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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
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
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 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, And in his shepherd's calling he was prompt And watchful more than ordinary men. Hence he had learned the meaning of all winds, Of blasts of every tone; and, oftentimes, When others heeded not, he heard the south 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 works for me !" 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,
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
The common air : the hills, which he so oft
Had climbed with vigorous steps; which had impress'd
So many incidents upon his mind
Of hardship, skill, or courage, joy, or fear;
Which, like a book, preserved the memory
Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved,
Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts,
So grateful in themselves, the certainty
Of honourable gain : these fields, these hills,
Which were his living being, even more
Than his own blood-what could they less ; had laid
Strong hold on his affections, were to him
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.
She was a woman of 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.
The pair had but one inmate in their house,

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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,
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,
And from their occupations out of doors
The son and father were coming home, even then
Their labour did not cease ; unless when all
Turned to their cleanly supper-board, and there,
Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk,
Sat round their basket piled with oaten cake,
And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when their meal
Was ended, Luke (for so the son was named)
And his old father both betook themselves
To such convenient work as might employ
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,
Which in our ancient uncouth country style
Did with a huge projection overbrow:
Large space beneath, as duly as the light
Of day grew dim, the housewife hung a lamp,
An aged utensil, which had performed
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,
Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes,
Living a life of eager industry.
And now, when Luke was in his eighteenth year,
There by the light of this old lamp they sat,
Father and son, while late into the night
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 neighbourhood,
And was a public symbol of the life
The 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 Dunmal-Raise,
And westward to the village near the lake;
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, 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,Effect which might perhaps have been produced By that instinctive tenderness, the same Blind spirit which is in the blood of all Or that a child, more than all other gifts, Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts,

And stirrings of inquietude, when they
By tendency of nature needs must fail.

From such, and other causes, to the thoughts Of the old man his only son was now The dearest object that he knew on earth. 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 dalliance and delight, as is the use Of fathers, but with patient mind enforced To acts of tenderness : and he had rock'd His cradle with a woman's gentle hand.

And, in a later time, ere yet the boy Had put on boy's attire, did Michael love (Albeit of a stern, unbending mind) To have the young one in his sight, when he Had work by his own door, or when he sat With sheep before him on his shepherd's stool. Beneath that large old oak, which near their door Stood,-and, from its enormous breadth 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 the two were sitting in the shade, 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

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