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1811 "The power of armies..."
Shorter Poems (1807–1820)â•… 35
The Liberty of Greece:—the words rebound
Until all voices in one voice are drowned;
Glad acclamation by which air was rent!
And birds, high-flying in the element,
Dropped to the earth, astonished at the sound!
—A melancholy Echo of that noise
Doth sometimes hang on musing Fancy’s ear:
Ah! that a Conqueror’s words should be so dear;
Ah! that a boon could shed such rapturous joys!
A gift of that which is not to be given
By all the blended powers of Earth and Heaven.
Upon the Same Event
When, far and wide, swift as the beams of morn
The tidings passed of servitude repealed,
And of that joy which shook the Isthmian Field,
The rough Ỉtolians smiled with bitter scorn.
“’Tis known,” cried they, “that He, who would adorn
His envied temples with the Isthmian Crown,
Must either win, through effort of his own,
The prize, or be content to see it worn
By more deserving brows.— Yet so ye prop,
Sons of the Brave who fought at Marathon,
Your feeble Spirits. Greece her head hath bowed,
As if the wreath of Liberty thereon
Would fix itself as smoothly as a cloud,
Which, at Jove’s will, descends on Pelion’s top!”
Upon the Sight of a Beautiful Picture
Praised be the Art whose subtle power could stay
Yon Cloud, and fix it in that glorious shape;
Nor would permit the thin smoke to escape,
Nor those bright sunbeams to forsake the day;
Which stopped that Band of Travellers on their way
Ere they were lost within the shady wood;
And shewed the Bark upon the glassy flood
For ever anchored in her sheltering Bay.
Soul-soothing Art! which Morning, Noon-tide, Even
Do serve with all their changeful pageantry!
36â•… The Poems of William Wordsworth
Thou, with ambition modest yet sublime,
Here, for the sight of mortal man, hast given
To one brief moment caught from fleeting time
The appropriate calm of blest eternity.
from the vale of grasmere. august
The gentlest Shade that walked Elysian Plains
Might sometimes covet dissoluble chains;
Even for the Tenants of the Zone that lies
Beyond the stars, celestial Paradise,
Methinks ’twould heighten joy, to overleap
At will the crystal battlements, and peep
Into some other region, though less fair,
To see how things are made and managed there:
Change for the worse might please, incursion bold
Into the tracts of darkness and of cold;
O’er Limbo lake with aëry flight to steer,
And on the verge of Chaos hang in fear.
Such animation often do I find,
Power in my breast, wings growing in my mind,
Then, when some rock or hill is overpast,
Perchance without one look behind me cast,
Some barrier with which Nature, from the birth
Of things, has fenced this fairest spot on earth.
O pleasant transit, Grasmere! to resign
Such happy fields, abodes so calm as thine;
Not like an outcast with himself at strife;
The slave of business, time, or care for life,
But moved by choice; or, if constrained in part,
Yet still with Nature’s freedom at the heart;
To cull contentment upon wildest shores,
And luxuries extract from bleakest moors;
With prompt embrace all beauty to enfold,
And having rights in all that we behold.
—Then why these lingering steps? A bright adieu,
For a brief absence, proves that love is true;
Ne’er can the way be irksome or forlorn,
That winds into itself, for sweet return.
Shorter Poems (1807–1820)â•… 37
[Epistle to Sir George Howland Beaumont, Bart. From the
South-west Coast of Cumberland.—1811]
Far from [â•…â•… ] Grasmere’s lake serene,
Her Vale profound and mountains ever green,
Fixed within hearing of loud Ocean’s roar
Where daily, on a bleak and lonesome shore,
Even at this summer season, huge Black Comb
Frowns, deep’ning visibly his native gloom.
Unless perchance, rejecting in despite
What on the Plain we have of warmth and light,
In his own Tempests hide himself from Sight.
Here am I, Friend, where neither sheltered road
Nor hedgerow screen, invite my steps abroad,
Where one poor Plane-tree, having as it can
Attained a stature twice the height of Man,
Hopeless of further growth, and brown and sere,
Thro’ half the summer stands with top cut sheer
Like an unshifting weathercock that proves
How cold the Quarter that the wind best loves,
Or Centinel, that placed in front before
Darkens the window, not defends the door
Of this unfinished House; a Fortress bare,
Where strength has been the Builder’s only care,
Whose rugged walls may still for years demand
The finer polish of the Plaisterer’s hand;
This Dwelling’s Inmate more than three weeks’ space
And oft a Prisoner in the cheerless place
I, of whose touch the fiddle would complain,
Whose breath would labour at the flute in vain,
In music all unversed—and without skill
A bridge to copy, or to paint a mill;
Tired of my books, a scanty company,
And tired of listening to the boisterous Sea,
Pace between door and window murmuring rhyme,
An old resource to cheat the froward time!
And it would well content me to disclaim
The reading text is drawn from the earliest complete version, which is untitled. WW’s notes
are those he published with the poem in Poems, 1815. The first line in 1815 is “Far from
our home by Grasmere’s quiet Lake.”
38â•… The Poems of William Wordsworth
In these dull hours a more ambitious aim.
But if there be a Muse, who, free to take
Her Seat upon Olymphus, doth forsake
Those Heights (like Phœbus when his golden locks
He veiled, attendant on Thessalian Flocks)
And in disguise, a Milkmaid with her pail
Trips on the pathways of some winding dale;
Or like a Mermaid warbles on the shores
To Fishers, mending nets beside their doors;
Or like a tired Way-farer faint in mind,
Gives plaintive Ballads to the heedless wind—
If such a visitant of Earth there be
And she would deign this day to smile on me
And aid my Verse content with narrow bounds,
Life’s beaten road and Nature’s daily rounds,
Thoughts, chances, sights or doings, which we tell
Without reserve to those whom we love well,
Then haply Beaumont, for my pen is near,
The unlaboured lines to your indulgent ear
May be transmitted, else will perish here.
â•… What shall I treat of? News from Mona’s Isle?
Such have I, but unvaried in its style;
No tales of Runnagates fresh landed, whence
And wherefore fugitive, or on what pretence—
Of feasts or scandal eddying like the wind
Most restlessly alive, when most confined.
Ask not of me whose tongue can best appease
The mighty tumults of the House of Keys,
The last Year’s Cup whose Ram or Heifer gained,
What slopes are planted, and what mosses drained?
An eye of Fancy only can I cast
On that proud pageant, now at hand or past,
When full five hundred boats in trim array
With nets and Sails outspread, and streamers gay
And chaunted hymns and stiller voice of prayer
For the old Manx harvest to the Deep repair,
Soon as the Herring-shoals at distance shine
Like beds of moonlight shifting on the brine.
â•… Mona from my Abode is daily seen