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Selected Poems (William Wordsworth)

Published onFeb 20, 2024
Selected Poems (William Wordsworth)

Selected Poems by William Wordsworth

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not any thing to show more fair:

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by

A sight so touching in its majesty:

This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:

Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Expostulation and Reply

Why, William, on that old gray stone,

Thus for the length of half a day,

Why, William, sit you thus alone,

And dream your time away?


"Where are your books? — that light bequeathed

To Beings else forlorn and blind!

Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed

From dead men to their kind.


"You look round on your Mother Earth,

As if she for no purpose bore you;

As if you were her first-born birth,

And none had lived before you!"


One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,

When life was sweet, I knew not why,

To me my good friend Matthew spake,

And thus I made reply:—


"The eye — it cannot choose but see;

We cannot bid the ear be still;

Our bodies feel, where'er they be,

Against or with our will.


"Nor less I deem that there are Powers

Which of themselves our minds impress;

That we can feed this mind of ours

In a wise passiveness.


"Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum

Of things forever speaking,

That nothing of itself will come

But we must still be seeking?


"Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,

Conversing as I may,

I sit upon this old gray stone,

And dream my time away."

“Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm, Painted by Sir George Beaumont”

I was thy neighbour once, thou rugged Pile!

Four summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee:

I saw thee every day; and all the while

Thy Form was sleeping on a glassy sea.

So pure the sky, so quiet was the air!

So like, so very like, was day to day!

Whene'er I looked, thy Image still was there;

It trembled, but it never passed away.

How perfect was the calm! it seemed no sleep;

No mood, which season takes away, or brings:

I could have fancied that the mighty Deep

Was even the gentlest of all gentle things.

Ah! then , if mine had been the Painter's hand,

To express what then I saw; and add the gleam,

The light that never was, on sea or land,

The consecration, and the Poet's dream;

I would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile

Amid a world how different from this!

Beside a sea that could not cease to smile;

On tranquil land, beneath a sky of bliss.

Thou shouldst have seemed a treasure-house divine

Of peaceful years; a chronicle of heaven;—

Of all the sunbeams that did ever shine

The very sweetest had to thee been given.

A Picture had it been of lasting ease,

Elysian quiet, without toil or strife;

No motion but the moving tide, a breeze,

Or merely silent Nature's breathing life.

Such, in the fond illusion of my heart,

Such Picture would I at that time have made:

And seen the soul of truth in every part,

A steadfast peace that might not be betrayed.

So once it would have been,—'tis so no more;

I have submitted to a new control:

A power is gone, which nothing can restore;

A deep distress hath humanised my Soul.

Not for a moment could I now behold

A smiling sea, and be what I have been:

The feeling of my loss will ne'er be old;

This, which I know, I speak with mind serene.

Then, Beaumont, Friend! who would have been the Friend,

If he had lived, of Him whom I deplore,

This work of thine I blame not, but commend;

This sea in anger, and that dismal shore.

O 'tis a passionate Work!—yet wise and well,

Well chosen is the spirit that is here;

That Hulk which labours in the deadly swell,

This rueful sky, this pageantry of fear!

And this huge Castle, standing here sublime,

I love to see the look with which it braves,

Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time,

The lightning, the fierce wind, the trampling waves.

Farewell, farewell the heart that lives alone,

Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind!

Such happiness, wherever it be known,

Is to be pitied; for 'tis surely blind.

But welcome fortitude, and patient cheer,

And frequent sights of what is to be borne!

Such sights, or worse, as are before me here.—

Not without hope we suffer and we mourn.

“I Grieved for Buonaparte”

I grieved for Buonaparte, with a vain
And an unthinking grief! The tenderest mood
Of that Man's mind--what can it be? what food
Fed his first hopes? what knowledge could 'he' gain?
'Tis not in battles that from youth we train
The Governor who must be wise and good,
And temper with the sternness of the brain
Thoughts motherly, and meek as womanhood.
Wisdom doth live with children round her knees:
Books, leisure, perfect freedom, and the talk                  
Man holds with week-day man in the hourly walk
Of the mind's business: these are the degrees
By which true Sway doth mount; this is the stalk
True Power doth grow on; and her rights are these.


“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

“Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798”

Five years have past; five summers, with the length

Of five long winters! and again I hear

These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

With a soft inland murmur.—Once again

Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,

That on a wild secluded scene impress

Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect

The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

The day is come when I again repose

Here, under this dark sycamore, and view

These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,

Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,

Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves

'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!

With some uncertain notice, as might seem

Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,

Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire

The Hermit sits alone.

                                              These beauteous forms,

Through a long absence, have not been to me

As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;

And passing even into my purer mind

With tranquil restoration:—feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,

As have no slight or trivial influence

On that best portion of a good man's life,

His little, nameless, unremembered, acts

Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,

To them I may have owed another gift,

Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight

Of all this unintelligible world,

Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,

In which the affections gently lead us on,—

Until, the breath of this corporeal frame

And even the motion of our human blood

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep

In body, and become a living soul:

While with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,

We see into the life of things.

                                                        If this

Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—

In darkness and amid the many shapes

Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir

Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,

Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—

How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,

O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,

         How often has my spirit turned to thee!

   And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,

With many recognitions dim and faint,

And somewhat of a sad perplexity,

The picture of the mind revives again:

While here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all.—I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,

And all its aching joys are now no more,

And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this

Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts

Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,

Abundant recompense. For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes

The still sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue.—And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,

And what perceive; well pleased to recognise

In nature and the language of the sense

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being.

                                            Nor perchance,

If I were not thus taught, should I the more

Suffer my genial spirits to decay:

For thou art with me here upon the banks

Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,

My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch

The language of my former heart, and read

My former pleasures in the shooting lights

Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while

May I behold in thee what I was once,

My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,

Knowing that Nature never did betray

The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,

Through all the years of this our life, to lead

From joy to joy: for she can so inform

The mind that is within us, so impress

With quietness and beauty, and so feed

With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,

Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,

Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all

The dreary intercourse of daily life,

Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb

Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold

Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon

Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;

And let the misty mountain-winds be free

To blow against thee: and, in after years,

When these wild ecstasies shall be matured

Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind

Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,

Thy memory be as a dwelling-place

For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,

If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,

Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts

Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,

And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance—

If I should be where I no more can hear

Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams

Of past existence—wilt thou then forget

That on the banks of this delightful stream

We stood together; and that I, so long

A worshipper of Nature, hither came

Unwearied in that service: rather say

With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal

Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,

That after many wanderings, many years

Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,

And this green pastoral landscape, were to me

More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!

“Lines Written in Early Spring”

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure:—

But the least motion which they made

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature’s holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?

“London, 1802”

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:

England hath need of thee: she is a fen

Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,

Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,

Have forfeited their ancient English dower

Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;

Oh! raise us up, return to us again;

And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:

Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,

So didst thou travel on life's common way,

In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart

The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

“Lucy Gray”

Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray:

And, when I crossed the wild,

I chanced to see at break of day

The solitary child.

No mate, no comrade Lucy knew;

She dwelt on a wide moor,

--The sweetest thing that ever grew

Beside a human door!

You yet may spy the fawn at play,

The hare upon the green;

But the sweet face of Lucy Gray

Will never more be seen.

"To-night will be a stormy night--

You to the town must go;

And take a lantern, Child, to light

Your mother through the snow."

"That, Father! will I gladly do:

'Tis scarcely afternoon--

The minster-clock has just struck two,

And yonder is the moon!"

At this the Father raised his hook,

And snapped a faggot-band;

He plied his work;--and Lucy took

The lantern in her hand.

Not blither is the mountain roe:

With many a wanton stroke

Her feet disperse the powdery snow,

That rises up like smoke.

The storm came on before its time:

She wandered up and down;

And many a hill did Lucy climb:

But never reached the town.

The wretched parents all that night

Went shouting far and wide;

But there was neither sound nor sight

To serve them for a guide.

At day-break on a hill they stood

That overlooked the moor;

And thence they saw the bridge of wood,

A furlong from their door.

They wept--and, turning homeward, cried,

"In heaven we all shall meet;"

--When in the snow the mother spied

The print of Lucy's feet.

Then downwards from the steep hill's edge

They tracked the footmarks small;

And through the broken hawthorn hedge,

And by the long stone-wall;

And then an open field they crossed:

The marks were still the same;

They tracked them on, nor ever lost;

And to the bridge they came.

They followed from the snowy bank

Those footmarks, one by one,

Into the middle of the plank;

And further there were none!

--Yet some maintain that to this day

She is a living child;

That you may see sweet Lucy Gray

Upon the lonesome wild.


O'er rough and smooth she trips along,

And never looks behind;

And sings a solitary song

That whistles in the wind.


From low to high doth dissolution climb,

And sink from high to low, along a scale

Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail;

A musical but melancholy chime,

Which they can hear who meddle not with crime,

Nor avarice, nor over-anxious care.

Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear

The longest date do melt like frosty rime,

That in the morning whitened hill and plain

And is no more; drop like the tower sublime

Of yesterday, which royally did wear

His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain

Some casual shout that broke the silent air,

Or the unimaginable touch of Time.

“My heart leaps up”

My heart leaps up when I behold 
   A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began; 
So is it now I am a man; 
So be it when I shall grow old, 
   Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

“Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room”

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;

And hermits are contented with their cells;

And students with their pensive citadels;

Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,

Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,

High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,

Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:

In truth the prison, into which we doom

Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,

In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound

Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;

Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)

Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,

Should find brief solace there, as I have found.


                               —It seems a day

(I speak of one from many singled out)

One of those heavenly days that cannot die;

When, in the eagerness of boyish hope,

I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth

With a huge wallet o'er my shoulders slung,

A nutting-crook in hand; and turned my steps

Tow'rd some far-distant wood, a Figure quaint,

Tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds

Which for that service had been husbanded,

By exhortation of my frugal Dame—

Motley accoutrement, of power to smile

At thorns, and brakes, and brambles,—and, in truth,

More ragged than need was! O'er pathless rocks,

Through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets,

Forcing my way, I came to one dear nook

Unvisited, where not a broken bough

Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign

Of devastation; but the hazels rose

Tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung,

A virgin scene!—A little while I stood,

Breathing with such suppression of the heart

As joy delights in; and, with wise restraint

Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed

The banquet;—or beneath the trees I sate

Among the flowers, and with the flowers I played;

A temper known to those, who, after long

And weary expectation, have been blest

With sudden happiness beyond all hope.

Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves

The violets of five seasons re-appear

And fade, unseen by any human eye;

Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on

For ever; and I saw the sparkling foam,

And—with my cheek on one of those green stones

That, fleeced with moss, under the shady trees,

Lay round me, scattered like a flock of sheep—

I heard the murmur, and the murmuring sound,

In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay

Tribute to ease; and, of its joy secure,

The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,

Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones,

And on the vacant air. Then up I rose,

And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash

And merciless ravage: and the shady nook

Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower,

Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up

Their quiet being: and, unless I now

Confound my present feelings with the past;

Ere from the mutilated bower I turned

Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings,

I felt a sense of pain when I beheld

The silent trees, and saw the intruding sky.—

Then, dearest Maiden, move along these shades

In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand

Touch—for there is a spirit in the woods.

“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

   The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
   Bound each to each by natural piety.
          (Wordsworth, "My Heart Leaps Up")

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

       The earth, and every common sight,

                          To me did seem

                      Apparelled in celestial light,

            The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;—

                      Turn wheresoe'er I may,

                          By night or day.

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

                      The Rainbow comes and goes,

                      And lovely is the Rose,

                      The Moon doth with delight

       Look round her when the heavens are bare,

                      Waters on a starry night

                      Are beautiful and fair;

       The sunshine is a glorious birth;

       But yet I know, where'er I go,

That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,

       And while the young lambs bound

                      As to the tabor's sound,

To me alone there came a thought of grief:

A timely utterance gave that thought relief,

                      And I again am strong:

The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;

No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;

I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,

       The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep,

                      And all the earth is gay;

                           Land and sea

                Give themselves up to jollity,

                      And with the heart of May

                 Doth every Beast keep holiday;—

                      Thou Child of Joy,

Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy Shepherd-boy.

Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call

      Ye to each other make; I see

The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;

      My heart is at your festival,

            My head hath its coronal,

The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.

                      Oh evil day! if I were sullen

                      While Earth herself is adorning,

                         This sweet May-morning,

                      And the Children are culling

                         On every side,

In a thousand valleys far and wide,

                      Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,

And the Babe leaps up on his Mother's arm:—

                      I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!

                      —But there's a Tree, of many, one,

A single field which I have looked upon,

Both of them speak of something that is gone;

                      The Pansy at my feet

                      Doth the same tale repeat:

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?

Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

                      Hath had elsewhere its setting,

                         And cometh from afar:

                      Not in entire forgetfulness,

                      And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

                      From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

                      Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

                      He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

                      Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,

                      And by the vision splendid

                      Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;

Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,

                      And, even with something of a Mother's mind,

                      And no unworthy aim,

The homely Nurse doth all she can

To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,

                      Forget the glories he hath known,

And that imperial palace whence he came.

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,

A six years' Darling of a pigmy size!

See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies,

Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses,

With light upon him from his father's eyes!

See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,

Some fragment from his dream of human life,

Shaped by himself with newly-learn{e}d art

                      A wedding or a festival,

                      A mourning or a funeral;

                         And this hath now his heart,

                      And unto this he frames his song:

                         Then will he fit his tongue

To dialogues of business, love, or strife;

                      But it will not be long

                      Ere this be thrown aside,

                      And with new joy and pride

The little Actor cons another part;

Filling from time to time his "humorous stage"

With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,

That Life brings with her in her equipage;

                      As if his whole vocation

                      Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie

                      Thy Soul's immensity;

Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep

Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,

That, deaf and silent, read'st the eternal deep,

Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,—

                      Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!

                      On whom those truths do rest,

Which we are toiling all our lives to find,

In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;

Thou, over whom thy Immortality

Broods like the Day, a Master o'er a Slave,

A Presence which is not to be put by;

Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might

Of heaven-born freedom on thy being's height,

Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke

The years to bring the inevitable yoke,

Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?

Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,

And custom lie upon thee with a weight,

Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!

                      O joy! that in our embers

                      Is something that doth live,

                      That Nature yet remembers

What was so fugitive!

The thought of our past years in me doth breed

Perpetual benediction: not indeed

For that which is most worthy to be blest;

Delight and liberty, the simple creed

Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,

With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—

                      Not for these I raise

                      The song of thanks and praise

                But for those obstinate questionings

                Of sense and outward things,

                Fallings from us, vanishings;

                Blank misgivings of a Creature

Moving about in worlds not realised,

High instincts before which our mortal Nature

Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:

                      But for those first affections,

                      Those shadowy recollections,

                Which, be they what they may

Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,

Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;

                Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make

Our noisy years seem moments in the being

Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,

                To perish never;

Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,

                      Nor Man nor Boy,

Nor all that is at enmity with joy,

Can utterly abolish or destroy!

                Hence in a season of calm weather

                      Though inland far we be,

Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea

                      Which brought us hither,

                Can in a moment travel thither,

And see the Children sport upon the shore,

And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!

                      And let the young Lambs bound

                      As to the tabor's sound!

We in thought will join your throng,

                      Ye that pipe and ye that play,

                      Ye that through your hearts to-day

                      Feel the gladness of the May!

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

                Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

                      We will grieve not, rather find

                      Strength in what remains behind;

                      In the primal sympathy

                      Which having been must ever be;

                      In the soothing thoughts that spring

                      Out of human suffering;

                      In the faith that looks through death,

In years that bring the philosophic mind.

And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,

Forebode not any severing of our loves!

Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;

I only have relinquished one delight

To live beneath your more habitual sway.

I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,

Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;

The innocent brightness of a new-born Day

                      Is lovely yet;

The Clouds that gather round the setting sun

Do take a sober colouring from an eye

That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;

Another race hath been, and other palms are won.

Thanks to the human heart by which we live,

Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,

To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

“The Reverie of Poor Susan”

At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears,

Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:

Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard

In the silence of morning the song of the Bird.

'Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees

A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;

Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,

And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,

Down which she so often has tripped with her pail;

And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's,

The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.

She looks, and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,

The mist and the river, the hill and the shade:

The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,

And the colours have all passed away from her eyes!

“Scorn not the Sonnet”

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,

Mindless of its just honours; with this key

Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody

Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;

A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;

With it Camöens soothed an exile's grief;

The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf

Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned

His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,

It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faery-land

To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp

Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand

The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew

Soul-animating strains—alas, too few!

“Simon Lee: The Old Huntsman”

In the sweet shire of Cardigan,

Not far from pleasant Ivor-hall,

An old Man dwells, a little man,—

'Tis said he once was tall.

For five-and-thirty years he lived

A running huntsman merry;

And still the centre of his cheek

Is red as a ripe cherry.

No man like him the horn could sound,

And hill and valley rang with glee

When Echo bandied, round and round

The halloo of Simon Lee.

In those proud days, he little cared

For husbandry or tillage;

To blither tasks did Simon rouse

The sleepers of the village.

He all the country could outrun,

Could leave both man and horse behind;

And often, ere the chase was done,

He reeled, and was stone-blind.

And still there's something in the world

At which his heart rejoices;

For when the chiming hounds are out,

He dearly loves their voices!

But, oh the heavy change!—bereft

Of health, strength, friends, and kindred, see!

Old Simon to the world is left

In liveried poverty.

His Master's dead—and no one now

Dwells in the Hall of Ivor;

Men, dogs, and horses, all are dead;

He is the sole survivor.

And he is lean and he is sick;

His body, dwindled and awry,

Rests upon ankles swoln and thick;

His legs are thin and dry.

One prop he has, and only one,

His wife, an aged woman,

Lives with him, near the waterfall,

Upon the village Common.

Beside their moss-grown hut of clay,

Not twenty paces from the door,

A scrap of land they have, but they

Are poorest of the poor.

This scrap of land he from the heath

Enclosed when he was stronger;

But what to them avails the land

Which he can till no longer?

Oft, working by her Husband's side,

Ruth does what Simon cannot do;

For she, with scanty cause for pride,

Is stouter of the two.

And, though you with your utmost skill

From labour could not wean them,

'Tis little, very little—all

That they can do between them.

Few months of life has he in store

As he to you will tell,

For still, the more he works, the more

Do his weak ankles swell.

My gentle Reader, I perceive,

How patiently you've waited,

And now I fear that you expect

Some tale will be related.

O Reader! had you in your mind

Such stores as silent thought can bring,

O gentle Reader! you would find

A tale in every thing.

What more I have to say is short,

And you must kindly take it:

It is no tale; but, should you think,

Perhaps a tale you'll make it.

One summer-day I chanced to see

This old Man doing all he could

To unearth the root of an old tree,

A stump of rotten wood.

The mattock tottered in his hand;

So vain was his endeavour,

That at the root of the old tree

He might have worked for ever.

"You're overtasked, good Simon Lee,

Give me your tool," to him I said;

And at the word right gladly he

Received my proffered aid.

I struck, and with a single blow

The tangled root I severed,

At which the poor old Man so long

And vainly had endeavoured.

The tears into his eyes were brought,

And thanks and praises seemed to run

So fast out of his heart, I thought

They never would have done.

—I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds

With coldness still returning;

Alas! the gratitude of men

Hath oftener left me mourning.

“The Solitary Reaper”

Behold her, single in the field,

Yon solitary Highland Lass!

Reaping and singing by herself;

Stop here, or gently pass!

Alone she cuts and binds the grain,

And sings a melancholy strain;

O listen! for the Vale profound

Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt

More welcome notes to weary bands

Of travellers in some shady haunt,

Among Arabian sands:

A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard

In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,

Breaking the silence of the seas

Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—

Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow

For old, unhappy, far-off things,

And battles long ago:

Or is it some more humble lay,

Familiar matter of to-day?

Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,

That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang

As if her song could have no ending;

I saw her singing at her work,

And o'er the sickle bending;—

I listened, motionless and still;

And, as I mounted up the hill,

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more.

“The Tables Turned”

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;

Or surely you'll grow double:

Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;

Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,

A freshening lustre mellow

Through all the long green fields has spread,

His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:

Come, hear the woodland linnet,

How sweet his music! on my life,

There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!

He, too, is no mean preacher:

Come forth into the light of things,

Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,

Our minds and hearts to bless—

Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,

Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man,

Of moral evil and of good,

Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;

Our meddling intellect

Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—

We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;

Close up those barren leaves;

Come forth, and bring with you a heart

That watches and receives.

“The Thorn”


“There is a Thorn—it looks so old,

In truth, you’d find it hard to say

How it could ever have been young,

It looks so old and grey.

Not higher than a two years' child

It stands erect, this aged Thorn;

No leaves it has, no prickly points;

It is a mass of knotted joints,

A wretched thing forlorn.

It stands erect, and like a stone

With lichens is it overgrown.


“Like rock or stone, it is o’ergrown,

With lichens to the very top,

And hung with heavy tufts of moss,

A melancholy crop:

Up from the earth these mosses creep,

And this poor Thorn they clasp it round

So close, you’d say that they are bent

With plain and manifest intent

To drag it to the ground;

And all have joined in one endeavour

To bury this poor Thorn for ever.


“High on a mountain’s highest ridge,

Where oft the stormy winter gale

Cuts like a scythe, while through the clouds

It sweeps from vale to vale;

Not five yards from the mountain path,

This Thorn you on your left espy;

And to the left, three yards beyond,

You see a little muddy pond

Of water—never dry,

Though but of compass small, and bare

To thirsty suns and parching air.


“And, close beside this aged Thorn,

There is a fresh and lovely sight,

A beauteous heap, a hill of moss,

Just half a foot in height.

All lovely colours there you see,

All colours that were ever seen;

And mossy network too is there,

As if by hand of lady fair

The work had woven been;

And cups, the darlings of the eye,

So deep is their vermilion dye.


“Ah me! what lovely tints are there

Of olive green and scarlet bright,

In spikes, in branches, and in stars,

Green, red, and pearly white!

This heap of earth o’ergrown with moss,

Which close beside the Thorn you see,

So fresh in all its beauteous dyes,

Is like an infant’s grave in size,

As like as like can be:

But never, never any where,

An infant’s grave was half so fair.


“Now would you see this aged Thorn,

This pond, and beauteous hill of moss,

You must take care and choose your time

The mountain when to cross.

For oft there sits between the heap,

So like an infant’s grave in size,

And that same pond of which I spoke,

A Woman in a scarlet cloak,

And to herself she cries,

‘Oh misery! oh misery!

Oh woe is me! oh misery!’


“At all times of the day and night

This wretched Woman thither goes;

And she is known to every star,

And every wind that blows;

And there, beside the Thorn, she sits

When the blue daylight’s in the skies,

And when the whirlwind’s on the hill,

Or frosty air is keen and still,

And to herself she cries,

‘Oh misery! oh misery!

Oh woe is me! oh misery!’ ”


“Now wherefore, thus, by day and night,

In rain, in tempest, and in snow,

Thus to the dreary mountain-top

Does this poor Woman go?

And why sits she beside the Thorn

When the blue daylight’s in the sky

Or when the whirlwind’s on the hill,

Or frosty air is keen and still,

And wherefore does she cry?—

O wherefore? wherefore? tell me why

Does she repeat that doleful cry?”


“I cannot tell; I wish I could;

For the true reason no one knows:

But would you gladly view the spot,

The spot to which she goes;

The hillock like an infant’s grave,

The pond—and Thorn, so old and grey;

Pass by her door—’tis seldom shut—

And if you see her in her hut—

Then to the spot away!

I never heard of such as dare

Approach the spot when she is there.”


“But wherefore to the mountain-top

Can this unhappy Woman go,

Whatever star is in the skies,

Whatever wind may blow?”

“Full twenty years are past and gone

Since she (her name is Martha Ray)

Gave with a maiden’s true good-will

Her company to Stephen Hill;

And she was blithe and gay,

While friends and kindred all approved

Of him whom tenderly she loved.


“And they had fixed the wedding day,

The morning that must wed them both;

But Stephen to another Maid

Had sworn another oath;

And, with this other Maid, to church

Unthinking Stephen went—

Poor Martha! on that woeful day

A pang of pitiless dismay

Into her soul was sent;

A fire was kindled in her breast,

Which might not burn itself to rest.


“They say, full six months after this,

While yet the summer leaves were green,

She to the mountain-top would go,

And there was often seen.

What could she seek?—or wish to hide?

Her state to any eye was plain;

She was with child, and she was mad;

Yet often was she sober sad

From her exceeding pain.

O guilty Father—would that death

Had saved him from that breach of faith!


“Sad case for such a brain to hold

Communion with a stirring child!

Sad case, as you may think, for one

Who had a brain so wild!

Last Christmas-eve we talked of this,

And grey-haired Wilfred of the glen

Held that the unborn infant wrought

About its mother’s heart, and brought

Her senses back again:

And, when at last her time drew near,

Her looks were calm, her senses clear.


“More know I not, I wish I did,

And it should all be told to you;

For what became of this poor child

No mortal ever knew;

Nay—if a child to her was born

No earthly tongue could ever tell;

And if ’twas born alive or dead,

Far less could this with proof be said;

But some remember well,

That Martha Ray about this time

Would up the mountain often climb.


“And all that winter, when at night

The wind blew from the mountain-peak,

’Twas worth your while, though in the dark,

The churchyard path to seek:

For many a time and oft were heard

Cries coming from the mountain head:

Some plainly living voices were;

And others, I’ve heard many swear,

Were voices of the dead:

I cannot think, whate’er they say,

They had to do with Martha Ray.


“But that she goes to this old Thorn,

The Thorn which I described to you,

And there sits in a scarlet cloak,

I will be sworn is true.

For one day with my telescope,

To view the ocean wide and bright,

When to this country first I came,

Ere I had heard of Martha’s name,

I climbed the mountain’s height:—

A storm came on, and I could see

No object higher than my knee.


“ ’Twas mist and rain, and storm and rain:

No screen, no fence could I discover;

And then the wind! in sooth, it was

A wind full ten times over.

I looked around, I thought I saw

A jutting crag,—and off I ran,

Head-foremost, through the driving rain,

The shelter of the crag to gain;

And, as I am a man,

Instead of jutting crag, I found

A Woman seated on the ground.


“I did not speak—I saw her face;

Her face!—it was enough for me;

I turned about and heard her cry,

‘Oh misery! oh misery!’

And there she sits, until the moon

Through half the clear blue sky will go;

And when the little breezes make

The waters of the pond to shake,

As all the country know,

She shudders, and you hear her cry,

‘Oh misery! oh misery!’ ”


“But what’s the Thorn? and what the pond?

And what the hill of moss to her?

And what the creeping breeze that comes

The little pond to stir?”

“I cannot tell; but some will say

She hanged her baby on the tree;

Some say she drowned it in the pond,

Which is a little step beyond:

But all and each agree,

The little Babe was buried there,

Beneath that hill of moss so fair.


“I’ve heard, the moss is spotted red

With drops of that poor infant’s blood;

But kill a new-born infant thus,

I do not think she could!

Some say, if to the pond you go,

And fix on it a steady view,

The shadow of a babe you trace,

A baby and a baby’s face,

And that it looks at you;

Whene’er you look on it, ’tis plain

The baby looks at you again.


“And some had sworn an oath that she

Should be to public justice brought;

And for the little infant’s bones

With spades they would have sought.

But instantly the hill of moss

Before their eyes began to stir!

And, for full fifty yards around,

The grass—it shook upon the ground!

Yet all do still aver

The little Babe lies buried there,

Beneath that hill of moss so fair.


“I cannot tell how this may be,

But plain it is the Thorn is bound

With heavy tufts of moss that strive

To drag it to the ground;

And this I know, full many a time,

When she was on the mountain high,

By day, and in the silent night,

When all the stars shone clear and bright,

That I have heard her cry,

‘Oh misery! oh misery!

Oh woe is me! oh misery!’ ”

“We Are Seven”

———A simple Child,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:

She was eight years old, she said;

Her hair was thick with many a curl

That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,

And she was wildly clad:

Her eyes were fair, and very fair;

—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,

How many may you be?”

“How many? Seven in all,” she said,

And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”

She answered, “Seven are we;

And two of us at Conway dwell,

And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,

My sister and my brother;

And, in the church-yard cottage, I

Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,

And two are gone to sea,

Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,

Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,

“Seven boys and girls are we;

Two of us in the church-yard lie,

Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,

Your limbs they are alive;

If two are in the church-yard laid,

Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”

The little Maid replied,

“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,

And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,

My kerchief there I hem;

And there upon the ground I sit,

And sing a song to them.

“And often after sun-set, Sir,

When it is light and fair,

I take my little porringer,

And eat my supper there.

“The first that died was sister Jane;

In bed she moaning lay,

Till God released her of her pain;

And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;

And, when the grass was dry,

Together round her grave we played,

My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,

And I could run and slide,

My brother John was forced to go,

And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,

“If they two are in heaven?”

Quick was the little Maid’s reply,

“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!

Their spirits are in heaven!”

’Twas throwing words away; for still

The little Maid would have her will,

And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

“The World Is Too Much With Us”

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

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