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So scenes of life, when present and confest,
Stamp but their bolder features on the breast;
Yet not an image, when remotely viewed,
However trivial, and however rude,
But wins the heart, and wakes the social sigh,
With every claim of close affinity!
* * *
Hail, Memory, hail! in thy exhaustless mine From age to age unnumbered treasures shine! Thought and her shadowy brood thy call obey, And Place and Time are subject to thy sway! Thy pleasures most we feel when most alone; The only pleasures we can call our own. Lighter than air, Hope's summer-visions die, If but a fleeting cloud obscure the sky; If but a beam of sober Reason play, Lo, Fancy's fairy frost-work melts away ! But can the wiles of Art, the grasp of Power, Snatch the rich relics of a well-spent hour? These, when the trembling spirit wings her flight, Pour round her path a stream of living light; And gild those pure and perfect realms of rest, Where Wirtue triumphs, and her sons are blest!
The lark has sung his carol in the sky,
The bees have hummed their noontide lullaby;
Still in the vale the village bells ring round,
Still in Llewellyn hall the jests resound;
For now the caudle-cup is circling there,
Now, glad at heart, the gossips breathe their prayer,
And, crowding, stop the cradle to admire
The babe, the sleeping image of his sire.
A few short years, and then these sounds shall hail
The day again, and gladness fill the vale;
So soon the child a youth, the youth a man,
Eager to run the race his fathers ran.
Then the huge ox shall yield the broad sirloin;
The ale, now brewed, in floods of amber shine;
And, basking in the chimney's ample blaze,
"Mid many a tale told of his boyish days,
The nurse shall cry, of all her ills beguiled,
‘’Twas on her knees he sat so oft and smiled.’
And soon again shall music swell the breeze;
Soon, issuing forth, shall glitter through the trees
Westures of nuptial white; and hymns be sung,
And violets scattered round; and old and young,
In every cottage-porch with garlands green,
Stand still to gaze, and, gazing, bless the scene,
While, her dark eyes declining, by his side,
Moves in her virgin veil the gentle bride.
And once, alas ! nor in a distant hour,
Another voice shall come from yonder tower;
When in dim chambers long black weeds are seen,
And weeping heard where only joy has been;
When, by his children borne, and from his door,
Slowly departing to return no more,
He rests in holy earth with them that went before.
And such is human life; so gliding on,
It glimmers like a meteor, and is gone !
Yet is the tale, brief though it be, as strange,
As full, methinks, of wild and wonderous change,
As any that the wandering tribes require,
Stretched in the desert round their evening fire;
As any sung of old, in hall or bower,
To minstrelharm. at midnights witching hour !
The day arrives, the moment wished and feared; The child is born, by many a pang endeared, And now the mother's ear has caught his cry; 0 grant the cherub to her asking eye | He comes—she clasps him. To her bosom pressed, He drinks the balm of life, and drops to rest.
Her by her smile how soon the stranger knows : H:on by his the glad discovery shews |
As to her lips she lifts the lovely boy,
What answering looks of sympathy and joy!
He walks, he speaks. In many a broken word
His wants, his wishes, and his griefs are heard.
And ever, ever to her lap he flies,
When rosy Sleep comes on with sweet surprise.
Locked in her arms, his arms across her flung
(That name most dear for ever on his tongue),
As with soft accents round her neck he clings,
And, cheek to cheek, her lulling song she sings,
How blest to feel the beatings of his heart,
Breathe his sweet breath, and kiss for kiss impart;
Watch o'er his slumbers like the brooding dove,
And, if she can, exhaust a mother's love
But soon a nobler task demands her care.
Apart she joins his little hands in prayer,
Telling of Him who sees in secret there !
And now the volume on her knee has caught
His wandering eye—now many a written thought
Never to die, with many a lisping sweet,
His moving, murmuring lips endeavour to repeat.
If thou shouldst ever come by choice or chance
To Modena, where still religiously
Among her ancient trophies is preserved
Bologna's bucket—in its chain it hangs
Within that reverend tower, the Guirlandine-
Stop at a palace near the Reggio-gate,
Dwelt in of old by one of the Orsini.
Its noble gardens, terrace above terrace,
And rich in fountains, statues, cypresses,
Will long detain thee; through their arched walks,
Dim, at'noonday, discovering many a glimpse
Of knights and dames, such as in old romance,
And lovers, such as in heroic song,
Perhaps the two, for groves were their delight,
That in the spring-time, as alone they sat,
Wenturing together on a tale of love,
Read only part that day. A summer sun
Sets ere one half is seen; but, ere thou go,
Enter the house—prithee, forget it not-
And look awhile upon a picture there.
'Tis of a lady in her earliest youth,
The very last of that illustrious race,
Done by Zampieri—but by whom I care not.
He who observes it, ere he passes on,
Gazes his fill, and comes and comes again,
That he may call it up, when far away.
She sits, inclining forward as to speak,
Her lips half-open, and her finger up,
As though she said “Beware !” Her vest of gold
’Broidered with flowers, and clasped from head to
An emerald-stone in every golden clasp;
And on her brow, fairer than alabaster,
A coronet of pearls. But then her face,
So lovely, yet so arch, so full of mirth,
The overflowings of an innocent heart—
It haunts me still, though many a year has fled,
Like some wild melody :
Alone it hangs
Over a mouldering heir-loom, its companion,
An oaken chest, half-eaten by the worm,
But richly carved by Antony of Trent
With Scripture-stories from the life of Christ;
A chest that came from Venice, and had held
The ducal robes of some old ancestor.
That by the way—it may be true or false-
But don't forget the picture; and thou wilt not,
When thou hast heard the tale they told me there.
She was an only child; from infancy
The joy, the pride of an indulgent sire.
Her mother dying of the gift she gave,
That precious gift, what else remained to him?
The young Ginevra was his all in life,
Still as she grew, for ever in his sight;
And in her fifteenth year became a bride,
Marrying an only son, Francesco Doria,
Her playmate from her birth, and her first love.
Just as she looks there in her bridal-dress,
She was all gentleness, all gaiety,
Her pranks the favourite theme of every tongue.
But now the day was come, the day, the hour;
Now, frowning, smiling, for the hundredth time,
The nurse, that ancient lady, preached decorum;
Child of the sun' pursue thy rapturous flight,
Mingling with her thou lov'st in fields of light;
And, where the flowers of paradise unfold,
Quaff fragrant nectar from their cups of gold.
There shall thy wings, rich as an evening sky,
Expand and shut with silent ecstasy!
Yet wert thou once a worm, a thing that crept
On the bare earth, then wrought a tomb and slept.
And such is man; soon from his cell of clay
To burst a seraph in the blaze of day.
And, in the lustre of her youth, she gave
Her hand, with her heart in it, to Francesco.
Great was the joy; but at the bridal-feast,
When all sat down, the bride was wanting there.
Nor was she to be found ! Her father cried,
‘'Tis but to make a trial of our love!”
And filled his glass to all; but his hand shook,
And soon from guest to guest the panic spread.
'Twas but that instant she had left Francesco,
Laughing and looking back, and flying still,
Her ivory-tooth imprinted on his finger.
But now, alas ! she was not to be found;
Nor from that hour could anything be guessed
But that she was not! Weary of his life,
Francesco flew to Venice, and forthwith
Flung it away in battle with the Turk.
Orsini lived; and long mightst thou have seen
An old man wandering as in quest of something,
Something be could not find—he knew not what.
When he was gone, the house remained awhile
Silent and tenantless—then went to strangers.
Full fifty years were past, and all forgot,
When on an idle day, a day of search
"Mid the old lumber in the gallery,
That mouldering chest was noticed; and ’twas said
By one as young, as thoughtless as Ginevra,
“Why not remove it from its lurking-place?”
'Twas done as soon as said; but on the way
It burst, it fell; and lo, a skeleton,
With here and there a pearl, an emerald-stone,
A golden clasp, clasping a shred of gold !
All else had perished—save a nuptial-ring,
And a small seal, her mother's legacy,
Engraven with a name, the name of both,
“Ginevra. There then had she found a grave!
Within that chest had she concealed herself,
Fluttering with joy the happiest of the happy;
When a spring-lock that lay in ambush there,
Fastened her down for ever !
Dear is my little native vale,
The ring-dove builds and murmurs there;
Close by my cot she tells her tale
To every passing villager.
The squirrel leaps from tree to tree,
And shells his nuts at liberty.
In orange groves and myrtle bowers,
That breathe a gale of fragrance round,
I charm the fairy-footed hours
With my loved lute's romantic sound;
Or crowns of living laurel weave
For those that win the race at eve.
The shepherd's horn at break of day,
The ballet danced in twilight glade,
The canzonet and roundelay
Sung in the silent greenwood shade;
These simple joys that never fail,
Shall bind me to my native vale.
Written in the Highlands of Scotland—1812.
Blue was the loch, the clouds were gone,
Ben Lomond in his glory shone,
When, Luss, I left thee; when the breeze
Bore me from thy silver sands,
Thy kirkyard wall among the trees,
Where, gray with age, the dial stands;
That dial so well-known to me !
Though many a shadow it had shed,
Beloved sister, since with thee
The legend on the stone was read.
The fairy isles fled far away;
That with its woods and uplands green,
Where shepherd-huts are dimly seen,
And songs are heard at close of day;
That, too, the deer's wild covert fled,
And that, the asylum of the dead:
While, as the boat went merrily,
Much of Rob Roy the boatman told;
His arm that fell below his knee,
His cattle ford and mountain hold.
Tarbat, thy shore I climbed at last;
And, thy shady region passed,
Upon another shore I stood,
And looked upon another flood;”
Great Ocean's self! ('Tis he who fills
That vast and awful depth of hills);
Where many an elf was playing round,
Who treads unshod his classic ground;
And speaks, his native rocks among,
As Fingal spoke, and Ossian sung.
Night fell, and dark and darker grew
That narrow sea, that narrow sky,
As o'er the glimmering waves we flew,
The sea-bird rustling, wailing by.
And now the grampus, half-descried,
Black and huge above the tide;
The cliffs and promontories there,
Front to front, and broad and bare;
Each beyond each, with giant feet
Advancing as in haste to meet;
The shattered fortress, whence the Dane
Blew his shrill blast, nor rushed in vain,
Tyrant of the drear domain;
All into midnight shadow sweep,
When day springs upward from the deep !
Kindling the waters in its flight,
The prow wakes splendour, and the oar,
That rose and fell unseen before,
Flashes in a sea of light; -
Glad sign and sure, for now we hail
Thy flowers, Glenfinnart, in the gale;
And bright indeed the path should be:
That leads to Friendship and to Thee!
O blest retreat, and sacred too !
Sacred as when the bell of prayer
Tolled duly on the desert air,
And crosses decked thy summits blue.
1 Signifying, in the Gaelic language, an isthmus, * Loch Long. 277
They stand between the mountains and the sea;
Awful memorials, but of whom we know not.
The seaman passing, gazes from the deck,
The buffalo-driver, in his shaggy cloak,
Points to the work of magic, and moves on.
Time was they stood along the crowded street,
Temples of gods, and on their ample steps
What various habits, various tongues beset
The brazen gates for prayer and sacrifice!
Time was perhaps the third was sought for justice;
And here the accuser stood, and there the accused,
And here the judges sat, and heard, and judged.
All silent now, as in the ages past,
Trodden under foot, and mingled dust with dust.
How many centuries did the sun go round
From Mount Alburnus to the Tyrrhene sea,
While, by some spell rendered invisible,
Or, if approached, approached by him alone
Who saw as though he saw not, they remained
As in the darkness of a sepulchre,
Waiting the appointed time! All, all within
Proclaims that nature had resumed her right,
And taken to herself what man renounced;
No cornice, triglyph, or worn abacus,
But with thick ivy hung, or branching fern,
Their iron-brown o'erspread with brightest verdure !
From my youth upward have I longed to tread
This classic ground; and am I here at last?
Wandering at will through the long porticoes,
And catching, as through some majestic grove,
Now the blue ocean, and now, chaos-like,
Mountains and mountain-gulfs, and, half-way up,
Towns like the living rock from which they grew?
A cloudy region, black and desolate,
Where once a slave withstood a world in arms.
The air is sweet with violets, running wild
Mid broken friezes and fallen capitals;
Sweet as when Tully, writing down his thoughts,
Those thoughts so precious and so lately lost—
Turning to thee, divine philosophy,
Ever at hand to calm his troubled soul—
Sailed slowly by, two thousand years ago,
For Athens; when a ship, if north-east winds
Blew from the Paestan gardens, slacked her course.
On as he moved along the level shore,
These temples, in their splendour eminent
Mid arcs and obelisks, and domes and towers,
Reflecting back the radiance of the west,
Well might he dream of glory ! Now, coiled up,
The serpent sleeps within them; the she-wolf
Suckles her young; and as alone I stand
In this, the nobler pile, the elements
Of earth and air its only floor and covering,
How solemn is the stillness! Nothing stirs
Save the shrill-voiced cicala flitting round
On the rough pediment to sit and sing;
Or the green lizard rustling through the grass,
And up the fluted shaft with short quick spring,
To vanish in the chinks that time has made.
In such an hour as this, the sun's broad disk
Seen at his setting, and a flood of light
* The temples of Paestum are three in number, and have survived, nearly nine centuries, the total destruction of the city. Tradition is silent concerning them, but they must have *:#" between two and three thousand years. d
Filling the courts of these old sanctuaries-
Gigantic shadows, broken and confused,
Athwart the innumerable columns flung—
In such an hour he came, who saw and told,
Led by the mighty genius of the place."
Walls of some capital city first appeared,
Half razed, half sunk, or scattered as in scorn;
And what within them : What but in the midst
These three in more than their original grandeur,
And, round about, no stone upon another?
As if the spoiler had fallen back in fear,
And, turning, left them to the elements.
To –. Go-you may call it madness, folly; You shall not chase my gloom away!
There's such a charm in melancholy, I would not, if I could, be gay.
Oh, if you knew the pensive pleasure That fills my bosom when I sigh, You would not rob me of a treasure Monarchs are too poor to buy.
Mine be a cot beside the hill;
A bee-hive's hum shall soothe my ear;
A willowy brook, that turns a mill,
With many a fall, shall linger near.
The swallow oft beneath my thatch Shall twitter from her clay-built nest; Oft shall the pilgrim lift the latch, And share my meal, a welcome guest.
Around my ivied porch shall spring
Each fragrant flower that drinks the dew;
And Lucy, at her wheel, shall sing
In russet gown and apron blue.
The village church, among the trees, Where first our marriage vows were given, With merry peals shall swell the breeze, And point with taper spire to heaven.
O that the chemist's magic art
Could crystallise this sacred treasure !
Long should it glitter near my heart,
A secret source of pensive pleasure.
The little brilliant, ere it fell,
Its lustre caught from Chloe's eye;
Then, trembling, left its coral cell—
The spring of Sensibility
Sweet drop of pure and pearly light,
In thee the rays of Wirtue shine;
More calmly clear, more mildly bright,
Than any gem that gilds the mine.
Benign restorer of the soul!
Who ever fliest to bring relief,
When first we feel the rude control
Of Love or Pity, Joy or Grief.
The sage's and the poet's theme,
In every clime, in every age;
Thou charm'st in Fancy's idle dream,
In Reason's philosophic page.
* They are said to have been discovered by accident ahout the middle of the last century.
bestow upon their children the advantages of a complete education. His father was law-agent to Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of Lonsdale, and the poet and his brother—Dr Christopher Wordsworth, long master of Trinity College—after being some years at Hawkshead School, in Lanca
shire, were sent to the university of Cambridge. William was entered of St John's in 1787. Having finished his academical course, and taken his degree, he travelled for a short time. In the autumn of 1790, he accomplished a tour on the continent in company with a fellow-student, Mr Robert Jones. ‘We went staff in hand, he said, ‘without knapsacks, and carrying each his needments tied up in a pocket handkerchief, with about £20 apiece in our pockets. With this friend, Wordsworth made a tour in North Wales the following year, after taking his degree in college. He was again in France towards the close of the year 1791, and remained in that country about a twelvemonth. He had hailed the French Revolution with feelings of enthusiastic admiration.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven.
Few poets escaped the contagion. Burns, Coleridge, Southey, and Campbell, all felt the flame, and looked for a new era of liberty and happiness. It was long ere Wordsworth abandoned his political theory. His friends were desirous he should enter
the church, but his republican sentiments and the unsettled state of his mind rendered him averse to such a step. To the profession of the law he was equally opposed. Poetry was to be the sole business of his life. A young friend, Raisley Calvert, dying in 1795, left him a sum of £900. Upon the interest of the £900, he says, “4400 being laid out in annuity, with £200 deducted from the principal, and £100, a legacy to my sister, and £100 more which the Lyrical Ballads brought me, my sister and I contrived to live seven years, nearly eight. A further sum of about £1000 came to him as part of the estate of his father, who had died intestate; and with this small competence, Wordsworth devoted himself to study and seclusion. He first appeared as a poet in his twenty-third year, 1793. The title of his work was Descriptive Sketches, which was followed the same year by the Evening Walk. The walk is among the mountains of Westmoreland; the sketches refer to a tour made in Switzerland by the poet and his friend Jones. The poetry is of the style of Goldsmith; but description predominates over reflection. The enthusiastic dreams of liberty which then buoyed up the young poet, appear in such lines as the following:
0 give, great God, to freedom's waves to ride
Sublime o'er conquest, avarice, and pride;
To sweep where pleasure decks her guilty bowers,
And dark oppression builds her thick-ribbed towers;
Give them, beneath their breast, while gladness springs,
To brood the nations o'er with Nile-like wings;
And grant that every sceptred child of clay
Who cries, presumptuous, ‘Here their tides shall stay,
Swept in their anger from the affrighted shore
With all his creatures sink to rise no more !
In the autumn of 1795, Wordsworth and his sister were settled at Racedown Lodge, near Crewkerne in Somersetshire, where they were visited in the summer of 1797 by Coleridge. The poets were charmed with each other's society, and became friends for life. Wordsworth has described Coleridge at this time as
A noticeable man with large gray eyes, And a pale face that seemed undoubtedly As if a blooming face it ought to be; Heavy his low-hung lip did oft appear Depressed by weight of musing Phantasy; Profound his forehead was, but not severe.
The poet and his sister next moved to a residence near Coleridge's, to Alfoxden, near Nether Stowey. At this place many of Wordsworth's smaller poems were written, and also a tragedy, the Borderers, which he attempted to get acted at Covent Garden Theatre, but it was rejected. In 1798, appeared the Lyrical Ballads, to which Coleridge contributed his Ancient Mariner. A generous provincial bookseller, Joseph Cottle of Bristol, gave thirty guineas for the copyright of this volume; he ventured on an impression of five hundred copies, but was soon glad to dispose of the largest proportion of the five hundred at a loss, to a London bookseller. The ballads were designed by their author as an experiment how far a simpler kind of poetry than that in use would afford permanent interest to readers. The humblest subjects, he contended, were fit for poetry, and the language should be that ‘really used by men.' The fine fabric of poetic diction which generations of the tuneful tribe had been laboriously rearing, he proposed to destroy altogether. The language of humble and rustic life, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, he considered to
be a more permanent and far more Philo'ical
language than that which is frequently substituted for it by poets. The attempt of Wordsworth was either totally neglected or assailed with ridicule. The transition from the refined and sentimental school of verse, with select and polished diction, to such themes as The Idiot Boy, and a style of composition disfigured by colloquial plainness, and by the mixture of ludicrous images and associations with passages of tenderness and pathos, was too violent to escape ridicule or insure general success. It was often impossible to tell whether the poet meant to be comic or tender, serious or ludicrous; while the choice of his subjects and illustrations, instead of being regarded as genuine simplicity, had an appearance of silliness or affectation. The faults of his worst ballads were so glaring, that they overpowered, at least for a time, the simple natural beauties, the spirit of gentleness and humanity, with which they were accompanied. It was a first experiment, and it was made without any regard for existing prejudices or feelings, or any wish to conciliate.
In 1798, Wordsworth, his sister, and Coleridge went to Germany, the latter parting from them at Hamburg, and going to Ratzeburg, where he resided four months; while the Wordsworths proceeded to Goslar, and remained there about half a year. On their return to England, they settled at Grasmere, in Westmoreland, where they lived for eight years. In 1800 he reprinted his Lyrical Ballads, with the addition of many new pieces, the work now forming two volumes. In October 1802, the poet was married to Mary Hutchinson, a lady with whom he had been early intimate, and on whom he wrote, in the third year of his married life, the exquisite lines, ‘She was a Phantom of Delight.’
She came, no more a Phantom to adorn
A moment, but an inmate of the heart,
And yet a spirit there for me enshrined
To penetrate the lofty and the low:
Even as one essence of pervading light
Shines in the brightest of ten thousand stars,
And the meek worm that feeds her lonely lamp
Couched in the dewy grass.”
In 1803, accompanied by Coleridge and his sister, Wordsworth made a tour in Scotland, which forms an epoch in his literary history, as it led to the production of some of his most popular minor poems. He had been for some years engaged on a poem in blank verse, The Prelude, or Growth of my own Mind, which he brought to a close in 1805, but it was not published till after his death. In 1805, also, he wrote his Waggoner, not published till 1819. Since Pope, no poet has been more careful of his fame than Wordsworth, and he was enabled to practise this abstinence in publication because, like Pope, he was content with moderate means and limited desires. His circumstances, however, were at this time so favourable, that he purchased for £1000, a small cottage and estate at the head of Ulleswater. Lord Lonsdale generously offered £800 to complete this purchase, but the poet accepted only of a fourth of the sum. In 1807 appeared two volumes of Poems from his pen. They were assailed with all the severity of criticism, but it was seen that, whatever might be the theory of the poet, he possessed a vein of pure and exalted description
* This respected lady died at Rydal Mount, January 17, 1859. For some years her powers of sight had entirely failed her, but she continued cheerful and “bright, and full of
":" power as in former days.
and meditation which it was impossible not to feel and admire. The influence of nature upon man was his favourite theme; and though sometimes unintelligible from his idealism, he was also, on other occasions, just and profound. His worship of nature was ennobling and impressive. In 1809 the poet struck out into a new path. He came forward as a political writer, with an Essay on the Convention of Cintra, an event to which he was strongly opposed. His prose was as unsuccessful as his poetry, so far as sale was concerned, but there are fine vigorous passages in this pamphlet, and Canning is said to have pronounced it the most eloquent production since the days of Burke. Wordsworth had now abandoned his republican dreams, and was henceforward conservative of all time-honoured institutions in church and state. His views were never servile—they were those of a recluse politician, honest but impracticable. In the spring of 1813 occurred Wordsworth's removal from Grasmere to Rydal Mount, one of the grand events of his life; and there he resided for the long period of thirtyseven years—a period of cheerful and dignified poetical retirement—
Long have I loved what I behold,
The night that calms, the day that cheers;
The common growth of mother-earth
Suffices me—her tears, her mirth,
Her humblest mirth and tears.
The dragon's wing, the magic ring,
I shall not covet for my dower,
If I along that lowly way
With sympathetic heart may stray,
And with a soul of power.
The circle of his admirers was gradually extending, and he continued to supply it with fresh materials of a higher order. In 1814 appeared The Excursion, a philosophical poem in blank verse, by far the noblest production of the author, and containing passages of sentiment, description, and pure eloquence, not excelled by any living poet, while its spirit of enlightened humanity and Christian benevolence—extending over all ranks of sentient and animated being—imparts to the poem a peculiarly sacred and elevated character. The influence of Wordsworth on the poetry of his age has thus been as beneficial as extensive. He turned the public taste from pompous inanity to the study of man and nature; he banished the false and exaggerated style of character and emotion which even the genius of Byron stooped to imitate; and he enlisted the sensibilities and sympathies of his intellectual brethren in favour of the most expansive and kindly philanthropy. The pleasures and graces of his muse are all simple, pure, and lasting. In working out the plan of his Excursion, the poet has not, however, escaped from the errors of his early poems. The incongruity or want of keeping in most of Wordsworth's productions is observable in this work. The principal character is a poor Scotch pedler, who traverses the mountains in company with the poet, and is made to discourse, with clerk-like fluency,
Of truth, of grandeur, beauty, love, and hope.
It is thus that the poet violates the conventional rules of poetry and the realities of life; for surely it is inconsistent with truth and probability that a profound moralist and dialectician should be found in such a situation. In his travels with the ‘Wanderer, the poet is introduced to a “Solitary, who lives secluded from the world, after a life of busy