Изображения страниц

And, Matthew, for thy children dead I'll be a son to thee !" At this he grasped my hand, and said, " Alas! that cannot be.”

That half-mad thing of witty rhymes
Which you last April made!”
In silence Matthew lay, and eyed
The spring beneath the tree;
And thus the dear old Man replied,
The gray haired man of glee :
No check, no stay, this Streamlet

fears ; How merrily it goes ! 'Twill murmur on a thousand years, And flow as now it flows.

We rose up from the fountain-side ;
And down the smooth descent
Of the green sheep-track did we glide ;
And through the wood we went;
And, ere we came to Leonard's rock,
He sang those witty rhymes
About the crazy old church-clock,
And the bewildered chimes.

1799. 1800.

“ And here, on this delightful day,
I cannot choose but think
How oft, a vigorous man, I lay
Beside this fountain's brink.

“My eyes are dim with childish tears,
My heart is idly stirred,
For the same sound is in my ears
Which in those days I heard,
“Thus fares it still in our decay :
And yet the wiser mind
Mourns less for what age takes away
Than what it leaves behind.

“ The blackbird amid leafy trees,
The lark above the hill,
Let loose their carols when they please
Are quiet when they will.
“ With Nature never do they wage
A foolish strife; they see
A happy youth, and their old age
Is beautiful and free :


OR, SOLITUDE Written at Goslar in Germany. It was founded on a circumstance told me by my Sister, of a little girl who, not far from Halifax in Yorkshire, was bewildered in a snow-storm. Her footsteps were traced by her parents to the middle of the lock of a canal, and no other vestige of her, backward or forward, could be traced. The body however was found in the canal. The way in which the incident was treated and the spiritualizing of the character might furnish hints for contrasting the imaginative influences which I have endeavored to throw over common life with Crabbe's matter of fact style of treating subjects of the same kind. This is not spoken to his disparagement, far from it, but to direct the attention of thoughtful readers, into whose hands these notes may fall, to a comparison that may both enlarge the circle of their sensibilities, and tend to produce in them a catholic judg ment. (Wordsworth.)

See also Henry Crabb Robinson's Diary, Sept. 11, 1816. OFT I had heard of Lucy Gray: And, when I crossed the wild, I chanced to see at break of day The solitary child. No mate, no comradle Lucy knew; She dwelt on a wide moor, -The sweetest thing that ever grew Beside a human door!

“ But we are pressed by heavy laws;
And often, glad no more,
We wear a face of joy, because
We have been glad of yore.

“If there be one who need bemoan
His kindred laid in earth,
The household hearts that were his own ;
It is the man of mirth.

[blocks in formation]

You yet may spy the fawn at play,
The bare upon the green ;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray
Will never more be seen.
To-night will be a stormy night-
You to the town must go;
And take a lantern, Child, to light
Your mother through the snow.”
“ That, Father! will I gladly do :
'Tis scarcely afternoon-
The minster-clock has just struck two,
And yonder is the moon!”

• Now both himself and me he wrongs,
The man who thus complains;
I live and sing my idle songs
Upon these happy plains;


At this the Father raised his hook,
And snapped a fagot band ;
He plied his work ;-and Lucy took
The lautern in her hand.


Not blither is the mountain roe :
With many a wanton stroke
Her feet disperse the powdery snow,
That rises up like smoke.

The storm came on before its time :
She wandered up and down ;
And many a hill did Lucy climb:
But never reached the town.

The wretched parents all that night
Went shouting far and wide ;
But there was neither sound nor sight
To serve them for a guide.


At daybreak on the hill they stood
That overlooked the moor ;
And thence they saw the bridge of wood,
A furlong from their door.
They wept-and, turning homeward,

cried, “In heaven we all shall meet ;" -When in the snow the mother spied 'The print of Lucy's feet. Then downwards from the steep hill's

edge They tracked the footmarks small; And through the broken hawthorn

hedge, And by the long stone-wall ;

Written at Town-end, Grasmere, about the same time as “ The Brothers." The Sheepfold, on which so much of the poem turns, remains, or rather the ruins of it. The character and cir. cumstances of Luke were taken from a family to whom had belonged, many years before, the house we lived in at Town end, along with some fields and woodlands on the eastern shore of Grasmere. The name of the Evening Star was not in fact given to this house, but to another on the same side of the valley, more to the north.

(Wordsworth.) IF from the public way you turn your

steps Up the tumultuous brook of Greenhead

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 boister

ous brook The mountains have all opened out them.

selves, And made a hidden valley of their own. No habitation can be seen ; but they Who journey thither find themselves

alone 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, 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, Or for the summer shade. It was the first Of those domestic tales that spake to me Of shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, Whom I already loved ; not verily For their own sakes, but for the fields

and hills Where was their occupation and abode. And hence this Tale, while I was yet a

Boy Careless of books, yet having felt the


And then an open field they crossed:
'The marks were still the same;
They tracked them on, nor ever lost ;
And to the bridge they came.
They followed from the snowy bank
Those footmarks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank ;
And further there were none !


-Yet some maintain that to this day
She is a living child ;
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonesome wild.
O'er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind ;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.

1799. 1800.

to age

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 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 had he 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 work for

me!" And, truly, at all times, the storm that

drives The traveller to shelter, summoned him Up to the mountains: he hail been alone Ainid 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 Shep

herd's thoughts. Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had

breathed The common air; hills, which with vig

orous 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 mem

ory Of the dumb animals, whom he had

savel, Had fed or sheltered, linking to such

acts The certainty of honorable gain ;, Those fields, those bills--what could they

less? bad 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 sin

gleness. Ilis Helpmate was a comely matron,

oldThough younger than himself fulltwenty

years. 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. 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 oli,--in shep

herd's phrase, With one foot in the grave. This only

Son, With two brave sheep-dogstried in many

a storm, The one of an inestimable worth, Blade 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 come home,

even then, Their labor did not cease ; unless when

all Turned to the cleanly supper-board, and

there, Each with mess of pottage and

skimmed milk,


[ocr errors]

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 them

selves To such convenient work as might em

ploy Their hands by the fireside ; perhaps to

card Wool for the Housewife's spindle, or

repair Some injury done to sickle, fail, or

scythe, Or other implement of house or field. Down from the ceiling, by the chim

ney's edge, That in our ancient uncouth country

style With huge and black projection over

browed 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 had reached his

eighteenth year, There by the light of this old lamp they

sate, Father and Son, while far 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 neighbor

hood, And was a public symbol of the life 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


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 Tax

Thus living on through such a length

of years, The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must

needs Have loved his Helpmate; but to Mi

chael'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 allThan that a child, more than all other

gifts That earth can offer to declining man, Brings hope with it, and forward-look

ing thoughts, And stirrings of inquietude, when they By tendency of nature needs must fail. 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 Of fathers, but with patient mind en

forced To acts of tenderness; and he liad

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, Albeit of a stern unbending mind, To have the Young-one in his sight,

when he Wrought in the field, or on his shep

herd's stool Sate with a fettered sheep before him

stretched Under the large old oak, that near hia

door 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.

1 Clipping is the word used in the North of England for shearing. (Wordsuorth.)



old ;

There, while they 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 Opon the Child, if he disturbed the

sheep By catching at their legs, or with his

shouts Scared them, while they lay still be

neath 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 Then Michael from a winter coppice cut 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

equipt He as

a watchman oftentimes was

placed At gate or gap, to stem or turn the

flock; And, to his office prematurely called, There stood the urchin, as you will di

vine, Something between a hindrance and a

help; And for this cause not always, I believe, Receiving from his Father hire of praise ; Though nought 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, 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 Feelings and emanations—things which 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


And now, when he had reached his eigh

teenth year, He was his comfort and his daily hope. While in this sort the simple house

hold lived From day to day, to Michael's ear there Distressful tidings. Long before the

time Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been

bound In surety for his brother's son, a man Of an industrious life, and ample means ; But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly Had prest upon him ; and old Michael Was suinmoned to discharge the forfeit

ure, 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 sup

posed That any old man ever could have

lost. As soon as he had armed himself with

strength To look bis trouble in the face, it seemed The Shepherd's sole resource to sell at A portion of his patrimonial fields. Such was his first resolve ; he thought

again, And his heart failed him. Isabel," said

he, Two evenings after he had heard the “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




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 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 'Twere better to be dumb than to talk



« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »