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XIV. 'Feel for the wrongs ...'
Last Poems (1821–1850)
Decay of Piety
Oft have I seen, ere Time had ploughed my cheek,
Matrons and Sires—who, punctual to the call
Of their loved Church, on Fast or Festival
Through the long year the House of Prayer would seek:
By Christmas snows, by visitation bleak
Of Easter winds, unscared, from Hut or Hall
They came to lowly bench or sculptured Stall,
But with one fervour of devotion meek.
I see the places where they once were known,
And ask, surrounded even by kneeling crowds,
Is ancient Piety for ever flown?
Alas! even then they seemed like fleecy clouds
That, struggling through the western sky, have won
Their pensive light from a departed sun!
“Not Love, nor War, nor the tumultuous swell”
Not Love, nor War, nor the tumultuous swell
Of civil conflict, nor the wrecks of change,
Nor Duty struggling with afflictions strange,
Not these alone inspire the tuneful shell;
But where untroubled peace and concord dwell,
There also is the Muse not loth to range,
Watching the blue smoke of the elmy grange,
Skyward ascending from the twilight dell.
Meek aspirations please her, lone endeavour,
And sage content, and placid melancholy;
She loves to gaze upon a crystal river,
Diaphanous, because it travels slowly;
Soft is the music that would charm for ever;
The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.
For the sources of the reading text and the editor’s commentary, see Last Poems, 1821–
1850, ed. Jared Curtis, with Apryl Lee Denny and Jill Heydt-Stevenson, associate editors
Last Poems (1820–1850)â•… 569
A Parsonage in Oxfordshire
Where holy ground begins—unhallowed ends,
Is marked by no distinguishable line;
The turf unites—the pathways intertwine;
And, wheresoe’er the stealing footstep tends,
Garden, and that Domain where Kindred, Friends,
And Neighbours rest together, here confound
Their several features—mingled like the sound
Of many waters, or as evening blends
With shady night. Soft airs, from shrub and flower,
Waft fragrant greetings to each silent grave;
Meanwhile between those Poplars, as they wave
Their lofty summits, comes and goes a sky
Bright as the glimpses of Eternity,
To Saints accorded in their mortal hour.
Recollection of the Portrait of King Henry Eighth,
Trinity Lodge, Cambridge
The imperial Stature, the colossal stride,
Are yet before me; yet do I behold
The broad full visage, chest of amplest mould,
The vestments ’broidered with barbaric pride:
And lo! a poniard, at the Monarch’s side,
Hangs ready to be grasped in sympathy
With the keen threatenings of that fulgent eye,
Below the white-rimmed bonnet, far descried.
Who trembles now at thy capricious mood?
Mid those surrounding worthies, haughty King!
We rather think, with grateful mind sedate,
How Providence educeth, from the spring
Of lawless will, unlooked-for streams of good,
Which neither force shall check, nor time abate.
[Translation of the Sestet of a Sonnet by Tasso]
Camoëns, he the accomplished and the good,
Gave to thy Fame a more illustrious flight
Than that brave vessel though she sailed so far,
WW included this sonnet in his note to Pastoral Character, sonnet III.xi. of Ecclesiastical
Sketches in 1822.
570â•… The Poems of William Wordsworth
Through him her course along the austral flood
Is known to all beneath the polar star
Through him the antipodes in thy name delight.
“A volant Tribe of Bards on earth are found”
A volant Tribe of Bards on earth are found,
Who, while the flattering Zephyrs round them play,
On “coignes of vantage” hang their nests of clay;
How quickly from that aery hold unbound,
Dust for oblivion! To the solid ground
Of nature trusts the Mind that builds for aye;
Convinced that there, there only, she can lay
Secure foundations. As the year runs round,
Apart she toils within the chosen ring;
While the stars shine, or while day’s purple eye
Is gently closing with the flowers of spring;
Where even the motion of an Angel’s wing
Would interrupt the intense tranquillity
Of silent hills, and more than silent sky.
“Queen and Negress chaste and fair!”
Queen and Negress chaste and fair!
â•… Christophe now is laid asleep
Seated in a British Chair
State in humbler manner keep
â•… Shine for Clarkson’s pure delight
â•… Negro Princess, ebon bright!
Lay thy Diadem apart
â•… Pomp has been a sad Deceiver
Through thy Champion’s faithful heart
Joy be poured, and thou the Giver
â•… Thou that mak’st a day of night
â•… Sable Princess, ebon bright!
Let not “Wilby’s” holy shade
â•… Interpose at Envy’s call,
Hayti’s shining Queen was made
To illumine Playford Hall
â•… Bless it then with constant light
â•… Negress excellently bright!
Last Poems (1820–1850)â•… 571
[Epigrams on Byron’s Cain]
i. “Critics, right honourable Bard! decree”
Critics, right honourable Bard! decree
Laurels to some, a nightshade wreath to thee,
Whose Muse a sure though late revenge hath ta’en
Of harmless Abel’s death by murdering Cain.
On Cain a Mystery dedicated to Sir Walter Scott
A German Haggis––from Receipt
Of him who cook’d “The death of Abel”
And sent “warm–reeking rich” and sweet
From Venice to Sir Walter’s table.
After reading a luscious scene of the above—
The Wonder explained
What! Adam’s eldest Son in this sweet strain!
Yes—did you never hear of Sugar-Cain?
On a Nursery piece of the same, by a Scottish Bard—
Dont wake little Enoch,
Or he’ll give you a wee knock!
For the pretty sweet Lad
As he lies in his Cradle
Is more like to his Dad
Than a Spoon to a Ladle.
“Thus far I write to please my Friend”
Thus far I write to please my Friend;
And now to please myself I end.
“By Moscow self–devoted to a blaze”
By Moscow self–devoted to a blaze
Of dreadful sacrifice; by Russian blood
572â•… The Poems of William Wordsworth
Lavished in fight with desperate hardihood;
The unfeeling Elements no claim shall raise
To rob our Human–nature of just praise
For what she did and suffered. Pledges sure
Of a deliverance absolute and pure
She gave, if Faith might tread the beaten ways
Of Providence. But now did the Most High
Exalt his still small Voice;––to quell that Host
Gathered his Power, a manifest Ally;
He whose heaped waves confounded the proud boast
Of Pharaoh, said to Famine, Snow, and Frost,
Finish the strife by deadliest Victory!
“These Vales were saddened with no common gloom”
In the Burial-ground of this Church are deposited the Remains of Jemima
A. D. second daughter of Sir Egerton Brydges Bart—of Lee Priory, Kent—
who departed this life at Rydal May 25th 1822 Ag: 28 years. This memorial is
erected by her afflicted husband Edwd Quillinan
These Vales were saddened with no common gloom
When good Jemima perished in her bloom;
When (such the awful will of heaven) she died
By flames breathed on her from her own fire-side.
On Earth we dimly see, and but in part
We know, yet Faith sustains the sorrowing heart;
And she, the pure, the patient and the meek,
Might have fit Epitaph could feelings speak;
If words could tell and monuments record,
How treasures lost are inwardly deplored,
No name by grief’s fond eloquence adorn’d,
More than Jemima’s would be praised and mourn’d;
The tender virtues of her blameless life,
Bright in the Daughter, brighter in the Wife,
And in the cheerful Mother brightest shone:
That light hath past away—the will of God be done!