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  • 1896
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Or from some other cause remain’d behind. 1800.]

[Variant 46:

… it almost looks
Like some vast building … 1800.]

[Variant 47:

1827.

… it is called, _The Pillar_.
James pointed to its summit, over which They all had purpos’d to return together, And told them that he there would wait for them: They parted, and his comrades pass’d that way Some two hours after, but they did not find him At the appointed place, a circumstance
Of which they took no heed: but one of them, Going by chance, at night, into the house Which at this time was James’s home, … 1800.

… but they did not find him
Upon the Pillar–at the appointed place. Of this they took no heed: … 1802.

Which at that time … 1802.

Upon the Summit–at the appointed place. 1815.

… they found that he was gone.
From this no ill was feared; but one of them, Entering by chance, at even-tide, the house 1820.

In all else the edition of 1820 is identical with the final text of 1827.]

[Variant 48:

1836.

Some went, and some towards the Lake; … 1800.

Some hastened, some towards the Lake: … 1820.]

[Variant 49:

1815.

… Lad … 1800.]

[Variant 50:

1820.

… said … 1800.]

[Variant 51:

1815.

… Lad … 1800.]

[Variant 52:

1836.

Upon the grass, … 1800.]

[Variant 53:

1836.

… he perish’d: at the time,
We guess, that in his hands he must have had 1800.

must have held 1827.]

[Variant 54:

1836.

… for midway in the cliff
It had been caught, and there for many years 1800.]

[Variant 55:

1815.

… but he felt
Tears rushing in; both left the spot in silence, 1800.]

[Variant 56:

1836.

Pointing towards the Cottage, he entreated 1800.]

[Variant 57:

1836.

… fervent 1800.]

[Variant 58:

1836.

Were with him in his heart: his cherish’d hopes, 1800.]

[Variant 59:

1836.

… travell’d on … 1800.]

[Variant 60:

1802.

That night, address’d a letter to the Priest 1800.]

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT

[Footnote A: This Poem was intended to be the concluding poem of a series of pastorals, the scene of which was laid among the mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland. I mention this to apologise for the abruptness with which the poem begins.–W. W. 1800.]

[Footnote B: In Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal the following entry occurs:

“Friday, 6th August (1800).–In the morning I copied ‘The Brothers’.”

Ed.]

[Footnote C: This description of the Calenture is sketched from an imperfect recollection of an admirable one in prose, by Mr. Gilbert, Author of ‘The Hurricane’.–W. W. 1800.

Compare another reference to ‘The Hurricane; a Theosophical and Western Eclogue’ etc., by William Gilbert, in one of the notes to ‘The Excursion’, book iii. l. 931.–Ed.]

[Footnote D: The impressive circumstance here described, actually took place some years ago in this country, upon an eminence called Kidstow Pike, one of the highest of the mountains that surround Hawes-water. The summit of the pike was stricken by lightning; and every trace of one of the fountains disappeared, while the other continued to flow as before.–W. W. 1800.]

[Footnote E: There is not any thing more worthy of remark in the manners of the inhabitants of these mountains, than the tranquillity, I might say indifference, with which they think and talk upon the subject of death. Some of the country church-yards, as here described, do not contain a single tomb-stone, and most of them have a very small number.–W. W. 1800.]

[Footnote F: The name in the original MS. was “Wilfred Evans.”–Ed.]

[Footnote G: The great Gavel, so called I imagine, from its resemblance to the Gable end of a house, is one of the highest of the Cumberland mountains. It stands at the head of the several vales of Ennerdale, Wastdale, and Borrowdale.

The Leeza is a River which flows into the Lake of Ennerdale: on issuing from the Lake, it changes its name, and is called the End, Eyne, or Enna. It falls into the sea a little below Egremont–W. W. 1800.]

[Footnote H: See Coleridge’s criticism of these lines in a note to chapter xviii. of ‘Biographia Literaria’ (vol. ii. p. 83 of the edition of 1817).–Ed.]

This poem illustrates the way in which Wordsworth’s imagination worked upon a minimum of fact, idealizing a simple story, and adding

‘the gleam,
The light that never was, on sea or land, The consecration, and the Poet’s dream.’

It is the only poem of his referring to Ennerdale; but perhaps the chief association with that dale, to those who visit it after becoming acquainted with this poem, will be the fact that the brothers Ewbank were supposed to have spent their youth under the shadow of the Pillar, and Leonard to have had this conversation, on his return from sea, with the venerable priest of Ennerdale. The district is described with all that local accuracy which Wordsworth invariably showed in idealization. The height whence James Ewbank is supposed to have fallen is not the Pillar-Rock–a crag somewhat difficult to ascend, except by practised climbers, and which has only been accessible since mountaineering became an art and a passion to Englishmen. But, if we suppose the conversation with the priest of Ennerdale to have taken place at the Bridge, below the Lake–as that is the only place where there is both a hamlet and “a churchyard”–the “precipice” will refer to the Pillar “Mountain.” Both are alluded to in the poem. The lines,

‘You see yon precipice;–it wears the shape Of a vast building made of many crags;
And in the midst is one particular rock That rises like a column from the vale, Whence by our shepherds it is called, _The Pillar_,’

are definite enough. The great mass of the Pillar Mountain is first referred to, and then the Rock which is a characteristic spur, halfway up the mountain on its northern side. The “aery summit crowned with heath,” however, on which “the loiterer” “lay stretched at ease,” could neither be the top of this “rock” nor the summit of the “mountain”: not the former, because there is no heath on it, and it would be impossible for a weary man, loitering behind his companions, to ascend it to rest; not the latter, because no one resting on the summit of the mountain could be “not unnoticed by his comrades,” and they would not pass that way over the top of the mountain “on their return” to Ennerdale. This is an instance, therefore, in which precise localization is impossible. Probably Wordsworth did not know either that the pillar “rock” was bare on the summit, or that it had never been ascended in 1800; and he idealised it to suit his imaginative purpose. In connection with this poem, a remark he made to the Hon. Mr. Justice Coleridge may be recalled.

“He said there was some foundation in fact, however slight, for every poem he had written of a narrative kind; … ‘The Brothers’ was founded on a young shepherd, in his sleep, having fallen down a crag, his staff remaining suspended mid-way.”

(See the ‘Memoirs of Wordsworth’, by the late Bishop of Lincoln, vol. ii. p. 305.) It should be added that the character of Leonard Ewbank was drawn in large part from that of the poet’s brother John–Ed.

* * * * *

THE SEVEN SISTERS; OR, THE SOLITUDE OF BINNORIE [A]

Composed 1800. [B]–Published 1807

The Story of this Poem is from the German of Frederica Brun. [C]–W. W. 1807.

One of the “Poems of the Fancy.”–Ed.

I Seven Daughters had Lord Archibald, All children of one mother:
You could [1] not say in one short day What love they bore each other.
A garland, of seven lilies, wrought! 5 Seven Sisters that together dwell;
But he, bold Knight as ever fought, Their Father, took of them no thought, He loved the wars so well.
Sing, mournfully, oh! mournfully, 10 The solitude of Binnorie!

II Fresh blows the wind, a western wind, And from the shores of Erin,
Across the wave, a Rover brave To Binnorie is steering: 15 Right onward to the Scottish strand The gallant ship is borne;
The warriors leap upon the land, And hark! the Leader of the band
Hath blown his bugle horn. 20 Sing, mournfully, oh! mournfully,
The solitude of Binnorie.

III Beside a grotto of their own,
With boughs above them closing, The Seven are laid, and in the shade 25 They lie like fawns reposing.
But now, upstarting with affright At noise of man and steed,
Away they fly to left, to right– Of your fair household, Father-knight, 30 Methinks you take small heed!
Sing, mournfully, oh! mournfully, The solitude of Binnorie.

IV Away the seven fair Campbells fly, And, over hill and hollow, 35 With menace proud, and insult loud, The youthful Rovers [2] follow.
Cried they, “Your Father loves to roam: Enough for him to find
The empty house when he comes home; 40 For us your yellow ringlets comb,
For us be fair and kind!”
Sing, mournfully, oh! mournfully, The solitude of Binnorie.

V Some close behind, some side by side, 45 Like clouds in stormy weather;
They run, and cry, “Nay, let us die, And let us die together.”
A lake was near; the shore was steep; There never foot had been; 50 They ran, and with a desperate leap Together plunged into the deep, [3] Nor ever more were seen.
Sing, mournfully, oh! mournfully, The solitude of Binnorie. 55

VI The stream that flows out of the lake, As through the glen it rambles,
Repeats a moan o’er moss and stone, For those seven lovely Campbells.
Seven little Islands, green and bare, 60 Have risen from out the deep:
The fishers say, those sisters fair, By faeries all are buried there,
And there together sleep.
Sing, mournfully, oh! mournfully, 65 The solitude of Binnorie.

* * * * *

VARIANTS ON THE TEXT

[Variant 1:

1836.

I could … 1807.]

[Variant 2:

1807.

The Irish Rovers … MS.]

[Variant 3:

1807.

The sisters ran like mountain sheep MS.

And in together did they leap MS.]

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT

[Footnote A: It is a well-known Scottish Ballad. In Jamieson’s ‘Popular Ballads’, vol. i. p. 50 (1806), its title is “The Twa Sisters.” In Walter Scott’s ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’, vol. iii. p. 287, it is called “The Cruel Sisters.” In ‘The Ballads of Scotland’, collected by W. Edmonstone Aytoun (1858), vol. i. p. 194, it is printed “Binnorie.” In 1807 Wordsworth printed the sub-title ‘The Solitude of Binnorie’.–Ed.]

[Footnote B: In Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal there is an entry, under date August 16, 1800,

“William read us ‘The Seven Sisters’.”

It is uncertain whether this refers to his own poem or not, but I incline to think it does.–Ed.]

[Footnote C: In a MS. copy this note runs thus:

“This poem, in the groundwork of the story, is from the German of Frederica Brun.”

Ed.]

* * * * *

RURAL ARCHITECTURE

Composed 1800.–Published 1800

[Written at Town-end, Grasmere. These structures, as every one knows, are common amongst our hills, being built by shepherds, as conspicuous marks, and occasionally by boys in sport.–I. F.]

Included among the “Poems referring to the Period of Childhood.”–Ed.

There’s George Fisher, Charles Fleming, and Reginald Shore, [1] Three rosy-cheeked school-boys, the highest not more Than the height of a counsellor’s bag;
To the top of GREAT HOW [A] did it please them to climb: [2] And there they built up, without mortar or lime, 5 A Man on the peak of the crag.

They built him of stones gathered up as they lay: They built him and christened him all in one day, An urchin both vigorous and hale;
And so without scruple they called him Ralph Jones. 10 Now Ralph is renowned for the length of his bones; The Magog of Legberthwaite dale.

Just half a week after, the wind sallied forth, And, in anger or merriment, out of the north, Coming on with a terrible pother, 15 From the peak of the crag blew the giant away. And what did these school-boys?–The very next day They went and they built up another.

–Some little I’ve seen of blind boisterous works By Christian disturbers more savage than Turks, [3] 20 Spirits busy to do and undo:
At remembrance whereof my blood sometimes will flag; Then, light-hearted Boys, to the top of the crag; And I’ll build up a giant with you. [4]

* * * * *

VARIANTS ON THE TEXT

[Variant 1:

1800.

From the meadows of ARMATH, on THIRLMERE’S wild shore, 1827.

The text of 1832 reverts to that of 1800.]

[Variant 2:

1800.

… were once tempted to climb; 1827

The text of 1832 reverts to that of 1800.]

[Variant 3:

1820.

In Paris and London, ‘mong Christians or Turks, 1800]

[Variant 4: This last stanza was omitted from the editions of 1805 and 1815. It was restored in 1820.]

* * * * *

FOOTNOTE ON THE TEXT

[Footnote A: Great How is a single and conspicuous hill, which rises towards the foot of Thirl-mere, on the western side of the beautiful dale of Legberthwaite, along the high road between Keswick and Ambleside.–W. W. 1800.]

The editions of 1836, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, and 1845, and the Fenwick note, assign this poem to the year 1801. It must, however, have been composed during the previous year, because it was published in the “Lyrical Ballads” of 1800. The locality referred to–which is also associated with ‘The Waggoner’–is easily identified.

In a letter to Wordsworth, written in the year 1815, Charles Lamb said: “How I can be brought in, _felo de omittendo_, for that ending to the Boy-builders is a mystery. I can’t say positively now, I only know that no line oftener or readier occurs than that ‘Light-hearted boys, I will build up a Giant with you.’ It comes naturally, with a warm holiday, and the freshness of the blood. It is a perfect summer amulet, that I tie round my legs to quicken their motion when I go out a maying.” (See _Letters of Charles Lamb_, edited by Alfred Ainger, vol. i. p. 287.)–Ed.

* * * * *

A CHARACTER

Composed 1800.–Published 1800

[The principal features are taken from my friend Robert Jones.–I. F.]

Included among the “Poems of Sentiment and Reflection.”–Ed.

I marvel how Nature could ever find space For so many strange contrasts in one human face: [1] There’s thought and no thought, and there’s paleness and bloom And bustle and sluggishness, pleasure and gloom.

There’s weakness, and strength both redundant and vain; 5 Such strength as, if ever affliction and pain Could pierce through a temper that’s soft to disease, Would be rational peace–a philosopher’s ease.

There’s indifference, alike when he fails or [2] succeeds, And attention full ten times as much as there needs; 10 Pride where there’s no envy, there’s so much of joy; And mildness, and spirit both forward and coy.

There’s freedom, and sometimes a diffident stare Of shame scarcely seeming to know that she’s there, There’s virtue, the title it surely may claim, 15 Yet wants heaven knows what to be worthy the name.

This picture from nature may seem to depart, [3] Yet the Man would at once run away with your heart; And I for five centuries right gladly would be Such an odd such a kind happy creature as he. 20

* * * * *

VARIANTS ON THE TEXT

[Variant 1:

1837.

For the weight and the levity seen in his face: 1800.]

[Variant 2:

1837.

… and … 1800.]

[Variant 3:

1837.

What a picture! ’tis drawn without nature or art, 1800.]

The full title of this poem, in “Lyrical Ballads,” 1800, is ‘A Character, in the antithetical Manner’. It was omitted from all subsequent editions till 1837. With this early friend, Robert Jones–a fellow collegian at St. John’s College, Cambridge–Wordsworth visited the Continent (France and Switzerland), during the long vacation of 1790; and to him he dedicated the first edition of ‘Descriptive Sketches’, in 1793. With him he also made a pedestrian tour in Wales in 1791. Jones afterwards became the incumbent of Soulderne, near Deddington, in Oxfordshire; and Wordsworth described his parsonage there in the sonnet, beginning “Where holy ground begins, unhallowed ends.” (See Wordsworth’s note to the sonnet ‘Composed near Calais’, p. 333.)–Ed.

* * * * *

INSCRIPTION FOR THE SPOT WHERE THE HERMITAGE STOOD ON ST. HERBERT’S ISLAND, DERWENT-WATER

Composed 1800.–Published 1800

Included in 1815 among the “Poems referring to the Period of Old Age,” and in all subsequent editions among the “Inscriptions.”–Ed.

If thou in the dear love of some one Friend Hast been so happy that thou know’st what thoughts Will sometimes in the happiness of love Make the heart sink, [A] then wilt thou reverence This quiet spot; and, Stranger! not unmoved 5 Wilt thou behold this shapeless heap of stones, The desolate ruins of St. Herbert’s Cell. Here stood his threshold; here was spread the roof That sheltered him, a self-secluded Man, After long exercise in social cares 10 And offices humane, intent to adore
The Deity, with undistracted mind, And meditate on everlasting things,
In utter solitude.–But he had left A Fellow-labourer, whom the good Man loved 15 As his own soul. And, when with eye upraised To heaven he knelt before the crucifix, While o’er the lake the cataract of Lodore Pealed to his orisons, and when he paced Along the beach of this small isle and thought 20 Of his Companion, he would pray that both (Now that their earthly duties were fulfilled) Might die in the same moment. Nor in vain So prayed he:–as our chronicles report, Though here the Hermit numbered his last day 25 Far from St. Cuthbert his beloved Friend, Those holy Men both died in the same hour. [1]

* * * * *

VARIANT ON THE TEXT

[Variant 1:

1832.

The text of this poem underwent so many changes, which are not easily shown by the plan adopted throughout this edition–portions of the earliest version of 1800 being abandoned and again adopted, and the whole arrangement of the passages being altered–that it seems desirable to append the entire text of 1800, and extensive parts of that of subsequent years. The final text of 1832 is printed above.

If thou in the dear love of some one friend Hast been so happy, that thou know’st what thoughts Will, sometimes, in the happiness of love Make the heart sink, then wilt thou reverence This quiet spot.–St. Herbert hither came And here, for many seasons, from the world Remov’d, and the affections of the world He dwelt in solitude. He living here,
This island’s sole inhabitant! had left A Fellow-labourer, whom the good Man lov’d As his own soul; and when within his cave Alone he knelt before the crucifix
While o’er the lake the cataract of Lodore Peal’d to his orisons, and when he pac’d Along the beach of this small isle and thought Of his Companion, he had pray’d that both Might die in the same moment. Nor in vain So pray’d he:–as our Chronicles report, Though here the Hermit number’d his last days, Far from St. Cuthbert his beloved friend, Those holy men both died in the same hour. 1800.

The text of the editions of 1802 and 1805 (which are identical), omits one line of the text of 1800. The passage reads:

He dwelt in solitude.–But he had left A Fellow-labourer, whom …

And the following variants occur in 1802 and 1805:

Make the heart sick, ….

… he would pray that both

The text of 1815, which is continued in 1820, begins thus:

This Island, guarded from profane approach By mountains high and waters widely spread, Is that recess to which St. Herbert came In life’s decline; a self-secluded Man, After long exercise in social cares
And offices humane, intent to adore The Deity, with undistracted mind,
And meditate on everlasting things. –Stranger! this shapeless heap of stones and earth (Long be its mossy covering undisturbed!) Is reverenced as a vestige of the Abode In which, through many seasons, from the world Removed, and the affections of the world, He dwelt in solitude.–But he had left
A Fellow-labourer, … 1815 and 1820.

In 1827 the poem began thus:

Stranger! this shapeless heap of stones and earth Is the last relic of St. Herbert’s Cell. Here stood his threshold; here was spread the roof That sheltered him, a self-secluded Man, 1827.]

* * * * *

FOOTNOTE ON THE TEXT

[Footnote A: Compare the last stanza of “Strange fits of passion have I known,” p. 79 of this volume.–Ed.]

The “shapeless heap of stones” in St. Herbert’s Island, which were “desolate ruins” in 1800, are even more “shapeless” and “desolate” now, but they can easily be identified. The island is near the centre of the lake, and is in area about four acres. The legend of St. Herbert dates from the middle of the seventh century. The rector of Clifton, Westmoreland, Dr. Robinson, writing in 1819, says:

“The remains of his hermitage are still visible, being built of stone and mortar, and formed into two apartments, one of which, about twenty feet long and sixteen feet wide, seems to have been his chapel; the other, of less dimensions, his cell. Near these ruins the late Sir Wilfred Lawson (to whose representative the island at present belongs) erected some years ago a small octagonal cottage, which, being built of unhewn stone, and artificially mossed over, has a venerable appearance.”

(See _Guide to the Lakes_, by John Robinson, D.D., 1819). This cottage has now disappeared. The following version of this “Inscription” occurs in a letter from Wordsworth to Lady Beaumont, dated 26th November 1811:

This Island, guarded from profane approach By mountains high and waters widely spread, Gave to St. Herbert a benign retreat.
Upon a staff supported, and his Brow White with the peaceful diadem of age.
Hither he came–a self-secluded Man, …
Behold that shapeless Heap of stones and earth! “Tis reverenced as a Vestige of the Abode …
…–And when within his Cell
Alone he knelt before the crucifix,

In a previous letter to Sir George Beaumont, dated 16th November 1811:

By mountains high and waters widely spread, Is that Seclusion which St. Herbert chose; …
Hither he came in life’s austere decline: And, Stranger! this blank Heap of stones and earth Is reverenced …

Ed.

* * * * *

WRITTEN WITH A PENCIL UPON A STONE IN THE WALL OF THE HOUSE (AN OUT-HOUSE), ON THE ISLAND AT GRASMERE [A]

Composed 1800.–Published 1800

Included among the “Inscriptions.”–Ed.

Rude is this Edifice, and Thou hast seen Buildings, albeit rude, that have maintained Proportions more harmonious, and approached To closer fellowship with ideal grace.
But take it in good part:–alas! the poor [1] 5 Vitruvius of our village had no help
From the great City; never, upon leaves [2] Of red Morocco folio saw displayed,
In long succession, pre-existing ghosts [3] Of Beauties yet unborn–the rustic Lodge 10 Antique, and Cottage with verandah graced, Nor lacking, for fit company, alcove,
Green-house, shell-grot, and moss-lined hermitage. [4] Thou see’st a homely Pile, [5] yet to these walls The heifer comes in the snow-storm, and here 15 The new-dropped lamb finds shelter from the wind. And hither does one Poet sometimes row
His pinnace, a small vagrant barge, up-piled With plenteous store of heath and withered fern, (A lading which he with his sickle cuts, 20 Among the mountains) and beneath this roof He makes his summer couch, and here at noon Spreads out his limbs, while, yet unshorn, the Sheep, Panting beneath the burthen of their wool, Lie round him, even as if they were a part 25 Of his own Household: nor, while from his bed He looks, through the open door-place, [6] toward the lake And to the stirring breezes, does he want Creations lovely as the work of sleep– Fair sights, and visions of romantic joy! 30

* * * * *

VARIANTS ON THE TEXT

[Variant 1:

1837.

… and approach’d
To somewhat of a closer fellowship With the ideal grace. Yet as it is
Do take it in good part; for he, the poor 1800.

… alas! the poor 1815.]

[Variant 2:

1837.

… on the leaves 1800.]

[Variant 3:

1837.

The skeletons and pre-existing ghosts 1800.]

[Variant 4:

1837.

… yet unborn, the rustic Box,
Snug Cot, with Coach-house, Shed and Hermitage. 1800.]

[Variant 5:

1815.

It is a homely pile, … 1800.]

[Variant 6:

1837.

He through that door-place looks … 1800.]

* * * * *

FOOTNOTE ON THE TEXT

[Footnote A: The title of this poem in the edition of 1800 was simply ‘Inscription for the House (an Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere’.–Ed.]

This “homely pile” on the island of Grasmere–very homely–still remains.–Ed.

* * * * *

MICHAEL

A PASTORAL POEM [A]

Composed 1800.–Published 1800

[Written at the Town-end, Grasmere, about the same time as ‘The Brothers’. The sheepfold, on which so much of the poem turns, remains, or rather the ruins of it. The character and circumstances of Luke were taken from a family to whom had belonged, many years before, the house we lived in at Town-end, along with some fields and woodlands on the eastern shore of Grasmere. The name of the Evening Star was not in fact given to this house, but to another on the same side of the valley, more to the north.–I.F.]

Included among the “Poems founded on the Affections.”–Ed.

If from the public way you turn your steps Up the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll, You will suppose that with an upright path Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent The pastoral mountains front you, face to face. 5 But, courage! for around [1] that boisterous brook The mountains have all opened out themselves, And made a hidden valley of their own.
No habitation can be seen; but they Who journey thither find themselves alone [2] 10 With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites That overhead are sailing in the sky.
It is in truth an utter solitude;
Nor should I have made mention of this Dell But for one object which you might pass by, 15 Might see and notice not. Beside the brook Appears [3] a straggling heap of unhewn stones! And to that simple object appertains
A story–unenriched with strange events, Yet not unfit, I deem, for the fireside, [4] 20 Or for the summer shade. It was the first Of those domestic tales that spake to me [5] Of Shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men Whom I already loved;–not verily
For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills 25 Where was their occupation and abode.
And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy Careless of books, yet having felt the power Of Nature, by the gentle agency
Of natural objects, led me on to feel 30 For passions that were not my own, and think (At random and imperfectly indeed)
On man, the heart of man, and human life. Therefore, although it be a history
Homely and rude, I will relate the same 35 For the delight of a few natural hearts; And, with yet fonder feeling, for the sake Of youthful Poets, who among these hills Will be my second self when I am gone.

Upon the forest-side in Grasmere Vale 40 There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name; An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb. His bodily frame had been from youth to age Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen, Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs, 45 And in his shepherd’s calling he was prompt And watchful more than ordinary men.
Hence had he learned [6] the meaning of all winds, Of blasts of every tone; and, oftentimes, When others heeded not, He heard the South 50 Make subterraneous music, like the noise Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills. The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock Bethought him, and he to himself would say, “The winds are now devising work for me!” 55 And, truly, at all times, the storm, that drives The traveller to a shelter, summoned him Up to the mountains: he had been alone
Amid the heart of many thousand mists, That came to him, and left him, on the heights. 60 So lived he till his eightieth year was past. And grossly that man errs, who should suppose That the green valleys, and the streams and rocks, Were things indifferent to the Shepherd’s thoughts. Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed 65 The common air; hills, which with vigorous step He had so often climbed; [7] which had impressed So many incidents upon his mind
Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear; Which, like a book, preserved the memory 70 Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved, Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts The certainty of honourable gain;
Those fields, those hills–what could they less? had laid [8] Strong hold on his affections, were to him 75 A pleasurable feeling of blind love,
The pleasure which there is in life itself.

His days had not been passed in singleness. His Helpmate was a comely matron, old–[9] Though younger than himself full twenty years. 80 She was a woman of a stirring life,
Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool; That small, for flax; and if one wheel had rest, It was because the other was at work. 85 The Pair had but one inmate in their house, An only Child, who had been born to them When Michael, telling o’er his years, began To deem that he was old,–in shepherd’s phrase, With one foot in the grave. This only Son, 90 With two brave sheep-dogs tried in many a storm, The one of an inestimable worth,
Made all their household. I may truly say, That they were as a proverb in the vale For endless industry. When day was gone, 95 And from their occupations out of doors The Son and Father were come home, even then, Their labour did not cease; unless when all Turned to the [10] cleanly supper-board, and there, Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk, 100 Sat round the [11] basket piled with oaten cakes, And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when the [12] meal Was ended, Luke (for so the Son was named) And his old Father both betook themselves To such convenient work as might employ 105 Their hands by the fire-side; perhaps to card Wool for the Housewife’s spindle, or repair Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe, Or other implement of house or field.

Down from the ceiling, by the chimney’s edge, 110 That [13] in our ancient uncouth country style With huge and black projection overbrowed [14] Large space beneath, as duly as the light Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a lamp; An aged utensil, which had performed 115 Service beyond all others of its kind.
Early at evening did it burn–and late, Surviving comrade of uncounted hours,
Which, going by from year to year, had found, And left the couple neither gay perhaps 120 Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes, Living a life of eager industry.
And now, when Luke had reached his [15] eighteenth year, There by the light of this old lamp they sate, Father and Son, while far [16] into the night 125 The Housewife plied her own peculiar work, Making the cottage through the silent hours Murmur as with the sound of summer flies. [B] [17] This [18] light was famous in its neighbourhood, And was a public symbol of the life 130 That [19] thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced, Their cottage on a plot of rising ground Stood single, with large prospect, north and south, High into Easedale, up to Dunmail-Raise, And westward to the village near the lake; 135 And from this constant light, so regular And so far seen, the House itself, by all Who dwelt within the limits of the vale, Both old and young, was named THE EVENING STAR.

Thus living on through such a length of years, 140 The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must needs Have loved his Helpmate; but to Michael’s heart This son of his old age was yet more dear– Less from instinctive tenderness, [20] the same Fond spirit that blindly works in the blood of all–[21] 145 Than [22] that a child, more than all other gifts That earth can offer to declining man, [23] Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts, And stirrings of inquietude, when they
By tendency of nature needs must fail. 150 [24] Exceeding was the love he bare to him, His heart and his heart’s joy! For oftentimes Old Michael, while he was a babe in arms, Had done him female service, not alone
For pastime [25] and delight, as is the use 155 Of fathers, but with patient mind enforced To acts of tenderness; and he had rocked His cradle, as with a woman’s gentle hand. [26] And, in a later time, ere yet the Boy
Had put on boy’s attire, did Michael love, 160 Albeit of a stern unbending mind,
To have the Young-one in his sight, when he Wrought in the field, or on his shepherd’s stool Sate with a fettered sheep before him stretched Under the large old oak, that near his door 165 Stood single, and, from matchless depth of shade, [27] Chosen for the Shearer’s covert from the sun, Thence in our rustic dialect was called The CLIPPING TREE, [C] a name which yet it bears. There, while they two were sitting in the shade, 170 With others round them, earnest all and blithe, Would Michael exercise his heart with looks Of fond correction and reproof bestowed Upon the Child, if he disturbed the sheep By catching at their legs, or with his shouts 175 Scared them, while they lay still beneath the shears.

And when by Heaven’s good grace the boy grew up A healthy Lad, and carried in his cheek Two steady roses that were five years old; Then Michael from a winter coppice cut 180 With his own hand a sapling, which he hooped With iron, making it throughout in all
Due requisites a perfect shepherd’s staff, And gave it to the Boy; wherewith equipt He as a watchman oftentimes was placed 185 At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock; And, to his office prematurely called,
There stood the urchin, as you will divine, Something between a hindrance and a help; And for this cause not always, I believe, 190 Receiving from his Father hire of praise; Though nought was left undone which staff, or voice, Or looks, or threatening gestures, could perform.

But soon as Luke, full ten years old, could stand Against the mountain blasts; and to the heights, 200 Not fearing toil, nor length of weary ways, He with his Father daily went, and they Were as companions, why should I relate That objects which the Shepherd loved before Were dearer now? that from the Boy there came 205 Feelings and emanations–things which were Light to the sun and music to the wind; And that the old Man’s heart seemed born again?

Thus in his Father’s sight the Boy grew up: And now, when he had reached his eighteenth year, 210 He was his comfort and his daily hope. [D]

While in this sort the simple household lived [28] From day to day, to Michael’s ear there came Distressful tidings. Long before the time Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been bound 215 In surety for his brother’s son, a man
Of an industrious life, and ample means; But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly
Had prest upon him; and old Michael now Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture, 220 A grievous penalty, but little less
Than half his substance. This unlooked-for claim, At the first hearing, for a moment took More hope out of his life than he supposed That any old man ever could have lost. 225 As soon as he had armed himself with strength To look his trouble in the face, it seemed The Shepherd’s sole resource to sell at once [29] A portion of his patrimonial fields.
Such was his first resolve; he thought again, 230 And his heart failed him. “Isabel,” said he, Two evenings after he had heard the news, “I have been toiling more than seventy years, And in the open sunshine of God’s love
Have we all lived; yet if these fields of ours 235 Should pass into a stranger’s hand, I think That I could not lie quiet in my grave. Our lot is a hard lot; the sun himself [30] Has scarcely been more diligent than I; And I have lived to be a fool at last 240 To my own family. An evil man
That was, and made an evil choice, if he Were false to us; and if he were not false, There are ten thousand to whom loss like this Had been no sorrow. I forgive him;–but 245 ‘Twere better to be dumb than to talk thus.

“When I began, my purpose was to speak Of remedies and of a cheerful hope.
Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land Shall not go from us, and it shall be free; 250 He shall possess it, free as is the wind That passes over it. We have, thou know’st, Another kinsman–he will be our friend
In this distress. He is a prosperous man, Thriving in trade–and Luke to him shall go, 255 And with his kinsman’s help and his own thrift He quickly will repair this loss, and then He may return to us. [31] If here he stay, What can be done? Where every one is poor, What can be gained?” 260 At this the old Man paused,
And Isabel sat silent, for her mind Was busy, looking back into past times. There’s Richard Bateman, thought she to herself, [E] He was a parish-boy–at the church-door 265 They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence And halfpennies, wherewith the neighbours bought A basket, which they filled with pedlar’s wares; And, with this basket on his arm, the lad Went up to London, found a master there, 270 Who, out of many, chose the trusty boy
To go and overlook his merchandise Beyond the seas; where he grew wondrous rich, And left estates and monies to the poor, And, at his birth-place, built a chapel floored 275 With marble, which he sent from foreign lands. These thoughts, and many others of like sort, Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel, And her face brightened. The old Man was glad, And thus resumed:–“Well, Isabel! this scheme 280 These two days, has been meat and drink to me. Far more than we have lost is left us yet. –We have enough–I wish indeed that I
Were younger;–but this hope is a good hope. Make ready Luke’s best garments, of the best 285 Buy for him more, and let us send him forth To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night: –If he _could_ [32] go, the Boy should go to-night.”

Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth With a light heart. [F] The Housewife for five days 290 Was restless morn and night, and all day long Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare Things needful for the journey of her son. But Isabel was glad when Sunday came
To stop her in her work: for, when she lay 295 By Michael’s side, she through the last two nights [33] Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep: And when they rose at morning she could see That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon She said to Luke, while they two by themselves 300 Were sitting at the door, “Thou must not go: We have no other Child but thee to lose, None to remember–do not go away,
For if thou leave thy Father he will die.” The Youth [34] made answer with a jocund voice; 305 And Isabel, when she had told her fears, Recovered heart. That evening her best fare Did she bring forth, and all together sat Like happy people round a Christmas fire.

With daylight [35] Isabel resumed her work; 310 And all the ensuing week the house appeared As cheerful as a grove in Spring: at length The expected letter from their kinsman came, With kind assurances that he would do
His utmost for the welfare of the Boy; 315 To which, requests were added, that forthwith He might be sent to him. Ten times or more The letter was read over; Isabel
Went forth to show it to the neighbours round; Nor was there at that time on English land 320 A prouder heart than Luke’s. When Isabel Had to her house returned, the old Man said, “He shall depart to-morrow.” To this word The Housewife answered, talking much of things Which, if at such short notice he should go, 325 Would surely be forgotten. But at length She gave consent, and Michael was at ease.

Near the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll, In that deep valley, Michael had designed To build a Sheep-fold; [G] and, before he heard 330 The tidings of his melancholy loss,
For this same purpose he had gathered up A heap of stones, which by the streamlet’s edge [36] Lay thrown together, ready for the work. With Luke that evening thitherward he walked: 335 And soon as they had reached the place he stopped, And thus the old Man spake to him:–“My Son, To-morrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart I look upon thee, for thou art the same That wert a promise to me ere thy birth, 340 And all thy life hast been my daily joy. I will relate to thee some little part
Of our two histories; ’twill do thee good When thou art from me, even if I should touch On things [37] thou canst not know of.–After thou 345 First cam’st into the world–as oft befals [38] To new-born infants–thou didst sleep away Two days, and blessings from thy Father’s tongue Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on, And still I loved thee with increasing love. 350 Never to living ear came sweeter sounds Than when I heard thee by our own fire-side First uttering, without words, a natural tune; While [39] thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy Sing at thy Mother’s breast. Month followed month, 355 And in the open fields my life was passed And on [40] the mountains; else I think that thou Hadst been brought up upon thy Father’s knees. But we were playmates, Luke: among these hills, As well thou knowest, in us the old and young 360 Have played together, nor with me didst thou Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.” Luke had a manly heart; but at these words He sobbed aloud. The old Man grasped his hand, And said, “Nay, do not take it so–I see 365 That these are things of which I need not speak. –Even to the utmost I have been to thee A kind and a good Father: and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Received at others’ hands; for, though now old 370 Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who loved me in my youth. Both of them sleep together: here they lived, As all their Forefathers had done; and when At length their time was come, they were not loth 375 To give their bodies to the family mould. I wished that thou should’st live the life they lived: But, ’tis a long time to look back, my Son, And see so little gain from threescore years. [41] These fields were burthened when they came to me; 380 Till I was forty years of age, not more Than half of my inheritance was mine.
I toiled and toiled; God blessed me in my work, And till these three weeks past the land was free. –It looks as if it never could endure 385 Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke, If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good That thou should’st go,”

At this the old Man paused;
Then, pointing to the stones near which they stood, 390 Thus, after a short silence, he resumed: “This was a work for us; and now, my Son, It is a work for me. But, lay one stone– Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands. [42] Nay, Boy, be of good hope;–we both may live 395 To see a better day. At eighty-four
I still am strong and hale [43];–do thou thy part; I will do mine.–I will begin again
With many tasks that were resigned to thee: Up to the heights, and in among the storms, 400 Will I without thee go again, and do
All works which I was wont to do alone, Before I knew thy face.–Heaven bless thee, Boy! Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast With many hopes; it should be so–yes–yes–405 I knew that thou could’st never have a wish To leave me, Luke: thou hast been bound to me Only by links of love: when thou art gone, What will be left to us!–But, I forget My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone, 410 As I requested; and hereafter, Luke,
When thou art gone away, should evil men Be thy companions, think of me, my Son, And of this moment; hither turn thy thoughts, And God will strengthen thee: amid all fear 415 And all temptation, Luke, I pray that thou May’st bear in mind the life thy Fathers lived, [44] Who, being innocent, did for that cause Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well– When thou return’st, thou in this place wilt see 420 A work which is not here: a covenant
‘Twill be between us; but, whatever fate Befal thee, I shall love thee to the last, And bear thy memory with me to the grave.”

The Shepherd ended here; and Luke stooped down, 425 And, as his Father had requested, laid
The first stone of the Sheep-fold. At the sight The old Man’s grief broke from him; to his heart He pressed his Son, he kissed him and wept; And to the house together they returned. 430 –Hushed was that House in peace, or seeming peace, [45] Ere the night fell:–with morrow’s dawn the Boy [46] Began his journey, and when he had reached The public way, he put on a bold face;
And all the neighbours, as he passed their doors, 435 Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers, That followed him till he was out of sight.

A good report did from their Kinsman come, Of Luke and his well doing: and the Boy Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news, 440 Which, as the Housewife phrased it, were throughout “The prettiest letters that were ever seen.” Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts. So, many months passed on: and once again The Shepherd went about his daily work 445 With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour He to that valley took his way, and there Wrought at the Sheep-fold. Meantime Luke began To slacken in his duty; and, at length, 450 He in the dissolute city gave himself
To evil courses: ignominy and shame Fell on him, so that he was driven at last To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.

There is a comfort in the strength of love; 455 ‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else Would overset the brain, or break the heart: [47] I have conversed with more than one who well Remember the old Man, and what he was
Years after he had heard this heavy news. 460 His bodily frame had been from youth to age Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks He went, and still looked up to sun and cloud, [48] And listened to the wind; and, as before, Performed all kinds of labour for his sheep, 465 And for the land, his small inheritance. And to that hollow dell from time to time Did he repair, to build the Fold of which His flock had need. ‘Tis not forgotten yet The pity which was then in every heart 470 For the old Man–and ’tis believed by all That many and many a day he thither went, And never lifted up a single stone.

There, by the Sheep-fold, sometimes was he seen Sitting alone, or with his faithful Dog, [49] 475 Then old, beside him, lying at his feet. The length of full seven years, from time to time, He at the building of this Sheep-fold wrought, And left the work unfinished when he died. Three years, or little more, did Isabel 480 Survive her Husband: at her death the estate Was sold, and went into a stranger’s hand. The Cottage which was named the EVENING STAR Is gone–the ploughshare has been through the ground On which it stood; great changes have been wrought 485 In all the neighbourhood:–yet the oak is left That grew beside their door; and the remains Of the unfinished Sheep-fold may be seen Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Ghyll.

* * * * *

VARIANTS ON THE TEXT

[Variant 1:

1827.

… beside … 1800.]

[Variant 2:

1827.

No habitation there is seen; but such As journey thither … 1800.]

[Variant 3:

1827.

There is … 1800.]

[Variant 4:

1836.

And to that place a story appertains, Which, though it be ungarnish’d with events, Is not unfit, … 1800.]

[Variant 5:

1827.

… It was the first,
The earliest of those tales … 1800.]

[Variant 6:

1827.

… he had learn’d … 1800.]

[Variant 7:

1836.

… the hills, which he so oft
Had climb’d with vigorous steps; … 1800.]

[Variant 8:

1832.

… linking to such acts,
So grateful in themselves, the certainty Of honourable gains; these fields, these hills Which were his living Being, even more
Than his own Blood–what could they less? had laid 1800.

… gain … 1805.]

[Variant 9:

1815.

He had not passed his days in singleness. He had a Wife, a comely Matron, old 1800.]

[Variant 10:

1836.

… their … 1800.]

[Variant 11:

1836.

… their … 1800.]

[Variant 12:

1836.

… their … 1800.]

[Variant 13:

1827.

Which … 1800.]

[Variant 14:

1836.

Did with a huge projection overbrow 1800.]

[Variant 15:

1827.

… was in his … 1800.]

[Variant 16:

1836.

… while late … 1800.]

[Variant 17:

Not with a waste of words, but for the sake Of pleasure, which I know that I shall give To many living now, I of this Lamp
Speak thus minutely: for there are no few Whose memories will bear witness to my tale.

These lines appeared only in the editions of 1800 and 1802.]

[Variant 18:

1815.

The … 1800.]

[Variant 19:

1832.

The … 1800.]

[Variant 20:

1827.

… yet more dear–
Effect which might perhaps have been produc’d By that instinctive tenderness, … 1800.]

[Variant 21:

1836.

Blind Spirit, which is in the blood of all, 1800.]

[Variant 22:

1827.

Or … 1800.]

[Variant 23: This line was first printed in the edition of 1836.]

[Variant 24:

From such, and other causes, to the thoughts Of the old Man his only Son was now
The dearest object that he knew on earth.

Only in the editions of 1800 to 1820.]

[Variant 25:

1827.

For dalliance … 1800.]

[Variant 26:

1836.

His cradle with a woman’s gentle hand. 1800.]

[Variant 27:

1836.

… when he
Had work by his own door, or when he sate With sheep before him on his Shepherd’s stool, Beneath that large old Oak, which near their door Stood, and from its enormous breadth of shade 1800.]

[Variant 28:

1815.

While this good household thus were living on 1800.

While in the fashion which I have described This simple Household thus were living on 1800 (2nd issue).]

[Variant 29:

1836.

As soon as he had gather’d so much strength That he could look his trouble in the face, It seem’d that his sole refuge was to sell 1800.]

[Variant 30:

1827.

… itself 1800.]

[Variant 31:

1836.

May come again to us … 1800.]

[Variant 32: Italics were first used in 1827.]

[Variant 33:

1836.

… for the two last nights 1800.

… through the 1815.]

[Variant 34:

1815.

The Lad … 1800.]

[Variant 35:

1820.

Next morning … 1800.]

[Variant 36:

1815.

… which close to the brook side 1800.]

[Variant 37:

1836.

… should speak
Of things … 1800.]

[Variant 38:

1827.

… as it befalls 1800.]

[Variant 39:

1836.

When … 1800.]

[Variant 40:

1815.

… in … 1800.]

[Variant 41:

1827.

… from sixty years. 1800.]

[Variant 42:

I for the purpose brought thee to this place.

This line appears only in the edition of 1800.]

[Variant 43:

1827.

… stout; … 1800.]

[Variant 44:

1802.

… should evil men
Be thy companions, let this Sheep-fold be Thy anchor and thy shield; amid all fear And all temptation, let it be to thee
An emblem of the life thy Fathers liv’d, 1800.]

[Variant 45: This line was added in the edition of 1815.]

[Variant 46:

1815.

Next morning, as had been resolv’d, the Boy 1800.]

[Variant 47:

1820.

Would break the heart:–Old Michael found it so. 1800.]

[Variant 48:

1836.

… look’d up upon the sun, 1800.

… towards the sun, 1832.]

[Variant 49:

1836.

Sitting alone, with that his faithful Dog, 1800.]

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES ON THE TEXT

[Footnote A: The Rev. Thomas Hutchinson, Kimbolton, tells me that in his copy of the edition of “Lyrical Ballads” of 1800 there is

“on the blank page facing the announcement, written in Wordsworth’s handwriting, the following lines:

‘Though it be in th’ humblest rank of life, And in the lowest region of our speech, Yet is it in that kind as best accords With rural passion.'”

Ed.]

[Footnote B: The following lines were written before April 1801, and were at one time meant to be inserted after “summer flies,” and before “Not with a waste of words.” They are quoted in a letter of Wordsworth’s to Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey, dated April 9th, 1801.

‘Though in their occupations they would pass Whole hours with but small interchange of speech, Yet were there times in which they did not want Discourse both wise and prudent, shrewd remarks Of daily providence, clothed in images Lively and beautiful, in rural forms
That made their conversation fresh and fair As is a landscape;–And the shepherd oft Would draw out of his heart the obscurities And admirations that were there, of God And of His works, or, yielding to the bent Of his peculiar humour, would let loose The tongue and give it the wind’s freedom,–then Discoursing on remote imaginations, story, Conceits, devices, day-dreams, thoughts and schemes, The fancies of a solitary man.’

Ed.]

[Footnote C: Clipping is the word used in the North of England for shearing.–W. W. 1800]

[Footnote D: The lines from “Though nought was left,” to “daily hope” (192-206) were, by a printer’s blunder, omitted from the first issue of 1800. In the second issue of that year they are given in full.–Ed.]

[Footnote E: The story alluded to here is well known in the country. The chapel is called Ings Chapel; and is on the right hand side of the road leading from Kendal to Ambleside.–W. W. 1800.

Ings chapel is in the parish of Kendal, about two miles east of Windermere. The following extract from Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary further explains the allusion in the poem:

“_Hugil_, a chapelry six and a quarter miles from Kendal. The chapel, rebuilt in 1743 by Robert Bateman, stands in the village of Ings, which is in this chapelry. The free school was endowed with land in 1650 by Roland Wilson, producing at present L12 per annum. The average number of boys is twenty-five. This endowment was augmented by L8 per annum by Robert Bateman, who gave L1000 for purchasing an estate, and erected eight alms-houses for as many poor families, besides a donation of L12 per annum to the curate. This worthy benefactor was born here, and from a state of indigence succeeded in amassing considerable wealth by mercantile pursuits. He is stated to have been poisoned, in the straits of Gibraltar, on his voyage from Leghorn, with a valuable cargo, by the captain of the vessel,”

(See ‘The Topographical Dictionary of England’, by Samuel Lewis, vol. ii. p. 1831.)–Ed.]

[Footnote F: There is a slight inconsistency here. The conversation is represented as taking place in the evening (see l. 227).–Ed.]

[Footnote G: It may be proper to inform some readers, that a sheep-fold in these mountains is an unroofed building of stone walls, with different divisions. It is generally placed by the side of a brook, for the convenience of washing the sheep; but it is also useful as a shelter for them, and as a place to drive them into, to enable the shepherds conveniently to single out one or more for any particular purpose.–W. W. 1800.]

From the Fenwick note it will be seen that Michael’s sheep-fold, in Green-head Ghyll, existed–at least the remains of it–in 1843. Its site, however, is now very difficult to identify. There is a sheep-fold above Boon Beck, which one passes immediately on entering the common, going up Green-head Ghyll. It is now “finished,” and used when required. There are remains of walling, much higher up the ghyll; but these are probably the work of miners, formerly engaged there. Michael’s cottage had been destroyed when the poem was written, in 1800. It stood where the coach-house and stables of “the Hollins” now stand. But one who visits Green-head Ghyll, and wishes to realize Michael in his old age–as described in this poem–should ascend the ghyll till it almost reaches the top of Fairfield; where the old man, during eighty years,

‘had learned the meaning of all winds, Of blasts of every tone,’

and where he

‘had been alone,
Amid the heart of many thousand mists, That came to him, and left him, on the heights.’

By so doing he will be better able to realize the spirit of the poem, than by trying to identify the site either of the “unfinished sheep-fold,” or of the house named the “Evening Star.” What Wordsworth said to the Hon. Mr. Justice Coleridge in reference to ‘The Brothers’ has been quoted in the note to that poem, p. 203. On the same occasion he remarked, in reference to ‘Michael’:

“‘Michael’ was founded on the son of an old couple having become dissolute, and run away from his parents; and on an old shepherd having been seven years in building up a sheep-fold in a solitary valley.”

(‘Memoirs of Wordsworth’, by the late Bishop of Lincoln, vol. ii. p. 305.)

The following extracts from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal, show the carefulness with which the poem ‘Michael’ was composed, and the frequent revisions which it underwent:

‘Oct. 11 [1800.] “We walked up Green-head ghyll in search of a sheepfold…. The sheepfold is falling away. It is built nearly in the form of a heart unequally divided.”

13. “William composing in the evening.”

15. “W. composed a little.” … “W. again composed at the sheepfold after dinner.”

18. “W. worked all the morning at the sheepfold, but in vain. He lay down till 7 o’clock, but did not sleep.”

19. “William got to work.”

20. “W. worked in the morning at the sheepfold.”

21. “W. had been unsuccessful in the morning at the sheepfold.”

22. “W. composed, without much success, at the sheepfold.”

23. “W. was not successful in composition in the evening.”