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Full text of "Select poems from Coleridge and Wordsworth; prescribed for university and normal school entrance examinations, 1909. Edited with introd., notes and appendix"

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Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 


The Estate of the late 


Head of the 

Department of English 

University College 









Professor of English in University College, Toronto. 




DEC 1 1990 


Entered according to Act of tb Parliament oj Canada, in the year one thousand 
nine hundred and five, by TIIR Corp, CLARK COMPANY, LIMITED, Toronto, 
Ontario, in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture. 



&The figures in parentheses refer to the pages of the Notes. 

INTRODUCTION : The Characteristics of " The Ancient Mariner " v 


The Ancient Mariner (92) Coleridge 1 

The Reverie of Poor Susan (130) . . . Wordsioorth 25 

To My Sister (130) . i 25 

Expostulation and Reply (131) ... n 27 

The Tables Turned (132) 28 

"Three years she grew "(133) n 29 

Influence of Natural Objects (134) n 31 

Nutting (137) . n 33 

Michael (139) 35 

To the Cuckoo (148) i, 49 

To the Daisy (150) , 50 

The Green Linnet (151) 51 

The Solidary Reaper (153) n 53 

"She was a Phantom of delight " (154) . . . n 54 

Ode to Duty (156) .. 55 

Elegiac Stanzas (160) i 57 

X September, 1819(162) "]. 59 

Upon the Same Occasion (162) n 60 

To the Rev. Dr. Wordsworth (1641 ... n 62 

To a Skylark (164) 64 

Composed by the Seaside, near Calais (168) n 65 

IWritteji in London, September, 1802(168) . . 66 

andon, 1802 (169) 66 

' "It is not to be thought of "(169) . n 67 

" When I have borne in memory" (169) . . 67 

y Composed upon Westminster Bridge \ 170) . n 68 


SELECTIONS (Continued): 


Thought of a Briton on the Subjugation of Swit- 

zerland (170) ...... Wordsworth 68 

To Sleep (171) ..... n 69 

"Brook ! whose society the Poet seeks" (171) . .it 69 

Inside of King's College Chapel (171) n 70 

The Same Continued (172) ....... 70 

Scorn not the Sonnet "(173) ... 71 


Coleridge, Life, etc. . ...... 75 

Wordsworth, Life, etc. . . . . . . . .118 


1. Sir Patrick Spence , . . From Percy's f If cliques" 177 

2. SirCauline . t. 178 

3. Frost at Midnight ..... Coleridge 190 

4. Dejection : an Ode ...... n 192 

5. Sonnet XXIX ...... Shakespeare 196 

6. Sonnet, On His Blindness .... Milton 196 
77* Sonnet, To The Autumnal Moon . . . Coleridge 197 

^-^sTSonnet, La Fayette ..... ( . 197 

9. Sonnet, On The Castle of Chillon . . Byron 198 

10. A Sonnet of Camoens . . Translated by Southey 198 



Difficulties in Appreciating the Poem. Those critics who assign 
the highest place to the poetic work of Coleridge, are wont to con- 
fess exceptional difficulty in making an analysis of the factors in his 
poetry which give rise to their admiration and a basis to their judg- 
ment. For example, Mr. Swinburne writes: "Of his best verses I 
venture to affirm that the world has nothing like them and can never 
have ; that they are of the highest kind and of their own. ... Of 
his flight and song when in the fit element, it is hard to speak at all, 
hopeless to speak adequately. It is natural that there should be nothing 
like them discoverable in any human work ; natural that his poetry at 
its highest should be, as it is, beyond all praise and all words of men. 
He who could define it aright could 'unweave a rainbow,' he who 
could praise it aright would be such another as the poet. " Yet in the 
case of The Ancient Mariner at least, some detailed account of its poetic 
effectiveness is eminently desirable, since from its first publication there 
has been a disposition among the critics, while admitting its many 
beauties, to find it falling short of the standard of the highest poetic 
worth, sometimes because of its alleged lack of truth and good sense, 
sometimes because of its incoherence, sometimes for its want of moral 
significance, sometimes, on the contrary, because its imaginative ex- 
cellence has been sacrificed to moral sentiments. * And at the present 
day, though the general verdict of the most competent judges has 
indisputably been given in favour of the poem, the ordinary reader who 
does not at once submit to its charm, is apt to be full of objections and 

Within a month of its publication Southey, speaking anonymously in the Critical \ 
>iew, says of The Ancient Mariner: "Many of the stanzas are laboriously beautiful, 

but in connection they are absurd and unintelligible . . '. We do not sufficiently 
understand the story to analyse it. It is p, Dutch attempt at German sublimity, i 
Genius has here been employed in producing a poem of little merit." And a few months * 
later, the Monthly Review styles it "the strangest story of a cock and bull that we ' 
ever saw on paper ... it seems a rhapsody of unintelligible wildness and 
incoherence . . . there are however in it poetical touches of an exquisite kind." 



of questions;* whilst the defender finds his task of accounting for his 
enthusiasm, much less easy than it would be in the case of a play 
of Shakespeare or, indeed, of almost any other work which has given 
^to its writer a high place among English poets. The chief cause 
of all this lies in the fact that The Ancient Mariner appeals so 
exclusively to the aesthetic sense, and so little either to the intel- 

4-lect or to normal human sympathies, f The perception of truth, 
of the successful representation of life and character, and the under- 
standing and feeling for human joys and sorrows are developed by 
every-day experience; whereas the lack of such inevitable education 
of the sense for artistic beauty makes the power of appreciating it the 
rarer. A sagacious mind little open to poetic effects may find much to 
interest and to excite admiration in the dramas of Shakespeare, as he 
who has no sense for beauty of form and colour, may appreciate the 
truth of a portrait ; whilst on the one hand, knowledge of the world 
and clearness of intellect are of no avail in such an art as music, where 
there is no appeal except to the sense of beauty of sound and its com- 
binations. .Poetry^ unlike music, deals not with sounds merely, but 
with language, which is necessarily^ the^exjression of thought. .Hence 
in poetry we may find what appeals to common sense : truth, the 

*To the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth appended an apologetic 
note on The Ancient Mariner, which is interesting as showing the limitation of Words- 
worth's poetic taste and as enumerating some objections which may be taken against 
the poem : " I cannot refuse myself the gratification of informing such Readers as may 
have been pleased with this Poem, or with any part of it, that they owe their pleasure 
in some sort to me ; as the Author was himself very desirous that it should be sup- 
pressed. This wish had arisen from a consciousness of the defects of the Poem, and 
from a knowledge that many persons had been much displeased with it. The Poem 
of my Friend has indeed great defects ; first, that the principal person has no distinct 
-gpharacter, either in his profession of Mariner or as a human being who having been 
^* T6ng~trfi3r the control of supernatural impressions might be supposed himself to 
^ -partake of something supernatural ; secondly, that he does not act, but is < continually 
acted upon ; thirdly, that the events having- no necessary connection do not produce 
each other ; and lastly, that the imagery is somewhat too laboriously accumulated. 
Yet the Poem contains many delicate touches of passion, and indeed the passion is 
everywhere true to nature ; a great number of the stanzas present beautiful images 
and are expressed with unusual felicity of language, and the versification, though the 
metre is itself unfitted for long poems, is harmonious and artfully varied, exhibiting 
the utmost powers of that metre, and every variety of which it is capable." 

t " It would need Coleridge the criMc to discover the secrets of the genius of 
Coleridge the poet. To solve intellectual puzzles in verse, to condense a diffused 
body of doctrine, to interpret what is called a poet's criticism of life is after all 
not difficult ; but to find expressions in the language of thought corresponding to 
pure melody and imaginative loveliness is a finer exercise of wit." (Dowden's 
Coleridge at a, Poet.) 


criticism of life, the facts of human nature ; yet valuable as these are, 
and largely as they may contribute to our pleasure, they are not them- 
selves necessarily poetical, and cannot of themselves give poetic excel- 
lence to the work which contains them. Or again, poetry may be great 
because it profoundly stirs our sympathies ; but then it must deal with 
what comes within the range of familiar experience. Now, the theme of 
The A ucicnt Mariner is like the theme of a fairy tale, so remote in its 
incidents from reality, that it appeals but little to our sense of truth, 
and cannot intensely excite our emotional nature. Hence to those whu 
lack the special ear for the essentially poetical, this poem is likfly to 
seem trivial ; whilst those, who spite of the little value they are dis- 
posed consciously to put upon artistic charm, are yet captivated by the 
beauty of this poem, often seek to justify their preference by alleging 
the existence of an allegorical meaning or a moral lesson.* _Such 
attempts to force a deeper significance upon The Ancient Mariner, are 
really destructive of its main strength, which is aesthetic, and lies in 
its artistic consistency and unity in its perfect harmony, beauty and 
completeness, if regarded from its own point of view. To enjoy it we 
must follow Coleridge's own critical method : take it for what, on 
the face of it, it is ; and not mar our satisfaction and its beauty by 
attempting to thrust it into a sphere (even if that be a higher one) to 
which it does not properly belong. 

Its Fundamental Character. " The Ancient Mariner," says Pater, 
ei is a 'romantic' poem, impressing us by bold invention, and appealing 
to that taste for the supernatural, that longing for a shudder, to which 
the romantic school in Germany, and its derivatives in France and 
England, directly ministered." Fundamentally, then, this poem is a 
story addressed to the universal taste for the marvellous and weird, 
strongest in children and in the primitive stages of society, yet 
inherent, though it may be overlaid, in more mature minds and more 
enlightened ages. At the date of its composition, there was an extra- 

* In his Table Talk Coleridge is reported as saying : " Mrs. Barbauld once told me that 
3he admired The Ancient Mariner very much, but that there were two faults in it, it 
was improbable, and had no moral. As for the probability, I owned that might admit 
some question ; but as to the want of a moral, I told her that in my own judgment the 
poem had too much ; and that the only or chief fault, if I might say so, was the obtru- 
sion of the moral sentiment so openly on the reader as a principle or cause of action 
in a work of such pure imagination. It ought to have had no more moral than the 
Arabian Nights' tale of the merchant's sitting down to eat dates by the side of a well, 
and throwing the shells aside, and lo ! a genii starts up, and says he must kill the 
aforesaid merchant, because one of the date-shells had, it seems, put out the eye of the 
genii's son." (Table Talk, May SI, 1830.) 


ordinary revival of the appetite for the supernatural ; and The Ancient 
Mariner, far from being exceptional as regards its theme, is another 
example of the fact that a great masterpiece is never an isolated 
phenomenon, but the outcome of favouring circumstances in the times, 
as well as of exceptional gifts in its creator 

Antecedent Conditions. The explanation of the flourishing of the 
supernatural at so late and so "illuminated" a period as the latter half 
of the Eighteenth century, lies mainly in the principle of reaction. At 
successive epochs in the history of a race or a community, various 
tendencies or principles become predominant which give a direction 
to the whole mental activity of the time, are likely to be carried to 
excess, and hence to involve the temporary checking of equally natural 
tendencies in other directions. In course of time, these latter, in turn, 
are wont to reassert themselves ; and with the greater emphasis, the 
longer and more successfully they have been repressed. A familiar 
example is the revolt against the strained asceticism of Puritanism, as 
exhibited in the excesses of society during the reign of Charles II. 
Now, it is a very manifest and familiar fact to students of English 
literature, that during a period extending, roughly speaking, from the 
Restoration to the death of Pope (1660-1744), there was a marked pre- 
dilection, in the world of thought and literature, for ideas, principles 
and themes that were congenial to the purely logical thinking faculty, 
at the expense of all that addressed itself to the heart and imagination. 
We might instance, for example, the sphere of religion : the main 
stress during this period was laid upon the moral code of Christianity, 
the manifest xitility of which for the well-being of the individual and 
of society was patent to common sense ; whereas the more mystical and 
emotional side the sense of the hatefulness of sin, of intimate personal 
relations with the Founder of Christianity, or with the Creator, and other 
states of feeling which have always been in the ascendant during periods 
of religious quickening were but little felt or valued, Indeed enthu- 
siasm and fervour were under the ban in the most approved orthodox 
circles. The theological literature of the same date was busied with 
showing the reasonableness of Christianity, reducing the supernatural to 
the smallest possible limits, and demonstrating that Christian teachings 
are exactly those which would have been attained, without supernatural 
revelation, on a candid view of the universe by a sensible man. The 
reaction against this dry intellectualism was earliest and most clearly 
apparent in the Methodist development towards the close of the first 
half of the Eighteenth century. Here religious conviction was not 


based upon arguments addressed to universal reason, but upon an 
appealjtp a personal experience, the sb^.se of sin, of pardon, and so 
forth. Such a preacher as Whitfield sojight-to_rfiach_thejieart rather 
than the reason ; and the progress of the movement was marked, in 
the casebotlToF individuals and of large collections of men, by extra- 
ordinary emotional phenianena. A similar revolution from the expli- 
cable and intellectual towards the mysterious and emotional took place 
at approximately the same era in all possible spheres : even, for ex- 
ample, in landscape gardening, where the formal and prim Dutch 
system with its straight paths, clipped shrubbery and artificial water- 
courses, v, as superseded by an attempt to reproduce the variety, com- 
plexity, and irregularity of nature, to a fashion, accordingly, which 
stimulated the imagination through mystery and unexpectedness. In 
literature, the rational period is best typified in the poetry of Pope, 
dealing, as it does, most successfully and frequently, either with 
abstract truths generalizations of experience which interest the cul- 
tivated intellect ; or with satiric pictures of contemporary society, which, 
as is inevitable with satire, appeal to the reader's judgment f what 
is proper and congruous, rather than rouses emotion through sympathy 
with the persons and situations presented. The style, too, in keeping 
with the theme, does not so much aim at charming the sensuous per- 
ception and at stimulating the feeling by the rnshrressy-eonipioxity and 
fitness of its music, as at gratifying the judgment by the rhetorical 
force and aptness with which each point is expressed. 

The reaction towards the emotional and imaginative naturally had 
its excessive and morbid sides. In the first place, there is the bent 
towards Sentimentalism, the indulgence in emotion without adequate 
grounds and on every occasion. The most conspicuous examples of 
the literature of Sentimentalism are to be found outside of England 
(for the movement of which we are speaking was not insular but 
European) in the writings of Rousseau and in Goethe's Sorrows of 
Werther. In England, Sterne's works exhibit the same tendency, and 
traces of it are very widely perceptible, for instance in Goldsmith's 
Deserted Village. In the second place, there existed a craving for the 
more unusual, pungent, and violent stimulants to fouling. Something of 
this was manifest in the marked fashion for " grave-yard " poetry, which 
had so noble an outcome in Gray's Elegy ; but the taste was more par- 
ticularly shown in the predilection for the marvellous and horrible, the 
mysterious and supernatural for themes which would have been stig- 
matized as childish and trivial by the sensible men of the world whose 


preferences gave law to literature in the days of Anne and George I. 
Hence it is that English fictica, which in the hands of DeFoe, Richard- 
son and Fielding had hitherto been realistic, began to develop the novel 
of wonder and romance. Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1765), M. G. 
Lewis's Monk( 1796) Castle Spectre and Tales of Wonder, The Mysteries of 
Udolpho and other novels of Mrs. Radcliffe, and many episodes in Scott's 
poetry and prose are all the outcome of the prevalent fashion. The 
A nclent Mariner is, therefore, not an isolated product; but, among many 
attempts, the supremely "successful embodiment of a certain sort of 
interest which is native to the human heart, and which, at this partic- 
ular date, had gained greater ascendancy than at any era sinct. ihedawn 
of the critical spirit. It treats the weirdly supernatural in a spirit 
suited to modern taste. 

General Conception. By what means, we may next inquire, is 
Coleridge successful in giving for a modern reader, the highest pleasure 
compatible with such a theme? The task was not an easy one ;_the_ 
generation for which he wrote, like our cwn, was wholly sceptical 
as to the existence of such supernatural agents and events as are 
represented in the poem, however ready to_yield them, for the purposes 
of imaginative enjoyment, a temporary belief. Hence the handling 
of the subject was necessarily a matter of extreme delicacy and tact, 
a very different task from the treatment which might have sufficed 
for a credulous mediaeval audience. The artist must throw an atmos- 
phere about his story which may help his readers to see its events in a 
different light from that in which they regard the possible occurrences 
t of actual life ; he must, in as far as possible, remove all impediments to 
poetic faith, a:.d prevent all unpleasant collisions between the fancies 
which he conjures up, and the hard facts of real experience. To_aj;tam 
Ithis end, Coleridge, in the first place, adopts, for the setting of the story, 
jertain devices, usual and sufficiently obvious but executed with rare 
[kill. As to time, he thrusts his scene back into an undefined period of 
;he past where vagueness and remoteness make the extraordinary more 
:redible ; and, as to place, into a region real indeed and permitting real 
lescription, but almost unknown and wholly unfamiliar.* For similar 

"Any one examining the poem with a critical eye for its machinery and ground- 
work will have noticed that Coleridge is careful not to introduce any element of the 
marvellous or supernatural until he has transported the reader beyond the pale of 
definite geographical knowledge, and then left behind him all those conditions of i\ 
known and the familiar, all those associations with recorded fact and experience, \vh' 
' would have created an inimical atmosphere. ... In some half-dozen star/ 
beginning with 'The ship was cleared," we find ourselves crossing the line and (i 


reasons, the author withdraws himself as far as possible from notice ; he 
constructs a narrative within a narrative, told by the hero himself. Of 
the frame thus afforded to the main story, the poet makes the happiest 
use ; the reality of the experiences is, as it were, attested by the impres- 
sion produced upon the imaginary auditors ; and the suggest! veness of 
these references are far more potent over the imagination than any detailed 
description addressed directly to the reader. More important than these_ 
artifices is the general form into which the story is cast. The greateraof 
credulity and of the marvellous is the Middle Ages, and its literature and 
traditions afforded the chief storehouse for gratifying the new appetite 
for the romantic. It was this, among other things, that caused the marked 
revival of interest in earlier literature that characterized the century 
with which we are dealing. JFoji Coleridge's contemporaries, such*" 1 
themes_aa_that^ of The Ancient Mariner were associated with med 
forms. Hence, to lure his readers into the proper state of mind, he 
employs,~~"not one of the literary modes of his own day, but the 
mediaeval ballad. _Thn_staiiy.a, the phraseology, the o 1 uaj.nt : _marginal 
commentary, the naivety and other peculiarities of treatment, serve 
to give the proper atmosphere, to make us feel we are in a sphere where 
the prosaic standards ot our own time do not apply?* 

Special Merits. These .devices for giving imaginative plausibility 
to the story are very necessary factors in the success of the poem, but 
they are within the reach of a mediocre artist; and apart from the 
pleasure we have in the perception of the successful imitation of the 
ballad, they are rather conditions requisite to the success of the poem, 
than themselves factors which actually produce enjoyment. It is upon 
more subtle and_ evagiye Dualities, often of course beyond thejreach of 

analysis, that the jpecific beauty of the work depends. In the first 
place, for the treatment of a theme of this character, Coleridge has 
manifestly special qualification : the dreaminess and visionariness of his 
temperament, the love of mysticism which is manifest even in his 
philosophy, his confessed taste for "all the strange phantoms that \ 

far beyond the Southern Pole. Beyond a few broad indications thus vouchsafed, 
Coleridge very astutely takes pains to avoid anything like geography. We reach thit 
silent sea into which we are the first that ever burst, and that is sufficient for imaging- 
tive ends. It is enough that the world, as known to actual navigatoro, is left behind, 
and a world which the poet is free to colonize with the wildest children of his dreaming- 
brain, has been entered. Thenceforward we cease to have any direct relations with the 
verifiable. Natural law is suspended : standards of probability have ceased to exist. 
(William Watson, Excursions in Criticism.) 

*Ct the device of the Minstrel in Scott's Lay. 


ever possessed 'your philosophy' dreamers," and "his odd and out-of- 
the-way reading in the old-fashioned literature of the marvellous 
'books like Purchas's Pilgrims, early voyages like Hakluyt's, old natu- 
~\|ralists and visionary moralists like Burnet." Then he was a psycholo- 
gist, skilled in the subtler workings of the mind and is very successful 
in what he sets down* as the main purpose of this poem : ' the excit- 
ing of the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth 
of nature " so as to interest " the affections by the dramatic truth 
of such emotions as would naturally accompany the situations of 
the poem, supposing them to be real. "f /It must be noted, too, that, 
however unreal the general situation may be, the feelings of the hero 
, are, many of them, as much within the range of ordinary human sym- 
pathy as anything in literature. The poem^belongs to the weird yet 
not wholly so ; and indeed in the edition of 1817, the crude horror and 
grotesqueness which were the outcome of a passing phase of fashion, are 
retrenched, and the author manifests a stronger confidence in the 
permanent elements of beauty and interest in his work. But, after all, 
it is not so much Coleridge the psychologist, or Coleridge the student 
of quaint and bygone literature, or even Coleridge the dreamer, as 
Coleridge the artist of the beautiful, that does most for the success of the 
poem. Sote, first of all, the skill of his adaptation of the ballad form. 
The ballad, one of the most primitive arid popular species of literature 
that survive, has marked characteristics that arose from the circum- 
stances of its production. It was originally extemporized in the presence 
of an audience ; on subsequent occasions reproduced partly from memory, 
partly under the inspiration of new listeners and new conditions ; then 
transmitted from minstrel to minstrel, and reshaped by each. Thus 
there was finally evolved a composite product sometimes admirably fitted 
for immediate effect upon hearers who were neither subtle nor critical, 
but who did possess to the full all the fundamental and universal artistic 
capabilities of human nature. The ballad is, in consequence, stampel . 
with marked excellences and very manifest defects. Coleridge repro- 
duces the former, and even adapts the latter to his own purposes. _ 
brevity and swiftness of development, his poem does not fall behind its 
model ; and the rapid transitions of the ballad proper are eminently 
suitable for a series of pictures which charm, by their strangeness and 

* Pp. 93-4 below. 

f Note, for example, how the sense of strained and anxious attention is communicated 
in 11. 149 fol. ; the effectiveness and truth of the representation of feeling in 11. 232-262, 
and in the simile ao 1. 446 ; and the natural touch of the yearning for homely repose at 
1. 001 lol 




"Facile credo, plures esse Naturas invisibiles quam visibiles in rerum 
universitate. Sed horum omnium familiam quis nobis enarrabit, et 
gradus et cognationes et discrimina et singulorum mnnera ? Quid 
aguiit ? Quse loca habitant ? Harum rerum notitiam semper ambivit 
ingenium human um, nuiiquam attigit. Juvat, interea, non diffiteor, 
quandoque in ammo, tanquam in tabula, majoris et melioris mundi 
imaginem contemplari ; ne mens assuefacta hodiernae vitse minutiis se 
contrahat nimis, et tota subsidat in pusillas cogitationes. Sed veritati 
interea invigilandum est, modusque servandus, ut certa ab incertis, 
diem a nocte, distinguamus." T. BURNET, Archceol. Phil., p. 68. 


An ancient n, is an ancient Mariner, 

Manner meet- 

eth three Gal- And he stoppeth one of three. 

lants bidden to * 

a wedding-feast, < By thy long gray beard and glittering eye, 

anddetaineth J J ' J & J > 

one. Now wherefore stopp st thou me ? 

" The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide, 5 

And I am next of kin ; 

The guests are met, the feast is set : 

May'st hear the merry din." 

He holds him with his skinny hand, 
"There was a ship," quoth he. 10 

" Hold off! unhand me, gray-beard loon ! " 
Eftsoons his hand dropt he: 

The wedding- He holds him with his glittering eye 

Guest 18 spell- 
bound by the The Wedding-Guest stood still, 

eye of the old , i_-ij 

seafaring man, And listens like a three years child : 15 

and constrained 11- 

to bear his tale. The Mariner hath his will. 



The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone: 

He cannot choose but hear ; 

And thus spake on that ancient man, 

The bright-eyed Mariner : 20 

"The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, 

Merrily did we drop 

Below the kirk, below the hill, 

Below the lighthouse top, 

The Mariner " The Sun came up upon the left. 25 

tells how the 

ship sailed Out of the sea came he ! 

southward with . , , , i-ij. j .1 i, 

a good wind and And he shone bright, and on the right 

fair weather, till _- , . , 

it reached the Went down into the sea. 


" Higher and higher every day, 

Till over the mast at noon " 30 

The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast, 

For he heard the loud bassoon. 

The Wedding- The bride hath paced into the hall, 

Guest heareth . 

the bridal Ked as a rose is she ; 

Marine'r con- Nodding their heads before her goes 35 

tinueth his tale. ml 

I he merry minstrelsy. 

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast, 

Yet he cannot choose but hear ; 

And thus spake on that ancient man, 

The bright-eyed Mariner. ^0 

The ship drawn " And now the storm-blast came, and he 

by a storm 

towards the Was tyrannous and strong : 

south pole. * 

He struck with his o ertakmg wings, 
And chased us south along. 


With sloping masts and dipping prow, 45 

As who pursued with yell and blow 

Still treads the shadow of his foe, 

And forward bends his head, 

The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast, 

And southward aye we fled. 50 

And now there came both mist and snow, 
And it grew wondrous cold : 
And ice, mast-high, came floating by, 
As green as emerald. 

And through the drifts, the snowy clifts 55 

noting thing Did S6nd a dismal sheen ' 

was to be seen. j^ or shapes of men nor beasts we ken 
The ice was all between. 

The ice was here, the ice was there, 
The ice was all around : 60 

It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, 
Like noises in a swound ! 

At length did cross an Albatross: 
Thorough the fog it came ; 
snow-fog, and ^8 if ft na( j k een a Christian soul, 65 

was received 

with great joy ^V e hailed it in God's name. 

and hospitality. 

It ate the food it ne'er had eat, 
And round and round it flew. 
The ice did split with a thunder-fit ; 
And lo ! the The helmsman steered us through ! 70 


provethabird - , . . , i i i 

of good omen, And a good south wind sprung up behind ; 

and followeth m , A ,, TJ r n 

the ship as it The Albatross did follow, 

returned north- . j i P <. j i 

ward through And every day, for food or play, 

fogand floating Came ^ ^ mariners > hollo , 


In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, 75 

It perched for vespers nine ; 
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white, 
Glimmered the white moon-shine." 

2rine?tah.i. "God save thee, ancient Mariner, 
tK!ou^bi e rd h j From the fiends that P^gue thee thus ! 80 

of good omen., why look'st thou so ?" " With my cross-bow 
i I shot the Albatross ! " 


The Sun now rose upon the right : 

Out of the sea came he, 

Still hid in mist, and on the left 85 

Went down into .the sea. 

And the good south wind still blew behind, 

But no sweet bird did follow, 

Nor any day for food or play 

Came to the mariners' hollo ! 90 

His shipmates ^nd j had done a hellish thing, 

cry out against 

the ancient And it would work 'em woe : 

Manner, for ' 

killing the bird ~p or a n averred, I had killed the bird 

of good luck. 

That made the breeze to blow. 

Ah wretch ! said they, the bird to slay, 95 

That made the breeze to blow ! 

But when the jj or dim nor red, like God's own head, 

fog cleared off 

they justify the rp ne glorious Sun uprist : 

same, and thus A 

make them- Then all averred, I had killed the bird 

selves accom- 

plices in the That brought the fog and mist. 

'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay 
That bring the fog and mist. 



continues -the The Mr bre6Ze bleW ' the whifce f am flew > 

ship enters the The furrow followed free : 

Pacific Ocean, 

and sails north- "W" e were the first that ever burst 105 

ward, even till it 

reaches the Line. Into that silent Sea. 

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down, 
becalmed. 'Twas sad as sad could be ; 

And we did speak only to break 

The silence of the sea ! 110 

All in a hot and copper sky, 
The bloody Sun, at noon, 
Right up above the mast did stand, 
No bigger than the Moon. 

Day after day, day after day, 115 

We stuck, nor breath nor motion; 
As idle as a painted ship 
Upon a painted ocean. 

Water, water, everywhere, 
be avenged. And all the boards did shrink}; 120 

Water, water, everywhere, 
Nor any drop to drink. 

The very deep did rot : O Christ ! 

That ever this should be ! 

Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs 125 

Upon the slimy sea. 

About, about, in reel and rout 

A spirit had fol- nn i 1.1 / i J -1.0. 

lowed them ; The death-tires danced at night ; 

one of the in- mi >.< ., * , ! 

visible inhabi- The water, like a witch s oils, 

planet, neiUier Burnt green and blue and white. 1 30 


And some in dreams assured were 
Of the spirit that plagued us so ; 
Nine fathom deep he had followed us 
From the land of mist and snow. 

And every tongue, through utter drought, 
Was withered at the root ; 
We could not speak, no more than if 
We had been choked with soot. 

well a-day ! what evil looks 


departed souls 
nor angels ; 
whom the 
learned Jew, 
Josephus, and 
the Platonic 
Const antinopo- 
lltan, Michael 
Psellus, may be 
They are very 
numerous, and 
there is no cli- 
mate or element 
without one or 

The shipmates, 
in their sore 

distress would Had I from old and young ! 

fain throw the J 3 

whole guilt on Instead of the Cross, the Albatross 

the ancient 

Mariner; in sigi> About my neck was hung. 

whereof they 

hang the dead 

sea-bird round PART III 

bis neck. 

There passed a weary time. Each throat 
Was parched, and glazed each eye. 
A weary time ! a weary time ! 
How glazed each weary eye ! 
The ancient When looking westward, I beheld 

Mariner behold- 

eth a sign in the A something in the sky. 

element afar off. 

At first it seemed a little speck, 
And then it seemed a mist : 
It moved and moved, and took at last 
A certain shape, I wist. 

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist ! 
And still it neared and neared : 
And as if it dodged a water-sprite, 
It plunged, and tacked, and veered. 






At its nearer 

With throats unslaked, witu black lips baked, 
We could nor laugh nor wail; 


at e a del? 'ran* Throu g h utt er drought all dumb we stood ! 

bit mV arm ' I SUcked the blood > 160 

the bonds of And cried, A sail ! a sail ! 


With throats unslaked, with black lips baked, 
Agape they heard me call : 
A flash of joy. Gramercy ! they for joy did grin, 

And all at once their breath drew in, 165 

As they were drinking all. 

And horror foi- See ! see ! (I cried) she tacks no more ! 

lows; for can it 

be a ship that Hither to work us weal ; 

comes onward ___. . 

without wind Without a breeze, without a tide, 

She steadies with upright keel ! 170 

The western w^ve was all a-flame, 

The day was well-nigh done ! 

Almost upon the western wave 

Rested the broad bright Sun ; 

When that strange shape drove suddenly 175 

Betwixt us and the Sun. 

it seemeth him And straight the Sun was flecked with bars, 

buttheskele- . 

ton of a ship. (Heaven s Mother send us grace !) 

As if through a dungeon-grate he peered 

With broad and burning face. 180 

Alas ! (thought I, and my heart beat loud) 
How fast she nears and nears ! 
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun, 
Like restless gossameres ? 

seen as bars on Are those her ribs through which the Sun 185 

the face of the T-.-J ,, i , 

settins sun. Did peer, as through a grate 1 

And is that Woman all her crew 1 


and'noTthe'r Is that a Death ? an( l ar e there two 1 
on board the l s Death that woman's mate 1 

skeleton ship. 
Like vessel, like 
crew ! 

Her lips were red, her looks were free, 190 

Her locks were yellow as gold : 
Her skin was as white as leprosy, 
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she, 
Who thicks man's blood with cold. 

Death and Life- The naked hulk alongside came. 195 


diced for the And the twain were casting dice : 

ship's crew, and . 

she (the latter) " I he game is done ! I ve won, I ve won ! 

winneth the _ , , , , . . 

ancient Mariner. Cjuoth she, and whistles thrice. 

No twilight The Sun's rim dips ; fin stars rush out : 

within the . . -, . , , , , 

courts of the At one stride comes the dark ; 200 

With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea, 
Off shot the spectre-bark. 

At the rising of We listened and looked sideways up ! 

the moon. 

r ear at my heart, as at a cup, 

My life-blood seemed to sip ! 205 

The stars were dim, and thick the night, 

The steerman's face by his lamp gleamed white ; 

From the sails the dew did drip 

Till clomb above the eastern bar 

The horned Moon, with one bright star 210 

Within the nether tip. 

One after One after one, by the star-dogged Moon, 

another. m i r i_ 

loo quick tor groan or sigh, 

Each turned his face with a ghastly pang, 

And cursed me with his eye. 215 


His shipmates Four times fifty living men, 

drop down f 

dead. (And I heard nor sigh nor groan) 

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump, 
They dropped down one by one. 

ButLife-in- The souls did from their bodies fly, 

Death begins 

her work on the They fled to bliss or woe ! 


ancient Mariner. 

; And every soul, it passed me by, 
Like the whizz of my cross-bow ! 


The wedding- j f ear t h ee ancient Mariner ! 

guest feareth 

that a spirit is j f ear thy skinny hand ! 

talking to him. * 

And thou art long, and lank, and brown, 
As is the ribbed sea-sand. 

I fear thee and thy glittering eye, 
And thy skinny hand so brown." 
Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest ! 
This body dropt not down. 


But the ancient 
Mariner as- 
sureth him of 
his bodily life, 
and proceedeth 
to relate his 
horrible pen- 


Alone, alone, all all alone, 
Alone on a wide wide sea ! 
And never a saint took pity on 
My soul in agony. 

He despiseth The many men, so beautiful ! 

the creatures of 

the calm. And they all dead did lie ; 

And a thousand thousand slimy things 
Lived on ; and so did I. 

And envieth I looked upon the rotting sea, 

that they should 

live, and so And drew my eyes away ; 

many lie dead. , , ,. , , 

I looked upon the rotting deck, 
And there the dead men lay. 




I looked to heaven, and tried to pray 

But or ever a prayer had gusht, 245 

A wicked whisper came, and made 

My heart as dry as dust. 

I closed my lids, and kept them close, 

And the balls like pulses beat ; 

For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky, 250 

Lay like a load on my weary eye, 

And the dead were at my feet. 

But the curse The cold sweat melted from their limbs, 


in the eye of Nor rot nor reek did they : 

The look with which they looked on me 255 

Had never passed away. 

An orphan's curse would drag to hell 

A spirit from on high ; 

But oh ! more horrible than that 

In his loneliness Is the Curse in a dead man ' s e y e ! 26 

and fixedness Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse, 

he yearneth to- J ' -c . & 

wards the And yet I could not die. 

moon, and the 
stars that still 

sojourn, yet still The moving moon went up the sky. 

move onward ; 

and everywhere And nowhere did abide ; 
the blue sky be- 
longs to them, Softly she was going up, 265 

ana is-their J 

appointed rest, And a star or two beside 

and their native 
country and 

natu'raihomes, Her beams bemocked the sultry main, 

which they enter T ., -i -L n i 

unannounced, Like April hoar-frost spread ; 

as lords that are T->J.U JX _!- > -i. uj i 

certainly ex- But where the ship s huge shadow lay, 

there is Tsiient The charmed water burnt alway 270 

arrivaL heir A still and awful red. 


%{|t of Beyond the shadow of the ship, 

the Moon he be- J 

holdeth God's j watched the water-snakes : 

creatures of the 

great calm. They moved in tracks of shining white, 

And when they reared, the elfish light 275 

Fell off in hoary flakes. 

Within the shadow of the ship 
I watched their rich attire : 
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, 
They coiled and swam ; and every track 280 

* Was a flash of golden fire. 

Their^beauty Q happy living things ! no tongue 
happiness. Their beauty might declare ; 

A spring of love gushed from my heart, 

He Wesseth And j blessed them unaware ! 285 

heart. Sure my kind saint took pity on me, 

And I blessed them unaware. 

The selfsame moment I could pray ; 

And from my neck so free 

The Albatross fell off, and sank 290 

Like lead into the sea. 


O sleep ! it is a gentle thing, 

Beloved from pole to pole ! 

To Mary Queen the praise be given ! 

She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven, 295 

That slid into my soul. 

By grace of the f^e silly buckets on the deck, 

holy Mother, J 

the ancient That had so long remained, 

Mariner is re- 

freshed with I dreamt that they were filled with dew ; 
And when I awoke, it rained. 



My lips were wet, my throat was cold, 
My garments all were dank ; 
Sure I had drunken in my dreams, 
And still my body drank. 

I moved, and could not feel my limbs : 
I was so light almost 
I thought that I had died in sleep, 
And was a blessed ghost. 


And soon I heard a roaring wind : 
It did not come anear : 

He heareth 
sounds and 
seeth strange 
sights and com- 
motions in the j} u t w ith its sound it shook the sails, 

sky and the 

element. That were so thin and sere. 

The upper air burst into life ! 
And a hundred fire-flags sheen, 
To and fro they were hurried about ! 
And to and fro, and in and out, 
The wan stars danced between. 



And the coming wind did roar more loud, 
And the sails did sigh like sedge ; 
And the rain poured down from one black cloud : 
The moon was at its edge. 321 

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still 

The moon was at its side : 

Like waters shot from some high crag, 

The lightning fell with never a jag, 325 

A river steep and wide. 

The bodies of The loud wind never reached the ship, 

the ship's crew 

are inspirited. Yet now the ship moved on ! 

and the ship . 

moves on: Beneath the lightning and the moon 

The dead men gave a groan. 330 


They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose, 
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes ; 
It had been strange, even in a dream, 
To have seen those dead men rise. 

The helmsman steered ; the ship moved on ; 335. 

Yet never a breeze up-blew ; 

The mariners all 'gan work the ropes, 

Where they were wont to do ; 

They raised their limbs like lifeless tools 

We were a ghastly crew. 340 

The body of my brother's son 
Stood by me, knee to knee ; 
The body and I pulled at one rope, 
But he said nought to me. 

but not by the i f e ar thee, ancient Mariner ! " 345 

souls of the 

men, nor by de- Be calm thou Wedding-Guest ! 

mons of earth . 

or middle air, Twas not those souls that fled in pain, 

but by a blessed ..,.. 

troop of angelic Which to their corses came again, 

spirits, sent , . . . , 

down by the in- But a troop of spirits blest : 

vocation of the 

For when it dawned they dropped their arms, 350 
And clustered round the mast ; 
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths, 
And from their bodies passed. 

Around, around, flew each sweet sound, 

Then darted to the sun ; 355 

Slowly the sounds came back again, 

Now mixed, now one by one. 

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky 

I heard the sky-lark sing ; 

Sometimes all little birds that are, 360 



The lonesome 
south pole 

enc e e to ?hfan- 


How they seemed to fill the sea and air 
With their sweet jargoning ! 

And now 'twas like all instruments, 
Now like a lonely flute ; 
And now it is an angel's song, 
That makes the heavens be mute. 

It ceased ; yet still the sails made on 

A pleasant noise till noon, 

A noise like of a hidden brook 

In the leafy month of June, 

That to the sleeping woods all night 

Singeth a quiet tune. / 

Till noon we quietly sailed on, 
Yet never a breeze did breathe ; 
Slowly and smoothly went the ship, 
Moved onward from beneath. 

Under the keel nine fathom deep, 
From the land of mist and snow, 
The spirit slid; and it was he 
That made the ship to go. 
The sails at noon left off their tune, 

stoo( j gtill a } SQ 





The sun, right up above the mast, 
Had fixed her to the ocean ; 
But in a minute she 'gan stir, 
With a short uneasy motion 
Backwards and forwards half her length 
With a short uneasy motion. 

Then like a pawing horse let go, 
She made a sudden bound : 





The Polar 
Spirit's fellow- 
demons, the in- 
visible inhabi- 
tants of the ele- 
ment, take part 
in his wrong ; 
and two of them 
relate, one to 
the other, that 
penance long 
and heavy for 
the ancient 
Mariner hath 
been accorded 
to the Polar 
Spirit, who re- 
turneth south- 

It flung the blood into my head, 
And I fell down in a swound. 

How long in that same fit I lay, 

I have not to declare ; 

But ere my living life returned, 395 

I heard, and in my soul discerned, 

Two voices in the air. 

" Is it he 1 " quoth one, " Is this the man ] 

By Him who died on cross, 

With his cruel bow he laid full low 400 

The harmless Albatross. 

" The spirit who bideth by himself 

In the land of mist and snow, 

He loved the bird that loved the man 

Who shot him with his bow." 405 

The other was a softer voice, 

As soft as honey-dew : 

Quoth he, "The man hath penance done, 

And penance more will do." 



But tell me, tell me ! speak again, 410 

Thy soft response renewing 

What makes that ship drive on so fast 1 

What is the Ocean doing 1 


Still as a slave before his lord, 

The Ocean hath no blast ; 415 

His great bright eye most silently 

Up to the moon is cast 


If he may know which way to go ; 

For she guides him smooth or grim. 

See, brother, see ! how graciously 420 

She looketh down on him. 

The Mariner But why drives on that ship so fast, 

hath been cast 

into a trance ; Without or wave or wind ? 

for the angelic 


drive northward The &ir j g cut &w before, 

faster than * 

human life And c i os es from behind. 425 

could endure. 

Fly, brother, fly ! more high, more high ! 
Or we shall be belated : 
For slow and slow that ship will go, 
When the Mariner's trance is abated. 

The super- I woke, and we were sailing on 430 

natural motion 

is retarded ; the As in a gentle weather : 

Mariner awakes, ... 

and his penance 'Twas night, calm night, the moon was high : 

begins anew. , T 

The dead men stood together. 

All stood together on the deck, 

For a charnel-dungeon fitter ; 435 

All fixed on me their stony eyes, 

That in the moon did glitter. 

The pang, the curse, with which they died, 
Had never passed away : 

I could not draw my oyes from theirs, 440 

Nor turn them up to pray. 

The curse is And now this spell was snapt ; once more 
I viewed the ocean green, 
And looked far forth, yet little saw 
Of what had else been seen 445 


Like one, that on a lonesome road 

Doth walk in fear and dread, 

And having once turned round, walks on, 

And turns no more his head ; 

Because he knows a frightful fiend 450 

Doth close behind him tread. 

But soon there breathed a wind on me, 

Nor sound nor motion made : 

Its path was not upon the sea, 

In ripple or in shade. 455 

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek 
Like a meadow-gale of spring 
It mingled strangely with my fears, 
Yet it felt like a welcoming. 

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship, 460 

Yet she sailed softly too : 
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze 
On me alone it blew. 

And the ancient Oh ! dream of joy ! is this indeed 

Mariner behold- ,,,-,, TO tea 

eth his native The lighthouse top I see ? 465 

Is 'this the hill ? is this the kirk ? 
Is this mine own countree ? 

We drifted o'er the harbour-bar, 

And I with sobs did pray 

' O let me be awake, my God ! 470 

Or let me sleep alway.' 

The harbour-bay was clear as glass, 

So smoothly it was strewn ! 

And on the bay the moonlight lay, 

And the shadow of the moon. 475 


The rock shone bright, the kirk no less, 
That stands above the rock : 
The moonlight steeped in silentness 
The steady weathercock. 

And the bay was white with silent light, 480 

Till rising from the same, 

iTlrits leave the ^ u ^ manv shapes, that shadows were, 
dead bodies, j n crimson colours came. 

thdr a own a forms A little distance from the prow 

of light. Those crimson shadows were : 485 

I turned my eyes upon the deck 

Oh Christ ! what saw I there ! 

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat, 

And, by the holy rood ! 

A man all light, a seraph-man, 490 

On every corse there stood. 

This seraph-band, each waved his hand : 

It was a heavenly sight ! 

They stood as signals to the land, 

Each one a lovely light ; 495 

This seraph-band, each waved his hand : 
No voice did they impart 
No voice ; but oh ! the silence sank 
Like music on my heart. 

But soon I heard the dash of oars, 500 

I heard the Pilot's cheer ; 

My head was turned perforce away, 

And I saw a boat appear. 



The Pilot and th? Pilot's boy, 

I heard them coming fast : 505 

Dear Lord in Heaven ! it was a joy 

The dead men could not blast. 

I saw a third I heard his voice : 
(j^ju. It is the Hermit good ! 

He singeth loud his godly hymns 510 

That he makes in the wood. 

Hell shrieve my soul, he'll wash away 

The Albatross's blood. 

The Hermit of This Hermit good lives in that wood 

the wood .111 BIC 

Which slopes down to the sea. 010 

How loudly his sweet voice he rears ! 
He loves to talk with marineres 
That come from a far countree. 

He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve 

He hath a cushion plump : 520 

It is the moss that wholly hides 

The rotted old oak-stump. 

The skiff-boat neared : I heard them talk, 

" Why, this is strange, I trow ! 

Where are those lights so many and fair, 525 

That signal made but now ? " 

the ship 
with wonder. 

" Strange, by my faith ! " the Hermit said 

" And they answered not our cheer 1 

The planks look warped ! and see those sails, 

How thin they are and sere ! 530 

I never saw aught like to them, 

Unless perchance it were 




The ship sud- 
denly smketh. 

The ancient 
Mariner is 
laved in the 
Pilot's boat. 

Brown skeletons of leaves that lag 


My forest-brook along ; 

When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow, 
;And the owlet whoops to the wolf below, 
!That eats the she- wolfs young." 

" Dear Lord ! it hath a fiendish look 
(The Pilot made reply) 
I am a-feared " " Push on, push on ! " 
Said the Hermit cheerily. 

The boat came closer to the ship, 
But I nor spake nor stirred ; 
The boat came close beneath the ship, 
And straight a sound was heard. 

Under the water it rumbled on, 
Still louder and more dread : 
It reached the ship, it split the bay ; 
The ship went down like lead. 





Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound, 

Which sky and ocean smote, 

Like one that hath been seven days drowned 

My body lay afloat ; 

But swift as dreams, myself I found 

Within the Pilot's boat. 555 

Upon the whirl where sank the ship, 
The boat spun round and round ; 
And all was still, save that the hill 
Was telling of the sound. 

I moved my lips the Pilot shrieked 
And fell down in a fit \ 



The holy Hermit raised his eyes, 
And prayed where he did sit. 

I took the oars : the Pilot's boy, 

Who now doth crazy go, 665 

Laughed loud and long, and all the while 

His eyes went to and fro. 

" Ha ! ha ! " quoth he, " full plain I see 

The Devil knows how to row." 

And now, all in my own countree, 570 

I stood on the firm land ! 

The Hermit stepped forth from the boat, 

And scarcely he could stand. 

The ancient " O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man ! " 
^ti r v n en r tr e e a at n eth The Hermit crossed his brow. 575 

shriSm? " Say quick," quoth he, I bid thee say 

oMife1aurin nCe What manner of man art thou ! " 

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched 
With a woful agony, 

Which forced me to begin my tale ; 580 

And then it left me free, 

And ever and Since then, at an uncertain hour, 

anon through- ml 

out his future That agony returns : 

LuaS y And till my ghastly tale is told, 

Sprite 1 This .eart within me burns. 585 

land ; 

I pass, like night, from land to land ; 

I have strange power of speech ; 

The moment that his face I see, 

I know the man that must hear me : 

To him my tale I teach. 590 


What loud uproar bursts from that door ! 

The wedding-guests are there ; 

But in the garden-bower the bride 

And bride-maids singing are : 

And hark the little vesper bell, 595 

Which biddeth me to prayer ! 

O Wedding-Guest ! this soul hath been 

Alone on a wide, wide sea : 

So lonely 'twas, that God himself 

Scarce seemed there to be. 600 

C sweeter than the marriage feast, 
Tis sweeter far to me, 
To walk together to the kirk 
With a goodly company ! 

To walk together to the kirk, 605 

And all together pray, 

While each to his great Father bends, 

Old men, and babes, and loving friends, 

And youths and maidens gay ! 

and to teach, by Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell 610 

his own ex- 
ample, love and To thee, thou Wedding-Guest ! 
reverence to all 

things that God He prayeth well who loveth well 

made and loveth. . 

Both man and bird and beast. 

He prayeth best who loveth best 

All things both great and small ; 615 

For the dear God who loveth us, 

He made and loveth all. 

The Mariner, whose eye is bright, 
Whose beard with age is hoar, 


Is gone : and now the Wedding-Guest 620 

Turned from the bridegroom's door. 

He went like one that hath been stunned, 

And is of sense forlorn : 

A sadder and a wiser man, 

He rose the morrow morn. 625 



At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears, 
Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years : 
Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard 
In the silence of morning the song of the Bird. 

'Tis a note of enchantment ; what ails her 1 She sees 5 

A mountain ascending, a vision of trees ; 

Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide, 

And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside. 

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale, 

Down which she so often has tripped with her pail; 10 

And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's, 

The one only dwelling on earth that she loves. 

She looks, and her heart is in heaven : but they fade, 

The mist and the river, the hill and the shade : 

The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise, 15 

And the colours have all passed away from her eyes. 



It is the first mild day of March : 
Each minute sweeter than before, 
The redbreast sings from the tall larch 
That stands beside our door. 

There is a blessing in the air, 
Which seems a sense of joy to yield 
To the bare trees, and mountains bare, 
And grass in the green field. 


My sister ! ('tis a wish of mine) 

Now that our morning meal is done, 10 

Make haste, your morning task resign ; 

Come forth and feel the sun. 

Edward will come with you; and, pray, 

Put on with speed your woodland dress ; 

And bring no book : for this one day 15 

We'll give to idleness. 

No joyless forms shall regulate 

Our living calendar : 

We from to-day, my Friend, will date 

The opening of the year. 20 

Love, now a universal birth, 
From heart to heart is stealing, 
From earth to man, from man to earth : 
It is the hour of feeling. 

One moment now may give us more 25 

Than years of toiling reason : 

Our minds shall drink at every pore 

The spirit of the season. 

Some silent laws our hearts will make, 

Which they shall long obey : 30 

We for the year to come may take 

Our temper from to-day. 

And from the blessed power that rolls 

About, below, above, 

We'll frame the measure of our souls : 35 

They shall be tuned to love. 


Then come, my Sister ! come, I pray, 
With speed put on your woodland dress ; 
And bring no book : for this one day 
We'll give to idleness. 40 



" Why, William, on that old grey stone, 
Thus for the length of half a day, 
Why, William, sit you thus alone, 
And dream your time away 1 

Where are your books ? that light bequeathed 5 

To Beings else forlorn and blind ! 

Up ! up ! and drink the spirit breathed 

From dead men to their kind. 

You look round on your Mother Earth, 

As if she for no purpose bore you ; 10 

As if you were her first-born birth, 

And none had lived before you ! " 

One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake, 

When life was sweet, I knew not why, 

To me my good friend Matthew spake, 15 

And thus I made reply : 

" The eye it cannot choose but see ; 

We cannot bid the ear be still ; 

Our bodies feel, where'er they be, 

Against, or with our will. 20 

Nor less I deem that there are Powers 
Which of themselves our minds impress j 
That we can feed this mind of ours 
In a wise passiveness. 


Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum 25 

Of things for ever speaking, 
That nothing of itself will come, 
But we must still be seeking ? 

Then ask not wherefore, here, alone, 

Conversing as I may, 30 

I sit upon this old grey stone, 

And dream my time away." 




Up ! up ! my Friend, and quit your books ; 
Or surely you'll grow double : 
Up ! up ! my Friend, and clear your looks ; 
Why all this toil and trouble ? 

The sun, above the mountain's head, 5 

A freshening lustre mellow 

Through all the long green fields has spread, 

His first sweet evening yellow. 

Books ! 'tis a dull and endless strife 

Come, hear the woodland linnet, 10 

How sweet his music ! on my life, 

There's more of wisdom in it. 

And hark ! how blithe the throstle sings ! 

He, too, is no mean preacher : 

Come forth into the light of things, 15 

Let Nature be your teacher. 


She has a world of ready wealth, 

Our minds and hearts to bless 

Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health, 

Truth breathed by cheerfulness. 20 

One impulse from a vernal wood 
May teach you more of man, 
Of moral evil and of good, 
Than all the sages can. 

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings ; 25 

Our meddling intellect 

Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things : 

We murder to dissect. 

Enough of Science and of Art ; 

Close up those barren leaves ; 30 

Come forth, and bring with you a heart 

That watches and receives. 



Three years she grew in sun and shower, 

Then Nature said, " A lovelier flower 

On earth was never sown ; 

This Child I to myself will take, 

She shall be mine, and I will make 5 

A Lady of my own. 

Myself will to my darling be 

Both law and impulse : and with me 

The Girl, in rock and plain, 

In earth and heaven, in glade and bower, 10 

Shall feel an overseeing power 

To kindle or restrain. 


She shall be sportive as the fawn 

That wild with glee across the lawn 

Or up the mountain springs ; 15 

And her's shall be the breathing balm, 

And her's the silence and the calm 

Of mute insensate things. 

The floating clouds their state shall lend 

To her ; for her the willow bend ; 20 

Nor shall she fail to see 

Even in the motion of the Storm 

Grace that shall mould the Maiden's form 

By silent sympathy. 

The stars of midnight shall be dear 25 

To her ; and she shall lean her ear 

In many a secret place 

Where rivulets dance their wayward round, 

And beauty born of murmuring sound 

Shall pass into her face. 30 

And vital feelings of delight 

Shall rear her form to stately height, 

Her virgin bosom swell ; 

Such thoughts to Lucy I will give 

While she and I together live 35 

Here in this happy delL" 

Thus Nature spake the work was done 

How soon my Lucy's race was run ! 

She died, and left to me 

This heath, this calm and quiet scene ; 40 

The memory of what has been, 

And never more will be. 





Wisdom and Spirit of the universe ! 

Thou Soul, that art the Eternity of thought ! 

And giv'st to forms and images a breath 

And everlasting motion ! not in vain, 

By day or star-light, thus from my first dawn 5 

Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me 

The passions that build up our human soul ; 

Not with the mean and vulgar works of Man ; 

But with high objects, with enduring things, 

With life and nature ; purifying thus 10 

The elements of feeling and of thought, 

And sanctifying by such discipline 

Both pain and fear, until we recognize 

A grandeur in the beatings of the heart. 

Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me 15 

With stinted kindness. In November days, 
When vapours rolling down the valleys made 
A lonely scene more lonesome ; among woods 
At noon ; and 'mid the calm of summer nights, 
When, by the margin of the trembling lake, 20 

Beneath the gloomy hills, homeward I went 
In solitude, such intercourse was mine : 
Mine was it in the fields both day and night, 
And by the waters, all the summer long. 
And in the frosty season, when the sun 25 

Was set, and, visible for many a mile, 
The cottage-windows through the twilight blazed, 
I heeded not the summons : happy time 
It was indeed for all of us ; for me 
It was a time of rapture ! Clear and loud 30 


The village-clock tolled six I wheeled about, 

Proud and exulting like an untired horse 

That cares not for his home. All shod with steel 

We hissed along the polished ice, in games 

Confederate, imitative of the chase 35 

And woodland pleasures, the resounding horn, 

The pack loud-chiming, and the hunted hare. 

So through the darkness and the cold we flew, 

And not a voice was idle : with the din 

Smitten, the precipices rang aloud ; 40 

The leafless trees and every icy crag 

Tinkled like iron ; while far-distant hills 

Into the tumult sent an alien sound 

Of melancholy, not unnoticed while the stars, 

Eastward, were sparkling clear,. and in the west 45 

The orange sky of evening died away. 

Not seldom from the uproar I retired 
Into a silent bay, or sportively 
Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng, 
To cut across the reflex of a star ; 50 

Image, that, flying still before me, gleamed 
Upon the glassy plain ; and oftentimes, 
When we had given our bodies to the wind, 
And all the shadowy banks on either side 
Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still 55 
The rapid line of motion, then at once 
Have I, reclining back upon iny heels, 
Stopped short ; yet still the solitary cliffs 
Wheeled by me even as if the earth had rolled 
With visible motion her diurnal round ! 60 

Behind me did they stretch in solemn train, 
Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched 
Till all was tranquil as a summer sea. 





-It seems a day 

(I speak of one from many singled out) 
One of those heavenly days that cannot die ; 
When, in the eagerness of boyish hope, 
I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth 6 

With a huge wallet o'er my shoulder slung, 
A nutting-crook in hand ; and turned my steps 
Tow'rd the far-distant wood, a Figure quaint, 
Tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds, 
Which for that service had been husbanded, 10 

By exhortation of my frugal Dame 
Motly accoutrement, of power to smile 
At thorns, and brakes, and brambles, and, in truth, 
More ragged than need was ! O'er pathless rocks, 
Through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets, 15 
Forcing my way, I came to one dear nook 
Unvisited, where not a broken bough 
Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign 
Of devastation ; but the hazels rose 

Tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung, 20 

A virgin scene ! A little while I stood, 
Breathing with such suppression of the heart 
As joy delights in ; and, with wise restraint, 
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed 

The banquet ; or beneath the trees I sate 25 

Among the flowers, and with the flowers [ played ; 
A temper known to those who, after long 
And weary expectation, have been Dlest 
With sudden happiness beyond all hope. 
Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves 30 

The violets of five seasons re-appear 
And fade, unseen by any human eye ; 



Where- fairy water-breaks do murmur on 

Forever ; and I saw the sparkling foam, 

And with my cheek on one of those green stones 35 

That, fleeced with moss, under the shady trees, 

Lay round me, scattered like a flock of sheep 

I heard the murmur and the murmuring sound, 

In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay 

Tribute to ease ; and, of its joy secure, 40 

The heart luxuriates with indifferent things, 

Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones, 

And on the vacant air. Then up I rose, 

And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash 

And merciless ravage : and the shady nook 45 

Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower, 

Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up 

Their quiet being : and, unless I now 

Confound my present feeling with the past, 

Ere from the mutilated bower I turned 50 

Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings, 

I felt a sense of pain when I beheld 

The silent trees and saw the intruding sky. 

Then, dearest Maiden, move along these shades 

In gentleness of heart ; with gentle hand 55 

Touch for there is a spirit in the woods. 





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. 5 

But, courage ! for around that boisterous brook 

The mountains have all opened out themselves, 

And made a hidden valley of their own. 

No habitation can be seen ; but they 

Who journey thither find themselves alone 10 

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, 15 

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, 20 

Or for the summer shade. It was the first 

Of those domestic tales that spake to me 

Of shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men 

Whom I already loved : not verily 

For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills 25 

Where was their occupation and abode. 

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 30 


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 35 

| .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 40 

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, 45 

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 50 

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 !" 55 

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. 60 

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. 
I Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed 65 
j The common air; hills, which with vigorous step 
I 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 memory 70 

, Of the dumb animals whom he had saved, 
I Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts, 
| The certainty of honourable gain ; 

Those fields, those hills, what could they less? had laid 
I Strong hold on his affections, were to him 75 

, A pleasurable feeling of blind love, 
i 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. 80 

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. 85 

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 old, in shepherd's phrase, 
With one foot in the grave. This only Son, 90 

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 the) 7 were as a proverb in the vale 
For endless industry. When day was gone, 95 

And from their occupations out of doors 


The Son and Father were come home, even then, 

Their labour did not cease ; unless when all 

Turned to the cleanly supper-board, and there, 

Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk, 100 

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 themselves 

To such convenient work as might employ 105 

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, 110 
That in our ancient uncouth country style 
With a huge and black projection overbrowed 
Large space beneath, as duly as the light 
Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a lamp ; 
An aged utensil, which had performed 115 

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 15aO 

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 late into the night 125 

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 130 

The thiifty 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 Easdale, up to Dunmail-Raise, 

And westward to the village near the lake ; 135 

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, 140 

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 
Less from instinctive tenderness, the same 
Fond spirit that blindly works in the blood of all 1 45 
Than that a child, more than all other gifts 
That earth can offer to declining man, 
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts, 
And stirrings of inquietude, when they 
By tendency of nature needs must fail. 150 

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 155 

Of fathers, but with patient mind enforced 
To acts of tenderness ; and he had 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, 160 

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


Wrought in the field, or on his shepherd's stool 

Sate with a fettered sheep before him stretched 

Under the large old oak, that near his door 165 

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. 

There, while they two were sitting in the shade, 170 

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 

By catching at their legs, or with his shouts 175 

Scared them, while they lay still beneath 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 old ; 
Then Michael from a winter coppice cut 180 

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 185 

At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock ; 
And, to his office prematurely called, 
There stood the urchin, as you will divine, 
Something between a hindrance and a help ; 
And for this cause, not always, I believe, 190 

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, 195 


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 1 that from the Boy there came 200 

Feelings and emanations things which were 

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 up : 
And now, when he had reached his eighteenth year, 205 
He was his comfort and his daily hope. 

While in this sort the simple household lived 
From day to day, to Michael's ear there came 
Distressful tidings. Long before the time 
Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been bound 210 

In surety for his brother's son, a man 
Of an industrious life, and ample means ; 
But unforseen misfortunes suddenly 
Had prest upon him ; and old Michael now 
Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture, 215 

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 supposed 
That any old man ever could have lost. . 220 

As soon as he had armed himself with strength 
To look his trouble in the face, it seemed 
The Shepherd's sole resource to sell at once 
A portion of his patrimonial fields. 

Such was his first resolve ; he thought again, 225 

And his heart failed him. " Isabel," said he, 
Two evenings after he had heard the news, 
" 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 ours 230 

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 235 

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 240 

'Twere better to be dumb than to talk thus. 

When I began, my purpose was to speak 
Of remedies and of a cheerful hope. 
Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel ; the land 
Shall not go from us, and it shall be free ; . 245 

He shall possess it, free as is the wind 
That passes over it. We have, thou know'st, 
Another kinsman he will be our friend 
In this distress. He is a prosperous man, 
Thriving in trade and Luke to him shall go, 250 

And with his kinsman's help and his own thrift 
He quickly will repair this loss, and then 
He may return to us. If here he stay, 
What can be done 1 Where every one is poor, 
What can be gained ?" 

At this the old Man paused, 255 
And Isabel sat silent, for her mind 
Was busy, looking back into past times. 
There's Richard Bateman, thought she to herself, 
He was a parish-boy at the church-door 
They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence 260 


And halfpennies, wherewith the neighbours bought 

A basket, which they filled with pedlar's wares ; 

And, with this basket on his arm, the lad 

Went up to London, found a master there, 

Who, out of many, chose the trusty boy 265 

To go and overlook his merchandise 

Beyond the sear ; where he grew wondrous rich, 

And left estates and monies to the poor, 

And, at his birth-place, built a chapel, floored 

With marble, which he sent from foreign lands. 270 

These thoughts, and many others of like sort, 

Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel, 

And her face brightened. The old Man was glad, 

And thus resumed : " Well, Isabel ! this scheme 

These two days, has been meat and drink to me. 275 

Far more than we have lost is left us yet. 

; We have enough I wish indeed that I 

Were younger ; but this hope is a good hope. 

Make ready Luke's best garments, of the best 

Buy for him more, and let us send him forth 280 

To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night :* 

If he could go, the Boy should go to-night." 

Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth 
With a light heart. The Housewife for five days 
Was restless morn and night, and all day long 285 

Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare 
Things needful for the journey of her son. 
But Isabel was glad when Sunday came 
To stop her in her work : for when she lay 
By Michael's side, she through the last two nights 290 
Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep : 
And when^they rose at morning she could see 
That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon 


She said to Luke, while they two by themselves 

Were sitting at the door, " Thou must not go : 295 

We have no other Child but thee to lose, 

None to remember do not go away, 

For if thou leave thy Father, he will die." 

The Youth made answer with a jocund voice ; 

And Isabel, when she had told her fears, 300 

Recovered heart. That evening her best fare 

Did she bring forth, and all together sat 

Like happy people round a Christmas fire. 

With daylight Isabel resumed her work ; 
And all the ensuing week the house appeared 305 

As cheerful as a grove in Spring : at length 
The expected letter from their kinsman came, 
With kind assurances that he would do 
His utmost for the welfare of the Boy ; 
To which requests were added that forthwith 310 

He might be sent to him. Ten times or more 
The letter was read over ; Isabel 
Went forth to show it to the neighbours round ; 
Nor was there at that time on English land 
A prouder heart than Luke's. When Isabel 315 

Had to her house returned, the old Man said, 
" He shall depart to-morrow." To this word 
The Housewife answered, talking much of things 
Which, if at such short notice he should go, 
Would surely be forgotten. But at length 320 

She gave consent, and Michael was at ease. 

Near the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll 
In that dsep valley, Michael had designed 
To build a Sheepfold ; and, before he heard 
The tidings of his melancholy loss, 325 

For this same purpose he had gathered up 


A heap of stones, which by the streamlet's edge 

Lay thrown together, ready for the work. 

With Luke that evening thitherward he walked : 

And soon as they had reached the place he stopped, 330 

And thus the old Man spake to him : " My Son, 

To-morrow thou wilt leave me : with full heart 

I look upon thee, for thou art the same 

That wert a promise to me ere thy birth 

And all thy life hast been my daily joy. 335 

I will relate to thee some little part 

Of our two histories ; 'twill do thee good 

When thou art from me, even if I should touch 

On things thou canst not know of. After thou 

First cam'st into the world as oft befalls 340 

To new-born infants thou didst sleep away 

Two days, and blessings from thy Father's tongue 

Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on, 

And still I loved thee with increasing love. 

Never to living ear came sweeter sounds 345 

Than when I heard thee by our own fireside 

First uttering, without words, a natural tune ; 

While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy 

Sing at thy Mother's breast. Month followed month, 

And in the open fields my life was passed 350 

And on the mountains ; else I think that thou 

Hadst been brought up upon thy Father's knees. 

But we were playmates, Luke : among these hills, 

As well thou knowest, in us the old and young 

Have played together, nor with me didst thou 355 

Lack any pleasure which a boy can know." 

Luke had a manly heart ; but at these words 

He sobbed aloud. The old Man grasped his hand, 

And said, " Nay, do not take it so I see 

That these are things of which I need not speak. 360 


Even to the utmost I have been to thee 

A kind and a good Father : and herein 

I but repay a gift which I myself 

Received at others' hands ; for, though now old 

Beyond the common life of man, I still 365 

Remember them who loved me in my youth. 

Both of them sleep together : here they lived, 

As all their Forefathers had done ; and when 

At length their time was come, they were not loath 

To give their bodies to the family mould. 370 

I wished that thou should'st live the life they lived : 

But 'tis a long time to look back, my Son, 

And see so little gain from threescore years. 

These fields were burdened when they came to me ; 

Till I was forty years of age, not more 375 

Than half of my inheritance was mine. 

I toiled and toiled ; God blessed me in my work, 

And till these three weeks past the land was free. 

It looks as if it never could endure 

Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke, 380 

If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good 

That thou should'st go." 

At this the old Man paused ; 

Then, pointing to the stones near which they stood, 
Thus, after a short silence, he resumed : 
" This was a work for us ; and now, my Son, 385 

It is a work for me. But lay one stone 
Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands. 
Nay, Boy, be of good hope ; we both may live 
To see a better day. At eighty-four 

I still am strong and hale ; do thou thy part ; 390 

I will do mine. I will begin again 
With many tasks that were resigned to thee : 
Up to the heights and in among the storms 


Will I without thee go again, and do 

All works which I was wont to do alone, 395 

Before I knew thy face. Heaven bless thee, Boy ! 

Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast 

With many hopes ; it should be so yes yes 

I knew that thou could'st never have a wish 

To leave me, Luke : thou hast been bound to me 400 

Only by links of love: when thou art gone, 

What will be left to us ! But, I forget 

My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone 

As I requested ; and hereafter, Luke, 

When thou art gone away, should evil men 405 

Be thy companions, think of me, my Son, 

And of this moment ; hither turn thy thoughts, 

And God will strengthen thee : amid all fear 

And all temptations, L*uke, I pray that thou 

May'st bear in mind the life thy Fathers lived, 410 

Who, being innocent, did for that cause 

Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well 

When thou return'st, thou in this place wilt see 

A work which is not here : a covenant 

'Twill be between us ; but, whatever fate 415 

Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last, 

And bear thy memory with me to the grave." 

The Shepherd ended here ; and Luke stooped down 
And, as his Father had requested, laid 
The first stone of the Sheepfold. At the sight 420' 

The old Man's grief broke from him ; to his heart 
He pressed his Son, he kissed him and wept ; 
And to the house together they returned. 
Hushed was that House in peace, or seeming peace, 
Ere the night fell : with morrow's dawn the Boy 425 
Began his journey, and when he had reached 
The public way, he put on a bold face ; 


And all the neighbours, as he passed their doors, 

Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers, 

That followed him till he was out of sight. 430 

A good report did from their Kinsman come, 
Of Luke and his well-doing : and the Boy 
Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news, 
Which, as the Housewife phrased it, were throughout 
"The prettiest letters that were ever seen." . 435 

Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts. 
So, many months passed on ; and once again 
The Shepherd went about his daily work 
With confident and cheerful thoughts ; and now 
Sometimes, when he could find a leisure hour, 440 

He to that valley took his way, and there 
Wrought at the Sheepfold. Meantime Luke began 
To slacken in his duty ; and, at length, 
He in the dissolute city gave himself 

To evil courses : ignominy and shame 445 

Fell on him, so that he was driven at last 
To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas. 

There is a comfort in the strength of love ; 
'Twill make a thing endurable which else 
Would overset the brain or break the heart : 450 

I have conversed with more than one who well 
Remember the old Man, and what he was 
Years after he heard this heavy news. 
- His bodily frame had been from youth to age 
Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks 455 

He went, and still looked up to sun and cloud, 
And listened to the wind ; and, as before, 
Performed all kinds of labour for his sheep, 
And for the land, his small inheritance. 
And to that hollow dell from time to time 460 


Did he repair, to build the Fold of which 

His flock had need. "Tis not forgotten yet 

The pity which was then in every heart 

For the old Man and 'tis believed by all If 

That many and many a day he thither went j 465 

And never lifted up a single stone. ' 

There, by the Sheepfold, sometimes was he seen, 
Sitting alone, or with his faithful Dog, 
Then old, beside him, lying at his feet. 
The length of full seven years, from time to time, 470 
He at the building of this Sheepfold wrought, 
And left the work unfinished when he died. 
Three years, or little more, did Isabel 
Survive her Husband : at her death the estate 
Was sold, and went into a stranger's hand. 475 

The Cottage which was named THE EVENING STAR 
Is gone the ploughshare has been through the ground 
On which it stood ; great changes have been wrought 
In all the neighbourhood : yet the oak is left 
That grew beside their door ; and the remains 480 

Of the unfinished Sheepfold may be seen 

Beside the boisterous brook of Greenhead Ghyll. 



blithe New-comer ! I have heard, 

1 hear thee and rejoice. 

O Cuckoo ! shall I call thee Bird, 
Or but a wandering Voice ? 

While I am lying on the grass 5 

Thy twofold shout I hear ; 
From hill to hill it seems to pass, 
At once far off, and near. 


Though babbling only, to the "Vale, 

Of sunshine and of flowers, 10 

Thou bringest unto me a tale 

Of visionary hours. 

Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring ! 

Even yet thou art to me 

No bird, but an invisible thing, 15 

A voice, a mystery ; 

The same whom in my school-boy days 

I listened to ; that Cry 

Which made me look a thousand ways 

In bush, and tree, and sky. 20 

To seek thee did I often rove 
Through woods and on the green ; 
And thou wert still a hope, a love ; 
Still longed for, never seen. 

And I can listen to thee yet ; 25 

Can lie upon the plain 
And listen, till I do beget 
That golden time again. 

O blessed Bird ! the earth we pace 

Again appears to be 30 

An unsubstantial faery place, 

That is fit home for Thee ! 



Bright Flower ! whose home is everywhere ! 
Bold in maternal Nature's care, 
And all the long year through the heir 
Of joy or sorrow ; 


Methinks that there abides in thee 5 

Some concord with humanity, 
Given to no other flower I see 
The forest thorough ! 

Is it that Man is soon deprest ? 

A thoughtless Thing ! who, once unblest, 10 

Does little on his memory rest, 

Or on his reason, 

And thou would'st teach him how to find 
A shelter under every wind, 
A hope for times that are unkind 15 

And every season 1 

Thou wander'st the wide world about, 
Unchecked by pride or scrupulous doubt, 
' With friends to greet thee, or without, 

Yet pleased and willing ; 20 

Meek, yielding to the occasion's call, 
And all things suffering from all, 
Thy function apostolical 
In peace fulfilling. 



Beneath these fruit-tree boughs that shed 
Their snow-white blossoms on my head, 
With brightest sunshine round me spread 

Of spring's unclouded weather, 
In this sequestered nook how sweet 
To sit upon my orchard-seat ! 
And birds and flowers once more to greet, 

My last year's friends together. 


One have I marked, the happiest guest 

In all this covert of the blest : 10 

Hail to Thee, far above the rest 

In joy of voice and pinion ! 
Thou, Linnet ! in thy green array 
Presiding Spirit here to-day 
Dost lead the revels of the May ; 15 

And this is thy dominion. 

While birds, and butterflies, and flowers, 
Make all one band of paramours, 
Thou, ranging up and down the bowers, 

Art sole in thy employment : 20 

A Life, a Presence like the Air, 
Scattering thy gladness without care, 
Too blest with any one to pair ; 

Thyself thy own enjoyment. 

Amid yon tuft of hazel trees 25 

That twinkle to the gusty breeze, 
Behold him perched in ecstasies, 

Yet seeming still to hover ; 
There ! where the flutter of his wings 
Upon his back and body flings 30 

Shadows and sunny glimmerings, 

That cover him all over. 

My dazzled sight he oft deceives, 
A Brother of the dancing leaves ; 
Then flits, and from the cottage-eaves 35 

Pours forth his song in guslies ; 
A.S if by that exulting strain 
He mocked and treated with disdain 
The voiceless Form he chose to feign, 

While fluttering in the bushes. 40 




Behold her, single in the field, 

Yon solitary Highland Lass ! 

Reaping and singing by herself ; 

Stop here, or gently pass ! 

Alone she cuts and binds the grain, 5 

And sings a melancholy strain ; 

Oh listen ! for the Vale profound 

Is overflowing with the sound. 

No Nightingale did ever chaunt 

More welcome notes to weary bands 10 

Of travellers in some shady haunt 

Among Arabian sands : 

A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard 

In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird, 

Breaking the silence of the seas 15 

Among the farthest Hebrides. 

Will no one tell me what she sings ? 

Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow 

For old, unhappy, far-off things, 

And battles long ago : 20 

Or is it some more humble lay, 

Familiar matter of to-day ? 

Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain, 

That has been, and may be again 1 

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang 25 

As if her song could have no ending ; 

I saw her singing at her work, 

And o'er the sickle bending ; 

I listened, motionless and still ; 

And, as I mounted up the hill, 30 

The music in my heart I bore 

Long after it was heard no more. 1803 (?) 



She was a Phantom of delight 

When first she gleamed upon my sight ; 

A lovely Apparition, sent 

To be a moment's ornament ; 

Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair ; 5 

Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair : 

But all things else about her drawn 

From May-time and the cheerful Dawn ; 

A dancing Shape, an Image gay, 

To haunt, to startle, and way-lay. 10 

I saw her upon nearer view, 

A Spirit, yet a Woman too ! 

Her household motions light and free, 

And steps of virgin-liberty ; 

A countenance in which did meet 15 

Sweet records, promises as sweet ; 

A Creature not too bright or good 

For human nature's daily food ; 

For transient sorrows, simple wiles, 

Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles. 20 

And now I see with eye serene 
The very pulse of the machine ; 
A Being breathing thoughtful breath, 
A Traveller between life and death ; 
The reason firm, the temperate will, 25 

Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill ; 
A perfect Woman, nobly planned 
To warn, to comfort, and command ; 
And yet a Spirit still, and bright 
With something of angelic light. 30 




Stern Daughter of the Voice of God ! 
O Duty ! if that name thou love 
Who art a light to guide, a rod 
To check the erring, and reprove ; 

Thou who art victory and law 5 

When empty terrors overawe ; 
From vain temptations dost set free ; 
And calm'st the weary strife of frail humanity ! 

There are who ask not if thine eye 

Be on them ; who, in love and truth, 10 

Where no misgiving is, rely 
Upon the genial sense of youth : 
Glad Hearts ! without reproach or blot ; 
Who do thy work, and know it not : 
Oh ! if through confidence misplaced 15 

They fail, thy saving arms, dread Power ! around them 

Serene will be our days and bright, 
And happy will our nature be, 
When love is an unerring light, 

And joy its own security. 20 

And they a blissful course may hold 
Even now, who, not unwisely bold, 
Live in the spirit of this creed ; 
Yet seek thy firm support, according to their need. 

I, loving freedom, and untried : 25 

No sport of every random gust, 

Yet being to myself a guide 

Too blindly have reposed my trust : 


And oft, when in my heart was heard 
Thy timely mandate, I deferred 30 

The task, in smoother walks to stray : 
But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may. 

Through no disturbance of my soul, 
Or strong compunction in me wrought, 
I supplicate for thy control ; 35 

But in the quietness of thought : 
Me this unchartered freedom tires ; 
I feel the weight of chance-desires ; 
My hopes no more must change their name ; 
I long for a repose that ever is the same. 40 

Stern Lawgiver ! yet thou dost wear 
The Godhead's most benignant grace ; 
Nor know we anything so fair 
As is the smile upon thy face : 

Flowers laugh before thee on their beds 45 

And fragrance in thy footing treads ; 
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong ; 
And the most ancient heavens, through Thee, are fresh 
and strong. 

To humbler functions, awful Power ! 
I call thee : I myself commend 50 

Unto thy guidance from this hour; 
Oh, let my weakness have an end ! 
Give unto me, made lowly wise, 
The spirit of self-sacrifice ; 

The confidence of reason give ; 55 

And in the light of truth thy Bondman let me live ! 





I was thy neighbour once, thou rugged Pile ! 
Four summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee : 
I saw thee every day ; and all the while 
Thy Form was sleeping on a glassy sea. 

So pure the sky, so quiet was the air ! 5 

So like, so very like, was day to day ! 
Whene'er I looked, thy Image still was there ; 
It trembled, but it never passed away. 

How perfect was the calm ! It seemed no sleep ; 

No mood, which season takes away, or brings ; 10 

I could have fancied that the mighty Deep 

Was even the gentlest of all gentle Things. 

Ah ! THEN, if mine had been the Painter's hand, 

To express what then I saw ; and add the gleam, 

The light that never was, on sea or land, 15 

The consecration, and the Poet's dream ; 

I would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile, 

Amid a world how different from this ! 

Beside a sea that could not cease to smile ; 

On tranquil land, beneath a sky of bliss. 20 

Thou should'st have seemed a treasure-house divine 
Of peaceful years ; a chronicle of heaven ; 
Of all the sunbeams that did ever shine 
The very sweetest had to thee been given. 

A Picture had it been of lasting ease, 25 

Elysian quiet, without toil or strife ; 
No motion but the moving tide, a breeze, 
Or merely silent Nature's breathing life. 


Such, in the fond illusion of my heart, 

Such Picture would I at that time have made : 30 

And seen the soul of truth in every part, 

A stedfast peace that might not be betrayed. 

So once it would have been, 'tis' so no more ; 

I have submitted to a new control : 

A power is gone, which nothing can restore ; 35 

A deep distress hath humanized my Soul. 

Not for a moment could I now behold 

A smiling sea, and be what I have been : 

The feeling of my loss will ne'er be old ; 

This, which I know, I speak with mind serene. 40 

Then, Beaumont, Friend ! who would have been the Friend, 

If he had lived, of Him whom I deplore, 

This work of thine I blame not, but commend ; 

This sea in anger, and that dismal shore. 

Oh ! 'tis a passionate work yet wise and well, 45 

Well chosen is the spirit that is here ; 

That Hulk which labours in the deadly swell, 

This rueful sky, this pageantry of fear ! 

And this huge Castle, standing here sublime, 

I love to see the look with which it braves. 50 

Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time, 

The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves. 

Farewell, farewell the heart that lives alone, 

Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind ! 

Such happiness, wherever it be known, 55 

Is to be pitied ; for 'tis surely blind. 

But welcome fortitude, and patient cheer, 
And frequent sights of what is to be borne ! 
Such sights or worse, as are before me here. 

Not without hope we suffer and we mourn. 60 


SEPTEMBER, 1819. 59 


The sylvan slopes with corn-clad fields 

Are hung, as if with golden shields, 

Bright trophies of the sun ! 

lake a fair sister of the sky, 

Unruffled doth the blue lake lie, 5 

The mountains looking on. 

And, sooth to say, yon vocal grove, 

Albeit uninspired by love, 

By love untaught to ring, 

May well afford to mortal ear 10 

An impulse more profoundly dear 

Than music of the Spring. 

For that from turbulence and heat 

Proceeds, from some uneasy seat 

In nature's struggling frame, 15 

Some region of impatient life : 

And jealousy, and quivering strife, 

Therein a portion claim. 

This, this is holy ; while I hear 

These vespers of another year, 20 

This hymn of thanks and praise, 

My spirit seems to mount above 

The anxieties of human love, 

And earth's precarious days. 

But list ! though winter storms be nigh. 2- r > 

Unchecked is that soft harmony : 

There lives Who can provide 

For all his creatures, and in Him 

Even like the radiant Seraphim, 

These choristers confide- 30 



Departing summer hath assumed 

An aspect tenderly illumed, 

The gentlest look of spring ; 

That calls from yonder leafy shade 

Unfaded, yet prepared to fade, 5 

A timely carolling. 

No faint and hesitating trill, 

Such tribute as to winter chill 

The lonely redbreast pays ! 

Clear, loud, and lively is the din, 10 

From social warblers gathering in 

Their harvest of sweet lays. 

Nor doth the example fail to cheer 

Me, conscious that my leaf is sere, 

And yellow on. the boiigh : 15 

Fall, rosy garlands, f rem my head ! 

Ye myrtle wreaths, your fragrance shed 

Around a younger brow ! 

Yet will I temperately rejoice ; 

Wide is the range, and free the choice 20 

Of undiscordant themes ; 

Which, haply, kindred souls may prize 

Not less than vernal ecstasies 

And passion's feverish dreams. 

For deathless powers to verse belong, 25 

And they like Demi-gods are strong 

On whom the Muses smile ; 

But some their fvinction have disclaimed, 

Best pleased with what is aptliest framed 

To enervate and defile. 30 


Not such the initiatory strains 

Committed to the silent plains 

In Britain's earliest dawn : 

Trembled the groves, the stars grew pale, 

While all-too-daringly the veil 35 

Of nature was withdrawn ! 

Nor such the spirit-stirring note 

When the live chords Alcaeus smote, 

Inflamed by sense of wrong ; 

Woe ! woe to Tyrants ! from the lyre 40 

Broke threateningly in sparkles dire 

Of fierce vindictive song. 

And not unhallowed was the page 

By winged Love inscribed, to assuage 

The pangs of vain pursuit; 45 

Love listening while the Lesbian Maid 

With finest touch of passion swayed 

Her own ^Eolian lute. 

O ye, who patiently explore 

The wreck of Herculanean lore, 50 

What rapture ! could ye seize 

Some Theban fragment, or unroll 

One precious, tender-hearted scroll 

Of pure Simonides. 

That were, indeed, a genuine birth 55 

Of poesy ; a bursting forth 
Of genius from the dust : 
What Horace gloried to behold, 
What Maro loved, shall we unfold "? 
Can haughty Time be just ! 60 





The Minstrels played their Christmas tune 

To-night beneath my cottage-eaves ; 

While, smitten by a lofty moon, 

The encircling laurels, thick with leaves, 

Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen, 5 

That overpowered their natural green. 

Through hill and valley every breeze 

Had sunk to rest with folded wings : 

Keen was the air, but could not freeze, 

Nor check, the "music of the strings ; 10 

So stout and hardy were the band 

That scraped the chords with strenuous hand ! 

And who but listened 1 till was paid 

Respect to every Inmate's claim : 

The greeting given, the music played, 15 

In honour of each household name, 

Duly pronounced with lusty call, 

And " Merry Christmas" wished to all ! 

O Brother ! I revere the choice 

That took thee from thy native hills ; 20 

And it is given thee to rejoice : 

Though .public care full often tills 

(Heaven only witness of the toil) 

A barren and ungrateful soil. 

Yet would that Thou, with me and mine, 25 

Hadst heard this never-failing rite ; 
And seen on other faces shine 


A true revival of the light 

Which Nature and these rustic Powers, 

In simple childhood, spread through ours ! 30- 

For pleasure hath not ceased to wait 

On 'these expected annual rounds ; 

Whether the rich man's sumptuous gate 

Call forth the unelaborate sounds, 

Or they are offered at the door 35 

That guards the lowliest of the poor. 

How touching, when at midnight, sweep 

Snow-muffled winds, and all is dark, 

To hear and sink again to sleep ! 

Or, at an earlier call, to mark, 40 

By blazing fire, the still suspense 

Of self-complacent innocence ; 

The mutual nod the grave disguise 

Of hearts with gladness brimming o'er ; 

And some unbidden tears that rise 45 

For names once heard, and heard no more ; 

Tears brightened by the serenade 

For infant in the cradle laid. 

Ah ! not for emerald fields alone, 

With ambient streams more pure and bright 50 

Than fabled Cytherea's zone 

Glittering before the Thunderer's sight, 

Is to my heart of hearts endeared 

The ground where we were born and reared ! 

Hail, ancient Manners ! sure defence, 55 

Where they survive, of wholesome laws ; 
Remnants of love whose modest sense 


Thus into narrow room withdraws ', 

Hail, Usages of pristine mould, 

And ye that guard them Mountains old ! 60 

Bear with me, Brother ; quench the thought 

That slights this passion, or condemns ; 

If thee fond Fancy ever brought 

From the proud margin of the Thames, 

And Lambeth's venerable towers, 65 

To humbler streams and greener bowers. 

Yes, they can make, who fail to find, 

Short leisure even in busiest days, 

Moments to cast a look behind, 

And profit by those kindly rays 70 

That through the clouds do sometimes steal, 

And all the far-off past reveal. 

./ Hence, while the imperial City's din 
Beats frequent on thy satiate ear, 

A pleased attention I may win 75 

! ^_To agitations less severe, 
That neither overwhelm nor cloy, 
But fill the hollow vale with joy ! 


Ethereal minstrel ! pilgrim of the sky ! 
Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound ? 
Or, while the wings aspire, are heart and eye 
Both with thy nest upon the dewy ground ? 
Thy nest which thou canst drop into at will, 
Those quivering wings composed, that music still ! 


[To the last point of vision, and beyond, 

Mount, daring warbler ! that love-prompted strain, 

('Twixt thee and thine a never-failing bond) 

Thrills not the less the bosom of the plain : 10 

Yet might'st thou seem, proud privilege ! to sing 

All independent of the leafy spring.] 

Leave to the nightingale her shady wood ; 

A privacy of glorious light is thine ; 

Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood 15 

Of harmony, with instinct more divine : 

Type of the wise who soar, but never roam 

True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home ! 


AUGUST, 1802. 

Fair Star of evening, Splendour of the west, 
Star of my Country ! on the horizon's brink 
Thou hangest, stooping, as might seem, to sink 
On England's bosom ; yet well pleased to rest, 
Meanwhile, and be to her a glorious crest, 5 

Conspicuous to the Nations. Thou, I think, 
Should'st be my Country's emblem ; and should'st wink, 
Bright Star ! with laughter on her banners, drest 
In thy fresh beauty. There ! that dusky spot 
Beneath thee, that is England ; there she lies. 10 

Blessings be on you both ! one hope, one lot, 
One life, one glory ! I, with many a fear 
For my dear Country, many heartfelt sighs, 
Among men who dp not love her, linger here. 

66 LONDON, 1802. 


O Friend ! I know not which way I must look 

For comfort, being, as I am, opprest, 

To think that now our life is only drest 

For show ; mean handy- work of craftsman, cook, 

Or groom ! We must run glittering like a brook 5 

In the open sunshine, or we are unblest : 

The wealthiest man among us is the best : 

No grandeur now in nature or in book 

Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense, 

This is idolatry : and these we adore : 10 

Plain living and high thinking are no more 

The homely beauty of the good old cause 

Is gone ; our peace, our fearful innocence, 

And pure religion breathing household laws. 

LONDON, 1802. 

Milton ! thou should'st be living at this hour : 

England hath need of thee : she is a fen 

Of stagnant waters : altar, sword, and pen, 

Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, 

Have forfeited their ancient English dower 5 

Of inward happiness. We are selfish men ; 

Oh ! raise us up, return to us again ; 

And give xis manners, virtue, freedom, power. 

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart : 

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea : 10 

Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, 

So didst thou travel on life's common way, - 

In cheerful godliness ; and yet thy heart 

The lowliest duties on herself did lay. 



It it not to be thought of that the Flood 

Of British freedom, which, to the open sea 

Of the world's praise, from dark antiquity 

Hath flowed, " with pomp of waters, unwithstood," 

Roused though it be full often to a mood 5 

Which spurns the check of salutary bands, 

That this most famous Stream in bogs and sands 

Should perish ; and to evil and to good 

Be lost forever. In our halls is hung 

Armoury of the invincible Knights of old : 10 

We must be free or die, who speak the tongue 

That Shakespeare spake ; the faith and morals hold 

Which Milton held. In everything we are sprung 

Of Earth's first blood, have titles manifold. 



When I have borne in memory what has tamed 

Great Nations, how ennobling thoughts depart 

When men change swords for ledgers, and desert 

The student's bower for gold, some fears unnamed 

I had, my Country ! am I to be blamed ] 5 

Now, when I think of thee, and what thou art, 

Verily, in the bottom of my heart, 

Of those unfilial fears I am ashamed. 

For dearly must we prize thee ; we who find 

In thee a bulwark for the cause of men ; 10 

And I by my affection was beguiled : 

What wonder if a Poet now and then, 

Among the many movements of his mind, 

Felt for thee as a lover or a child ! 1802 


SEPT. 3, 1802. 

Earth has not anything to show more fair : 

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by 

A sight so touching in its majesty : 

This City now doth, like a garment, wear 

The beauty of the morning ; silent, bare, 5 

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie 

Open unto the fields, and to the sky ; 

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. 

Never did sun more beautifully steep 

Til his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill ; 10 

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep ! 

The river glideth at his own sweet will : 

Dear God ! the very houses seem asleep ; 

And all that mighty heart is lying still ! 


Two Voices are there ; one is of the sea, 

One of the mountains ; each a mighty Voice : 

In both from age to age thou didst rejoice, 

They were thy chosen music, Liberty ! 

There came a Tyrant, and with holy glee 5 

Thou fought'st against him ; but hast vainly striven : 

Thou from thy Alpine holds at length art driven, 

Where not a torrent murmurs heard by thee. 

Of one deep bliss thine ear hath been bereft : 

Then cleave, O cleave to that which still is left; 10 

For, high-souled Maid, what sorrow would it be 

That Mountain floods should thunder as before, 

And Ocean bellow from his rocky shore, 

And neither awful Voice be heard by thee ! 1806 



A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by, 

One after one ; the sound of rain, and bees 

Murmuring ; the fall of rivers, winds and seas, 

Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky ; 

I have thought of all by turns, and yet do lie 5 

Sleepless ! and soon the small birds' melodies 

Must hear, first uttered from my orchard trees ; 

And the first cuckoo's melancholy cry. 

Even thus last night, and two nights more, I lay, 

And could not win thee, Sleep ! by any stealth ; 10 

So do not let me wear to-night away : 

Without Thee what is all the morning's wealth 1 

Come, blessed barrier between day and day, 

Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health ! 

Before 1807 


Brook ! whose society the Poet seeks, 

Intent his wasted spirits to renew ; 

And whom the curious Painter doth pursue 

Through rocky passes, among flowery creeks, 

And tracks thee dancing down thy waterbreaks : 5 

If wish were mine some type of thee to view, 

Thee, and not thee thyself, I would not do 

Like Grecian Artists, give thee human cheeks, 

Channels for tears ; no Naiad should 'st thou be, 

Have neither limbs, feet, feathers, joints nor hairs : 10 

It seems the Eternal Soul is clothed in thee 

With purer robes than those of flesh and blood, 

And hath bestowed on thee a safer good ; 

Unwearied joy, and life without its cares. 



Tax not the royal Saint with vain expense, 

With ill-matched aims the Architect who planned 

Albeit labouring for a scanty band 

Of white-robed Scholars only this immense 

And glorious Work of fine intelligence ! 5 

Give all thou canst ; high Heaven rejects the lore 

Of nicely-calculated less or more ; 

So deemed the man who fashioned for the sense 

These lofty pillars, spread that branching roof 

Self-poised, and scooped into ten thousand cells, 10 

Where light and shade repose, where music dwells 

Lingering, and wandering on as loth to die ; . 

Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof 

That they were born for immortality. 



They dreamt not of a perishable home 

Who thus could build. Be mine, in hours of fear 

Or grovelling thought, to seek a refuge here; 

Or through the aisles of Westminster to roam ; 

Where bubbles burst, and folly's dancing foam 5 

Melts, if it cross the threshold ; where the wreath 

Of awe-struck wisdom droops : or let my path 

Lead to that younger Pile, whose sky-like dome 

Hath typified by reach of daring art 

Infinity's embrace; whose guardian crest, 10 

The silent Cross, among the stars shall spread 

As now, when She hath also seen her breast 

Filled with mementos, satiate with its part 

Of grateful England's overflowing Dead. 




Scorn not the Sonnet ; Critic, you have frowned, 

Mindless of its just honours ; with this key 

Shakespeare unlocked his heart ; the melody 

Df this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound ; 

A. thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound ; 5 

With it Camoens soothed an exile's grief ; 

The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf 

Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned 

His visionary brow : a glowworm lamp, 

It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faeryland 10 

To struggle through dark ways ; and, when a damp 

Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand 

The Thing became a trumpet ; whence he blew 

Soul-animating strains alas, f x>o few ! 

Before 1827 




COLERIDGE was great both as a poet and as an abstract thinker. 
His poetical activity is included mainly within the first thirty years of 
his Hie, and, as it is with the poet that we are here concerned, his 
philosophical work and the latter half of his life will here be touched 
upon very briefly. There is no biography in the annals of English 
literature that gives the reader a profounder and sadder sense of 
wasted opportunities and wasted powers than that of Coleridge. 
His achievement in poetry is exquisite and unique, his criticism more 
suggestive and inspiring than that of any other English writer, his 
philosophical thinking had a wide and far-reaching influence, yet we 
feel all this is but a meagre result in comparison with what his ex- 
traordinary intellectual endowments seemed to promise. 

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was born the 21st October, 1772, at 
Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire, where f.iis father, the Rev. John 
Coleridge, was vicar of the parish and master of the Free Grammar 
School. The father was an interesting man with a lack of fitness for the 
practical affairs of life, with a love of learning, and a bent towards 
pedantry all of which he transmitted to his famous son. A glance 
in the Dictionary of National Biography at the number of descendants 
of this eccentric parson who have distinguished themselves in various 
spheres, will amply demonstrate that the poet came of no ordinary 
stock. Samuel was the youngest of a family of thirteen, and was, in 
consequence, a spoiled child. "So," he writes (Letters I, p. 11), "I 
became fretful and timorous, and a tell-tale ; and the schoolboys drove 
me from play, arid were always tormenting me, and hence I took no 
pleasure in boyish sports, but read incessantly. ... So I became 
a dreamer, and acquired an indisposition to a.'l bodily activity ; and I 
was fretful and inordinately passionate, and, as I could not play at 
anything, and was slothful, I was despised and hated by the boys ; 
and, because I could reac and spell and had, I may truly say, a memory 
and understanding forced into almost an unnatural ripeness, I was 
flattered and wondered at by all the old women. And so I became 
Very vain, and despised most of the boys that were at all near my own 
age, and before I was eight years old I was a character. Sensibility, 



imagination, vanity, sloth, and feelings of deep and bitter contempt 
for all who traversed the orbit of my understanding were even then 
prominent and manifest." 

After the sudden death of his father, the boy was sent, in April, 
1792, to the famous Blue-coat School, Christ's Hospital. With this 
event his domestic life seems to have come to an end ; even his holidays 
were not spent at home. His sensitive and imaginative nature was 
submitted to the harsh discipline of a great boarding-school, a com- 
munity of some three hundred boys, situated in the very heart of 
London.* At school Coleridge formed some warm friendships, the 
most important and permanent being that with Charles Lamb. He_ 
showed himself an apt scholar, and in 1788 was one of those selected 
by the headmaster to be specially trained for the University Scholar- 
ships. As in childhood, so in boyhood, he was precocious and- 
imaginative ; we hear little or nothing of games, but much of poetry 
and metaphysics. In the latter he was indeed, if we are to trust his 
own statements, a juvenile prodigy ; and these statements receive con* 
firmation from Lamb : " Come back into memory, like as thou wert in 
the dayspring of thy fancies, with hope like a fiery column before 
thee the dark pillar not yet turned Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
Logician, Metaphysician, Bard ! How have i seen the casual passer 
through the cloisters stand still, entranced with admiration (while he 
weighed the disproportion between the speech and the garb of the young 
Mirandula), to hear thee unfold in thy deep and sweet intonations the 
mysteries of Jamblichus, or Plotinus (for even in those years thou 
waxedst not pale at such philosophic draughts), or reciting Homer in 
his Greek, or Pindar while the walls of the old Grey Friars re-echoed to 
the accents of the inspired charity boy. "f These ' ' preposterous pursuits " 
were by no means altogether wholesome either for the boy's mental 
or moral development, and he narrates how he was rescued from the 
lassitude in which they left him, through meeting with the poems of a 
certain Mr. Bowles. These were a very minor outcome of that tide of 
influence which revolutionized literature in the latter half of the 
Eighteenth century, and which found more adequate expression in the 
works of Cowper and Burns writers who were at this date unknown 
to Coleridge. What attracted him to the sonnets of Bowles was their 
emotional quality, their sincerity and directness, and the love for nature 

* For light upon the character of his school life see Biographia Literaria, Chap. I ; 
he fifth of Coleridge's collected Letters, and Lamb's Essays on Christ's Hospital. 

f Lamb's Chrisfs Hospital Five-and-thirty Tears Ago. 

LIFE. 77 

which they displayed, as distinguished from the conventionality and 
intellectualism that had long been characteristic of English poetry. 
This discovery so kindled his enthusiasm that, not having money to 
purchase copies, he made forty transcriptions as presents for his friends. 
Although he had long been a writer of verses, the work of Bowles 
Stimulated his poetic activity, and from this point we may date the 
beginning of his poetic career. 

Saving been successful in winning a scholarship, Coleridge in October, 
1791, went into residence at Jesus College, Cambridge. Presently he 
wins the Browne gold medal for a Greek ode and is a likely candidate 
for a Craven scholarship. But released from the stricter discipline of 
school he soon began to exhibit his innate tendency to dissipate his 
energies, or at least to devote them to anything rather than that which 
it was his plain duty and interest to do. At the same time his specula- 
tive tendencies led him to sympathize with the revolutionary views, in 
these years rife in France and elsewhere, both in politics and religion. 
This would not recommend him in the eyes of those in authority. He 
seems to have fallen into irregular courses ; and in December, 1793, he 
suddenly left college and enlisted. For this step the main cause was, 
probably, debts.; a contributory one may have been disappointment 
in a passion which he had, since Christ's Hospital days, cherished for 
Mary Evans, the sister of a school-mate. In course of time his where- 
abouts becoming known to his friends, they bought his discharge ; and 
in April, 1794, with many expressions of contrition, he resumed his 
life at college ; but it is little likely that he ever again really settled 
down to his proper studies. In the following summer, on a visit to 
Oxford, he became acquainted with Robert Southjiy^ the two young 
men had a kindred interest in poetry and in revolutionary ideas ; a 
warm friendship grew dp between them, and Coleridge visited Southey's 
home at Bristol. In their ardour for social reform they begot a scheme 
for the regeneration of the world which they called "Pantis^cracy." 
" ' Twelve gentlemen of good education and liberal principles are to 
embark with twelve ladies in April next,' fixing themselves in some 
delightful part of the new back settlements of America. The labour of 
each man for two or three hours a day it was imagined would suffice to 
support the colony. The produce was to be common property, there 
was to be a good library, and the ample leisure was to be devoted to 
study, discussion, and the education of the children on a settled system. 
The women were to be employed in taking care of the infant children 
and in other suitable occupations, not neglecting the cultivation of their 

, r 7/j?:,s S^i ' 
S^<> /: 


minds. . . . 'They calculate that every gentlem. providing 125 
will be sufficient to carry the scheme into execution. ' "' Various 
young enthusiasts were found who professed themselves willing to em- 
bark in this undertaking. The necessary funds Coleridge proposed to fur- 
nish from the proceeds of literary work, and meanwhile he secured the 
requisite female companion by becoming engaged to Miss Sarah Fricker, 
whose sister was betrothed to Southey. This step he took, although 
during the summer he had suffered keenly from his first passion, wnich 
by an accidental encounter with Mary Evans had been kindled into 
hew violence. Such schemes as these were not likely to conduce to 
regular academic work ; and in December he finally left the university 
without taking his degree. About the same time a report of Miss 
Evans' approaching marriage awakened the old feelings in all their 
strength. We find him in London forgetful of the practical issues of 
life, and of his engagement to Miss Fricker, writing sonnetsf on distin- 
guished personages for the Morning Chronicle, and solacing himself with 
the companionship of Lamb. This condition of things was brought "to 
an end by the energetic Southey, who came in person to London and 
carried Coleridge back to Bristol to Pantisocracy and Miss Fricker. 

With his residence in Bristol, Coleridge's mature life begins. He 
was profoundly interested now, as always, in great public questions, 
and proposed to disseminate his ideas and win a livelihood by lectures 
and by writing. His portrait is outlined (probably with sufficient 
truth) by a lady who met him at this time : " A young man of brilliant 
I understanding, great eloquence, desperate fortune, democratic prin- 
| ciples, and entirely led away by the feelings of the moment." Having 
I quarrelled with Southey (with whom he lodged) because of Southey's 
desertion of Pantisocracy, and having been promised by a Bristol book- 
seller, Cottle, a guinea-and-a-half for every ore hundred lines of his 
poetry, he, in October, 1795, married Miss Sarah Fricker. The wedded 
pair established themselves at Clevedon, in the neighbourhood of 
Bristol, in a cottage commemorated in the poem entitled The Eolian 
Harp. His married life was, at the outset, happy ; Coleridge was 
conscious of his powers, and this consciousness may well have been 
strengthened by the impression which he produced upon nearly all who 
met him an impression largely due to the suggestiveness and eloquence 
of his conversation. He was overflowing with hope and with visionary 
projects, and the world seemed full of promise. Cottle was bringing 

* Dykes Campbell's summary of Poole's account of the scheme. 

t For an example, see the lines to La Fayette in the Appendix to this volume. 

LIFE. 79 

out a collection of his poems (published April, 1796) ; but to provide a 
steady source of income he started a periodical entitled The Watchman. 
To this latter scheme Coleridge's dilatoriness and unbusiness-like habits, 
in two months and a half, proved fatal. Some friends, with the wealthy 
tanner Poole at their head, presented a considerable sum of money to 
tide the poet over his financial difficulties. After abandoning various 
plans, forgoing to London as an editor, for teaching, etc., Coleridge, 
at length, on the last day of 1796, took up his abode in a small cottage at 
Nether Stowey that he might be near his friend Poole, and that he might 
carry into effect his latest dream of making a livelihood from literature 
and agriculture combined. " My farm will be a garden of one acre and 
a_half , in^whichj mean to raise vegetables and corn enojigh_for myself * 

and wife, and feed a couple of snouted and grunting cousins from the "* 
reTugeT My~evenings 1 shall devote to literature ; and, by reviews, the fT 
magazine, and other shilling-scavenger employments, shall probably 
gain forty pounds a year ; whicli economy and self-denial. Uuld-beaTers. 
shall hammer tilt it covers my annuaTexpenges." Thus began the 
happiest arid by far thelnost fruitful period in Coleridge's life. A large 
element in its happiness and the main stimulus to its fruitfulness was 
companionship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth. The two 
young poets had already met, but a visit to the Wordsworths in June, 
1797, was the beginning of close intimacy. They were drawn together 
by similar pursuits, hopes, feelings, and ideas. Coleridge was employed 
upon a tragedy, Osnrio, Wordsworth upon another, The Borderers. 
Coleridge writes that he feels himself a " little man" by Wordsworth's 
side, and thinks his friend the greatest man he ever knew. The 
impression on the other side is recorded in Dorothy Wordsworth's 
Journal: "He [Coleridge] is a wonderful man. His conversation 
teems with soul, mind, and spirit. Then he is so benevolent, so good- 
tempered and cheerful, and, like William, interests himself so much 
about every little trifle. At first I thought him very plain, that is, for 
about three minutes : he is pale, thin, has a wide mouth, thick lips, and 
not very good teeth, longish, loose-growing, half-curling, rouorh black 
hair. But, if you hear him speak for five minutes, you think : ..o more 
of them. His eye is large and full, and not very dark, but grey such 
an eye as would receive from a heavy soul the dullest expression ; but 
it speaks every emotion of his animated mind ; it lias more of the ' poet's 
eye in fine frenzy rolling ' than I ever witnessed. He has fine dark eye- 
brows, and an overhanging forehead." We may add to this, a descrip- 
tion of himself which Coleridge had sent to a correspondent not many 
months earlier: "As to my shape, 'tis good enough if measured, but I 


my gait is awkward, and the walk of the whole man indicates indolence 
capable of energies. . 1 am,, and evei 1 have beenfa great reader, and have 
read almost everything a library cormorant! I am deep in all out-of- 
the-way books, whether of the monkish times, or of the puritanical era. 
I have read jind digested most of the historical writers ; but I do not 
like history. Metaphysics and, poetry, and "'Ta.cts of mind,' that is, 
accounts of all the strange phantoms that ever possessed ' your phil- 
osophy 1 dreamers, from Thoth the Egyptian to Taylor the English 
pagan, are my darling studies. In short, I seldom read except to amuse 
myself, and I am almost always reading! Ot useful knowledge, 1 am a 
so-so chemist, and I love chemistry. All else is blank ; but I will be 
(please God) a horticulturist and a farmer. I compose very little, and 
I abs6Tutely~nate composition, and such is my dislike that even a sense 

of dflty is too weak to overpower it In conversation I am 

impassioned, anoToppose what I deem error with an eagerness which is 
often mistaken for personal asperity ; but I am ever so swallowed up in 
the thing that I perfectly forget my opponent."* 

In the course of the summer, Coleridge's visit was returned ; and in 
August the Wordsworths were successful in renting a country house at 
Alfoxden, among the Quantock Hills, and only three miles from Nether 
Stowey. The friends were almost daily together. The result upon 
Coleridge was not merely to stimulate his poetic power byfr to give_a. 
new character to his poetry, especially in its vise of, an<\ Mt^" 1 ^- 
towards, natureT Almost all Coleridge's best work in poetry yas 
written in this and the following year, e.g. : The Ancient Mariner, the 
first part of Christabel, This Lime-tree Bower my Prison, The Night- 
ingale, Ode to France, Kubla Khan, Frost at Midnight, etc. 

At this period Jinleridge not infrequently preached in Unitarian 
pulpits, and on one of these occasions the young Hazlitt heard him ; in 
his E#says\ he thus records his impressions : "It was in January of 
1798 that I rose one morning before daylight to walk ten miles in the 
mud to hear this celebrated person preach. When I got there the 
organ was playing the 100th Psalm, and when it was done Mr. Cole- 
ridge rose and gave out his text, ' And he went up into the mountain 
to pray, HIMSELF, ALONE.' As he gave out this text his voice 'rose 
like a steam of rich distilled perfumes,' and when he came to the two. 
last words, which he pronounced loud, deep and distinct, it seemed to 
me, who was then young, as if the sounds had echoed from the bottom 

* Letters I, pp. 180-1. 

t The one entitled First Acquaintance with Poets. 

LIFE. . 81 

of the human heart, and aa if that prayer might have floated in solemn 
silence through the universe. . . . The preacher then launched into 
his subject like an eagle dallying with the wind. The sermon waa 
upon peace and war ; upon church and state not their alliance but 
their separation on the spirit of the world and the spirit of Christi- 
anity, not as the same, but as opposed to one another. ... As for 
myself, I could not have been more delighted if I had heard the music 
of the spheres. Poetry and Philosophy had met together. Truth 
and Genius had embraced under the eye and with the sanction of 
religion." ~ --- 

In the following spring Hazlitt visited Coleridge at Nether Rtowey : 
"I arrived and was well received. The country about Nether Stowey 
is beautiful, green and hilly and near the sea-shore. ... In the 
afternoon Coleridge took me over to All-Foxden, a romantic old family 
mansion of the St. Aubins, where Wordsworth lived. . . . Words- 
worth himself was from home, but his sister kept house, and set before 
us a frugal repast ; and we had free access to her brother's poems, the 
Lyrical Ballads, which were still in manuscript. ... As soon as 
breakfast was over we strolled out to the park, and, seating ourselves 
on the trunk of an old ash tree that stretched along the ground, 
Coleridge read aloud, with a sonorous and musical voice, the ballad of 
'Betty Foy.' . . . Coleridge and myself walked back to Stowey 
that evening, and his voice sounded high 

Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate 
Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute, 

as we passed through echoing grove, by fairy stream or waterfall, 
gleaming in the summer moonlight. He lamented that Wordsworth 
was not prone enough to believe in the traditional superstitions of the 
place, and that there was a matter-of-factness, a clftiging to the palpable, 
or often to the petty, in his poetry, in consequence. His genius was 
not a spirit that descended to him through the air ; it sprung out of the 
ground like "a flower, or unfolded itself from a green spray, on which 
the goldfinch saiig! He said, however (if I remember riyht). that this 
objection must lie confined to his descriptive pieces, that his philosophic 
poetry had a grand and comprehensive spirit in it, so that his soul 
seemed to inhabit the universe lik, a. pa.1a.nt>, and to discover truth by 

t.lin.n by deduction. The next day Wordsworth arrived 
from Bristol at Coleridge's cottage. I think I see him now. He 
answered in some degree to his friend's description of him, but was 


more gaunt and Don Quixotic-like. He was quaintly dressed (accord- 
ing to the costume of that unconstrained period) in a brown fustian, 
jacket and striped pantaloons. There was something of a roll, a lounge 
in his gait, not unlike his own ' Peter Bell.' There was a severe, worn 
pressure of thought about the temples, a fire in his eye (as if he saw 
something in objects more than their outward appearance), an intense, 
high, narrow forehead, a Roman nose, cheeks furrowed by strong pur- 
pose and feeling, and a convulsive inclination to laughter about the 
mouth, a good deal at variance with the solemn stately expression of 
the rest of his face. . . . He sat down and talked ver*-- naturally 
and freely, with a mixture of clear gushing accents in his voice, a deep 
guttural intonation, and a strong tincture of the northern burr, like the 
crust on wine. . . . We went over to All-Foxden again the day 
^following, and Wordsworth read the story of Peter Bell in the open air; 
and the comment upon it by his face and voice was very different from 
that of some later critics ! Whatever might be thought of the poem, 
' his face was as a book where men might read strange matters,' and 
he announced the fate of his hero in prophetic tones. There is a chaunt 
in the recitation both of Coleridge and Wordsworth which acts as a 
spell upon the hearer and disarms the judgment. Perhaps they have 
deceived themselves by making habitual use of this ambiguous accom- 
paniment. Coleridge's manner is more full, animated and varied ; 
Wordsworth's more equable, sustained and internal. The one might 
be termed more dramatic, the other more lyrical. Coleridge has told me 
himself that he liked to compose in walking over uneven ground, or 
breaking through the straggling branches of a copse-wood ; whereas 
Wordsworth always wrote (if he could) walking up and down a straight 
gravel walk, or in some spot where the continuity of his verse met with 
no collateral interruption." 

In this spring arrangements were made for ih&> publication of a 
volume of poems which should contain contributions by both poets, 
viz. , the Lyrical Ballads mentioned in the extract above. In congenial 
work upon these poems, and in the sort of life of which Hazlitt gives a 
glimpse, the summer passed 

That summer under whose indulgent skies, 
Upon smooth Quantock's airy ridge we roved 
Unchecked, or loitered 'mid her sylvan combs, 
Thou in bewitching words, with happy heart, 
Didst chaunt the vision of that Ancient Man 
The bright eyed Mariner, and rueful woes 
Didst utter of the lady Christabel ; 

LIFE. 83 

And I, associate with such labour, steeped 
In soft forgetfulness the livelong hours, 
Murmuring of him who, joyous leap, was found 
After the perils of his moonlight ride.* 

Meanwhile Coleridge's pecuniary difficulties continued to harass 
him. He had some thoughts of taking charge of a Unitarian congrega- 
tion, when the two brothers Wedgewood, sons of the famous potter, 
unsolicited, offered him an annuity of 150 for life without con- 
ditions, but with the purpose of enabling him to devote himself ex- 
clusively to his literary and philosophical work. Thus released at least 
from immediate financial pressure, Coleridge in company with Words- 
worth and Dorothy set out for study in Germany September, 1798. In 
the same month the Lyrical Ballads were published ; though one of the 
most notable volumes in the development of English poetry, it attracted 
no great attention. The poems by Coleridge which it contained were 
The Ancient Mariner, Tli<> Nightingale, The Foster Mother's Tale and 
The Dungeon ; Wordworth's contributions were much more numerous 
and occupied something like two- thirds of the book. 

In Germany Coleridge and the Wordsworths separated, and the 
former during the nine months of his sojourn devoted himself to gain- 
ing familiarity with the language, literature, and people of the country. 
Some years later he became a diligent student of the latest develop- 
ments of its philosophy. He thus prepared himself for one of his dis- 
tinctive services that of being a pioneer in the work of introducing 
German literature, and German critical and philosophical tendencies 
and ideas into the intellectual life of England. 

At his return home in the summer of 1799 Coleridge had not attained 
his twenty-seventh year, yet already his poetic activity was nearly at, 
^an end and his best days were behind hjm, The weaknesses which 
were to prove disastrous had already won an ascendancy over him : 
dilatoriness, visionariness, inability to settle down to any one task, or to 
persist in any fixed course of life. His energies were wasted in sketch- 
ing plausible and magnificent designs which he lacked continuity of 
purpose to complete. What he did subsequently achieve, was mostly 
work written for the moment under the pressure of pecuniary need, or 
hastily and imperfectly finished because procrastinated to the last 

* From Wordsworth's Prelude ; the allusion in the last line is to the story of " Betty 
Foy" (The Idiot Boy), which, along with Simon Lee, Goody Blake, We are Seven, 
Expostulation and Reply, The Tables Turned, Lines Written about Tintern Abbey, 
and others, was included in the Lyrical Ballad*. 


moment. We can only in the briefest fashion outline these thirty- 
five years of weakness and misery, of broken purposes and fragmentary 

After his arrival in England he occupied himself with newspaper 
work in London, and in making a poetical version of Schiller's Wcdlen- 
stein, pronounced to be one of the best translations in the lan- 
guage and superior even to the original. Abandoning, in a few 
months, his connection with the press, he settled in the summer of 
1800 at Keswick, in the Lake country, that _he might be near Words- 
worth. His health, which had never been good, began to be seriously 
impaired ; he suffered intensely from rheilmatic pains ; and in order to 
get relief resorted to laudanum, of which he had probably made 
dangerously free use for some years back. The natural result followed ; 
before 1803 he had become a slave of opium. The physical and mental 
effects of this indulgence rapidly intensified the natural weaknesses of 
his character. To the other troubles, domestic infelicity was soon 
added. Coleridge and his wife lacked common tastes, interests and 
sympathies ; on her side there are said to have been faults of temper ; 
that on his side he might give cause for such faults, is sufficiently 
apparent. Though a deeply affectionate father, home became more 
and more distasteful to him. Of his own weakness, of the frittering 
away of his powers and time, he was fully conscious. A profound dis- 
couragement overwhelmed him ; his letters have the tone of premature 
old age. His state of mind is depicted with extraordinary power in 
the latest of his great poetic achievements, the Ode on Dejection,* 
wTitten April 4th, 1802. "No sadder cry from the depths," writes 
Mr. Dykes Campbell, " wasaver uttered even by Coleridge, none more 
sincere, none more musical. yHe felt that poetically he was dead,* and 
that if not dead spiritually, he had lost his spiritual identity.") In 
1803 he began a trip through Scotland in company with William and 
Dorothy Wordsworth. But the companionship even of these, his 
dearest friends, was in his morbid state unendurable to him ; he 
quitted them and completed the journey on foot and alone. With the 
idea that he might be benefited by a warmer climate he sailed to 
Malta in the spring of 1804. There and in Italy he remained for some 
two years, and won, as elsewere and always, warm friends. Though 
during some months he acted as secretary to the Governor of Malta, his 
morbid, mental and physical condition is abundantly manifest in his 
correspondence. In August, 1806, he landed in England, as he writes, 

* Printed in the Appendix to this volume. 

LIFE. 85 

" ill, penniless and worse than homeless. " For some time he neither 
returned home nor communicated with his family. In 1808 he carried 
out a plan which had long been in his mind of giving a course of 
lectures in London on Shakespeare and Milton ; and subsequently in 
various years similar courses were given. 

The lectures inevitably suffered under the usual drawbacks ; their 
preparation was either delayed to the last moment, or, sometimes, 
altogether omitted. Being unwritten, they were dependent on the 
circumstances of the moment, were more or less desultory, and varied 
between excellence and positive dulness. Yet little justice as he did 
to himself in these lectures, the inadequate short-hand reports of such 
as have been preserved, suffice to show (in the words of Mr. Campbell) 
"that Coleridge's audiences probably heard the finest literary criticism 
which has ever been given in English." 

At times there Avere intervals of amendment in Coleridge's mental 
and physical condition ; and in one of these periods, in 1808, he began 
tHe publication of a periodical entitled The Frienfl. which, of course, 
was a failure. In 1810, through certain misunderstandings, Coleridge 
lost what was one of the chief of his few remaining sources of happi- 
ness and satisfaction, the friendship ot the VV orcisworths. r From this 
date to the year 1816 extends the darkest period of his life. Nearly 
all his old friends were alienated ; he was involved in debt ; his sources 
of income were most precarious writing for the daily press, lecturing, 
and the gifts of those who admired or loved him. In 1812 Josiah 
Wedgewood withdrew his half of the annuity which had been granted 
in 1708 ; the other half had been secured to Coleridge on the death of 
Thomas Wedgewood some years before. This part of his income Cole- 
ridge had all along devoted to the maintenance of his wife and family. 
A transient gleam of prosperity fell upon his path in the same year 
when his drama entitled Remorse (in reality the old play of Osorio 
rewritten), put upon the stage through the good offices of Byron, 
proved a decided success, and brought upwards of 400 to the author. 

De Quincey^ who himself bestowed an anonymous gift of 300 upon 
Coleridge, has said : "Beyond all me.M who ever perhaps have lived. 
[Coleridge] found means to engage a constant succession of most j 
faithful friends. He received the services of sisters, brothers, daugh- 
ters, sons, from the hands of strangers attracted to him by no possible 
impulses but those of reverence for his intellect and love for his 
gracious nature. Perpetual relays were laid along his path of life of 
zealous and judicious supporters." So it was now ; if old friends were 


alienated, others took their place. With special devotion did a cer- 
tain Mr. and Mrs. Morgan tend him during this melancholy time ; 
with them he lived almost continuously from 1S10 to 18J[fi ; Iiis own 
home he did not even visit during the last twenty-two years of his 
life._ Amidst so many causes for depression, the chief cause of all, 
the opium habit, gained an even greater ascendancy. To the misery 
which this slavery caused, he gives expression in a letter to Cottle, 
dated April 26th, 1814: " For ten years the anguish of my spirit has 
been indescribable, the sense of my danger staring, but the conscious- 
ness of my GUILT worse, far worse than all. I have prayed with drops 
of agony on my brow, trembling not only. before the justice of my 
Maker, but even before the mercy of my Redeemer. ' I gave thee so 
many talents, what hast thou done with them ?' . . . Had I but 
a few hundred pounds, but 200 half to send to Mrs. Coleridge, and 
half to place myself in a private madhouse where I could procure 
nothing but what a physician thought proper, and where a medical 
attendant could be constantly with me for two or three months (in 
less than that time life or death would be determined), there might be 
hope. Now there is none ! O God ! how willingly would I place 
myself under Dr. Fox, in his establishment ; for my case is a species of 
madness, only that it is a derangement, an utter impotence of the 
vclition and not of the intellectual faculties. You bid me rouse 
myself ; go bid a man paralytic in lx>th arms to rub them briskly 
together and that will cure him. ' Alas,' he would reply, ' that I 
cannot move my arms is my complaint and my misery.'" The plan 
indicated in this extract Coleridge did have the strength of will to 
carry out in April 1816. By the advice of a distinguished medical 
authority he put himself under the care and control of Mr. James Gjll- 
man, a. siirgpnn of Hiu-lipr fl ,tp. Beneath this physician's roof he spent the 
remaining eighteen years of his life broken in health, with a certain 
weakness "of volition, with a dreaminess and vagueness in his processes 
of thought which precluded him from accomplishing the best results in 
his intellectual work, yet in comparative and increasing placidity, busy 
after his own fashion, producing a certain number of books, and exer- 
cising a greater influence, perhaps, by his extraordinary talk, which 
attracted to him many thoughtful men, especially of the younger gen- 
erations. One of the young men who visited him was Thomas Carlyle, 
who gives an extraordinarily vivid, if not very sympathetic, picture 
of the man and his conversation, which may in part be quoted : 
"Coleridge sat on the brow of Highgate Hill, in those years, looking 
down on London and its smoke tumult, like a sage escaped from the 

LIFE. 87 

inanity of life's battle ; attracting towards him the thoughts of innum- 
erable brave souls still engaged there. His express contributions to 
poetry, philosophy, or any specific province of human literature or 
enlightenment, had been small and sadly intermittent ; but he had, 
especially among young inquiring men, a kind of prophetic or magician 
character. He was thought to hold, he alone in England, the key of 
German and other Transcendentalisms. I] . . A sublime man ; who, 
alone in those dark days, had saved his crown of spiritual manhood ; 
escaping from the black materialisms, and revolutionary deluges, with 
'God, Freedom, Immortality' still his; a king of men. . . . The 
good man was now getting old, towards sixty, perhaps ; and gave you 
the idea of a life that had been full of sufferings ; a life heavy-laden, 
half-vanquished, still swimming painfully in seas of manifold physical 
and other bewilderment. Brow and head were round, and of massive 
weight, but the face was flabby and irresolute. The deep eyes, of light 
hazel, were as full of sorrow as of inspiration ; confused pain looked 
mildly from them, as in a kind of mild astonishment. The whole figure 
and air, good and amiable otherwise, might be called flabby and irreso- 
lute ; expressive of weakness under the possibility of strength. . . . 
Nothing could be more copious than his talk ; and furthermore it was 
always, virtually or literally, of the nature of a monologue ; suffering 
no interruption, however reverent ; hastily putting aside all foreign 
additions, annotations, or most ingenuous desires for elucidation, as 
well-meant superfluities which would never do. Besides, it was talk 
not flowing any whither like a river, but spreading every whither in 
inextricable current and regurgitations like a lake or sea ; terribly 
deficient in definite goal or aim, nay often in logical intelligibility."* 
On the other hand, De Quincey in his Recollections of the Lake Poets, 
speaking of Coleridge's conversation, says : "I can assert, upon my long 
and intimate knowledge of Coleridge's mind, that logic the most severe 
was as inalienable from his modes of thinking as grammar from his 
language." Coleridge's later prose works give one the impression that 
Carlyle was much nearer the truth than De Quincey ; but Carlyle cer- 
tainly fails to do justice to the interest, originality, and stimulating 
quality of Coleridge's talk, fully evidenced in the volume of Table Talk 
which was published from notes taken by his nephew. His chief publi- 
cations of these later years were, in 1817, a collected edition of his poems 
entitled SihyUlne Leaves and his Biographlo, Literaria, the most inter- 
esting of his prose writings, though desultory and uneven ; the Aid* to 

*lhe whole passage from which this is quoted may be read in the eighth chapter 
of the Life of Sterling. 


Reflection (1825) which is one of the main sources of the Broad Church 
development in the Church of England ; and On the Constitution in 
Church and State, which is said to have been a factor in the High 
Church movement. As the last two works indicate, his later interest 
was largely centred on religious questions ; he had long ceased to be a 
Unitarian and become a strong adherent and apologist of the National 
Church. Moreover, he believed himself in possession of an original and 
far-reaching philosophical system which he was forever striving to 
embody in what was to be his magnw.n opus ; but, it is probable, here 
as elsewhere, he mistook vague and disjointed visions for a perfected 
system. In his later years, pleasant relations were resumed with the 
members of his own family and with the Wordsworths. In July 1834 
his life found a peaceful and not unwelcome close. " A brief dawn of 
unsurpassed promise and achievement (Mr. Dykes Campbell thus sums 
up) ; ' a trouble ' as of ' clouds and weeping rain ' ; then a long summer 
evening's work done by ' the setting sun's pathetic light ' such was 
Coleridge's day. " 

Unique and precious as was Coleridge's contribution to poetry, 
higher as his writings in that department rank than anything he 
produced within the realms of criticism or philosophy, it seems likely 
that he was by natural endowment rather a thinker than a creative 
artist. Certain it is, that while poetry was the main pursuit of 
perhaps not more than a year or two of his life, the search after truth 
is the one thing that gave a constant unity and hope to his otherwise 
broken existence. He sought truth, not through the examination of 
the external world but through books and the interrogation of the 
mind itself ; he was a metaphysician and an introspective psychologist. 
His intellect was subtle and analytic. He loved, like a scholastic philo- 
sopher, to make endless subdivisions and minute distinctions, and to 
discover or invent the apt word to designate them. In his very acute- 
ness and many-sidedness there was weakness ; these qualities continu- 
ally led him off upon ramifications of his ideas, now in this direction, now 
in that ; and this, in combination with his innate infirmity of purpose, 
gave rise to a persistent discursiveness which prevented him attain- 
ing to any clear fundamental principles either in philosophy or criti- 
cism. His ardent disciple, Mr. J. H. Green, laboured in vain for 
some thirty years to decipher from the mass of Coleridge's manu- 
scripts the philosophical conceptions that were to give unity to his 
thought; and the ordinary student does not need to go further than 
the Biographia Literaria to see how incomplete, disjointed and promis- 


cuous was the thinking of Coleridge. Yet these weaknesses did not 
prevent him throwing off brilliant, suggestive and stimulating ideas. 
It is upon such fragmentary work that Coleridge's high reputation as 
a literary critic mainly rests ; upon the pencilled jottings on the 
margins of his Shakespeare or other books, rather than upon any 
general principles of criticism that he enunciated. If, however, he 
did not enunciate, he exemplified in criticism a new method and spirit. 
The criticism of the 18th century, of which Samuel Johnson is the 
greatest exponent, set up an absolute standard and one which had to 
do mainly with qualities that appeal to the reasoning powers ; by the 
correspondence of any work with this standard praise or condemnation 
was meted out. Coleridge is the first and the greatest English critic 
who attempted to judge each work on its own basis, by considering 
whether it attained that at which it aimed, and who made allowance for 
its effect upon the whole nature of the reader upon his feelings as well 
as upon his reason. This is the method of the 19th century, the 
inevitable method of a time which looks at all things from the point 
of view of development, of history and environment. 

Such a type of mind and such pursuits are likely to be very unfavour- 
able to the production of poetry, which deals not with abstractions 
but with the concrete, not with ideas but with actual experience ; and 
it is not improbable that, even apart from the effects of opium, Cole- 
ridge's critical, analytic, and abstract activities would in any case have 
paralyzed his poetic productiveness. The amazing thing is not that a 
man with such tastes and pursuits should write little poetry, but that he 
should write any. Yet it is not difficult to see the connection between 
the sort of poetry that he did produce, and the characteristics of the 
man and thinker. His successful poems falls into two classes. In the 
first we have poems of a character similar to The Lime-tree Bower, 
Frost at Midnight,* etc., pieces which at the time were decidedly 
original and novel. Wordsworth enlarged the bounds of poetry by 
boldly annexing themes that treated of the familiar persons and things 
of commonplace life ; the excellence of poetry, he felt, did not depend 
upon the extraordinary or dignified character of the subject presented, 
but upon the light and emotion with which the poet clothed them, 
i.e., upon imaginative power. In a similar yet different fashion Cole- 
ridge extended the limits of poetry by giving a picture of familiar and 
inartificial trains of mingled thought and feeling that passed through his 
own mind nrt because these were remarkable, but because they were 

This poem is to oe found in the Appendix. 


human ; and because, since to him they were beautiful and interesting, 
they would probably find a responsive chord in the souls of his fellow 
men. These pieces, somewhat lacking in form, in development and 
unity, are best designated by a word which their author freely employed 
in the first edition, effusions, spontaneous outpourings under the influ- 
ence of emotion. Or they may be called reveries, the reveries of the 
introspective thinker prone to dwell reflectively upon the processes of 
his own mind. " The poet in these effusions, places himself in some 
environment of beauty, submits his mind to the suggestions of the 
time and place, falls as it were of free will into a reverie, in which the 
thoughts and images meander stream-like at their own pleasure, or 
rather as if the power of volition were suspended and the current must 
needs follow the line of least resistance ; then, as if by good luck, comes 
the culmination or some soft subsidence and the poem ceases."* 

Closely akin to these effusions are the one or two odes in which the 
poet, rousing himself with an energy unusual with him, deliberately 
gives a larger measure of artistic form to his thoughts and feelings : finds 
beginning, middle and close for his theme, and reflects the developed 
character of his thought, in the elaborated metrical form which he 
adopts. In all the characteristics which we specially connect with the 
ode, in dignity of theme and structure, in development and artistic 
unity of thought, in emotional quality, in beauty, elaboration and 
sweep of metrical form, one ode at least, that entitled France, is 
unsurpassed in the language. 

The second class of poems is that which includes The Ancient Mariner 
and Christabel. Here we have no longer reverie, but dream. This/s the 
objective, as the other class is the subjective, part of Coleridge's work ; 
but these poems are scarcely objective as representing the external 
world. We have seen that Coleridge's interest and familiarity was with 
abstractions, not the concrete realities of life. He was, as Swinburne 
says, like the footless Bird of Paradise " who have only wings to sustain 
them, and live their lives out in a perpetual flight through the clearest 
air of heaven. Coleridge was the reverse of Antaeus ; the contact of 
earth took all the strength out of him." The objective world of his 
poetry is not therefore human life, but the visions which, for this 
prince of dreamers, had such reality and beauty that he can impart 
them as permanent sources of delight to others. 

Of one sort of reality however, as is fully exemplified in both classes 
of poems, Coleridge does have firm hold natural beauty. Though he 

*Dowden, New Studies in Literature, pp. 331-2- 


does not make so much of nature, is not so widely familiar with her as 
is Wordsworth, yet when he does fix his eye upon her, lie even surpasses 
Wordsworth in the minuteness and accuracy of his perceptions, "a 
singular watchfulness for the minute fact and expression of natural 
scenery, pervading all he writes." From this source he gives back- 
ground and picturesque beauty to his psychological effusions ; and 
contrast, reality, and relief to his romantic dreams. 

Finally, Coleridge possessed the gift of imagination and the mastery 
of poetic technique: the power (no doubt within a limited sphere) 
of seeing things in an atmosphere of beauty, finding in them fresh- 
ness and interest and charm ; and, secondly, the power of embodying 
these perceptions in exquisitely musical combinations of sounds, in apt 
and beautiful diction and imagery. These are the essential gifts of the 
poet. So that if the dominant tendencies of Coleridge's mind and the 
habits of his life seem unfavourable to, nay, almost inconsistent with, 
poetic work, he yet possessed in extraordinarily high measure the 
mastery of poetic technique, that which differentiates the poets, who 
are always few, from the many who are abundantly gifted with poetic 
sense and feeling. In Kabla Khan, which he says was composed in 
a dream, we find more, perhaps, than in any other poem in our litera- 
ture, pure poetry without anything else, i.e., without the intellectual 
substance, the ideas, the representation of life, and without the 
grandeur and intensity of emotion which almost universally form so 
large a part of the highest poetry. It is the comparative lack in 
Coleridge's work (strange in a philosophic thinker) of this substantial 
foundation of reality, that makes such a poem as The Ancient, Mariner 
a puzzle to many readers ; it is the presence of imagination, of beauty, 
of technical excellence in it that kindles poetic spirits like Swinburne to 
what seems terms of extravagant eulogy: "Of his best verses I 
venture to affirm that the world has nothing like them, and can never 
have ; that they are of the highest kind and of their own. The highest 
lyric work is either passionate or imaginative ; of passion Coleridge 
has nothing ; but for height and perfection of imaginative quality he is 
the greatest of lyric poets." 

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Of biographies the most accurate and tullest (though 
extremely condensed) is by J. Dykes Campbell (Macmillan & Co.),4he 
article in the Dictionary of National Biography by Leslie Stephen gives 
the facts ; sketches of a more popular character by H. D. Traill and 
HallCaine in Men of Letters and Great Writers series respectively ; Prof. 
Brandl's Coleridge and the English Romantic School is translated into 


English and published by John Murray, 1877 ; two interesting volumes of 
Letters have been collected by a grandson of Coleridge and are published 
by Macmillan. The completest edition of Coleridge's works is published 
in 7 vols. by Harper's, N. Y. ; his more interesting prose writings, his 
criticism, etc., are edited by T. Ashe in convenient form, published by 
Geo. Bell & Sons ; the poetical works are published by Macmillan in 
4 vols., but better suited to the student is the one vol. edition edited 
by Mr. Dykes Campbell and also published by Macmillan. Of essays 
on Coleridge and his work the following may be mentioned : by Walter . 
Pater in Ward's English Poets; by Mr. Swinburne in his Essays and 
Studies ; by Mr. Leslie Stephen in Hours in a Library ; by Prof. Dowden 
in New Studies in Literature ; by J. S. Mill in Dissertations and Dis- 
cussions ; by Rev. Stopford Brooke in The Golden Book of Coleridge ; 
by Dr. Garnett in Essays of an Ex-Librarian. 


Text. First published anonymously in Lyrical Ballads, September, 
1798 ; various changes were made in the text of this poem in the second 
edition (1800) of the Lyrical Ballads; and again when it was for the 
first time published among Coleridge's own poems in Sibylline Leaves, 
1817. In other editions than those mentioned the alterations are few 
and insignificant. These various readings, with the exception of very 
minor ones, are given in the following notes ; it will be observed that a 
large number of them are made with the aim of getting rid of excessive 
grotesqueness and needless archaisms. 

Composition. Wordsworth, in 1843, dictated to Miss Fenwick the 
following account of the origin of this poem : "In the autumn of 1797 he 
[Coleridge], my sister, and myself started from Alfoxden pretty late in 
the afternoon, with a view to visit Linton and the Valley of Stones near 
to it ; and, as our united funds were very small, we agreed to pay the 
expense of the tour by writing a poem, to be sent to the ' New Monthly 
Magazine,' set up by Phillips, the bookseller, and edited by Dr. Aikin. 
Accordingly we set off, -and proceeded along the Quantock Hills towards 
Watchet ; and in the course of this walk was planned the poem of the 
Ancient Mariner, founded on a dream, as Mr. Coleridge said, of his 
friend Mr. Cruikshank. Much the greatest part of the story was Mr. 
Coleridge's invention; but certain parts I myself suggested; for ex- 
ample, some crime was to be committed which should bring upon the 


Old Navigator, as Coleridge afterwards delighted to call him, the 
spectral persecution, as a consequence of that crime, and his own 
wanderings. I had been reading in Shelvock's Voyages, a day or two 
before, that, while doubling Cape Horn, they frequently saw albatrosses 
in that latitude, the largest sort of sea-fowl, some extending their 
wings twelve or. thirteen feet: 'Suppose,' said I, 'you represent him 
as having killed one of these birds on entering the South Sea, and that 
the tutelary spirits of these regions take upon them to avenge the 
crime.' The incident was thought fit for the purpose, and adopted 
accordingly. I also suggested the navigation of the ship by the dead 
men, but do not recollect that I had anything more to do with the 
scheme of the poem. The gloss with whih it was subsequently accom- 
panied was not thought of by either of us at the time, at least not a 
hint of it was given to me, and I have no doubt it was a gratuitous 
after-thought. We began the composition together, on that to me 
memorable evening. I furnished two or three lines at the beginning of 
the poem, in particular : 

' And listen'd like a three years' child, 
The Mariner had his will.' 

These trifling contributions -all but one, which Mr. C. has with un- 
necessary scrupulosity recorded, slipped out of his mind, as they well 
might, As we endeavoured to proceed conjointly (I speak of the same 
evening), our respective manners proved so widely different, that it 
would have been quite presumptuous in me to do anything but separate 
from an undertaking upon which Lcould only have been a clog." Such 
are the concrete facts ; in his Biograplda Literarta, chap, xiv, Cole- 
ridge, characteristically, gives the philosophical side of the inception of 
the poem : "During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were 
neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal 
points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a 
fai.thful adherence to the truth of Nature, and the power of giving the 
interest of novelty by the modifying colours of the imagination. The 
Sudden charm, which accidents of light and shade, which moonlighter 
sunset, diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to 
represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry 
of Nature. The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not 
recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In 
the one, the incidents and the agents were to be, in part at least, 
supernatural ; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the inter- 
esting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would 


naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real. And real 
in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever 
source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural 
agency. For the second class subjects were to be chosen from ordinary 
life ; the characters and incidents were to be such as will be found in 
every village and its vicinity where there is a meditative and feeling 
mind to seek after them, or to notice them when they present 

"In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads, in which it 
was agreed that my endeavours should be directed to persons and 
characters supernatural, or at least romantic ; yet so as to transfer 
from our inward nature a Uuman interest and a semblance of truth 
sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing 
suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. 
Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself as his 
object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to 
excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's 
attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness 
and the wonders of the world before us ; an inexhaustible treasure, but 
for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solici- 
tude, we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that 
neither feel nor understand. 

" With this view I wrote The Ancient Mariner, and was preparing, 
among ~other poems, the Dark Ladle and the Christabel, in which I 
should have more nearly realized my ideal than I had done in my first 
attempt. But Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more 
successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my 
compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an inter- 
polation of heterogeneous matter. Mr. Wordsworth added two or 
three poems, written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty, 
and sustained diction which is characteristic of his genius. In this 
form the Lyrical Ballads were published." In Dorothy Wordsworth's 
Journal (p. 14) it is stated that Coleridge 'brought his ballad [The 
Ancient Mariner'] finished' on March 23rd, 1798. 

Sources. The beauty and power of The Ancient Mariner are wholly 
due to Coleridge himself, but it is not uninteresting to note where he got 
suggestions for the material which he has so exquisitely woven into a 
unity. If we can trust Wordsworth's memory, the germ was a dream of 
, a neighbour, Mr. Cruikshank. The idea of the albatross was suggested 
by Wordsworth from Shelvocke's Voyages (see extract from this book 


on note to 1. 63 below) ; this fact is emphasized in a statement made 
to the Rev. A. Dyce : [The idea of] " shooting an albatross was mine ; 
for I had been reading Shelvocke's Voyages, which probably Coleridge 
never saw." It is probable that Coleridge obtained various hints from 
another account of a voyage by a certain Captain Thomas James which 
was published in 1633 : Strange and Dangerous Voyage in his 

intended Discovery of the North- West Passage into the South Sea. The 
following passages from this book are quoted in Mr. Dykes Campbell's 
notes as most likely to have given suggestions to the poet : ' All day and 
night, it snowed hard' (p. 11) ; 'The nights are very cold, so that our 
rigging freezes ' (p. 15) ; ' It proved very thicke foule weather, and the 
next day by two a Clocke in the morning we found ourselves incom- 
passed about with Ice ' (p. 6) ; ' We had Ice not farre off about us, and 
some pieces as high as our Top-mast-head ' (p. 7); 'We heard . 
the butt against a banke of Ice that lay on the shoare. It made a hollow 
and hideous noyse, like an over-fall of water, which made us reason 
among ourselves concerning it, for we were not able to see about us, it 
being darke night and foggie' (p. 8); ' The Ice . . . crackt all 
over the Bay, with a fearfull noyse' (p. 77). Finally, in a letter of a 
certain Paulinus, Bishop of Nola in the Fourth century (which it is 
quite possible Coleridge may have read), there is a narrative of a ship- 
wreck of which an old man is the sole survivor ; the ship was navigated 
by a crew of angels to the Lucanian shore, where the fishermen, taking 
the angels for soldiers, ran away from the ship until recalled by the 
old man, who showed them he was alone. 

So much for the material : the form and general conception of the 
poem were derived from fjhe'old ballads familiar to Coleridge in the 
collection which had been published by Bishop IV ivy in 1765, entitled 
Reliques of Ancient Poetry. To enable the student to see for himself 
from what sort of basis Coleridge worked in the matter of form, there 
are inserted in the Appendix to this volume two narrative ballads from 
Percy's collection. The first, Sir Patrick Spence, is one of the finest of 
these "the grand old ballad" as it is called by Coleridge himself in 
his Dejection; the second, Sir Cauline, seems most to resemble The 
Ancient Mariner in its general form;* and several details of language 
or expression common to it and the earliest edition of The Ancient 

* In his introduction to this Ballad the editor remarks : " There is something- peculiar 
in the metre of this old ballad ; it is not unusual to meet with redundant stanzas of 
six lines ; but the occasional insertion as a double third or fourth line, as ver. 31, 44, 
etc., is an irregularity I do not remember to have seen elsewhere." This is a device 
freely adopted by Coleridge. 


Mariner are indicative that this ballad was specially present in the 
poet's mind. Other antique phrases which give colour to Coleridge's 
ballad are evidently drawn not merely from Percy's volume, but from 
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser and other earlier authors with whom 
Coleridge was familiar. 

The title of the poem in the first edition, 1798, was "The Rime of the 
Ancient Mariner"; in the ed. of 1800 it became "The Ancient Mariner, 
A Poet's Reverie." To the addition Lamb objects in a letter to 
Wordsworth: "I am sorry Coleridge has christened his Ancient 
Mariner, "A Poet's Reverie"; it is as bad as Bottom the Weaver's 
declaration that he is not a lion, but only the scenical representation 
of a lion. What new idea is gained by this title, but one subversion of 
all credit which the tale should force upon us of its truth !" In 
1817 the original title was restored without the antique spelling; 
this latter change was in harmony with that abandonment of needless 
archaisms which characterized the edition of 1800 and subsequent 

Rime. This use of the word "rime" (the proper form of the word 
commonly spelt "rhyme") in the sense of a poem is common in earlier 
English, e.g., Chaucer, Prologue to Sir Thopas: 

For other tale certes can I noon, 
But of a ryme I lerned longe agoon. 

Ancient is used sometimes in the sense of 'aged,' e.g. , Shakespeare, 
Winter's Tale, IV, iv, 76: "The year growing ancient;" the word as 
used here is doubtless also intended (as Dr. Sykes notes in his edition 
of this poem) to suggest not merely that the Mariner was aged, but 
also that he belonged to the olden times. 

In the first edition there was prefixed to the poem the following 
argument : 

"How a ship having passed the Line was driven by Storms to the cold Country 
towards the South Pole ; and how from thence she made her course to the Tropical 
Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean ; and of the strange things that befell ; and in 
what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country." 

In 1800 this was somewhat changed : 

"How a Ship having first sailed to the Equator, was driven by Storms to the cold 
Country towards the South Pole ; how the Ancient Mariner, cruelly, and in contempt of 
the laws of hospitality, killed a Sea-bird ; and how he was followed by many strange 
Judgements ; and in what manner he came back to his own Country." 

In the edition of 1817 the argument is omitted, its function being 
filled by the marginal Gloss which now appears for the first time, as 


does also the Latin motto quoted from the Archceologice Philosophies 
of 'Thomas Burnet, a master of the Charterhouse School and a chaplain 
to William III. The work quoted professes to be a philosophical 
account of the origin of the world based upon the narrative in Genesis. 
The following is a translation : 

I can easily believe that there are more invisible than visible beings in the universe. 
But who shall describe to us the vast family of these, their ranks, relationships, 
differences and special gifts ? What business employs them ? What are their dwelling- 
places? Human wit has ever striven towards a knowledge of these things, but it 
has never attained thereto. I will own, notwithstanding, that it is profitable sometimes 
to contemplate in the mind, as in a picture, the image of the greater and better world, 
lest the soul, accustomed to the trifles of our present life, should be narrowed over- 
much, and altogether s!nk to paltry cogitations. But, meanwhile, we must be vigilant 
to keep to the truth and to observe moderation that we distinguish things certain from 
things uncertain, day from night. 

The Gloss in the margin should not be overlooked ; it sometimes 
throws light upon the narrative and is, as Pater says, "a composition 
of quite a different shade of beauty and merit from that of the verse 
which it accompanies, connecting this, the chief poem of Coleridge, with 
his philosophy, and emphasizing in it that psychological element of 
which I have spoken, its curious soul-lore." 

1. The opening is in the manner of several ancient ballads, e.g., The 
Friar of Orders Gray (Percy's Rdiques) : 

It was a friar of orders gray 
Walkt forth to tell his beades. 

and The Beggar's Daughter (Percy's Reliques) : 

It was a blind beggar, had long lost his sight. 

3. Strange oaths are characteristic of mediaeval times ; in the Tale of 
Gamelyn, formerly ascribed to Chaucer, the porter swears "by Goddes 
berde " ; that swearing by the beard was not uncommon, seems to be 
indicated by Touchstone's words to the ladies in As You Like It, I, ii : 

Swear by your beards that I am a knave. 

4. In earlier editions 

Now wherefore stoppest me ? 

1 la the earlier editions the following two stanzas occupied the 
place of 11. 9-12 : 

But still he holds the wedding guest 

There was a Ship, quoth he 
' Nay, if thou'st got a laughsome tale, 

Marinere ! come with me." 



He holds him with his skinny hand, 

Quoth he, there was a Ship 
' Now get thee hence, thou grey -beard Loon 

Or my staff shall make thee skip. ' 

11. loon. 'A base fellow'; cf. Macbeth, V, iii, "The devil damn 
thee black, thou cream-faced loon " ; Percy's Reliques, The Heir of 
Linne, 1. 75, "Another called him thriftless loone." It appears in the 
form ' lown ' in Othello, II, iii, as also in Lowland Scotch : see Burns, 
who spells the word ' ' loun. " 

12. eftspons. ' Forthwith ' ; an obsolete word which gives a poetic 
flavour; frequently found in Spenser, e.g., Faerie Queen, I, xi, 47: 
" Whereof whoso did eat, eftsoones did know Both good and ill." And 
in earlier writers, e.g. , St. George for England, 1. 299 (Percy's Reliques), 
"The -stout St. George eftsoon, he made the dragon follow." 

15*i'6i These lines are by Wordsworth. 

20: Mariner. The spelling of the edition of 1798 'Marinere' repre- 
sented a more antiquated pronunciation which would make the rhyme 
more perfect. See 1. 517. 

21. Note here and repeatedly through the poem internal rhyme ; cf., 
in Appendix, Sir Cauline, Pt. I, 1. 61, 1. 106. 

23. kirk. The representative in the Northern dialects of the A.S. 
eyrie; as 'church' is the development of the same A.S. word in the 
South. Percy says in the Essay on the Ancient Minstrels prefixed to his 
Reliques: "I cannot conclude the account of the ancient English 
Minstrels, without remarking that they are most of them represented 
to have been of the North of England. There is scarce an old historical 
song or ballad wherein a minstrel or harper appears, but he is character- 
ized, by way of eminence, to have been ' of the North Countree ' : and 
indeed the prevalence of the northern dialect in such compositions 
shows that this representation is real." 

32. bassoon. A musical instrument of the reed species ; from Ital. 
bassone, an augmentative from basso, bass. 

33. Cf. Sir Cauline, Pt. I, 11. 75-6 : 

The lady is gone to her own chaumbe 7 "-, 
Her maydens following bright. 

41-54. This passage is represented in the edition of 17P3 >/ the 
following : 

Listen, Stranger ! Storm and Wind, 

A Wind and Tempest strong ! 
For days and weeks it play'd us freaks 
Like Chaff we drove along. 


Listen, Stranger ! Mist and Snow 

And it grew wond'rous cauld : 
And Ice mast-high came floating by 

As green as Emerauld. 

In the edition of 1800 this was altered to 

But now the Northwind came more fierce, 

There came a Tempest strong 
And Southward still for days and weeks 

Like Chaff we drove along. 

And now there came both Mist and Snow 
And it grew wondrous cold. 

41. drawn (in the Gloss). "I have ventured to take the liberty of 
altering draivn into driven. As a matter of fact the ship was driven, 
not 'drawn' along. . . . Coleridge, I have no doubt, wrote driven, 
but in very small characters on the narrow margin of the Lyrical 
Ballads ; the word was misprinted drawn. " (Note by Dykes Campbell. ) 

45-50. For form of stanza, cf. Sir Cauline, Pt. I. , 11. 80-85. 

46. who was originally an interrogative, but is found as an indefinite 
in later English (see Abbot's Shakespearian Grammar, 257, Emerson's 
English Language, pp. 207-8): "Who steals my purse, steals trash," 
Othello, III, iii ; "And I will s<et this foot of mine as far As who goes 
farthest," Julius Caesar, I, iii. 

47. still. 'Continually,' 'ever'; cf. Tempest, I, ii, " The still-vexed 
Bermoothes," Mlds7 Night's Dream, III, i, " The summer still doth 
tend upon my state." 

51-62. Cf. quotations from Captain James' Voyage, p. 95, above. 

55. clifts. 'Cliffs.' The New English Dictionary quotes this passage 
under the head of ' clif t ' a form of ' cleft ' a fissure ; but the same 
authority states that ' clift ' is also a by-form of ' cliff' due to confusion 
between that word and ' clift ' a fissure, and is commonly found from 
16th to the 18th century ; it quotes from Marlowe's Tamburlalne and 
Roblmon Crusoe, I, iii.' See a'so Isaiah, Ivii, 5 : " Slaying the children 
in the valleys under clifts of the rocks." 

56. sheen. Cf. Hamlet, III, ii, Ifi/ ; " And thirty dozen moons with 
borrowed sheen ; " cf. note on 1. 314. 

57. In 1798 

Ne shapes of men pe beasts we ken. 

ken. Usually ' know,' but here ' perceive ' ; cf. Hakluyt's Voyages : 
"After many days they kenned land afar off," and Spenser's Faerie 
Quten, I, xii, 1 : 


Vere the main sheet, and bear up with the land 

The which afar is fairely to be kenn'd 

And seemeth safe from storms that may offend. 

So Paradise Lost, XI, 396 : 

Nor could his eyes not ken 
The empire of Negus. 

62. So the line stood (with the exception of of for in) in 1798 ; in 

1800 it read 

A wild and ceaseless sound. 

Subsequently Coleridge restored the line as in the text. 

swound. Archaic and provincial for ' swoon ' ; cf. Sir Cauline, Pt. 

II, 11. 171-4 : 

But he for pain and lacke of bloud 

Was fallen int6 a swounde, 
And there all waltering in his gore, 
Lay lifeless on the grounde. 

and Shakespeare's Lucrece, 1,485, fol : 

Lo, here weeps Hecuba, here Priam dies, 
Here manly Hector faints, here Troilus swounds, 
Here friend by friend in bloody channel lies 
And friend to friend gives unadvised wounds. 

The insertion of d exemplifies a common tendency ; cf . ' sound ' (Fr. 
son) ', ' bound,' prepared (Middle Eng. boune) ; ' round,' to whisper 
(from runian), and such vulgarisms as 'gownd' for 'gown.' 

63. Albatross. " The common albatross is the largest of web-footed 
birds, measuring four feet in length and ten to seventeen feet in spread 
of wings. It is often seen at a great distance from land, and abounds in 
the southern seas ; often approaches very near vessels and follows for a 
considerable time." (Chamber's Encyclopaedia.) The use which the poet 
makes of the bird was probably suggested by a passage in Shelvocke's 

Voyage round the World: "One would think it impossible that any- 
thing living could subsist in so rigid a climate [neighbourhood of Cape 
Horn] ; and indeed, we all observed, that we had not the sight of one 

i fish since we were come to the Southward of the streights of le Mair, 
not one sea-bird, except a disconsolate black Albitross, who accom- 
panied us for several days, hovering about us as if lost himself, till 
Hatley (my second Captain) observing, in one of his melancholy fits, 
that the bird was always hovering near us, imagined from his colour 

i that it might be some ill omen. That which, I suppose, induced him 
the more to incourage his superstition was the continued series of 

i contrary, tempestuous winds which had oppressed us ever since we had 


got into this sea. But be that as it would, after some fruitless at- 
tempts, at length, shot the Albitross, not doubting (perhaps) that we 
should have a fair wind after it." 

64. Thorough and 'through' are variants of the same word and 
originally employed indifferently, but in course of time each has been 
assigned a function of its own. (This is a common phenomenon in 
language, cf. 'antic' and 'antique'; 'metal' and 'mettle'.) For 
similar use of ' thorough ' where ' through ' would ordinarily be em- 
ployed in modern English see Wordsworth's To the Daisy, 1. 8, also 
A Gest of Robyn Node, 250 (Gummere's Old English Ballads). 

' By dere worthy God,' sayd Robin, 

' To seche all England thorowe, 
Yet found I never to my pay 
A moche better borowe." 

65. In the earlier editions (i.e., before 1817) "And an it were," etc. 
67. In the earlier editions 

The Marineres gave it biscuit-worms. 

69. thunder-fit. "Fit," a paroxysm in a disease, hence transferred 
(as here) to any sudden, violent and transitory activity. 

76. vespers. Commonly "evening prayers" (cf. 11. 595-6 of this 
poem), but here in its etymological sense 'evenings' ; cf. Antony and 
Cleopatra, IV, xiv, " they are black vesper's pageants," the only 
occasion on which Shakespeare uses the word. 

83-86. In the earlier editions 

The sea came up upon the right, 

Out of the Sea came he ; 
And broad as a weft upon the left 

Went down into the Sea 

83. The change in direction of the ship may have been suggested by 
the doubling of Cape Horn in Shelvocke's Voyages. 

91. The use of ' and ' at the beginning of sentences, and its frequent 
repetition are characteristic of the old ballads, as of all simple and naive 
writing ; cf. children's compositions. 

92. 'em for hem, originally dative plural of the third personal pro- 
noun of which 'the,' 'his,' 'her,' and 'it ' are survivals. 

95-96. These two lines are not in the ed. 1798. Repetition is another 
characteristic of the simple and naive style of the ballad ; cf. Sir Patrick 



97. In ed. of 1802 "like an angel's head. 

98. uprist. Used here as past tense of uprise ; but properly the 3rd 
sing. pres. indie., as in Chaucer's Compleynt of Mara, 1. 4 : " For when 
the sonne uprist, then wol ye sprede." But Chaucer also uses it as a 
past, e.g., Reve's Tale, 1. 329. 

103. In the earlier editions "The breezes blew." 

104. " In Sibylline Leaves [1817] the line was printed, 

The furrow streamed off free. 
And Coleridge put this footnote : ' In the former edition the line was, 

The furrow follow'd free. 

But I had not been long on board a ship before I perceived that this 
was the image as seen by a spectator from the shore, or from another 
vessel. From the ship itself the wake appears like a brook flowing off 
from the stern.' But in 1828 and after, the old line was restored." 
(Dykes Campbell. ) 

111. All. An intensive adverb to the phrase which follows ; cf. A 
Gest of Robyn Hode (Gummere's Old English Ballads), 291, " All by the 
butte he stood, " and 322 

Forth he yede to London towne 
AH for to tell our kinge, 

and Gay's Black-eyed Susan, "All in the Downs the fleet was moored." 
copper. Refers to colour. 
112-113. This indicates that they had reached the tropics. 

117-118. painted. Cf. Hamlet, II, ii : 

his sword 

.... seem'd i' the air to stick : 
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood. 

123-126. Dr. Sykes quotes : "During a calm .... some parts 
of the sea seemed covered with a kind of slime : and some small sea 
animals were swimming about. The most conspicuous of which were 
of the gelatinous, or medma kind, almost globular ; and another sort 
smaller, that had a white, or shining appearance, and were very 
numerous. Some of these last were taken up, and put into a glass cup, 
with some salt water, in which they appeared like small scales, or bits 
of silver, when at- rest. . . . When they began to swim about, 
. . . . they emitted the brightest colours of the most precious 
gems, according to their position with respect to the light. Sometimes 
they appeared quite pellucid, at other times assuming various tints of 


blue, from a pale sapphirine, to a deep violet colour, which were 
frequently mixed with a ruby or opaline redness, and glowed with a 
strength sufficient to illuminate the vessel and water. These colours 
appeared most vivid, when the glass was held to a strong light ; and 
mostly vanished, on the subsiding of the animals to the bottom, when 
they had a brownish cast. But, with candle light, the colour was, 
chiefly, a beautiful, pale green, tinged with a burnished gloss ; and, in 
the dark, it had a faint appearance of glowing fire. " A Voyage to the 
Pacific Ocean ... by Captain James Cook. Lond., 1784, vol. ii, 
p. 257 : bk. iii, ch. 13. 

123. In the earlier editions " The very deeps." 

127. rout. A company or troop, with the associated idea, perhaps, 
of tumult and disorder ; cf. Adam Bell (Percy's Reliques), 11. 87-8 : 

She was ware of the justice and shirife both, 
Wyth a full great route. 

128. death-fires. Luminous appearances supposed to be seen above 
dead bodies. In the Nc.w English Dictionary this is the earliest example 
of the word quoted. 

133. gloss. The references to authorities are inserted to give a 
mediaeval colour. Joae/ihus, the well-known Jewish historian (lived in 
the first century A.D. ), does not specially treat of spirits or angels, but 
Michael Psettus, a philosopher of Constantinople who lived in the llth 
century, wrote concerning spirits in his TTEUI ivspyeiac; dai/tovuv tiiaZoyoq. 

139. well a-day. Supposed corruption of the old interjection " Wei- 
away " which, in turn, comes from "wa la wa," i.e., woe lo woe; 
common in earlier literature, e.g., in Percy's Beliques, Adam Be.ll, 
III, 1. 7-8 : 

For nowe is my dear husband slayne. 
Alas ! and wel-a-way ! 

and Tlie He*r of Linne, 11. 65-6 : 

" Nowe well-aday," sayd the heire of Linne, 
" Nowe well-aday, and woe is me ! " 


143-148. In 1798 this Part opens with 

I saw a something in the Sky 

No bigger than my fist ; 
At first it seem'd a little speck, etc. 


In 1800 : 

So past a weary time ; each throat 

Was parch'd and glaz'd each eye, 
When looking westward, I beheld 

A something in the sky. 

The reading in the text first appears in 1817. 

152. I wist. This phrase has probably arisen from confusion of the 
old adverb ' gewiss,' later form ' ywiss' or ' i-wiss,' meaning 'certainly,' 
with the verb 'witan' to know, present tense 'wat,' preterit 'wiste.' 
(See Skeat's Etymological Dictionary.) 'I wiss' is t a common form 
in ballads ; cf. Percy's Reliques, Sir Aldingar, 11. 48-9 : 

Forth then hyed our king, I wysse, 
And an angry man was he, 

so in Sir.Cauline (see Appendix) I, 151, II, 13. 
155. water-sprite for water-spirit. 
159. In the earlier editions 

Then while thro' drouth, all dumb they stood. 

164. Gramercy in accordance with its etymology (0. Fr. grant merci, 
great thanks) means ' thanks,' and in this sense is common in old 
ballads, e.g., in Percy's Reliques, The Tanner of Tamworth, \. 41 : 

Gramercy for nothing, the tanner replyde, 
and Adam Sell, 11. 129-130 : 

The queene was a glad woman, 
And sayde, ' Lord, gramercy.' 

In regard to the use which Coleridge makes of it in the text (as an 
exclamation =' mercy on us') the New English Dictionary says: 
" Johnson, 1755, who regards this word as a shortened form of grant me 
mercy gives this as the only application of the word ; but both his 
examples belong to the sense ['thanks']." The Dictionary states that 
(while there are one or two cases which might seem to show that the 
word was actually used as Johnson says) the later cases (in Coleridge, 
Scott, etc.) may be merely based on Johnson's interpretation. 

164. they for joy did grin. "I took the thought of ' grinning for 
joy ' from my companion's remark to me, when we had climbed to 
the top of Plinlimmon, and were nearly dead with thirst. We could 
not speak, from the constriction, till we found a little puddle under a 
stone. He said to me ' You grinned like an idiot!' He had done the 
same." (Coleridge's Table Talk, May 31st, 1830.) 


167. fol. ; cf. Scott, Rokeby II, xi : 

that Phantom Ship whose form 
Shoots like a meteor through the storm. 

In his note Scott says that this is an allusion to "a well known 
nautical superstition." For literary use of the same idea cf. Marryat's 
hovel The Phantom Ship and Longfellow's Ballad of Carmilhan (Tales 
of a Wayside Inn). 

167-169. In the earlier editions 

She doth not tack from side to aide- 
Hither to work us weal ; 
Withouten wind, withouten tide. 

184. gossameres. Filmy substances spun by small spiders floating 
in the air or spread over a grassy surface. According to the New 
English Dictionary the etymology is ' goose summer,' possibly meaning 
later summer when the geese fly, during which time their films are most 
abundant. Mr. Hutchinson in his edition of the Lyrical Ballads has 
the following note on this line : ' ' One of the few images borrowed from 
the Nether Stowey surroundings. ' The surface of the [Quantock] heath 
restless and glittering with the waving of the spider's threads . . . 
miles of grass, light and glittering and the insects passing' (Dorothy 
Wordsworth's Journal, February 8, 1798)." 

185-215. This passage exhibits many changes from the text of 1798. 
which is here quoted in extenso : 

Are those her naked ribs, which fleck'd 
The sun that did behind them peer? 
And are those two all, all the crew, 
That woman and her fleshless Pheere ? 

His bones were black with many a crack, 

All black and bare, I ween ; 
Jet black and bare, save where the rust 
Of mouldy damps and charnel crust 

They're patch'd with purple and green. 

Her lips are red, her looks are free, 

Her locks are yellow and gold : 
Her skin is as white as leprosy, 
And she is far liker Death than he ; 

Her flesh makes the still air cold 

The naked Hulk alongside came 

And the Twain were playing dice ; 
" The Game is done ! I've won, I've won." 

Quoth she, and whistled thrice. 


A gust of wind sterte up behind 

And whistled thro' his bones ; 
Thro" the holes of his eyes and the hole of his mouth 

Half whistles and half groans. 

With never a whisper in the Sea 

Off darts the Spectre-ship : 
While clom'be above the Eastern bar 
The horned Moon, with one bright Star 

Almost atween the tips. 

One after one by the horned Moon 

(Listen, O Stranger ! to me) 
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang 

And curs'd me with his ee. 

In 1800 the first of these stanzas was changed to 

Are those her Ribs, thro' which the Sun 

Did peer, as thro' a grate. 
And are those two all, all her crew, 

That woman and her Mate. 

and immediately after this stanza in a copy of the 1798 edition, there 
is inserted, in the Poet's handwriting, the following : 

This Ship it was a plankless thing, 

A bare Anatomy ! 
A plankless Spectre and it moved 

Like a Being of the Sea ! 
The woman and a fleshless man 

Therein sat merrily. 

188. a Death. An embodiment of death in the form of a skeleton ; 
cf. Merchant of Venice, II, viii, 63 : 

What have we here ? 
A carrion death within whose empty eye 
There is a written scroll. 

190-4. " Is it fanciful to regard the description of the Spectre- Woman 
Life-in-Death as modelled on that of Ydelness in the Romaunt of the 
Rose, 11. 539-644 the section immediately preceding The Garden (11. 
645-728), where Coleridge found lavrock, jargoning, and the angel's song 

(see 11. 671-2) : 

His heer was as yelowe of hewe 

As any basin scoured newe. . . . 
His face whyt and wel coloured. . . . 

His throte, al-so whyt of hewe 
As snow on braunche snowed newe." 

(Mr. Hutchiwo <.' s note in h.s Reprint of Lyrical Ballads.) 


193. Night-mare is originally a spirit that oppresses people in sleep ; 
cf. King Lear, III, iv : 

St. Withold footed thrice the wold 

He met the Nightmare and her nine-fold. 

197. Dr. Sykes prints this line "I've, I've won." "So," he says, "in 
1817, 1829, 1835. The editions 1798-1805 read 

The game is done ! I've won, I've won ! 

It is therefore quite certain that the more usual reading, depending 
only on the early editions, 1798-1805, is not what Coleridge finally 
approved. The reading 'I've, I've won' has, moreover, the merit of 
throwing the accent where it rhetorically belongs." The latter argu- 
ment scarcely holds ; it is not natural for a speaker to emphasize the 
fact that he, and not another, has won by saying ' I've. ' The line is, 
further, very clumsy. The probable explanation is that the variant is 
simply a repeated misprint. Mr. Gibbs seems to be the only other 
editor who adopts it. 

198. Sailors have superstitions in regard to whistling, as is shown by 
the well-known recipe of whistling in order to bring a wind ; Scott in 
Rokeby, II, xi, speaks of 

How whistle rash, bids tempest roar. 

Dr. Sykes quotes from Dr. Pegge in Gentleman 1 s Magazine, 1763 : 
"Our sailors, I am told, at this very day (I mean the vulgar sort) have 
a strange opinion of the devil's power and agency in stirring up winds, 
and that is the reason they so seldom whistle on shipboard, esteeming 
it to be a mockery, and consequently an enraging of the devil." 

201-210. "Among some papers of Coleridge dated variously from 
1806, 1807, and 1810, there exists undated, the following recasts of 

these lines : 

With never a whisper on the main 

Off shot the spectre ship : 
And stifled words and groans of pain 

And we look'd round, and we look'd up, 
And fear at our heart, as at a cup, 

The Life-blood seem'd to sip 
The sky was dull, and dark the night, 
The helmsman's face by his lamp gleam'd bright 

From the sails the dews did drip 
Till clomb above the Eastern Bar 
The horned moon, with one bright star 

Within its nether tip." 

(Dykes CampbelFs Note.) 


209. clomb. An archaism ; the common form in earlier English ; cf. 
Chaucer's House of Fame, 1,118 : " But up I clomb with alle pain," and 
frequent in later poets, e.g., Paradise Lost, IV, 192: "So clomb the 
first grand Thief into God's fold. " 

210-212. "It is a common superstition among sailors that something 
evil is about to happen whenever a star dogs the moon." (Coleridge's 
MS. Note.) But of course, a star is never seen within the tip of the 

212-215. In the earlier edition 

One after one by the horned Moon, 

(Listen, O Stranger t to me) 
Each turn'd his face with a ghastly pang, 

And curs'd me with his ee. 


226-227. "For the last two lines of this stanza I am indebted to Mr. 
Wordsworth. It was on a delightful walk from Nether Stowey to 
Dulverton, with him and his sister, in the autumn of 1797, that this 
poem was planned, and in part composed." (Coleridge's note in the 
edition of 1817.) 

Dr. Sykes quoted from the ballad of Lord Soulis in the Border 

Minstrelsy : 

fibbed like the sand at mark of sea. 

234. In the earlier editions this line reads 

And Christ would take no pity on. 

238. In the earlier editions 

And a million million slimy things. 

242. rotting. In the earlier editions " eldritch. " 

245. or ever. ' Or ' is often used in earlier English where we would 
employ 'before'; cf. Adam Bell (Percy's Reliques),\. 72: "Thy meed 
thou shalt have ore thou go." "The use of 'or' for ere is not un- 
common, both from A. S. cer before. It is probable or ere arose as a 
reduplicate expression in which ere repeats and explains or ; later this 
was confounded with or e'er; hence or ever." (Skeat.) Cf. Hamlet, 

I, ii, 183 : 

Would I had met my dearest foe in Heaven 
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio ! 

and Eccles. xii, ii : "or ever the silver cqrd be loosed." 
249. And. Earlier editions have "till." 


254. reek. Properly to emit vapour ; the reference here is rather to 
smell ; cf. Shakespeare's Coriolanus, III, iii, 121 : " Whose breath I 
hate as reek o' the rotten fens ;" Merry Wives of Windsor, III, iii, 86 : 
" As hateful to me as the reek of a lime-kiln." 

260. gloss. Stopford Brooke draws attention to Coleridge's gloss 
here: "It is characteristic of the quaint phantasy which belonged to 
his nature that he puts the thoughts which lift the whole scene into the 
realm of the imagination into the prose gloss at the side and it is 
perhaps the loveliest little thought in all his writings." 

267. bemocked. Because they gave an appearance of coolness. 

268. The earlier editions have 

Like morning frosts yspread. 

274, fol. The reference is to the familiar phenomenon of phosphor- 
escence on the sea caused by the presence of minute organisms. Any 
one who has crossed the ocean has observed the streams of light that 
break away from the sides of the vessel as she strikes the waves ; the 
water-snakes are represented as producing a similar effect. There is a 
reference to this phenomenon in the Lines to Wordsworth, and Cole- 
ridge quotes in a note the following passage from The Friend: "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 cloudlike foam darted off from the vessel's side, each with 
its own small constellation, over the sea, and scoured out of sight like a 
Tartar troop over a wilderness." 

288-291. Part IV, the central portion of the poem, contains the 
catastrophe, or turning-point, of the story ; this is made to depend on 
a moral change wrought in the heart of the hero, and this change is 
represented (in harmony with ideas very prominent in Wordsworth's 
teaching) as being brought about by the contemplation of the beauty 
of nature (cf. the gloss at 1. 263). Sympathy with animals is a char- 
acteristic mark of the tendencies of the time, and is exemplified 
abundantly in literature ; we find it in the episode of the Ass in Sterne's 
Tristram Shandy, in Burns (e.g. , the Lines to the Mouse, and in those 
To a Wounded Hare), in Cowper, as well as in Coleridge's early sonnet 
To a Young Ass, beginning 

Innocent Fool ! Thou poor, despised, forlorn, 
I bail thee brother, spite of the fool's scorn. 


289. so free. A species of phraseology very common in ballads : cf. 
Adam Bell (Percy's Reliques), 11. 97-8 : 

Then spake good Adam Bell 

To Clym of the Clough so free, 
and The Heir of Linne 

There sate three lords upon a rowe 
Were drinking of the wine so free. 

So " He maun sell his lands so broad" (ibid, 1. 19), " And in it was a 
key of gold so redd " (ibid, 1. 40). 


292. silly. The word meant originally ' happy,' ' blessed,' then 
'simple,' hence 'foolish.' Some editors consider it has its original 
sense here ; but, more probably, there is a reference to the uselesstiess 
and absurdity of buckets under the conditions described. There is 
something of this sense in Spenser's Sonnet, LXIII, "with which my 
silly bark was tossed sore." 

309. The early editions have 

The roaring wind ! it roar'd far off. 

310. anear. This word is employed as so many others to give an 
antique colouring ; it seems however to be rarely, if ever, found in 
older writers. Webster's Dictionary quotes an example of its use as a 
preposition from Jererrty Taylor : " Much more is needed so that at last 
the measure of misery anear us may be correctly taken. " In Pericles, 
III, Introd. 51, we find an adverbial but not exactly parallel use : 

The lady shrieks and well anear 
Doth fall in travail with her fear. 

314. sheen. Coleridge has already (1. 56) employed this word as a 
noun. It is much more commonly an adjective, as here ; cf. King 
Estmere, 11. 17-18 (Percy's Reliques) : 

King Adland hath a daughter, brother, 
Men call her bright and sheen, 

and Chaucer's Franklin's Tale, 1. 317: "Youre blisful suster, Lucina, 
the sheene," and Romance of the Rose, 11. 127-128 : 

The botme paved every dele 
With gravel, ful of stones shene. 

fire-flags. This is usually interpreted ' flashes of lightning,' but 
' fire-flag ' seems a very inappropriate representation of a lightning 
flash. The New English Dictionary gives the meaning ' ' a meteoric 


flame," and quotes this passage ; but to the present writer it seems 
much more likely that the reference is to electric phenomena. At the 
South pole, as at the North, the aurora appears, and the "wordjire-jlitgs, 
as well as the whole description in this stanza, is much more appropri- 
ately applied to this than to either of the other appearances. In the 
article in Chambers' Encyclopaedia on the aurora, it is said : "The ray 
seldom keeps the same form for any length of time ; but undergoes con- 
tinual changes, moving eastward and westward, and fluttering like a 
ribbon ayitated by the wind." 

322. The earlier editions have 

Hark ! hark ! the thick black cloud is cleft. 

327-8. The earlier editions have 

The strong wind reach'd the ship : it roar'd 
And dropp'd down like a stone ! 

337. 'gan. This word, which is common in earlier poetry, has been 
erroneously supposed to be an abbreviation of 'began,' hence the 
apostrophe ; in A. S . the simple form is not found, but the compound 
'onginnan'; the verb 'ginnen' is, however, common in middle English ; 
cf. Chaucer's Knight' Tale, L682: "Whan that Arcite hadde songe, 
he gan to sike." Adam Bell (Percy's Rdiques) Pt. II, 11. 107-8 : 

The one hyt the justice, the other the sheryfe, 
That both theyr sides gan blede. 

344. In 1798 two additional lines concluded this stanza : 

Ami I quak'd to think of my own voice 
How frightful it would be ! 

345-349. These lines were not in the earlier editions; 

350. In the earlier editions 

The day -light dawn'd they dropp'd their arms. 

358-359. Compare Wordsworth's To a Skylark, p. 64. 

359. sky-lark. In the earlier editions "Lavrock," a word meaning 
the same thing, found in the Romaunt of the Rose, 1. 662, in Scotch and 
other northern dialects. 

The hares were hirplin down the furrs, 
The lav'rocks they were chantin'. 

(Burns' Holy Fair.) 

362. jargoning. ' Jargon ' in modern usage indicates confused 
sounds without any suggestion of beauty, but in earlier English it was 


applied specially to the chattering of birds ; cf. Romance of the Rose, 
11. 713-716 : 

. Ful faire servyse and eke ful swete 

These briddes maden as they sete, 
Layes of love, ful well sowriing, 
They songen in hir jargoning. 

367, fol. In regard to this and the description in 318 fol. Stopford 
Brooke says : " In both these descriptions, one of the terror, the other 
of the softness of Nature, a certain charm, of the source of which we 
are not at once conscious, is given by the introduction into the lonely 
sea of images borrowed from the land, but which the sounds to be 
described at sea : such as the noise of the brook and the sighing of the 
sedge. We are brought into closer sympathy with the mariner by the 
subtle suggestion of his longing for the land and its peace. And we 
ourselves enjoy the travel of thought, swept to and fro without any 
shock on account of the fitness of the illustration and thing from sea 
to land, from land to sea." 

369-370. " Another of the rare images in this poem derived from the 
Nether Stowey environment. . . . The ' hidden brook ' is the self- 
same chatterer of The Three Graves ... . the same of which Cole- 
ridge in The Nightingale and The Lime- Tree Bower and which is 
described by Wordsworth in the Fenwick note* to Lines Written in 
Early Spring. " ( Hutchinson. ) 

372. In the edition of 1798, four stanzas, omitted in 1800, follow this 


Listen, O listen, thou Wedding-guest ! 

' Marinere ! thou hast thy will : 
For that which comes out of thine eye, doth make 

My body and soul to be still." 
Never sadder tale was told 

To a man of. woman born : 
Sadder and wiser than wedding-guest ! 

Thou'lt rise to-morrow morn. 

Never sadder tale was heard 

By a man of woman born : 
The Marineres all return'd to work 

As silent as beforne. 

* Wordsworth's note describes " the brook that runs down from the Comb, in which 
stands the village of Alford through the grounds of Alfoxden. . . . The brook ran 
down a sloping rock so as to make a waterfall considerable for that country, and across 
the pool had fallen a tree, an ash, if I rightly remembei , f rom which rose perpendicular 
boughs in search of the light intercepted by the deep shade above." 


The Marineres all 'gan pull the ropes, 

But look at me they n' old ; 
Thought I, I am as thin as air 

They cannot me behold. 

In the third to last line "n' old" ne wold would not. 

383. The spirit from the South pole, which in obedience to the 
heavenly powers had been moving the ship northward, cannot pass the 
equator; so that the sun, which at this point is directly overhead, 
seems to fix the ship to the spot. 

394. ' I am not able to declare. ' 

399. In imitation of the old ballads ; cf. Adam Bell, Pt. II, 11. 29-30 : 

" Here commeth none in," sayd the porter, 
" By Hym that dyed on a tre." 

and A Geste of Robyn Hode. (Gummere's Old English Ballads) : 

The sheref sware a ful grete othe 
By him that dyed on rode. 

407. honey-dew. A sugary substance found on leaves in drops like 
dew ; but it is not so much the thing itself as the suggestiveness of its 
name which leads the poet to allude to it here and in Kubla Khan : 
For he on honey -dew hath fed 
And drunk the milk of Paradise. 

Perhaps Coleridge had in mind Julius Caesar, II, 1. 230, where some 
editions read "enjoy the heavy honey-dew of slumber," though the 
better authorized reading is "honey-heavy dew." 


414-417. " Borrowed from Coleridge's own Osorio 

' Oh woman ! 
I have stood silent like a slave before thee.' 

(Dying speech of Osorio.) 
and half from Sir John Davies, [1569-1626] 

' For lo the sea that fleets about the land, 

And like a girdle clips her solid waist, 
Music and measure both doth understand : 
For his great chrystal eye is always cast 
Up to the moon, and on her fixed fast.' 

Orchestra ; or, A Poem on Dancing." 
(Note by Mr. Dykes Campbell.) 

435. charnel-dungeon. A ' charnel ' is a receptacle for dead bodies 
{L. caro, carnix) ; cf. Shelley's A lastor: 


In charnels and on coffins, where black Death 
Keeps record of the trophies won from thee. 

but ' charnel-house ' is more commonly employed. Frequently the 
charnel-house was a vault under the church ; so Milton's Comus, 11. 471- 


Those thick and gloomy shadows damp, 

Oft seen in charnel vaults and sepulchres. 

442-443. The earlier editions have 

And in its time the spell was snapt, 
And I could move my een. 

446. lonesome. In the earlier editions "lonely." 
455. Cf. Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott : 

Little breezes dusk and shiver. 

The darkening of water by the breaking of the reflection through a 
ripple on the surface is an everyday phenomenon. 

467. countree. The accentuation of the last syllable is archaic (cf. 
French con tree ); so commonly in ballads, e.g., Percy's Reliques, King 
Estmere, 11. 99-102 : 

And he took leave of that ladye fayre, 

To goe to his own countree, 
To fetche him dukes and lords and knightes, 

That marryed they might bee. 

473. strewn. "Outspread (Sykes), perhaps rather spread evenly 
with level light " (Bates). 

475. shadow must mean here ' reflection.' 

475. In the edition of 1798 the following stanzas are included at this 
point ; omitted in 1800 and succeeding editions : 

The moonlight bay was white all o'er, 

Till rising from the same, 
Full many shapes that shadows were, 

Like as of torches came. 

A little distance from the prow 

Those dark red shadows were ; 
But soon I saw that my own flesh 

Was red as in a glare. 

I turn'd my head in fear and dread, 

And by the holy rood, 
The bodies had advanced, and now 

Before the mast they stood. 


They lifted up their sfciff right arms 

They held them strait and tight ; 
And each right arm burnt like a torch, 

A torch that's borne upright. 
Their stony eye-balls glitter'd on 

In the red and smoky light. 

I pray'd and turn'd my head away 

Forth looking as before. 
There was no breeze upon the bay, 

No wave against the shore. 

480 fol. The mariner is looking out on the water, and sees the reflec- 
tions first ; then he turns and sees the spirits themselves on the deck. 

489. rood. ' Cross ' ; 'common in earlier English ; cf. Percy's Reliques, 
Sir Cauline, 1. 115: "And here I swear by the holy roode;" Shake- 
speare, Hamlet, III, iv, 14 : "No, by the rood, not so." 

490. a seraph-man. Seraphim are represented in Isaiah, vi, as 
standing beside the throne of God. Later writers, and Milton following 
them, apply the name to the highest order of angels ; etymologically 
the word was thought to be connected with the idea of fire, hence 
" The flaming seraph, fearless though alone" (Paradise Lost, V, 875); 
and "As the rapt seraph that adores and burns" (Pope's Essay on 
Man, I, 277) ; this connection also suits the present passage. 

497. impart. Quaint use of the word, which the present editor is 
unable to parallel. 

500. But soon. In the earlier editions " eftsoons." 
503. Here follows in the edition of 1798 : 

Then vanish'd all the lovely lights ; 

The bodies rose anew ; 
With silent pace, each to his place, 

Came back the ghastly crew. 
The wind that shade nor motion made 

On me alone it blew. 

In a copy of this edition, this stanza is struck out, and the following 
substituted in Coleridge's handwriting : 

Then vanished all the lovely lights, 

The spirits of the air, 
No souls of mortal men were they, 

But spirits bright and fair. 


512. shrieve. An old form of 'shrive,' to confess, absolve, and 
impose penance ; cf. The Boy and the Mantle (Percy's Reliques), 11. 

123-4 : 

When she had her shreeven 
And her sines she had tolde. 

Dr. Sykes quotes from Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar, August: 

It fell upon a holly eve 

Hey, ho, hollidaye 
When holly fathers wont to shrieve. 


517. marineres. In the edition of 1798 the word was spelt thus 
throughout ; abandoned as other needless archaisms in the later 
editions, it is here retained on account of the rhyme. 

521-2. " Image taken from the Nether Stovvey vicinage. Old stumps 
of oak, macerated through damp and carpeted with moss, abound in 
the wooded courts of Quantock." ( Hutchinson.) 

524. I trow. I think ; a very common phrase in earlier English ; 
cf. Percy's Reliques, The Not-browne Mayd, 11. 51-52 : 

My destiny is for to dy 
A shameful death, I trowe. 

533. Brown skeletons. In the earlier editions " The skeletons." 
535. ivy-tod. ' ' Tod " is a bush usually of ivy. So Drayton : 

And like an owl, by night to go abroad, 
Roosted all day within an ivy-tod. 

and Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar, March, 11. 67-70 : 

At length within any Yvie todde, 
(There shrouded was the little God) 

I heard a busie bustling, 
I bent my bowe against the bush. 

540. a-feared. Now a colloquialism and vulgarism, but good archaic 
English. Very common in Shakespeare, e.g. , Macbeth, V, i, 41 : "A 
soldier and afeared ! " 

552-553. Owing to the formation of gases through decomposition, the 
body of one drowned is likely after some lapse of time to rise to the 


558-559. The reference is to the echoes. 
570. all. See note on 1. 111. 

577. Biblical phraseology ; cf. Matthew, viii, 27 : " What manner of 
man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him." 

582. In 1798 this stanza read 

Since then at an uncertain hour 

Now ofttimes and now fewer, 
That anguish comes and makes me tell 

My ghastly aventure. 

585. Cf. Luke, xxiv, 32: "Did not our heart burn within us, while 
he talked with us by the way." 

590. I teach. Simply ' I tell ' ; cf. Chaucer, Wyf of Bathe's Title, 
1. 163 : "Of that I shall thee teche," and 194, "I taughte this answer 
un-to the knight." 



WILLIAM WORPSWORTH was of Yorkshire lineage ; he himself tells 
us that the Wordsworths ' ' had been settled at Peniston in Yorkshire, 
near the sources of the Don, probably before the Norman Conquest." 
For many generations at least his paternal ancestors had dwelt there as yeo- 
men, or small landed proprietors. On his mother's side he was descended 
from an old Westmoreland family. His northern origin showed itself very 
clearly both in his physical and mental frame. On these were strongly 
stamped many of the well-defined peculiarities associated with that 
sturdy and sterling race, doubtless largely Norse in origin, which 
inhabits the northern counties of England and the Lowlands of Scotland. 
As the life of his ancestors, so was his own individual life closely bound 
up with the northern shires to which he belonged, and more especially 
with that part of them known as the Lake District. This covers an 
area of some 30 by 25 miles, and includes within its limits sixteen lakes, 
tarns and streams innumerable, sea coast, river estuaries, and moun- 
tains rising to the height of 3000 feet. Here graceful beauty and wild, 
rugged grandeur are closely intermingled. "Indeed, nowhere else in 
the world, perhaps, is so much varied beauty to be found in so narrow 
a space." In Wordsworth's time it was scarcely less exceptional in 
the character of its inhabitants. "Drawn in great part from the strong 
Scandinavian stock, they dwell in a land solemn and beautiful as Norway 
itself, but without Norway's rigour and penury, and with lakes and 
happy rivers instead of Norway's inarming melancholy sea. They are 
a mountain folk ; but their mountains are no precipices of insuperable 
snow, such as keep the dwellers of some Swiss hamlet shut in ignorance 
and stagnating into idiocv. These barriers divide only to concentrate, 
and environ only to endear ; their guardianship is but enough to give an 
added unity to each group of kindred homes. . And thus it is that the 
Cumbrian dalesmen have afforded perhaps as near a realization as 
human fates have yet allowed of the rural society which statesmen 
desire for their country's greatness. They have given an example of 
substantial comfort strenuously won ; of home affections intensified by 
independent strength ; of isolation without ignorance, and of a shrewd 
simplicity ; of an heriditary virtue which needs no support from fan- 
aticism, and to which honour is more than law." (Myers' Wordsworth.) 

On the northern borders of this district, at Cockermouth, Cumberland, 
William Wordsworth was born April 7th, 1770. His grandfather had 
been the first of the race to leave Yorkshire and buy for himself a 

LIFE. 119 

small estate in Westmoreland. The poet's father was an attorney and 
law-agent to Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of Lonsdale. In 1778 
the poet's mother died,. and William, along with an elder brother, was 
sent to the ancient Grammar School of Hawkeshead, a secluded and 
primitive village in the midst of the Lake District. The conditions at 
this simple and old-fashioned school were very different from those 
surrounding boys either at any of the great public schools or at 
private boarding-schools. Freedom and simplicity particularly charac- 
terized Wordsworth's school days. There was neither pressure of work 
within the class-room nor that of tradition and public opinion outside of 
it, such as belong to the English public schools ; on the other hand, the 
close supervision and confinement which usually belong to a private 
school, were absent. The boys lodged with the cottagers of the village, 
and grew inured to the simplicity of their lives. After school hours 
each boy must have been, in the main, free to follow his own devices. 
No conditions could have been more suitable to Wordsworth's tem- 
perament, or more favourable to the development of his strong indivi- 
duality. Finally, and most important of all, Hawkeshead lay in the 
midst of a beautiful and varied country, with whose different aspects 
their favourite amusements must have made the boys very familiar. 
Their sports were not of the elaborate, competitive character of later 
times, but took the form of rambles on the mountains, boating and 
skating on the lakes, nutting and fishing. In these Wordsworth, a 
vigorous and healthy boy, greatly delighted. There was probably 
nothing about him, at this period, which would mark him out, either to 
himself or to others, as different from, or superior to, his school- fellows. 
One peculiarity he did, however, possess to a very extraordinary degree 
sensitiveness to the aspects of nature. Not that he went mooning 
about, after a precocious fashion, in search of the picturesque. The 
ordinary round of daily life kept him in contact with nature in some of 
her most beautiful and impressive forms, and produced upon his, in 
this regard, receptive mind effects of a most potent and permanent kind. 
It kept him in close contact, too, with the common people, with the 
"statesmen," the shepherds, and peasants of the district; and from 
these two sources, nature and the life of the people, he drew the 
material of his later works. 

In October, 1787, Wordsworth entered the University of Cambridge 
through the kindness of his uncles, for his father had been dead some 
years. His collegiate life contributed but little to his development. 
Bis character was at oucc strong and narrow, only pliant to congenial 


influences. He himself said that his peculiar faculty was genius by 
which he meant creation and production from within not talent, the 
capacity of assimilation and appropriation from without. Wordsworth's 
fruitful knowledge came to him direct from observation and meditation. 
He seems, accordingly, to have gained little from the regular studies and 
teaching of Cambridge ; nor did he find any special stimulus, as many 
have done, in the social opportunities which it affords. In college society 
his powers had no opportunity to show themselves ; nor did he form 
any very intimate or influential friendships. Not that he was, during 
this period, a recluse ; he took his share in ordinary college life ; but at 
college, as at school, he would probably not have impressed an onlooker 
as being in any respect superior to the average student. By degrees, 
however, he himself became aware of his special powers, and felt the 
call to the poetic vocation. In 1784 he wrote his first poem, An Evening 
Walk, which was not published until 1793. Among the most important 
events of his external life may be numbered his pedestrian tours. 
Wandering, he tells us, was with him an inborn passion ; and it was one 
in which he indulged throughout his life. In 1790, he with a fellow 
collegian made a three months' tour of France, Switzerland, Northern 
Italy and the Ehine. These were stirring days on the Continent ; the 
year before, the Bastille had fallen, and Wordsworth shared, as did 
most intelligent young Englishmen of his time, in the joy which 
welcomed the new birth of liberty. As yet, however, natural scenery 
exercised over him a more powerful influence than human affairs. The 
impressions of this journey are recorded in Descriptive Sketches, a poem 
which was not written, however, until two years later. 

In the beginning of 1791, he took the B.A. degree. His friends 
wished him to enter the church, but he was reluctant, although he had 
no definite views of his own. He lingered in London for three months, 
noting men and things in the keen, meditative fashion natural to him ; 
he made a tour in Wales ; he thought of writing for the newspapers. 
At length he determined to spend a year in France, in order^to master 
the language, with the idea that he might turn it to aeeoimt in the 
capacity of a travelling tutor. This stay in France had a very important 
influence on the poet's development. To escape English society, he 
went to Orleans. His chief companions there were some French officers 
who were, most of them, partisans with the old regime. One, however, 
General Beaupuis, was a lofty and enlightened sympathizer with the 
Revolution ; and through him Wordsworth soon came to take a profound 
interest in the great struggle going on about him. He was in Paris 

LIFE. 121 

shortly after the September Massacres, and felt so deeply the importance 
of the crisis that he was on the point of throwing himself personally into 
the contest on the side of the moderate republicans ; but he was under 
the necessity, probably through lack of money, of returning to England. 
Change of place did not cool his sympathies. The bloodshed and out- 
rage which accompanied the Revolution and which alienated many of its 
admirers, Wordsworth with clearer insight perceived to be not the out- 
come of the new spirit of freedom, but of the oppressions of ages. But 
when, in the spirit of the era which was supposed to be forever past, 

,ihe new republic proceeded to embark on a career of conquest : abroad 
crushed the liberty of Switzerland, and at home began to develop into a 

'military despotism, Wordsworth lost his hope of the future and faith in 
humanity. A period of deep depression followed, from which he at 
length, though slowly, recovered. In fact, he passed through a crisis 
such as befalls many thoughtful men, such as is recorded in the biogra- 

"phies of Carlyle, and of John Stuart Mill ; and such as in familiar life 
often taken the religious form popularly styled " conversion." $aith in 
one's own future or the future of the world is shattered, and new truths 
have to be apprehended, or old truths more vitally realized, in order 
that the man may once again set out on his life's course with some chart 
and with some aink The peculiarity of Wordsworth's case is that his 
crisis took place^m connection with the greatest event of modern 
history, not with a merely individual experience ; and, secondly, in the 
peculiar source where he found healing not in books or the teachings 
of others, not in what would be ordinarily called a religious source, 
but in a reyelation and healing that came to him direct from visible 
lature, and from contemplating the simple lives of the ' ' statesmen " and 
shepherds of his native mountains. The poet's hopes ceased to centre 
around any great movement like the French Revolution, and he per- 
eived that, not in great political movements, but in the domestic life of 
the simple, unsophisticated man, is the true anchor for our faith in 
humanity and our confidence in the future of the race. 

Meanwhile, his life had been unsettled, and his prospects uncertain. 
Unexpectedly, early in 1795, a solution of his difficulties as to the choice 
of a profession came in the shape of a legacy from a young friend, 
Raisley Calvert, who had insight enough to perceive the genius of 
Wordsworth, and left him 900 to enable him to follow out the prompt- 
ings of this genius. With the strictest economy and utmost plainness of 
living, Wordsworth judged that this would suffice to maintain him ; and 
he determined to devote himself unreservedly to what he felt was his 


true vocation poetry. He combined his scanty means with those of 
his sister Dorothy ; they reckoned from all sources upon a joint income 
of 70 or 80 a year. Dorothy Wordsworth merits, even in the briefest 
sketch of her brother's life, at least a passing notice. She shared all his 
tastes and much of his genius. She was one of the "dumb poets." 
She had all her brother's insight into nature, all the feelings which 
belonged to his poetic endowment ; but the instrument of verse she never 
mastered, or, perhaps, did not seek to master ; for she devoted her whole 
life unselfishly to him. His sister Dorothy and the poet Coleridge were, 
he tells us, the only persons who exerted a profound influence on his 
spiritual and poetical development. 

It was in 1796 that Wordsworth became acquainted with Coleridge ; 
the two men had many interests and opinions in common, and a close 
friendship sprang up between them. In order to be near Coleridge the 
Wordsworths rented a house at Alfoxden, in Somersetshire, in July, 
1797. The two men exercised an influence upon each other highly 
favourable to their intellectual and poetic activity. They planned a 
volume of poems to which each should contribute. The result was the 
Lyrical Ballads, one of the most notable publications in the history of later 
English poetry. Coleridge furnished four poems, The Ancient Mariner, 
and three smaller pieces. The bulk of Wordsworth's contributions was 
much greater ; and this volume was the first of his writings to manifest 
the peculiarities of his genius and the greatness of his power. It 
included the Lines Composed above Tinier n Abbey, The Thorn, Expostu- 
lation and Reply, The Tables Turned, Lines Written in Early Spring, etc. 
It was in 1798 that the Lyrical Ballads were issued ; in autumn of the 
same year Wordsworth, his sister, and Coleridge sailed to Germany. 
The visit had no special influence upon Wordsworth, whose time was 
mainly employed in writing poems thoroughly English in character. In 
the following spring they returned home. In December, 1799, the 
brother and sister settled down in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, and Words- 
worth entered upon a course of life which varied but little during the 
many years that remained to him. Poetic composition and the contem- 
plation of nature formed the staple of his regular occupations. Of the 
character of his daily life, the best idea is to be obtained from his 
sister's diaries, from which large excerpts are given in Knight's Life of 
the poet. The following extract may serve as a sample ; it is dated 
Saturday, May 1st, 1802: 

"A clear sky. ... I sowed the flowers, William helped me. We 
vent and sate in the orchard. ... It was very hot. William wrote 

LIFE. 123 

The Celandine. We planned a shed, for the sun was too much for us. 
After dinner we went again to our old resting-place in the hollies under 
the rock. We first lay under the holly, where we saw nothing but the 
trees, and a budding elm mossed, with the sky above our heads. But 
that holly-tree had a beauty about it more than its own. . . . When 
the sun had got low enough we went to the rock shade. Oh, the over- 
whelming beauty of the vale below, greener than green. Two ravens 
new high, high in the sky, and the sun shone upon their bellies and 
theii wings, long after there was none of his light to be seen but a little 
space on the top of Loughrigg Fell. Heard the cuckoo to-day, this first 
of May. We went down to tea at eight o'clock . . '. and returned after 
tea. The landscape was fading : sheep and lambs quiet among the 
rocks. We walked towards King's, and backwards and forwards. The 
aky was perfectly cloudless. . . . Three solitary stars in the middle of 
the blue vault, one or two on the points of the high hills. " 

In 1802 he married Mary Hutchinson, whom he had known since 
childhood ; but this event scarcely interrupted the even tenor of his 
way. He had a few intimate friends, such as Coleridge and Sir George 
Beaumont, and in time his writings drew younger men to visit him, 
DeQuincey, Wilson ("Christopher North"), and even to take up their 
residence in his neighbourhood. But, on the whole, his life during his 
prime was the life of a recluse. Nor, with his humbler neighbours, 
though interested in their welfare, was he on terms of genial intercourse 
such as marked the relations of Scott to those about him. He was, 
in short, self-centred, wrapped up in his own thoughts a reserved 
man, with a cold and absent-minded exterior. -'He wasn't a man as 
said a deal to common folk," said one of these common folk to an 
enquirer, "but he talked a deal to hissen." "He was not a man that 
folks could crack wi'," said another, " nor not a man as could crack wi' 
folks." In old age, when he became famous, he saw something of liter- 
ary society in London, and the impression which he made on a very 
keen, but in this case not vary favourable, observer, may be quoted : 
" During the last seven or ten years of his life, Wordsworth felt himself 
to be a recognized lion in certain considerable London circles, and was 
in the habit of coming up to town with his wife for a month or two 
every season to enjoy his quiet triumph and collect his bits of tribute 
tales quales. . . . Wordsworth took his bit of lionism very quietly, 
with a smile sardonic rather than triumphant, and certainly got no harm 
by it, if he got or expected little good. For the rest, he talked well 
in his way ; with veracity, easy brevity, and force, as a wise tradesman 
would of his tools and workshop, and as no unwise one could. His voice 
was good, frank and sonorous, though practically clear, distinct, and for- 
cible rather than melodious j the tone of him business-like, sedately con* 


fident ; no discourtesy, yet no anxiety about being courteous. A finej 
wholesome rusticity, fresh as his mountain breezes, sat well on the 
stalwart veteran, and on all he said and did. You would have said he 
was usually a taciturn man ; glad to unlock himself to audience sympa- 
thetic and intelligent, when such offered itself. His face bore marks of 
much, not always peaceful, meditation ; the look of it not bland or bene- 
volent so much as close, impregnable and hard, a man multa tacere 
loquive paratus, in a world where he had experienced no lack of contra- 
dictions as he strode along. The eyes were not very brilliant, but they 
had a quiet clearness ; there was enough of brow, and well-shaped ; 
rather too much of cheek ("horse-face," I have heard satirists say); 
face of squarish shape, and decidedly longish, as I think the head itself 
was (its "length " going horizontal) ; he was large-boned, lean, but still 
firm-knit, tall, and strong-looking when he stood, a right good old steel- 
grey figure, with rustic simplicity and dignity about him, and a vivacious 
strength looking through him which might have suited one of those old 
steel-grey markgrafs whom Henry the Fowler set up to ward the 
' marches ' and do battle with the intrusive heathen in a stalwart and 
judicious manner." (Carlyle's Reminiscences.) 

Wordsworth was a philosopher in the antique sense of the word, 
shaping his life according to his own ideals, and little regarding the fact 
that these ideals were very different from those of men in general. He 
found his happiness in easily attainable sources in nature, in his own 
work and thoughts, in literature and domestic life. He cared nothing for 
wealth or the luxuries which it affords. ' ' Plain living and high thinking " 
characterized his life ; his daily fare and home surroundings were but 
little superior to those of the peasantry about him. The only luxury in 
which he indulged was travelling ; he made tours in Scotland, Ireland, 
and the Continent, of which his works contain memorials, and these, 
with frequent visits to friends in England, were among the chief events 
of his quiet life. The simplicity of the tastes of the household and Mrs. 
Wordsworth's careful management enabled the poet to subsist with 
comfort upon an income which would have meant harassing poverty to 
most men of his class. His works brought him no money ; but the pay- 
ment in 1802 of a debt due his father's estate added something to his 
resources, and when these proved inadequate through the increasing 
expenses of his family, he fortunately obtained (1813) through the 
influence of the Earl of Lonsdale the office of Distributor of Stamps for 
Westmoreland. This afforded him a sufficient income and did not make 
claims upon time and energy inconsistent with his devotion to poetic 

LIFE. 125 

work. In the same year, 1813, he removed from Grasmere, -where he 
had resided for some fourteen years (nine of them in Dove Cottage) to 
Eydal Mount, at no great distance ; this was his home during the remain- 
ing thirty-seven years of his life. 

We have noted the appearance of the first great product of Words- 
worth's poetical genius, the Lyrical Ballads, in 1798. This volume fell 
almost dead from the press. Wordsworth struck out in new poetic 
fields, and marked originality in poetry, clashing as it does with pre- 
conceived ideas, is rarely welcomed. In 1800 he published a new and 
enlarged edition of the Ballads and prefixed a prose statement of his own 
poetic theory so fundamentally different from accepted notions as to ex- 
cite the intense hostility of all the regular critics. The consequence waa 
that each new work of his was received with a chorus of disapprobation 
or contempt. The general public were thus prejudiced ; and the poems 
themselves possessed no striking and attractive qualities such as might 
have counteracted, among ordinary readers, the influence of accepted 
judges. The neglect of his work was keenly felt by the poet, who, 
however, continued steadily on in his own fashion, or even exaggerated 
the peculiarities which were offensive to the prevalent taste. Meanwhile 
these works were read and greatly admired by a discerning few, and 
began quietly to gain a hold upon a wider public, until in the poet's old 
age this unnoted development suddenly manifested itself in a wide- 
spread recognition of his genius. "Between the years 1830 and 1840 
Wordsworth passed from the apostle of a clique into the most illustrious 
man of letters in England. The rapidity of this change was not due to 
any remarkable accident, nor to the appearance of any new work of 
genius. It was merely an extreme instance of what must always 
occur when an author, running counter to the fashion of his age, has to 
create his own public in defiance of the established critical prowess. 
The disciples whom he draws round him are for the most part young ; 
the established authorities are for the most part old ; so that by the 
time the original poet is about sixty years old most of his admirers 
will be about forty, and most of his critics will be dead. His admirers 
now become his accredited critics ; his works are widely introduced to 
the public, and if they are really good his reputation is secure. In Words- 
worth's case the detractors had been unusually persistent, and the 
reaction, when it came, was therefore unusually violent." (Myers* 
Wordsworth. ) 

The change in feeling was manifested in many ways. In 1839 
Wordsworth received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from Oxford, and 


on the occasion of its bestowal was welcomed with great enthusiasm. 
In 1842 a pension was offered to him ; in 1843 he was made Poet Laure- 
ate. Thus full of years and honours, and in that same tranquillity which 
marked his life, Wordsworth passed away April 23rd, 1850. 

" Every great poet," said Wordsworth, " is a teacher : I wish to J^e 
considered as a teacher or as nothing." Wordsworth has, therefore, 
a didactic aim in his poetry. Happily, however, his conception of 
teaching was no narrow one ; he did not think that poetry in order to 
be didactic, must directly present some abstract truth, or be capable of 
furnishing some moral application ; if a poem kindled the imagination, or 
stirred the nobler feelings, it contributed in his opinion even more to 
the education of the reader. His sense of the unity and harmony of 
things was strong. As in Tintern Abbey, we find him giving expression 
to his sense of the unity of all existence the setting suns, the round 
ocean, and the mind of man being all manifestations of one and the same 
Livine spirit so he believed in the unity and close interconnection of all 
;he faculties of man. No one faculty could be stimulated or neglected 
without a corresponding effect upon the rest. The delight, for example, 
afforded by the contemplation of scenery quickened, he thought, the 
moral nature ; while the man whose imagination or sense of beauty had 
remained undeveloped must suffer also from limitations and weakness 
in his ethical constitution. Therefore his work is not generally didactic 
in the ordinary sense, though not infrequently so ; his poetry may 
merely stimulate imagination and feeling, and thence educative effects 
will steal unnoted into heart and brain. 

He was a teacher, then ; but his teaching did not mainly aim at impart- 
ing any particular system of abstract truth, though this also it may some- 
times attempt. It rather sought to elevate and ennoble the whole 
character by exhibiting, and making the reader feel, the sources of high 
and genuine pleasure. It teaches by revealing, by stimulating, by elevat- 
ing. Wordsworth thought that the fountain of the purest and highest 
joys lie about us, within the reach of all. The child finds them every- 
where : 

Spontaneous joys, where nature has its play, 
The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway. 

But as we grow older the world imposes on us with its lower allure- 
ments wealth, luxury, ambition which dull our perceptions and de- 
grade our will until we become blind and indifferent to the fountains of 
the highest happiness and the truest culture. To these, it is Words* 
worth's aim in his poetry to lead us back. 


The sources of this happiness and this higher culture the poet had in 
his own personal experiences, when his heart was sick and his beliefs 
shattered, found in nature, in the homely round of ordinary duties, in 
the domestic affections, in the contemplation of the life of men in its 
simplest and most natural form among the peasantry of his native moun- 
tains. These things, accordingly, are what he depicts to U3 in his 
poems ; they afford his poetic material ; and with all these things his life 
fitted him to deal. They are not, however, presented simply and for 
their own sakes, as the more purely artistic method of Shakespeare or 
Scott would present them. Wordsworth was of strongly meditative and 
reflective bent ; what he saw and felt, he naturally made the basis of 
thought. He was not carried away by his joys and sorrows, as Burns 
and Shelley. His temperament was cool and self-contained, not emo- 
tional and impetuous. Nor was he markedly sympathetic, forgetting 
himself in the life of others. So his poetry neither gives expression sim- 
ply to feeling, nor does it afford purely objective pictures of men and 
women ; it uses these things as material or stimulus to thought. Words- 
worth does not forthwith set down what he has felt or seen ; he broods 
over it and shapes it to moral rather than artistic ends. He is not pas- 
sionate or animated ; his poems appeal, not to the active and impetuous 
man, but to the contemplative and thoughtful to age rather than to 
youth. In this respect, as in others, he is unlike Scott. The latter 
centres our attention upon the pictures of men and things which he 
unrolls before us, and rarely intrudes himself or his reflections. But 
Wordsworth is always in his own poems ; sometimes illegitimately 
speaking through the mouths of his characters, more often turning aside 
to reflect or comment. 

With the earnestness of Wordsworth's temperament and the serious- 
ness of his aim, playfulness of fancy and delight in mere ornament 
were scarcely compatible. Unlike Keats, he had not the purely artistic 
could solace .itself, .with such things. Sjib- 

stance with him waa all .important, and this substance must be truth. 
His poetry was based on the facts of life, and showed 

How verse may build a throne 
On humble truth. 

One merit he especially claimed for himself, that he kept " his eye on the 
subject." Nothing in the poets who preceded him irritated 'him more 
than their inaccuracies^ for example, in the delineation of natural scenes, 
their conscious sacrifice of truth for the Bake of what they considered 


poetic effect, as exemplified, for instance, in their pastoral poetry. The 
same spirit which demanded truth in matter called for simplicity 
and directness in style. He aimed at keeping the reader's eye also on 
the subject, and did not blur the clearness of the outline of his theme 
for the sake of the charm of ornament and of technical display. Hence, 
his style, at its best, is marvellously direct, chaste, and effective ; and, at 
its worst, tends to prosaic baldness and triviality. So simple, so free 
from every needless excrescence, so perfectly adapted to the thought, 
is Wordsworth's expression in his happier moments, that Matthew 
Arnold has affirmed that he has no style, i.e., the words are so perfectly 
appropriate that they seem to come from the object, not from the writer. 
"Nature herself seems," says Matthew Arnold, "to take the pen out 
of his hand, and to write for him with her own bare, sheer, penetrating 
power. This arises from two causes : from the profound sincereness 
with which Wordsworth feels his subject, and also from the profoundly 
sincere and natural character of the subject itself. He can and will 
treat such a subject with nothing but the most plain, first-hand, almost 
austere naturalness." 

The greatness of Wordsworth and the significance of his poetry can 
only be adequately conceived when his position in the development of 
English literature has been examined. The typical and accredited 
poetical style of the preceding age is represented by Pope. That poetry 
sought to instruct, or to please the intellect, rather than to stimulate the 
imagination or to touch the emotions. It put greater stress upon style 
and form than upon matter ; and, in style, it aimed at elegance, polish, 
and epigrammatic force. It took much thought for dignity and pro- 
priety ; and its ideas of dignity and propriety were narrow. Thus it 
limited the range of its themes, and feared especially the ' ' low " and 
commonplace. This tendency affected not only its matter but its 
language. It avoided, as far as possible, the language of real life, and 
to escape ordinary words had recourse to vapid periphrases. One result 
of the narrowness of the range of vocabulary and imagery was that both 
became utterly hackneyed. 

Against all these peculiarities the genius of Wordsworth naturally 
revolted. He found his model, in as far as he had one, in Burns, a poet 
outside recognized literary circles a man of the people. But the fact 
that existing taste was formed upon such poetry as has just been char- 
acterized, and that standards based upon it were being constantly 
applied to his own poetry, intensified his dislike of the elder fashion, 
and led him to intensify the novel peculiarities of his own poems. 


He was a conscious rebel against authority, and naturally gave the less 
weight to considerations which might be urged in favour of the old and 
against the new. Hence, in his theory, and not seldom also in practice 
he carried these peculiarities to extremes. 

In conclusion, two or three great services of Wordsworth as a poet 
may be enumerated. He opened the eyes of his own generation and 
still continues, in a lesser degree, to open the eyes of readers of the 
present day to the beauties of nature, and to the fund of consolation 
and joy that may there be found. He showed that we do not need to 
go to distant lands and remote ages for poetic material, that poetry lies 
about us, in our own age, in ordinary life, in commonplace men and 
women. And he overthrew the stilted conventional style of the poetry 
which was in the ascendant, and showed that the highest poetry might 
be simple, direct, and plain. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Life by Christopher Wordsworth ; a fuller one by 
Prof. Knight ; excellent shorter sketch with criticisms by Myers (Eng. 
Men of Letters') ; Wordsworth's autobiographical poem, The Prelude, is 
of the highest value for biographical purposes ; much use is made of it 
by Legouis in his excellent Early Life of Wordsworth. Works full 
critical ed. by Knight, 8 vols. ; ed. by Dowden, 7 vols. ; in one vol., 
with introd. by Morley (Macmillan's Globe Library). Critical essays 
are very numerous ; Wordsworth's prose preface to the Lyrical Ballads 
should be read in connection with Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, 
chaps, v., xiv., xvii.-xxii. ; among best essays by other writers are those 
by M. Arnold (Introd. to Select, from, Wordsworth), Lowell (Among My 
Books), R. H. Hutton (Essays on Literary Criticism), Leslie Stephen 
(Hours in a Library, iii), Caird (Essays on Literatiire and Philosophy), 
Principal Shairp, Masson, etc.; Wordsworthiaria is a vol. containing 
papers by members of the Wordsworth Soc. ; the one vol. ed. of works 
mentioned above has a bibliography. The best volume of Selections is 
that by Dowden, with introduction and notes (Ginn & Co.). 



Written in 1797 ; first published in the second edition of the Lyrical 
Ballads (1800). "This arose out of my observations of the affecting 
music of these birds hanging in this way in the London streets during 
the freshness and stillness of the spring morning." ( Wordsworth.) 

The poem is an illustration of a remark of Myers that Wordsworth is 
"the poet not of London considered as London, but of London con- 
sidered as a part of the country." 

The Title was until 1815 " Poor Susan." 

1. Wood Street runs off Cheapside in London. 

2. Hangs was until 1820 "There's." 

7. Lothbury is another street in the same neighbourhood, the city 

8. Cheapside is the main thoroughfare in the city. 

16. In the original edition, the poem closed with the following 

stanza : 

Poor Outcast ! return to receive thee once more 
The house of thy Father will open its door, 
And thou once again in thy plain russet gown, 
May'st hear the thrush sing from a tree of its own. 

In the next edition, 1802, this stanza was dropped. In reference to 
this, Lamb says in a letter of 1815, addressed to Wordsworth : "The 
last verse of Susan was to be got rid of, at all events. It threw a kind 
of dubiety upon Susan's moral conduct. Susan is a serving maid. I 
see her trundling her mop, and contemplating the whirling phenomenon 
through blurred optics : but to term her ' a poor outcast ' seems as much 
as to say that poor Susan was no better than she should be, which I 
trust was not what you meant to express. " 


This poem was composed in the spring of 1798, in front of Alfoxden 
House (see p. 80 above), near Nether Stowey ; it was included in the 
Lyrical Ballads published during the same year. The poet notes : 
"My little -boy-messenger on tins occasion [the Edward of 1. 13] was 
the son of Basil Montague. The larch mentioned in the first stanza was 
standing when I re visited the place in May, 1841, more than forty years 
after." The sister addressed is, of course, Dorothy Wordsworth (see 
p. 122 above). 


The poem exemplifies Wordsworth's sense of the community between 
man and nature ; the air, the trees, the fields seem to feel as man feels. 
It also exhibits his sense of the power of nature in moulding and elevat- 
ing character, and proclaims the value of a passive enjoyment of her 
spirit and beauty. Such enjoyment may seem idleness, but it is idle- 
ness more productive than is the restless analysis of mere intellect 
(which the world at large' calls useful employment) inasmuch as it in- 
duces a proper temper and frame of mind, more needful, in the poet's 
opinion, for right thinking than are logic and reasoning power. 

18. Our calendar shall not be a conventional one, but shall be deter- 
mined by the actual course of nature ; this is exemplified in the next 
two lines. 

26. Until 1837 this line read 

Than fifty years of reason. 

33. Cf. the passage in Tlntern Abbey quoted in the note on Nutting, 


The dates of composition and publication are the same as in the 
preceding poem. "The lines entitled Expostulation and Reply, and 
those which follow, arose out of a conversation with a friend who was 
somewhat unreasonably attached to modern books of moral philosophy. " 
( Wordsworth.) Mr. Thomas Hutchinson, in his edition of the Lyrical 
Ballads, argues that the friend is William Hazlitt, who visited Coleridge 
at Stowey in the summer of 1798 (see pp. 81-2 above), was at that date a 
great student of the modern moral philosophers, and was engaged in 
writing a philosophical work on The Principles of Human Action. Mr. 
Hutchinson thinks the very occasion of the poem is referred to in the 
following extract from Hazlitt's My First Acquaintance with Poets; 
during a walk from Alfoxclen to Stowey " I got into a metaphysical 
argument with Wordsworth, while Coleridge was explaining the differ- 
ent notes of the nightingale to his sister, in which we neither of us suc- 
ceeded in making ourselves perfectly clear and intelligible." 

The 'expostulation' is put in the mouth of "Matthew," a personage 
who appears in other poems also, and seems to be modelled upon the 
poet's old schoolmaster at Hawkshead, William Taylor ; it is addressed 
to "William," who is the poet himself, at least the 'reply' embodies 
his peculiar ideas. 


This poem is a sort of defence of the "idleness" which is recom- 
mended in the previous piece. 

13. Esthwaite lake. A lakelet, about two miles long, west of 
Windermere, and in the immediate neighbourhood is Hawkshead, 
where Wordsworth went to school ; see map. 

Composed and published in 1798. 

These lines are addressed by ' William ' of the preceding poem, to 
' Matthew,' and continue the same argument. The point emphasized 
here is the superiority of the temper and general character begotten 
by intercourse with nature, to that produced by a purely intellectual 
attitude of mind which is always busied with pulling things to pieces 
in order to find the way they are put together, or with seeking reasons 
for their existence ; but which does not look at things as they are, or 
have any time for feeling about things. The thought which Words- 
worth here and elsewhere utters, is partly the outcome of a widespread 
reaction against the hard, dry intellectualism of the 18th century ; an 
example of a parallel movement in another sphere is the uprisal of 
Methodism against the purely ethical and logical trend of theology in 
the earlier part of the century 

1-4. Before 1820 : 

Up ! up ! my friend, and clear your looks, 
Why all this toil and trouble ? 
Up ! up 1. my friend, and quit your books 
Or surely you'll grow double. 

9. "Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a 
weariness of the flesh. " ( Ecclesiastes, xii. 12. ) 

14. Before 1815 : " And he is no mean preacher." 

19-20. Truth, the poet believes, is not to be attained by mere logic ; 
it is the result not of merely mental processes, but of the whole nature 
of man ; so Tennyson, in In Memoriam, cxiii, puts knowledge, which is 
the product of the mind, below wisdom, the outcome of the soul; cf. 
John, vii, 17 : "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doc- 
trine, whether it be of God." 



This poem was written in 1799 whilst Wordsworth was living in 
Germany, at Goslar, on the borders of the Hartz Forest, and was first 
published in the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800). It belongs 
to a group of very beautiful lyrics, all written about the same time, and 
all referring, seemingly, to one heroine called, in the poems, Lucy. 
There is no evidence to show that there was any actual personage 
corresponding to ' Lucy ; ' hence it is an open question whether or not 
the experiences recorded are wholly imaginary. The other 'Lucy' 
poems are " Strange fits of passion have I known," " She dwelt among 
the untrodden ways," "I travell'd among unknown men," and "A 
slumber did my spirit seal. " 

This poem is as eminently beautiful as it is characteristic of the style, 
thought and feeling of Wordsworth : in the simplicity yet charm of its 
metrical music ; in the directness and naturalness yet effectiveness and 
beauty of its language ; in the faith which it expresses in the educating 
influences of nature ; in its subtle communication to the reader of the 
sense of those influences and of the charm of unsullied maidenhood ; and, 
perhaps most striking of all, in the intensity yet calm and resignation 
of feeling which permeate the closing lines. (Cf. the way in which the 
tragedy of Michael is narrated. ) "In the greater of the earlier pieces, 
emotion is uniformly suggested rather than expressed, or, if I may be 
allowed the paradox, expressed by reticence, by the jealous parsimony 
of a half -voluntary, half- involuntary reserve." (Hutton, Wordsworth's 
Two Styles.) 

7-8. This is the reading of the original edition. In 1802, the lines 


Her Teacher I myself will be, 
She is my darling ; and with me 

but in 1805 the poet restored the original text and retained it in 
subsequent editions. 

14. lawn. An open, grassy expanse ; the word originally meant an 
open glade in the woods, and the associations with houses and the 
gardener's care are modern ; there is nothing of the latter kind intended 
here ; cf. Paradise Lost, IV, 252 : 

Betwixt them lawns or level downs and flocks 
Grazing the tender herb, were interposed. 

So in the Nativity Hymn, 1, 85: "The shepherds on the lawn," and 
Goldsmith, Deserted Village, 1. 35: "Sweet smiling village, loveliest of 
the lawn." 


16-18. Cf. Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle, 11. 161-164 : 

Love had he found in huts where poor men lie ; 
His daily teachers had been woods and rills, 
The silence that is in the starry sky, 
The sleep that is among the lonely hills. 

18. insensate. In its original etymological meaning : insensatus, not 
endowed with senses. 

23. In 1800 this line read 

A beauty t.hat shall mould her form. 
But in 1802 and subsequent editions the line stands as in the text. 

28. round. A dance : cf. Spenser, Faerie Queen : 

A troop of Faunes and Satyres far away 
Within the wood were dancing in a round. 

40. Dr. Sykes reads : " This calm, and quiet scene " and annotates 
"Calm," is the authoritative reading (1805, '43, '46, etc.); yet 1802, 
Morley and other recent editions read "calm and quiet scene." The 
punctuation is a matter of importance provided only that the comma 
indicates ' calm ' to be a noun, but in that case the omission of the 
' this ' with ' quiet scene ' would be awkward. 


Written in 1799; first published in Coleridge's periodical, The Friend, 
for December 28th, 1809, where it follows Coleridge's prose description 
of skating on the lake at Ratzeburg. The title in The Friend was 
Growth of Genius from the influence of Natural Objects on the Imagin- 
ation, in Boyhood and Early Youth. This poem forms a part of Words- 
worth's long autobiographical poem, The Prelude (Bk. I, 11. 401, ff. ). 
It is a reminiscence of the poet's school-days ; the lake io Esthwaite, 
the village, Hawkshead. 

Wordsworth and Nature. Nature, i.e., man's dwelling-place the 
world of mountains, fields, lakes, sky, trees, etc. was a more important 
factor in Wordsworth's life than in that, perhaps, of any other poet. 
He spent a great part of his time in the contemplation of it, and it 
shaped his philosophy in a quite peculiar way. * In his own experience, 
this communing with nature had comforted and soothed him even in his 
time of greatest need, and seemed to stimulate and instruct the higher 

*See the extract from Dorothy Wordsworth's Diary, pp. 122-3 above. 


man within him. Such experience is not, in every respect, unique. 
Many persons in that day, and still more in ours, have found intense 
and elevating pleasure in beautiful scenery. But Wordsworth had 
these feelings to an extraordinary degree, and the circumstances both of 
his boyhood and of his later life were such as to develop them to the 
utmost. He possessed, therefore, very unusual qualifications for speak- 
ing upon such matters ; and, being master also of the gift of poetic 
expression, became one of the greatest of nature-poets. He utters for 
others, with marvellous truth and felicity, what they themselves have 
vaguely noted or felt in regard to nature ; his keener observation and 
appreciation enable him to open the eyes of his readers to much of 
beauty that would have escaped their attention. But, further, Words- 
worth's enjoyment of the world about him was not confined merely to 
pleasure in variety and beauty of form and colour. These things which 
address themselves to the bodily eye seemed to him the outward mani- 
festations of an indwelling spirit, a spirit akin to his own, and in 
harmony with it. The divine, in short, lay behind these outward shows ; 
in them God was manifesting himself, and through them man might 
come into closest relations with God. Hence, for Wordsworth, there 
gathered about nature a deep sense of mystery and of reverence ; in his 
breast it excited feelings of a profound and religious character far 
beyond mere delight in sensuous beauty. It is the emphasis that he 
lays upon this aspect of nature, and upon the feelings derived from it, 
that gives the most distinctive quality to his nature poetry.* 

The poem in which we find the most adequate account of Words- 
worth's characteristic view of nature, is the Lines written above Tintcrn 
Abbey, where he also explains that this full appreciation of her signifi- 
cance was a gradual growth. In the poem before us, and in the poem on 
Nutting, which follows, we have an exemplification of one of the earlier 
stages, when Nature takes him in hand,f as it were, and begins her 
course of instruction. Through no lofty motive but in the pursuit of 
boyish pleasures, he is brought into close contact with some of the most 
beautiful aspects of the material world ; these are the background of 
his daily life and are intertwined with his keenest enjoyments and most 
vivid experiences ; and at favourable moments, as in those recorded 
in these two poems, there steals upon his boyish heart some vague 
consciousness of her beauty, and of her power. 

* We may contrast him with Scott and Tennyson, who delight in natural scenery and 
phenomena, but only for their beauty and charm, without the sense of mysterious 
sympathy, of the deep import which lies beneath what presents itself to the bodily eye. 

fCf. the poem " Three years she grew." 


1-4. The poet .addresses the Spirit of which we have spoken above. 
This Spirit or Mind gives form and energy to mere material things ; cf. 
the passage from Tintern Abbey cited in the note on Nutting. 

6-10. So in the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, in which he explains 
his theory of poetry, one of the reasons that he gives for preferring 
" humble and rustic life " as a subject for poetry is, " in that condition 
the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent 
forms of nature." 

9. Not, for example, with the mean and perishable surroundings of 
the poorer classes in an ugly, manufacturing town, but with magnificent 
mountains and valleys of the Lake country. 

10-11. Association with these nobler things elevates the beginnings 
and sources of our feeling and thought ; cf. Personal Talk, continued, 
11. 2-4. 

12-14. Through the elevation and insight thus attained (viz., by 
association with what is noble in life and nature) we learn to find, even 
in pain and fear, sources of consolation and strength, and a proof of the 
greatness of human nature even in the intensity of our emotions. This 
is a characteristic thought with Wordsworth ; it lies at the basis of the 
Elegiac .Stanzas suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle ; cf. also the close 
of the Ode on Intimations of Immortality : 

We will grieve not, rather find 
Strength in what remains behind : 
In the primal sympathy 
Which having been must ever be ; 
In the soothing thoughts that spring 
Out of human suffering. 

Thanks to the human heart by which we live ; 
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears. 

20. trembling lake refers to the quivering of the water, noticeable 
through the motion of the reflections, even in very calm weather. 

23. Before 1845, "'Twas mine among the fields." 

27. In TJie Prelude (1850) this line reads: "The cottage windows 
blazed through twilight gloom." 

37. loud-chiming. Until 1840 the reading was " loud bellowing." 

Cf. the whole of Theseus' description of the hounds in Mids. Night's 
Dream, IV, i, and especially "match'd in mouth like bells." 

40. Smitten. Until 1836 "Meanwhile." 


41-2. Coleridge, in The Friend, says : " When very many are skating 
together the sounds and the noises give an impulse to the icy trees, and 
the woods all round the lake tinkle. " 

Cf. also Tennyson's description of a wintry night in Morte d' Arthur: 

The bare, black cliff clang'd round him, as he based 
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang 
Sharp-smitten with the dint of iron heels. 

50-2. The reading in the text dates from 1827. At first the lines 

stood : 

To cut across the image of a Star 

That gleam'd upon the ice ; and oftentimes 

in 1820 : 

To cross the bright reflection of a Star 
Image, that, flying still before me gleamed 
Upon the glassy plain : and oftentimes 

in The Prelude : 

To cut across the reflex of a star, 
That fled, and flying still, etc. 

58-60. When continued and swift motion is stopped, we feel for a 
time as if the motion were continued in things about us ; cf. the sensa- 
tion of dizziness. In 1. 60 the emphasis is on "visible." 

63. In The Prelude : " Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep." 


Written in Germany in 1799, published in 1800 ; intended to form 
part of The Prelude, "but struck out," says Wordsworth, "as not 
being wanted there. Like most of my schoolfellows, I was an impas- 
sioned Nutter. For this pleasure, the Vale of Esthwaite, abounding in 
coppice wood, furnished a very wide range. These verses arose out of 
the remembrance of feelings I had often had when a boy, and particu- 
larly in the extensive woods that still [1843] stretch from the side of 
Esthwaite Lake toward Graythwaite, the seat of the ancient family of 

" The poem a fragment of autobiography illustrates the processes 
and incidents by which Wordsworth's animal joy in nature in boyhood 
was gradually purified and spiritualized." (Dowden.) 

The five selections preceding have all to do with the one theme the 
influence of nature as an educator of man. In Nutting the poet dwells 
with fond delight upon a remembrance of boyish years, when, by mere 


animal activity and childish pleasures, he was drawn into contact 
with nature in her beauty and repose ; yet, even then, he was half- 
conscious of her charm, and already vaguely felt a spirit in nature, and 
a sympathy with that spirit things of which he made so much in his 
later philosophy, life, and poetry. 

The poem is in the main descriptive, and we feel that, to some extent, 
the poet elaborates and lingers upon the details for their own sake, and 
because they are associated with a glow of youthful life and the faery 
charm that haunts the fresh experiences of children. (Cf. Ode on the 
Intimations of Immortality and To the Cuckoo. ) But it is characteristic 
of Wordsworth that the poem is (1) not a mere description of nature as 
it presents itself to the bodily eye, but of nature as influencing man ; 
and (2) that the picture serves to lead up to an interpretation of nature 
to the statement of something which is the outcome, not of mere 
observation by the bodily organs, but of the imaginative and philosophic 

faculty : 

A sense sublime 

Of something far more deeply interfused, 
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
And the round ocean, and the living air, 
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man ; 
A motion and a spirit, that impels 
All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
And rolls through all things. 

(Lines composed above Tintern Abbey.) 

4. This line was added in 1827. 

5. Up to 1827, the line read : " When forth I sallied from our cottage 
door. " The cottage was that of Anne Tyson ( ' ' the frugal dame " of 
1. 11), where Wordsworth lodged (see p. 119, above). 

6. "And with a wallet" was the reading before 1815. 

9-12. Before 1815 

of Beggar's weeds 
Put on for the occasion, by advice 
And exhortation of my frugal Dame. 

14-16. Before 1836 these lines read : 

Among the woods 

And o'er the pathless rocks, I forc'd my way 
Until at length I came. 

20. tempting clusters. Before 1845 "milk-white clusters." 
33. water-breaks. Ripples or wavelets ; cf. Tennyson's Brook : 
With many a silvery water-break 
Above the golden gravel. 

MICHAEL. . 139 

36. under. Before 1845 "beneath." 

50. Before 1836 this line read " Even then, when from the bower I 
turned away." Dowden suggests that the alteration was made "to 
avoid the thrice-repeated ' en ' sound in the opening words. " 

53. saw inserted for the first time in 1836. 

intruding sky. The epithet is applied because the sky was only 
made visible through the breaking of the branches, and its light 
seemed at variance with the previous seclusion of the spot. 

54. dearest Maiden. The poet is no doubt addressing his sister 


Written at Town-end, Grasmere, 1800. In Dorothy Wordsworth's 
journal, under date Oct. 11 of that year, occurs the entry: "We walked 
up Green-head Ghyll in search of a sheepfold. . . . The sheepfold is 
falling away. It is built nearly in the form of a heart unequally 
divided." In the diary there follow numerous references to Words- 
worth's working upon the poem, usually at the sheepfold. On Dec. 9, 
there is the entry : " W. finished his poem to-day," the reference being 
probably to Michael. Michael was included in the edition of the Lyrical 
Ballads dated 1800, but actually published in Jan. 1801. 

In Professor Knight's edition, and in Dowden 's A Idine edition, will be 
found a number of fragments, intended for Michael, recovered from a 
MS. book of Dorothy Wordsworth's. " The greater portion of these 
fragments are occupied with an episode judiciously omitted, which tells 
of the search made in late autumn by Michael and his son for a stray 
sheep." (Dowden.) 

"The character and circumstances of Luke," said Wordsworth, 
" 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 wood- 
lands on the eastern shore of Grasmere. " On another occasion he said : 
"Michael was founded on the son of an old couple having become dis- 
solute, and run away from his parents ; and on an old shepherd having 
been seven years in building up a sheepfold in a solitary valley." On 
April 9, 1801, Wordsworth wrote to his friend Thomas Poole : "In 
writing [Michael], I had your character often before my eyes, and some- 
times thought that I was delineating such a man as you yourself would 
have been, under the same circumstances ;" again, "I have attempted 


to give a picture of a man of strong mind and lively sensibility, agitated 
by two of the most powerful affections of the human heart, parental 
affection and the love of property, landed property, including the feel- 
ings of inheritance, home, and personal and family independence." To 
Charles James Fox he wrote: "In the two poems, The Brothers and 
Michael, I have attempted to draw a picture of the domestic affections, 
as I know they exist among a class of men who are now almost confined 
to the north of England. They are small independent proprietors of 
land, here called ' statesmen,' men of respectable education, who daily 
labour on their own little properties. The domestic affections will 
always be strong amongst men who live in a country not crowded with 
population ; if these men are placed above poverty. But, if they are 
proprietors of small estates which have descended to them from their 
ancestors, the power which these affections will acquire amongst such 
men, is inconceivable by those who have only had an opportunity of 
observing hired labourers, farmers, and the manufacturing poor. Their 
little tract of land serves as a kind of permanent rallying point for their 
domestic feelings, as a tablet on which they are written, which makes 
them objects of memory in a thousand instances, when they would 
otherwise be forgotten. . . . The two poems that I have mentioned 
were written with a view to show that men who do not wear fine clothes 
can feel deeply. . . . The poems are faithful copies from nature ; 
and I hope whatever effect they may have upon you, you will at least 
be able to perceive that they may excite profitable sympathies in many 
kind and good hearts ; and may in some small degree enlarge our feel- 
I ings of reverence for our species, and our knowledge of human nature, 
5 by showing that our best qualities are possessed by men whom we are 
I too apt to consider, not with reference to the points in which they 
V resemble us, but to those in which they manifestly differ from us." Of 
this class of landed-proprietors, the last survivors of the yeomanry of 
England, Mr. Myers says "they have afforded as near a realization as 
human fates would allow of the rural society which statesmen desire for 
their country's welfare." It was the contemplation of their virtues 
which was one of the chief sources of healing for Wordsworth's dejection 
: and loss of faith in human nature (see p. 121 above). 

Wordsworth and Man. We have had several examples of Words- 
worth's attitude towards rfature, and of the poetic use that he makes of 
the material derived thence. But Wordsworth's poetry also treats of 
man and human life, and in this sphere, as in the other, his work pre- 


sents marked peculiarities. In contrast with the majority of poets, and 
especially in contrast with the school of poets who had been dominant 
in England during the greater part of the century, Wordsworth takes 
his themes from humble, rustic, commonplace life. He thus, at once, 
abandons the advantages which a dignified or romantic theme, or one 
which* treats of remote times and places, yields. Those very sources of 
charm which lie upon the surface in the case of The Ancient Mariner or 
of The Lady of the Lake varied and romantic incidents, picturesque 
manners and costume, plot interest, the stimulus of mystery and curi- 
osity are usually, as in Michael, excluded by the poet's very selection 
of subject. Nor does he attempt to introduce these attractions in any 
adventitious way, to invest his poems by his style and treatment with 
some of these qualities which do not naturally accompany his theme.*/ 
What then are the sources of his poetic power ? What is it that makes 
such a poem as Michael a work of extraordinary beauty and charm ? 

There are two main points which should be noted in the poem before 
us as particularly distinctive of Wordsworth's genius and art. (1) He I 
chooses his theme for the nobility, intensity, and beauty of the emotion ' 
involved, not because of the strikingness of the external facts that form 
the environment of this emotion. In this respect he is unlike Scott ; he 
cares nothing for picturesque personages and events, provided he finds a 
subject which presents some noble, affecting, important truth of human 
nature, t So in Michael the fatherly love which is the centre of the 
whole is a beautiful and noble trait of human nature in whatever sur- 
roundings exhibited ; and its tragic disappointment is naturally fitted 
to awaken intense sympathy in the reader. Evidently these are two 
great merits even perhaps the greatest that a poetic theme could 
have ; so great, at least, that the poet is able to dispense with many of 
the more superficial attractions which a romantic poem such as The 
Lady of the Lake affords. Wordsworth, accordingly, neglecting all 
adventitious and external ornaments, gives his whole energy to bringing 
this fatherly love home to our own hearts and sympathies. If the > 
student will examine the poem from this point of view, he will see that 
it has a unity which The Lady of the Lake cannot boast ; every portion / 
contributes something to make us feel and understand how tender and/ 

* As Tennyson occasionally does, e.g., in Enoch Arden, which affords a very interest- I 
ing parallel and contrast to Michael. 

t "Another circumstance must be mentioned whicl. distinguishes these poems from 
the popular poetry of the day ; it is this, that the feeling therein developed gives im- 
portance to the action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling." 
(Wordsworth, Preface to the Second Edition of the Lyrical Ballads.) 

V 1 


deep was Michael's love, or else to comprehend that other feeling 
Michael's profound attachment to his home and property which is 
also essential as leading to the boy's departure from home, and to the 
tragic conclusion of the story. 

(2) The second point to be specially noted is that the poet does not 
| present the series of events simply for their own sake, as Scott and as 
I Shakespeare do ; but that, further, although in a very unobtrusive 
i fashion, he teaches a lesson. (Seep. 126 above.) He himself, in his 
I meditative fashion, has found illumination and solace in this simple 
tale ; he weaves his feeling and his thought through the whole texture 
of the work, and brings it home, if unobtrusively, yet none the less 
effectively, to the reader. The truth that Wordsworth drew from this 
picture of humble life, the feeling which it aroused in him, was that of 
the innate dignity and worth of human nature ; and through the poem 
lie intensifies our sense of reverence for the race, our hopes for the 
future of mankind. It is noteworthy that though the story is a sad one, 
the effect of the poem is not depressing quite the contrary. We are 
touched and subdued, not harrowed, as by the wretched sensational 
realism of so much of our present day literature ; we hear 

The still, sad music of humanity 

Nor harsh, nor grating, though of ample power 

To chasten and subdue. 

Nor is this a chance peculiarity of Mic/nn ! , it is a pervading note in 
Wordsworth's philosophy and poetry. The great event of Words- 
worth's life was the crisis produced by the French Revolution. (See 
p. 121 above. ) In emerging from this he discovered sources of happiness 
and consolation open to all, which raised him from the depth of dejection 
and pessimism to a permanent level of cheerfulnss, and sometimes to 
heights of ecstatic joy. To reveal these sources of happiness to mankind 
was his chosen task. And so, whether he treats of nature or of man, 
Wordsworth is eminently the consoler. "Wordsworth's poetry is 
great," says Matthew Arnold, "because of the extraordinary power 
with which Wordsworth feels the joy offered to us in nature, the jov 
offered to us in the simple primary affections and duties ; and because 
of the extraordinary power with which, in case after case, he shows us 
this joy, and renders it so as to make us share it. The source of joy 
from which he thus draws is the truest and most unfailing source of joy 
accessible to man. It is also accessible universally. Wordsworth brings 
us, therefore, according to his own strong and characteristic line, word 
Of joy in widest commonalty spread. 


Here is an immense advantage for a poet. Wordsworth tells us of what 
all seek, and tells us of it at its truest and best source, and yet a source 
where all may go and draw for it." 

From this point of view at which we now are, it will be noted that 
the selection of humble personages and humble life is a positive advan- 
tage, because fine feeling and fine character in a situation where the 
casual advantage of the few wealth, high culture, etc. are absent, 
seem to be inherent in human nature itself, and do not seem to be the 
outcome of surroundings. Note also that here, in some measure, as in 
The Lady of the Lake, we have a picture of manners, customs, and life as 
developed by special circumstances in a particular locality. But in the 
case of Scott, the introduction of this element has ifs ground in the 
picturesqueness of the life depicted, in its remoteness and romantic 
character ; in the case of Wordsworth, in the fact that the simple, 
wholesome manner of life is a pleasing spectacle in itself and begets 
cheering views as to the actual and possible development of the finer 
elements of human nature under quite attainable conditions./ If the 
picture is poetical, it is poetical because the homely details are ennobled 
(as they would equally be in real life) by elevation of character and feel- 
ing in the persons concerned. The only accessory in the poem possessing 
external beauty, is the scenery of mountain, glen, and storm which 
forms the background of the human interest. But this, too, is of the 
essence of the story, because, in the first place, it forms tfee actual 
siirroundings of the North-country shepherd whose life the poet is 
realistically depicting ; and in the second place, because, according to 
Wordsworth's belief, some of the essential traits of Michael's character 
are in part due to the influence of this impressive scene. Michael has 
beefl educated, as Wordsworth describes himself as being educated, by 
mountains, and storm, and sky.* So that the landscape is also an essen- 
tial of the situation. Again we have a contrast with Scott ; he describes 
the scenery of the Trosachs, merely on account of its beauty, as part of 
the picture for the sensuous imagination. Such set descriptions as are 
to be found in Scott's poem, are wholly absent from Michael ; nature is 
only introduced as influencing man, and as explaining the action. 

Since the main effects, then, of the poem depend upon the intensity of 
the sympathy aroused in the reader with the central emotion, and upon 
his belief in the possible existence of such persons, feelings and situa- 
tions, it is evidently incumbent upon the poet that he should be realistic 
and should avoid fanciful, idyllic beauties such as are to be found in 

*See opening ofjnfluence of Natural Objects. 


The Lady of the Lake. Accordingly, Wordsworth keeps close to actual 
facts ; he shuns no bare or homely detail of simple shepherd life ; he 
adds no borrowed charm from poetic fancy. There is none of the im- 
probable prettiness of Tennyson's May Queen. 

In unison with the simplicity of the theme and the realistic sincerity 
of the treatment, the style is simple and direct, sometimes even to the 
verge of baldness. There is no needless ornament, no seeking for archaic 
or distinctively poetical language, yet there is no banality or childish 
simplicity. Wordsworth's expression, here as elsewhere, is marked by 
directness, sincerity and aptness, accompanied by dignity, beauty and 
harmony to a degree unsurpassed in the English language. "Nature 
herself," as Matthew Arnold says, "seems, to take the pen out of his 
hand and write for him, with her bare, sheer penetrating power." 

2. Ghyll. " In the dialect of Cumberland and Westmoreland, a short 
and, for the most part, a steep narrow valley with a stream running 
through it." (Wordsworth.) 

6. around. Before 1827 " beside." 

18-20. Before 1836 

And to that place a story appertains 

Which, though it be ungarnished with events, 

Is not unfit, I deem, etc. 

24-33. In Tintern Abbey Wordsworth refers to the same fact, that 
nature interested him before men ; see 11. 72-93. 

49-52. Note the fine cadence of this passage. 

51. subterraneous music. " I am not sure that I understand this 
aright. Does it mean the sound of the wind under overhanging cliffs 
and in hollows of the hills ? " (Dowden.) 

61-77. Here, as in Nutting, beautiful nature, accidentally as it were, 
associated with daily employments, obtains a hold upon the imagination 
and moulds his character. With this passage may be compared the 
following lines from the rejected fragments of Michael referred to 

above, p. 139 : 

No doubt if you in terms direct had asked 
Whether he loved the mountains, true it is 
That with blunt repetition of your words 
He might have stared at you, and said that they 
Were frightful to behold, but had you then 
Discoursed with him . . '. . . . . 
Of his own business, and the goings on 
Of earth and sky, then truly had you seen 
That in his thoughts there were obscurities, 
Wonder and admiration, things that wrought 
Not less than a religion in his heart. 


66-67. Before 1836 

the hills which he so oft 
Had climbed with vigorous steps. 

73-74. Before 1832 the passage read : 

So grateful in themselves, the certainty 
Of honourable gains ; these fields, these hills 
Which were his living Being, even more 
Than his own blood- 
As Prof. Dowden points out, "The narration which follows shows 
that the fields and hills were not more a part of Michael's being than 
was his own son." 

78-9. Before 1815 as follows : 

He had net passed his days in singleness, 
He had a Wife, a comely Matron, old 

89-90. The poet seems to regard " With one foot in the grave," as a 
local expression. 

99. the. Before 1836 "their." 

112. Before 1836 : " Did with a huge projection overbrow." 

115. utensil. The stress is on the first syllable a pronunciation now 
almost obsolete. 

133. with large prospect. Cf. Paradise Lost, IV, 142-4 : 

Yet higher than their tops 
The verdurous wall of Paradise upsprung, 
Which to our general Sire gave prospect large. 

Dunmail- Raise. The pass from Grasmere to Keswick. 
139. "The name of the Evening Star," the poet told Miss Fenwick, 
"was not in fact given to this house, but to another on the same side 
of the valley, more to the north." 
144-5. Before 1827 as follows : 

Effect which might perhaps have been produced 
By that instinctive tenderness. 

145. Before 1836 

Blind spirit which is in the blood of all. 

147. This line was inserted first in 1836. 

152, ff. It will be noted how many circumstances the poet inserts in 
order to make the fatherly affection especially intense in the case of 
Michael : he has but one child, the son of his old age, is constantly in 
his company, etc. 


158. Before 1836 : 

His cradle, with a woman's gentle hand. 

163-6. Before 1836 : 

Had work by his own door, or when he sat 
With sheep before him on his Shepherd's stool, 
Beneath the large old Oak, which near their door 
Stood, and from its enormous breadth of shade. 

169. Clipping Tree. " Clipping is the word used in the North of 
England for shearing." ( Wordsworth's note.) 

200-4. Admirable expression of a common experience : through 
sympathy with the feelings of others the fresher, imaginative feelings 
of childhood, for example familiar objects and experiences win a new 
impressiveness and power. 

201-3. Compare the elevation, beauty, and suggestiveness of diction 
and rhythm here with their simplicity in such lines as 174-6 ; in each 
case the style is in admirable keeping with thought. 

207. This reading was introduced in 1815. In the first issue of 1800 

the reading was 

While this good household were thus living on 

in the second issue 

While in this fashion which I have described 
This simple Household thus were living on. 

221-3. Before 1836 : 

As soon as he had gathered so much strength 
That he could look his trouble in the face, 
It seemed that his sole refuge was to sell. 

246-7. Even his affection for his son intensifies his attachment to the 

253. Before 1836 : "May come again to us. If here he stay." 

258. " The story alluded to here is well known in the country. The 
chapel is called Ings Chapel, and is on the right hand side of the road 
leading from Kendal to Ambleside." ( Wordsworth's note.) 

283. "There is a slight inconsistency here. The conversation is 
represented as taking place in the evening (see 1. 227)." (Knight.) 

298. Often distinction is given to a passage by a reminiscence, half 
unconscious it may be, of Scriptural language ; here, for example, is 
a suggestion of the touching speech of Judah to Joseph (see Genesis, xliv, 
especially vv. 22 and 31). 


304. "With daylight" in 1820 replaced "Next morning" of the 
earlier editions. 

324. a Sheepfold. " It may be proper to inform some readers that a 
sheepfold in these mountains is an unroofed building of stone walls, 
with different divisions. It is generally placed by the side of a brook, 
for the convenience of washing the sheep ; but it is also useful as a 
shelter for them, and as a place to drive them into, to enable the shep- 
herds conveniently to single out one or more for any particular purpose. " 
( Wordsworth's note.) 

327. by the streamlet's edge. Before 1815, "close to the brook 

338. touch On. Before 1836, "speak Of." 

340.0ft. Before 1827, "it." 

373. threescore. Before 1827, "sixty." 

377-8. This also would increase his attachment to the land. 

387. A suggestion of action on the boy's part. 

406-10. In 1800 these lines read : 

let this Sheepfold be 

Thy anchor and thy shield ; amid all fear 
And all temptation, let it be to thee 
An emblem of the life thy Fathers lived. 

414-15. After the fashion recorded in Scripture, the covenant is 
ratified by an external sign ; cf. Genesis, ix, 13 : "I do set my bow in 
the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the 
earth;" Exodus, xxxi, 16: "Wherefore the children of Israel shall 
keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, 
for a perpetual covenant ;" and I Samuel, xviii, 3-4 : " Then Jonathan 
and David made a covenant, and Jonathan stripped himself of the robe 
that was upon him and gave it to David," etc. 

423. This line was added in 1815 ; previously the following line had 
read : 

Next morning, as had been resolv'd, the Boy. 

448. Notice how Wordsworth passes lightly over the crisis of anguish 
and sorrow (as he does also at 1. 425) instead of harrowing the feelings 
by detailing it ; the first word here is of comfort, not of sorrow, that 
springs from strength of love. This is characteristic of Wordsworth's 
attitude. Cheerfulness is with him a duty, a mark of a wholesome 
nature, the frame of mind needful for the attainment of truth. (Cf. The 
Tables Turned, 1. 20.) Wordsworth would fain believe that in the world 


there is nothing in which there is not an over-balance of good ; if there 
is such an experience, he certainly shuns presenting it in his poetry. 
450. Before 1820 : 

Would break the heart : Old Michael found it so. 

454-5. There is a certain charm in the repetition of these lines (see 
11. 43-4), as in the repetition in 11. 2, 322, and 482. 

456. " From 1800 to 1827 the line closed with ' up upon the sun ' ; 
in 1832 the fault was amended by the reading 'up towards the sun.' 
But when making the revision for 1836, Wordsworth decided uniformly 
to treat ' towards ' as a monosyllable and accordingly he substituted the 
present reading." (Dowden.) 


According to Wordsworth himself, this poem was composed in the 
orchard at Town-end, Grasmere, 1804 ; but entries in his sister Doro- 
thy's journal indicate that it was written in March 23-26, 1802. Knight 
suggests that "it may have been altered and readjusted in 1804." It 
was first published in 1807. 

Wordsworth is fond of referring to the cuckoo ; see To Sleep (p. 69), 
1. 8 ; the poem beginning "Yes, it was the mountain echo," a sonnet 
To the Cuckoo, The Cuckoo at Laverna, etc. ; in his Guide to the Lakes, 
he writes : * ' There is alst> an imaginative influence in the voice of the 
cuckoo, when that voice has taken possession of a deep mountain 
valley " ; and the imaginative suggestiveness of the voice is also referred 
to in The Excursion, II, 11. 346-8 : 

. . . only from the neighbouring vales 
The cuckoo straggling up to the hill tops, 
Shouteth faint tidings of some gladder place, 

As in the case of the Green Linnet (see note p. 151), the bird is not the 
theme of the poem ; here, however, it is the occasion. Certain peculiar- 
ities of the cuckoo, sufficiently indicated by the poet, make it suggestive 
to the childish mind, of the unknown and vague. Most of us can look 
back on some place or scene, pregnant for our childish minds with vague 
possibilities of beauty and adventure. In those days there is an interest 
and freshness about life which gradually vanishes as we grow older. 
This sense of poetry and romance was abnormally strong in the child 
Wordsworth. He refers to it repeatedly in his poetry, especially in the 


Immortality Ode and in Tintern Abbey, and in the former poem has 
chosen to suggest a mystical explanation of it. 

Of this ideal world in which the mind of the imaginative boy Words- 
worth dwells much, the cuckoo became the symbol ; and now, in 
mature years, as the poet listens to its familiar cry, a two-fold stimulus 
is given to his feelings : first, through the associations with boyhood 
and its happiness ; second, through the associations with the ideal and 
the life of imagination. In the flood of feeling which pours over the 
poet's heart the "golden time" of youth seems renewed, and the com- 
monplaceness which maturer years has imparted to his surroundings 
temporarily vanishes ; once more the world becomes an "unsubstantial 
faery place," an ideal realm. 

Palgrave says : "This poem has an exultation and glory, joined with 
an exquisiteness of expression, which places it in the highest rank 
among the many masterpieces of its illustrious author." 

4. wandering Voice. Cf. "erratic voice" (Sonnet to the Cuckoo), 
and " vagrant voice " ( The Cuckoo at Laverna). 

5-8. The reading in the text is that of 1845. In 1807 : 

While I am lying on the grass 

I hear thy restless shout : 
From hill to hill it seems to pass 

About, and all about ! 
In 1815 : 

While I am lying on the grass, 

Thy loud note smites my ear J 
From hill to hill it seems to pass 

At once far off and near. 

In 1820 he changed the third line into 

It seems to fill the whole air's space. 

The second line of 1807 is however more vivid than the line which re- 
placed it in 1815. So he amends this and recovers the word "shout" (cf. 
the lines just quoted from The Excursion, and also Bk. VII, 1. 408 : " not 
for his delight The vernal cuckoo shouted " ), by the following version 

of 1827 : 

While I am lying on the grass, 

Thy twofold shout I hear, 
That seems to fill the whole earth's space 

As loud far off as near. 

In 1845 he restored the original 3rd line, and the 4th line of 1815. 

The poet's solicitude, thus exhibited, in characterizing the cuckoo's 
voice, serves to confirm a remark of Pater's: "Clear and delicate, at 


once, as he is in outlining of visible imagery, he is more clear and deli- 
cate still, and finely scrupulous in the noting of sounds. " Of. The 
Solitary Reaper. 

6. twofold. Consisting of two notes, as represented in the name of 
the bird; cf. "twin notes inseparably paired " (Sonnet to the Cuckoo). 

9-12. The text is that of the ed. of 1827 ; in 1807 we find : 

To me, no Babbler with a tale 

Of sunshine and of flowers, 
Thou tellest, Cuckoo in the Vale 

Of visionary hours. 
In 1815: 

I hear thee babbling to the vale 

Of sunshine and of flowera ; 
And unto me thou bring'st a tale, etc. 

12. visionary hours. Hours which were full of visions, hours when 
the imagination was at work. 

18-24. The cuckoo is a shy and restless bird, not easily seen. 

31. faery. A variant of the more usual word fairy; the form faery is 
connected with Spenser's great poem, and is here specially appropriate 
as suggesting his meaning of the word pertaining to the region of the 
ideal and of imagination ; whereas fairy is rather suggestive of the 
more trivial ideas connected with the fanciful beings of childish story. 


This is one of three poems addressed to the same flower, which were 
written in 1802 at Town-end, Grasmere ; it was first published in 1807. 
1-3. The first edition differed in 1. 2 : 

A Pilgrim bold in Nature's care. 
In 1827 and 1832, 1. 3 : 

And oft the long year through, the heir 
In 1837 we find : 

Confiding Flower, by Nature's care 
Made bold, who, lodging here and there, 
Art all the long year through the heir. 

6. Some concord. In 1837, "communion " ; but all earlier and later 
editions read as in the text. 

8. thorough. Thorough and through are variants of the same word ; 
cf. Midsummer Night's Dream, II, i, 3: "Thorough brush, thorough 
brier." Cf. note on The Ancient Mariner, 1. 64. 


9. This is the reading of the earliest and latest editions ; the editions 
of 1827 and 1832 read : " And wherefore? Man is soon deprest?" 

17-24. This stanza was omitted in editions 1827 and 1832, but is in 
all the other editions. 

23. In what respects the Daisy's function is apostolical is indicated in 
the previous lines of this stanza. 

"To Shelley," says Professor Dowden, " a flower is a thing of light 
and love, bright with its yearning, pale with passion. To Thomson a 
flower is an object which has a certain shape and colour. To Words- 
worth a flower is a living partaker of the common spiritual life and joy 
of being." 


Composed in 1803, in the orchard at Dove Cottage, Grasmere ; pub- 
lished in 1807. 

Prof. Dowden quotes from Wintringham's Birds of Wordsworth: 
" Of all English birds, the green finch or the green grosbeak is best 
adapted to its position in nature. Its colour makes it almost impercep- 
tible to all who are not adepts in ornithology. The bright gamboge 
yellow of its primary feathers and the bright golden green of the least 
wing-coverts do not foil the hiding powers of its other plumage, but 
rather complete than destroy the bird's perfect adaptation." 

A green linnet is not in itself the subject of the poem, but is made use 
of as connected with, or symbolizing an emotion in the poet. Here, as 
often, the title does not indicate the real theme ; the true subject of 
this poem, the stimulus which leads the poet to write it, is the joy 
which he feels at the renewal of nature in spring. The poem is a simple 
illustration of the distinguishing excellence of Wordsworth's work as 
described by Matthew Arnold in the passage quoted on p. 142. 

The poem before us is perfectly simple ; there is no moral drawn, no 
hidden meaning. It merely recalls, expresses, intensifies for us the joy 
we have all felt on a perfect day of spring when 

Once more the Heavenly Power 
Makes all things new. 

On such a day it is enough to live. We seek no reason for our happi- 
ness ; it is pure sympathy with nature. On such a day alone, the 
ordinary man perhaps vividly feels that which Wordsworth so continu- 
ally felt, and which lies at the basis of his nature poetry that there is 


between us and nature a sympathy like that between man and man, and 
thus nature becomes transformed from mere matter to something pul- 
sating with a spirit akin to our own. 

In the opening stanza the poet sufficiently indicates the occasion, so 
that we may catch his feeling. Then among the many tokens of spring 
which surround him, he seizes on the linnet as most adequately symbol- 
izing for him the joy of the season. Why the linnet is chosen, is suffici- 
ently indicated in the poem, more especially in the 2nd and 3rd stanzas. 

The predominant note of perfect contentment with actual and present 
things is eminently typical of Wordsworth's poetry, and may be con- 
trasted with Shelley's unsatisfied yearning, and Keats' escape to an ideal 
scene as exhibited in their well-known bird-poems. 

Note the aptness of the stanza-form to the feeling ; the most notice- 
able peculiarities are the three successive rhyming lines, and the double 
rhymes in 4th and 8th lines. Both these peculiarities contribute to the 
liveliness of the movement. 

1-8. In J807 this stanza read : 

The May is come again ; how sweet 

To sit upon my Orchard seat ! 

And Birds and Flowers once more to greet, 

My last year's Friends together ; 
My thoughts they all by turns employ, 
A whispering Leaf is now my joy, 
And then a Bird will be the toy 

That doth my fancy tether. 

In 1815 and in subsequent editions, the stanza reads as in the text, 
except that until 182? we find ''flowers and birds," instead of "birds 
and flowers." 

15. With a reference, probably, to the celebration of May 1st ; cf. 
Tennyson's May Queen, and Shakespeare's M ids. Night's Dream. 

18. paramours. As the word is ordinarily pronounced, the rhyme is 
defective. In 11. 28 and 32, 36 and 40 the rhyme is also imperfect, but, 
owing to the separation of the lines, these licenses are less objectionable. 
The word was not originally, and is not here, used in any bad sense ; cf. 
Faerie Queene, II, ix. 34, and Wordsworth's Hart Leap Well: 

And in the summer-time when days are long, 

I will come hither with my paramour ; 
And with the dancers and the minstrel's song 

We will make merry in that pleasant bower. 

25. Amid. Until 1845 "Upon." 


33-40. In 1807 the reading was : 

While thus before my eyes he gleams, 
A Brother of the Leaves he seems ; 
When in a moment forth he teems 

His little song in gushes ; 
As if it pleased him to disdain 
And mock the form which he did feign, 
While he was dancing with the train 
Of leaves among the bushes. 

In 1820 the sixth line of this stanza became : 

The voiceless form he chose to feign. 
In 1827 : 

My sight he dazzles, half deceives, 
A bird so like the dancing Leaves. 

with the remainder as in the text, except that "when" stood for 
"while" in line 39. After some slight changes in subsequent editions 
the present text was given in 1845. 


Written between Sept. 13th, 1803, and May, 1805, when Dorothy 
Wordsworth copied it into her journal ; first published 1807. The 
following entry is from Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal under date 
Sept. 13 : " As we descended [they were near Loch Voil] the scene 
became more fertile, our way being pleasantly varied through coppices 
or open fields, and passing farm-houses, though always with an inter- 
mixture of uncultivated ground. It was harvest-time, and the fields 
were quietly might I be allowed to say pensively ? enlivened by small 
companies of reapers. It is not uncommon in the more lonely parts of 
the Highlands to see a single person so employed. The following poem 
was suggested to William by a beautiful sentence in Thomas Wilkinson's 
' Tour of Scotland. ' " The following is the sentence referred to : 
"Passed a female who was reaping alone ; she sung in Erse as she 
bended over her sickle ; the sweetest human voice I ever heard ; her 
strains were tenderly melancholy, and felt delicious, long after they 
were heard no more." 

Mr. A. J. George ( Selections from Wordsworth) thus comments on this 
poem : 

" What poet ever produced such beauty and power with so simple 
materials ! The maiden, the latest lingerer in the field, is the medium 
through which the romance of Highland scenery, and the soul of solitary 


Highland life is revealed to us ; even her voice seems a part of nature, 
so mysteriously does it blend with the beauty of the scene. It is to 
such influences as this that the poet refers in the lines, 

And impulses of higher birth 
Have come to him in solitude." 
10. Before 1827 : 

So sweetly to reposing bands, 

"Wordsworth believed that he had used the word 'sweet' to excess 
throughout his poems, and in 1827 he removed it from ten passages ; 
in later editions from fifteen additional passages." (Dowden.) 

13. The reading of the text was introduced in 1837 ; in 1807 this line 

read : 

No sweeter voice was ever heard. 
In 1827 : 

Such thrilling voice was never heard. 

Cf. To the Cuckoo, and the opening lines of his sonnet to the same 

bird : 

Not the whole warbling grove in concert heard 
When sunshine follows shower, the breast can thrill 
Like the first summons, cuckoo ! of thy bill. 

15. Cf. Coleridge's Ancient Mariner : 

And we did speak only to break 
The silence of the sea. 

18. numbers. The stock poetical word for ' poetry.' 

19. Professor Dowden quotes from the entry in Dorothy Wordsworth's 
Journal, which includes this poem : " William here conceived the notion 
of writing an ode upon the affecting subject of those relics of human 
society found in that grand and solitary region. " 

27. Note that the 3rd line of the stanza does not rhyme here, as it does 
in the previous stanzas. 

29. Before 1820: 

I listen'd till I had my fill. 

30. As. "When" in the editions 1827-32. 


Composed 1804, published 1807. " Written at Town-end, Grasmere. 
The germ of this poem was four lines, composed as a part of the verses 
on the Highland Girl. Though beginning in this way it was written 
from my heart, as is sufficiently obvious." ( Wordsworth's note.) 


Wordsworth himself says that these verses refer to his wife. (See 
Knight's Memoirs, Vol. II, p. 306.) They are written, then, of a par- 
ticular individual, but also, as all true poetry, serve to embody a more 
general truth the successive stanzas represent three phases of man's 
view of, and attitude towards, woman. 

The vision of woman contained in the first stanza presents ner as per- 
haps she most frequently appears in lyric poetry, and as she is apt to 
appear to dawning passion. The vision is charming, but, to say the 
least, altogether incomplete, and based less upon actual fact than upon 
the workings of fancy. Closer knowledge and more intimate com- 
panionship, while not destroying this poetic charm, reveal the more 
substantial reality of her character. She, too, belongs to this world, 
and is human, and for these reasons gains stronger hold upon the heart. 
In the final stanza she appears as seen after the fullest knowledge 
given by the association of years. There is less of romance, but a more 
profound admiration and respect. She is no longer a phantom to haunt 
and stimulate the fancy ; she presents herself in her functions as a 
wife and mother ; yet still, as at every stage, she belongs in a mea- 
sure to the ideal, and draws us towards it, "Das ewig weibliche ?;. jht 
uns hinan." 

1-4. "The 'four lines composed as a part of the verses on the High- 
land Girl ' were doubtless the first four lines of the first stanza." 

8. This is the original and also the later reading, but the edition of 

1836 read : 

From May-time's brightest, liveliest dawn, 

22. machine. "The use of the word 'machine' . . . has been 
much criticised. For a similar use of the term see the sequel to The 
Waggoner. The progress of mechanical industry in Britain since the 
beginning of the present century has given a more limited and purely 
technical meaning to the word than it bore when Wordsworth used it in 
these two instances." (Knight.) "Does Wordsworth mean by machine 
merely the body, as Hamlet does in his signature of the letter to 
Ophelia : ' Thine . , whilst this machine is to him ' ? I rather 
think the whole woman with all her household routine is conceived as 
the organism of which the thoughtful soul is the animating principle. 
In Bartram's Travels, a book which Wordsworth used for his Ruth, I 
find the following : ' At the return of the morning by the powerful 
influence of light, the pulse of nature becomes more active, and the 


universal vibration of life insensibly and irresistibly moves the won 
drous machine.' " (Dowden's note.) 

30. of angelic light. Before 1845 : "of an angel light." 


Written 1805 ; first published 1807. Wordsworth says : "This ode 
is on the model of Gray's Ode to Adversity, which is, in turn, an imita- 
tion of Horace's Ode to Fortune " [Odes, I, 35]. 

This is one of the finest examples of Wordsworth's power to elevate the 
homely and commonplace into the highest poetic sphere. In this case 
he throws the charm of imagination and sentiment, not about a person, 
or object, or incident of life, but about a feeling a commonplace and, 
to the poetic temperament especially, a painful and oppressive feeling 
that of moral obligation, that something ought to be done. But for 
Wordsworth this ever-present element of life is desirable and beautiful, 
a source of happiness and strength. Nor is there anything (as is often 
the case with the views of poets) fanciful, or overstrained, or abnormal 
in his conception ; it is based upon sound sense and upon daily 
experience. The Ode is an example of what Matthew Arnold held to 
be the true function of poetry, " the criticism of life," " the powerful 
and beautiful application of ideas to life " ; it is not didactic in tone, it 
does not preach ; it quickens the moral nature by the contagion of 
noble enthusiasm, by the power of insight and of truth. 

It will be noted that in the poem, three possible attitudes towards 
duty seem before the writer's mind: (1) when what is right is done, 
not upon reflection and because it is right, but from natural impulse, 
because it is the congenial thing to do ; this condition he character- 
istically ascribes to youth, when the innate tendencies (which he 
regards as good) have not yet been weakened and corrupted by the 
experiences of life ; but this, though a delightful, is also but a transient 
and uncertain condition ; 2nd (the ordinary state of things), when right 
is done with struggle and against the grain ; 3rd the highest condi- 
tion as hinted in the Latin motto when through custom, through the 
continued obedience to duty based upon reason and upon the perception 
that to do right is true happiness, duty has become second nature ; when 
what we would do and what we ought to do are the same, when service 
becomes perfect freedom.* 

* Of. Tennyson's (Enone : 

the full-grown will 

Circled through all experience, pure law 
Commeasure perfect freedom. 


The Latin motto may be translated: "Good no longer by resolve, 
but brought by habit to such a point that I am not merely able to do 
right, but am not able to do otherwise." 

1. Cf. the opening line of Gray's Ode, " Daughter of Jove, relentless 
power. " 

7. vain temptations. Temptations to vanity, i.e., to what is empty, 
not real, but only apparent good. 

8. The reading of 1815 and subsequent editions ; in 1807 the line 

stood : 

From strife and from despair ; a glorious ministry. 

9. There are who. An imitation of the familiar Latin idiom, 
aunt qui. 

9-14. Sometimes what is right is performed, not under any sense of 
restraint, or because it is our duty, but from natural good feeling. 

12. Wordsworth habitually glorified the early natural impulses and 
feelings. Cf. Ode on Intimations of Immortality, and the sonnet be- 
ginning "It is a beauteous evening," 

genial. Inborn, belonging to nature. 

15-16. The reading in the text was introduced in 1837. In 1807 the 
lines stood : 

May joy be theirs while life shall last ! 
And Thou, if they should totter, teach them to stand fast t 
in 1827 : 

Long may the kindly impulse last ! 

But Thou, etc. 

19-20. Referring to the condition of things described in the previous 
stanza, when the right is done because it is desirable and pleasurable to 
us. "Joy is its own security," because joy (pleasure) leads us to do 
that which in its turn begets pleasure, and not pain, as would be the 
case if our impulses led us to do evil. 

21-22. Before 1827 : 

And bless'd are they who in the main 
This faith, even now, do entertain. 

24. This reading dates from 1845; in 1807 the reading was: "Yet 
find that other strength" ; in 1837 : " Yet find thy firm support.'" 

25. Cf. The Prelude, VI, 32-35 : 

That over-love of freedom 
Which encouraged me to turn 
From regulations even of my own 
As from restrains and bonds. 


29-31. This reading was adopted in 1827 ; in 1807 the lines stood : 

Resolved that nothing e'er should press 

Upon my present happiness, 

I shoved unwelcome tasks away ; 

in 1815 : 

Full oft, when in my heart was heard 
My timely mandate, I deferred 
The task imposed, from day to day : 

37. unchartered freedom. Unrestricted freedom ; cf. As You Like 

It, II, vii, 47-8: 

I must have liberty 
Withal, as large a charter as the wind. 

Prof. Knight compares Churchill's line : " An Englishman in char- 
tered freedom born," and doubtless the word was suggested to Words- 
worth in connection with political freedom ; an Englishman's freedom 
is not power to do just as he likes ; it is constitutional, or chartered 

38. Even the very young know something of this weight in holiday 
times, when there has been, during a prolonged period, an absence of 
fixed employments, and of calls which must be attended to. 

39-40. I have become wearied of pursuing, now one hope or aim, now 
another, and desire the calmness which comes from seeking a single 
object to do right. 

At this point in the edition of 1807 there follows a stanza omitted in 
all subsequent editions : 

Yet not the less could I throughout 

Still act according to the voice 

Of my own wish ; and feel past doubt 

That my submissiveness was choice : 

Not seeking in the school of pride 

For " precepts over-dignified," 

Denial and restraint I prize 

No farther than they breed a second Will more wise. 

44. The satisfaction that accompanies the consciousness of having 
done right. 

46. The idea of flowers springing up beneath the foot is a common one 
with the poets ; the editors cite Persius, Satire, ii, 38 : Quidquid calca- 
verit hie, rosa fiat ; and Hesiod, Theogony, 194-5 : a^l 6 iroiq iroaalv 
itiro paivolaiv aet-aro, 'thick sprouted the grass beneath the slender feet' 
(of the goddess) ; so Tennyson's (Enone, 1. 94, and Maud, I, xii, 5. 

45-48. The idea of duty is here extended from obedience to moral, to 


obedience, to natural law an identification especially natural to a poet 
who finds so close a kinship between man and nature about him. Webb 
compares Wordsworth's Gypsies, 11. 21-2: 

Oh better wrong and strife 
(By nature transient) than this torpid life ; 
Life which the very start reprove. 
As on their silent tasks they move 

An earlier text of this ode has been discovered in a proof copy of the 
sheets of 1807. It is interesting to note the great improvement Words- 
worth made while the poem was passing through the press ; the earlier 
version also serves to throw light upon the meaning of the later. The 
following are the first four stanzas : 

There are who tread a blameless way 

In purity, and love, and truth, 

Though resting on no better stay 

Than on the genial sense of youth : 

Glad Hearts ! without reproach or blot, 

Who do the right, and know it not : 

May joy be theirs while life shall last, 

And may a genial sense remain, when youth is past. 

Serene would be our days and bright, 

And happy would our nature be, 

If Love were an unerring light ; 

And Joy its own security. 

And bless'd are they who in the main, 

This creed, even now, do entertain, 

Do in this spirit live ; yet know 

That Man hath other hopes ; strength which elsewhere must grow. 

I, loving freedom and untried ; 

No sport of every random gust, 

Yet being to myself a guide, 

Too blindly have reposed my trust : 

Resolv'd that nothing e'er should press 

Upon my present happiness, 

I shov'd unwelcome tasks away : 

But henceforth I would serve ; and strictly if I may. 

O Power of DUTY ! sent from God 

To enforce on earth his high behest, 

And keep us faithful to the road 

Which Conscience hath pronounc'd the best : 

Thou, who art Victory and Law 

When empty terrors overawe ; 

From vain temptations doth set free 

From Strife, and from Despair, a glorious ministry ! 



Written 1805 ; published 1807. The form of stanza adopted is that 
usually termed Elegiac, familiar through Gray's Elegy ; the matter is also 
in some measure elegiac from the constant reference to the death of the 
poet's brother John. He was drowned while in command of the East 
India ship, The Earl of Abergavenny, which through the incompetence 
of the pilot, on leaving 'Portland struck upon a reef and was lost, Feb. 6, 
1805. The previous autumn he had visited his brother at Grasmere. 
See To the Daisy ("Sweet Flower, belike one day to have") for an 
account of the disaster and also the Elegiac Stanzas in Memory of My 
Brother. Wordsworth says in a letter : " The vessel ' struck ' at 5 p.m. 
Guns were fired immediately, and were continued to be fired. She was 
gotten off the rock at half-past seven, but had taken so much water, in 
spite of constant pumping, as to be water-logged. They had, however, 
hope that she might be run upon Weymouth sands, and with this view 
continued pumping and bailing till eleven, when she went down. . . . 
A few minutes before the ship went down my brother was seen talking 
to the first mate with apparent cheerfulness ; he was standing at the : 
point where he could overlook the whole ship the moment she went 
down dying, as he had lived, in the very place and point where his 
duty called him. ... I never wrote a line without the thought of 
giving him pleasure ; my writings were his delight, and one of the chief 
solaces of his long voyages. But let me stop. I will not be cast down ; 
were it only for his sake I will not be dejected. " 

The Peele Castle referred to is not the well-known one on the Isle of 
Man, but another, the name of which is usually spelled Piel, on the 
coast of Lancashire, near Barrow-in-Furness, and opposite the village 
of Rampside, where the poet spent four weeks of a vacation in 1794 
(see 11. 1-2 of the poem). Sir George Beaumont, an intimate friend 
of Wordsworth, and in his own day a landscape painter of some note, 
painted two pictures of this castle, one of which was designed for 
Mrs. Wordsworth. 

4. sleeping. Cf. Merchant of Venice, V, i, 54 : "How sweet the 
moonlight sleeps upon this bank. " 

8. It trembled. Cf. Influence of Natural Objects, 1. 20. 

14-16. The reading in the text is that of the first edition as well as of 
1832 and subsequent editions. In 1820, however, for these masterly 
lines the poet substituted : 


and add a gleam 

Of histre, known to neither sea or land 
But borrowed from the youthful poet's dream. 

which were retained in 1827 with the change, "the gleam, The lustre." 

What the poet refers to, is the element that is added by the artist to 
every object he artistically depicts ; he does not represent it exactly as 
it is, but contributes something from his own imagination gives a 
charm, a beauty, a meaning to the object which he feels and puts there, 
and which is not present in the object itself. 

21-24. This stanza with "a mine," instead of "divine," appeared in 
1807 and 1815 ; it was omitted in 1820 and restored in its present form 
in 1845. 

26. Elysian quiet. Cf . Two Gentlemen of Verona, II, vii, 37-8 : 

And there I'll rest, as after much turmoil 
A blessed soul doth in Elysium. 

29. illusion. In 1807 "delusion." 

33-36. Cf. Tintern Abbey, 1. 88, ff.: 

For I have learned 

To look on nature, not as in the hour 
Of thoughtless youth ; but hearing oftentimes 
The still, sad music of humanity, 
Nor harsh, nor grating, though of ample power 
To chasten and subdue. 

also the Ode on Intimations of Immortality, 176, ff. 

What though the radiance which was once so bright 

Be now forever taken from my sight, 

Though nothing can bring back the hour 
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower ; 

We will grieve not, rather find 

Strength in what remains behind ; 

In the primal sympathy 

Which having been must ever be ; 

In the soothing thoughts that spring 

Out of human suffering ; 

In the faith that looks through death, 
In years that bring the philosophic mind. 

53-56. Cf. Tennyson's Palace of Art, where the life of sympathy with 
men is placed above the life that is devoted wholly to beauty, knowledge, 
and self-culture. 

54. the Kind. The human race. 



Written in 1819 ; published in 1820. 

This and the following poem exemplify Wordsworth's later style. 
"The most characteristic earlier and most characteristic later style are 
alike in the limpid coolness of their effect the effect in the earlier 
style of bubbling waters, in the later of morning dew. Both alike lay 
the dust, and take us out of the fret of life, and restore the truth to 
feeling and cast over the vision of the universe 

The image of a poet's heart 

How bright, how solemn, how serene ! 

. . . In the later style . . . objective fact is much less promi- 
nent [than in the earlier] ; bald moralities tend to take the place of bald 
realities ; and, though the buoyancy is much diminished, emotion is 
much more freely, frankly, and tenderly expressed, so that there is 
often in it a richness and mellowness of effect quite foreign to Words- 
worth's earlier mood." (Hutton.) 

1. sylvan. A favourite word in the artificial poetry which preceded 
Wordsworth, and hence an example of the diction which Wordsworth 
usually shuns. Sylvan is often loosely used for ' rural,' as perhaps here, 
but properly means what belongs to the woods : 

Cedar, and pine and fir, and branching palm, 
A sylvan scene. 

Paradise Lost, iv, 140. 

7. sooth. 'Truth'; cf. Chaucer, Prologue, 284: "But sooth to 
seyn, I noot how men him calle." 

20. vespers. Properly 'evening service' (cf. note on The Ancient 
Mariner, 1. 76), hence ' closing service. ' 

29. radiant Seraphim. Cf. note on The Ancient Mariner, 1. 490. 


Prof. Dowden quotes from Wordsworth's Description of the English 
Lakes: " But it is in autumn that days of such affecting influence most 
frequently intervene ; the atmosphere seems refined, and the sky 
rendered more crystalline, as the vivifying heat of the year abates ; 
the lights and shadows are more delicate ; the colouring is richer and 
more finely harmonized ; and in this season of stillness, the ear 
being unoccupied, the sense of vision becomes more susceptible of its 
appropriate enjoyments." 


9. redbreast. A different bird from our robin ; it is one of the birds 
that winter in England. 

14-15. Cf. Macbeth, V : 

My way of life 
Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf. 

16-17. In Greece and Rome it was customary on festive occasions to 
wear about the head wreaths of various leaves and flowers, especially 
roses and myrtles ; cf. Horace, Odes, I, xxxviii ; Ovid, Fasti, V, 1. 335. 

31-36. Wordsworth here regards the Druids as the earliest British 
poets ; their temples were groves of oak and their worship connected 
with nature ; so that the word ' Druid ' has been occasionally poetically 
employed for a poet of nature ; cf. Collins' Lines on the Death of Mr. 
Thomson [the author of The Seasons] : "In yonder grove a Druid lies." 

38. Alcseus. A native of Lesbos, flourished about B.C. 611, one of 
the earliest Greek lyric poets who succeeded especially in warlike 

46. Lesbian Maid. Sappho, Greek poetess, a contemporary of 
Alcseus, famous for her love poems and her love-story. 

47. Before 1827 

With passion's finest finger swayed. 

48. JEolian lute. Early Greek lyric poetry developed in the district 
of ^Eolia on the west shores of Asia Minor, south of the Troad. Both 
Alcaeus and Sappho belonged to this district. 

50. Herculanean lore. The cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii were 
buried by an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A. D. ; when rediscovered and 
excavated many centuries later, a great variety of interesting remains 
of antiquity were unearthed, works of art, etc. 

52. Theban fragment. Some fragment from the works of Pindar, 
the greatest of Greek lyric poets. He was a native of Thebes and 
flourished about 500 B.C. 

54. Simonides. Another lyric poet, contemporary of Pindar. 
" Simonides himself became proverbial for that virtue which the Greeks 
call aafypoavvq, temperance, order, and self-command in one's own 
conduct, and moderation in one's opinions, and desires and views of 
human life ; and this spirit breathes through his poetry." (Smith's 
Biographical Dictionary.} 

59. Maro. Virgil. 



Written and published in 1820, addressed to the poet's brother 
Christopher, at that time rector of Lambeth, subsequently Master of 
Trinity College, Cambridge. The poem refers to the familiar English 
custom of the village choir singing and playing anthems from house to 
house on Christmas eve. 

5-6. An example of the poet's close observation of nature. 

42. Of the children. 

49-50. The fields and streams about Cockermouth and Hawkshead. 

51. Cytherea's zone. "Cytherea, a name for Venus, who was said 
to have sprung from the foam of the sea near Cythera, now Cerigo, an 
island on the south-east of the Morea. On her zone, or cestus, were 
represented all things tending to excite love." (Dowden.) 

52. the Thunderer. Jupiter. 

55-60. In his later life Wordsworth grew strongly conservative. 

65. Lambeth's venerable towers. Lambeth palace on the banks of 
the Thames in greater London, the official residence of the Archbishops 
of Canterbury. 

73-4. A fine example of the poet's masterly diction. 


Written in 1825 at Rydal Mount ; first published in 1827. In 1845, 
the second stanza was transferred to A Morning Exercise, and Words- 
worth said to Miss Fenwick : "I could wish the last five stanzas of this 
to be read with the poem addressed to the skylark. " 

Dr. Sykes quotes Mr. John Burroughs' Birds and Poets where he 
speaks of the skylark as " a creature of light and air and motion, the 
companion of the plowman, the shepherd, the harvester, whose nest is 
in the stubble and whose tryst is in the clouds. Its life affords that 
kind of contrast which the imagination loves one moment a plain, 
pedestrian bird, hardly distinguishable from the ground, the next a 
soaring, untiring songster, revelling in the upper air, challenging the 
eye to follow him and the ear to separate his notes. " In addition to 
these peculiarities, the reader should know that it is the habit of the 
lark to sing early in the morning, and to rise singing directly above its 
nest until it vanishes from sight. 


The poem is a fine example of Wordsworth's later moralizing vein 
with its tendency to draw an explicit lesson. He finds in the song and 
habits of the skylark a sort of symbolism of what he himself held to be 
the true spirit, the best inspiration, and the highest function of poetry. 
The reader will do well to work this parallelism between the bird and 
the poet out in detail. A suggestive contrast to this poem is afforded 
by Shelley's To A Skylark where this poet, no less than Wordsworth, 
finds in the song of the skylark an embodiment of his own spirit and 
genius, different as these are from Wordsworth's. 

13. Cf. Keats' Ode to a Nightingale. 

14. Cf. Shelley's Skylark, 11. 36-37 : 

Like a poet hidden 

In the light of thought. 

16. instinct. In 1827 " rapture. " 

18. Prof. Dowden compares Hogg's The Lark : 

Thy love is in heaven thy love is on earth 

and Wordsworth's Prelude, XIV, 11. 382-387 : 

.... and hence this Song, which like a lark 
I have protracted in the unwearied heavens 
Singing, and often with more plaintive voice 
To earth attempered and her deep-drawn sighs, 
Yet centring all in love. 


The Sonnet ia a poem consisting of fourteen pentameter lines, and 
these lines are, by means of rhyme, combined in a certain fixed way. 
The first four lines form a quatrain (i.e., a four-lined stanza), with the 
first and last lines rhyming, and also the second and third. The next 
four lines also form a quatrain of exactly the same structure ; and these 
two quatrains are united by having common rhymes. The rhyme-scheme 
may therefore be represented asabbaabba. * The eight lines being 
thus linked together are felt as a whole, and are called the octave. The 
remaining six lines, in a regular sonnet, are not connected by rhyme 
with the octave, but rhyme together in such a way as also to be felt as 
belonging to one another ; they are called the sestette. The sestette con- 

* English poets take great liberties with the form, and in some sonnets the arrange- 
ment of rhymes is different; but the order given above is the accepted one, and is 
also the most usual and, other things being equal, the most effective. 


tains three, or two, different rhymes ; the arrangement of the rhymes is 
left very free, provided only the result be that the sestette is flt as 
forming a metrical whole. So, for example, with two rhymes a common 
^.arrangement isdedede; or with three rhymes d e f d e f ; but the 
arrangement d e d e f f is not held to be a good one in the regular 
sonnet ; because the final couplet is naturally felt as standing apart 
from the rest, and the sonnet loses its characteristic effect. In the 
regular form here described a great many beautiful poems have been 
written, not merely in English, but in other European languages, 
especially in Italian, where the sonnet originated. 

The sonnet, from the point of view of form, is, as compared with 
other poems, markedly a whole made up of parts. It has shape, as a 
Greek pillar, with its base, shaft and capital, has shape. There is no 
reason in form why a poem written in couplets or stanzas should not 
end at any stanza, at the twelfth line, for example, rather than the 
sixteenth. In form, it is a mere repetition of similar parts ; and, 
accordingly, it often happens that lyrics written in quatrains have no 
particular beginning or end ; the poet keeps circling around some 
central feeling or thought, there is no marked development. On the 
contrary, the form of the sonnet, as well as its music with the flow and 
ebb, manifestly lends itself to developed thought to the expression of 
ideas which start somewhere and end in some conclusion. Such thought 
is, other things being equal, more interesting and artistic, than thought 
Which makes no progress ; just as a story with developed plot is more 
artistic and interesting than a series of loosely -connected scenes. The 
Bonnet therefore is, by its form, suited to the expression of some poetic 
conception which can be briefly expressed and yet is progressive, has 
nnity, and development, a beginning, middle, and conclusion. As the 
form falls into two parts, so also will the thought. The octave will 
contain tHe introduction, the circumstances, etc., which give rise to, or 
serve to explain, the main idea or feeling. The sestette will give ex- 
pression to this main idea ; and the character of the thought of the 
concluding lines of the sestette will be such as to indicate that the poem 
is closing. As the octave consists of two parts, so often will the thought 
of the introduction divide itself into two parts or stages. Again, the 
reader cannot but feel that the form of the sonnet is very elaborate, 

^ aud somewhat rigid. So a sonnet is not fitted to express a strong gush 
of emotion, or intensity of feeling such as we often find in the ordinary 

^lyric. Burns' songs forced into sonnet-form would quite lose their 
characteristic flavour of spontaneity, passion, or humour. In the 


sonnet, too, the movements of line and stanza are slow and dignified. 
Hence the sonnet is specially adapted to the expression of thoughtful, 
meditative moods. "When an emotion," says Theodore Watts-Dunton. 
very admirably, "is either too deeply charged with thought, or too 
much adulterated with fancy, to pass spontaneously into the movements 
of a pure lyric" it is appropriately "embodied in the single metrical flow 
and return " of a sonnet. As the form of this species of poem compels 
brevity and suggests premeditation and effort ; so we expect weight and 
condensation of thought, and exquisiteness of diction. And as it is a 
developed whole and, like a tragedy, has a certain culmination, we 
expect this condensation and weight and this perfection of workman- 
ship, more especially in the sestette. If, on the other hand, there 
is no correspondence between thought and form in the sonnet, no 
appropriateness in the music, the whole thing seems a useless piece 
of artificiality, little more interesting than an acrostic. 

We have given the broad principles of sonnet construction as bor- 
rowed from the Italian ; but English writers, as already indicated, 
have treated the form at times very freely, and departed even from 
these more general rules. One variant developed by Elizabethan writers 
and adopted by Shakespeare, is so marked a deviation from the original 
as almost to constitute a different species of poem. Its structure is 
simple ; it consists of three quatrains, each consisting of lines rhyming 
alternately, followed by a couplet. The rhyme-scheme is, therefore, 
a b a b, c d c d, e f e f , g g. Looking at the form of this poem, one 
might either say it consisted either of four, or of two, parts. In prac- 
tice, the difference between the three quatrains on the one hand, and 
the couplet on the other is so conspicuous that the poem seems naturally 
to fall rather into these two parts. The first twelve lines are introduc- 
tory ; within these twelve lines the thought may or may not be progres- 
sive ; the last two lines contain the gist of the thought, the application_ 
or outcome of what has been given in the quatrains ; they have the [ 
effect of climax or epigram. It very often happens, however, that the*^ 
first eight lines are introductory, as in the regular sonnet ; the next four 
develop the thought towards the conclusion ; while the couplet drops in 
the keystone, as it were, which.completes and holds together the whole. 
Regular sonnets have been compared, in their movement, to the rise and 
fall of a billow, to " a rocket ascending in the air, breaking into light, 
and falling in a soft shower of brightness. ' The Shakespearian sonnet, 
on the other hand, has been likened to a "red-hot bar being moulded 
upon a forge till in the closing couplet it receives the final clinching 
blow from a heavy hammer." 


The sonnet was introduced into English from the Italian towards the 
close of the reign of Henry VIII, by Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of 
Surrey ; and was very commonly employed in the Elizabethan period, 
in the form which we call Shakespearian, or in some other of the looser 
rhyme arrangements. Milton was the last great sonnet writer of the 
epoch, and usually approached the Italian model more closely than his 
predecessors. With the Restoration, the sonnet practically ceased to be 
written, but began to re-appear simultaneously with the new poetic ten- 
dencies about the middle of the 18th century. It was, for example, the 
favourite form of the poet Bowles (see p. 76 above) who influenced both 
Coleridge and Wordsworth. Wordsworth employed the sonnet more 
frequently than perhaps any other poet, and often with great success. 

iAs a meditative poet whose reflections are suggested usually by some 
external appearance, the form exactly suits him, and its brevity insures 
him against the prolixity into which he too often falls.* 


First published in 1807. Taking advantage of the Peace of Amiens, 
Wordsworth and his sister visited France in the summer of 1802. The 
following extract is from Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal : "We arrived 
at Calais at four o'clock on Sunday morning, the 31st of July. We had 
delightful walks after the heat of the day was passed seeing far off in 
the west the coast of England, like a cloud, crested with Dover Castle, 
the evening star, and the glory of the sky ; the reflections in the water 
were more beautiful than the sky itself; purple waves brighter than 
precious stones, forever melting upon the sands." 


" This was written immediately after my return from France to Lon- 
don, when I could not but be struck, as here described, with the vanity 
and parade of our own country, especially in great towns and cities, as 
contrasted with the quiet, and I may say the desolation, that the 
revolution had produced in France. This must be borne in mind, or 
else the reader may think that in this and the succeeding sonnets I 
have exaggerated the mischief engendered and fostered among us by 
undisturbed wealth." ( Wordsworth's note.) First published in 1807. 

* Some sonnets by writers other than Wordsworth may be found in the Appendix 
to this volume. 


1. In the edition of 1838 and in that only, this line read 

O thou proud city ! which way shall I look. 
Friend. According to Prof. Dowden, the friend was Coleridge. 

LONDON, 1802. 

Written 1802 ; first published 1807. For what gave rise to this poem 
see Wordsworth's note on the preceding sonnet. Milton was not a poet 
merely but a man who in his private life strenuously pursued high 
ideals, and by his writings strove to foster them in the country. 

4. The hall was the main apartment in a castle, associated therefore 
with the life of the men and external relations ; the bower was specially 
the room for ladies and for privacy. 

8. manners. In its broader and nobler sense like the Latin mores, 

10. Cf. Tennyson: 

O mighty -mouth'd inventor of harmonies, 
O skill'd to sing of Time or Eternity, 
God-gifted organ-voice of England, 
Milton, a name to resound for ages. 

Written 1802 or 1803, when an invasion by Napoleon was expected ; 

printed in the Morning Post, April 16, 1803, and in the Poems of 1807. 
4. The quotation is from an Elizabethan poet, Daniel's Civil War, 

II, vii. 
6-6. The lines in the text were substituted in 1827 for 

Road by which all might come and go that would, 
And bear out freights of worth to foreign lands. 

" The opposition between ' British freedom ' and what he deemed its 
' salutary bonds ' would naturally occur to Wordsworth in days not 
long before Catholic Emancipation and the Reform Bill." (Dowden.) 


Written 1802 or 1803. First printed in the Morning Post, Sept. 15, 
1803, and included in the voome of 1807. 

2-4. The idea that a society which becomes prevailing commercial 
instead of warlike in its pursuits is at the same time apt to degenerate 


is a very old and common one in literature ; cf. , e.g. , Tennyson's Maud, 
or Bacon, On the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates. 

6. now. Before 1845 "But." 

9. For. Before 1845 "But," except in 1838 "Most." 


The date following the title was inserted by the poet himself, who 
added : " Written on the roof of a coach on my way to France." But 
Knight shows that this date is inaccurate. "He left London for Dover 
on his way to Calais on the 30th of July, 1802. The sonnet was written 
that morning as he travelled towards Dover. The following is the 
record of the journey in his sister's diary : ' July 30 Left London 

between five and six o'clock of the morning outside the Dover coach. 
A beautiful morning. The city, St. Paul's, with the river a multitude 
of boats, made a beautiful sight as we crossed Westminster Bridge ; the 
houses not overhung by their clouds of smoke, and were spread out end- 
lessly ; yet the sun shone brightly with such a pure light that there 
was something like the purity of one of Nature's own grand spectacles.'" 
First published 1807. 

Rolfe quotes, in connection with this sonnet, from Caroline Fox's 
Memories of old Friends : " Mamma spoke of the beauty of Rydal, and 
asked whether it did not rather spoil him [Wordsworth] for common 
scenery. 'O, no,' he said, 'it rather opens my eyes to see the beauty 
there is in all ; God is everywhere, and thus nothing is common or 
devoid of beauty. No, ma'am, it is the feeling that instructs the seeing. 
Wherever there is a heart to feel, there is also an eye to see ; even in a 
city you have light and shade, reflections, probably views of the water 
and trees, and a blue sky above you, and can you want for beauty with 
all these ? People often pity me while residing in a city, but they need 
not, for I can enjoy its characteristic beauties as well as any.'" 

4. Cf. Psalm, civ, 2. " Who coverest thyself with light as with a 
garment. " 


This sonnet was written towards the end of 1806, or in the beginning 
of 1807 by the poet while pacing to and fro between the Hall of Coleor- 
ton, the residence of his friend, Sir George Beaumont, and the principal 


farm-house on the estate, where he was temporarily living. First 
published 1807. In 1808 Wordsworth considered this his best sonnet. 
In 1802 Napoleon had crushed the liberties of Switzerland ; in 1807 
he was preparing to invade England. 


Published in 1807 ; no other evidence of date. 
5. In 1807-1820 : 

I've thought of all by turns ; and still I lie 

in 1827 and 1832: 

By turns have all been thought of ; yet I lie 

in 1837-1843 : 

I thought of all by turns, and yet I lie 

except in 1838, when the line stood : 

I have thought of all by turns and yet I lie 

8. cuckoo's melancholy cry. Very different from " O blithe new- 
comer" (To the Cuckoo). It is the thinking and feeling mind that 
gives meaning to nature. 

First published in 1815 ; no other evidence of date. 

5. waterbreaks. Cf. Nutting, 1. 33 and note thereon. 

6. Before 1827 : 

If I some type of thee did wish to view. 

9. Naiad. The spirit of a stream, conceived among the Greeks and 
Romans as a beautiful woman crowned with flowers. 
13. safer. Before 1845 "better." 


First published among Ecclesiastical Sonnets in 1822. Written pro- 
bably in 1820 when Wordsworth visited Cambridge, or later. 

1. the royal Saint. The chapel was founded by King Henry VI who 
had a reputation for sanctity, referred to in Gray's Ode on a Distant 
Prospect of Eton (of which Henry was also founder) : 


Where grateful science still adores 
Her Henry's holy shade. 

See also Shakespeare, Richard III, V, i ; and IV, iv. 

4. white-robed Scholars. " At service on Saturday evenings, Sun- 
days, and Saints' days, every member of the College, except the noble- 
men, has to appear in a white surplice, as though he were about to read 
the service." (Everett's On the Cam, p. 109.) Everett is speaking of 
Trinity College, but the practice doubtless holds of other Cambridge 

10. Self-poised. Prof. Dowden quotes Fuller (1608-1661). "The 
chapel is one of the rarest fabrics in Christendom, wherein the stonework, 
woodwork, and glasswork contend which most deserve admiration. 
Yet the first generally carries away the credit (as being a Stonehenge 
indeed), so geometrically contrived that voluminous stones mutually 
support themselves in the arched roof, as if Art had made them to 
forget Nature, and weaned them from their fondness to descend to their 
centre." The explanation is, of course, that the principle of the arch is 
employed in the construction of the stone roof, and support is really 
given by the external buttresses. 

11-12. where music, etc. Cf. Gray's Elegy : 

Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault 
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. 

and Milton's L' Allegro : 

In notes, with many a winding bout 
Of linke'd sweetness long drawn out. 

For composition and publication, see last sonnet. 
6. the wreath. The reward of success. 

8. younger Pile. St. Paul's. Westminster Abbey dates from the 
13th century : St. Paul's was built 1675-1710. 

12-14. Westminster Abbey is crowded with memorials to distin- 
guished men ; St. Paul's is (and in Wordsworth's day the disproportion 
was greater) comparatively vacant. 



Published in 1827, and composed perhaps in the same year, "almost 
extempore in a short walk on the western side of Rydal Lake. " 

3. Shakespeare wrote a long connected series of sonnets, which, by 
the majority of critics, are held to express certain experiences and 
feelings of his own life. 

4. Petrarch. (1304-74.) Italian poet, one of the earliest of the 
great names in modern literature, and the first to give vogue to the 
sonnet. His sonnets chiefly treat of his unrequited passion for a 
certain lady named Laura. 

5. Tasso. (1544-95.) Italian poet, author of the epic La, Gerusa- 
lemme Liberata, on the subject of Godfrey de Bouillon and the 

6. Before 1837 "Camoens soothed with it." 

Camoens. Portuguese poet who, in 1556 was banished to Macao, a 
Portuguese settlement in China, and there wrote many sonnets and 
lyrics. His chief work is the Lusiad. 

7-9. Dante. (1265-1321.) A Florentine, the greatest of Italian 
poets, and one of the greatest of all poets ; his chief work is the Divine 
Comedy, in which is presented a vision of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell 
(hence "visionary brow") ; many of his sonnets are found in his Vita 
Nuova, written in his twenty-eighth year, at a happy epoch of his life 
(hence "gay myrtle leaf," the myrtle being emblematic of joy and love, 
as the "cypress" of sadness and death. See note on 11. 16-17, Upon the 
Same Occasion). His later life was passed in exile from his native city, 
and in sadness. 

9-11. Spenser's sonnets, like Shakespeare's, form a series, and narrate 
the story of his love and marriage ; they are not by any means his most 
successful work, and, while possessing charm and beauty, are greatly 
inferior in power to those of Shakespeare or Milton ; hence, presumably, 
"mild glow-worm lamp." 

Faeryland. The scene of his great poem, The Faery Queen. 

dark ways. A reference to the misfortunes of his actual life ; he 
was under the necessity of living in Ireland which then meant an 
almost total banishment from society and the advantages of cultivated 
life ; his house was sacked and burned, and he died in poverty in 


11-12. Milton's sonnets, chiefly written between 1638 and 1658, "are 
the few occasional strains that connect as by intermittent trumpet 
blasts through twenty years, the rich minor poetry of his youth and 
early manhood with the greater poetry of his declining years. " ( Masson. ) 
The word ' damp ' is appropriate because the conflicts between king and 
parliament enforced him to quit the more congenial paths of poetry for 
the work of political and religious controversy. 

14. Soul-animating strains. See, for example, those On his Blind- 
ness, On the Late Massacre, in Piedmont, To Cromwell. 





The King sits in Dumferling tonne, 

Drinking his blude-reid wine : 
" O whar will I get guid sailor 

To sail this schip of mine ? " 

Up and spake an eldern knicht, 5 

Sat at the kings richt kne : 
"Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor 

That sails upon the sea." 

The king has written a braid letter 

And signed it wi' his hand, 10 

And sent it to Sir Patrick Spence, 

Was walking on the sand. 

The first line that Sir Patrick red, 

A loud lauch lauched he : 
The next line that Sir Patrick red, 15 

The teir blinded his ee. 

" O wha is this has don this deid, 

This ill deid don to me ; 
To send me out this time o' the yeir 

To sail upon the se ? 20 

' ' Mak haste, mak haste, my mirry men all, 

Our guid schip sails the morne." 
"O say na sae, my master deir, 

For I feir a deadlie storme. 


" Late, late yestreen I saw the new moone 25 

Wi' the auld moone in hir arme ; 
And 1 feir, I feir, my deir master, 

That we will com to harme, " 

O our Scots nobles wer richt laith 

To wet their cork-heild schoone ; 30 

But lang owre a' the play wer playd 

Thair hats they swam aboone. 

O lang, lang may their ladies sit, 

Wi' thair fans into their hand, 
Or eir they se Sir Patrick Spence 35 

Cum sailing to the land. 

O lang, lang may the ladies stand, 

Wi : thair gold kerns in their hair, 
Waiting for their ain deir lords, 

For they'll se thame na mair. 40 

Have owre, have owre to Aberdour, 

It's fifty fadom deip ; 
And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spence 

Wi' the Scots lords at his feit. 

From Percy's " Reliques" 



In Ireland, ferr over the sea, 

There dwelleth a bonnye kinge ; 
And with him a yong and comlye knighte, 

Men call him Syr Cauline. 

The kinge had a ladye to his daughter, 5 

In fashyon she hath no peere ; 
And princely wightes that ladye wooed 

To be theyr wedded feere. 

Syr Cauline loveth her best of all, 

But nothing durst he saye ; 10 

Ne descreeve his counsayl to no man, 

But deerlye he lovde this may. 

2. SIR CAULINE. 179 

Till on a daye it so beffell 

Great dill to him was dight ; 
The maydens love removde his mynd, 15 

To care-bed went the knighte. 

One while he spred his armes him fro, 

One while he spred them nye : 
"And aye ! but I winne that ladyes love, 

For dole now I mun dye." 20 

And whan our parish-masse was done, 

Our kinge was bowne to dyne : 
He says, "Where is Syr Cauline, 

That is wont to serve the wyne ? " 

Then aunswerde him a courteous knighte, 25 

And fast his handes gan wringe : 
"Syr Cauline is sicke, and like to dye, 

Without a good leechinge. " 

" Fetche me downe my daughter deere, 

She is a leeche fulle fine ; 30 

Goe take him doughe, ank the baken bread, 
And serve him with the wyne soe red : 

Lothe I were him to tine." 

Fair Christabelle to his chaumber goes, 

Her maydens followyng nye ; 35 

"0 well," she sayth, "how doth my lord?" 

"0 sicke, thou fayr ladye." 

" Nowe ryse up wightlye, man, for shame, 

Never lye soe cowardice ; 
For it is told in my fathers halle, 40 

You dye for love of mee." 

" Fay re ladye, it is for your love 

That all this dill I drye : 
For if you wold comfort me with a kisse, 
Then were I brought from bale to blisse, 45 

No longer wold I lye. " 


"Syr Knighte, my father is a kinge, 

I am his onlye heire ; 
Alas ! and well you knowe, Syr Knighte, 

I never can be youre fere. " 50 

" O layde, th*ou art a kinges daughter, 

And I am not thy peere ; 
But let me doe some deedes of armes 

To be your bacheleere. " 

" Some deedes of armes if thou wilt doe, 55 

My bacheleere to bee, 
( But ever and aye my heart wold rue, 

Giff harm shold happe to thee, ) 

' ' Upon Eldridge hill there groweth a thorne, 

Upon the mores brodinge ; 60 

And dare ye, Syr Knighte, wake there all nighte, 
Untill the fayre morninge ? 

" For the Eldridge knighte, so mickle of mighte, 

Will examine you beforne ; 
And never man bare life awaye, 65 

But he did him scath and scorne. 

' ' That knighte he is a foul paynim, 

And large of limb and bone ; 
And but if heaven may be thy speede, 

Thy life it is but gone." 70 

" Nowe on the Eldridge hilles He walke, 

For thy sake, fair ladie ; 
And lie either bring you a ready token, 

Or He never more you see." 

The lady is gone to her own chaumbere, 75 

Her maydens following bright ; 
Syr Catiline lope from care-bed soone, 
And to the Eldridge hills is gone, 

For to wake there all night. 

2. SIR CAULINE. 181 

Unto midnight, that the moone did rise, 80 

He walked up and downe ; 
Then a lightsome bugle heard he blowe 

Over the bents soe browne : 
Quoth hee, " If cryance come till my heart, 

I am ffar from any good towne." 85 

And soone he spyde on the mores so broad 

A furyous wight and fell ; 
A ladye bright his brydle led, 

Clad in a fayre kyrtell : 

And soe fast he called on Syr Cauline, 90 

"O man, I rede thee flye, 
For, ' but ' if cryance come till thy heart, 

I weene but thou mun dye. " 

He sayth, " ' No ' cryance comes till my heart, 

Nor, in faith, I wyll not flee ; 95 

For, cause thou minged not Christ before, 
The less me dreadeth thee." 

The Eldridge knighte, he pricked his steed ; 

Syr Cauline bold abode : 

Then either shooke his trustye speare, 100 

And the timber these two children bare 

Soe soone in sunder slode. 

Then tooke they out theyr two good swordes, 

And layden on full faste, 
Till helme and hawberke, mail and sheelde, 105 

They all were well-nye brast. 

The Eldridge knight was mickle of might, 

And stiffe in stower did stande ; 
But Syr Cauline with a ' backward ' stroke, 

He smote off his right-hand ; 110 

That soone he, with paine and lacke of bloud, 

Fell downe on that lay-land. 

Then up Syr Cauline lift his brande 

All over his head so hye : 
"And here I sweare by the holy roode, 115 

Nowe, caytiffe, thou shalt dye. " 


Then up and came that ladye brighte, 

Faste wringing of her hande : 
" For the may dens love that most you love, 

Withold that deadlye brande : 120 

" For the may dens love that most you love, 

Now sinyte no more I praye ; 
And aye whatever thou wilt, my lord, 

He shall thy hests obaye." 

" Now sweare to mee, thou Eldridge knighte, 125 

And here on this lay-land, 
That thou wilt believe on Christ his laye, 

And thereto plight thy hand : 

" And that thou never on Eldridge come 

To sporte, gamon, or playe ; ] 30 

And that thou here give up thy armes 

Until thy dying daye." 

The Eldridge knighte gave up his armes 

With many a sorrowfulle sighe ; 
And sware to obey Syr Caulines hest, 135 

Till the tyme that he shold dye. 

And he then up and the Eldridge knighte 

Sett him in his saddle anone ; 
And the Eldridge knighte and his ladye, 

To theyr castle are they gone. 140 

Then he tooke up the bloudy hand, 

That was so large of bone, 
And on it he founde five ringes of gold 

Of knightes that had be slone. 

Then he tooke up the Eldridge sworde, 145 

As hard as any flint : 
And he tooke off those riuges five, 

As bright as fyre and brent. 

Home then pricked Syr Cauline, 

As light as leafe on tree ; 150 

I-wys he neither stint ne blanne, 

Till he his ladye see. 

2. SIR CAULINE. 183 

Then downe he knelt upon his knee, 

Before that lady gay : 
ladye, I have bin on the Eldridge hills : 155 

These tokens I bring away." 

"Now welcome, welcome, Syr Cauline, 

Thrice welcome unto mee, 
For now I perceive thou art a true knighte, 

Of valour bolde and free. " 160 

" O ladye, I am thy own true knighte, 

Thy heats for to obaye ; 
And mought I hope to winne thy love ! " 

No more his tonge colde say. 

The ladye blushed scarlette redde, 165 

And fette a gentill sighe : 
"Alas ! Syr Knight, how may this bee, 

For my degree's soe highe ? 

"But sith thou hast hight, thou comely youth, 
To be my batchilere, 170 

He promise, if thee I may not wedde, 
I will have none other fere." 

Then shee held forthe her lilly-white hand 

Towards that knighte so free ; 

He gave to it one gentill kisse, 175 

His heart was brought from bale to blisse, 

The teares sterte from his ee. 

" But keep my counsayl, Syr Cauline, 

Ne let no man it knowe ; 
For, and ever my father sholde it ken, 180 

I wot he wolde us sloe." 

From that daye forthe, that ladye fayre 

Lovde Syr Cauline the knighte : 
From that daye forthe, he only joyde 

Whan shee was in his sight. 185 


Yea, and oftentimes they mette 

Within a fayre arboure, 
Where they, in love and sweet daliaunce, 

Past manye a pleasaunt houre. 


Everye white will have its blacke, 

And everye sweete its sowre : 
This founde the Ladye Christabelle 

In an untimely howre. 

For so it befelle, as Syr Cauline 5 

Was with that ladye faire, 
The kinge, her father, walked forthe 

To take the evenyng aire : 

And into the arboure as he went 

To rest his wearye feet, 10 

He found his daughter and Syr Cauline 

There sette in daliaunce sweet. 

The kinge hee sterted forthe, i-wys, 

And an angrye man was hee : 
" Nowe, traytoure, thou shalt hange or drawe, 15 

And rewe shall thy ladie. " 

Then forthe Syr Cauline he was ledde, 

And thrown in dungeon deepe : 
And the ladye into a towre so hye, 

There left to wayle and weepe. 20 

The queene she was Syr Caulines friend, 

And to the kinge sayd shee : 
"I praye you save Syr Caulines life, 

And let him banisht bee." 

" Now, dame, that traitor shall be sent 25 

Across the salt sea fome : 
But here I will make thee a band, 
If ever he come within this land, 

A foule deathe is his doome." 


All woe-begone was that gentil knight 30 

To parte from his ladyfe ; 
And many a time he sighed sore, 

And cast a wistfulle eye : 
" Faire Christabelle, from thee to parte, 

Farre lever had I dye." 35 

Faire Christabelle, that ladye bright, 

Was had forthe of the towre ; 
But ever shee droopeth in her minde, 
As, nipt by an ungentle winde, 

Doth some faire lillye flowre. 40 

And ever shee doth lament and weepe 

To tint her lover soe : 
" Syr Cauline, thou little think'st on mee, 

But I will still be true. " 

Manye a kinge, and manye a duke, 45 

And lorde of high degree, 
Did sue to that fayre ladye of love ; 

But never shee wolde them nee. 

When manye a daye was past and gone, 

Ne comforte she colde finde, 50 

The kynge proclaimed a tourneament, 

To cheere his daughters mind. 

And there came lords, and there came knights, 

Fro manye a farre countrye, 
To break a spere for theyr ladyes love, 55 

Before that faire ladye. 

And many a ladye there was sette, 

In purple and in palle ; 
But faire Christabelle, soe woe-begone, 

Was the fayrest of them all. 60 

Then manye a knighte was mickle of might, 

Before his ladye gaye ; 
But a stranger wight, whom no man knewe, 

He wan the prize eche daye. 


His acton it was all of blacke, 65 

His hewberke and his sheelde ; 
Ne noe man wist whence he did come, 
ife noe man knewe where he did gone, 

When they came out the feelde. 

And now three days were prestlye past 70 

In feates of chivalrye, 
When lo, upon the fourth morninge, 

A sorrowf ulle sight they see : 

A hugye giaunt stiffe and starke, 

All foule of limbe and lere, 75 

Two goggling eyen like fire farden, 

A mouthe from eare to eare. 

Before him came a dwarffe full lowe, 

That waited on his knee ; 
And at his backe five heads he bare, 80 

All wan and pale of blee. 

" Sir," quoth the dwarffe, and louted lowe, 

"Behold that hend Soldain ! 
Behold these heads I beare with me ! 

They are kings which he hath slain. 85 

"The Eldridge knight is his own.cousine, 

Whom a knight of thine hath shent : 
And hee is come to avenge his wrong : 
And to thee, all thy knightes among, 

Defiance here hath sent. 90 

"But yette he will appease his wrath, 

Thy daughters love to winne ; 
And, but thou yeelde him that fayre mayd, 

Thy halls and towers must brenne. 

"Thy head, Syr King, must goe with mee, 95 

Or else thy daughter deere ; 
Or else within these lists soe broad, 

Thou must finde him a peere." 

2. SIR CAULINE. 187 

The king he turned him round aboute, 

And in his hearte was woe : 100 

" Is there never a knighte of my round table 

This matter will uudergoe ? 

' Is there never a knighte amongst yee all 

Will fight for my daughter and inee ? 

Whoever will fight yon grimme Soldan, 105 

Right fair his meede shall bee. 

"For hee shall have my broad lay-lands, 

And of my crowue be heyre ; 
And he shall winne faire Christabelle 

To be his wedded fere." 110 

But every knighte of his round tabte 

Did stand both still and pale ; 
For, whenever they lookt on the grim Soldan, 

It made their hearts to quail. 

All woe-begone was that fayre ladye, 115 

When she sawe no helpe was nye ; 
She cast her thought on her owne true-love, 

And the teares gusht from her eye. 

Up then sterte the stranger knighte, 

Sayd, ' ' Ladye, be not affrayd ; 120 

lie fight for thee with this grimme Soldan, 

Thoughe he be unmacklye made. 

" And if thou wilt lend me the Eldridge sworde, 

That lyeth within thy bowre, 
I truste in Christe for to slay this fiende, 125 

Thoughe he be stiff in stowre." 

"Goe fetch him downe the Eldridge sworde," 

The kinge he cryde, " with speede : 
Nowe heaven assist thee, courteous knighte ; 

My daughter is thy meede. " 130 

The gyaunt he stepped into the lists, 

And sayd, " Awaye, awaye : 
I sweare, as I am the hend Soldan, 

Thou lettest me here all daye." 


Then forthe the stranger knight he came, 135 

In his blacke armoure dight : 
The ladye sighed a gentle sighe, 

"That this were my true knighte ! " 

And nowe the gyaunt and knighte be mett 

Within the lists soe broad ; 140 

And now, with swordes soe sharpe of steele, 
They gan to lay on load. 

The Soldan strucke the knighte a stroke, 

That made him reele asyde : 
Then woe-begone was that fay re ladye, 145 

And thrice she deeply sighde. 

i The Soldan strucke a second stroke, 

And made the bloude to flowe : 
All pale and wan was that ladye fayre, 
And thrice she wept for woe. 150 

The Soldan strucke a third fell stroke, 
Which brought the knighte on his knee : 

Sad sorrow pierced that ladyes heart, 
And she shriekt loud shriekings three. 

The knighte he leapt upon his feete, 155 

All recklesse of the pain : 
Quoth hee, "But heaven be now my speede, 

Or else I shall be slaine." 

He grasped his sworde with mayne and mighte, 

And spying a secrette part, 160 

He drave it into the Soldan's syde, 
And pierced him to the heart. 

Then all the people gave a shoute, 

Whan they sawe the Soldan falle : 
The ladye wept, and thanked Christ 165 

That had reskewed her from thrall. 

And now the kinge, with all his barons, 

Rose uppe from offe his seate, 
And downe he stepped into the listes 

That curteous knighte to greete. 170 

2. SIB CAULINE. 189 

But he, for payne and lacke of bloude, 

Was fallen into a swounde, 
And there, all walteringe in his gore, 

Lay lifelesse on the grounde. 

" Come downe, come downe, my daughter deare, 175 

Thou art a leeche of skille ; 
Farre lever had I lose halfe my landes, 

Than this good knighte sholde spille. " 

Downe then steppeth that fayre ladye, 

To helpe him if she maye : 180 

But when she did his beavere raise, 
"It is my life, my lord," she sayes, 

And shriekte and swound awaye. 

Syr Cauline juste lifte up his eyes, 

When he hearde his ladye crye : 185 

"O ladye, I am thine owne true love ; 

For thee I wisht to dye." 

Then giving her one partinge looke, 

He closed his eyes in death 
Ere Christabelle, that ladye milde, 190 

Begane to drawe her breathe. 

But when she found her comelye knighte 

Indeed was dead and gone, 
She layde her pale, cold cheeke to his, 

And thus she made her moane : 195 

" O staye, my deare and onlye lord, 

For mee, thy faithfulle feere ; 
'Tis meet that I shold followe thee, 

Who hast bought my love so deare." 

Then fayntinge in a deadeye swoune, 200 

And with a deep-fette sighe, 
That burst her gentle heart in twayne, 

Faire Christabelle did dye. 

From Percy's " Rdiques" 



The Frost performs its secret ministry, 

Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry 

Came loud and hark, again ! loud as before. 

The inmates of my cottage, all at rest, 

Have left me to that solitude, which suits 5 

Abstruser musings : save that at my side 

My cradled infant slumbers peacefully. 

'Tis calm indeed ! so calm, that it disturbs 

And vexes meditation with its strange 

And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood, 10 

This populous village ! Sea, and hill, and wood, 

With all the numberless goings on of life 

Inaudible as dreams ! the thin blue flame 

Lies on my low burnt fire, and quivers not ; 

Only that film, which fluttered on the grate, 15 

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing. 

Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature 

Gives its dim sympathies with me who live, 

Making it a companionable form, 

Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit 20 

By its own moods interprets, every where 

Echo or mirror seeking of itself, 

And makes a toy of Thought. 

But O ! how oft. 

How oft, at school, with most believing mind, . 25 

Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars, 
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft 
With unclosed lids, already had, I dreamt, 
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower, 
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang 30 

From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day, 
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me 
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear 
Most like articulate sounds of things to come ! 
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt, 35 

Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams ! 
And so I brooded all the following morn, 
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye 

February, 1798. 


Fixed with mock study on my swimming book : 

Save if the door half opened, and I snatched 40 

A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up, 

For still I hoped to see the stranger's face, 

Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved, 

My play-mate when we were both clothed alike ! 

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side, 45 

Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm, 
Fill up the interspersed vacancies 
And momentary pauses of the thought ! 
My babe so beautiful ! it thrills my heart 
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee, 50 

And think that thou shalt learn far other lore 
And in far other scenes ! For I was reared 
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim, 
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars. 
But thou, my babe ! shalt wander like a breeze 55 

By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags 
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds, 
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores 
And mountain crags : so shalt thou see and hear 
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible 60 

Of that eternal language, which thy God 
Utters, who from eternity doth teach 
Himself in all, and all things in himself. 
Great universal Teacher ! he shall mould 
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask. 65 

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee, 
Whether the summer clothe the general earth 
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing 
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch 
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch 70 

Smokes in the sun-thaw ; whether the eve-drops fall 
Heard only in the trances of the blast, 
Or if the secret ministry of frost 
Shall hang them up in silent icicles, 

Quietly shining to the quiet Moon, 75 

S. T. Coleridge. 




Well ! If the Bard was weather-wise who made 

The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence, 

This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence 
Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade 

Than those which mould yon cloud in lazy flakes, 5 

Or the dull sobbing draft, that moans and rakes 
Upon the strings of this ^Eolian lute, 
Which better far were mute. 

For lo ! the new Moon winter-bright ! 

And overspread with phantom light, 10 

(With swimming phantom light o'erspread 

But rimmed and circled by a silver thread,) 
I see the old Moon in her lap, foretelling 

The coming on of rain and squally blast. 
And oh ! that even now the gust were swelling, 15 

And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast ! 
Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed, 

And sent my soul abroad, 

Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give, 
Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live ! 20 

A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear, 

A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, 

Which finds no natural outlet, no relief, 

In word, or sigh, or tear 

Lady ! in this wan and heartless mood, 25 

To other thoughts by yonder throstle woo'd, 

All this long eve, so balmy and serene, 
Have I been gazing on the western sky, 

And its peculiar tint of yellow green : 

And still I gaze and with how blank an eye ! 30 

And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars, 
That give away their motion to the stars ; 
Those stars, that glide behind them or between, 
Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen : 


Yon crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew 35 

In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue ; 

I see them all so excellently fair, 

I see. not feel, how beautiful they are ! 

My genial spirits fail ; 

And what can these avail 40 

To lift the smothering weight from off my breast ? 

It were a vain endeavour, 

Though I should gaze forever 
On that green light that lingers in the west : 

I may not hope from outward forms to win 45 

The passion and the life, whose fountains are within. 


O Lady ! we receive but what we give, 
And in our life alone does Nature live : 
Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud ! 

And would we aught behold, of higher worth, 50 

Than that inanimate cold world allowed 
To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd, 

Ah ! from the soul itself must issue forth, 
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud 

Enveloping the Earth 55 

And from the soul itself must there be sent 

A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth, 
Of all sweet sounds the life and element ! 


O pure of heart ! thou need'st not ask of me 

What this strong music in the soul may be ! 60 

What, and wherein it doth exist, 
This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist, 
This beautiful and beauty-making power. 

Joy, virtuous Lady ! Joy that ne'er was given, 
Save to the pure, and in their purest hour, 65 

Life, and Life's effluence, cloud at once and shower, 
Joy, Lady ! is the spirit and the power, 
Which wedding Nature to us gives in dower, 

A new Earth and new Heaven, 


Undreamt of by the sensual and the proud 70 

Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud 

We in ourselves rejoice ! 
And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight, 

All melodies the echoes of that voice, 
All colours a suffusion from that light. 75 

There was a time when, though my path was rough, 

This joy within me dallied with distress, 
And all misfortunes were but as the stuff 

Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness : 
For hope grew round me, like the twining vine, 80 

And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine. 
But now afflictions bow me down to earth : 
Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth, 

But oh ! each visitation 
Suspends what nature gave me at my birth, 85 

My shaping spirit of Imagination. 
For not to think of what I needs must feel, 

But to be still and patient, all I can ; 
And haply by abstruse research to steal 

From my own nature all the natural man 90 

This was my sole resource, my only plan : 
Till that which suits a part infects the whole, 
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul. 

Hence, viper thoughts, that coil around my mind, 

Reality's dark dream ! 95 

I turn from you, and listen to the wind, 

Which long has raved unnoticed. What a scream 
Of agony by torture lengthened out 
That lute sent forth ! Thou Wind, that rav'st without, 

Bare crag, or mountain-tairn, or blasted tree, 100 

Or pine-grove whither woodman never clomb, 
Or lonely house, long held the witches' home, 

Methinks were fitter instruments for thee, 

Mad Lutanist ! who in this month of showers, 

Of dark brown gardens, and of peeping flowers, 105 


Mak'st Devils' yule, with worse than wintry song, 
The blossoms, buds, and timorous leaves among. 
Thou Actor, perfect in .all tragic sounds ! 
Thou mighty Poet, even to frenzy bold ! 

What tell'st thou now about ? 110 

'Tis of the rushing of an host in rout, 
With groans of trampled men, with smarting wounds 
At once they groan with pain, and shudder with the cold ! 
But hush ! there is a pause of deepest silence ! 

And at that noise, as of a rushing crowd, 1 15 

With groans, and tremulous shudderings all is over 
It tells another tale, with sounds less deep and loud ! 
A tale of less affright, 
And tempered with delight, 

As Otway's self had framed the tender lay, 120 

'Tis of a little child 
Upon a lonesome wild, 

Not far from home, but she hath lost her way : 
And now moans low in bitter grief and fear, 
And now screams loud, and hopes to make her mother hear. 125 

'Tis midnight, but small thoughts have I of sleep : 
Full seldom may my friend such vigils keep ! 
Visit her, gentle Sleep ! with wings of healing, 

And may this storm be but a mountain-birth, 

May all the stars hang bright above her dwelling, 130 

Silent as though they watched the sleeping Earth ! 
With light heart may she rise, 
Gay fancy, cheerful eyes, 

Joy lift her spirit, joy attune her voice ; 

To her may all things live, from pole to pole, 135 

Their life the eddying of her living soul ! 

O simple spirit, guided from above, 
Dear Lady ! friend devoutesb of my choice, 
Thus mayest thou ever, evermore rejoice. 

S. T. Coleridge. 



When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes 
I all alone beweep my outcast state, 

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, 
And look upon myself, and curse my fate ; 


Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, c 5 

Featured like him, like him with friends possest, cb 
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, 

With what I most enjoy contented least ; (r~ 

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, -t- 

Haply I think on Thee and then my state, f 10 

Like to the lark at break of day arising 

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate ; 
For thy sweet love remember'd, such wealth brings | 
That then I scorn to change my state with kings. 

W. Shakespeare. 


When I consider how my light is spent 

Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, 

And that one talent which is death to hide, 
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent 
To serve therewith my Maker and present 5 

My true account, lest He, returning chide ; 

" Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?" 
I fondly ask ; but patience to prevent 

That murmer, so^n replies, " God does not need 

Either man's work, or His own gifts ; who best 10 

Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best ; His state 
Is kingly ; thousands at His bidding speed, 

And post o'er land and ocean without rest : 
They also serve who only stand and wait? " 

John Milton, 

8. LA. FAYETTE. 197 


Mild Splendour of the various-vested Night ! 

Mother of wildly-working visions ! hail ! 

I watch thy gliding, while with watery light 

Thy weak eye glimmers through a fleecy veil ; 

And when thou lovest thy pale orb to shroud 5 

Behind the gathering blackness lost on high ; 

And when thou dartest from the wind-rent cloud 

Thy placid lightning o'er the awakened sky. 

Ah such is Hope ! as changeful and as fair ! 

Now dimly peering on the wistful sight ; 10 

Now hid behind the dragon-winged Despair : 

But soon emerging in her radiant might 

She o'er the sorrow- clouded breast of Care 

Sails, like a meteor kindling in its flight. 

8. T. Coleridge. 


As when far off the warbled strains are heard 
That soar on Morning's wing the vales among ; 
Within his cage the imprisoned matin bird 
Swells the full chorus with a generous song : 
He bathes no pinion in the dewy light, 5 

No Father's joy, no Lover's bliss he shares, 
Yet still the rising radiance cheers his sight 
His fellows' freedom sooths the captives cares ! 
Thou, FAYETTE ! who didst wake with startling voice 
Life's better sun from that long wintry night, 10 

Thus in thy Country's triumph shall rejoice 
And mock with raptures high the dungeon's might. 
For lo ! the morning struggles into day, 
And Slavery's spectres shriek and vanish from the ray ! 

S. T. Coleridge. 



Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind ! 

Brightest in dungeons, Liberty ! thou art, 

For there thy habitation is the heart 
The heart which love of thee alone can bind ; 
And when thy sons to fetters are consigned 5 

To fetters and the damp vault's dayless gloom, 

Their country conquers with their martyrdom, 
And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind. 
Chillon ! thy prison is a holy place, 

And thy sad floor an altar for 'twas trod, 10 

Until his very steps have left a trace 

Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod, 
By Bonnivard" ! May none those marks efface ! 

For they appeal from tyranny to God. 


Meek spirit, who so early didst depart, 

Thou art at rest in Heaven ! I linger here, 
And feed the lonely anguish of my heart ; 

Thinking of all that made existence dear. 
All lost ! If in ohe happy world above 5 

Remembrance of this mortal life endure, 
Thou wilt not then forget the perfect love 

Which still thou seest in me. spirit pure ! 
And if the irremediable grief, 
The woe, which never hopes on earth relief, 10 

May merit ought of thee ; prefer thy prayer 
To God, who took thee early to his rest, 
That it may please him soon amid the blest 

To summon me, dear maid ! to meet thee there. 

Translated by SoutJiey. 

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