E-text prepared by Al Haines
SELECTIONS FROM WORDSWORTH AND TENNYSON
Edited, with Introduction and Notes
PELHAM EDGAR, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Victoria Coll., Univ. of Toronto
Toronto The Macmillan Company of Canada, Limited
The poems contained in this volume are those required for Junior Matriculation, Ontario 1918.
Michael To the Daisy To the Cuckoo Nutting Influence of Natural Objects To the Rev. Dr. Wordsworth Elegiac Stanzas "It is Not to be Thought of" Written in London, September, 1802 London, 1802 "Dark and More Dark the Shades of Evening Fell" "Surprised by Joy—Impatient as the Wind" "Hail, Twilight, Sovereign of One Peaceful Hour" "I Thought of Thee, My Partner and My Guide" "Such Age, How Beautiful!"
Oenone The Epic Morte d'Arthur The Brook In Memoriam
Biographical Sketch Chronological Table Appreciations References on Life and Works Notes
Biographical Sketch Chronological Table Appreciations References on Life and Works Notes
A PASTORAL POEM
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. But, courage! for around 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 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 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, 20 Or for the summer shade. It was the first Of those domestic tales that spake to me 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 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; 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 honorable gain; Those fields, those hills—what could they less?—had laid 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— 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 labor did not cease; unless when all Turned to the cleanly supper board, and there, Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk, 100 Sat round the basket piled with oaten cakes, And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when the 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 fireside; 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 in our ancient uncouth country style With huge and black projection overbrowed 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 eighteenth year, There by the light of this old lamp they sate, Father and Son, while far 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. This light was famous in its neighborhood, And was a public symbol of the life 130 That 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, the same Fond spirit that blindly works in the blood of all— 145 Than that a child, more than all other gifts That earth can offer to declining man, Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts, And stirrings of inquietude, when they By tendency of nature needs must fail. 150 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 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. 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 Sat 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, Chosen for the shearer's covert from the sun, Thence in our rustic dialect was called The CLIPPING TREE, 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 equipped 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 naught 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, 195 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 200 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, 205 He was his comfort and his daily hope.
While in this sort the simple household lived 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 210 In surety for his brother's son, a man Of an industrious life, and ample means; But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly Had pressed upon him; and old Michael now Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture, 215 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. 220 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 A portion of his patrimonial fields. Such was his first resolve; he thought again, 225 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 230 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 Has scarcely been more diligent than I; And I have lived to be a fool at last 235 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 240 '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; 245 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, 250 And with his kinsman's help and his own thrift He quickly will repair this loss, and then He may return to us. If here he stay, What can be done? Where every one is poor, What can be gained?"
At this the old Man paused, 255 And Isabel sat silent, for her mind Was busy, looking back into past times. There's Richard Bateman, thought she to herself, He was a parish-boy,—at the church-door They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence, 260 And half-pennies, wherewith the neighbors bought A basket, which they filled with pedlar's wares; And, with his basket on his arm, the lad Went up to London, found a master there, Who, out of many, chose the trusty boy 265 To go and overlook his merchandise Beyond the seas; where he grew wondrous rich, And left estates and moneys to the poor, And at his birthplace built a chapel, floored With marble, which he sent from foreign lands. 270 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, These two days, has been meat and drink to me. 275 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 Buy for him more, and let us send him forth 280 To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night: —If he could go, the Boy should go to-night."
Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth With a light heart. The Housewife for five days Was restless morn and night, and all day long 285 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 By Michael's side, she through the last two nights 290 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 Were sitting at the door, "Thou must not go: 295 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 made answer with a jocund voice; And Isabel, when she had told her fears, 300 Recovered heart. That evening her best fare Did she bring forth, and all together sat Like happy people round a Christmas fire.
With daylight Isabel resumed her work; And all the ensuing week the house appeared 305 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; To which requests were added, that forthwith 310 He might be sent to him. Ten times or more The letter was read over; Isabel Went forth to show it to the neighbors round; Nor was there at that time on English land A prouder heart than Luke's. When Isabel 315 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, Would surely be forgotten. But at length 320 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; and, before he heard The tidings of his melancholy loss, 325 For this same purpose he had gathered up A heap of stones, which by the streamlet's edge Lay thrown together, ready for the work. With Luke that evening thitherward he walked; And soon as they had reached the place he stopped, 330 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 And all thy life hast been my daily joy. 335 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 thou canst not know of.———After thou First cam'st into the world—as oft befalls 340 To newborn 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. Never to living ear came sweeter sounds 345 Than when I heard thee by our own fireside First uttering, without words, a natural tune; While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy Sing at thy Mother's breast. Month followed month, And in the open fields my life was passed, 350 And on 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 Have played together, nor with me didst thou 355 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 That these are things of which I need not speak. 360 —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 Beyond the common life of man, I still 365 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 loath To give their bodies to the family mould. 370 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. These fields were burthened when they came to me; Till I was forty years of age, not more 375 Than half of my inheritance was mine. I toiled and toiled; God blessed me in my work, And till the three weeks past the land was free. —It looks as if it never could endure Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke, 380 If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good That thou shouldst go."
At this the old Man paused; Then, pointing to the stones near which they stood, Thus, after a short silence, he resumed: "This was a work for us; and now, my Son, 385 It is a work for me. But, lay one stone,— Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands. Nay, Boy, be of good hope; we both may live To see a better day. At eighty-four I still am strong and hale;—do thou thy part; 390 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, Will I without thee go again, and do All works which I was wont to do alone, 395 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,— I knew that thou couldst never have a wish To leave me, Luke; thou hast been bound to me 400 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, As I requested; and hereafter, Luke, When thou art gone away, should evil men 405 Be thy companions, think of me, my Son, And of this moment; hither turn thy thoughts, And God will strengthen thee: amid all fear And all temptation, Luke, I pray that thou May'st bear in mind the life thy Fathers lived, 410 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 A work which is not here: a covenant 'Twill be between us; but, whatever fate 415 Befall 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, And, as his Father had requested, laid The first stone of the Sheep-fold. At the sight 420 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. —Hushed was that House in peace, or seeming peace, Ere the night fell:—with morrow's dawn the Boy 425 Began his journey, and when he had reached The public way, he put on a bold face; And all the neighbors, as he passed their doors, Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers, That followed him till he was out of sight. 430
A good report did from their Kinsman come, Of Luke and his well doing: and the Boy Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news, Which, as the Housewife phrased it, were throughout "The prettiest letters that were ever seen." 435 Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts. So, many months passed on; and once again The Shepherd went about his daily work With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour 440 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, He in the dissolute city gave himself To evil courses: ignominy and shame 445 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; 'Twill make a thing endurable, which else Would overset the brain, or break the heart: 450 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. His bodily frame had been from youth to age Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks 455 He went, and still looked up to sun and cloud, And listened to the wind; and, as before, Performed all kinds of labor for his sheep, And for the land, his small inheritance. And to that hollow dell from time to time 460 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 For the old Man—and 'tis believed by all That many and many a day he thither went, 465 And never lifted up a single stone.
There by the Sheep-fold, sometimes was he seen Sitting alone, or with his faithful Dog, Then old, beside him, lying at his feet. The length of full seven years, from time to time 570 He at the building of this Sheep-fold wrought, And left the work unfinished when he died. Three years, or little more, did Isabel Survive her Husband; at her death the estate Was sold, and went into a stranger's hand. 475 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 In all the neighborhood:—yet the oak is left, That grew beside their door; and the remains 480 Of the unfinished Sheep-fold may be seen Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Ghyll. 2. GREEN-HEAD GHYLL. Near Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's home at Grasmere.
GHYLL. A short, steep, and narrow valley with a stream running through it.
5. THE PASTORAL MOUNTAINS. In Professor Knight's Life of Wordsworth are found fragments which the poet intended for Michael and which were recovered from Dorothy Wordsworth's manuscript book. Among these are the following lines, which as Professor Dowden suggests, are given as Wordsworth's answer to the question, "What feeling for external nature had such a man as Michael?" The lines, which correspond to lines 62-77 of the poem, are as follows;
"No doubt if you in terms direct had asked Whether beloved the mountains, true it is That with blunt repetition of your words He might have stared at you, and said that they Were frightful to behold, but had you then Discoursed with him . . . . . . . . Of his own business and the goings on Of earth and sky, then truly had you seen That in his thoughts there were obscurities, Wonder and admiration, things that wrought Not less than a religion of his heart."
17. In Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal for October 11, 1800, we read: "After dinner, we walked up Greenhead Gill in search of a sheepfold. . . The sheepfold is falling away. It is built in the form of a heart unequally divided."
48. THE MEANING OF ALL WINDS. This is not a figurative Statement. Michael knows by experience whether the sound and direction of the wind forebode storm or fair weather,—precisely the practical kind of knowledge which a herdsman should possess.
51. SUBTERRANEOUS. The meaning of this word has given rise to discussion. "Subterraneous" cannot here be literally employed, unless it refer to the sound of the wind in hollow places, and beneath overhanging crags.
51-52. LIKE THE NOISE, etc. Is there a special appropriateness in the use of a Scottish simile? What is the general character of the similes throughout the poem?
56-77. Wordsworth never attributes to Michael the subtler and more philosophical sensations which he himself derived from nature. Such poems as The Prelude or The Excursion contain many elevated passages on the influence of nature, which would have been exceedingly inappropriate here.
115. Scan this line.
121. NOR CHEERFUL. The epithet seems not well chosen in view of the fact that all the circumstances of their life breathe a spirit of quiet cheerfulness. Surely the light (129-131) was a symbol of cheer.
126. PECULIAR WORK. Bring out the force of the epithet.
134. EASEDALE. Near Grasmere. DUNMAIL-RAISE. The pass leading from Grasmere to Keswick. RAISE. A provincial word meaning "an ascent."
139. THE EVENING STAR. This name was actually given to a neighboring house.
143-152. The love of Michael for Luke is inwrought with his love for his home and for the land which surrounds it. These he desires at his death to hand down unencumbered to his son. "I have attempted," Wordsworth wrote to Poole, "to give a picture of a man of strong mind and lively sensibility, agitated by two of the most powerful affections of the human heart—the parental affection and the love of property, landed property, including the feelings of inheritance, home and personal and family independence."
145. Scan this line.
169. THE CLIPPING TREE. Clipping is the word used in the North of England for shearing. (Wordsworth's note, 1800).
182. Notice the entire absence of pause at the end of the line. Point out other instances of run-on lines (enjambement).
259. PARISH-BOY. Depending on charity.
268-270. Wordsworth added the following note on these lines: "The story alluded to here is well known in the country. The chapel is called Ing's Chapel; and is on the right hand side of the road leading from Kendal to Ambleside."
283. AND TO THE FIELDS WENT FORTH Observe the inconsistency. The conversation took place in the evening. See l. 327.
284f. WITH A LIGHT HEART. Michael's growing misgivings are subtly represented in the following lines, and the renewal of his hopes.
367-368. These lines forcibly show how tenaciously Michael's feelings were rooted in the soil of his home. Hence the extreme pathos of the situation.
388. Observe the dramatic force of this line.
393-396. What unconscious poetry there is in the old man's words!
420. Scan this line.
445. Scan this line.
466. Matthew Arnold commenting on this line says; "The right sort of verse to choose from Wordsworth, if we are to seize his true and most characteristic form of expression, is a line like this from Michael: 'And never lifted up a single stone.' There is nothing subtle in it, no heightening, no study of poetic style strictly so called, at all; yet it is an expression of the highest and most truly expressive kind."
467f. Note the noble simplicity and pathos of these closing lines. There is a reserved force of pent-up pathos here, which without effort reaches the height of dramatic effectiveness.
TO THE DAISY
Bright Flower! whose home is everywhere, Bold in maternal Nature's care, And all the long year through the heir Of joy and sorrow, Methinks that there abides in thee 5 Some concord with humanity, Given to no other flower I see The forest thorough!
Is it that Man is soon deprest? A thoughtless Thing! who, once unblest, 10 Does little on his memory rest, Or on his reason, And Thou would'st teach him how to find A shelter under every wind, A hope for times that are unkind, 15 And every season?
Thou wander'st the wide world about, Uncheck'd by pride or scrupulous doubt, With friends to greet thee, or without, Yet pleased and wilting; 20 Meek, yielding to the occasion's call, And all things suffering from all, Thy function apostolical In peace fulfilling.
8. THOROUGH. This is by derivation the correct form of the modern word "through." A.S. thurh, M.E. thuruh. The use of "thorough" is now purely adjectival, except in archaic or poetic speech.
24. APOSTOLICAL. The stanza in which this word occurs was omitted in 1827 and 1832, because the expression was censured as almost profane. Wordsworth in his dictated note to Miss Fenwick has the following: "The word [apostolical] is adopted with reference to its derivation, implying something sent out on a mission; and assuredly this little flower, especially when the subject of verse, may be regarded, in its humble degree, as administering both to moral and spiritual purposes."
TO THE CUCKOO
O blithe New-comer! I have heard, I hear thee and rejoice. O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird, Or but a wandering Voice?
While I am lying on the grass, 5 Thy twofold shout I hear; From hill to hill it seems to pass, At once far off, and near.
Though babbling only to the Vale Of sunshine and of flowers, 10 Thou bringest unto me a tale Of visionary hours.
Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring! Even yet thou art to me No bird, but an invisible thing, 15 A voice, a mystery;
The same whom in my schoolboy days I listened to; that Cry Which made me look a thousand ways In bush, and tree, and sky. 20
To seek thee did I often rove Through woods and on the green; And thou wert still a hope, a love; Still longed for, never seen.
And I can listen to thee yet; 25 Can lie upon the plain And listen, till I do beget That golden time again.
O blessed Bird! the earth we pace Again appears to be 30 An unsubstantial, faery place; That is fit home for Thee!
1. O BLITHE NEW-COMER. The Cuckoo is migratory, and appears in England in the early spring. Compare Solitary Reaper, l. 16.
I HAV HEARD. i.e., in my youth.
3. SHALL I CALL THEE BIRD? Compare Shelley.
Hail to thee, blithe spirit! Bird thou never wert. To a Skylark.
4. A WANDERING VOICE? Lacking substantial existence.
6. TWOFOLD SHOUT. Twofold, because consisting of a double note. Compare Wordsworth's sonnet, To the Cuckoo, l. 4:
"With its twin notes inseparably paired."
Wordsworth employs the word "shout" in several of his Cuckoo descriptions. See The Excursion, ii. l. 346-348 and vii. l. 408; also the following from Yes! it was the Mountain Echo:
Yes! it was the mountain echo, Solitary, clear, profound, Answering to the shouting Cuckoo; Giving to her sound for sound.
———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 5 With a huge wallet o'er my shoulders slung, A nutting-crook in hand, and turned my steps Toward some far-distant wood, a Figure quaint, Tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds, Which for that service had been husbanded, 10 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, 15 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, 20 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 25 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 30 The violets of five seasons reappear And fade, unseen by any human eye; Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on Forever; and I saw the sparkling foam, And, with my cheek on one of those green stones 35 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, 40 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 45 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 50 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 55 Touch,—for there is a spirit in the woods.
5. OUR COTTAGE THRESHOLD. "The house at which I was boarded during the time I was at school." (Wordsworth's note, 1800). The school was the Hawkshead School.
9. TRICKED OUTdressed. The verb "to trick""to dress" is derived probably from the noun, "trick" in the sense of 'a dexterous artifice,' 'a touch.' See "Century Dictionary."
CAST-OFF WEEDS=cast-off clothes. Wordsworth originally wrote 'of Beggar's weeds.' What prompted him to change the expression?
10. FOR THAT SERVICE. i.e., for nutting.
12-13. OF POWER TO SMILE AT THORNS=able to defy, etc. Not because of their strength, but because so ragged that additional rents were of small account.
21. VIRGIN=unmarred, undevastated.
31. Explain the line. Notice the poetical way in which the poet conveys the idea of solitude, (l. 30-32).
33. FAIRY WATER-BREAKS=wavelets, ripples. Cf.:—
Many a silvery water-break Above the golden gravel. Tennyson, The Brook.
36. FLEECED WITH MOSS. Suggest a reason why the term "fleeced" has peculiar appropriateness here.
39-40. Paraphrase these lines to bring out their meaning.
43-48. THEN UP I ROSE. Contrast this active exuberant pleasure not unmixed with pain with the passive meditative joy that the preceding lines express.
47-48. PATIENTLY GAVE UP THEIR QUIET BEING. Notice the attribution of life to inanimate nature. Wordsworth constantly held that there was a mind and all the attributes of mind in nature. Cf. l. 56, "for there is a spirit in the woods."
53. AND SAW THE INTRUDING SKY. Bring out the force of this passage.
54. THEN, DEAREST MAIDEN. This is a reference to the poet's Sister, Dorothy Wordsworth.
56. FOR THERE IS A SPIRIT IN THE WOODS. Cf. Tintern Abbey, 101 f.
A motion and a spirit that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.
INFLUENCE OF NATURAL OBJECTS
Wisdom and Spirit of the universe! Thou Soul, that art the Eternity of thought! And giv'st to forms and images a breath And everlasting motion! not in vain, By day or starlight, thus from my first dawn 5 Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me The passions that build up our human soul; Not with the mean and vulgar works of Man: But with high objects, with enduring things, With life and nature: purifying thus 10 The elements of feeling and of thought, And sanctifying by such discipline Both pain and fear,—until we recognize A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.
Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me 15 With stinted kindness. In November days, When vapors rolling down the valleys made A lonely scene more lonesome; among woods At noon; and 'mid the calm of summer nights, When, by the margin of the trembling lake, 20 Beneath the gloomy hills, homeward I went In solitude, such intercourse was mine: Mine was it in the fields both day and night, And by the waters, all the summer long. And in the frosty season, when the sun 25 Was set, and, visible for many a mile, The cottage windows through the twilight blazed, I heeded not the summons: happy time It was indeed for all of us; for me It was a time of rapture! Clear and loud 30 The village clock tolled six—I wheeled about, Proud and exulting like an untired horse, That cares not for his home,—All shod with steel We hissed along the polished ice, in games Confederate, imitative of the chase 35 And woodland pleasures,—the resounding horn, The pack loud-chiming, and the hunted hare. So through the darkness and the cold we flew, And not a voice was idle; with the din Smitten, the precipices rang aloud; 40 The leafless trees and every icy crag Tinkled like iron; while far-distant hills Into the tumult sent an alien sound Of melancholy, not unnoticed, while the stars, Eastward, were sparkling clear, and in the west 45 The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired Into a silent bay, or sportively Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng, To cut across the reflex of a star; 50 Image, that, flying still before me, gleamed Upon the glassy plain; and oftentimes, When we had given our bodies to the wind, And all the shadowy banks on either side Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still 55 The rapid line of motion, then at once Have I, reclining back upon my heels, Stopped short, yet still the solitary cliffs Wheeled by me—even as if the earth had rolled With visible motion her diurnal round! 60 Behind me did they stretch in solemn train, Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched Till all was tranquil as a summer sea.
1-14. In what other poems does Wordsworth describe "the education of nature?"
8. Nature's teaching is never sordid nor mercenary, but always purifying and ennobling.
10. PURIFYING, also SANCTIFYING (l. 12), refer to "Soul" (l. 2).
12-14. Human cares are lightened in proportion to our power of sympathising with nature. The very beatings of our heart acquire a certain grandeur from the fact that they are a process of nature and linked thus to the general life of things. It is possible that "beatings of the heart" may figuratively represent the mere play of the emotions, and thus have a bearing upon the words "pain and fear" in line 13.
15. FELLOWSHIP. Communion with nature in her varying aspects as described in the following lines.
31. VILLAGE CLOCK. The village was Hawkshead.
35. CONFEDERATE. Qualifies "we," or "games." Point out the different shades of meaning for each agreement.
42. TINKLED LIKE IRON. "When very many are skating together, the sounds and the noises give an impulse to the icy trees, and the woods all round the lake tinkle." S. T. Coleridge in The Friend, ii, 325 (1818).
42-44. The keenness of Wordsworth's sense perceptions was very remarkable. His susceptibility to impressions of sound is well illustrated in this passage, which closes (l. 43-46) with a color picture of striking beauty and appropriateness.
50. REFLEX=reflection. Cf.:
Like the reflex of the moon Seen in a wave under green leaves. Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, iii, 4.
In later editions Wordsworth altered these lines as follows:
To cut across the image. 1809. To cross the bright reflection. 1820.
54-60. The effect of rapid motion is admirably described. The spinning effect which Wordsworth evidently has in mind we have all noticed in the fields which seem to revolve when viewed from a swiftly moving: train. However, a skater from the low level of a stream would see only the fringe of trees sweep past him. The darkness and the height of the banks would not permit him to see the relatively motionless objects in the distance in either hand.
57-58. This method of stopping short upon one's heels might prove disastrous.
58-60. The effect of motion persists after the motion has ceased.
62 63. The apparent motion of the cliffs grows feebler by degrees until "all was tranquil as a summer sea." In The [Transcriber's note: the rest of this footnote is missing from the original book because of a printing error.]
TO THE REV. DR. WORDSWORTH
(WITH THE SONNETS TO THE RIVER DUDDON, AND OTHER POEMS IN THIS COLLECTION, 1820).
The minstrels played their Christmas tune To-night beneath my cottage-eaves; While, smitten by a lofty moon, The encircling laurels, thick with leaves, Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen, 5 That overpowered their natural green.
Through hill and valley every breeze Had sunk to rest with folded wings; Keen was the air, but could not freeze, Nor check, the music of the strings; 10 So stout and hardy were the band That scraped the chords with strenuous hand:
And who but listened?—till was paid Respect to every Inmate's claim: The greeting given, the music played, 15 In honor of each household name, Duly pronounced with lusty call, And "Merry Christmas" wished to all!
O Brother! I revere the choice That took thee from thy native hills; 20 And it is given thee to rejoice: Though public care full often tills (Heaven only witness of the toil) A barren and ungrateful soil.
Yet, would that Thou, with me and mine, 25 Hadst heard this never-failing rite; And seen on other faces shine A true revival of the light Which Nature and these rustic Powers, In simple childhood, spread through ours! 30
For pleasure hath not ceased to wait On these expected annual rounds; Whether the rich man's sumptuous gate Call forth the unelaborate sounds, Or they are offered at the door 35 That guards the lowliest of the poor.
How touching, when, at midnight, sweep Snow-muffled winds, and all is dark To hear—and sink again-to sleep Or, at an earlier call, to mark, 40 By blazing fire, the still suspense Of self-complacent innocence;
The mutual nod,—the grave disguise Of hearts with gladness brimming o'er; And some unbidden tears that rise 45 For names once heard, and heard no more; Tears brightened by the serenade For infant in the cradle laid.
Ah! not for emerald fields alone, With ambient streams more pure and bright 50 Than fabled Cytherea's zone Glittering before the Thunderer's sight, Is to my heart of hearts endeared The ground where we were born and reared!
Hail, ancient Manners! sure defence, 55 Where they survive, of wholesome laws; Remnants of love whose modest sense Thus into narrow room withdraws; Hail, Usages of pristine mould, And ye that guard them, Mountains old! 60
Bear with me, Brother! quench the thought That slights this passion, or condemns; If thee fond Fancy ever brought From the proud margin of the Thames, And Lambeth's venerable towers, 65 To humbler streams, and greener bowers.
Yes, they can make, who fail to fill Short leisure even in busiest days; Moments, to cast a look behind, And profit by those kindly rays 70 That through the clouds do sometimes steal, And all the far-off past reveal.
Hence, while the imperial City's din Beats frequent on thy satiate ear, A pleased attention I may win 75 To agitations less severe, That neither overwhelm nor cloy, But fill the hollow vale with joy!
Christopher Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth in Cumberland on June 9th, 1774. He received his early education at Hawkshead Grammar School and in 1792 entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a pensioner. He graduated in 1796 with high honours in mathematics, and in 1798 was elected a fellow of his college. He took his M.A. degree in 1799 and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1810. While at Cambridge Christopher had been tutor to Viscount Canterbury, who introduced him to his father, at that time Bishop of Norwich. Through the good offices of the Bishop he was appointed to the rectory of Ashby, Norfolk, and thus, with prospects settled, he was enabled to marry. On the appointment of the Bishop of Norwich to the Archbishopric of Canterbury he was appointed domestic chaplain to the Archbishop. Subsequently in 1816 he was appointed rector of St. Mary's, Lambeth, the living he held at the time the poem in the text was written.
In 1820 Christopher was made Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, a position he held until his resignation in 1841. He died at Buxted on February 2nd, 1846. "He was an earnest and deeply religious man; in some respects a high churchman of the old school, but with sympathy for whatever was good and noble in others. In politics he was a staunch Conservative."
15. THE GREETING GIVEN, THE MUSIC PLAYED. Till the greeting had been given and the music played.
17. Attributive to "name" (l. 16.)
18. Explain the construction of "wished."
51. CYTHEREA'S ZONE. The goddess Venus was named Cytherea because she was supposed to have been born of the foam of the sea near Cythera, an island off the coast of the Peloponnesus. Venus was the goddess of love, and her power over the heart was strengthened by the marvellous zone or girdle she wore.
52. THE THUNDERER. The reference is to Jupiter, who is generally represented as seated upon a golden or ivory throne holding in one hand the thunderbolts, and in the other a sceptre of cypress.
55-60. Suggest how this stanza is characteristic of Wordsworth.
65. LAMBETH'S VENERABLE TOWERS. Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is on the Thames. Wordsworth's brother Christopher, afterwards Master of Trinity College, was then (1820) Rector of Lambeth.
SUGGESTED BY A PICTURE OF PEELE CASTLE, IN A STORM, PAINTED BY SIR GEORGE BEAUMONT.
I was thy neighbor 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! 5 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: 10 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, 15 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. 20
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, 25 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: 30 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; 35 A deep distress hath humanized 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. 40
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, 45 Well chosen is the spirit that is here; That Hulk which labors 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, 50 Cased in the unfeeling armor of old time, The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves.
Farewell, farewell the heart that lives alone, Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind! Such happiness, wherever it be known, 55 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. 60
2. FOUR SUMMER WEEKS. In 1794 Wordsworth spent part of a summer vacation at the house of his cousin, Mr. Barker, at Rampside, a village near Peele Castle.
6-7. Shelley has twice imitated these lines. Compare:—
Within the surface of Time's fleeting river Its wrinkled Image lies, as then it lay Immovably unquiet, and for ever It trembles, but it cannot pass away. Ode to Liberty, vi.
also the following:
Within the surface of the fleeting river The wrinkled image of the city lay, Immovably unquiet, and for ever It trembles, but it never fades away. Evening.
9-10. The calm was so complete that it did not seem a transient mood of the sea, a passing sleep.
13-16. Compare with the above original reading of 1807 (restored after 1827) the lines which Wordsworth substituted in 1820 and 1827.
Ah! THEN, if mine had been the Painter's hand, To express what then I saw; and add a gleam, The lustre, known to neither sea nor land, But borrowed from the youthful Poet's dream.
35-36. A POWER IS GONE—SOUL. The reference is to the death at sea of his brother Captain John Wordsworth. The poet can no longer see things wholly idealized. His brother's death has revealed to him, however, the ennobling virtue of grief. Thus a personal loss is converted into human gain. Note especially in this connection l. 35 and ll. 53-60.
54. FROM THE KIND. From our fellow-beings.
"IT IS NOT TO BE THOUGHT OF"
It is not to be thought of that the Flood Of British freedom, which to the open sea Of the world's praise from dark antiquity Hath flowed, 'with pomp of waters, unwithstood,' Roused though it be full often to a mood 5 Which spurns the check of salutary bands, That this most famous Stream in bogs and sands Should perish, and to evil and to good Be lost forever. In our halls is hung Armoury of the invincible Knights of old: 10 We must be free or die, who speak the tongue That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold Which Milton held.—In everything we are sprung Of Earth's first blood, have titles manifold.
4. 'WITH POMP OF WATERS, UNWITHSTOOD.' This is quoted from Daniel's Civil War, Bk. ii, stanza 7.
WRITTEN IN LONDON, SEPTEMBER, 1802
O Friend! I know not which way I must look For comfort, being, as I am, oppressed, To think that now our life is only dressed For show; mean handiwork of craftsman, cook, Or groom!—We must run glittering like a brook 5 In the open sunshine, or we are unblessed: The wealthiest man among us is the best: No grandeur now in nature or in book Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense, This is idolatry; and these we adore: 10 Plain living and high thinking are no more: The homely beauty of the good old cause Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence, And pure religion breathing household laws.
Milton! thou should'st 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 5 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: 10 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.
"DARK AND MORE DARK THE SHADES OF EVENING FELL"
Dark and more dark the shades of evening fell; The wished-for point was reached—but at an hour When little could be gained from that rich dower Of Prospect, whereof many thousands tell. Yet did the glowing west with marvellous power 5 Salute us; there stood Indian citadel, Temple of Greece, and minster with its tower Substantially expressed—a place for bell Or clock to toll from! Many a tempting isle, With groves that never were imagined, lay 10 'Mid seas how steadfast! objects all for the eye Of silent rapture, but we felt the while We should forget them; they are of the sky And from our earthly memory fade away.
"SURPRISED BY JOY—IMPATIENT AS THE WIND"
Surprised by joy—impatient as the wind I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb, That spot which no vicissitude can find? Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind— 5 But how could I forget thee? Through what power, Even for the least division of an hour, Have I been so beguiled as to be blind To my most grievous loss?—That thought's return Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore, 10 Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn, Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more; That neither present time, nor years unborn Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.
"HAIL, TWILIGHT, SOVEREIGN OF ONE PEACEFUL HOUR"
Hail, Twilight, sovereign of one peaceful hour! Not dull art Thou as undiscerning Night; But studious only to remove from sight Day's mutable distinctions.—Ancient Power! Thus did the waters gleam, the mountains lower, 5 To the rude Briton, when, in wolf-skin vest Here roving wild, he laid him down to rest On the bare rock, or through a leafy bower Looked ere his eyes were closed. By him was seen The self-same Vision which we now behold, 10 At thy meek bidding, shadowy Power! brought forth These mighty barriers, and the gulf between; The flood, the stars,—a spectacle as old As the beginning of the heavens and earth!
"I THOUGHT OF THEE, MY PARTNER AND MY GUIDE"
I thought of Thee, my partner and my guide, As being past away.—Vain sympathies! For, backward, Duddon, as I cast my eyes, I see what was, and is, and will abide; Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide; 5 The Form remains, the Function never dies, While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise, We Men, who in our morn of youth defied The elements, must vanish;—be it so! Enough, if something from our hands have power 10 To live, and act, and serve the future hour; And if, as toward the silent tomb we go, Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower, We feel that we are greater than we know.
"SUCH AGE, HOW BEAUTIFUL!"
Such age, how beautiful! O Lady bright, Whose mortal lineaments seem all refined By favouring Nature and a saintly Mind To something purer and more exquisite Than flesh and blood; whene'er thou meet'est my sight, 5 When I behold thy blanched unwithered cheek, Thy temples fringed with locks of gleaming white, And head that droops because the soul is meek, Thee with the welcome Snowdrop I compare; That child of winter, prompting thoughts that climb 10 From desolation toward the genial prime; Or with the Moon conquering earth's misty air, And filling more and more with crystal light As pensive Evening deepens into night.
There lies a vale in Ida, lovelier Than all the valleys of Ionian hills. The swimming vapour slopes athwart the glen, Puts forth an arm, and creeps from pine to pine And loiters, slowly drawn. On either hand 5 The lawns and meadow-ledges midway down Hang rich in flowers, and far below them roars The long brook falling thro' the clov'n ravine In cataract after cataract to the sea. Behind the valley topmost Gargarus 10 Stands up and takes the morning: but in front The gorges, opening wide apart, reveal Troas and Ilion's column'd citadel, The crown of Troas.
Hither came at noon Mournful Oenone, wandering forlorn 15 Of Paris, once her playmate on the hills. Her cheek had lost the rose, and round her neck Floated her hair or seem'd to float in rest. She, leaning on a fragment twined with vine, Sang to the stillness, till the mountain-shade 20 Sloped downward to her seat from the upper cliff
"O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida, Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. For now the noonday quiet holds the hill: The grasshopper is silent in the grass: 25 The lizard, with his shadow on the stone, Rests like a shadow, and the winds are dead The purple flower droops: the golden bee Is lily-cradled: I alone awake. My eyes are full of tears, my heart of love, 30 My heart is breaking, and my eyes are dim, And I am all aweary of my life.
"O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida, Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. Hear me, O Earth; hear me, O Hills, O Caves 35 That house the cold crowned snake! O mountain brooks, I am the daughter of a River-God, Hear me, for I will speak, and build up all My sorrow with my song, as yonder walls Rose slowly to a music slowly breathed, 40 A cloud that gather'd shape: for it may be That, while I speak of it, a little while My heart may wander from its deeper woe.
"O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida, Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. 45 I waited underneath the dawning hills, Aloft the mountain lawn was dewy-dark, And dewy-dark aloft the mountain pine: Beautiful Paris, evil-hearted Paris, Leading a jet-black goat white-horn'd, white-hooved, 50 Came up from reedy Simols all alone.
"O mother Ida, harken ere I die. Far-off the torrent call'd me from the cleft: Far up the solitary morning smote The streaks of virgin snow. With down-dropt eyes 55 I sat alone: white-breasted like a star Fronting the dawn he moved; a leopard skin Droop'd from his shoulder, but his sunny hair Cluster'd about his temples like a God's; And his cheek brighten'd as the foam-bow brightens 60 When the wind blows the foam, and all my heart Went forth to embrace him coming ere he came.
"Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. He smiled, and opening out his milk-white palm Disclosed a fruit of pure Hesperian gold, 65 That smelt ambrosially, and while I look'd And listen'd, the full-flowing river of speech Came down upon my heart. "'My own Oenone, Beautiful-brow'd Oenone, my own soul, Behold this fruit, whose gleaming rind ingrav'n 70 "For the most fair," would seem to award it thine As lovelier than whatever Oread haunt The knolls of Ida, loveliest in all grace Of movement, and the charm of married brows.
"Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. 75 He prest the blossom of his lips to mine, And added 'This was cast upon the board, When all the full-faced presence of the Gods Ranged in the halls of Peleus; whereupon Rose feud, with question unto whom 'twere due: 80 But light-foot Iris brought it yester-eve, Delivering that to me, by common voice Elected umpire, Here comes to-day, Pallas and Aphrodite, claiming each This meed of fairest. Thou, within the cave 85 Behind yon whispering tuft of oldest pine, Mayst well behold them unbeheld, unheard Hear all, and see thy Paris judge of Gods.'
"Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. It was the deep mid-noon: one silvery cloud 90 Had lost his way between the piney sides Of this long glen. Then to the bower they came, Naked they came to that smooth-swarded bower, And at their feet the crocus brake like fire, Violet, amaracus, and asphodel, 95 Lotos and lilies: and a wind arose, And overhead the wandering ivy and vine, This way and that, in many a wild festoon Ran riot, garlanding the gnarled boughs With bunch and berry and flower thro' and thro'. 100
"O mother Ida, harken ere I die. On the tree-tops a crested peacock lit, And o'er him flow'd a golden cloud, and lean'd Upon him, slowly dropping fragrant dew. Then first I heard the voice other, to whom 105 Coming thro' Heaven, like a light that grows Larger and clearer, with one mind the Gods Rise up for reverence. She to Paris made Proffer of royal power, ample rule Unquestion'd, overflowing revenue 110 Wherewith to embellish state, 'from many a vale And river-sunder'd champaign cloth'd with corn, Or labour'd mines undrainable of ore. Honour,' she said, 'and homage, tax and toll, From many an inland town and haven large, 115 Mast-throng'd beneath her shadowing citadel In glassy bays among her tallest towers.'
"O mother Ida, harken ere I die. Still she spake on and still she spake of power, 'Which in all action is the end of all; 120 Power fitted to the season; wisdom-bred And throned of wisdom—from all neighbour crowns Alliance and allegiance, till thy hand Fail from the sceptre-staff. Such boon from me, From me, Heaven's Queen, Paris, to thee king-born, 125 A shepherd all thy life but yet king-born, Should come most welcome, seeing men, in power Only, are likest gods, who have attain'd Rest in a happy place and quiet seats Above the thunder, with undying bliss 130 In knowledge of their own supremacy.'
"Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. She ceased, and Paris held the costly fruit Out at arm's-length, so much the thought of power Flatter'd his spirit; but Pallas where she stood 135 Somewhat apart, her clear and bared limbs O'erthwarted with the brazen-headed spear Upon her pearly shoulder leaning cold, The while, above, her full and earnest eye Over her snow-cold breast and angry cheek 140 Kept watch, waiting decision, made reply.
"'Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control; These three alone lead life to sovereign power. Yet not for power, (power of herself Would come uncall'd for) but to live by law, 145 Acting the law we live by without fear; And, because right is right, to follow right Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.'
"Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. Again she said: 'I woo thee not with gifts. 150 Sequel of guerdon could not alter me To fairer. Judge thou me by what I am, So shalt thou find me fairest. Yet, indeed, If gazing on divinity disrobed Thy mortal eyes are frail to judge of fair, 155 Unbias'd by self-profit, oh! rest thee sure That I shall love thee well and cleave to thee, So that my vigour, wedded to thy blood, Shall strike within thy pulses, like a God's, To push thee forward thro' a life of shocks, 160 Dangers, and deeds, until endurance grow Sinew'd with action, and the full-grown will, Circled thro' all experiences, pure law, Commeasure perfect freedom.'
"Here she ceas'd, And Paris ponder'd, and I cried, 'O Paris, 165 Give it to Pallas!' but he heard me not, Or hearing would not hear me, woe is me!
"O mother Ida, many-fountain'd Ida, Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. Idalian Aphrodite beautiful, 170 Fresh as the foam, new-bathed in Paphian wells, With rosy slender fingers backward drew From her warm brows and bosom her deep hair Ambrosial, golden round her lucid throat And shoulder: from the violets her light foot 175 Shone rosy-white, and o'er her rounded form Between the shadows of the vine-bunches Floated the glowing sunlights, as she moved.
"Dear mother Ida, harken ere I die. She with a subtle smile in her mild eyes, 180 The herald of her triumph, drawing nigh Half-whisper'd in his ear, 'I promise thee The fairest and most loving wife in Greece.' She spoke and laugh'd: I shut my sight for fear: But when I look'd, Paris had raised his arm, 185 And I beheld great Here's angry eyes, As she withdrew into the golden cloud, And I was left alone within the bower; And from that time to this I am alone, And I shall be alone until I die. 190
"Yet, mother Ida, harken ere I die. Fairest—-why fairest wife? am I not fair? My love hath told me so a thousand times; Methinks I must be fair, for yesterday, When I past by, a wild and wanton pard, 195 Eyed like the evening star, with playful tail Crouch'd fawning in the weed. Most loving is she? Ah me, my mountain shepherd, that my arms Were wound about thee, and my hot lips prest Close, close to thine in that quick-falling dew 200 Of fruitful kisses, thick as Autumn rains Flash in the pools of whirling Simois.
"O mother, hear me yet before I die. They came, they cut away my tallest pines, My dark tall pines, that plumed the craggy ledge 205 High over the blue gorge, and all between The snowy peak and snow-white cataract Foster'd the callow eaglet—from beneath Whose thick mysterious boughs in the dark morn The panther's roar came muffled, while I sat 210 Low in the valley. Never, never more Shall lone Oenone see the morning mist Sweep thro' them; never see them overlaid With narrow moon-lit slips of silver cloud, Between the loud stream and the trembling stars. 215
"O mother, hear me yet before I die. I wish that somewhere in the ruin'd folds, Among the fragments tumbled from the glens, Or the dry thickets, I could meet with her, The Abominable, that uninvited came 220 Into the fair Peleian banquet-hall, And cast the golden fruit upon the board, And bred this change; that I might speak my mind, And tell her to her face how much I hate Her presence, hated both of Gods and men. 225
"O mother, hear me yet before I die. Hath he not sworn his love a thousand times, In this green valley, under this green hill, Ev'n on this hand, and sitting on this stone? Seal'd it with kisses? water'd it with tears? 230 O happy tears, and how unlike to these! O happy Heaven, how canst thou see my face? O happy earth, how canst thou bear my weight? O death, death, death, thou ever-floating cloud, There are enough unhappy on this earth, 235 Pass by the happy souls, that love to live: I pray thee, pass before my light of life, And shadow all my soul, that I may die. Thou weighest heavy on the heart within, Weigh heavy on my eyelids: let me die. 240
"O mother, hear me yet before I die. I will not die alone, for fiery thoughts Do shape themselves within me, more and more, Whereof I catch the issue, as I hear Dead sounds at night come from the inmost hills, 245 Like footsteps upon wool. I dimly see My far-off doubtful purpose, as a mother Conjectures of the features of her child Ere it is born: her child!—a shudder comes Across me: never child be born of me, 250 Unblest, to vex me with his father's eyes!
"O mother, hear me yet before I die. Hear me, O earth. I will not die alone, Lest their shrill happy laughter come to me Walking the cold and starless road of Death 255 Uncomforted, leaving my ancient love With the Greek woman. I will rise and go Down into Troy, and ere the stars come forth Talk with the wild Cassandra, for she says A fire dances before her, and a sound 260 Rings ever in her ears of armed men. What this may be I know not, but I know That, wheresoe'er I am by night and day, All earth and air seem only burning fire."
At Francis Allen's on the Christmas-eve,— The game of forfeits done—the girls all kiss'd Beneath the sacred bush and past away— The parson Holmes, the poet Everard Hall, The host, and I sat round the wassail-bowl, 5 Then half-way ebb'd: and there we held a talk, How all the old honour had from Christmas gone, Or gone, or dwindled down to some odd games In some odd nooks like this; till I, tired out With cutting eights that day upon the pond, 10 Where, three times slipping from the outer edge, I bump'd the ice into three several stars, Fell in a doze; and half-awake I heard The parson taking wide and wider sweeps, New harping on the church-commissioners, 15 Now hawking at Geology and schism, Until I woke, and found him settled down Upon the general decay of faith Right thro' the world, 'at home was little left, And none abroad: there was no anchor, none; 20 To hold by.' Francis, laughing, clapt his hand On Everard's shoulder, with 'I hold by him.' 'And I,' quoth Everard, 'by the wassail-bowl.' 'Why yes,' I said, 'we knew your gift that way At college: but another which you had, 25 I mean of verse (for so we held it then), What came of that?' 'You know,' said Frank, 'he burnt His epic, his King Arthur, some twelve books'— And then to me demanding why? 'Oh, sir, He thought that nothing new was said, or else 30 Something so said 'twas nothing—-that a truth Looks freshest in the fashion of the day: God knows: he has a mint of reasons: ask. It pleased me well enough,' 'Nay, nay,' said Hall, 'Why take the style of those heroic times? 35 For nature brings not back the Mastodon, Nor we those times; and why should any man Remodel models? these twelve books of mine Were faint Homeric echoes, nothing-worth, Mere chaff and draff, much better burnt.' 'But I,' 40 Said Francis, 'pick'd the eleventh from this hearth' And have it: keep a thing, its use will come. I hoard it as a sugar-plum for Holmes.' He laugh'd, and I, tho' sleepy, like a horse That hears the corn-bin open, prick'd my ears; 45 For I remember'd Everard's college fame When we were Freshmen: then at my request He brought it; and the poet little urged, But with some prelude of disparagement, Read, mouthing out his hollow oes and aes, 50 Deep-chested music, and to this result.
So all day long the noise of battle roll'd Among the mountains by the winter sea; Until King Arthur's table, man by man, Had fallen in Lyonnesse about their Lord, King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep, 5 The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him, Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights, And bore him to a chapel nigh the field, A broken chancel with a broken cross, That stood on a dark strait of barren land. 10 On one side lay the Ocean, and on one Lay a great water, and the moon was full.
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: The sequel of to-day unsolders all The goodliest fellowship of famous knights 15 Whereof this world holds record. Such a sleep They sleep—the men I loved. I think that we Shall never more, at any future time, Delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds, Walking about the gardens and the halls 20 Of Camelot, as in the days that were. I perish by this people which I made,— Tho' Merlin sware that I should come again To rule once more—but let what will be, be, I am so deeply smitten thro' the helm 25 That without help I cannot last till morn. Thou therefore take my brand Excalibur, Which was my pride: for thou rememberest how In those old days, one summer noon, an arm Rose up from out the bosom of the lake, 30 Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, Holding the sword—and how I row'd across And took it, and have worn it, like a king: And, wheresoever I am sung or told In aftertime, this also shall be known: 35 But now delay not: take Excalibur, And fling him far into the middle mere: Watch what thou seest, and lightly being me word.'
To him replied the bold Sir Bedivere: 'It is not meet, Sir King, to leave thee thus, 40 Aidless, alone, and smitten thro' the helm. A little thing may harm a wounded man. Yet I thy hest will all perform at full, Watch what I see, and lightly bring thee word.'
So saying, from the ruin'd shrine he stept 45 And in the moon athwart the place of tombs, Where lay the mighty bones of ancient men, Old knights, and over them the sea-wind sang Shrill, chill, with flakes of foam. He, stepping down By zig-zag paths and juts of pointed rock, 50 Came on the shining levels of the lake.
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur, And o'er him, drawing it, the winter moon, Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt: 55 For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks, Myriads of topaz-lights and jacinth-work Of subtlest jewellery. He gazed so long That both his eyes were dazzled, as he stood, This way and that dividing the swift mind, 60 In act to throw: but at the last it seem'd Better to leave Excalibur conceal'd There in the many-knotted waterflags, That whistled stiff and dry about the marge. So strode he back slow to the wounded King 65
Then spake King Arthur to Sir Bedivere: 'Hast thou performed my mission which I gave? What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?'
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: 'I heard the ripple washing in the reeds, 70 And the wild water lapping on the crag.'
To whom replied King Arthur, faint and pale: 'Thou hast betray'd thy nature and thy name, Not rendering true answer, as beseem'd Thy fealty, nor like a noble knight: 75 For surer sign had follow'd, either hand, Or voice, or else a motion of the mere. This is a shameful thing for men to lie. Yet now, I charge thee, quickly go again As thou art lief and dear, and do the thing 80 I bad thee, watch, and lightly bring me word.'
Then went Sir Bedivere the second time Across the ridge, and paced beside the mere, Counting the dewy pebbles, fix'd in thought; But when he saw the wonder of the hilt, 85 How curiously and strangely chased, he smote His palms together, and he cried aloud,
'And if indeed I cast the brand away, Surely a precious thing, one worthy note, Should thus be lost for ever from the earth, 90 Which might have pleased the eyes of many men. What good should follow this, if this were done? What harm, undone? deep harm to disobey, Seeing obedience is the bond of rule. Were it well to obey then, if a king demand 95 An act unprofitable, against himself? The King is sick, and knows not what he does. What record, or what relic of my lord Should be to aftertime, but empty breath And rumours of a doubt? but were this kept, 100 Stored in some treasure-house of mighty kings, Some one might show it at a joust of arms, Saying, "King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, Wrought by the lonely maiden of the Lake. Nine years she wrought it, sitting in the deeps 105 Upon the hidden bases of the hills." So might some old man speak in the after-time To all the people, winning reverence. But now much honour and much fame were lost.'
So spake he, clouded with his own conceit, 110 And hid Excalibur the second time, And so strode back slow to the wounded King.
Then spoke King Arthur, breathing heavily: 'What is it thou hast seen? or what hast heard?'
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: 115 'I heard the water lapping on the crag, And the long ripple washing in the reeds.'
To whom replied King Arthur, much in wrath: 'Ah, miserable and unkind, untrue, Unknightly, traitor-hearted! Woe is me! 120 Authority forgets a dying king, Laid widow'd of the power in his eye That bow'd the will. I see thee what thou art, For thou, the latest-left of all my knights, In whom should meet the offices of all, 125 Thou wouldst betray me for the precious hilt; Either from lust of gold, or like a girl Valuing the giddy pleasure of the eyes. Yet, for a man may fail in duty twice, And the third time may prosper, get thee hence: 130 But, if thou spare to fling Excalibur, I will arise and slay thee with my hands.'
Then quickly rose Sir Bedivere, and ran, And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged Among the bulrush-beds, and clutch'd the sword, 135 And strongly wheel'd and threw it. The great brand Made lightnings in the splendour of the moon, And flashing round and round, and whirl'd in an arch, Shot like a streamer of the northern morn, Seen where the moving isles of winter shock 140 By night, with noises of the northern sea. So flash'd and fell the brand Excalibur: But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, And caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him 145 Three times, and drew him under in the mere. And lightly went the other to the King.
Then spoke King-Arthur, drawing thicker breath: 'Now see I by thine eyes that this is done. Speak out: what is it thou has heard, or seen?' 150
And answer made the bold Sir Bedivere: 'Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems Should blind my purpose, for I never saw, Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die, Not tho' I live three lives of mortal men, 155 So great a miracle as yonder hilt. Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him; But when I look'd again, behold an arm, Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him 160 Three times, and drew him under in the mere.'
And answer made King Arthur, breathing hard: 'My end draws nigh; 'tis time that I were gone. Make broad thy shoulders to receive my weight, And bear me to the margin; yet I fear 165 My wound hath taken cold, and I shall die.'
So saying, from the pavement he half rose, Slowly, with pain, reclining on his arm, And looking wistfully with wide blue eyes As in a picture. Him Sir Bedivere 170 Remorsefully regarded thro' his tears, And would have spoken, but he found not words, Then took with care, and kneeling on one knee, O'er both his shoulders drew the languid hands, And rising bore him thro' the place of tombs. 175
But, as he walk'd, King Arthur panted hard, Like one that feels a nightmare on his bed When all the house is mute. So sigh'd the King, Muttering and murmuring at his ear, 'Quick, quick! I fear it is too late, and I shall die.' 180
But the other swiftly strode from ridge to ridge, Clothed with his breath, and looking, as he walk'd, Larger than human on the frozen hills. He heard the deep behind him, and a cry Before. His own thought drove him like a goad. 185 Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves And barren chasms, and all to left and right The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels— 190 And on a sudden, lo! the level lake, And the long glories of the winter moon.
Then saw they how there hove a dusky barge, Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern, Beneath them; and descending they were ware 195 That all the decks were dense with stately forms Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream—by these Three Queens with crowns of gold—and from them rose A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars, And, as it were one voice an agony 200 Of lamentation, like a wind, that shrills All night in a waste land, where no one comes, Or hath come, since the making of the world, Then murmur'd Arthur, 'Place me in the barge.' And to the barge they came. There those three Queens 205 Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept. But she, that rose the tallest of them all And fairest, laid his head upon her lap, And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands, And call'd him by his name, complaining loud, 210 And dropping bitter tears against his brow Striped with dark blood: for all his face was white And colourless, and like the wither'd moon Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east; And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with drops 215 Of onset; and the light and lustrous curls— That made his forehead like a rising sun High from the dais-throne—were parch'd with dust; Or, clotted into points and hanging loose, Mix'd with the knightly growth that fringed his lips. 220 So like a shatter'd column lay the King; Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest, From spur to plume a star of tournament, Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and charged Before the eyes of ladies and of kings. 225
Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere, 'Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go? Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes? For now I see the true old times are dead, When every morning brought a noble chance, 230 And every chance brought out a noble knight. Such times have been not since the light that led The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh. But now the whole ROUND TABLE is dissolved Which was an image of the mighty world; 235 And I, the last, go forth companionless, And the days darken round me, and the years, Among new men, strange faces, other minds.'
And slowly answered Arthur from the barge: 'The old order changeth, yielding place to new, 240 And God fulfils Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world. Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me? I have lived my life, and that which I have done May He within Himself make pure! but thou, 245 If thou shouldst never see my face again, Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me night and day. For what are men better than sheep or goats 250 That nourish a blind life within the brain, If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer Both for themselves and those who call them friend? For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God. 255 But now farewell. I am going a long way With these thou seest—if indeed I go— (For all my mind is clouded with a doubt) To the island-valley of Avilion; Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, 260 Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea, Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.'
So said he, and the barge with oar and sail 265 Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan That, fluting a wild carol ere her death, Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere Revolving many memories, till the hull 270 Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn, And on the mere the wailing died away.
* * * * * *
Here ended Hall, and our last light, that long Had wink'd and threatened darkness, flared and fell: At which the Parson, sent to sleep with sound, And waked with silence, grunted 'Good!' but we 55 Sat rapt: it was the tone with which he read— Perhaps some modern touches here and there Redeem'd it from the charge of nothingness— Or else we loved the man, and prized his work; I know not: but we sitting, as I said, 60 The cock crew loud; as at that time of year The lusty bird takes every hour for dawn: Then Francis, muttering, like a man ill-used, 'There now—that's nothing!' drew a little back, And drove his heel into the smoulder'd log, 65 That sent a blast of sparkles up the flue: And so to bed; where yet in sleep I seem'd To sail with Arthur under looming shores, Point after point; till on to dawn, when dreams Begin to feel the truth and stir of day, 70 To me, methought, who waited with a crowd, There came a bark that, blowing forward, bore King Arthur, like a modern gentleman Of stateliest port; and all the people cried, 'Arthur is come again: he cannot die.' 75 Then those that stood upon the hills behind Repeated—'Come again, and thrice as fair;' And, further inland, voices echo'd—'Come With all good things, and war shall be no more.' At this a hundred bells began to peal, 80 That with the sound I woke, and heard indeed The clear church-bells ring in the Christmas-morn.
Here, by this brook, we parted; I to the East And he for Italy—too late—too late; One whom the strong sons of the world despise; For lucky rhymes to him were scrip and share, And mellow metres more than cent for cent; 5 Nor could he understand how money breeds; Thought it a dead thing; yet himself could make The thing that is not as the thing that is. O had he lived! In our schoolbooks we say, Of those that held their heads above the crowd, 10 They flourish'd then or then; but life in him Could scarce be said to flourish, only touch'd On such a time as goes before the leaf, When all the wood stands in a mist of green, And nothing perfect: yet the brook he loved, 15 For which, in branding summers of Bengal, Or ev'n the sweet half-English Neilgherry air I panted, seems; as I re-listen to it, Prattling the primrose fancies of the boy, To me that loved him; for 'O brook,' he says, 20 'O babbling brook,' says Edmund in his rhyme, 'Whence come you?' and the brook, why not? replies:
I come from haunts of coot and hern, I make a sudden sally, And sparkle out among the fern, 25 To bicker down a valley.
By thirty hills I hurry down, Or slip between the ridges, By twenty thorps, a little town, And half a hundred bridges. 30
Till last by Philip's farm I flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever.
'Poor lad, he died at Florence, quite worn out, 35 Travelling to Naples. There is Darnley bridge, It has more ivy; there the river; and there Stands Philip's farm where brook and river meet.
I chatter over stony ways, In little sharps and trebles, 40 I bubble into eddying bays, I babble on the pebbles.
With many a curve my banks I fret By many a field and fallow, And many a fairy foreland set 45 With willow-weed and mallow.
I chatter, chatter, as I flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever. 50
'But Philip chattered more than brook or bird; Old Philip; all about the fields you caught His weary daylong chirping, like the dry High-elbow'd grigs that leap in summer grass.
I wind about, and in and out, 55 With here a blossom sailing, And here and there a lusty trout, And here and there a grayling,
And here and there a foamy flake Upon me, as I travel 60 With many a silvery waterbreak Above the golden gravel,
And draw them all along, and flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever.
'O darling Katie Willows, his one child! A maiden of our century, yet most meek; A daughter of our meadows, yet not coarse; Straight, but as lissome as a hazel wand; 70 Her eyes a bashful azure, and her hair In gloss and hue the chestnut, when the shell Divides threefold to show the fruit within.
Sweet Katie, once I did her a good turn, Her and her far-off cousin and betrothed, 75 James Willows, of one name and heart with her. For here I came, twenty years back—the week Before I parted with poor Edmund; crost By that old bridge which, half in ruins then, Still makes a hoary eyebrow for the gleam 80 Beyond it, where the waters marry—crost, Whistling a random bar of Bonny Doon, And push'd at Philip's garden-gate. The gate, Half-parted from a weak and scolding hinge, Stuck; and he clamour'd from a casement, "Run" 85 To Katie somewhere in the walks below, "Run, Katie!" Katie never ran: she moved To meet me, winding under woodbine bowers, A little flutter'd, with her eyelids down, Fresh apple-blossom, blushing for a boon. 90
'What was it? less of sentiment than sense Had Katie; not illiterate; nor of those Who dabbling in the fount of fictive tears, And nursed by mealy-mouth'd philanthropies, Divorce the Feeling from her mate the Deed. 95 'She told me. She and James had quarrell'd. Why? What cause of quarrel? None, she said, no cause; James had no cause: but when I prest the cause, I learnt that James had flickering jealousies Which anger'd her. Who anger'd James? I said. 100 But Katie snatch'd her eyes at once from mine, And sketching with her slender pointed foot Some figure like a wizard pentagram On garden gravel, let my query pass Unclaimed, in flushing silence, till I ask'd 105 If James were coming. "Coming every day," She answer'd, "ever longing to explain, But evermore her father came across With some long-winded tale, and broke him short; And James departed vext with him and her." 110 How could I help her? "Would I—was it wrong?" (Claspt hands and that petitionary grace Of sweet seventeen subdued me ere she spoke) "O would I take her father for one hour, For one half-hour, and let him talk to me!" 115 And even while she spoke, I saw where James Made toward us, like a wader in the surf, Beyond the brook, waist-deep in meadow-sweet.