Skip to main content

Selected Poems (Dorothy Wordsworth)

Published onFeb 20, 2024
Selected Poems (Dorothy Wordsworth)

Selected Poems by Dorothy Wordsworth

“Address to A Child During A Boisterous Winter Evening”

What way does the wind come? What way does he go?

He rides over the water, and over the snow,

Through wood, and through vale; and o’er rocky height,

Which the goat cannot climb, takes his sounding flight;

He tosses about in every bare tree,

As, if you look up, you plainly may see;

But how he will come, and whither he goes,

There’s never a scholar in England knows.

He will suddenly stop in a cunning nook,

And ring a sharp ’larum; but, if you should look,

There’s nothing to see but a cushion of snow,

Round as a pillow, and whiter than milk,

And softer than if it were covered with silk.

Sometimes he’ll hide in the cave of a rock,

Then whistle as shrill as the buzzard cock;

— Yet seek him, and what shall you find in the place?

Nothing but silence and empty space;

Save, in a corner, a heap of dry leaves,

That he’s left, for a bed, to beggars or thieves!

As soon as ’tis daylight tomorrow, with me

You shall go to the orchard, and then you will see

That he has been there, and made a great rout,

And cracked the branches, and strewn them about;

Heaven grant that he spare but that one upright twig

That looked up at the sky so proud and big

All last summer, as well you know,

Studded with apples, a beautiful show!

Hark! over the roof he makes a pause,

And growls as if he would fix his claws

Right in the slates, and with a huge rattle

Drive them down, like men in a battle:

– But let him range round; he does us no harm,

We build up the fire, we’re snug and warm;

Untouched by his breath see the candle shines bright,

And burns with a clear and steady light.

Books have we to read, but that half-stifled knell,

Alas! ’tis the sound of the eight o’clock bell.

— Come, now we’ll to bed! and when we are there

He may work his own will, and what shall we care?

He may knock at the door — we’ll not let him in;

May drive at the windows — we’ll laugh at his din;

Let him seek his own home wherever it be;

Here’s a cozie warm house for Edward and me.

“Floating Island”

Harmonious Powers with Nature work

On sky, earth, river, lake, and sea:

Sunshine and storm, whirlwind and breeze

All in one duteous task agree.

Once did I see a slip of earth,

By throbbing waves long undermined,

Loosed from its hold; — how no one knew

But all might see it float, obedient to the wind.

Might see it, from the mossy shore

Dissevered float upon the Lake,

Float, with its crest of trees adorned

On which the warbling birds their pastime take.

Food, shelter, safety there they find

There berries ripen, flowerets bloom;

There insects live their lives — and die:

A peopled world it is; in size a tiny room.

And thus through many seasons’ space

This little Island may survive

But Nature, though we mark her not,

Will take away — may cease to give.

Perchance when you are wandering forth

Upon some vacant sunny day

Without an object, hope, or fear,

Thither your eyes may turn — the Isle is passed away.

Buried beneath the glittering Lake!

Its place no longer to be found,

Yet the lost fragments shall remain,

To fertilize some other ground.

“Grasmere: A Fragment”

Peaceful our valley, fair and green,
And beautiful her cottages,
Each in its nook, its sheltered hold,
Or underneath its tuft of trees.

Many and beautiful they are;
But there is one that I love best,
A lowly shed, in truth, it is,
A brother of the rest.

Yet when I sit on rock or hill,
Down looking on the valley fair,
That Cottage with its clustering trees
Summons my heart; it settles there.

Others there are whose small domain
Of fertile fields and hedgerows green
Might more seduce a wanderer's mind
To wish that there his home had been.

Such wish be his! I blame him not,
My fancies they perchance are wild
—I love that house because it is
The very Mountains' child.

Fields hath it of its own, green fields,
But they are rocky steep and bare;
Their fence is of the mountain stone,
And moss and lichen flourish there.

And when the storm comes from the North
It lingers near that pastoral spot,
And, piping through the mossy walls,
It seems delighted with its lot.

And let it take its own delight;
And let it range the pastures bare;
Until it reach that group of trees,
—It may not enter there!

A green unfading grove it is,
Skirted with many a lesser tree,
Hazel and holly, beech and oak,
A bright and flourishing company.

Precious the shelter of those trees;
They screen the cottage that I love;
The sunshine pierces to the roof,
And the tall pine-trees tower above.

When first I saw that dear abode,
It was a lovely winter's day:
After a night of perilous storm
The west wind ruled with gentle sway;

A day so mild, it might have been
The first day of the gladsome spring;
The robins warbled, and I heard
One solitary throstle sing.

A Stranger, Grasmere, in thy Vale,
All faces then to me unknown,
I left my sole companion-friend
To wander out alone.

Lured by a little winding path,
I quitted soon the public road,
A smooth and tempting path it was,
By sheep and shepherds trod.

Eastward, toward the lofty hills,
This pathway led me on
Until I reached a stately Rock,
With velvet moss o'ergrown.

With russet oak and tufts of fern
Its top was richly garlanded;
Its sides adorned with eglantine
Bedropp'd with hips of glossy red.

There, too, in many a sheltered chink
The foxglove's broad leaves flourished fair,
And silver birch whose purple twigs
Bend to the softest breathing air.

Beneath that Rock my course I stayed,
And, looking to its summit high,
"Thou wear'st," said I, "a splendid garb,
Here winter keeps his revelry.

"Full long a dweller on the Plains,
I griev'd when summer days were gone;
No more I'll grieve; for Winter here
Hath pleasure gardens of his own.

"What need of flowers? The splendid moss
Is gayer than an April mead;
More rich its hues of various green,
Orange, and gold, & glittering red."

—Beside that gay and lovely Rock
There came with merry voice
A foaming streamlet glancing by;
It seemed to say "Rejoice!"

My youthful wishes all fulfill'd,
Wishes matured by thoughtful choice,
I stood an Inmate of this vale
How could I but rejoice?

“Irregular Verses”

Ah Julia! ask a Christmas rhyme

Of me who in the golden time

Of careless, hopeful, happy youth

Ne’er strove to decorate the truth

Contented to lay bare my heart

To one dear Friend, who had her part

In all the love and all the care

And every joy that harboured there.

—To her I told in simple prose

Each girlish vision, as it rose

Before an active busy brain

That needed neither spur nor rein,

That still enjoyed the present hour

Yet for the future raised a tower

Of bliss more exquisite and pure

Bliss that (so deemed we) should endure

Maxims of caution, prudent fears

Vexed not the projects of those years

Simplicity our steadfast theme,

No works of Art adorned our scheme.—

A cottage in a verdant dell,

A foaming stream, a crystall Well,

A garden stored with fruit and flowers

And sunny seats and shady bowers,

A file of hives for humming bees

Under a row of stately trees

And, sheltering all this faery ground,

A belt of hills must wrap it round,

Not stern or mountainous, or bare,

Nor lacking herbs to scent the air;

Nor antient trees, nor scattered rocks,

And pastured by the blameless flocks

That print their green tracks to invite

Our wanderings to the topmost height.

   Such was the spot I fondly framed

When life was new, and hope untamed:

There with my one dear Friend would dwell,

Nor wish for aught beyond the dell.

   Alas! the cottage fled in air,

The streamlet never flowed:

—Yet did those visions pass away

So gently that they seemed to stay,

Though in our riper years we each pursued a different way.


—We parted, sorrowful; by duty led;

My Friend, ere long a happy Wife

Was seen with dignity to tread

The paths of usefulness, in active life;

And such her course through later days;

The same her honour and her praise;

As thou canst witness, thou dear Maid,

One of the Darlings of her care;

Thy Mother was that Friend who still repaid

Frank confidence with unshaken truth:

This was the glory of her youth,

A brighter gem than shines in prince’s diadem.


   You ask why in that jocund time

Why did I not in jingling rhyme

Display those pleasant guileless dreams

That furnished still exhaustless themes?

—I reverenced the Poet’s skill,

And might have nursed a mounting Will

To imitate the tender Lays

Of them who sang in Nature’s praise;

But bashfulness, a struggling shame

A fear that elder heads might blame

—Or something worse—a lurking pride

Whispering my playmates would deride

Stifled ambition, checked the aim

If e’er by chance “the numbers came”

—Nay even the mild maternal smile,

That oft-times would repress, beguile

The over-confidence of youth,

Even that dear smile, to own the truth,

Was dreaded by a fond self-love;

“‘Twill glance on me—and to reprove

Or,” (sorest wrong in childhood’s school)

“Will point the sting of ridicule.”


   And now, dear Girl, I hear you ask

Is this your lightsome, chearful task?

You tell us tales of forty years,

Of hopes extinct, of childish fears,

Why cast among us thoughts of sadness

When we are seeking mirth and gladness?

   Nay, ill those words befit the Maid

Who pleaded for my Christmas rhyme

Mirthful she is; but placid—staid—

Her heart beats to no giddy chime

Though it with Chearfulness keep time

For Chearfulness, a willing guest,

Finds ever in her tranquil breast

A fostering home, a welcome rest.

And well she knows that, casting thought away,

We lose the best part of our day;

That joys of youth remembered when our youth is past

Are joys that to the end of life will last;


   And if this poor memorial strain,

Breathed from the depth of years gone by,

Should touch her Mother’s heart with tender pain,

Or call a tear into her loving eye,

She will not check the tear or still the rising sigh.

—The happiest heart is given to sadness;

The saddest heart feels deepest gladness.


Thou dost not ask, thou dost not need

A verse from me; nor wilt thou heed

A greeting masked in laboured rhyme

From one whose heart has still kept time

With every pulse of thine.

“Lines Intended for My Niece’s Album”

Dear Maiden did thy youthful mind

Dally with emblems sad? or gay?

When thou gavest the word—and it was done,—

"My Book shall appear in green array."


Well didst thou speak, and well devise;

'Tis Nature's choice, her favored hue,

The badge she carries on her front,

And Nature faithful is, and true.


She, careful Warder, duly guards

The works of God's Almighty power,

Sustains with her diffusive breath

All moving things & tree & herb & flower


Like office hath this tiny Book;

Memorials of the Good and Wise,

Kind counsels, mild reproofs that bind

The Dead to the Living by holy ties,


Parental blessings, Friendship's vows,

Hope, love, and Brother's truth

Here, all preserved with duteous care,

Retain their dower of endless youth.


Perennial green enfolds these leaves;

They lie enclosed in glossy sheath

As spotless as the lily flower,

Till touched by a quickening breath


And it has touched them: Yes dear Girl,

In reverence of thy "gifted Sire"

A wreath for thee is here entwined

By his true Brothers of the Lyre


The Farewell of the laurelled Knight

Traced by a brave but tremulous hand,

Pledge of his truth and loyalty,

Through changeful years unchanged shall stand.


Confiding hopes of youthful hearts

And each bright visionary scheme

Shall here remain in vivid hues,

The hues of a celestial dream.


But why should I inscribe my name,

No poet I—no longer young?

The ambition of a loving heart

Makes garrulous the tongue.


Memorials of thy aged Friend,

Dora! thou dost not need,

And when the cold earth covers her

No praises shall she heed.


Yet still a lurking wish prevails

That, when from Life we all have passed

The Friends who love thy Parents' name

On her's a thought may cast.


“Loving and Liking: Irregular Verses Addressed to a Child”

There’s more in words than I can teach:

Yet listen, Child! — I would not preach;

But only give some plain directions

To guide your speech and your affections.

Say not you love a roasted fowl

But you may love a screaming owl,

And, if you can, the unwieldy toad

That crawls from his secure abode

Within the mossy garden wall

When evening dews begin to fall,

Oh! mark the beauty of his eye:

What wonders in that circle lie!

So clear, so bright, our fathers said

He wears a jewel in his head!

And when, upon some showery day,

Into a path or public way

A frog leaps out from bordering grass,

Startling the timid as they pass,

Do you observe him, and endeavour

To take the intruder into favour:

Learning from him to find a reason

For a light heart in a dull season.

And you may love him in the pool,

That is for him a happy school,

In which he swims as taught by nature,

Fit pattern for a human creature,

Glancing amid the water bright,

And sending upward sparkling light.

   Nor blush if o’er your heart be stealing

A love for things that have no feeling:

The spring’s first rose by you espied,

May fill your breast with joyful pride;

And you may love the strawberry-flower,

And love the strawberry in its bower;

But when the fruit, so often praised

For beauty, to your lip is raised,

Say not you love the delicate treat,

But like it, enjoy it, and thankfully eat.

   Long may you love your pensioner mouse,

Though one of a tribe that torment the house:

Nor dislike for her cruel sport the cat

Deadly foe both of mouse and rat;

Remember she follows the law of her kind,

And Instinct is neither wayward nor blind.

Then think of her beautiful gliding form,

Her tread that would scarcely crush a worm,

And her soothing song by the winter fire,

Soft as the dying throb of the lyre.

   I would not circumscribe your love:

It may soar with the Eagle and brood with the dove,

May pierce the earth with the patient mole,

Or track the hedgehog to his hole.

Loving and liking are the solace of life,

Rock the cradle of joy, smooth the death-bed of strife.

You love your father and your mother,

Your grown-up and your baby brother;

You love your sister and your friends,

And countless blessings which God sends;

And while these right affections play,

You live each moment of your day;

They lead you on to full content,

And likings fresh and innocent,

That store the mind, the memory feed,

And prompt to many a gentle deed:

But likings come, and pass away;

’Tis love that remains till our latest day:

Our heavenward guide is holy love,

And will be our bliss with saints above.

“The Mother’s Return”

A month, sweet Little-ones, is past

Since your dear Mother went away,

And she tomorrow will return;

Tomorrow is the happy day.

O blessed tidings! thoughts of joy!

The eldest heard with steady glee;

Silent he stood; then laughed amain,

And shouted, ‘Mother, come to me!’

Louder and louder did he shout,

With witless hope to bring her near!

‘Nay, patience! patience, little boy;

Your tender mother cannot hear.’

I told of hills, and far-off towns,

And long, long vales to travel through;

He listened, puzzled, sore perplexed,

But he submits; what can he do?

No strike disturbs his sister’s breast;

She wars not with the mystery

Of time and distance, night and day;

The bonds of our humanity.

Her joy is like an instinct, joy

Of kitten, bird, or summer fly;

She dances, runs without an aim,

She chatters in her ecstasy.

Her brother now takes up the note,

And echoes back his sister’s glee;

They hug the infant in my arms,

As if to force his sympathy.

Then, settling into fond discourse,

We rested in the garden bower;

While sweetly shone the evening sun

In his departing hour.

We told o’er all that we had done,

Our rambles by the swift brook’s side

Far as the willow-skirted pool,

Where two fair swans together glide.

We talked of change, of winter gone,

Of green leaves on the hawthorn spray,

Of birds that build their nests and sing.

And all ‘since Mother went away!’

To her these tales they will repeat,

To her our new-born tribes will show,

The goslings green, the ass’s colt,

The lambs that in the meadow go.

— But see, the evening star comes forth!

To bed the children must depart;

A moment’s heaviness they feel,

A sadness at the heart:

’Tis gone — and in a merry fit

They run up stairs in gamesome race;

I, too, infected by their mood,

I could have joined the wanton chase.

Five minutes past — and, O the change!

Asleep upon their beds they lie;

Their busy limbs in perfect rest,

And closed the sparkling eye.

“Thoughts on My Sick-bed”

And has the remnant of my life
Been pilfered of this sunny Spring?
And have its own prelusive sounds
Touched in my heart no echoing string?

Ah! say not so—the hidden life
Couchant within this feeble frame
Hath been enriched by kindred gifts,
That, undesired, unsought-for, came

With joyful heart in youthful days
When fresh each season in its Round
I welcomed the earliest Celandine
Glittering upon the mossy ground;

With busy eyes I pierced the lane
In quest of known and unknown things,
—The primrose a lamp on its fortress rock,
The silent butterfly spreading its wings,

The violet betrayed by its noiseless breath,
The daffodil dancing in the breeze,
The carolling thrush, on his naked perch,
Towering above the budding trees.

Our cottage-hearth no longer our home,
Companions of Nature were we,
The Stirring, the Still, the Loquacious, the Mute—
To all we gave our sympathy.

Yet never in those careless days
When spring-time in rock, field, or bower
Was but a fountain of earthly hope
A promise of fruits & the splendid flower.

No! then I never felt a bliss
That might with that compare
Which, piercing to my couch of rest,
Came on the vernal air.

When loving Friends an offering brought,
The first flowers of the year,
Culled from the precincts of our home,
From nooks to Memory dear.

With some sad thoughts the work was done.
Unprompted and unbidden,
But joy it brought to my hidden life,
To consciousness no longer hidden.

I felt a Power unfelt before,
Controlling weakness, languor, pain;
It bore me to the Terrace walk
I trod the Hills again; —

No prisoner in this lonely room,
I saw the green Banks of the Wye,
Recalling thy prophetic words,
Bard, Brother, Friend from infancy!

No need of motion, or of strength,
Or even the breathing air;
—I thought of Nature’s loveliest scenes;
And with Memory I was there.

“When Shall I Tread Your Garden Path”

When shall I tread your garden path

Or climb your sheltering hill?

When shall I wander, free as air,

And track the foaming rill?

A prisoner on my pillowed couch,

Five years in feebleness I've lain—

Oh shall I e'er with vigorous step

Travel the hills again?

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?