc me faire mourir? cried M. de Voltaire, weeping with joy, and resisting the honour.... The Prince de Beauvan, seizing the laurel, replaced it on the head of our Sophocles, who could refuse no longer." (Memoires sur Voltaire, par Longchamp et Wagnière.)—ED.

[FU] Compare Walter Savage Landor, Gebir, book i. l. 159—

But I have sinuous shells of pearly hue
Within, and they that lustre have imbibed
In the Sun's palace-porch, where when unyoked
His chariot-wheel stands midway in the wave:
Shake one and it awakens, then apply
Its polish'd lips to your attentive ear,
And it remembers its august abodes,
And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there.

Compare also the Fenwick note to the Evening Voluntary, beginning—

ED.
What mischief cleaves

[FV] The nightingale is not heard farther north than the Trent valley, and there are no woodlarks in the Lake country, as hawks are numerous.—ED.

[FW] See note FV on previous page.

[FX] The following occurs in Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journal, July 27, 1800:—"After tea we rowed down to Loughrigg Fell, visited the white foxglove, gathered wild strawberries, and walked up to view Rydale. We lay a long time looking at the lake; the shores all dim with the scorching sun. The ferns were turning yellow, that is, here and there one was quite turned. We walked round by Benson's wood home. The lake was now most still, and reflected the beautiful yellow and blue and purple and grey colours of the sky. We heard a strange sound in the Bainriggs wood, as we were floating on the water: it seemed in the wood, but it must have been above it, for presently we saw a raven very high above us. It called out, and the dome of the sky seemed to echo the sound. It called again and again as it flew onwards, and the mountains gave back the sound, seeming as if from their centre; a musical bell-like answering to the bird's hoarse voice. We heard both the call of the bird, and the echo, after we could see him no longer."

Compare the Fenwick note to the Evening Voluntary (1834), beginning—

ED.
The leaves that rustled on this oak-crowned hill.

[195]

Book Fifth

THE PASTOR

ARGUMENT

Farewell to the Valley—Reflections—A large and populous Vale described[417]The Pastor's Dwelling, and some account of him[418]Church and Monuments—The Solitary musing, and where—Roused—In the Churchyard the Solitary communicates the thoughts which had recently passed through his mind—Lofty tone of the Wanderer's discourse of yesterday adverted to—Rite of Baptism, and the professions accompanying it, contrasted with the real state of human life—Apology for the Rite[419]Inconsistency of the best men—Acknowledgment that practice falls far below the injunctions of duty as existing in the mind—General complaint of a falling off in the value of life after the time of youth—Outward appearances of content and happiness in degree illusive—Pastor approaches—Appeal made to him—His answer—Wanderer in sympathy with him—Suggestion that the least ambitious enquirers may be most free from error—The Pastor[196] is desired to give some portraits of the living or dead from his own observation of life among these Mountains—and for what purpose—Pastor consents—Mountain cottage—Excellent qualities of its Inhabitants—Solitary expresses his pleasure; but denies the praise of virtue to worth of this kind—Feelings of the Priest before he enters upon his account of persons interred in the Churchyard—Graves of unbaptised Infants[420]Funeral and sepulchral observances, whence—Ecclesiastical Establishments, whence derived—Profession of belief in the doctrine of Immortality

"Farewell, deep Valley, with thy one rude House,
And its small lot of life-supporting fields,
And guardian rocks!—Farewell, attractive seat![421]
To the still influx of the morning light
5
Open, and[422] day's pure cheerfulness, but veiled
From human observation,[FZ] as if yet
Primeval forests wrapped thee round with dark
Impenetrable shade; once more farewell,
Majestic circuit, beautiful abyss,
10
By Nature destined from the birth of things
For quietness profound!"
Upon the side
Of that brown ridge, sole outlet of the vale[GA]
Which foot of boldest stranger would attempt,
Lingering[423] behind my comrades, thus I breathed
[197] 15
A parting tribute to a spot that seemed
Like the fixed centre of a troubled world.
Again I halted with reverted eyes;
The chain that would not slacken, was at length
Snapt,—and, pursuing leisurely my way,
20
How vain, thought I, is it by change of place[424]
To seek that comfort which the mind denies;
Yet trial and temptation oft are shunned
Wisely; and by such tenure[425] do we hold
Frail life's possessions, that even they whose fate
25
Yields no peculiar reason of complaint
Might, by the promise that is here, be won
To steal from active duties, and embrace
Obscurity, and undisturbed repose.[426]
—Knowledge, methinks, in these disordered times,
30
Should be allowed a privilege to have
Her anchorites, like piety of old;[GB]
Men, who, from faction sacred, and unstained
By war, might, if so minded, turn aside
Uncensured, and subsist, a scattered few
35
Living to God and nature, and content
With that communion. Consecrated be
The spots where such abide! But happier still
The Man, whom, furthermore, a hope attends
That meditation and research may guide
40
His privacy to principles and powers
Discovered or invented; or set forth,
Through his acquaintance with the ways of truth,
[198]
In lucid order; so that, when his course
Is run, some faithful eulogist may say,
45
He sought not praise, and praise did overlook
His unobtrusive merit; but his life,
Sweet to himself, was exercised in good
That shall survive his name and memory.
Acknowledgments of gratitude sincere
50
Accompanied these musings; fervent thanks
For my own peaceful lot and happy choice;
A choice that from the passions of the world
Withdrew, and fixed me in a still retreat;
Sheltered, but not to social duties lost,
55
Secluded, but not buried; and with song
Cheering my days, and with industrious thought;
With the ever-welcome[427] company of books;
With[428] virtuous friendship's soul-sustaining aid,
And with the blessings of domestic love.
60
Thus occupied in mind I paced along,
Following the rugged road, by sledge or wheel
Worn in the moorland,[GC] till I overtook
My two Associates, in the morning sunshine
Halting together on a rocky knoll,
65
Whence the bare road[429] descended rapidly
To the green meadows of another vale.[GD]
[199]
Here did our pensive Host put forth his hand
In sign of farewell. "Nay," the old Man said,
"The fragrant air its coolness still retains;
70
The herds and flocks are yet abroad to crop
The dewy grass; you cannot leave us now,
We must not part at this inviting hour."
He yielded,[430] though reluctant; for his mind
Instinctively disposed him to retire
75
To his own covert; as a billow, heaved
Upon the beach, rolls back into the sea.
—So we descend: and winding round a rock
Attain a point that showed the valley—stretched
In length before us;[GE] and, not distant far,
80
Upon a rising ground a grey church-tower,(GE)
Whose battlements were screened by tufted trees.
And towards a crystal Mere, that lay beyond
Among steep hills and woods embosomed, flowed
A copious stream with boldly-winding course;
85
Here traceable, there hidden—there again
To sight restored, and glittering in the sun.
On the stream's bank, and every where, appeared
Fair dwellings, single, or in social knots;
Some scattered o'er the level, others perched
90
On the hill sides, a cheerful quiet scene,
Now in its morning purity arrayed.
[200]
"As 'mid some happy valley of the Alps,"
Said I, "once happy, ere tyrannic power,
Wantonly breaking in upon the Swiss,
95
Destroyed their unoffending commonwealth,
A popular equality reigns here,
Save for yon stately House[GF] beneath whose roof
A rural lord might dwell."—"No feudal pomp,
Or power," replied the Wanderer, "to that House
100
Belongs, but there in his allotted Home
Abides, from year to year, a genuine Priest,[431]
The shepherd of his flock; or, as a king
Is styled, when most affectionately praised,
The father of his people. Such is he;
105
And rich and poor, and young and old, rejoice
Under his spiritual sway. He hath vouchsafed[432]
To me some portion of a[433] kind regard;
And something also of his inner mind
Hath he imparted—but I speak of him
As he is known to all.
110
The calm delights
Of unambitious piety he chose,
[201]
And learning's solid dignity; though born
Of knightly race, nor wanting powerful friends.
Hither,[434] in prime of manhood, he withdrew
115
From academic bowers. He loved the spot—
Who does not love his native soil?—he prized
The ancient rural character, composed
Of simple manners, feelings unsupprest
And undisguised, and strong and serious thought;
120
A character reflected in himself,
With such embellishment as well beseems
His rank and sacred function. This deep vale
Winds far in reaches hidden from our sight,
And one a turreted manorial hall
125
Adorns, in which the good Man's ancestors
Have dwelt through ages—Patrons of this Cure.
To them, and to his own judicious pains,[435]
The Vicar's dwelling, and the whole domain,
Owes that presiding aspect which might well
130
Attract your notice; statelier than could else
Have been bestowed, through[436] course of common chance,
On an unwealthy mountain Benefice."
[202]
This said, oft pausing,[437] we pursued our way;
Nor reached the village-churchyard[GG] till the sun
135
Travelling at steadier pace than ours, had risen
Above the summits of the highest hills,
And round our path darted oppressive beams.
As chanced, the portals of the sacred Pile
Stood open; and we entered. On my frame,
140
At such transition from the fervid air,
A grateful coolness fell, that seemed to strike
The heart, in concert with that temperate awe
And natural reverence which the place inspired.[GH]
Not raised in[438] nice proportions was the pile;
145
But large and massy; for duration built;
With pillars crowded, and the roof upheld
By naked rafters intricately crossed,
Like leafless underboughs, in some thick wood,[439]
All withered by the depth of shade above.
150
Admonitory texts inscribed the walls,
Each, in its ornamental scroll, enclosed;
Each also crowned with winged heads—a pair
Of rudely-painted Cherubim. The floor
Of nave and aisle, in unpretending guise,
155
Was occupied by oaken benches ranged
In seemly rows; the chancel only showed
Some vain distinctions, marks of earthly state
[203]
By immemorial privilege allowed;
Though with the Encincture's special sanctity
160
But ill according. An heraldic shield,
Varying its tincture with the changeful light,
Imbued the altar-window; fixed aloft
A faded hatchment hung, and one by time
Yet undiscoloured.[440] A capacious pew
165
Of sculptured oak stood here, with drapery lined;
And marble monuments were here displayed
Thronging the walls;[441] and on the floor beneath
Sepulchral stones appeared, with emblems graven
And foot-worn epitaphs, and some with small
170
And shining effigies of brass inlaid.[GI]
[204]
The tribute by these various records claimed,
Duly we paid, each after each, and read[442]
The ordinary chronicle of birth,
Office, alliance, and promotion—all
175
Ending in dust; of upright magistrates,
Grave doctors strenuous for the mother-church,
And uncorrupted senators, alike
To king and people true. A brazen plate,
Not easily deciphered, told of one
180
Whose course of earthly honour was begun
In quality of page among the train
Of the eighth Henry, when he crossed the seas
His royal state to show, and prove his strength
In tournament, upon the fields of France.
185
Another tablet registered the death,
And praised the gallant bearing, of a Knight
Tried in the sea-fights of the second Charles.
Near this brave Knight his father lay entombed;
And, to the silent language giving voice,
190
I read,—how in his manhood's earlier day
He, 'mid the afflictions of intestine war,
And rightful government subverted, found
One only solace—that he had espoused
A virtuous Lady tenderly beloved
195
For her benign perfections; and yet more
Endeared to him, for this,[443] that, in her state
[205]
Of wedlock richly crowned with Heaven's regard,
She with a numerous issue filled his house,
Who throve, like plants, uninjured by the storm
200
That laid their country waste. No need to speak
Of less particular notices assigned
To Youth or Maiden gone before their time,
And Matrons and unwedded Sisters old;
Whose charity and goodness were rehearsed
In modest panegyric.
205
"These dim lines,
What would they tell?" said I,—but, from the task
Of puzzling out that faded narrative,
With whisper soft my venerable Friend
Called me; and, looking down the darksome aisle,
210
I saw the Tenant of the lonely vale
Standing apart; with curvèd arm reclined
On the baptismal font; his pallid face
Upturned, as if his mind were rapt, or lost
In some abstraction; gracefully he stood,
215
The semblance bearing of a sculptured form
That leans upon a monumental urn
In peace, from morn to night, from year to year.
Him from that posture did the Sexton rouse;
Who entered, humming carelessly a tune,[GJ]
220
Continuation haply of the notes
That had beguiled the work from which he came,
With spade and mattock o'er his shoulder hung;
To be deposited, for future need,
In their appointed place. The pale Recluse
225
Withdrew; and straight we followed,—to a spot
Where sun and shade were intermixed; for there
A broad oak, stretching forth its leafy arms
From an adjoining pasture, overhung
[206]
Small space of that green churchyard with a light
230
And pleasant awning.[GK] On the moss-grown wall
My ancient Friend and I together took
Our seats; and thus the Solitary spake,
Standing before us:—
"Did you note the mien
234
Of that self-solaced, easy-hearted churl,
Death's hireling, who scoops out his neighbour's grave,
Or wraps an old acquaintance up in clay,
All unconcerned as he would bind a sheaf,
Or plant a tree.[GL] And did you hear his voice?[444]
I was abruptly summoned by the sound[445]
240
From some affecting images and thoughts,
Which then were silent; but crave utterance now.
"Much," he continued, with dejected look,
"Much, yesterday,[446] was said in glowing phrase
Of our sublime dependencies, and hopes
245
For future states of being; and the wings
Of speculation, joyfully outspread,
Hovered above our destiny on earth:
But stoop, and place the prospect of the soul
[207]
In sober contrast with reality,
250
And man's substantial life. If this mute earth
Of what it holds could speak, and every grave
Were as a volume, shut, yet capable
Of yielding its contents to eye and ear,
We should recoil, stricken with sorrow and shame,
255
To see disclosed, by such dread proof, how ill
That which is done accords with what is known
To reason, and by conscience is enjoined;
How idly, how perversely, life's whole course,
To this conclusion, deviates from the line,
260
Or of the end stops short, proposed to all
At her[447] aspiring outset.
"Mark the babe
Not long accustomed to this breathing world;
One that hath barely learned to shape a smile,
Though yet irrational of soul, to grasp
265
With tiny finger[448]—to let fall a tear;
And, as the heavy cloud of sleep dissolves,
To stretch his limbs, bemocking, as might seem,
The outward functions of intelligent man;
A grave proficient in amusive feats
270
Of puppetry, that from the lap declare
His expectations, and announce his claims
To that inheritance which millions rue
That they were ever born to! In due time
A day of solemn ceremonial comes;
275
When they, who for this Minor hold in trust
Rights that transcend the loftiest[449] heritage
Of mere humanity, present their Charge,
[208]
For this occasion daintily adorned,
At the baptismal font. And when the pure
280
And consecrating element hath cleansed
The original stain, the child is there received
Into the second ark, Christ's church, with trust
That he, from wrath redeemed, therein shall float
Over the billows of this troublesome world
285
To the fair land of everlasting life.
Corrupt affections, covetous desires,
Are all renounced; high as the thought of man
Can carry virtue, virtue is professed;
A dedication made, a promise given
290
For due provision to control and guide,
And unremitting progress to ensure
In holiness and truth."
"You cannot blame,"
Here interposing fervently I said,
"Rites which attest that Man by nature lies
295
Bedded for good and evil in a gulf
Fearfully low; nor will your judgment scorn
Those services, whereby attempt is made
To lift the creature toward[450] that eminence
On which, now fallen, erewhile in majesty
300
He stood; or if not so, whose top serene
At least he feels 'tis given him to descry;
Not without aspirations, evermore
Returning, and injunctions from within
Doubt to cast off and weariness; in trust
305
That what the Soul perceives, if glory lost,
May be, through pains and persevering hope,
Recovered; or, if hitherto unknown,
Lies within reach, and one day shall be gained."
"I blame them not," he calmly answered—"no;
310
The outward ritual and established forms
[209]
With which communities of men invest
These inward feelings, and the aspiring vows
To which the lips give public utterance
Are both a natural process; and by me
315
Shall pass uncensured; though the issue prove,
Bringing from age to age its own reproach,
Incongruous, impotent, and blank.—But, oh!
If to be weak is to be wretched—miserable,[GM]
As the lost Angel by a human voice
320
Hath mournfully pronounced, then, in my mind,
Far better not to move at all than move
By impulse sent from such illusive power,—
That finds and cannot fasten down; that grasps
And is rejoiced, and loses while it grasps;
325
That tempts, emboldens—for a time sustains,[451]
And then betrays; accuses and inflicts
Remorseless punishment; and so retreads
The inevitable circle; better far
Than this, to graze the herb in thoughtless peace,
330
By foresight or remembrance, undisturbed!
"Philosophy! and thou more vaunted name
Religion! with thy statelier retinue,
Faith, Hope, and Charity—from the visible world
Choose for your emblems whatsoe'er ye find
335
Of safest guidance or[452] of firmest trust—
The torch, the star, the anchor; nor except
The cross itself, at whose unconscious feet
The generations of mankind have knelt
[210]
Ruefully seized, and shedding bitter tears,
340
And through that conflict seeking rest—of you,
High-titled Powers, am I constrained to ask,
Here standing, with the unvoyageable sky
In faint reflection of infinitude
Stretched overhead, and at my pensive feet
345
A subterraneous magazine of bones,
In whose dark vaults my own shall soon be laid,
Where are your triumphs? your dominion where?
And in what age admitted and confirmed?
—Not for a happy land do I enquire,
350
Island or grove, that hides a blessed few
Who, with obedience willing and sincere,
To your serene authorities conform;
But whom, I ask, of individual Souls,
Have ye withdrawn from passion's crooked ways,
355
Inspired, and thoroughly fortified?—If the heart
Could be inspected to its inmost folds
By sight undazzled with the glare of praise,
Who shall be named—in the resplendent line
Of sages, martyrs, confessors—the man
360
Whom the best might of faith, wherever fix'd,[453]
For one day's little compass, has preserved
From painful and discreditable shocks
Of contradiction, from some vague desire
Culpably cherished, or corrupt relapse
To some unsanctioned fear?"
365
"If this be so,
And Man," said I, "be in his noblest shape
Thus pitiably infirm; then, he who made,
And who shall judge the creature, will forgive.
—Yet, in its general tenor, your complaint
370
Is all too true; and surely not misplaced:
For, from this pregnant spot of ground, such thoughts
[211]
Rise to the notice of a serious mind
By natural exhalation. With the dead
In their repose, the living in their mirth,
375
Who can reflect, unmoved, upon the round
Of smooth and solemnized complacencies,
By which, on Christian lands, from age to age
Profession mocks performance? Earth is sick,
And Heaven is weary, of the hollow words
380
Which States and Kingdoms utter when they talk
Of truth and justice. Turn to private life
And social neighbourhood; look we to ourselves;
A light of duty shines on every day
For all; and yet how few are warmed or cheered!
385
How few who mingle with their fellow-men
And still remain self-governed, and apart,
Like this our honoured Friend; and thence acquire
Right to expect his vigorous decline,
That promises to the end a blest old age!"
390
"Yet," with a smile of triumph thus exclaimed
The Solitary, "in the life of man,
If to the poetry of common speech
Faith may be given, we see as in a glass
A true reflection of the circling year,
395
With all its seasons. Grant that Spring is there,
In spite of many a rough untoward blast,
Hopeful and promising with buds and flowers;
Yet where is glowing Summer's long rich day,
That ought to follow faithfully expressed?
400
And mellow Autumn, charged with bounteous fruit,
Where is she imaged? in what favoured clime
Her lavish pomp, and ripe magnificence?
—Yet, while the better part is missed, the worse
In man's autumnal season is set forth
405
With a resemblance not to be denied,
And that contents him; bowers that hear no more
The voice of gladness, less and less supply
Of outward sunshine and internal warmth;
[212]
And, with this change, sharp air and falling leaves,
410
Foretelling aged Winter's desolate sway.[454]
"How gay the habitations that bedeck[455]
This fertile valley! Not a house but seems
To give assurance of content within;[GN]
Embosomed happiness, and placid love;
415
As if the sunshine of the day were met
With answering brightness in the hearts of all
Who walk this favoured ground. But chance-regards,
And notice forced upon incurious ears;
These, if these only, acting in despite
[213] 420
Of the encomiums by my Friend pronounced
On humble life, forbid the judging mind
To trust the smiling aspect of this fair
And noiseless commonwealth. The simple race
Of mountaineers (by nature's self removed
425
From foul temptations, and by constant care
Of a good shepherd tended as themselves
Do tend their flocks) partake man's general lot[456]
With little mitigation. They escape,
Perchance, the heavier woes of guilt; feel not[457]
430
The tedium of fantastic idleness:
Yet life, as with the multitude, with them
Is fashioned like an ill-constructed tale;
That on the outset wastes its gay desires,
Its fair adventures, its enlivening hopes,
435
And pleasant interests—for the sequel leaving
Old things repeated with diminished grace;
And all the laboured novelties at best
Imperfect substitutes, whose use and power
Evince the want and weakness whence they spring."
440
While in this serious mood we held discourse,
The reverend Pastor toward[458] the church-yard gate
Approached; and, with a mild respectful air
Of native cordiality, our Friend
Advanced to greet him. With a gracious mien
445
Was he received, and mutual joy prevailed.
Awhile they stood in conference, and I guess
That he, who now upon the mossy wall
Sate by my side, had vanished, if a wish
Could have transferred him to the flying clouds,
[214] 450
Or the least penetrable hiding-place
In his own valley's rocky guardianship.[459]
—For me, I looked upon the pair, well pleased:
Nature had framed them both, and both were marked
By circumstance, with intermixture fine
455
Of contrast and resemblance. To an oak
Hardy and grand, a weather-beaten oak,
Fresh in the strength and majesty of age,
One might be likened: flourishing appeared,
Though somewhat past the fulness of his prime,
460
The other—like a stately sycamore,[GO]
That spreads, in gentle[460] pomp, its honied shade.
A general greeting was exchanged; and soon
The Pastor learned that his approach had given
A welcome interruption to discourse
465
Grave, and in truth too[461] often sad.—"Is Man
A child of hope? Do generations press
On generations, without progress made?
Halts the individual, ere his hairs be grey,
Perforce? Are we a creature in whom good
470
Preponderates, or evil? Doth the will
[215]
Acknowledge reason's law? A living power
Is virtue, or no better than a name,
Fleeting as health or beauty, and unsound?
So that the only substance which remains,
475
(For thus the tenor of complaint hath run)
Among so many shadows, are the pains
And penalties of miserable life,
Doomed to decay, and then expire in dust!
479
—Our cogitations this way have been drawn,
These are the points," the Wanderer said, "on which
Our inquest turns.—Accord, good Sir! the light
Of your experience to dispel this gloom:
By your persuasive wisdom shall the heart
That frets, or languishes, be stilled and cheered.
485
"Our nature," said the Priest, in mild reply,
"Angels may weigh and fathom: they perceive,
With undistempered and unclouded spirit,
The object as it is; but, for ourselves,
That speculative height we may not reach.
490
The good and evil are our own; and we
Are that which we would contemplate from far.
Knowledge, for us, is difficult to gain—
Is difficult to gain, and hard to keep—
As virtue's self; like virtue is beset
495
With snares; tried, tempted, subject to decay.
Love, admiration, fear, desire, and hate,
Blind were we without these; through these alone
Are capable to notice or discern
Or to record; we judge, but cannot be
500
Indifferent judges. 'Spite of proudest boast,
Reason, best reason, is to imperfect man
An effort only, and a noble aim;
A crown, an attribute of sovereign power,
Still to be courted—never to be won.
505
—Look forth, or each man dive into himself;
What sees he but a creature too perturbed;
That is transported to excess; that yearns,
[216]
Regrets, or trembles, wrongly, or too much;
Hopes rashly, in disgust as rash recoils;
510
Battens on spleen, or moulders in despair?
Thus comprehension fails, and truth is missed;
Thus darkness[462] and delusion round our path
Spread, from disease, whose subtle injury lurks
Within the very faculty of sight.
515
"Yet for the general purposes of faith
In Providence, for solace and support,
We may not doubt that who can best subject
The will to reason's law, can[463] strictliest live
And act in that obedience, he shall gain
520
The clearest apprehension of those truths,
Which unassisted reason's utmost power
Is too infirm to reach. But, waiving this,
And our regards confining within bounds
Of less exalted consciousness, through which
525
The very multitude are free to range,
We safely may affirm that human life
Is either fair and[464] tempting, a soft scene
Grateful to sight, refreshing to the soul,
Or a forbidden[465] tract of cheerless view;
530
Even as the same is looked at, or approached.
Thus, when in changeful April fields are white
With new-fallen snow, if from the sullen north
Your walk conduct you hither, ere the sun
[217]
Hath gained his noontide height, this churchyard, filled
535
With mounds[466] transversely lying side by side
From east to west, before you will appear
An unillumined, blank, and dreary, plain,[467]
With more than wintry cheerlessness and gloom
Saddening the heart. Go forward, and look back;
540
Look,[468] from the quarter whence the lord of light,
Of life, of love, and gladness doth dispense
His beams; which, unexcluded in their fall,
Upon the southern side of every grave
Have gently exercised a melting power;
545
Then will a vernal prospect greet your eye,
All fresh and beautiful, and green and bright,
Hopeful and cheerful:—vanished is the pall
That overspread and chilled the sacred turf,
[218]
Vanished or hidden;[469] and the whole domain,
550
To some, too lightly minded, might appear
A meadow carpet for the dancing hours.[GP]
—This contrast, not unsuitable to life,
Is to that other state more apposite,
Death and its two-fold aspect! wintry—one,
555
Cold, sullen, blank, from hope and joy shut out;
The other, which the ray divine hath touched,
Replete with vivid promise, bright as spring."
"We see, then, as we feel," the Wanderer thus
With a complacent animation spake,
560
"And in your judgment, Sir! the mind's repose
On evidence is not to be ensured
By act of naked reason. Moral truth
Is no mechanic structure, built by rule;
And which, once built, retains a stedfast shape
565
And undisturbed proportions; but a thing
Subject, you deem, to vital accidents;
And, like the water-lily, lives and thrives,
Whose root is fixed in stable earth, whose head
Floats on the tossing waves. With joy sincere
570
I re-salute these sentiments confirmed
By your authority. But how acquire
The inward principle that gives effect
To outward argument; the passive will
Meek to admit; the active energy,
575
Strong and unbounded to embrace, and firm
To keep and cherish? how shall man unite
With[470] self-forgetting tenderness of heart
[219]
An[471] earth-despising dignity of soul?
Wise in that union, and without it blind!"
580
"The way," said I, "to court, if not obtain
The ingenuous mind, apt to be set aright;
This, in the lonely dell discoursing, you
Declared at large; and by what exercise
From visible nature, or the inner self
585
Power may be trained, and renovation brought
To those who need the gift. But, after all,
Is aught so certain as that man is doomed
To breathe beneath a vault of ignorance?
The natural roof of that dark house in which
590
His soul is pent! How little can be known—
This is the wise man's sigh; how far we err—
This is the good man's not unfrequent pang!
And they perhaps err least, the lowly class
Whom a benign necessity compels
595
To follow reason's least ambitious course;
Such do I mean who, unperplexed by doubt,
And unincited by a wish to look
Into high objects farther than they may,
Pace to and fro, from morn till even-tide,
600
The narrow avenue of daily toil
For daily bread."
"Yes," buoyantly exclaimed
The pale Recluse—"praise to the sturdy plough,
And patient spade; praise to the simple crook,[472]
And ponderous loom—resounding while it holds
605
Body and mind in one captivity;
And let the light mechanic tool be hailed
With honour; which, encasing by the power
Of long companionship, the artist's hand,
[220]
Cuts off that hand, with all its world of nerves,
610
From a too busy commerce with the heart!
—Inglorious implements of craft and toil,
Both ye that shape and build, and ye that force,
By slow solicitation, earth to yield
Her annual bounty, sparingly dealt forth
615
With wise reluctance; you would I extol,
Not for gross good alone which ye produce,
But for the impertinent and ceaseless strife
Of proofs and reasons ye preclude—in those
Who to your dull society are born,
620
And with their humble birthright rest content.
—Would I had ne'er renounced it!"
A slight flush
Of moral anger previously had tinged
The old Man's cheek; but, at this closing turn
Of self-reproach, it passed away. Said he,
625
"That which we feel we utter; as we think
So have we argued; reaping for our pains
No visible recompense. For our relief
You," to the Pastor turning thus he spake,
"Have kindly interposed. May I entreat
630
Your further help? The mine of real life
Dig for us; and present us, in the shape
Of virgin ore, that gold which we, by pains
Fruitless as those of aëry alchemists,
Seek from the torturing crucible. There lies
635
Around us a domain where you have long
Watched both the outward course and inner heart:[473]
Give us, for our abstractions, solid facts;
For our disputes, plain pictures. Say what man
He is who cultivates yon hanging field;
640
What qualities of mind she bears, who comes,
For morn and evening service, with her pail,
[221]
To that green pasture;[GQ] place before our sight
The family who dwell within yon house
Fenced round with glittering laurel;[GR] or in that
645
Below, from which the curling smoke ascends.
Or rather, as we stand on holy earth,
And have the dead around us,[GS] take from them
Your instances; for they are both best known,
And by frail man most equitably judged.
650
Epitomise the life; pronounce, you can,
Authentic epitaphs on some of these
Who, from their lowly mansions hither brought,
Beneath this turf lie mouldering at our feet:
So, by your records, may our doubts be solved;
655
And so, not searching higher, we may learn
To prize the breath we share with human kind;
And look upon the dust of man with awe."[474]
The Priest replied—"An office you impose
For which peculiar requisites are mine;
660
Yet much, I feel, is wanting—else the task
Would be most grateful. True indeed it is
That they whom death has hidden from our sight
Are worthiest of the mind's regard; with these
The future cannot contradict the past:
665
Mortality's last exercise and proof
Is undergone; the transit made that shows
The very Soul, revealed as she[475] departs.
Yet, on your first suggestion, will I give,
Ere we descend into these silent vaults,
One picture from the living.
670
"You behold,
[222]
High on the breast of yon dark mountain, dark
With stony barrenness,[GT] a shining speck
Bright as a sunbeam sleeping till a shower
674
Brush it away, or cloud pass over it;
And such it might be deemed—a sleeping sunbeam;
But 'tis a plot of cultivated ground,
Cut off, an island in the dusky waste;
And that attractive brightness is its own.
The lofty site, by nature framed to tempt
680
Amid a wilderness of rocks and stones
The tiller's hand, a hermit might have chosen,
For opportunity presented, thence
Far forth to send his wandering eye o'er land
And ocean, and look down upon the works,
685
The habitations, and the ways of men,
Himself unseen! But no tradition tells
That ever hermit dipped his maple dish
In the sweet spring that lurks 'mid yon green fields;
And no such visionary views belong
690
To those who occupy and till the ground,
High on that mountain where they long have dwelt[476]
[223]
A wedded pair in childless solitude.
A house of stones collected on the spot,
By rude hands built, with rocky knolls in front,
695
Backed also by a ledge of rock, whose crest
Of birch-trees waves over the chimney top;
A rough abode—in colour, shape, and size,[477]
Such as in unsafe times of border-war
Might have been wished for and contrived, to elude
700
The eye of roving plunderer—for their need
Suffices; and unshaken bears the assault
Of their most dreaded foe, the strong South-west
In anger blowing from the distant sea.
—Alone within her solitary hut;
705
There, or within the compass of her fields,
At any moment may the Dame be found,
True as the stock-dove to her shallow nest
And to the grove that holds it. She beguiles
By intermingled work of house and field
710
The summer's day, and winter's; with success
Not equal, but sufficient to maintain,
Even at the worst, a smooth stream of content,
Until the expected hour at which her Mate
From the far-distant quarry's vault returns;
715
And by his converse crowns a silent day
With evening cheerfulness. In powers of mind,
In scale of culture, few among my flock[478]
Hold lower rank than this sequestered pair:
But true humility descends from heaven;[479]
[224] 720
And that best gift of heaven hath fallen on them;
Abundant recompense for every want.
—Stoop from your height, ye proud, and copy these!
Who, in their noiseless dwelling-place, can hear
The voice of wisdom whispering scripture texts
725
For the mind's government, or temper's peace;
And recommending for their mutual need,
Forgiveness, patience, hope, and charity!"
"Much was I pleased," the grey-haired Wanderer said,
"When to those shining fields our notice first
You turned; and yet more pleased have from your lips
731
Gathered this fair report of them[480] who dwell
In that retirement; whither, by such course
Of evil hap and good as oft awaits
A tired way-faring man, once I was brought
735
While traversing alone yon mountain pass.
Dark on my road the autumnal evening fell,[481]
And night succeeded with unusual gloom,[482]
So hazardous that feet and hands became[483]
Guides better than mine eyes—until a light
740
High in the gloom appeared, too high, methought,
For human habitation; but I longed
To reach it, destitute of other hope.
I looked with steadiness as sailors look
On the north star, or watch-tower's distant lamp,
[225] 745
And saw the light—now fixed—and shifting now—[GU]
Not like a dancing meteor, but in line
Of never-varying motion, to and fro.
It is no night-fire of the naked hills,
Thought I[484]—some friendly covert must be near.
750
With this persuasion thitherward my steps
I turn, and reach at last the guiding light;
Joy to myself! but to the heart of her
Who there was standing on the open hill,
(The same kind Matron whom your tongue hath praised)
755
Alarm and disappointment! The alarm
Ceased, when she learned through what mishap I came,
And by what help had gained those distant fields.
Drawn from her cottage, on that aëry[485] height,
Bearing a lantern in her hand she stood,
760
Or paced the ground—to guide her Husband home,
By that unwearied signal, kenned afar;[GV]
An anxious duty! which the lofty site,
Traversed but by a few irregular paths,[486]
Imposes, whensoe'er untoward chance
765
Detains him after his accustomed hour
Till night lies black upon the ground. 'But come,
[226]
Come,' said the Matron, 'to our poor abode;
Those dark rocks hide it!'[487] Entering, I beheld
A blazing fire—beside a cleanly hearth
770
Sate down; and to her office, with leave asked,
The Dame returned.
"Or ere[488] that glowing pile
Of mountain turf required the builder's hand
Its wasted splendour to repair, the door
Opened, and she re-entered with glad looks,
775
Her Helpmate following. Hospitable fare,
Frank conversation, made the evening's treat:
Need a bewildered traveller wish for more?
But more was given; I studied as we sate
By the bright fire, the good Man's form, and face
780
Not less than beautiful;[489] an open brow
Of undisturbed humanity; a cheek
Suffused with something of a feminine hue;[GW]
[227]
Eyes beaming courtesy and mild regard;
But, in the quicker turns of the discourse,
785
Expression slowly varying, that evinced
A tardy apprehension. From a fount
Lost, thought I, in the obscurities of time,
But honoured once, those[490] features and that mien
May have descended, though I see them here.
790
In such a man, so gentle and subdued,
Withal so graceful in his gentleness,
A race illustrious for heroic deeds,
Humbled, but not degraded, may expire.
This pleasing fancy (cherished and upheld
795
By sundry recollections of such fall
From high to low, ascent from low to high,
As books record, and even the careless mind
Cannot but notice among men and things)
Went with me to the place of my repose.[491]
800
"Roused by the crowing cock at dawn of day,
I yet had risen too late to interchange
A morning salutation with my Host,
Gone forth already to the far-off seat
Of his day's work. 'Three dark mid-winter months
805
'Pass,' said the Matron, 'and I never see,
'Save when the sabbath brings its kind release,
'My helpmate's face by light of day. He quits
'His door in darkness, nor till dusk returns.
'And, through Heaven's[492] blessing, thus we gain the bread
810
'For which we pray; and for the wants provide
'Of sickness, accident, and helpless age.
[228]
'Companions have I many; many friends,
'Dependants, comforters—my wheel, my fire,
'All day the house-clock ticking in mine ear,
815
'The cackling hen, the tender chicken brood,
'And the wild birds that gather round my porch.
'This honest sheep-dog's countenance I read;
'With him can talk; nor blush to[493] waste a word
'On creatures less intelligent and shrewd.
820
'And if the blustering wind that drives the clouds
'Care not for me, he lingers round my door,
'And makes me pastime when our tempers suit;—
'But, above all, my thoughts are my support,
'My comfort:—would that they were oftener fixed
825
'On what, for guidance in the way that leads
'To heaven, I know, by my Redeemer taught.'
The Matron ended[494]—nor could I forbear
To exclaim—'O happy! yielding to the law
Of these privations, richer in the main!—
830
While thankless thousands are opprest and clogged
By ease and leisure; by the very wealth
And pride of opportunity made poor;
While tens of thousands falter in their path,
And sink, through utter want of cheering light;
835
For you the hours of labour do not flag;
For you each evening hath its shining star,
And every sabbath-day its golden sun.'"
"Yes!" said the Solitary with a smile
That seemed to break from an expanding heart,
840
"The untutored bird may found, and so construct,
And with such soft materials line, her nest
Fixed in the centre of a prickly brake,
[229]
That the thorns wound her not; they only guard.
Powers not unjustly likened to those gifts
845
Of happy instinct which the woodland bird
Shares with her species, nature's grace sometimes
Upon the individual doth confer,
Among her[495] higher creatures born and trained
To use of reason. And, I own that, tired
850
Of the ostentatious world—a swelling stage
With empty actions and vain passions stuffed,
And from the private struggles of mankind
Hoping far[496] less than I could wish to hope,
Far less than once I trusted and believed—
855
I love to hear of those, who, not contending
Nor summoned to contend for virtue's prize,
Miss not the humbler good at which they aim,
Blest with a kindly faculty to blunt
The edge of adverse circumstance, and turn
860
Into their contraries the petty plagues
And hindrances with which they stand beset.
In early youth, among my native hills,
I knew a Scottish Peasant who possessed
A few small crofts of stone-encumbered ground;
865
Masses of every shape and size, that lay
Scattered about under[497] the mouldering walls
Of a rough precipice; and some, apart,
In quarters unobnoxious to such chance,
As if the moon had showered them down in spite.
870
But he repined not. Though the plough was scared
By these obstructions, 'round the shady stones
A fertilising moisture,' said the Swain,
'Gathers, and is preserved; and feeding dews
[230]
'And damps, through all the droughty summer day
875
'From out their substance issuing, maintain
'Herbage that never fails: no grass springs up
'So green, so fresh, so plentiful, as mine!'
But[498] thinly sown these natures; rare, at least,
The mutual aptitude of seed and soil
880
That yields such kindly product. He, whose bed
Perhaps yon loose sods cover, the poor Pensioner
Brought yesterday from our sequestered dell
Here to lie down in lasting quiet, he,
If living now, could otherwise report
885
Of rustic loneliness: that grey-haired Orphan—
So call him, for humanity to him
No parent was—feelingly could[499] have told,
In life, in death, what solitude can breed
Of selfishness, and cruelty, and vice;
890
Or, if it breed not, hath not power to cure.
—But your compliance, Sir! with our request
My words too long have hindered."
Undeterred,
Perhaps incited rather, by these shocks,
In no ungracious opposition, given
895
To the confiding spirit of his own
Experienced faith, the reverend Pastor said,
Around him looking; "Where shall I begin?
Who shall be first selected from my flock
Gathered together in their peaceful fold?"
900
He paused—and having lifted up his eyes
To the pure heaven, he cast them down again
Upon the earth beneath his feet; and spake:—
[231]
"To a mysteriously-united pair[500]
This place is consecrate; to Death and Life,
905
And to the best affections that proceed
From their conjunction; consecrate to faith
In him who bled for man upon the cross;
Hallowed to revelation; and no less[501]
To reason's mandates; and the hopes divine
910
Of pure imagination;—above all,
To charity, and love, that have provided,
Within these precincts, a capacious bed
And receptacle, open to the good
And evil, to the just and the unjust;
915
In which they find an equal resting-place:
Even as the multitude of kindred brooks
And streams, whose murmur fills this hollow vale,
Whether their course be turbulent or smooth,
Their waters clear or sullied, all are lost
920
Within the bosom of yon crystal Lake,
And end their journey in the same repose!
"And blest are they who sleep; and we that know,
While in a spot like this we breathe and walk,
That all beneath us by the wings are covered
925
Of motherly humanity, outspread
And gathering all within their tender shade,
Though loth and slow to come! A battle-field,
In stillness left when slaughter is no more,
With this compared, makes[502] a strange spectacle!
930
A dismal prospect yields the wild shore strewn
With wrecks, and trod by feet of young and old
[232]
Wandering about in miserable search
Of friends or kindred,[503] whom the angry sea
Restores not to their prayer! Ah! who would think
935
That all the scattered subjects which compose
Earth's melancholy vision through the space
Of all her climes—these wretched, these depraved,
To virtue lost, insensible of peace,
From the delights of charity cut off,
940
To pity dead, the oppressor and the opprest;
Tyrants who utter the destroying word,
And slaves who will consent to be destroyed—
Were of one species with the sheltered few,
Who, with a dutiful and tender hand,
945
Lodged, in a dear appropriated spot,[504]
This file of infants; some that never breathed
The vital air; others, which, though allowed[505]
That privilege, did yet expire too soon,
Or with too brief a warning, to admit
950
Administration of the holy rite
That lovingly consigns the babe to the arms
Of Jesus, and his everlasting care.
These that in trembling hope are laid apart;
And the besprinkled nursling, unrequired
955
Till he begins to smile upon the breast
That feeds him; and the tottering little-one
Taken from air and sunshine when the rose
Of infancy first blooms upon his cheek;
The thinking, thoughtless, school-boy; the bold youth
960
Of soul impetuous, and the bashful maid
Smitten while all the promises of life
[233]
Are opening round her; those of middle age,
Cast down while confident in strength they stand,
Like pillars fixed more firmly, as might seem,
965
And more secure, by very weight of all
That, for support, rests on them; the decayed
And burthensome; and lastly, that poor few
Whose light of reason is with age extinct;
The hopeful and the hopeless, first and last,
970
The earliest summoned and the longest spared—
Are here deposited, with tribute paid
Various, but unto each some tribute paid;[506]
As if, amid these peaceful hills and groves,
Society were touched with kind concern,
And gentle 'Nature grieved, that one should die;'[GX]
976
Or, if the change demanded no regret,
Observed the liberating stroke—and blessed.
"And whence that tribute? wherefore these regards?[GY]
Not from the naked Heart alone of Man
980
(Though claiming high[507] distinction upon earth
As the sole spring and fountain-head of tears,
His own peculiar utterance for distress
Or gladness)—No," the philosophic Priest
Continued, "'tis not in the vital seat
985
Of feeling to produce them, without aid
From the pure soul, the soul sublime and pure;
With her two faculties of eye and ear,
The one by which a creature, whom his sins
[234]
Have rendered prone, can upward[508] look to heaven;
990
The other that empowers him to perceive
The voice of Deity, on height and plain,
Whispering those truths in stillness, which the Word,
To the four quarters of the winds, proclaims.
Not without such assistance could the use
995
Of these benign observances prevail:
Thus are they born, thus fostered, thus[509] maintained;
And by the care prospective of our wise
Forefathers, who, to guard against the shocks
The fluctuation and decay of things,
1000
Embodied and established these high truths
In solemn institutions:—men convinced
That life is love and immortality,
The being one, and one the element.
There lies the channel, and original bed,
1005
From the beginning, hollowed out and scooped
For Man's affections—else betrayed and lost,
And swallowed up 'mid deserts infinite!
This is the genuine course, the aim, and end
Of prescient reason; all conclusions else
1010
Are abject, vain, presumptuous, and perverse.
The faith partaking of those holy times,
Life, I repeat, is energy of love
Divine or human; exercised in pain,
In strife, in tribulation; and ordained,
1015
If so approved and sanctified, to pass,
Through shades and silent rest, to endless joy."[GZ]

VARIANTS:

[417] 1836.

Sight of a large and populous Vale—Solitary consents to go
1814.
forward—Vale described

[418] 1836.

1814.
The Church-yard
[419] Apology for the Rite
First inserted in the edition of 1836.

[420] 1836.

1814.
What sensations they excite

[421] 1827.

And guardian rocks!—With unreverted eyes
1814.
I cannot pass thy bounds, attractive Seat!

[422]

MS.
Open, to ...

[423] 1836.

Upon the side
Of that brown ridge, sole outlet of the Vale,
1814.
Lingering
1827.
Of that brown Slope, ...

[424] 1836.

... of a troubled World.
And now, pursuing leisurely my way,
1814.
How vain, thought I, it is by change of place

[425] 1827.

1814.
... tenor ...

[426] 1845.

1814.
Obscurity, and calm forgetfulness.

[427] 1814.

1827.
With ever-welcome ...

The text of 1836 returns to that of 1814.

[428] 1836.

1814.
By ...

[429] 1845.

1814.
From which the road ...

[430] 1827.

To that injunction, earnestly expressed,
1814.
He yielded, ...

[431] 1845.

A popular equality doth seem
Here to prevail; and yet a House of State
Stands yonder, one beneath whose roof, methinks,
A rural Lord might dwell." "No feudal pomp,"
Replied our Friend, a Chronicler who stood
Where'er he moved upon familiar ground,
"Nor feudal power is there; but there abides,
1814.
In his allotted Home a genuine Priest,
A popular equality reigns here
Save for one House of State beneath whose roof
1827.
A rural Lord ...

[432] 1827.

Under his spiritual sway, collected round him
1814.
In this sequestered Realm. He hath vouchsafed

[433] 1827.

1814.
... his ...

[434] 1827.

This good to reap, these pleasures to secure,
1814.
Hither, ...

[435] 1836.

... This deep vale
Is lengthened out by many a winding reach,
Not visible to us; and one of these
A turretted manorial Hall adorns;
In which the good Man's Ancestors have dwelt
From age to age, the Patrons of this Cure.
1814.
To them, and to his decorating hand,
MS.
To them, and to his own judicious hand,
... This deep vale
1827.
Winds far in reaches hidden from our eyes,

[436] 1827.

1814.
... in ...

[437] 1836.

1814.
... halting, ...

[438] 1827.

1814.
Not framed to ...
MS.
Nor shaped in ...

[439] 1845.

1814.
... in some thick grove,
1827.
... mid some thick grove,

[440] 1845.

... the chancel only shewed
Some inoffensive marks of earthly state
1814.
And vain distinction....
The Chancel only shewed
So privileged of yore, without offence
To piety, some marks of earthly state
And vain distinction,
Allowed by ancient privilege; though in sooth
With the pure sanctity the place should breathe
But ill according. A capacious pew
Of sculptured oak stood here, with drapery lined
And curtained closely round. Obnoxious less
To blame or unavoidable regret,
A high fixed hatchment, time-discoloured, told
C.
Of man's mortality and its own decay.
Some vain distinctions, an heraldic shield,
In tincture varying as the sun might shine,
Imbued its eastern window, and aloft
A faded hatchment hung, and one by time
C.
Yet undiscoloured, marks of earthly state.

[441] 1827.

1814.
Upon the walls; ...

[442] 1845.

1814.
Without reluctance did we pay; and read
C.
We paid to each with due respect,

[443] 1827.

... and for this
1814.
Yet more endeared to him, ...

[444] 1836.

1814.
As unconcerned as when he plants a tree?

[445] 1836.

1814.
... by his voice

[446] 1845.

... images and thoughts,
And from the company of serious words.
1814.
Much, yesterday, ...
And from the company of serious words,
Which then were silent; but crave utterance now.
Much," he continued, with dejected looks,
1836.
"Much, yesterday, ...

[447] 1827.

1814.
At its ...

[448] 1836.

1814.
With tiny fingers, ...

[449] 1845.

1814.
... unblest ...
1827.
... humblest ...

[450] 1827.

1814.
... tow'rds ...

[451] 1836.

1814.
... doth a while sustain,

[452] 1845.

1814.
... and ...

[453] 1845.

1814.
Whom the best might of Conscience, Truth, and Hope,

[454] 1845.

1814.
Foretelling total Winter, blank and cold.
1840.
Foretelling aged Winter's dreary sway.
C.
Prelude to coming Winter's desolate sway.

[455] 1827.

1814.
... adorn

[456] 1827.

1814.
Do tend their flocks, These share Man's general lot

[457] 1836.

1814.
Perchance, guilt's heavier woes; and do not feel

[458] 1827.

1814.
... tow'rds ...

[459] 1836.

Could have transferred him to his lonely House
1814.
Within the circuit of those guardian rocks.

[460] 1836.

1814.
... gentler ...

[461] 1827.

1814.
... full ...

[462] 1836.

Thus truth is missed, and comprehension fails;
1814.
And darkness ...

[463] 1836.

1814.
... and ...

[464] 1827.

1814.
... or ...

[465] 1820.

1814.
... forbidding ...

The texts of 1827 to 1843 and that of 1847 return to the text of 1814.

[466] 1836.

... or approached.
Permit me," said the Priest continuing, "here
To use an illustration of my thought,
Drawn from the very spot on which we stand.
—In changeful April, when, as he is wont,
Winter has reassumed a short lived sway
And whitened all the surface of the fields,
If—from the sullen region of the North
Towards the circuit of this holy ground
Your walk conducts you, ere the vigorous sun,
High climbing, hath attained his noon-tide height—
1814.
These Mounds, ...
Thus, when in changeful April snow has fallen,
And fields are white, if from the sullen north
Your walk conduct you hither, ere the Sun
Hath gained his noontide height, this churchyard, filled
1827.
With mounds ...
MS.
... ere vigorous sun

[467] 1827.

1814.
A dreary plain of unillumined snow,

[468] 1827.

... Go forward, and look back;
On the same circuit of this church-yard ground
1814.
Look, ...

[469] 1836.

Hopeful and cheerful:—vanished is the snow,
1814.
Vanished or hidden; ...

[470] 1827.

1814.
A ...

[471] 1827.

1814.
And ...

[472] 1836.

1814.
... spade, and shepherd's simple crook,

[473] 1827.

... where You have long
Held spiritual sway, have guided and consoled,
1814.
And watched the outward course and inner heart.

[474] Italics were first used in 1827.

[475] 1827.

1814.
... it ...

[476] 1845.

1814.
And on the bosom of the mountain dwell—

[477] 1836.

... above the chimney top;
1814.
In shape, in size, and colour, an abode
... above the chimney top:
1827.
A rough abode—in colour, shape, and size,

[478] 1814.

Few only in the scale of culture, hold
C.
Among my flock ...

[479] 1845.

1814.
But humbleness of heart descends from heaven;

[480] 1827.

1814.
... those ...

[481] 1836.

A lone way-faring Man, I once was brought.
Dark on my road the autumnal evening fell
1814.
While I was traversing yon mountain-pass,

[482] 1814.

C.
And with the night succeeded a thick gloom,

[483] 1845.

1814.
So that my feet and hands at length became

[484] 1827.

1814.
Said I, ...

[485] 1836.

1814.
... open ...

[486] 1827.

... which the lofty Site,
Far from all public road or beaten way
1814.
And traversed only by a few faint paths,

[487] 1832.

(Such chance is rare) detains him till the night
Falls black upon the hills. "But come," she said,
"Come let me lead you to our poor Abode.
Behind those rocks it stands, as if it shunned,
In churlishness, the eye of all mankind;
But the few Guests who seek the door receive
1814.
Most hearty welcome."— ...
Detains him after his accustomed hour
1827.
When night lies black upon the hills. 'But come,

[488] 1827.

1814.
... Before ...

[489] 1845.

But more was given; the eye, the mind, the heart,
Found exercise in noting, as we sate
By the bright fire, the good Man's face—composed
1814.
Of features elegant; ...
1827.
But more was given; I studied as we sate

[490] 1836.

1814.
... these ...

[491] 1814.

Sweetened for me our mutual good night
Nor left me on a lonely pillow stretched
C.
Till slumber had given way to dreamless sleep.

[492] 1814.

C.
... God's ...

[493] 1820.

1814.
... nor seldom ...

[494] 1845.

"—But, above all, my Thoughts are my support."
1814.
The Matron ended— ...

[495] 1827.

1814.
... the ...

[496] 1836.

1814.
... for ...

[497] 1832.

1814.
... beneath ...

[498] 1827.

... so plentiful, as mine!"
See, in this well conditioned Soul, a Third
To match with your good Couple that put forth
Their homely graces on the mountain side.
1814.
But ...

[499] 1832.

1814.
... could feelingly ...

[500] 1845.

1814.
... mysteriously-consorted Pair

[501] 1814.

C.
... and therewith

[502] 1845.

1814.
... is ...
1836.
... yields ...

[503] 1836.

A rueful sight the wild shore strewn with wrecks
And trod by people in afflicted quest
1814.
Of friends and kindred, ...

[504] 1836.

1814.
Did lodge, in an appropriated spot,

[505] 1836.

1814.
... and others, who allowed

[506] 1814.

Are here deposited as the like shall be
C.
Through ages yet to come.

[507] 1827.

1814.
... framed to high ...

[508] 1814.

C.
... upward can ...

[509] 1836.

1814.
... and ...

FOOTNOTES:

[FY] With this compare The Prelude, book i. line 463 (vol. iii. p. 146)—

Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.

[FZ] The "semicirque of turf-clad ground," where the conversations recorded in books iii. and iv. had been carried on.—ED.

[GA] Towards Little Langdale.—ED.

[GB] See Matthew Arnold's address as President of the Wordsworth Society, in its Transactions for the year 1883.—ED.

[GC] The sledge used for bringing down peats or bracken from the uplands. The "sledge" has not yet entirely given way to the "wheel," many of the Westmoreland peasants still using it, when bringing down their winter stores of fuel and bedding, as they do in Norway.—ED.

[GD] The vale of Little Langdale.—ED.

[GE] "After we quit his cottage, passing over a low ridge, we descend into another vale, that of Little Langdale, towards the head of which stands embowered, or partly shaded by yews and other trees, something between a cottage and a mansion, or gentleman's house, such as they once were in this country. This I convert into the parsonage, and at the same time, and as by the waving of a magic wand, I turn the comparatively confined vale of Langdale, its tarn, and the rude chapel which once adorned the valley, into the stately and comparatively spacious vale of Grasmere and its ancient parish church."—I. F.

The Fenwick note is not quite clear as to the relation of Hackett to Blea Tarn Cottage. Dr. Cradock thinks that "Wordsworth meant that his description of the cottage was borrowed from Hackett (which he frequently visited), so far at least as the solitary clock, and the cottage stairs, and the dark and low apartments were concerned."—ED.

[GF] See the note on the previous page.—ED.

[GG] Grasmere.—ED.

[GH] Compare Lamb's remarks in reference to Harrow Church in a letter to Wordsworth, August 14, 1814. See Letters of Charles Lamb, edited by Canon Ainger, vol. i. p. 272.—ED.

[GI] The details of this description apply in most particulars to the Church at Grasmere, although some are probably borrowed from Wordsworth's recollections of Hawkshead and of Bowness. The "naked rafters intricately crossed," the "admonitory texts" inscribed on the walls,

Each, in its ornamental scroll, enclosed,

the "oaken benches," the "heraldic shield" in the "altar-window," the "faded hatchment," the "marble monuments" and "sepulchral stones" with "emblems graven and foot-worn epitaphs,"—all are there. Grasmere Church was "for duration built," as Wordsworth puts it; and, however ill adapted to the wants of modern ceremonial, it is to be hoped that all that is most characteristic of the old edifice will be preserved; and that—while no building can retain its original form for ever—its renovation will not destroy what remains of that "rude and antique majesty," which Wordsworth tells us had, even in 1843, been partially impaired.—ED.

[GJ] Compare, in Hamlet, act v. scene i. l. 64—

Hamlet.—Has this fellow no feeling of his business? he sings at grave-making.

Horatio.—Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness.

Hamlet.—'Tis e'en so: the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.—ED.

[GK] An oak now grows in the field a little to the east of the churchyard wall, which cannot, however, be that to which Wordsworth refers. Possibly an oak grew at that time beside the wall above the Rothay. The wall is still "moss-grown."—ED.

[GL] See the footnote on the previous page.—ED.

[GM] Compare Paradise Lost, book i. l. 157—

To be weak is miserable,
ED.
Doing or suffering.

[GN] Compare Wordsworth's Description of the Scenery of the Lakes, section 2. "To begin with the COTTAGES. They are scattered over the vallies, and under the hill sides, and on the rocks; and, even to this day, in the more retired dales, without any intrusion of more assuming buildings;

Clustered like stars some few, but single most,
And lurking dimly in their shy retreats,
Or glancing on each other cheerful looks,
Like separated stars with clouds between.

The dwelling-houses, and contiguous outhouses, are, in many instances, of the colour of the native rock, out of which they have been built.... These humble dwellings remind the contemplative spectator of a production of nature, and may (using a strong expression) rather be said to have grown than to have been erected;—to have risen, by an instinct of their own, out of the native rock—so little is there in them of formality, such is their wildness and beauty! Among the numerous recesses and projections in the walls and in the different stages of their roofs, are seen bold and harmonious effects of contrasted sunshine and shadow.... These dwellings, mostly built, as has been said, of rough unhewn stone, are roofed with slates ... rough and uneven in their surfaces, so that both the coverings and sides of the houses have furnished places of rest for the seeds of lichens, mosses, ferns, and flowers. Hence buildings, which, in their very form call to mind the processes of nature, do thus, clothed with this vegetable garb, appear to be received into the bosom of the living principle of things, as it acts and exists among the woods and fields."

Compare also Gray's description of the Vale of Grasmere in his Journal:—"Not a single red tile, nor flaring gentleman's house, or garden-wall, breaks in upon the repose of this little unsuspected paradise; but all is peace, rusticity, and happy poverty, in its neatest and most becoming attire."—ED.

[GO] "To illustrate the relation which in my mind this Pastor bore to the Wanderer, and the resemblances between them, or rather the points of community in their nature, I likened one to an oak, and the other to a sycamore; and having here referred to this comparison, I need only add, I had no one individual in my mind, wishing rather to embody this idea than to break in upon the simplicity of it by traits of individual character, or of any peculiarity of opinion."—I. F.

The sycamore is the favourite tree at the Mountain Farms of Cumberland and Westmoreland, as it affords the best shelter from rain, and the most thorough protection from the heat of the sun, during sheep-shearing. A special feature of the valley as you go down Langdale from Blea Tarn, is the abundance of sycamore; some of the farm-houses are literally embowered by it.—ED.

[GP] The group of meditative talkers are supposed to be seated on the moss-grown wall to the east of the Churchyard, facing Silver How.—ED.

[GQ] Possibly at Dale End, Grasmere.—ED.

[GR] Probably the Wyke, Sarah Mackereth's Cottage.—ED.

[GS] See Wordsworth's note, p. 388.—ED.

[GT] Silver How is the only "dark mountain" visible to the west from the moss-grown seat in the Grasmere Churchyard; but here again the realism of the narrative gives way, and not Silver How but Lingmoor is described, with Hackett Cottage at its south-eastern foot. The Fenwick note is here explicit. "First for the one picture given by the Wanderer of the living. In this nothing is introduced but what was taken from nature and real life. The cottage was called Hackett, and stands, as described, on the southern extremity of the ridge which separates the two Langdales. The pair who inhabited it were called Jonathan and Betty Yewdale." Later on, in book vi. p. 250, Wordsworth describes the blue roofs of Hawkshead village as ornamenting

a distant reach
Of this far-winding vale.

Unless, therefore, he is speaking in the vague, Hackett and not Grasmere is the place described. The Fenwick note to the Epistle to Sir George Beaumont, however, decides the question (see vol. iv. p. 256). "The house (Hackett) and its inmates are referred to in the fifth book of The Excursion, in the passage beginning—

You behold,
ED.
High on the breast of yon dark mountain, dark."

[GU] Compare the Sonnet (of 1815) referring to Allan Bank, beginning—

Even as a dragon's eye that feels the stress
Of a bedimming sleep, or as a lamp
Suddenly glaring through sepulchral damp,
So burns yon Taper 'mid a black recess
ED.
Of mountains, silent, dreary, motionless, etc.

[GV] Compare the Sonnet (of 1815) beginning—

The fairest, brightest, hues of ether fade,

and more especially the Fenwick note, prefixed to that sonnet.—ED.

[GW] This feminine complexion of the Cumbrian peasants who work in the higher mines, is probably in part due to the continual mists and moisture of the heights. It has been observed especially amongst the workers in the high slate quarries at Walna Scar.—ED.

[GX] In a note to the edition of 1814, Wordsworth added to the above quotation Southey's Retrospect. See p. 388 of this volume.

[GY] In 1814 Wordsworth added to this line a prefatory note to his Essay upon Epitaphs, and the Essay itself, for which see The Prose Works.

[GZ] On the 1st of August 1849, during the last year of the poet's life, he transcribed the five lines beginning—

Life, I repeat, is energy of love

on a presentation copy of his works, sent to Thomas Gough. It was one of the last things he ever wrote.—ED.


[235]

Book Sixth

CHURCH-YARD AMONG THE MOUNTAINS

ARGUMENT

Poet's Address to the State and Church of England—The Pastor not inferior to the ancient Worthies of the Church—He begins his Narratives with an instance of unrequited Love—Anguish of mind subdued, and how—The lonely Miner—An instance of perseverance—Which leads by contrast to an example of abused talents, irresolution, and weakness—Solitary, applying this covertly to his own case, asks for an instance of some Stranger, whose dispositions may have led him to end his days here—Pastor, in answer, gives an account of the harmonising influence of Solitude upon two men of opposite principles, who had encountered agitations in public life—The rule by which Peace may be obtained expressed, and where—Solitary hints at an overpowering Fatality—Answer of the Pastor—What subjects he will exclude from his Narratives—Conversation upon this—Instance of an unamiable character, a Female, and why given—Contrasted with this, a meek sufferer, from unguarded and betrayed love—Instance of heavier guilt, and its consequences to the Offender—With this instance of a Marriage Contract broken is contrasted one of a Widower, evidencing his faithful affection towards his deceased wife by his care of their female Children.[510]

HAIL to the crown by Freedom shaped—to gird
An English Sovereign's brow! and to the throne
Whereon he sits! Whose deep foundations lie
In veneration and the people's love;
5
Whose steps are equity, whose seat is law.
—Hail to the State of England! And conjoin
With this a salutation as devout,
Made to the spiritual fabric of her Church;
[236]
Founded in truth; by blood of Martyrdom
10
Cemented; by the hands of Wisdom reared
In beauty of holiness, with ordered pomp,
Decent and unreproved. The voice, that greets
The majesty of both, shall pray for both;
That, mutually protected and sustained,[HA]
15
They may endure long as the sea[511] surrounds
This favoured Land, or sunshine warms her soil.
And O, ye swelling hills, and spacious plains!
Besprent from shore to shore with steeple-towers,
And spires whose 'silent finger points to heaven;'[HB]
20
Nor wanting, at wide intervals, the bulk
Of ancient minster lifted above the cloud
Of the dense air, which town or city breeds
To intercept the sun's glad beams—may ne'er
That true succession fail of English hearts,
25
Who, with ancestral feeling, can perceive[512]
What in those holy structures ye possess
Of ornamental interest, and the charm
Of pious sentiment diffused afar,
And human charity, and social love.
30
—Thus never shall the indignities of time
Approach their reverend graces, unopposed;
Nor shall the elements be free to hurt
Their fair proportions; nor the blinder rage
Of bigot zeal madly to overturn;
35
And, if the desolating hand of war
Spare them, they shall continue to bestow,
Upon the thronged abodes of busy men
[237]
(Depraved, and ever prone to fill the mind[513]
Exclusively with transitory things)
40
An air and mien of dignified pursuit;
Of sweet civility, on rustic wilds.
The Poet, fostering for his native land
Such hope, entreats that servants may abound
Of those pure altars worthy; ministers
45
Detached from pleasure, to the love of gain
Superior, insusceptible of pride,
And by ambitious[514] longings undisturbed;
Men, whose delight is where their duty leads
Or fixes them; whose least distinguished day
50
Shines with some portion of that heavenly lustre
Which makes the sabbath lovely in the sight
Of blessed angels, pitying human cares.
—And, as on earth it is the doom of truth
To be perpetually attacked by foes
55
Open or covert, be that priesthood still,
For her defence, replenished with a band
Of strenuous champions, in scholastic arts
Thoroughly disciplined; nor (if in course
Of the revolving world's disturbances
Cause should recur, which righteous Heaven avert!
61
To meet such trial) from their spiritual sires
Degenerate; who, constrained to wield the sword
Of disputation, shrunk not, though assailed
With hostile din, and combating in sight
65
Of angry umpires, partial and unjust;
And did, thereafter, bathe their hands in fire,[HC]
So to declare the conscience satisfied:
Nor for their bodies would accept release;
[238] 69
But, blessing God and praising him, bequeathed
With their last breath, from out the smouldering flame,
The faith which they by diligence had earned,
Or,[515] through illuminating grace, received,
For their dear countrymen, and all mankind.
O high example, constancy divine!
75
Even such a Man (inheriting the zeal
And from the sanctity of elder times
Not deviating,—a priest, the like of whom,
If multiplied, and in their stations set,
Would o'er the bosom of a joyful land
80
Spread true religion and her genuine fruits)
Before me stood that day; on holy ground
Fraught with the relics of mortality,
Exalting tender themes, by just degrees
To lofty raised; and to the highest, last;
85
The head and mighty paramount of truths,—
Immortal life, in never-fading worlds,
For mortal creatures, conquered and secured.
That basis laid, those principles of faith
Announced, as a preparatory act
90
Of reverence done to the spirit of the place,[516]
The Pastor cast his eyes upon the ground;
Not, as before, like one oppressed with awe,
But with a mild and social cheerfulness;
Then to the Solitary turned, and spake.
95
"At morn or eve, in your retired domain,
Perchance you not unfrequently have marked
A Visitor—in quest of herbs and flowers;[517]
[239]
Too delicate employ, as would appear,
For one, who, though of drooping mien, had yet
100
From nature's kindliness received a frame
Robust as ever rural labour bred."
The Solitary answered: "Such a Form
Full well I recollect. We often crossed
Each other's path; but, as the Intruder seemed
105
Fondly to prize the silence which he kept,
And I as willingly did cherish mine,
We met, and passed, like shadows. I have heard,
From my good Host, that being crazed in brain
By unrequited love, he scaled the rocks,[518]
110
Dived into caves, and pierced the matted woods,
In hope to find some virtuous herb of power
To cure his malady!"
The Vicar smiled,—
"Alas! before to-morrow's sun goes down
His habitation will be here: for him
That open grave is destined."[HD]
"Died he then
116
Of pain and grief?" the Solitary asked,
"Do not believe it; never could that be!"[519]
"He loved," the Vicar answered, "deeply loved,
Loved fondly, truly, fervently; and dared
[240] 120
At length to tell his love, but sued in vain;[520]
Rejected, yea repelled; and, if with scorn
Upon the haughty maiden's brow, 'tis but
A high-prized plume which female Beauty wears
In wantonness of conquest, or puts on
125
To cheat the world, or from herself to hide
Humiliation, when no longer free,
That he could brook,[521] and glory in;—but when
The tidings came that she whom he had wooed
Was wedded to another, and his heart
130
Was forced to rend away its only hope;
Then, Pity could have scarcely found on earth
An object worthier of regard than he,
In the transition of that bitter hour!
Lost was she, lost; nor could the Sufferer say
135
That in the act of preference he had been
Unjustly dealt with; but the Maid was gone!
Had vanished[522] from his prospects and desires;
Not by translation to the heavenly choir
Who have put off their mortal spoils—ah no!
140
She lives another's wishes to complete,—
'Joy be their lot, and happiness,' he cried,
'His lot and hers, as misery must be mine!'[523]
"Such was that strong concussion; but the Man,
[241]
Who trembled, trunk and limbs, like some huge oak
145
By a fierce tempest shaken, soon resumed
The stedfast quiet natural to a mind
Of composition gentle and sedate,
And, in its movements, circumspect and slow.
To books, and to the long-forsaken desk,
150
O'er which enchained by science he had loved
To bend, he stoutly re-addressed himself,
Resolved to quell his pain, and search for truth[524]
With keener appetite (if that might be)
And closer industry. Of what ensued
155
Within the heart[525] no outward sign appeared
Till a betraying sickliness was seen
To tinge his cheek; and through his frame it crept
With slow mutation unconcealable;
Such universal change as autumn makes
160
In the fair body of a leafy grove
Discoloured, then divested.
"'Tis affirmed
By poets skilled in nature's secret ways
That Love will not submit to be controlled
By mastery:—and the good Man lacked not friends
165
Who strove to instil this truth into his mind,
[242]
A mind in all heart-mysteries unversed.
'Go to the hills,' said one, 'remit a while
'This baneful diligence:—at early morn
'Court the fresh air, explore the heaths and woods;
170
'And, leaving it to others to foretell,
'By calculations sage, the ebb and flow
'Of tides, and when the moon will be eclipsed,
'Do you, for your own benefit, construct
'A calendar of flowers, plucked as they blow
175
'Where health abides, and cheerfulness, and peace.'
The attempt was made;—'tis needless to report
How hopelessly; but innocence is strong,
And an entire simplicity of mind
A thing most sacred in the eye of Heaven;
180
That opens, for such sufferers, relief
Within the soul, fountains of grace divine;[526]
And doth commend their weakness and disease
To Nature's care, assisted in her office
By all the elements that round her wait
185
To generate, to preserve, and to restore;
And by her beautiful array of forms
Shedding sweet influence from above; or pure
Delight exhaling from the ground they tread."
"Impute it not to impatience, if," exclaimed
190
The Wanderer, "I infer that he was healed
By perseverance in the course prescribed."
"You do not err: the powers, that[527] had been lost
By slow degrees, were gradually regained;
The fluttering nerves composed; the beating heart
195
In rest established; and the jarring thoughts
To harmony restored.—But yon dark mould
[243]
Will cover him, in the fulness of his strength,[528]
Hastily smitten by a fever's force;
Yet not with stroke so sudden as refused
200
Time to look back with tenderness on her
Whom he had loved in passion; and to send
Some farewell words—with one, but one, request;[529]
That, from his dying hand, she would accept
Of his possessions that which most he prized;
205
A book, upon whose leaves some chosen plants,
By his own hand disposed with nicest care,[530]
In undecaying beauty were preserved;[HE]
Mute register, to him, of time and place,
And various fluctuations in the breast;
210
To her, a monument of faithful love
Conquered, and in tranquillity retained!
"Close to his destined habitation, lies
One who achieved a humbler victory,
Though marvellous in its kind. A place there is[531]
215
High in these mountains, that allured a band
[244]
Of keen adventurers to unite their pains
In search of precious ore: they tried, were foiled—[532]
And all desisted, all, save him alone.
He,[533] taking counsel of his own clear thoughts,
220
And trusting only to his own weak hands,
Urged unremittingly the stubborn work,
Unseconded, uncountenanced; then, as time
Passed on, while still his lonely efforts found
No recompense, derided; and at length,
225
By many pitied, as insane of mind;
By others dreaded as the luckless thrall
Of subterranean Spirits feeding hope
By various mockery of sight and sound;
Hope after hope, encouraged and destroyed.
230
—But when the lord of seasons had matured
The fruits of earth through space of twice ten years,
The mountain's entrails offered to his view
And trembling grasp the long-deferred reward.[534]
Not with more transport did Columbus greet
235 [245]
A world, his rich discovery![HF] But our Swain,
A very hero till his point was gained,
Proved all unable to support the weight
Of prosperous fortune. On the fields he looked
With an unsettled liberty of thought,
Wishes and endless schemes; by daylight walked[535]
241
Giddy and restless; ever and anon
Quaffed in his gratitude immoderate cups;
And truly might be said to die of joy!
He vanished; but conspicuous to this day
245
The path remains that linked his cottage-door
To the mine's mouth; a long and slanting track,
Upon the rugged mountain's stony side,
Worn by his daily visits to and from
The darksome centre of a constant hope.
250
This vestige, neither force of beating rain,
Nor the vicissitudes of frost and thaw
Shall cause to fade, till ages pass away;
And it is named, in memory of the event,
The PATH OF PERSEVERANCE."
"Thou from whom
Man has his strength," exclaimed the Wanderer, "oh!
256
Do thou direct it! To the virtuous grant
The penetrative eye which can perceive
In this blind world the guiding vein of hope;
That, like this Labourer, such may dig their way,
260
'Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified;'[HG]
Grant to the wise his firmness of resolve!"
"That prayer were not superfluous," said the Priest,
"Amid the noblest relics, proudest dust,
That Westminster, for Britain's glory, holds
265
Within the bosom of her awful pile,
Ambitiously collected. Yet the sigh,
[246]
Which wafts that prayer to heaven, is due to all,
Wherever laid, who living fell below
Their virtue's humbler mark; a sigh of pain
270
If to the opposite extreme they sank.
How would you pity her who yonder rests;
Him, farther off; the pair, who here are laid;
But, above all, that mixture of earth's mould[HH]
Whom sight of this green hillock to my mind
Recals!
275
"He lived not till his locks were nipped
By seasonable frost of age; nor died
Before his temples, prematurely forced
To mix the manly brown with silver grey,
Gave obvious instance of the sad effect
280
Produced, when thoughtless Folly hath usurped
The natural crown that[536] sage Experience wears.
Gay, volatile, ingenious, quick to learn,
And prompt to exhibit all that he possessed
Or could perform; a zealous actor, hired
285
Into the troop of mirth, a soldier, sworn
Into the lists of giddy enterprise—
Such was he;[HI] yet, as if within his frame
Two several souls alternately had lodged,
Two sets of manners could the Youth put on;
290
And, fraught with antics as the Indian bird
That writhes and chatters in her wiry cage,
Was graceful, when it pleased him, smooth and still
As the mute swan that floats adown the stream,
Or, on the waters of the unruffled lake,
295
Anchors her placid beauty. Not a leaf,
[247]
That flutters on the bough, lighter than he;[537]
And not a flower, that droops in the green shade,
More winningly reserved! If ye enquire
How such consummate elegance was bred
300
Amid these wilds, this answer may suffice;
'Twas Nature's will;[538] who sometimes undertakes,
For the reproof of human vanity,
Art to outstrip in her peculiar walk.
Hence, for this Favourite—lavishly endowed
305
With personal gifts, and bright instinctive wit,
While both, embellishing each other, stood
Yet farther recommended by the charm
Of fine demeanour, and by dance and song,
And skill in letters—every fancy shaped
310
Fair expectations; nor, when to the world's
Capacious field forth went the Adventurer, there
Were he and his attainments overlooked,
Or scantily rewarded; but all hopes,
Cherished for him, he suffered to depart,
315
Like blighted buds; or clouds that mimicked land
Before the sailor's eye; or diamond drops
That sparkling decked the morning grass; or aught
That was attractive, and hath ceased to be!
"Yet, when this Prodigal returned, the rites
320
Of joyful greeting were on him bestowed,
Who, by humiliation undeterred,
Sought for his weariness a place of rest
Within his Father's gates.—Whence came he?—clothed
In tattered garb, from hovels where abides
[248] 325
Necessity, the stationary host
Of vagrant poverty; from rifted barns
Where no one dwells but the wide-staring owl
And the owl's prey; from these bare haunts, to which[539]
He had descended from the proud saloon,
330
He came, the ghost of beauty and of health,
The wreck of gaiety! But soon revived
In strength, in power refitted, he renewed
His suit to Fortune; and she smiled again
Upon a fickle Ingrate. Thrice he rose,
335
Thrice sank[540] as willingly. For he—whose nerves
Were used to thrill with pleasure, while his voice
Softly accompanied the tuneful harp,
By the nice finger of fair ladies touched
In glittering halls—was able to derive
340
No[541] less enjoyment from an abject choice.
Who happier for the moment—who more blithe
Than this fallen Spirit? in those dreary holds
His talents lending to exalt the freaks
Of merry-making beggars,—now, provoked
345
To laughter multiplied in louder peals
By his malicious wit; then, all enchained
With mute astonishment, themselves to see
In their own arts outdone, their fame eclipsed,
As by the very presence of the Fiend
350
Who dictates and inspires illusive feats,
For knavish purposes! The city, too,
(With shame I speak it) to her guilty bowers
Allured him, sunk so low in self-respect
As there to linger, there to eat his bread,
[249] 355
Hired minstrel of voluptuous blandishment;
Charming the air with skill of hand or voice,
Listen who would, be wrought upon who might,
Sincerely wretched hearts, or falsely gay.
—Such the too frequent tenour of his boast[542]
360
In ears that relished the report;—but all
Was from his Parents happily concealed;
Who saw enough for blame and pitying love.
They also were permitted to receive
His last, repentant breath; and closed his eyes,
365
No more to open on that irksome world
Where he had long existed in the state
Of a young fowl beneath one mother hatched,
Though from another sprung, different in kind:[543]
Where he had lived, and could not cease to live,
370
Distracted in propensity; content
With neither element of good or ill;
And yet in both rejoicing; man unblest;
Of contradictions infinite the slave,
Till his deliverance, when Mercy made him
375
One with himself, and one with them that sleep."[544]
"'Tis strange," observed the Solitary, "strange
It seems, and scarcely less than pitiful,
That in a land where charity provides
For all that[545] can no longer feed themselves,
380
A man like this should choose to bring his shame
To the parental door; and with his sighs
[250]
Infect the air which he had freely breathed
In happy infancy. He could not pine,
Through lack of converse;[546] no—he must have found
385
Abundant exercise for thought and speech,
In his dividual being, self-reviewed,
Self-catechised, self-punished.—Some there are
Who, drawing near their final home, and much
And daily longing that the same were reached,
390
Would rather shun than seek the fellowship
Of kindred mould.—Such haply here are laid?"
"Yes," said the Priest, "the Genius of our hills—
Who seems, by these stupendous barriers cast
Round his domain, desirous not alone
395
To keep his own, but also to exclude
All other progeny—doth sometimes lure,
Even by his[547] studied depth of privacy,
The unhappy alien hoping to obtain
Concealment, or seduced by wish to find,
400
In place from outward molestation free,
Helps to internal ease. Of many such
Could I discourse; but as their stay was brief,
So their departure only left behind
Fancies, and loose conjectures. Other trace
405
Survives, for worthy mention, of a pair
Who, from the pressure of their several fates,
Meeting as strangers, in a petty town[HJ]
Whose blue roofs ornament a distant reach
409
Of this far-winding vale,[HJ] remained as friends
True to their choice; and gave their bones in trust
[251]
To this loved cemetery, here to lodge
With unescutcheoned privacy interred
Far from the family vault.—A Chieftain one[HK]
By right of birth; within whose spotless breast
415
The fire of ancient Caledonia burned:
He, with the foremost whose impatience hailed
The Stuart, landing to resume, by force
Of arms, the crown which bigotry had lost,
Aroused his clan; and, fighting at their head,
420
With his brave sword endeavoured to prevent
Culloden's fatal overthrow. Escaped
From that disastrous rout, to foreign shores
He fled; and when the lenient hand of time
Those troubles had appeased, he sought and gained,
425
For his obscured condition, an obscure
Retreat, within this nook of English ground.
"The other, born in Britain's southern tract,
Had fixed his milder loyalty, and placed
His gentler sentiments of love and hate,
There, where they placed them who in conscience prized
431
The new succession, as a line of kings
Whose oath had virtue to protect the land
Against the dire assaults of papacy
And arbitrary rule. But launch thy bark
435
On the distempered flood of public life,
And cause for most rare triumph will be thine
If, spite of keenest eye and steadiest hand,
The stream, that bears thee forward, prove not, soon
Or late, a perilous master. He—who oft,
440
Beneath[548] the battlements and stately trees
[252]
That round his mansion cast a sober gloom,
Had moralised on this, and other truths
Of kindred import, pleased and satisfied—
Was forced to vent his wisdom with a sigh
445
Heaved from the heart in fortune's bitterness,
When he had crushed a plentiful estate
By ruinous contest, to obtain a seat
In Britain's senate. Fruitless was the attempt:
And while the uproar of that desperate strife
450
Continued yet to vibrate on his ear,
The vanquished Whig,[HL] under a borrowed name,[549]
(For the mere sound and echo of his own
Haunted him with sensations of disgust
That[550] he was glad to lose) slunk from the world
455
To the deep shade of those[551] untravelled Wilds;
In which the Scottish Laird had long possessed
An undisturbed abode. Here, then, they met,
Two doughty champions; flaming Jacobite
And sullen Hanoverian! You might think
460
That losses and vexations, less severe
Than those which they had severally sustained,
Would have inclined each to abate his zeal
For his ungrateful cause; no,—I have heard
My reverend Father tell that, 'mid the calm
465
Of that small town encountering thus, they filled,
Daily, its bowling-green with harmless strife;
Plagued with uncharitable thoughts the church;
And vexed the market-place. But in the breasts
Of these opponents gradually was wrought,
[253] 470
With little change of general sentiment,
Such leaning towards[552] each other, that their days
By choice were spent in constant fellowship;
And if, at times, they fretted with the yoke,
474
Those very bickerings made them love it more.
"A favourite boundary to their lengthened walks
This Church-yard was. And, whether they had come
Treading their path in sympathy and linked
In social converse, or by some short space
Discreetly parted to preserve the peace,
480
One spirit seldom failed to extend its sway
Over both minds, when they awhile had marked
The visible quiet of this holy ground,
And breathed its soothing air;—the spirit of hope
And saintly magnanimity; that—spurning
485
The field of selfish difference and dispute,
And every care which transitory things,
Earth and the kingdoms of the earth, create—
Doth, by a rapture of forgetfulness,
Preclude forgiveness, from the praise debarred,
490
Which else the Christian virtue might have claimed.
"There live who yet remember here to have seen
Their courtly figures, seated on the stump
Of an old yew, their favourite resting-place.
But as the remnant of the long-lived tree
495
Was disappearing by a swift decay,
They, with joint care, determined to erect,
Upon its site, a dial,[HM] that might stand
[254]
For public use preserved, and thus survive[553]
As their own private monument: for this
500
Was the particular spot, in which they wished
(And Heaven was pleased to accomplish the desire)
That, undivided, their remains should lie.
So, where the mouldered tree had stood, was raised
Yon structure, framing, with the ascent of steps
505
That to the decorated pillar[HN] lead,
A work of art more sumptuous than might seem
To suit this place;[554] yet built in no proud scorn
Of rustic homeliness; they only aimed
To ensure for it respectful guardianship.
510
Around the margin of the plate, whereon
The shadow falls to note the stealthy hours,
Winds an inscriptive legend."—At these words
Thither we turned; and gathered, as we read,
The appropriate sense, in Latin numbers couched:
515
'Time flies; it is his melancholy task
To bring, and bear away, delusive hopes,
And re-produce the troubles he destroys.
But, while his blindness thus is occupied,
Discerning Mortal! do thou serve the will
520
Of Time's eternal Master, and that peace,
Which the world wants, shall be for thee confirmed!'[555]
"Smooth verse, inspired by no unlettered Muse,"
Exclaimed the Sceptic, "and the strain of thought
Accords with nature's language;—the soft voice
[255] 525
Of yon white torrent falling down the rocks[HO]
Speaks, less distinctly, to the same effect.
If, then, their blended influence be not lost
Upon our hearts, not wholly lost, I grant,
Even upon mine, the more are we required
530
To feel for those among our fellow-men,
Who, offering no obeisance to the world,
Are yet made desperate by 'too quick a sense
Of constant infelicity,'[HP] cut off
From peace like exiles on some barren rock,
535
Their life's appointed prison; not more free
Than sentinels, between two armies, set,
With nothing better, in the chill night air,
Than their own thoughts to comfort them. Say why
That ancient story of Prometheus[HQ] chained
540
To the bare rock, on frozen Caucasus;
The vulture,[556] the inexhaustible repast
Drawn from his vitals? Say what meant the woes
By Tantalus[HR] entailed upon his race,
And the dark sorrows of the line of Thebes?[HS]
[256] 545
Fictions in form, but in their substance truths,
Tremendous truths! familiar to the men
Of long-past times, nor obsolete in ours.
Exchange the shepherd's frock of native grey
For robes with regal purple tinged; convert
550
The crook into a sceptre; give the pomp
Of circumstance; and here the tragic Muse
Shall find apt subjects for her highest art.
Amid the groves, under the shadowy hills,[557]
The generations are prepared; the pangs,
555
The internal pangs, are ready; the dread strife
Of poor humanity's afflicted will
Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny."
"Though," said the Priest in answer, "these be terms
Which a divine philosophy rejects,
560
We, whose established and unfailing trust
Is in controlling Providence, admit
That, through all stations, human life abounds
With mysteries;—for, if Faith were left untried,
How could the might, that lurks within her, then
565
Be shown? her glorious excellence—that ranks
Among the first of Powers and Virtues—proved?
Our system is not fashioned to preclude
That sympathy which you for others ask;
And I could tell, not travelling for my theme
570
Beyond these humble graves, of grievous crimes
And strange disasters;[558] but I pass them by,
[257]
Loth to disturb what Heaven hath hushed in peace.
—Still less, far less, am I inclined to treat
Of Man degraded in his Maker's sight
575
By the deformities of brutish vice:
For, in such portraits, though a vulgar face[559]
And a coarse outside of repulsive life
And unaffecting manners might at once[560]
Be recognised by all—" "Ah! do not think,"
580
The Wanderer somewhat eagerly exclaimed,
"Wish could be ours that you, for such poor gain,
(Gain shall I call it?—gain of what?—for whom?)
Should breathe a word tending to violate
Your own pure spirit. Not a step we look for
585
In slight of that forbearance and reserve
Which common human-heartedness inspires,
And mortal ignorance and frailty claim,
Upon this sacred ground, if nowhere else."
"True," said the Solitary, "be it far
590
From us to infringe the laws of charity.
Let judgment here in mercy be pronounced;
This, self-respecting Nature prompts, and this
Wisdom enjoins; but if the thing we seek
Be genuine knowledge, bear we then in mind
595
How, from his lofty throne, the sun can fling
Colours as bright on exhalations bred
By weedy pool or pestilential swamp,
As by the rivulet sparkling where it runs,
Or the pellucid lake."
"Small risk," said I,
600
"Of such illusion do we here incur;
Temptation here is none to exceed the truth;
[258]
No evidence appears that they who rest
Within this ground, were covetous of praise,
Or of remembrance even, deserved or not.
605
Green is the Church-yard, beautiful and green,
Ridge rising gently by the side of ridge,
A heaving surface, almost wholly free
From interruption of sepulchral stones,
And mantled o'er with aboriginal turf
610
And everlasting flowers.[HT] These Dalesmen trust
The lingering gleam of their departed lives
To oral record,[561] and the silent heart;
Depositories[562] faithful and more kind
Than fondest epitaph: for, if those fail,[563]
What boots the sculptured tomb? And who can blame,
616
Who rather would not envy, men that feel
This mutual confidence; if, from such source,
The practice flow,—if thence, or from a deep
And general humility in death?
620
Nor should I much condemn it, if it spring
From disregard of time's destructive power,
As only capable to prey on things
Of earth, and human nature's mortal part.
"Yet—in less simple districts, where we see
[259] 625
Stone lift its forehead emulous of stone[HU]
In courting notice; and the ground all paved
With commendations of departed worth;
Reading, where'er we turn, of innocent lives,
Of each domestic charity fulfilled,
630
And sufferings meekly borne—I, for my part,
Though with the silence pleased that[564] here prevails,
Among those fair recitals also range,
Soothed by the natural spirit which they breathe.
And, in the centre of a world whose soil
635
Is rank with all unkindness, compassed round
With such memorials, I have sometimes felt,
It was[565] no momentary happiness
To have one Enclosure where the voice that speaks
In envy or detraction is not heard;
640
Which malice may not enter; where the traces
Of evil inclinations are unknown;
Where love and pity tenderly unite
With resignation; and no jarring tone
Intrudes, the peaceful concert to disturb
Of amity and gratitude."
645
"Thus sanctioned,"
The Pastor said, "I willingly confine
My narratives to subjects that excite
Feelings with these accordant; love, esteem,
And admiration; lifting up a veil,
650
A sunbeam introducing among hearts
Retired and covert; so that ye shall have
Clear images before your gladdened eyes
Of nature's unambitious underwood,
[260]
And flowers that prosper in the shade. And when
655
I speak of such among my flock as swerved
Or fell, those only shall be singled out[566]
Upon whose lapse, or error, something more
Than brotherly forgiveness may attend;
To such will we restrict our notice, else
Better my tongue were mute.
660
"And yet there are,
I feel, good reasons why we should not leave
Wholly untraced a more forbidding way.
For, strength to persevere and to support,
And energy to conquer and repel—
665
These elements of virtue, that declare
The native grandeur of the human soul—
Are oft-times not unprofitably shown
In the perverseness of a selfish course:
Truth every day exemplified, no less
670
In the grey cottage by the murmuring stream
Than in[567] fantastic conqueror's roving camp,
Or 'mid[568] the factious senate unappalled
Whoe'er may sink, or rise—to sink again,[569]
As[570] merciless proscription ebbs and flows.
675
"There," said the Vicar, pointing as he spake,
"A woman rests in peace; surpassed by few
In power of mind, and eloquent discourse.
Tall was her stature; her complexion dark
[261] 679
And saturnine;[HV] her head not raised to hold[571]
Converse with heaven, nor yet deprest towards earth,
But in projection carried, as she walked
For ever musing. Sunken were her eyes;
Wrinkled and furrowed with habitual thought
Was her broad forehead; like the brow of one
685
Whose visual nerve shrinks from a painful glare
Of overpowering light.—While yet a child,
She, 'mid the humble flowerets of the vale,
Towered like the imperial thistle, not unfurnished
With its appropriate grace, yet rather seeking[572]
690
To be admired, than coveted and loved.
Even at that age she ruled, a sovereign queen,
Over her comrades;[573] else their simple sports,
Wanting all relish for her strenuous mind,
Had crossed her only to be shunned with scorn.[574]
[262] 695
—Oh! pang of sorrowful regret for those[575]
Whom, in their youth, sweet study has enthralled,
That they have lived for harsher servitude,
Whether in soul, in body, or estate!
Such doom was hers; yet nothing could subdue
700
Her keen desire of knowledge, nor efface[576]
Those brighter images by books imprest
Upon her memory, faithfully as stars
That occupy their places, and, though oft
Hidden by clouds, and oft bedimmed by haze,
705
Are not to be extinguished, nor impaired.[577]
"Two passions, both degenerate, for they both
Began in honour, gradually obtained
Rule over her, and vexed her daily life;
An unremitting,[578] avaricious thrift;
710
And a strange thraldom of maternal love,
That held her spirit, in its own despite,
Bound—by vexation, and regret, and scorn,
Constrained forgiveness, and relenting vows,
And tears, in pride suppressed, in shame concealed—
715
To a poor dissolute Son, her only child.
—Her wedded days had opened with mishap,
Whence dire dependence. What could she perform
To shake the burthen off? Ah! there was felt,
Indignantly, the weakness of her sex.
720
She mused, resolved, adhered to her resolve;
The hand grew slack in alms-giving, the heart[579]
[263]
Closed by degrees to charity; heaven's blessing
Not seeking from that source, she placed her trust[580]
In ceaseless pains—and strictest parsimony
725
Which sternly hoarded all that could be spared,
From each day's need, out of each day's least gain.[581]
"Thus[582] all was re-established, and a pile
Constructed, that sufficed for every end,
Save the contentment of the builder's mind;
730
A mind by nature indisposed to aught
So placid, so inactive, as content;
A mind intolerant of lasting peace,
And cherishing the pang her heart deplored.[583]
Dread life of conflict! which I oft compared
735
To the agitation of a brook that runs
Down a rocky mountain, buried now and lost
In silent pools, now in strong eddies chained;[584]
But never to be charmed to gentleness:
[264]
Its best attainment fits of such repose
740
As timid eyes might shrink from fathoming.[585][HW]
"A sudden illness seized her in the strength
Of life's autumnal season.—Shall I tell
How on her bed of death the Matron lay,
To Providence submissive, so she thought;
745
But fretted, vexed, and wrought upon, almost
To anger, by the malady that griped
Her prostrate frame with unrelaxing power,
As the fierce eagle fastens on the lamb?
She prayed, she moaned;—her husband's sister watched
750
Her dreary pillow, waited on her needs;
And yet the very sound of that kind foot
Was anguish to her ears! 'And must she rule,'
This was the death-doomed[586] Woman heard to say
In bitterness, 'and must she rule and reign,
755
'Sole Mistress of this house, when I am gone?
'Tend what I tended,[587] calling it her own!'
Enough;—I fear, too much.—One vernal evening,[588]
While she was yet in prime of health and strength,
I well remember, while I passed her door
[265] 760
Alone,[589] with loitering step, and upward eye
Turned towards the planet Jupiter that hung
Above the centre of the Vale, a voice
Roused me, her voice; it said, 'That glorious star
'In its untroubled element will shine
765
'As now it shines, when we are laid in earth
'And safe from all our sorrows.' With a sigh
She spake, yet, I believe, not unsustained
By faith in glory that shall far transcend
Aught by these perishable heavens disclosed
770
To sight or mind. Nor less than care divine
Is divine mercy. She, who had rebelled,
Was into meekness softened and subdued;
Did, after trials not in vain prolonged,
With resignation sink into the grave;
775
And her uncharitable acts,[590] I trust,
And harsh unkindnesses are all forgiven,
Tho', in this Vale, remembered with deep awe."

The Vicar paused; and toward a seat advanced,
A long stone-seat, fixed in the Church-yard wall;[HX]
780
Part shaded by cool sycamore, and part
Offering a sunny resting-place to them[591]
Who seek the House of worship, while the bells
[266]
Yet ring with all their voices, or before
The last hath ceased its solitary knoll.
785
Beneath the shade we all sate down;[592] and there
His office, uninvited, he resumed.
"As on a sunny bank, a tender lamb
Lurks in safe shelter from the winds of March,
Screened by its parent, so that little mound
790
Lies guarded by its neighbour; the small heap
Speaks for itself; an Infant there doth rest;
The sheltering hillock is the Mother's grave.[HY]
If mild discourse, and manners that conferred
A natural dignity on humblest rank;
795
If gladsome spirits, and benignant looks,
That for a face not beautiful did more
Than beauty for the fairest face can do;
And if religious tenderness of heart,
Grieving for sin, and penitential tears
800
Shed when the clouds had gathered and distained
The spotless ether of a maiden life;
If these may make a hallowed spot of earth
More holy in the sight of God or Man;
Then, o'er that mould,[593] a sanctity shall brood
805
Till the stars sicken at the day of doom.
"Ah! what a warning for a thoughtless man,
Could field or grove, could[594] any spot of earth,
[267]
Show to his eye an image of the pangs
Which it hath witnessed;[HZ] render back an echo
810
Of the sad steps by which it hath been trod!
There, by her innocent Baby's precious grave,
And on the very turf[595] that roofs her own,
The Mother oft was seen to stand, or kneel
In the broad day, a weeping Magdalene.[596]
815
Now she is not; the swelling turf reports
Of the fresh shower, but of poor Ellen's tears
Is silent; nor is any vestige left
Of the path worn by mournful tread of her
Who, at her heart's light bidding, once had moved
820
In virgin fearlessness, with step that seemed[597]
Caught from the pressure of elastic turf
Upon the mountains gemmed[598] with morning dew,
In the prime hour of sweetest scents and airs.
—Serious and thoughtful was her mind; and yet,
825
By reconcilement exquisite and rare,
The form, port, motions, of this Cottage-girl
Were such as might have quickened and inspired
A Titian's hand, addrest to picture forth
[268]
Oread or Dryad glancing through the shade
830
What time the hunter's earliest horn is heard
Startling the golden hills.
"A wide-spread elm
Stands in our valley, named THE JOYFUL TREE;[599]
From dateless usage which our peasants hold
Of giving welcome to the first of May
835
By dances round its trunk.—And if the sky
Permit, like honours, dance and song, are paid
To the Twelfth Night, beneath the frosty stars
Or the clear moon. The queen of these gay sports,
If not in beauty yet in sprightly air,
840
Was hapless Ellen.—No one touched the ground
So deftly, and the nicest maiden's locks
Less gracefully were braided;—but this praise,
Methinks, would better suit another place.
"She loved, and fondly deemed herself beloved.
845
—The road is dim, the current unperceived,
The weakness painful and most pitiful,
By which a virtuous woman, in pure youth,
May be delivered to distress and shame.
Such fate was hers.—The last time Ellen danced,
850
Among her equals, round THE JOYFUL TREE,
She bore a secret burthen; and full soon
Was left to tremble for a breaking vow,—
Then, to bewail a sternly-broken vow,
Alone, within her widowed Mother's house.
855
It was the season of unfolding leaves,
Of days advancing toward their utmost length,
And small birds singing happily to mates
Happy as they. With spirit-saddening power
[269]
Winds pipe through fading woods; but those blithe notes[600]
860
Strike the deserted to the heart; I speak
Of what I know, and what we feel within.
—Beside the cottage in which Ellen dwelt
Stands a tall ash-tree; to whose topmost twig
A thrush resorts, and annually chants,
865
At morn and evening from that naked perch,
While all the undergrove is thick with leaves,
A time-beguiling ditty, for delight
Of his fond partner, silent in the nest.
—'Ah why,' said Ellen, sighing to herself,
870
'Why do not words, and kiss, and solemn pledge;
And nature that is kind in woman's breast,
And reason that in man is wise and good,
And fear of him who is a righteous judge;
Why do not these prevail for human life,
875
To keep two hearts together, that began
Their spring-time with one love, and that have need
Of mutual pity and forgiveness, sweet
To grant, or be received; while that poor bird—
O come and hear him! Thou who hast to me
Been faithless, hear him, though a lowly creature,
881
One of God's simple children that yet know not
The universal Parent, how he sings
As if he wished the firmament of heaven
Should listen, and give back to him the voice
885
Of his triumphant constancy and love;
The proclamation that he makes, how far
His darkness doth transcend our fickle light!'
[270]
"Such was the tender passage, not by me
Repeated without loss of simple phrase,
890
Which I perused, even as the words had been
Committed by forsaken Ellen's hand
To the blank margin of a Valentine,
Bedropped with tears. 'Twill please you to be told
That, studiously withdrawing from the eye
895
Of all companionship, the Sufferer yet
In lonely reading found a meek resource:
How thankful for the warmth of summer days,
When she could slip into the cottage-barn,
And find a secret oratory there;
900
Or, in the garden, under friendly veil
Of their long twilight, pore upon her book[601]
By the last lingering help of the open sky
Until dark night[602] dismissed her to her bed!
Thus did a waking fancy sometimes lose
905
The unconquerable pang of despised love.[IA]
"A kindlier passion opened[603] on her soul
When that poor Child was born. Upon its face
She gazed[604] as on a pure and spotless gift
Of unexpected promise, where a grief
[271] 910
Or dread was all that had been thought of,—joy
Far livelier than bewildered traveller feels,
Amid a perilous waste that all night long
Hath harassed him toiling through fearful storm,[605]
When he beholds the first pale speck serene
915
Of day-spring, in the gloomy east, revealed,
And greets it with thanksgiving. 'Till this hour,'
Thus, in her Mother's hearing Ellen spake,
'There was a stony region in my heart;
'But He, at whose command the parched rock
'Was smitten, and poured forth a quenching stream,
921
'Hath softened that obduracy, and made
'Unlooked-for gladness in the desert place,
'To save the perishing; and, henceforth, I breathe
'The air with cheerful spirit, for thy sake[606]
925
'My Infant! and for that good Mother dear,
'Who bore me; and hath prayed for me in vain;—
'Yet not in vain; it shall not be in vain.'
She spake, nor was the assurance unfulfilled;
And if heart-rending thoughts would oft return,
They stayed not long.—The blameless Infant grew;
931
The Child whom Ellen and her Mother loved
They soon were proud of; tended it and nursed;
A soothing comforter, although forlorn;
Like a poor singing-bird from distant lands;
935
Or a choice shrub, which he, who passes by
With vacant mind, not seldom may observe
Fair-flowering in a thinly-peopled house,
Whose window, somewhat sadly, it adorns.
"Through four months' space the Infant drew its food
[272] 940
From the maternal breast; then scruples rose;
Thoughts, which the rich are free from, came and crossed
The fond affection.[607] She no more could bear
By her offence to lay a two-fold weight
On a kind parent willing to forget
945
Their slender means: so, to that parent's care
Trusting her child, she left their common home,
And undertook with dutiful content[608]
A Foster-mother's office.
"'Tis, perchance,
Unknown to you that in these simple vales
950
The natural feeling of equality
Is by domestic service unimpaired;[IB]
Yet, though such service be, with us, removed
From sense of degradation, not the less
The ungentle mind can easily find means
955
To impose severe restraints and laws unjust,
Which hapless Ellen now was doomed to feel:
For (blinded by an over-anxious dread
Of such excitement and divided thought[609]
As with her office would but ill accord)[610]
960
The pair, whose infant she was bound to nurse,
Forbad her all communion with her own:
Week after week, the mandate they enforced.[611]
[273]
—So near! yet not allowed, upon that sight
To fix her eyes-alas! 'twas hard to bear!
965
But worse affliction must be borne—far worse;
For 'tis Heaven's will—that, after a disease
Begun and ended within three days' space,
Her child should die; as Ellen now exclaimed,
Her own—deserted child!—Once, only once,
970
She saw it in that mortal malady;
And, on the burial-day, could scarcely gain
Permission to attend its obsequies.
She reached the house, last of the funeral train;
And some one, as she entered, having chanced
975
To urge unthinkingly their prompt departure,
'Nay,' said she, with commanding look, a spirit
Of anger never seen in her before,
'Nay, ye must wait my time!' and down she sate,
And by the unclosed coffin kept her seat
980
Weeping and looking, looking on and weeping,
Upon the last sweet slumber of her Child,
Until at length her soul was satisfied.
"You see the Infant's Grave; and to this spot,
The Mother, oft as she was sent abroad,
985
On whatsoever errand, urged her steps:
Hither she came; here stood, and sometimes knelt[612]
In the broad day, a rueful Magdalene!
So call her; for not only she bewailed
A mother's loss, but mourned in bitterness
990
Her own transgression; penitent sincere
As ever raised to heaven a streaming eye!
—At length the parents of the foster-child,
[274]
Noting that in despite of their commands
She still renewed and could not but renew
995
Those visitations, ceased to send her forth;
Or, to the garden's narrow bounds, confined.
I failed not to remind them that they erred;
For holy Nature might not thus be crossed,
Thus wronged in woman's breast: in vain I pleaded—
1000
But the green stalk of Ellen's life was snapped,
And the flower drooped; as every eye could see,
It hung its head in mortal languishment.
—Aided by this appearance, I at length
Prevailed; and, from those bonds released, she went
Home to her mother's house.
1005
"The Youth was fled;
The rash betrayer could not face the shame
Or sorrow which his senseless guilt had caused;
And little would his presence, or proof given
Of a relenting soul, have now availed;
1010
For, like a shadow, he was passed away
From Ellen's thoughts; had perished to her mind
For all concerns of fear, or hope, or love,
Save only those which to their common shame,
And to his moral being appertained:
1015
Hope from that quarter would, I know, have brought
A heavenly comfort; there she recognised
An unrelaxing bond, a mutual need;
There, and, as seemed, there only.
"She had built,[613]
Her fond maternal heart had built, a nest
1020
In blindness all too near the river's edge;
That work a summer flood with hasty swell
Had swept away; and now her Spirit longed
For its last flight to heaven's security.
—The bodily frame wasted from day to day;[614]
[275] 1025
Meanwhile, relinquishing all other cares,
Her mind she strictly tutored to find peace
And pleasure in endurance. Much she thought,
And much she read; and brooded feelingly
Upon her own unworthiness. To me,
1030
As to a spiritual comforter and friend,
Her heart she opened; and no pains were spared
To mitigate, as gently as I could,
The sting of self-reproach, with healing words.
Meek Saint! through patience glorified on earth!
1035
In whom, as by her lonely hearth she sate,
The ghastly face of cold decay put on
A sun-like beauty, and appeared divine!
May I not mention—that, within those[615] walls,
In due observance of her pious wish,
1040
The congregation joined with me in prayer
For her soul's good? Nor was that office vain.
—Much did she suffer: but, if any friend,
Beholding her condition, at the sight
Gave way to words of pity or complaint,
1045
She stilled them with a prompt reproof, and said,
'He who afflicts me knows what I can bear;
'And, when I fail, and can endure no more,
'Will mercifully take me to himself.'
So, through the cloud of death, her Spirit passed
1050
Into that pure and unknown world of love
Where injury cannot come:—and here is laid
The mortal Body by her Infant's side."
The Vicar ceased; and downcast looks made known
That each had listened with his inmost heart.
1055
For me, the emotion scarcely was less strong
Or less benign than that which I had felt
When seated near my venerable Friend,
[276]
Under[616] those shady elms, from him I heard
The story that retraced the slow decline
1060
Of Margaret, sinking on the lonely heath
With the neglected house to which she clung.[617]
—I noted that the Solitary's cheek
Confessed the power of nature.—Pleased though sad,
More pleased than sad, the grey-haired Wanderer sate;
1065
Thanks to his pure imaginative soul
Capacious and serene; his blameless life,
His knowledge, wisdom, love of truth, and love
Of human kind! He was it who first broke
The pensive silence, saying:—
"Blest are they
1070
Whose sorrow rather is to suffer wrong
Than to do wrong, albeit[618] themselves have erred.
This tale gives proof that Heaven most gently deals
With such, in their affliction.—Ellen's fate,
Her tender spirit, and her contrite heart,
1075
Call to my mind dark hints which I have heard
Of one who died within this vale, by doom
Heavier, as his offence was heavier far.
Where, Sir, I pray you, where are laid the bones
Of Wilfred Armathwaite?"
The Vicar answered,
1080
"In that green nook, close by the Church-yard wall,
Beneath yon hawthorn, planted by myself
In memory and for warning, and in sign
Of sweetness where dire anguish had been known,
Of reconcilement after deep offence—
1085
There doth he rest. No theme his fate supplies
For the smooth glozings of the indulgent world;
[277]
Nor need the windings of his devious course
Be here retraced;—enough that, by mishap
And venial error, robbed of competence,
1090
And her[619] obsequious shadow, peace of mind,
He craved a substitute in troubled joy;
Against his conscience rose in arms, and, braving
Divine displeasure, broke the marriage-vow.[620]
That which he had been weak enough to do
1095
Was misery in remembrance; he was stung,
Stung by his inward thoughts, and by the smiles
Of wife and children stung to agony.
Wretched at home, he gained no peace abroad;
[278]
Ranged through the mountains, slept upon the earth,
1100
Asked comfort of the open air, and found
No quiet in the darkness of the night,
No pleasure in the beauty of the day.
His flock he slighted: his paternal fields
Became a clog to him, whose spirit wished
1105
To fly—but whither! And this gracious Church,
That wears a look so full of peace and hope
And love, benignant mother of the vale,
How fair amid her brood of cottages!
She was to him a sickness and reproach.
1110
Much to the last remained unknown: but this
Is sure, that through remorse and grief he died;
Though pitied among men, absolved by God,
He could not find forgiveness in himself;
Nor could endure the weight of his own shame.
1115
"Here rests a Mother. But from her I turn
And from her grave.—Behold—upon that ridge,
That,[621] stretching boldly from the mountain side,
Carries into the centre of the vale
Its rocks and woods—the Cottage where she dwelt;
1120
And where yet dwells her faithful Partner, left
(Full eight years past) the solitary prop
Of many helpless Children. I begin
With words that[622] might be prelude to a tale
Of sorrow and dejection; but I feel
1125
No sadness, when I think of what mine eyes
See daily in that happy family.
—Bright garland form they for the pensive brow
Of their undrooping Father's widowhood,
Those six fair Daughters, budding yet—not one,
1130
Not one of all the band, a full-blown flower.
[279]
Deprest, and desolate of soul, as once
That Father was, and filled with anxious fear,
Now, by experience taught, he stands assured,
That God, who takes away, yet takes not half
1135
Of what he seems to take; or gives it back,
Not to our prayer, but far beyond our prayer;
He gives it—the boon produce of a soil
Which our endeavours have refused to till,
And hope hath never watered. The Abode,
1140
Whose grateful owner can attest these truths,
Even were the object nearer to our sight,
Would seem in no distinction to surpass
The rudest habitations. Ye might think
That it had sprung self-raised from earth, or grown
1145
Out of the living rock, to be adorned
By nature only; but, if thither led,
Ye would discover, then, a studious work
Of many fancies, prompting many hands.
"Brought from the woods the honeysuckle twines
1150
Around the porch, and seems, in that trim place,
A plant no longer wild; the cultured rose
There blossoms, strong in health, and will be soon
Roof-high; the wild pink crowns the garden-wall,
And with the flowers are intermingled stones
1155
Sparry and bright, rough scatterings[623] of the hills.
These ornaments, that fade not with the year,
A hardy Girl continues to provide;
Who, mounting fearlessly the rocky heights,
Her Father's prompt attendant, does for him
1160
All that a boy could do, but with delight
More keen and prouder daring; yet hath she,
Within the garden, like the rest, a bed
For her own flowers and favourite herbs, a space,
By sacred charter, holden for her use.
1165
—These, and whatever else the garden bears
[280]
Of fruit or flower, permission asked or not,
I freely gather; and my leisure draws
A not unfrequent pastime from the hum
Of bees around their range of sheltered hives
1170
Busy in that enclosure; while the rill,[624]
That sparkling thrids the rocks, attunes his voice
To the pure course of human life which there
Flows on in solitude. But, when the gloom
Of night is falling round my steps, then most
1175
This Dwelling charms me; often I stop short,[625]
(Who could refrain?) and feed by stealth my sight
With prospect of the company within,
Laid open through the blazing window:—there
I see the eldest Daughter at her wheel
1180
Spinning amain, as if to overtake
The never-halting time; or, in her turn,
Teaching some Novice of the sisterhood
That skill in this or other household work,
Which, from her Father's honoured hand, herself,
1185
While she was yet a little-one, had learned.
Mild Man! he is not gay, but they are gay;
And the whole house seems filled with gaiety.
—Thrice happy, then, the Mother may be deemed,
The Wife, from whose consolatory grave[626]
1190
I turned, that ye in mind might witness where,
And how, her Spirit yet survives on earth!"
[281] Book Sixth, continued in Editions of 1814 and 1820 only
"The next three Ridges—those upon the left—
By close connexion with our present thoughts
Tempt me to add, in praise of humble worth,
1195
Their brief and unobtrusive history.
—One Hillock, ye may note, is small and low,
Sunk almost to a level with the plain
By weight of time; the Others, undepressed,
Are bold and swelling. There a Husband sleeps,
1200
Deposited, in pious confidence
Of glorious resurrection with the just,
Near the loved Partner of his early days;
And, in the bosom of that family mold,
A second Wife is gathered to his side;
1205
The approved Assistant of an arduous course
From his mid noon of manhood to old age!
He also of his Mate deprived, was left
Alone—'mid many Children; One a Babe
Orphaned as soon as born. Alas! 'tis not
1210
In course of nature that a Father's wing
Should warm these Little-ones; and can he feed?
That was a thought of agony more keen.
For, hand in hand with Death, by strange mishap
And chance-encounter on their diverse road,
1215
The ghastlier shape of Poverty had entered
Into that House, unfeared and unforeseen.
He had stepped forth, in time of urgent need,
The generous Surety of a Friend: and now
The widowed Father found that all his rights
1220
In his paternal fields were undermined.
Landless he was and pennyless.—The dews
Of night and morn that wet the mountain sides,
The bright stars twinkling on their dusky tops,
Were conscious of the pain that drove him forth
1225
From his own door, he knew not when—to range
He knew not where; distracted was his brain,
[282]
His heart was cloven; and full oft he prayed,
In blind despair, that God would take them all.
—But suddenly, as if in one kind moment
1230
To encourage and reprove, a gleam of light
Broke from the very bosom of that cloud
Which darkened the whole prospect of his days.
For He, who now possessed the joyless right
To force the Bondsman from his house and lands,
1235
In pity, and by admiration urged
Of his unmurmuring and considerate mind
Meekly submissive to the law's decree,
Lightened the penalty with liberal hand.
—The desolate Father raised his head, and looked
1240
On the wide world in hope. Within these walls,
In course of time was solemnized the vow
Whereby a virtuous Woman, of grave years
And of prudential habits, undertook
The sacred office of a wife to him,
1245
Of Mother to his helpless family.
—Nor did she fail, in nothing did she fail,
Through various exercise of twice ten years,
Save in some partial fondness for that Child
Which at the birth she had received, the Babe
1250
Whose heart had known no Mother but herself.
—By mutual efforts; by united hopes;
By daily-growing help of boy and girl,
Trained early to participate that zeal
Of industry, which runs before the day
1255
And lingers after it; by strong restraint
Of an economy which did not check
The heart's more generous motions tow'rds themselves
Or to their neighbours; and by trust in God;
This Pair insensibly subdued the fears
1260
And troubles that beset their life: and thus
Did the good Father and his second Mate
Redeem at length their plot of smiling fields.
These, at this day, the eldest Son retains:
The younger Offspring, through the busy world,
1265
Have all been scattered wide, by various fates;
But each departed from the native Vale,
In beauty flourishing, and moral worth."

VARIANTS:

[510] 1827.

1814.
Second Marriage of a Widower prudential and happy.

[511] 1832.

1814.
... as long as sea ...

[512] 1827.

... of English Hearts,
That can perceive, not less than heretofore
1814.
Our Ancestors did feelingly perceive,

[513] 1836.

1814.
... their minds

[514] 1827.

1814.
... ambition's ...

[515] 1827.

1814.
And ...

[516] 1845.

1814.
Of reverence to the spirit of the place;

[517] 1827.

A Visitor—intent upon the task
1814.
Of prying, low and high, for herbs and flowers:

[518] 1836.

... that he was crazed in brain
1814.
By unrequited love; and scaled the rocks,

[519] 1836.

1814.
"Believe it not—oh! never could that be!"

[520] 1827.

... and pined
1814.
When he had told his love, and sued in vain,

[521] 1827.

... Beauty wears,
1814.
That he could brook, ...

[522] 1827.

... but the Maid was gone!
She, whose dear name with unregarded sighs
He long had blessed, whose Image was preserved—
Shrined in his breast with fond idolatry,
1814.
Had vanished ...

[523] 1845.

1814.
... as misery is mine!'

[524]

MS.
... seek for truth

[525] 1827.

... circumspect and slow.
Of rustic Parents bred, He had been trained,
(So prompted their aspiring wish) to skill
In numbers and the sedentary art
Of penmanship,—with pride professed, and taught
By his endeavours in the mountain dales.
Now, those sad tidings weighing on his heart,
To books, and papers, and the studious desk,
He stoutly re-addressed himself—resolved
To quell his pain, and enter on the path
Of old pursuits with keener appetite
And closer industry. Of what ensued
1814.
Within his soul, ...
MS.
Within his heart ...

[526] 1836.

1814.
Within their souls, a fount of grace divine;

[527] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[528] 1832.

1814.
Will cover him; in height of strength—to earth

[529] 1827.

1814.
Some farewell words; and, with those words, a prayer

[530] 1827.

A Book, upon the surface of whose leaves
1814.
Some chosen plants, disposed with nicest care,

[531] 1827.

One whose Endeavours did at length achieve
A victory less worthy of regard,
1814.
Though marvellous in its kind. A Place exists

[532] 1836.

In search of treasure there by Nature formed,
1814.
And there concealed: but they who tried were foiled,
... to unite their pains
1827.
In search of precious ore: who tried were foiled,

[533] 1827.

... save he alone;
1814.
Who ...

[534] 1827.

... to the view
Of the Old Man, and to his trembling grasp,
1814.
His bright, his long-deferred, his dear reward.
MS.
... his long deferred reward.

[535] 1836.

1814.
Of schemes and wishes; in the day-light walked

[536] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[537] 1840.

1814.
... more light than He;

[538] 1827.

Amid these wilds; a composition framed
Of qualities so adverse—to diffuse,
Where'er he moved, diversified delight;
A simple answer may suffice, even this,
1814.
'Twas Nature's will; ...

[539] 1827.

And the Owl's Prey; none permanently house
1814.
But many harbour; from these Haunts, to which

[540] 1827.

1814.
... sunk ...

[541] 1832.

1814.
Not ...

[542] 1827.

—Truths I record to many known, for such
1814.
The not unfrequent tenor of his boast

[543] 1836.

1814.
... of different kind:

[544] 1836.

1814.
... with those who sleep."
1827.
... with them who sleep."

[545] 1827.

1814.
... who ...

[546] 1827.

... He could not pine,
Whencee'er rejected howsoe'er forlorn,
1814.
Through lack of converse, ...

[547] 1845.

1814.
Even by this ...

[548] 1836.

1814.
Under ...

[549] 1836.

1814.
... beneath a borrowed name,

[550] 1827.

1814.
Which ...

[551] 1836.

1814.
... these ...

[552] 1845.

1814.
Such change towards ...

[553] 1827.

... which should stand
1814.
For public use; and also might survive

[554] 1827.

... as might seem,
1814.
Than suits this Place; ...

[555] Italics were first used in 1827.

[556] 1845.

... of Prometheus chained?
1814.
The Vulture— ...

[557] 1836.

1814.
... beneath ...

[558] 1827.

Beyond the limits of these humble graves,
1814.
Of strange disasters; ...

[559] 1827.

For, though from these materials might be framed
1814.
Harsh portraiture, in which a vulgar face

[560] 1820.

1814.
... may at once

[561] 1836.

1814.
... records ...

[562] 1836.

1814.
Depository ...

[563] 1836.

1814.
Than fondest Epitaphs: for, if it fail,
1827.
Than fondest epitaphs: for, if that fail,

[564] 1827.

1814.
... which ...

[565] 1832.

1814.
That 'twas ...

[566] 1836.

1814.
... will I single out ...

[567] 1827.

1814.
Than the ...

[568] 1827.

1814.
Or in ...

[569] This line was first inserted