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CHAPTER XXVII.

HIS CHILDREN.

The verses “on the Mother's Return,” mentioned in the last chapter, furnish an appropriate occasion for reference to the poems in which Mr. Wordsworth speaks of those to whom the above-mentioned verses of his sister were addressed. His family then consisted of three children : John, his eldest son, born on the 18th of June,

1803; Dorothy, or (as she is called in her father's poems,

and as she was known to all around her) Dora, born August 16. 1804; the birth-day, also, of

her mother;
Thomas, born June 16. 1806.
Two other children were born after that date:

Catharine, September 6. 1808;
William, May 12. 1810.

The sonnet that concludes the series on the Scotch tour in 1803?, ends with an image of the joy which would appear on the face of his first child, on the tidings of his father's return:

“ Yea, let our Mary's one companion child,

That hath her six weeks' solitude beguiled,

With intimations, manifold and dear,
While we have wandered over wood and wild,
Smile on his mother now with bolder cheer.”

In the following year, his daughter Dora was born ; and on the 16th September of that year, a month after her birth, he wrote the lines,

“ Hast thou then survived,
Mild offspring of infirm humanity?

Hail to thee !
Frail, feeble monthling,

on thy face
Smiles are beginning, like the beams of dawn,
To shoot and circulate; smiles have there been seen;
Tranquil assurances that heaven supports
The feeble motions of thy life, and cheers
Thy loneliness: or shall those smiles be called
Feelers of love, put forth as if to explore
This untried world, and to prepare thy way

Through a strait passage intricate and dim?” A few weeks passed away; autumn arrived; the withered leaves in the cottage-orchard at Grasmere began to fall:

“ Through the calm and frosty air

Of the morning, bright and fair,
Eddying round and round they sink
Softly, slowly.” 2

The kitten, on the wall of the garden, sports with the leaves as they fall to the ground; the infant in the father's arms is delighted with the show:

“Such a light of gladness breaks,

Pretty Kitten ! from thy freaks ;

1 Vol. ii. p. 65.

2 Vol. ii. p. 62. 64.

Spreads with such a living grace,

O'er my little Dora's face.” And the Poet is cheered by the sight, and draws a gladsome moral from the whole :

“ I will have my

careless season
Spite of melancholy reason;
Will walk through life in such a way
That, when time brings on decay,
Now and then I may possess
Hours of perfect gladsomeness,

.

Keep the sprightly soul awake,
And have faculties to take
Even from things by sorrow wrought,
Matter for a jocund thought;
Spite of care and spite of grief,

To gambol with life’s falling leaf.” It will not be an uninteresting or unprofitable task to look forward a few years, and to compare

the

poem just mentioned with another of a serious cast, not, however, unmingled with playfulness, addressed to the same daughter, at a different season of the year, -“the Longest Day.”

“ Dora! sport, as now thou sportest

On this platform, light and free:
Take thy bliss, — while longest, shortest,

Are indifferent to thee!

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«Yet, at this impressive season,

Words which tenderness can speak,
From the truths of homely reason,

Might exalt the loveliest cheek;

I Vol. i. p. 174.

“ And while shades to shades succeeding

Steal the landscape from the sight,
I would urge this moral pleading,

Last forerunner of Good Night.'

“Summer ebbs; each day that follows

Is a reflux from on high,
Tending to the darksome hollows,

Where the frosts of winter lie.


Now, even now, ere wrapped in slumber,

Fix thine eyes upon the sea
That absorbs Time, Space, and Number, —

Look thou to Eternity !” About the same time were written those pathetic lines in which the Poet, who was often affected by disorder and weakness of eyesight, gives vent to foreboding apprehensions of blindness. In quest of paral. lels to his own case, he recurs in imagination, first, to the Samson Agonistes of Milton, and then to the Edipus of Sophocles. In this mood of mind, he thus addresses his daughter: “A little onward lend thy guiding hand To these dark steps, a little further on!

What trick of memory to my voice hath brought
This mournful iteration ? For though Time,
The Conqueror, crowns the Conquered, on this brow
Planting his favourite silver diadem,
Nor he, nor minister of his — intent
To run before him, hath enrolled me yet,
Though not unmenaced, among those who lean
Upon a living staff, with borrowed sight.
- O my Antigone ! my beloved child !
Should that day come

"1

1 Vol. iv. p. 218.

In later years, the imagery of mythology gave way to the sober and more touching language of real life, and the verse now stands,

“O my own Dora, my beloved child !” He concludes the poem with a grateful commemoration of some of the uses of eyesight, “not unmenaced,” but still preserved to him:

“ Now also shall the page of classic lore,

To these glad eyes from bondage freed, again
Lie open ; and the book of Holy Writ,
Again unfolded, passage clear shall yield
To heights more glorious still, and into shades
More awful, where, advancing hand in hand,
We may be taught, O Darling of my care !
To calm the affections, elevate the soul,
And consecrate our lives to truth and love."

The poetical portrait which he has drawn of his beloved daughter ought to find a place here':

Open, ye thickets ! let her fly,
Swift as a Thracian Nymph, o'er field and height!
For She, to all but those who love her, shy,
Would gladly vanish from a Stranger's sight;
Though where she is beloved and loves,
Light as the wheeling butterfly she moves ;
Her happy spirit as a bird is free
That rifles blossoms on a tree
Turning them inside out with arch audacity.
Alas! how little can a moment show
Of an eye where feeling plays
In ten thousand dewy rays;
A face o'er which a thousand shadows go!

She stops — is fastened to that rivulet's side;

From the Triad, vol. ii. p. 181.

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