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The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. III by William Wordsworth

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Hushed in profound repose. We left the town
Of Gravedona [Hh] with this hope; but soon 700
Were lost, bewildered among woods immense,
And on a rock sate down, to wait for day.
An open place it was, and overlooked,
From high, the sullen water far beneath,
On which a dull red image of the moon 705
Lay bedded, changing oftentimes its form
Like an uneasy snake. From hour to hour
We sate and sate, wondering, as if the night
Had been ensnared by witchcraft. On the rock
At last we stretched our weary limbs for sleep, 710
But _could not_ sleep, tormented by the stings
Of insects, which, with noise like that of noon,
Filled all the woods; the cry of unknown birds;
The mountains more by blackness visible
And their own size, than any outward light; 715
The breathless wilderness of clouds; the clock
That told, with unintelligible voice,
The widely parted hours; the noise of streams,
And sometimes rustling motions nigh at hand,
That did not leave us free from personal fear; 720
And, lastly, the withdrawing moon, that set
Before us, while she still was high in heaven;--
These were our food; and such a summer's night [Ii]
Followed that pair of golden days that shed
On Como's Lake, and all that round it lay, 725
Their fairest, softest, happiest influence.

But here I must break off, and bid farewell
To days, each offering some new sight, or fraught
With some untried adventure, in a course
Prolonged till sprinklings of autumnal snow 730
Checked our unwearied steps. Let this alone
Be mentioned as a parting word, that not
In hollow exultation, dealing out
Hyperboles of praise comparative;
Not rich one moment to be poor for ever; 735
Not prostrate, overborne, as if the mind
Herself were nothing, a mere pensioner
On outward forms--did we in presence stand
Of that magnificent region. On the front
Of this whole Song is written that my heart 740
Must, in such Temple, needs have offered up
A different worship. Finally, whate'er
I saw, or heard, or felt, was but a stream
That flowed into a kindred stream; a gale,
Confederate with the current of the soul, 745
To speed my voyage; every sound or sight,
In its degree of power, administered
To grandeur or to tenderness,--to the one
Directly, but to tender thoughts by means
Less often instantaneous in effect; 750
Led me to these by paths that, in the main,
Were more circuitous, but not less sure
Duly to reach the point marked out by Heaven.

Oh, most beloved Friend! a glorious time,
A happy time that was; triumphant looks 755
Were then the common language of all eyes;
As if awaked from sleep, the Nations hailed
Their great expectancy: the fife of war
Was then a spirit-stirring sound indeed,
A black-bird's whistle in a budding grove. 760
We left the Swiss exulting in the fate
Of their near neighbours; and, when shortening fast
Our pilgrimage, nor distant far from home,
We crossed the Brabant armies on the fret [Kk]
For battle in the cause of Liberty. 765
A stripling, scarcely of the household then
Of social life, I looked upon these things
As from a distance; heard, and saw, and felt,
Was touched, but with no intimate concern;
I seemed to move along them, as a bird 770
Moves through the air, or as a fish pursues
Its sport, or feeds in its proper element;
I wanted not that joy, I did not need
Such help; the ever-living universe,
Turn where I might, was opening out its glories, 775
And the independent spirit of pure youth
Called forth, at every season, new delights
Spread round my steps like sunshine o'er green fields.

* * * * *


[Variant 1:

... gloomy Pass, 1845.]

[Variant 2:

At a slow step 1845.]

* * * * *


[Footnote A: To Cambridge. The Anglo-Saxons called it 'Grantabridge', of
which Cambridge may be a corruption, Granta and Cam being different
names for the same stream. Grantchester is still the name of a village
near Cambridge. It is uncertain whether the village or the city itself
is the spot of which Bede writes, "venerunt ad civitatulam quandam
desolatam, quae lingua Anglorum 'Grantachester' vocatur." If it was
Cambridge itself it had already an alternative name, _viz._
'Camboricum'. Compare 'Cache-cache', a Tale in Verse, by William D.
Watson. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1862:

"Leaving our woods and mountains for the plains
Of treeless level Granta." (p. 103.)
"'Twas then the time
When in two camps, like Pope and Emperor,
Byron and Wordsworth parted Granta's sons."

(p. 121.) Ed.]

[Footnote B: Note the meaning, as well as the 'curiosa felicitas', of
this phrase.--Ed.]

[Footnote C: His Cambridge studies were very miscellaneous, partly owing
to his strong natural disinclination to work by rule, partly to
unmethodic training at Hawkshead, and to the fact that he had already
mastered so much of Euclid and Algebra as to have a twelvemonth's start
of the freshmen of his year.

"Accordingly," he tells us, "I got into rather an idle way, reading
nothing but Classic authors, according to my fancy, and Italian
poetry. As I took to these studies with much interest my Italian
master was proud of the progress I made. Under his correction I
translated the Vision of Mirza, and two or three other papers of the
'Spectator' into Italian."

Speaking of her brother Christopher, then at Cambridge, Dorothy
Wordsworth wrote thus in 1793:

"He is not so ardent in any of his pursuits as William is, but he is
yet particularly attached to the same pursuits which have so
irresistible an influence over William, _and deprive him of the power
of chaining his attention to others discordant to his feelings._"


[Footnote D: April 1804.--Ed.]

[Footnote E: There is no ash tree now in the grove of St. John's
College, Cambridge, and no tradition as to where it stood. Covered as it
was--trunk and branch--with "clustering ivy" in 1787, it survived till
1808 at any rate. See Note IV. in the Appendix to this volume, p.

[Footnote F: See notes on pp. 210 [Footnote F to Book V] and 223
Footnote C to this Book, above].--Ed.]

[Footnote G: Before leaving Hawkshead he had mastered five books of
Euclid, and in Algebra, simple and quadratic equations. See note, p. 223
[Footnote C to this Book, above].--Ed.]

[Footnote H: Compare the second stanza of the 'Ode to Lycoris':

'Then, Twilight is preferred to Dawn,
And Autumn to the Spring.'


[Footnote I: Thomson. See the 'Castle of Indolence', canto I. stanza

[Footnote K: Dovedale, a rocky chasm, rather more than two miles long,
not far from Ashburn, in Derbyshire. Thomas Potts writes of it

"The rugged, dissimilar, and frequently grotesque and fanciful
appearance of the rocks distinguish the scenery of this valley from
perhaps every other in the kingdom. In some places they shoot up in
detached masses, in the form of spires or conical pyramids, to the
height of 30 or 40 yards.... One rock, distinguished by the name of
the Pike, from its spiry form and situation in the midst of the
stream, was noticed in the second part of 'The Complete Angler', by
Charles Cotton," etc. etc.

('The Beauties of England and Wales,' Derbyshire, vol. iii, pp. 425,
426, and 431. London, 1810.) Potts speaks of the "pellucid waters" of
the Dove. "It is transparent to the bottom." (See Whately, 'Observations
on Modern Gardening', p. 114.)--Ed.]

[Footnote L: Doubtless Wharfedale, Wensleydale, and Swaledale.--Ed.]

[Footnote M: Compare 'Paradise Lost', v. 310, and in Chapman's 'Blind
Beggar of Alexandria':

'Now see a morning in an evening rise.'


[Footnote N: For glimpses of the friendship of Dorothy Wordsworth and
Coleridge, see the 'Life' of the poet in the last volume of this

[Footnote O: The absence referred to--"separation desolate"--may refer
both to the Hawkshead years, and to those spent at Cambridge; but
doubtless the brother and sister met at Penrith, in vacation time from
Hawkshead School; and, after William Wordsworth had gone to the
university, Dorothy visited Cambridge, while the brother spent the
Christmas holidays of 1790 at Forncett Rectory in Norfolk, where his
sister was then staying, and where she spent several years with their
uncle Cookson, the Canon of Windsor. It is more probable that the
"separation desolate" refers to the interval between this Christmas of
1790 and their reunion at Halifax in 1794. In a letter dated Forncett,
August 30, 1793, Dorothy says, referring to her brother, "It is nearly
three years since we parted."--Ed.]

[Footnote P: Thomas Wilkinson's poem on the River Emont had been written
in 1787, but was not published till 1824.--Ed.]

[Footnote Q: Brougham Castle, at the junction of the Lowther and the
Emont, about a mile out of Penrith, south-east, on the Appleby road.
This castle is associated with other poems. See the 'Song at the Feast
of Brougham Castle'.--Ed.]

[Footnote R: Sir Philip Sidney, author of 'Arcadia'.--Ed.]

[Footnote S: Mary Hutchinson.--Ed.]

[Footnote T: The Border Beacon is the hill to the north-east of Penrith.
It is now covered with wood, but was in Wordsworth's time a "bare

[Footnote U: He had gone to Malta, "in search of health."--Ed.]

[Footnote V: The Etesian gales are the mild north winds of the
Mediterranean, which are periodical, lasting about six weeks in spring
and autumn.--Ed.]

[Footnote W: A blue-coat boy in London.--Ed.]

[Footnote X: Christ's Hospital. Compare Charles Lamb's 'Christ's
Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago'.

"Come back into memory, like as thou wert in the dayspring of thy
fancies, with hope like a fiery column before thee--the dark pillar
not yet turned--Samuel Taylor Coleridge--Logician, Metaphysician,
Bard!--How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand
still, entranced with admiration (while he weighed the disproportion
between the _speech_ and the _garb_ of the young Mirandula), to hear
thee unfold, in thy deep and sweet intonations, the mysteries of
Jamblichus, or Plotinus (for even in those years thou waxedst not pale
at such philosophic draughts), or reciting Homer in his Greek, or
Pindar--while the walls of the old Grey Friars re-echoed to the
accents of the _inspired charity boy_!"

('Essays of Elia.')--Ed.]

[Footnote Y: The river Otter, in Devon, thus addressed by Coleridge in
one of his early poems:

'Dear native Brook! wild Streamlet of the West!
How many various-fated years have passed,
What blissful and what anguished hours, since last
I skimmed the smooth thin stone along thy breast,
Numbering its light leaps! Yet so deep imprest
Sink the sweet scenes of Childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny haze,
But straight with all their tints, thy waters rise,
Thy crowning plank, thy margin's willowy maze,
And bedded sand that veined with various dyes
Gleamed through thy bright transparence to the gaze!
Visions of childhood! oft have ye beguiled
Lone Manhood's cares, yet waking fondest sighs,
Ah! that once more I were a careless child!'


[Footnote Z: Coleridge entered Jesus College, Cambridge, in February
1791, just a month after Wordsworth had taken his B. A. degree, and left
the university.--Ed.]

[Footnote a: Coleridge worked laboriously but unmethodically at
Cambridge, studying philosophy and politics, besides classics and
mathematics. He lost his scholarship however.--Ed.]

[Footnote b: Debt and despondency; flight to London; enlistment in the
Dragoons; residence in Bristol; Republican lectures; scheme, along with
Southey, for founding a new community in America; its abandonment; his
marriage; life at Nether Stowey; editing 'The Watchman'; lecturing on
Shakespeare; contributing to 'The Morning Chronicle'; preaching in
Unitarian pulpits; publishing his 'Juvenile Poems', etc. etc.; and
throughout eccentric, impetuous, original--with contagious enthusiasm
and overflowing genius--but erratic, self-confident, and unstable.--Ed.]

[Footnote c: Robert Jones, of Plas-yn-llan, near Ruthin, Denbighshire,
to whom the 'Descriptive Sketches', which record the tour, were

[Footnote d: See 'Descriptive Sketches', vol. i. p. 35.--Ed.]

[Footnote e: Compare Shakespeare, 'Sonnets', 16:

'Now stand you on the top of happy hours.'


[Footnote f: In 1790, most of what could be shaken in the order of
European, and especially of French society and government, _was_ shaken
and changed. By the new constitution of 1790, to which the French king
took an oath of fidelity, his power was reduced to a shadow, and two
years later France became a Republic.

"We crossed at the time," wrote Wordsworth to his sister, "when the
whole nation was mad with joy in consequence of the Revolution."


[Footnote g:

"We went staff in hand, without knapsacks, and carrying each his
needments tied up in a pocket handkerchief, with about twenty pounds
a-piece in our pockets."

W. W. ('Autobiographical Memoranda.)--Ed.]

[Footnote h: July 14, 1790.

"We crossed from Dover and landed at Calais, on the eve of the day
when the King was to swear fidelity to the new constitution: an event
which was solemnised with due pomp at Calais."

W. W. ('Autobiographical Memoranda.') See also the sonnet "dedicated to
National Independence and Liberty," vol. ii. p. 332. beginning,

'Jones! as from Calais southward you and I,
and compare the human nature seeming born again'

of 'The Prelude', book vi. I, 341, with "the pomp of a too-credulous
day" and the "homeless sound of joy" of the sonnet.--Ed.]

[Footnote i: They went by Ardres, Peronne, Soissons, Chateau Thierry,
Sezanne, Bar le Duc, Chatillon-sur-Seine, Nuits, to Chalons-sur-Saone;
and thence sailed down to Lyons. See Fenwick note to 'Stray Pleasures'
(vol. iv.)

"The town of Chalons, where my friend Jones and I halted a day, when
we crossed France, so far on foot. There we embarqued, and floated
down to Lyons."


[Footnote k: Compare 'Descriptive Sketches', vol. i. p 40:

'Or where her pathways straggle as they please
By lonely farms and secret villages.'


[Footnote m:

"Her road elms rustling thin above my head."

(See 'Descriptive Sketches', vol. i. pp. 39, 40, and compare the two
passages in detail.)--Ed.]

[Footnote n: On the 29th July 1790.--Ed.]

[Footnote o: They were at Lyons on the 30th July.--Ed.]

[Footnote p: They reached the Chartreuse on the 4th of August, and spent
two days there "contemplating, with increasing pleasure," says
Wordsworth, "its wonderful scenery."--Ed.]

[Footnote q: The forest of St. Bruno, near the Chartreuse.--Ed.]

[Footnote r: "Names of rivers at the Chartreuse."--W. W. 1793.

They are called in 'Descriptive Sketches', vol. i. p. 41, "the mystic
streams of Life and Death."--Ed.]

[Footnote s: "Name of one of the vallies of the Chartreuse."--W. W.

[Footnote t: "Alluding to crosses seen on the spiry rocks of the
Chartreuse, which have every appearance of being inaccessible."--W. W.

[Footnote u: It extended from July 13 to September 29. See the detailed
Itinerary, vol. i. p. 332, and Wordsworth's letter to his sister, from
Keswill, describing the trip.--Ed.]

[Footnote v: See the account of "Urseren's open vale serene," and the
paragraph which follows it in 'Descriptive Sketches', vol. i. pp. 50,

[Footnote w: See the account of these "abodes of peaceful man," in
'Descriptive Sketches', ll. 208-253.--Ed.]

[Footnote x: Probably the valley between Martigny and the Col de

[Footnote y: Wordsworth and Jones crossed from Martigny to Chamouni on
the 11th of August. The "bare ridge," from which they first "beheld
unveiled the summit of Mont Blanc," and were disenchanted, was doubtless
the Col de Balme. The first view of the great mountain is not impressive
as seen from that point, or indeed from any of the possible routes to
Chamouni from the Rhone valley, until the village is almost reached. The
best approach is from Sallanches by St. Gervais.--Ed.]

[Footnote z: Compare Coleridge's 'Hymn before sun-rise in the Vale of
Chamouni', and Shelley's 'Mont Blanc', with Wordsworth's description of
the Alps, here in 'The Prelude', in 'Descriptive Sketches', and in the
'Memorials of a Tour on the Continent'.--Ed.]

[Footnote Aa: August 17, 1790.--Ed.]

[Footnote Bb: This passage beginning, "The brook and road," was first
published, amongst the "Poems of the Imagination," in the edition of
1845, under the title of 'The Simplon Pass' (see vol. ii. p. 69). It is
doubtless to this walk down the Italian side of the Simplon route that
Wordsworth refers in the letter to his sister from Keswill, in which he

"The impression of there hours of our walk among these Alps will never
be effaced."


[Footnote Cc: The old hospice in the Simplon, which is beside a torrent
below the level of the road, about 22 miles from Duomo d'Ossola.--Ed.]

[Footnote Dd:

"From Duomo d'Ossola we proceeded to the lake of Locarno,
to visit the Boromean Islands, and thence to Como."

(W. W. to his sister.) The lake of Locarno is now called Lago

[Footnote Ee:

"The shores of the lake consist of steeps, covered with large sweeping
woods of chestnut, spotted with villages."

(W. W. to his sister.)--Ed.]

[Footnote Ff:

"A small footpath is all the communication by land between one village
and another on the side along which we passed, for upwards of thirty
miles. We entered on this path about noon, and, owing to the steepness
of the banks, were soon unmolested by the sun, which illuminated the
woods, rocks, and villages of the opposite shore."

(See letter of W. W. from Keswill.)--Ed.]

[Footnote Gg: See 'Descriptive Sketches', vol. i. pp. 42-46.--Ed.]

[Footnote Hh: They followed the lake of Como to its head, leaving
Gravedona on the 20th August.--Ed.]

[Footnote Ii: August 21, 1790.--Ed.]

[Footnote Kk: They reached Cologne on the 28th September, having floated
down the Rhine in a small boat; and from Cologne went to Calais, through

* * * * *



Six changeful years have vanished since I first
Poured out (saluted by that quickening breeze
Which met me issuing from the City's [A] walls)
A glad preamble to this Verse: [B] I sang
Aloud, with fervour irresistible 5
Of short-lived transport, like a torrent bursting,
From a black thunder-cloud, down Scafell's side
To rush and disappear. But soon broke forth
(So willed the Muse) a less impetuous stream,
That flowed awhile with unabating strength, 10
Then stopped for years; not audible again
Before last primrose-time, [C] Beloved Friend!
The assurance which then cheered some heavy thoughts
On thy departure to a foreign land [D]
Has failed; too slowly moves the promised work. 15
Through the whole summer have I been at rest, [E]
Partly from voluntary holiday,
And part through outward hindrance. But I heard,
After the hour of sunset yester-even,
Sitting within doors between light and dark, 20
A choir of redbreasts gathered somewhere near
My threshold,--minstrels from the distant woods
Sent in on Winter's service, to announce,
With preparation artful and benign,
That the rough lord had left the surly North 25
On his accustomed journey. The delight,
Due to this timely notice, unawares
Smote me, and, listening, I in whispers said,
"Ye heartsome Choristers, ye and I will be
Associates, and, unscared by blustering winds, 30
Will chant together." Thereafter, as the shades
Of twilight deepened, going forth, I spied
A glow-worm underneath a dusky plume
Or canopy of yet unwithered fern,
Clear-shining, like a hermit's taper seen 35
Through a thick forest. Silence touched me here
No less than sound had done before; the child
Of Summer, lingering, shining, by herself,
The voiceless worm on the unfrequented hills,
Seemed sent on the same errand with the choir 40
Of Winter that had warbled at my door,
And the whole year breathed tenderness and love.

The last night's genial feeling overflowed
Upon this morning, and my favourite grove,
Tossing in sunshine its dark boughs aloft, [F] 45
As if to make the strong wind visible,
Wakes in me agitations like its own,
A spirit friendly to the Poet's task,
Which we will now resume with lively hope,
Nor checked by aught of tamer argument 50
That lies before us, needful to be told.

Returned from that excursion, [G] soon I bade
Farewell for ever to the sheltered seats [H]
Of gowned students, quitted hall and bower,
And every comfort of that privileged ground, 55
Well pleased to pitch a vagrant tent among
The unfenced regions of society.

Yet, undetermined to what course of life
I should adhere, and seeming to possess
A little space of intermediate time 60
At full command, to London first I turned, [I]
In no disturbance of excessive hope,
By personal ambition unenslaved,
Frugal as there was need, and, though self-willed,
From dangerous passions free. Three years had flown [K] 65
Since I had felt in heart and soul the shock
Of the huge town's first presence, and had paced
Her endless streets, a transient visitant: [K]
Now, fixed amid that concourse of mankind
Where Pleasure whirls about incessantly, 70
And life and labour seem but one, I filled
An idler's place; an idler well content
To have a house (what matter for a home?)
That owned him; living cheerfully abroad
With unchecked fancy ever on the stir, 75
And all my young affections out of doors.

There was a time when whatsoe'er is feigned
Of airy palaces, and gardens built
By Genii of romance; or hath in grave
Authentic history been set forth of Rome, 80
Alcairo, Babylon, or Persepolis;
Or given upon report by pilgrim friars,
Of golden cities ten months' journey deep
Among Tartarian wilds--fell short, far short,
Of what my fond simplicity believed 85
And thought of London--held me by a chain
Less strong of wonder and obscure delight.
Whether the bolt of childhood's Fancy shot
For me beyond its ordinary mark,
'Twere vain to ask; but in our flock of boys 90
Was One, a cripple from his birth, whom chance
Summoned from school to London; fortunate
And envied traveller! When the Boy returned,
After short absence, curiously I scanned
His mien and person, nor was free, in sooth, 95
From disappointment, not to find some change
In look and air, from that new region brought,
As if from Fairy-land. Much I questioned him;
And every word he uttered, on my ears
Fell flatter than a caged parrot's note, 100
That answers unexpectedly awry,
And mocks the prompter's listening. Marvellous things
Had vanity (quick Spirit that appears
Almost as deeply seated and as strong
In a Child's heart as fear itself) conceived 105
For my enjoyment. Would that I could now
Recal what then I pictured to myself,
Of mitred Prelates, Lords in ermine clad,
The King, and the King's Palace, and, not last,
Nor least, Heaven bless him! the renowned Lord Mayor: 110
Dreams not unlike to those which once begat
A change of purpose in young Whittington,
When he, a friendless and a drooping boy,
Sate on a stone, and heard the bells speak out
Articulate music. [L] Above all, one thought 115
Baffled my understanding: how men lived
Even next-door neighbours, as we say, yet still
Strangers, not knowing each the other's name.

O, wond'rous power of words, by simple faith
Licensed to take the meaning that we love! 120
Vauxhall and Ranelagh! I then had heard
Of your green groves, [M] and wilderness of lamps
Dimming the stars, and fireworks magical,
And gorgeous ladies, under splendid domes,
Floating in dance, or warbling high in air 125
The songs of spirits! Nor had Fancy fed
With less delight upon that other class
Of marvels, broad-day wonders permanent:
The River proudly bridged; the dizzy top
And Whispering Gallery of St. Paul's; the tombs 130
Of Westminster; the Giants of Guildhall;
Bedlam, and those carved maniacs at the gates, [N]
Perpetually recumbent; Statues--man,
And the horse under him--in gilded pomp
Adorning flowery gardens, 'mid vast squares; 135
The Monument, [O] and that Chamber of the Tower [P]
Where England's sovereigns sit in long array,
Their steeds bestriding,--every mimic shape
Cased in the gleaming mail the monarch wore,
Whether for gorgeous tournament addressed, 140
Or life or death upon the battle-field.
Those bold imaginations in due time
Had vanished, leaving others in their stead:
And now I looked upon the living scene;
Familiarly perused it; oftentimes, 145
In spite of strongest disappointment, pleased
Through courteous self-submission, as a tax
Paid to the object by prescriptive right.

Rise up, thou monstrous ant-hill on the plain
Of a too busy world! Before me flow, 150
Thou endless stream of men and moving things!
Thy every-day appearance, as it strikes--
With wonder heightened, or sublimed by awe--
On strangers, of all ages; the quick dance
Of colours, lights, and forms; the deafening din; 155
The comers and the goers face to face,
Face after face; the string of dazzling wares,
Shop after shop, with symbols, blazoned names,
And all the tradesman's honours overhead:
Here, fronts of houses, like a title-page, 160
With letters huge inscribed from top to toe,
Stationed above the door, like guardian saints;
There, allegoric shapes, female or male,
Or physiognomies of real men,
Land-warriors, kings, or admirals of the sea, 165
Boyle, Shakespeare, Newton, or the attractive head
Of some quack-doctor, famous in his day.

Meanwhile the roar continues, till at length,
Escaped as from an enemy, we turn
Abruptly into some sequestered nook, 170
Still as a sheltered place when winds blow loud!
At leisure, thence, through tracts of thin resort,
And sights and sounds that come at intervals,
We take our way. A raree-show is here,
With children gathered round; another street 175
Presents a company of dancing dogs,
Or dromedary, with an antic pair
Of monkeys on his back; a minstrel band
Of Savoyards; or, single and alone,
An English ballad-singer. Private courts, 180
Gloomy as coffins, and unsightly lanes
Thrilled by some female vendor's scream, belike
The very shrillest of all London cries,
May then entangle our impatient steps;
Conducted through those labyrinths, unawares, 185
To privileged regions and inviolate,
Where from their airy lodges studious lawyers
Look out on waters, walks, and gardens green.

Thence back into the throng, until we reach,
Following the tide that slackens by degrees, 190
Some half-frequented scene, where wider streets
Bring straggling breezes of suburban air.
Here files of ballads dangle from dead walls;
Advertisements, of giant-size, from high
Press forward, in all colours, on the sight; 195
These, bold in conscious merit, lower down;
_That_, fronted with a most imposing word,
Is, peradventure, one in masquerade.
As on the broadening causeway we advance,
Behold, turned upwards, a face hard and strong 200
In lineaments, and red with over-toil.
'Tis one encountered here and everywhere;
A travelling cripple, by the trunk cut short,
And stumping on his arms. In sailor's garb
Another lies at length, beside a range 205
Of well-formed characters, with chalk inscribed
Upon the smooth flat stones: the Nurse is here,
The Bachelor, that loves to sun himself,
The military Idler, and the Dame,
That field-ward takes her walk with decent steps. 210

Now homeward through the thickening hubbub, where
See, among less distinguishable shapes,
The begging scavenger, with hat in hand;
The Italian, as he thrids his way with care,
Steadying, far-seen, a frame of images 215
Upon his head; with basket at his breast
The Jew; the stately and slow-moving Turk,
With freight of slippers piled beneath his arm!

Enough;--the mighty concourse I surveyed
With no unthinking mind, well pleased to note 220
Among the crowd all specimens of man,
Through all the colours which the sun bestows,
And every character of form and face:
The Swede, the Russian; from the genial south,
The Frenchman and the Spaniard; from remote 225
America, the Hunter-Indian; Moors,
Malays, Lascars, the Tartar, the Chinese,
And Negro Ladies in white muslin gowns.

At leisure, then, I viewed, from day to day,
The spectacles within doors,--birds and beasts 230
Of every nature, and strange plants convened
From every clime; and, next, those sights that ape
The absolute presence of reality,
Expressing, as in mirror, sea and land,
And what earth is, and what she has to shew. 235
I do not here allude to subtlest craft,
By means refined attaining purest ends,
But imitations, fondly made in plain
Confession of man's weakness and his loves.
Whether the Painter, whose ambitious skill 240
Submits to nothing less than taking in
A whole horizon's circuit, do with power,
Like that of angels or commissioned spirits,
Fix us upon some lofty pinnacle,
Or in a ship on waters, with a world 245
Of life, and life-like mockery beneath,
Above, behind, far stretching and before;
Or more mechanic artist represent
By scale exact, in model, wood or clay,
From blended colours also borrowing help, 250
Some miniature of famous spots or things,--
St. Peter's Church; or, more aspiring aim,
In microscopic vision, Rome herself;
Or, haply, some choice rural haunt,--the Falls
Of Tivoli; and, high upon that steep, 255
The Sibyl's mouldering Temple! every tree,
Villa, or cottage, lurking among rocks
Throughout the landscape; tuft, stone scratch minute--
All that the traveller sees when he is there.

Add to these exhibitions, mute and still, 260
Others of wider scope, where living men,
Music, and shifting pantomimic scenes,
Diversified the allurement. Need I fear
To mention by its name, as in degree,
Lowest of these and humblest in attempt, 265
Yet richly graced with honours of her own,
Half-rural Sadler's Wells? [Q] Though at that time
Intolerant, as is the way of youth
Unless itself be pleased, here more than once
Taking my seat, I saw (nor blush to add, 270
With ample recompense) giants and dwarfs,
Clowns, conjurors, posture-masters, harlequins,
Amid the uproar of the rabblement,
Perform their feats. Nor was it mean delight
To watch crude Nature work in untaught minds; 275
To note the laws and progress of belief;
Though obstinate on this way, yet on that
How willingly we travel, and how far!
To have, for instance, brought upon the scene
The champion, Jack the Giant-killer: Lo! 280
He dons his coat of darkness; on the stage
Walks, and achieves his wonders, from the eye
Of living Mortal covert, "as the moon
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave." [R]
Delusion bold! and how can it be wrought? 285
The garb he wears is black as death, the word
"_Invisible_" flames forth upon his chest.

Here, too, were "forms and pressures of the time," [S]
Rough, bold, as Grecian comedy displayed
When Art was young; dramas of living men, 290
And recent things yet warm with life; a sea-fight,
Shipwreck, or some domestic incident
Divulged by Truth and magnified by Fame,
Such as the daring brotherhood of late
Set forth, too serious theme for that light place--295
I mean, O distant Friend! a story drawn
From our own ground,--the Maid of Buttermere,--[T]
And how, unfaithful to a virtuous wife
Deserted and deceived, the spoiler came
And wooed the artless daughter of the hills, 300
And wedded her, in cruel mockery
Of love and marriage bonds. [U] These words to thee
Must needs bring back the moment when we first,
Ere the broad world rang with the maiden's name,
Beheld her serving at the cottage inn, 305
Both stricken, as she entered or withdrew,
With admiration of her modest mien
And carriage, marked by unexampled grace.
We since that time not unfamiliarly
Have seen her,--her discretion have observed, 310
Her just opinions, delicate reserve,
Her patience, and humility of mind
Unspoiled by commendation and the excess
Of public notice--an offensive light
To a meek spirit suffering inwardly. 315

From this memorial tribute to my theme
I was returning, when, with sundry forms
Commingled--shapes which met me in the way
That we must tread--thy image rose again,
Maiden of Buttermere! She lives in peace 320
Upon the spot where she was born and reared;
Without contamination doth she live
In quietness, without anxiety:
Beside the mountain chapel, sleeps in earth
Her new-born infant, fearless as a lamb 325
That, thither driven from some unsheltered place,
Rests underneath the little rock-like pile
When storms are raging. Happy are they both--
Mother and child!--These feelings, in themselves
Trite, do yet scarcely seem so when I think 330
On those ingenuous moments of our youth
Ere we have learnt by use to slight the crimes
And sorrows of the world. Those simple days
Are now my theme; and, foremost of the scenes,
Which yet survive in memory, appears 335
One, at whose centre sate a lovely Boy,
A sportive infant, who, for six months' space,
Not more, had been of age to deal about
Articulate prattle--Child as beautiful
As ever clung around a mother's neck, 340
Or father fondly gazed upon with pride.
There, too, conspicuous for stature tall
And large dark eyes, beside her infant stood
The mother; but, upon her cheeks diffused,
False tints too well accorded with the glare 345
From play-house lustres thrown without reserve
On every object near. The Boy had been
The pride and pleasure of all lookers-on
In whatsoever place, but seemed in this
A sort of alien scattered from the clouds. 350
Of lusty vigour, more than infantine
He was in limb, in cheek a summer rose
Just three parts blown--a cottage-child--if e'er,
By cottage-door on breezy mountain side,
Or in some sheltering vale, was seen a babe 355
By Nature's gifts so favoured. Upon a board
Decked with refreshments had this child been placed,
_His_ little stage in the vast theatre,
And there he sate surrounded with a throng
Of chance spectators, chiefly dissolute men 360
And shameless women, treated and caressed;
Ate, drank, and with the fruit and glasses played,
While oaths and laughter and indecent speech
Were rife about him as the songs of birds
Contending after showers. The mother now 365
Is fading out of memory, but I see
The lovely Boy as I beheld him then
Among the wretched and the falsely gay,
Like one of those who walked with hair unsinged
Amid the fiery furnace. Charms and spells 370
Muttered on black and spiteful instigation
Have stopped, as some believe, the kindliest growths.
Ah, with how different spirit might a prayer
Have been preferred, that this fair creature, checked
By special privilege of Nature's love, 375
Should in his childhood be detained for ever!
But with its universal freight the tide
Hath rolled along, and this bright innocent,
Mary! may now have lived till he could look
With envy on thy nameless babe that sleeps, 380
Beside the mountain chapel, undisturbed.

Four rapid years had scarcely then been told [V]
Since, travelling southward from our pastoral hills,
I heard, and for the first time in my life,
The voice of woman utter blasphemy--385
Saw woman as she is, to open shame
Abandoned, and the pride of public vice;
I shuddered, for a barrier seemed at once
Thrown in, that from humanity divorced
Humanity, splitting the race of man 390
In twain, yet leaving the same outward form.
Distress of mind ensued upon the sight
And ardent meditation. Later years
Brought to such spectacle a milder sadness.
Feelings of pure commiseration, grief 395
For the individual and the overthrow
Of her soul's beauty; farther I was then
But seldom led, or wished to go; in truth
The sorrow of the passion stopped me there.

But let me now, less moved, in order take 400
Our argument. Enough is said to show
How casual incidents of real life,
Observed where pastime only had been sought,
Outweighed, or put to flight, the set events
And measured passions of the stage, albeit 405
By Siddons trod in the fulness of her power.
Yet was the theatre my dear delight;
The very gilding, lamps and painted scrolls,
And all the mean upholstery of the place,
Wanted not animation, when the tide 410
Of pleasure ebbed but to return as fast
With the ever-shifting figures of the scene,
Solemn or gay: whether some beauteous dame
Advanced in radiance through a deep recess
Of thick entangled forest, like the moon 415
Opening the clouds; or sovereign king, announced
With flourishing trumpet, came in full-blown state
Of the world's greatness, winding round with train
Of courtiers, banners, and a length of guards;
Or captive led in abject weeds, and jingling 420
His slender manacles; or romping girl
Bounced, leapt, and pawed the air; or mumbling sire,
A scare-crow pattern of old age dressed up
In all the tatters of infirmity
All loosely put together, hobbled in, 425
Stumping upon a cane with which he smites,
From time to time, the solid boards, and makes them
Prate somewhat loudly of the whereabout [W]
Of one so overloaded with his years.
But what of this! the laugh, the grin, grimace, 430
The antics striving to outstrip each other,
Were all received, the least of them not lost,
With an unmeasured welcome. Through the night,
Between the show, and many-headed mass
Of the spectators, and each several nook 435
Filled with its fray or brawl, how eagerly
And with what flashes, as it were, the mind
Turned this way--that way! sportive and alert
And watchful, as a kitten when at play,
While winds are eddying round her, among straws 440
And rustling leaves. Enchanting age and sweet!
Romantic almost, looked at through a space,
How small, of intervening years! For then,
Though surely no mean progress had been made
In meditations holy and sublime, 445
Yet something of a girlish child-like gloss
Of novelty survived for scenes like these;
Enjoyment haply handed down from times
When at a country-playhouse, some rude barn
Tricked out for that proud use, if I perchance 450
Caught, on a summer evening through a chink
In the old wall, an unexpected glimpse
Of daylight, the bare thought of where I was
Gladdened me more than if I had been led
Into a dazzling cavern of romance, 455
Crowded with Genii busy among works
Not to be looked at by the common sun.

The matter that detains us now may seem,
To many, neither dignified enough
Nor arduous, yet will not be scorned by them, 460
Who, looking inward, have observed the ties
That bind the perishable hours of life
Each to the other, and the curious props
By which the world of memory and thought
Exists and is sustained. More lofty themes, 465
Such as at least do wear a prouder face,
Solicit our regard; but when I think
Of these, I feel the imaginative power
Languish within me; even then it slept,
When, pressed by tragic sufferings, the heart 470
Was more than full; amid my sobs and tears
It slept, even in the pregnant season of youth.
For though I was most passionately moved
And yielded to all changes of the scene
With an obsequious promptness, yet the storm 475
Passed not beyond the suburbs of the mind;
Save when realities of act and mien,
The incarnation of the spirits that move
In harmony amid the Poet's world,
Rose to ideal grandeur, or, called forth 480
By power of contrast, made me recognise,
As at a glance, the things which I had shaped,
And yet not shaped, had seen and scarcely seen,
When, having closed the mighty Shakespeare's page,
I mused, and thought, and felt, in solitude. 485

Pass we from entertainments, that are such
Professedly, to others titled higher,
Yet, in the estimate of youth at least,
More near akin to those than names imply,--
I mean the brawls of lawyers in their courts 490
Before the ermined judge, or that great stage [X]
Where senators, tongue-favoured men, perform,
Admired and envied. Oh! the beating heart,
When one among the prime of these rose up,--
One, of whose name from childhood we had heard 495
Familiarly, a household term, like those,
The Bedfords, Glosters, Salsburys, of old
Whom the fifth Harry talks of. [Y] Silence! hush!
This is no trifler, no short-flighted wit,
No stammerer of a minute, painfully 500
Delivered. No! the Orator hath yoked
The Hours, like young Aurora, to his car:
Thrice welcome Presence! how can patience e'er
Grow weary of attending on a track
That kindles with such glory! All are charmed, 505
Astonished; like a hero in romance,
He winds away his never-ending horn;
Words follow words, sense seems to follow sense:
What memory and what logic! till the strain
Transcendent, superhuman as it seemed, 510
Grows tedious even in a young man's ear.

Genius of Burke! forgive the pen seduced
By specious wonders, and too slow to tell
Of what the ingenuous, what bewildered men,
Beginning to mistrust their boastful guides, 515
And wise men, willing to grow wiser, caught,
Rapt auditors! from thy most eloquent tongue--
Now mute, for ever mute in the cold grave.
I see him,--old, but Vigorous in age,--
Stand like an oak whose stag-horn branches start 520
Out of its leafy brow, the more to awe
The younger brethren of the grove. But some--
While he forewarns, denounces, launches forth,
Against all systems built on abstract rights,
Keen ridicule; the majesty proclaims 525
Of Institutes and Laws, hallowed by time;
Declares the vital power of social ties
Endeared by Custom; and with high disdain,
Exploding upstart Theory, insists
Upon the allegiance to which men are born--530
Some--say at once a froward multitude--
Murmur (for truth is hated, where not loved)
As the winds fret within the AEolian cave,
Galled by their monarch's chain. The times were big
With ominous change, which, night by night, provoked 535
Keen struggles, and black clouds of passion raised;
But memorable moments intervened,
When Wisdom, like the Goddess from Jove's brain,
Broke forth in armour of resplendent words,
Startling the Synod. Could a youth, and one 540
In ancient story versed, whose breast had heaved
Under the weight of classic eloquence,
Sit, see, and hear, unthankful, uninspired?

Nor did the Pulpit's oratory fail
To achieve its higher triumph. Not unfelt 545
Were its admonishments, nor lightly heard
The awful truths delivered thence by tongues
Endowed with various power to search the soul;
Yet ostentation, domineering, oft
Poured forth harangues, how sadly out of place!--550
There have I seen a comely bachelor,
Fresh from a toilette of two hours, ascend
His rostrum, with seraphic glance look up,
And, in a tone elaborately low
Beginning, lead his voice through many a maze 555
A minuet course; and, winding up his mouth,
From time to time, into an orifice
Most delicate, a lurking eyelet, small,
And only not invisible, again
Open it out, diffusing thence a smile 560
Of rapt irradiation, exquisite.
Meanwhile the Evangelists, Isaiah, Job,
Moses, and he who penned, the other day,
The Death of Abel, [Z] Shakespeare, and the Bard
Whose genius spangled o'er a gloomy theme 565
With fancies thick as his inspiring stars, [a]
And Ossian (doubt not, 'tis the naked truth)
Summoned from streamy Morven [b]--each and all
Would, in their turns, lend ornaments and flowers
To entwine the crook of eloquence that helped 570
This pretty Shepherd, pride of all the plains,
To rule and guide his captivated flock.

I glance but at a few conspicuous marks,
Leaving a thousand others, that, in hall,
Court, theatre, conventicle, or shop, 575
In public room or private, park or street,
Each fondly reared on his own pedestal,
Looked out for admiration. Folly, vice,
Extravagance in gesture, mien, and dress,
And all the strife of singularity, 580
Lies to the ear, and lies to every sense--
Of these, and of the living shapes they wear,
There is no end. Such candidates for regard,
Although well pleased to be where they were found,
I did not hunt after, nor greatly prize, 585
Nor made unto myself a secret boast
Of reading them with quick and curious eye;
But, as a common produce, things that are
To-day, to-morrow will be, took of them
Such willing note, as, on some errand bound 590
That asks not speed, a Traveller might bestow
On sea-shells that bestrew the sandy beach,
Or daisies swarming through the fields of June.

But foolishness and madness in parade,
Though most at home in this their dear domain, 595
Are scattered everywhere, no rarities,
Even to the rudest novice of the Schools.
Me, rather, it employed, to note, and keep
In memory, those individual sights
Of courage, or integrity, or truth, 600
Or tenderness, which there, set off by foil,
Appeared more touching. One will I select;
A Father--for he bore that sacred name--
Him saw I, sitting in an open square,
Upon a corner-stone of that low wall, 605
Wherein were fixed the iron pales that fenced
A spacious grass-plot; there, in silence, sate
This One Man, with a sickly babe outstretched
Upon his knee, whom he had thither brought
For sunshine, and to breathe the fresher air. 610
Of those who passed, and me who looked at him,
He took no heed; but in his brawny arms
(The Artificer was to the elbow bare,
And from his work this moment had been stolen)
He held the child, and, bending over it, 615
As if he were afraid both of the sun
And of the air, which he had come to seek,
Eyed the poor babe with love unutterable.

As the black storm upon the mountain top
Sets off the sunbeam in the valley, so 620
That huge fermenting mass of human-kind
Serves as a solemn back-ground, or relief,
To single forms and objects, whence they draw,
For feeling and contemplative regard,
More than inherent liveliness and power. 625
How oft, amid those overflowing streets,
Have I gone forward with the crowd, and said
Unto myself, "The face of every one
That passes by me is a mystery!"
Thus have I looked, nor ceased to look, oppressed 630
By thoughts of what and whither, when and how,
Until the shapes before my eyes became
A second-sight procession, such as glides
Over still mountains, or appears in dreams;
And once, far-travelled in such mood, beyond 635
The reach of common indication, lost
Amid the moving pageant, I was smitten
Abruptly, with the view (a sight not rare)
Of a blind Beggar, who, with upright face,
Stood, propped against a wall, upon his chest 640
Wearing a written paper, to explain
His story, whence he came, and who he was.
Caught by the spectacle my mind turned round
As with the might of waters; an apt type
This label seemed of the utmost we can know, 645
Both of ourselves and of the universe;
And, on the shape of that unmoving man,
His steadfast face and sightless eyes, I gazed,
As if admonished from another world.

Though reared upon the base of outward things, 650
Structures like these the excited spirit mainly
Builds for herself; scenes different there are,
Full-formed, that take, with small internal help,
Possession of the faculties,--the peace
That comes with night; the deep solemnity 655
Of nature's intermediate hours of rest,
When the great tide of human life stands still;
The business of the day to come, unborn,
Of that gone by, locked up, as in the grave;
The blended calmness of the heavens and earth, 660
Moonlight and stars, and empty streets, and sounds
Unfrequent as in deserts; at late hours
Of winter evenings, when unwholesome rains
Are falling hard, with people yet astir,
The feeble salutation from the voice 665
Of some unhappy woman, now and then
Heard as we pass, when no one looks about,
Nothing is listened to. But these, I fear,
Are falsely catalogued; things that are, are not,
As the mind answers to them, or the heart 670
Is prompt, or slow, to feel. What say you, then,
To times, when half the city shall break out
Full of one passion, vengeance, rage, or fear?
To executions, to a street on fire,
Mobs, riots, or rejoicings? From these sights 675
Take one,--that ancient festival, the Fair,
Holden where martyrs suffered in past time,
And named of St. Bartholomew; [c] there, see
A work completed to our hands, that lays,
If any spectacle on earth can do, 680
The whole creative powers of man asleep!--
For once, the Muse's help will we implore,
And she shall lodge us, wafted on her wings,
Above the press and danger of the crowd,
Upon some showman's platform. What a shock 685
For eyes and ears! what anarchy and din,
Barbarian and infernal,--a phantasma,
Monstrous in colour, motion, shape, sight, sound!
Below, the open space, through every nook
Of the wide area, twinkles, is alive 690
With heads; the midway region, and above,
Is thronged with staring pictures and huge scrolls,
Dumb proclamations of the Prodigies;
With chattering monkeys dangling from their poles,
And children whirling in their roundabouts; 695
With those that stretch the neck and strain the eyes,
And crack the voice in rivalship, the crowd
Inviting; with buffoons against buffoons
Grimacing, writhing, screaming,--him who grinds
The hurdy-gurdy, at the fiddle weaves, 700
Rattles the salt-box, thumps the kettle-drum,
And him who at the trumpet puffs his cheeks,
The silver-collared Negro with his timbrel,
Equestrians, tumblers, women, girls, and boys,
Blue-breeched, pink-vested, with high-towering plumes.--705
All moveables of wonder, from all parts,
Are here--Albinos, painted Indians, Dwarfs,
The Horse of knowledge, and the learned Pig,
The Stone-eater, the man that swallows fire,
Giants, Ventriloquists, the Invisible Girl, 710
The Bust that speaks and moves its goggling eyes,
The Wax-work, Clock-work, all the marvellous craft
Of modern Merlins, Wild Beasts, Puppet-shows,
All out-o'-the-way, far-fetched, perverted things,
All freaks of nature, all Promethean thoughts 715
Of man, his dullness, madness, and their feats
All jumbled up together, to compose
A Parliament of Monsters. Tents and Booths
Meanwhile, as if the whole were one vast mill,
Are vomiting, receiving on all sides, 720
Men, Women, three-years' Children, Babes in arms.

Oh, blank confusion! true epitome
Of what the mighty City is herself,
To thousands upon thousands of her sons,
Living amid the same perpetual whirl 725
Of trivial objects, melted and reduced
To one identity, by differences
That have no law, no meaning, and no end--
Oppression, under which even highest minds
Must labour, whence the strongest are not free. [d] 730
But though the picture weary out the eye,
By nature an unmanageable sight,
It is not wholly so to him who looks
In steadiness, who hath among least things
An under-sense of greatest; sees the parts 735
As parts, but with a feeling of the whole.
This, of all acquisitions, first awaits
On sundry and most widely different modes
Of education, nor with least delight
On that through which I passed. Attention springs, 740
And comprehensiveness and memory flow,
From early converse with the works of God
Among all regions; chiefly where appear
Most obviously simplicity and power.
Think, how the everlasting streams and woods, 745
Stretched and still stretching far and wide, exalt
The roving Indian, on his desert sands:
What grandeur not unfelt, what pregnant show
Of beauty, meets the sun-burnt Arab's eye:
And, as the sea propels, from zone to zone, 750
Its currents; magnifies its shoals of life
Beyond all compass; spreads, and sends aloft
Armies of clouds,--even so, its powers and aspects
Shape for mankind, by principles as fixed,
The views and aspirations of the soul 755
To majesty. Like virtue have the forms
Perennial of the ancient hills; nor less
The changeful language of their countenances
Quickens the slumbering mind, and aids the thoughts,
However multitudinous, to move 760
With order and relation. This, if still,
As hitherto, in freedom I may speak,
Not violating any just restraint,
As may be hoped, of real modesty,--
This did I feel, in London's vast domain. 765
The Spirit of Nature was upon me there;
The soul of Beauty and enduring Life
Vouchsafed her inspiration, and diffused,
Through meagre lines and colours, and the press
Of self-destroying, transitory things, 770
Composure, and ennobling Harmony.

* * * * *


[Footnote A: Goslar, February 10th, 1799. Compare Mr. Carter's note to
'The Prelude', book vii. l. 3.--Ed.]

[Footnote B: The first two paragraphs of book i.--Ed.]

[Footnote C: April 1804: see the reference in book vi. l. 48.--Ed.]

[Footnote D: Before he left for Malta, Coleridge had urged Wordsworth to
complete this work.--Ed.]

[Footnote E: The summer of 1804.--Ed.]

[Footnote F: Doubtless John's Grove, below White Moss Common. On
November 24, 1801, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her Journal,

"As we were going along, we were stopped at once, at the distance
perhaps of fifty yards from our favourite birch tree. It was yielding
to the gusty wind with all its tender twigs. The sun shone upon it,
and it glanced in the wind like a flying sunshiny shower. It was a
tree in shape, with stem and branches, but it was like a spirit of
water. The sun went in, and it resumed its purplish appearance, the
twigs still yielding to the wind, but not so visibly to us. The other
birch trees that were near it looked bright and cheerful, but it was a
Creation by itself amongst them."

This does not refer to John's Grove, but it may be interesting to
compare the sister's description of a birch tree "tossing in sunshine,"
with the brother's account of a grove of fir trees similarly

[Footnote G: The visit to Switzerland with Jones in 1790, described in
book vi.--Ed.]

[Footnote H: He took his B. A. degree in January 1791, and immediately
afterwards left Cambridge.--Ed.]

[Footnote I: Going to Forncett Rectory, near Norwich, he spent six weeks
with his sister, and then went to London, where he stayed four

[Footnote K: From the hint given in this passage, it would seem that he
had gone up to London for a few days in 1788. Compare book viii. l. 543,
and note [Footnote o].--Ed.]

[Footnote L: The story of Whittington, hearing the bells ring out the
prosperity in store for him,

'Turn again, Whittington,
Thrice Lord Mayor of London,'

is well known.--Ed.]

[Footnote M: Tea-gardens, till well on in this century; now built

[Footnote N: Bedlam, a popular corruption of Bethlehem, a lunatic
hospital, founded in 1246. The old building, with its "carved maniacs at
the gates," was taken down in 1675, and the hospital removed to
Moorfields. The second building--the one to which Wordsworth
refers--was demolished in 1814.--Ed.]

[Footnote O: The London "Monument," erected from a design by Sir
Christopher Wren, on the spot where the great London Fire of 1666

[Footnote P: The historic Tower of London.--Ed.]

[Footnote Q: A theatre in St. John's Street Road, Clerkenwell, erected
in 1765.--Ed.]

[Footnote R: See 'Samson Agonistes', l. 88.--Ed.]

[Footnote S: See 'Hamlet', act I. sc. v. l. 100.--Ed.]

[Footnote T: The story of Mary, "The Maid of Buttermere," as told in the
guidebooks, is as follows:

'She was the daughter of the inn-keeper at the Fish Inn. She was much
admired, and many suitors sought her hand in vain. At last a stranger,
named Hatfield, who called himself the Hon. Colonel Hope, brother of
Lord Hopetoun, won her heart, and married her. Soon after the
marriage, he was apprehended on a charge of forgery, surreptitiously
franking a letter in the name of a Member of Parliament, tried at
Carlisle, convicted, and hanged. It was discovered during the trial,
that he had a wife and family, and had fled to these sequestered parts
to escape the arm of the law.'

See 'Essays on his own Times', by S. T. Coleridge, edited by his
daughter Sara. A melodrama on the story of the Maid of Buttermere was
produced in all the suburban London theatres; and in 1843 a novel was
published in London by Henry Colburn, entitled 'James Hatfield and the
Beauty of Buttermere, a Story of Modern Times', with illustrations by
Robert Cruikshank.--Ed.]

[Footnote U: Compare S. T. C.'s 'Essays on his own Times', p. 585.--Ed.]

[Footnote V: He first went south to Cambridge, in October 1787; and he
left London, at the close of his second visit to Town, in the end of May

[Footnote W: Compare 'Macbeth', act II. sc. i. l. 58:

'Thy very stones prate of my whereabout.'


[Footnote X: The Houses of Parliament.--Ed.]

[Footnote Y: See Shakespeare's 'King Henry the Fifth', act IV. sc. iii.
l. 53.--Ed.]

[Footnote Z: Solomon Gesner (or Gessner), a landscape artist, etcher,
and poet, born at Zuerich in 1730, died in 1787. His 'Tod Abels' (the
death of Abel), though the poorest of all his works, became a favourite
in Germany, France, and England. It was translated into English by Mary
Collyer, a 12th edition of her version appearing in 1780. As 'The Death
of Abel' was written before 1760, in the line "he who penned, the other
day," Wordsworth probably refers to some new edition of the

[Footnote a: Edward Young, author of 'Night Thoughts, on Life, Death,
and Immortality'.--Ed.]

[Footnote b: In Argyleshire.--Ed.]

[Footnote c: Permission was given by Henry I. to hold a "Fair" on St.
Bartholomew's day.--Ed.]

[Footnote d: In one of the MS. books in Dorothy Wordsworth's
handwriting, on the outside leather cover of which is written, "May to
December 1802," there are some lines which were evidently dictated to
her, or copied by her, from the numerous experimental efforts of her
brother in connection with this autobiographical poem. They are as

'Shall he who gives his days to low pursuits
Amid the undistinguishable crowd
Of cities, 'mid the same eternal flow
Of the same objects, melted and reduced
To one identity, by differences
That have no law, no meaning, and no end,
Shall he feel yearning to those lifeless forms,
And shall we think that Nature is less kind
To those, who all day long, through a busy life,
Have walked within her sight? It cannot be.'


* * * * *



What sounds are those, Helvellyn, that [1] are heard
Up to thy summit, through the depth of air
Ascending, as if distance had the power
To make the sounds more audible? What crowd
Covers, or sprinkles o'er, yon village green? [2] 5
Crowd seems it, solitary hill! to thee,
Though but a little family of men,
Shepherds and tillers of the ground--betimes
Assembled with their children and their wives,
And here and there a stranger interspersed. 10
They hold a rustic fair--a festival,
Such as, on this side now, and now on that, [3]
Repeated through his tributary vales,
Helvellyn, in the silence of his rest,
Sees annually, [A] if clouds towards either ocean 15
Blown from their favourite resting-place, or mists
Dissolved, have left him [4] an unshrouded head.
Delightful day it is for all who dwell
In this secluded glen, and eagerly
They give it welcome. [5] Long ere heat of noon, 20
From byre or field the kine were brought; the sheep [6]
Are penned in cotes; the chaffering is begun.
The heifer lows, uneasy at the voice
Of a new master; bleat the flocks aloud.
Booths are there none; a stall or two is here; 25
A lame man or a blind, the one to beg,
The other to make music; hither, too,
From far, with basket, slung upon her arm,
Of hawker's wares--books, pictures, combs, and pins--
Some aged woman finds her way again, 30
Year after year, a punctual visitant!
There also stands a speech-maker by rote,
Pulling the strings of his boxed raree-show;
And in the lapse of many years may come [7]
Prouder itinerant, mountebank, or he 35
Whose wonders in a covered wain lie hid.
But one there is, [8] the loveliest of them all,
Some sweet lass of the valley, looking out
For gains, and who that sees her would not buy?
Fruits of her father's orchard, are her wares, 40
And with the ruddy produce, she walks round [9]
Among the crowd, half pleased with, half ashamed
Of her new office, [10] blushing restlessly.
The children now are rich, for the old to-day
Are generous as the young; and, if content 45
With looking on, some ancient wedded pair
Sit in the shade together, while they gaze,
"A cheerful smile unbends the wrinkled brow,
The days departed start again to life,
And all the scenes of childhood reappear, 50
Faint, but more tranquil, like the changing sun
To him who slept at noon and wakes at eve." [B]
Thus gaiety and cheerfulness prevail,
Spreading from young to old, from old to young,
And no one seems to want his share.--Immense [11] 55
Is the recess, the circumambient world
Magnificent, by which they are embraced:
They move about upon the soft green turf: [12]
How little they, they and their doings, seem,
And all that they can further or obstruct! [13] 60
Through utter weakness pitiably dear,
As tender infants are: and yet how great!
For all things serve them: them the morning light
Loves, as it glistens on the silent rocks;
And them the silent rocks, which now from high 65
Look down upon them; the reposing clouds;
The wild brooks prattling from [14] invisible haunts;
And old Helvellyn, conscious of the stir
Which animates this day [15] their calm abode.

With deep devotion, Nature, did I feel, 70
In that enormous City's turbulent world
Of men and things, what benefit I owed
To thee, and those domains of rural peace,
Where to the sense of beauty first my heart
Was opened; [C] tract more exquisitely fair 75
Than that famed paradise often thousand trees, [D]
Or Gehol's matchless gardens, [E] for delight
Of the Tartarian dynasty composed
(Beyond that mighty wall, not fabulous,
China's stupendous mound) by patient toil 80
Of myriads and boon nature's lavish help; [F]
There, in a clime from widest empire chosen,
Fulfilling (could enchantment have done more?)
A sumptuous dream of flowery lawns, with domes
Of pleasure [G] sprinkled over, shady dells 85
For eastern monasteries, sunny mounts
With temples crested, bridges, gondolas,
Rocks, dens, and groves of foliage taught to melt
Into each other their obsequious hues,
Vanished and vanishing in subtle chase, 90
Too fine to be pursued; or standing forth
In no discordant opposition, strong
And gorgeous as the colours side by side
Bedded among rich plumes of tropic birds;
And mountains over all, embracing all; 95
And all the landscape, endlessly enriched
With waters running, falling, or asleep.

But lovelier far than this, the paradise
Where I was reared; [H] in Nature's primitive gifts
Favoured no less, and more to every sense 100
Delicious, seeing that the sun and sky,
The elements, and seasons as they change,
Do find a worthy fellow-labourer there--
Man free, man working for himself, with choice
Of time, and place, and object; by his wants, 105
His comforts, native occupations, cares,
Cheerfully led to individual ends
Or social, and still followed by a train
Unwooed, unthought-of even--simplicity,
And beauty, and inevitable grace. 110

Yea, when a glimpse of those imperial bowers
Would to a child be transport over-great,
When but a half-hour's roam through such a place
Would leave behind a dance of images,
That shall break in upon his sleep for weeks; 115
Even then the common haunts of the green earth,
And ordinary interests of man,
Which they embosom, all without regard
As both may seem, are fastening on the heart
Insensibly, each with the other's help. 120
For me, when my affections first were led
From kindred, friends, and playmates, to partake
Love for the human creature's absolute self,
That noticeable kindliness of heart
Sprang out of fountains, there abounding most 125
Where sovereign Nature dictated the tasks
And occupations which her beauty adorned,
And Shepherds were the men that pleased me first; [I]
Not such as Saturn ruled 'mid Latian wilds,
With arts and laws so tempered, that their lives 130
Left, even to us toiling in this late day,
A bright tradition of the golden age; [K]
Not such as, 'mid Arcadian fastnesses
Sequestered, handed down among themselves
Felicity, in Grecian song renowned; [L] 135
Nor such as--when an adverse fate had driven,
From house and home, the courtly band whose fortunes
Entered, with Shakespeare's genius, the wild woods
Of Arden--amid sunshine or in shade,
Culled the best fruits of Time's uncounted hours, 140
Ere Phoebe sighed for the false Ganymede; [M]
Or there where Perdita and Florizel
Together danced, Queen of the feast, and King; [N]
Nor such as Spenser fabled. True it is,
That I had heard (what he perhaps had seen) 145
Of maids at sunrise bringing in from far
Their May-bush [O], and along the streets in flocks
Parading with a song of taunting rhymes,
Aimed at the laggards slumbering within doors;
Had also heard, from those who yet remembered, 150
Tales of the May-pole dance, and wreaths that decked
Porch, door-way, or kirk-pillar; [O] and of youths,
Each with his maid, before the sun was up,
By annual custom, issuing forth in troops,
To drink the waters of some sainted well, 155
And hang it round with garlands. Love survives;
But, for such purpose, flowers no longer grow:
The times, too sage, perhaps too proud, have dropped
These lighter graces; and the rural ways
And manners which my childhood looked upon 160
Were the unluxuriant produce of a life
Intent on little but substantial needs,
Yet rich in beauty, beauty that was felt.
But images of danger and distress,
Man suffering among awful Powers and Forms; 165
Of this I heard, and saw enough to make
Imagination restless; nor was free
Myself from frequent perils; nor were tales
Wanting,--the tragedies of former times,
Hazards and strange escapes, of which the rocks 170
Immutable and overflowing streams,
Where'er I roamed, were speaking monuments.

Smooth life had flock and shepherd in old time,
Long springs and tepid winters, on the banks
Of delicate Galesus [P]; and no less 175
Those scattered along Adria's myrtle shores: [Q]
Smooth life had herdsman, and his snow-white herd
To triumphs and to sacrificial rites
Devoted, on the inviolable stream
Of rich Clitumnus [R]; and the goat-herd lived 180
As calmly, underneath the pleasant brows
Of cool Lucretilis [S], where the pipe was heard
Of Pan, Invisible God, thrilling the rocks
With tutelary music, from all harm
The fold protecting. I myself, mature 185
In manhood then, have seen a pastoral tract
Like one of these, where Fancy might run wild,
Though under skies less generous, less serene:
There, for her own delight had Nature framed
A pleasure-ground, diffused a fair expanse 190
Of level pasture, islanded with groves
And banked with woody risings; but the Plain [T]
Endless, here opening widely out, and there
Shut up in lesser lakes or beds of lawn
And intricate recesses, creek or bay 195
Sheltered within a shelter, where at large
The shepherd strays, a rolling hut his home.
Thither he comes with spring-time, there abides
All summer, and at sunrise ye may hear
His flageolet to liquid notes of love 200
Attuned, or sprightly fife resounding far.
Nook is there none, nor tract of that vast space
Where passage opens, but the same shall have
In turn its visitant, telling there his hours
In unlaborious pleasure, with no task 205
More toilsome than to carve a beechen bowl
For spring or fountain, which the traveller finds,
When through the region he pursues at will
His devious course. A glimpse of such sweet life
I saw when, from the melancholy walls 210
Of Goslar, once imperial, I renewed
My daily walk along that wide champaign, [U]
That, reaching to her gates, spreads east and west,
And northwards, from beneath the mountainous verge
Of the Hercynian forest, [V] Yet, hail to you 215
Moors, mountains, headlands, and ye hollow vales,
Ye long deep channels for the Atlantic's voice, [W]
Powers of my native region! Ye that seize
The heart with firmer grasp! Your snows and streams
Ungovernable, and your terrifying winds, 220
That howl so dismally for him who treads
Companionless your awful solitudes!
There, 'tis the shepherd's task the winter long
To wait upon the storms: of their approach
Sagacious, into sheltering coves he drives 225
His flock, and thither from the homestead bears
A toilsome burden up the craggy ways,
And deals it out, their regular nourishment
Strewn on the frozen snow. And when the spring
Looks out, and all the pastures dance with lambs, 230
And when the flock, with warmer weather, climbs
Higher and higher, him his office leads
To watch their goings, whatsoever track
The wanderers choose. For this he quits his home
At day-spring, and no sooner doth the sun 235
Begin to strike him with a fire-like heat,
Than he lies down upon some shining rock,
And breakfasts with his dog. When they have stolen,
As is their wont, a pittance from strict time,
For rest not needed or exchange of love, 240
Then from his couch he starts; and now his feet
Crush out a livelier fragrance from the flowers
Of lowly thyme, by Nature's skill enwrought
In the wild turf: the lingering dews of morn
Smoke round him, as from hill to hill he hies, 245
His staff protending like a hunter's spear,
Or by its aid leaping from crag to crag,
And o'er the brawling beds of unbridged streams.
Philosophy, methinks, at Fancy's call,
Might deign to follow him through what he does 250
Or sees in his day's march; himself he feels,
In those vast regions where his service lies,
A freeman, wedded to his life of hope
And hazard, and hard labour interchanged
With that majestic indolence so dear 255
To native man. A rambling school-boy, thus
I felt his presence in his own domain,
As of a lord and master, or a power,
Or genius, under Nature, under God,
Presiding; and severest solitude 260
Had more commanding looks when he was there.
When up the lonely brooks on rainy days
Angling I went, or trod the trackless hills
By mists bewildered, [X] suddenly mine eyes
Have glanced upon him distant a few steps, 265
In size a giant, stalking through thick fog,
His sheep like Greenland bears; or, as he stepped
Beyond the boundary line of some hill-shadow,
His form hath flashed upon me, glorified
By the deep radiance of the setting sun: 270
Or him have I descried in distant sky,
A solitary object and sublime,
Above all height! like an aerial cross
Stationed alone upon a spiry rock
Of the Chartreuse, for worship. [Y] Thus was man 275
Ennobled outwardly before my sight,
And thus my heart was early introduced
To an unconscious love and reverence
Of human nature; hence the human form
To me became an index of delight, 280
Of grace and honour, power and worthiness.
Meanwhile this creature--spiritual almost
As those of books, but more exalted far;
Far more of an imaginative form
Than the gay Corin of the groves, [Z] who lives 285
For his own fancies, or to dance by the hour,
In coronal, with Phyllis in the midst--[Z]
Was, for the purposes of kind, a man
With the most common; husband, father; learned,
Could teach, admonish; suffered with the rest 290
From vice and folly, wretchedness and fear;
Of this I little saw, cared less for it,
But something must have felt.
Call ye these appearances
Which I beheld of shepherds in my youth,
This sanctity of Nature given to man, 295
A shadow, a delusion? ye who pore
On the dead letter, miss the spirit of things;
Whose truth is not a motion or a shape
Instinct with vital functions, but a block
Or waxen image which yourselves have made, 300
And ye adore! But blessed be the God
Of Nature and of Man that this was so;
That men before my inexperienced eyes
Did first present themselves thus purified,
Removed, and to a distance that was fit: 305
And so we all of us in some degree
Are led to knowledge, wheresoever led,
And howsoever; were it otherwise,
And we found evil fast as we find good
In our first years, or think that it is found, 310
How could the innocent heart bear up and live!
But doubly fortunate my lot; not here
Alone, that something of a better life
Perhaps was round me than it is the privilege
Of most to move in, but that first I looked 315
At Man through objects that were great or fair;
First communed with him by their help. And thus
Was founded a sure safeguard and defence
Against the weight of meanness, selfish cares,
Coarse manners, vulgar passions, that beat in 320
On all sides from the ordinary world
In which we traffic. Starting from this point
I had my face turned toward the truth, began
With an advantage furnished by that kind
Of prepossession, without which the soul 325
Receives no knowledge that can bring forth good,
No genuine insight ever comes to her.
From the restraint of over-watchful eyes
Preserved, I moved about, year after year,
Happy, [a] and now most thankful that my walk 330
Was guarded from too early intercourse
With the deformities of crowded life,
And those ensuing laughters and contempts,
Self-pleasing, which, if we would wish to think
With a due reverence on earth's rightful lord, 335
Here placed to be the inheritor of heaven,
Will not permit us; but pursue the mind,
That to devotion willingly would rise,
Into the temple and the temple's heart.

Yet deem not, Friend! that human kind with me 340
Thus early took a place pre-eminent;
Nature herself was, at this unripe time,
But secondary to my own pursuits
And animal activities, and all
Their trivial pleasures; [b] and when these had drooped 345
And gradually expired, and Nature, prized
For her own sake, became my joy, even then--[b]
And upwards through late youth, until not less
Than two-and-twenty summers had been told--[c]
Was Man in my affections and regards 350
Subordinate to her, her visible forms
And viewless agencies: a passion, she,
A rapture often, and immediate love
Ever at hand; he, only a delight
Occasional, an accidental grace, 355
His hour being not yet come. Far less had then
The inferior creatures, beast or bird, attuned
My spirit to that gentleness of love
(Though they had long been carefully observed),
Won from me those minute obeisances 360
Of tenderness, [d] which I may number now
With my first blessings. Nevertheless, on these
The light of beauty did not fall in vain,
Or grandeur circumfuse them to no end.

But when that first poetic faculty 365
Of plain Imagination and severe,
No longer a mute influence of the soul,
Ventured, at some rash Muse's earnest call,
To try her strength among harmonious words; [e]
And to book-notions and the rules of art 370
Did knowingly conform itself; there came
Among the simple shapes of human life
A wilfulness of fancy and conceit; [e]
And Nature and her objects beautified
These fictions, as in some sort, in their turn, 375
They burnished her. From touch of this new power
Nothing was safe: the elder-tree that grew
Beside the well-known charnel-house had then
A dismal look: the yew-tree had its ghost,
That took his station there for ornament: 380
The dignities of plain occurrence then
Were tasteless, and truth's golden mean, a point
Where no sufficient pleasure could be found.
Then, if a widow, staggering with the blow
Of her distress, was known to have turned her steps 385
To the cold grave in which her husband slept,
One night, or haply more than one, through pain
Or half-insensate impotence of mind,
The fact was caught at greedily, and there
She must be visitant the whole year through, 390
Wetting the turf with never-ending tears.

Through quaint obliquities I might pursue
These cravings; when the fox-glove, one by one,
Upwards through every stage of the tall stem,
Had shed beside the public way its bells, 395
And stood of all dismantled, save the last
Left at the tapering ladder's top, that seemed
To bend as doth a slender blade of grass
Tipped with a rain-drop, Fancy loved to seat,
Beneath the plant despoiled, but crested still 400
With this last relic, soon itself to fall,
Some vagrant mother, whose arch little ones,
All unconcerned by her dejected plight,
Laughed as with rival eagerness their hands
Gathered the purple cups that round them lay, 405
Strewing the turf's green slope.
A diamond light
(Whene'er the summer sun, declining, smote
A smooth rock wet with constant springs) was seen
Sparkling from out a copse-clad bank that rose
Fronting our cottage. [f] Oft beside the hearth 410
Seated, with open door, often and long
Upon this restless lustre have I gazed,
That made my fancy restless as itself.
'Twas now for me a burnished silver shield
Suspended over a knight's tomb, who lay 415
Inglorious, buried in the dusky wood:
An entrance now into some magic cave
Or palace built by fairies of the rock;
Nor could I have been bribed to disenchant
The spectacle, by visiting the spot. 420
Thus wilful Fancy, in no hurtful mood,
Engrafted far-fetched shapes on feelings bred
By pure Imagination: busy Power [g]
She was, and with her ready pupil turned
Instinctively to human passions, then 425
Least understood. Yet, 'mid the fervent swarm
Of these vagaries, with an eye so rich
As mine was through the bounty of a grand
And lovely region, [h] I had forms distinct
To steady me: each airy thought revolved 430
Round a substantial centre, which at once
Incited it to motion, and controlled.
I did not pine like one in cities bred,
As was thy melancholy lot, dear Friend! [i]
Great Spirit as thou art, in endless dreams 435
Of sickliness, disjoining, joining, things
Without the light of knowledge. Where the harm,
If, when the woodman languished with disease
Induced by sleeping nightly on the ground
Within his sod-built cabin, Indian-wise, 440
I called the pangs of disappointed love,
And all the sad etcetera of the wrong,
To help him to his grave? Meanwhile the man,
If not already from the woods retired
To die at home, was haply as I knew, 445
Withering by slow degrees, 'mid gentle airs,
Birds, running streams, and hills so beautiful
On golden evenings, while the charcoal pile
Breathed up its smoke, an image of his ghost
Or spirit that full soon must take her flight. 450
Nor shall we not be tending towards that point
Of sound humanity to which our Tale
Leads, though by sinuous ways, if here I shew
How Fancy, in a season when she wove
Those slender cords, to guide the unconscious Boy 455
For the Man's sake, could feed at Nature's call

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