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Theme hard as high!
Of smiles spontaneous, and mysterious fears
(The first-born they of Reason and twin-birth),
Of tides obedient to external force,


And current self-determined, as might seem,
Or by some inner Power; Of moments awful
Now in thy life, and now abroad,
When power streamed from thee, and thy soul received
The light reflected, as a light bestowed-
Of Fancies fair, and milder hours of youth,
Hyblean murmurs of poetic thought
Industrious in its joy, in vales and glens
Native or outland, lakes and famous hills!
Or on the lonely high-road, when the stars
Were rising; or by secret mountain-streams,
The guides and the companions of thy way!

Of more than Fancy, of the social sense Distending wide, and man beloved as man, Where France in all her towns lay vibrating Like some becalmed bark beneath the burst Of Heaven's immediate thunder, when no cloud Is visible, or shadow on the main.

For tnou wert there, thine own brows garlanded, Amid the tremor of a realm aglow,

Amid a mighty nation jubilant,

When from the general heart of human kind
Hope sprang .th like a full-born Deity!

Of that dear Hope afflicted and struck down,
So summon'd homeward, thenceforth, calm and sure,
From the dread watch-tower of man's absolute self,
With light unwaning on her eyes, to look
Far on herself a glory to behold,

The Angel of the vision! Then (last strain)
Of duty, chosen laws controlling choice,
Action and joy! An orphic song indeed,
A song divine of high and passionate thoughts,
To their own music chanted!

O great bard! Ere yet that last stram dying awed the air, With steadfast eye I view'd thee in the choir Of ever enduring men. The truly great Have all one age, and from one visible space Shed influence! They, both in power and act, Are permanent, and Time is not with them, Save as it worketh for them, they in it. Nor less a sacred roll, than those of old, And to be placed, as they, with gradual Fame Among the archives of mankind, thy work Makes audible a linked lay of truth,

Of truth profound a sweet continuous lay,
Not learnt, but native, her own natural notes!
Ah! as I listened with a heart forlorn,
The pulses of my being beat anew:

And even as life returns upon the drown'd,
Life's joy rekindling roused a throng of pains-
Keen pangs of Love, awakening as a babe
Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart;

And fears self-will'd, that shunn'd the eye of Hope;
And Hope that scarce would know itself from Fear,
Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
And genius given, and knowledge won in vain;
And all which I had cull'd in wood-walks wild,
And all which patient toil had rear'd, and all,
Commune with thee had open'd out- - but flowers
Strew'd on my corse, and borne upon my bier,
In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!

That way no more! and ill beseems it me, Who came a welcomer in herald's guise, Singing of glory and futurity,

To wander back on such unhealthful road, Plucking the poisons of self-harm! And ill Such intertwine beseems triumphal wreaths Strew'd before thy advancing!

Nor do thou,

Sage Bard, impair the memory of that hour
Of my communion with thy nobler mind
By pity or grief, already felt too long!

Nor let my words import more blame than needs.
The tumult rose and ceased: for peace is nigh
Where Wisdom's voice has found a listening heart.
Amid the howl of more than wintry storms,
The Halcyon hears the voice of vernal hours
Already on the wing.

Eve following eve, Dear tranquil time, when the sweet sense of home Is sweetest! moments for their own sake hail'd And more desired, more precious for thy song, In silence listening, like a devout child, My soul lay passive, by the various strain Driven as in surges now beneath the stars, With momentary stars of my own birth, Fair constellated foam, still darting off Into the darkness; now a tranquil sea, Outspread and bright, yet swelling to the Moon.


And when-O friend! my comforter and guide! Strong in thyself, and powerful to give strength!Thy long sustained song finally closed, And thy deep voice had ceased-yet thou thyself Wert still before my eyes, and round us both That happy vision of beloved facesScarce conscious, and yet conscious of its close I sate, my being blended in one thought (Thought was it? or aspiration? or resolve?) Absorb'd, yet hanging stiil upon the soundAnd when I rose, I found myself in prayer.

["A beautiful white cloud of foam at momentary intervals coursed by the side of the vessel with a roar, and little stars of flame danced and sparkled and went out in it and every now and then light detachments of this white cloud-like foam darted off from the vessel's side, each with its own small constellation, over the Bea, and scoured out of sight like a Tartar troop over a wilderness" -The Friend, p. 220.]

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What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale
Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
The earth is all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,

I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!
Trances of thought and mountings of the mind
Come fast upon me: it is shaken off,
That burthen of my own unnatural self,
The heavy weight of many a weary day
Not mine, and such as were not made for me.
Long months of peace (if such bold word accord
With any promises of human life),

Long months of ease and undisturbed delight
Are mine in prospect; whither shall I turn
By road or pathway, or through trackless field,
Up hill or down, or shall some floating thing
Upon the river point me out my course?

Dear Liberty! yet what would it avail But for a gift that consecrates the joy? For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven Was blowing on my body, felt within A correspondent breeze, that gently moved With quickening virtue, but is now become A tempest, a redundant energy,

Vexing its own creation. Thanks to both,
And their congenial powers, that, while they join
In breaking up a long-continued frost,

Bring with them vernal promises, the hope
Of active days urged on by flying hours,—
Days of sweet leisure, taxed with patient thought
Abstruse, nor wanting punctual service high,
Matins and vespers of harmonious verse!

Thus far, O Friend! did I, not used to make A present joy the matter of a song, Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains That would not be forgotten, and are here Recorded to the open fields I told A prophecy: poetic numbers came Spontaneously to clothe in priestly robe A renovated spirit singled out, Such hope was mine, for holy services. My own voice cheered me, and, fur more, the mind's Internal echo of the imperfect sound;


To both I listened, drawing from them both A cheerful confidence in things to come.

Content and not unwilling now to give A respite to this passion, I paced on With brisk and eager steps; and came, at length, To a green shady place, where down I sate Beneath a tree, slackening my thoughts by choice, And settling into gentler happiness. "Twas autumn, and a clear and placid day, With warmth, as much as needed, from a sun Two hours declined towards the west; a day With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass, And in the sheltered and the sheltering grove A perfect stillness. Many were the thoughts Encouraged and dismissed, till choice was made Of a known vale, whither my feet should turn, Nor rest till they had reached the very door Of the one cottage which methought I saw. No picture of mere memory ever looked So fair; and while upon the fancied scene I gazed with growing love, a higher power Than fancy gave assurance of some work Of glory there forthwith to be begun,

Perhaps too there performed. Thus long I mused,
Nor e'er lost sight of what I mused upon,
Save when, amid the stately grove of oaks,
Now here, now there, an acorn, from its cup
Dislodged, through sere leaves rustled, or at once
To the bare earth dropped with a startling sound.
From that soft couch I rose not, till the sun
Had almost touched the horizon; casting then
A backward glance upon the curling cloud
Of city smoke, by distance ruralized;

Keen as a truant or a fugitive,

But as a pilgrim resolute, I took,

Even with the chance equipment of that hour
The road that pointed toward the chosen vale.
It was a splendid evening, and my soul
Once more made trial of her strength, nor lacked
Eolian visitations; but the harp

Was soon defrauded, and the banded host
Of harmony dispersed in straggling sounds,
And lastly utter silence!
"Be it so;
Why think of any thing but present good?"
So, like a home-bound labourer I pursued
My way beneath the mellowing sun, that shed
Mild influence; nor left in me one wish
Again to bend the Sabbath of that time
To a servile yoke. What need of many words?
A pleasant loitering journey, through three days
Continued, brought me to my hermitage.
I spare to tell of what ensued, the life

In common things the endless store of things,
Rare, or at least so seeming every day
Found all about me in one neighbourhood
The self-congratulation, and, from morn
To night, unbroken cheerfulness serene.
But speedily an earnest longing rose
To brace myself to some determined aim,
Reading or thinking; either to lay up
New stores, or rescue from decay the old
By timely interference: and therewith
Came hopes still higher, that with outward life
I might endue some airy phantasies
That had been floating loose about for years,
And to such beings temperately deal forth
The many feelings that oppressed my heart.
That hope hath been discouraged; welcome light
Dawns from the east, but dawns to disappear
And mock me with a sky that ripens not
Into a steady morning: if my mind,
Remembering the bold promise of the past,
Would gladly grapple with some noble theme,
Vain is her wish; where'er she turns she finds
Impediments from day to day renewed.

And now it would content me to yield up Those lofty hopes awhile, for present gifts Of humbler industry. But, oh, dear friend! The poet, gentle creature as he is, Hath, like the lover, his unruly times; His fits when he is neither sick nor well,

Though no distress be near him but his own
Unmanageable thoughts: his mind, best pleased
While she as duteous as the mother dove
Sits brooding, lives not always to that end,
But like the innocent bird, hath goadings on
That drive her as in trouble through the groves;
With me is now such passion, to be blamed
No otherwise than as it lasts too long.

When, as becomes a man who would prepare For such an arduous work, I through myself Make rigorous inquisition, the report Is often cheering; for I neither seem To lack that first great gift, the vital soul, Nor general truths, which are themselves a sort Of elements and agents, under-powers, Subordinate helpers of the living mind: Nor am I naked of external things, Forms, images, nor numerous other aids Of less regard, though won perhaps with toil And needful to build up a poet's praise. Time, place, and manners do I seek, and these Are found in plenteous store, but nowhere such As may be singled out with steady choice; No little band of yet remembered names Whom I, in perfect confidence, might hope To summon back from lonesome banishment, And make them dwellers in the hearts of men Now living, or to live in future years. Sometimes the ambitious power of choice, mistaking Proud spring-tide swellings for a regular sea, Will settle on some British theme, some old Romantic tale by Milton left unsung; More often turning to some gentle place Within the groves of chivalry, I pipe To shepherd swains, or seated harp in hand, Amid reposing knights by a river side Or fountain, listening to the grave reports Of dire enchantments faced and overcome By the strong mind, and tales of warlike feats, Where spear encountered spear, and sword with sword Fought, as if conscious of the blazonry That the shield bore, so glorious was the strife; Whence inspiration for a song that winds Through ever-changing scenes of votive quest Wrongs to redress, harmonious tribute paid To patient courage and unblemished truth, To firm devotion, zeal unquenchable, And Christian meekness hallowing faithful loves. Sometimes, more sternly moved, I would relate How vanquished Mithridates northward passed, And, hidden in the cloud of years, became Odin, the father of a race by whom Perished the Roman Empire: how the friends And followers of Sertorius, out of Spain Flying, found shelter in the Fortunate Isles, And left their usages, their arts and laws, To disappear by a slow gradual death, To dwindle and to perish one by one,

Starved in those narrow bounds: but not the soul
Of Liberty, which fifteen hundred years
Survived, and, when the European came
With skill and power that might not be withstood,
Did, like a pestilence, maintain its hold
And wasted down by glorious death that race
Of natural heroes: or I would record
How, in tyrannic times, some high-souled man,
Unnamed among the chronicles of kings,
Suffered in silence for Truth's sake: or tell,
How that one Frenchman,* through continued force
Of meditation on the inhuman deeds

Of those who conquered first the Indian Isles,
Went single in his ministry across
The ocean; not to comfort the oppressed,
But like a thirsty wind, to roam about
Withering the oppressor: how Gustavus sought
Help at his need in Dalecarlia's mines:
How Wallace fought for Scotland; left the name
Of Wallace to be found, like a wild flower,

All over his dear country; left the deeds Of Wallace, like a family of ghosts,

To people the steep rocks and river banks, Her natural sanctuaries, with a local soul

Of independence and stern liberty.
Sometimes it suits me better to invent
A tale from my own heart, more near akin
To my own passions and habitual thoughts;
Some variegated story, in the main
Lofty, but the unsubstantial structure melts
Before the very sun that brightens it,
Mist into air dissolving! Then a wish,
My best and favourite aspiration, mounts
With yearning toward some philosophic song
Of Truth that cherishes our daily life;
With meditations passionate from deep
Recesses in man's heart, immortal verse
Thoughtfully fitted to the Orphean lyre;
But from this awful burthen I full soon
Take refuge and beguile myself with trust
That mellower years will bring a riper mind
And clearer insight. Thus my days are past
In contradiction; with no skill to part
Vague longing, haply bred by want of power,
From paramount impulse not to be withstood,
A timorous capacity from prudence,
From circumspection, infinite delay.
Humility and modest awe themselves
Betray me, serving often for a cloak
To a more subtle selfishness; that now
Locks every function up in blank reserve,
Now dupes me, trusting to an anxious eye
That with intrusive restlessness beats off
Simplicity and self-presented truth.
Ah! better far than this, to stray about

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* Dominique de Gourgues, a French gentleman who went in 1568 to Florida to avenge the massacre of the French by the Spaniards there

Voluptuously through fields and rural walks,
And ask no record of the hours, resigned
To vacant musing, unreproved neglect
Of all things, and deliberate holiday.
Far better never to have heard the name
Of zeal and just ambition, than to live
Baffled and plagued by a mind that every hour
Turns recreant to her task; takes heart again,
Then feels immediately some hollow thought
Hang like an interdict upon her hopes.
This is my lot; for either still I find
Some imperfection in the chosen theme,
Or see of absolute accomplishment
Much wanting, so much wanting, in myself,
That I recoil and droop, and seek repose
In listlessness from vain perplexity,
Unprofitably travelling toward the grave,
Like a false steward who hath much received
And renders nothing back.

Was it for this That one, the fairest of all rivers, loved To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song, And, from his alder shades and rocky falls, And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice

That flowed along my dreams? For this, didst thou.
O Derwent! winding among grassy holms
Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,
Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts
To more than infant softness, giving me
Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind
A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm
That Nature breathes among the hills and groves!
When he had left the mountains and received
On his smooth breast the shadow of those towers
That yet survive, a shattered monument
Of feudal sway, the bright blue river passed
Along the margin of our terrace walk;
A tempting playmate whom we dearly loved.
Oh, many a time have I, a five years' child,
In a small mill-race severed from his stream,
Made one long bathing of a summer's day;
Basked in the sun, and plunged and basked again
Alternate, all a summer's day, or scoured
The sandy fields, leaping through flowery groves
Of yellow ragwort; or when rock and hill,
The woods, and distant Skiddaw's lofty height,
Were bronzed with deepest radiance, stood alone
Beneath the sky, as if I had been born
On Indian plains, and from my mother's hut
Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport,
A naked savage, in the thunder shower.

Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up Fostered alike by beauty and by fear: Much favoured in my birthplace, and no less In that beloved vale to which ere long

We were transplanted — there were we let loose
For sports of wider range. Ere I had told
Ten birth-days, when among the mountain slopes

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Frost, and the breath of frosty wind, had snapped
The last autumnal crocus, 'twas my joy

With store of springes o'er my shoulder hung
To range the open heights where woodcocks run
Along the smooth green turf. Through half the night,
Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
That anxious visitation; -moon and stars
Were shining o'er my head. I was alone,
And seemed to be a trouble to the peace
That dwelt among them. Sometimes it befell
In these night wanderings, that a strong desire
O'erpowered my better reason, and the bird
Which was the captive of another's toil
Became my prey; and when the deed was done
I heard among the solitary hills

Low breathings coming after me, and sounds

Of undistinguishable motion, steps

Almost as silent as the turf they trod.

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange that all

The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up

The calm existence that is mine when I

Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,

And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;

Nor less when spring had warmed the cultured vale, For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
Moved we as plunderers where the mother-bird
Had in high places built her lodge; though mean
Our object and inglorious, yet the end
Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung
Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill sustained, and almost (so it seemed)
Suspended by the blast that blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag, oh, at that time
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
Blow through my ear! the sky seemed not a sky
Of earth and with what motion moved the clouds!

'Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,

The horizon's utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the gray sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily

I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge
As if with voluntary power instinct

One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;

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There in her mooring-place I left my bark,—
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen

That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitud?
Or blank desertion. No familiar snapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

*Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!
Thou Soul that art the eternity of thought,
That givest to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion, not in vain

By day or star-light thus from my first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul;

Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!

That came with soft alarm, like hurtless light
Opening the peaceful clouds; or she may use
Severer interventions, ministry
More paloable, as best might suit her aim.

Thanks to the means which Nature deigned to employ; Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
Whether her fearless visitings, or those
But with high objects, with enduring things-
With life and nature, purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying, by such discipline,
Both pain and fear, until we recognise
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.
Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me
With stinted kindness. In November days,
When vapours rolling down the valley made
A lonely scene more lonesome, among woods


These lines have already been published in the author's Poetical Works. See ante, p. 80.

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