William Wordsworth and the Example of His Poems - William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a major Romantic poet, based in the Lake District, England. His poems are frequently inspired by the beauty of nature and he is known as one of the greatest English poets.
Wordsworth attended Hawkshead Grammar School, where his love of poetry was firmly established and, it is believed, he made his first attempts at verse. While he was at Hawkshead, Wordsworth’s father died leaving him and his four siblings orphans. After Hawkshead, Wordsworth studied at St. John’s College in Cambridge and before his final semester, he set out on a walking tour of Europe, an experience that influenced both his poetry and his political sensibilities. While touring Europe, Wordsworth came into contact with the French Revolution. This experience as well as a subsequent period living in France, brought about Wordsworth’s interest and sympathy for the life, troubles, and speech of the “common man.” These issues proved to be of the utmost importance to Wordsworth’s work. Wordsworth’s earliest poetry was published in 1793 in the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. While living in France, Wordsworth conceived a daughter, Caroline, out of wedlock; he left France, however, before she was born. In 1802, he returned to France with his sister on a four-week visit to meet Caroline. Later that year, he married Mary Hutchinson, a childhood friend, and they had five children together. In 1812, while living in Grasmere, two of their children—Catherine and John—died.
Equally important in the poetic life of Wordsworth was his 1795 meeting with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was with Coleridge that Wordsworth published the famous Lyrical Ballads in 1798. While the poems themselves are some of the most influential in Western literature, it is the preface to the second edition that remains one of the most important testaments to a poet’s views on both his craft and his place in the world. In the preface Wordsworth writes on the need for “common speech” within poems and argues against the hierarchy of the period which valued epic poetry above the lyric.
Wordsworth’s most famous work, The Prelude (1850), is considered by many to be the crowning achievement of English romanticism. The poem, revised numerous times, chronicles the spiritual life of the poet and marks the birth of a new genre of poetry. Although Wordsworth worked on The Prelude throughout his life, the poem was published posthumously. Wordsworth spent his final years settled at Rydal Mount in England, travelling and continuing his outdoor excursions. Devastated by the death of his daughter Dora in 1847, Wordsworth seemingly lost his will to compose poems. William Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount on April 23, 1850, leaving his wife Mary to publish The Prelude three months later.
King of Sweden
The Voice of song from distant lands shall call
To that great King; shall hail the crowned Youth
Who, taking counsel of unbending Truth,
By one example hath set forth to all
How they with dignity may stand; or fall,
If fall they must. Now, whither doth it tend?
And what to him and his shall be the end?
That thought is one which neither can appal
Nor cheer him; for the illustrious Swede hath done
The thing which ought to be; is raised 'above'
All consequences: work he hath begun
Of fortitude, and piety, and love,
Which all his glorious ancestors approve:
The heroes bless him, him their rightful son.
Argument For Suicide
Send this man to the mine, this to the battle,
Famish an aged beggar at your gates,
And let him die by inches- but for worlds
Lift not your hand against him- Live, live on,
As if this earth owned neither steel nor arsenic,
A rope, a river, or a standing pool.
Live, if you dread the pains of hell, or think
Your corpse would quarrel with a stake- alas
Has misery then no friend?- if you would die
By license, call the dropsy and the stone
And let them end you- strange it is;
And most fantastic are the magic circles
Drawn round the thing called life- till we have learned
To prize it less, we ne'er shall learn to prize
The things worth living for.
Fond words have oft been spoken to thee, Sleep!
The very sweetest, Fancy culls or frames,
When thankfulness of heart is strong and deep!
Dear Bosom-child we call thee, that dost steep
In rich reward all suffering; Balm that tames
All anguish; Saint that evil thoughts and aims
Takest away, and into souls dost creep,
Like to a breeze from heaven. Shall I alone,
I surely not a man ungently made,
Call thee worst Tyrant by which Flesh is crost?
Perverse, self-willed to own and to disown,
Mere slave of them who never for thee prayed,
Still last to come where thou art wanted most!
To Lady Beaumont
Lady! the songs of Spring were in the grove
While I was planting green unfading bowers,
And shrubs--to hang upon the warm alcove,
And sheltering wall; and still, as Fancy wove
The dream, to time and nature's blended powers
I gave this paradise for winter hours,
A labyrinth, Lady! which your feet shall rove.
Yes! when the sun of life more feebly shines,
Becoming thoughts, I trust, of solemn gloom
Or of high gladness you shall hither bring;
And these perennial bowers and murmuring pines
Be gracious as the music and the bloom
And all the mighty ravishment of spring.
The Sonnet Ii
Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frown'd,
The Sailor's Mother
One morning (raw it was and wet---
A foggy day in winter time)
A Woman on the road I met,
Not old, though something past her prime:
Majestic in her person, tall and straight;
And like a Roman matron's was her mien and gait.
Old times, thought I, are breathing there;
Proud was I that my country bred
Such strength, a dignity so fair:
She begged an alms, like one in poor estate;
I looked at her again, nor did my pride abate.
'What is it,' said I, 'that you bear,
Beneath the covert of your Cloak,
Protected from this cold damp air? '
She anwered, soon as she the question heard,
'A simple burthen, Sir, a little Singing-bird.'
'I had a Son, who many a day
Sailed on the seas, but he is dead;
In Denmark he was cast away:
And I have travelled weary miles to see
If aught which he had owned might still remain for me.
'Twas my Son's bird; and neat and trim
He kept it: many voyages
The singing-bird had gone with him;
When last he sailed, he left the bird behind;
From bodings, as might be, that hung upon his mind.
Had left it, to be watched and fed,
And pipe its song in safety;---there
I found it when my Son was dead;
And now, God help me for my little wit!
I bear it with me, Sir;---he took so much delight in it.'
The Longest Day
Let us quit the leafy arbor,
And the torrent murmuring by;
For the sun is in his harbor,
Weary of the open sky.
Fashioned by the glowing light;
All that breathe are thankful debtors
To the harbinger of night.
Eve renews her calm career;
For the day that now is ended,
Is the longest of the year.
On this platform, light and free;
Take thy bliss, while longest, shortest,
Are indifferent to thee!
That inspires the linnet's song?
Who would stop the swallow, wheeling
On her pinions swift and strong?
Words which tenderness can speak
From the truths of homely reason,
Might exalt the loveliest cheek;
Steal the landscape from the sight,
I would urge this moral pleading,
Last forerunner of "Good night!"
Is a reflux from on high,
Tending to the darksome hollows
Where the frosts of winter lie.
In his providence, assigned
Such a gradual declination
To the life of human kind.
Fresh flowers blow, as flowers have blown,
And the heart is loth to deaden
Hopes that she so long hath known.
And when thy decline shall come,
Let not dowers, or boughs fruit-laden,
Hide the knowledge of thy doom.
Fix thine eyes upon the sea
That absorbs time, space, and number;
Look thou to Eternity!
On whose breast are thither borne
All deceived, and each deceiver,
Through the gates of night and morn;
Through the bounds which many a star
Marks, not mindless of frail mortals,
Thus when thou with Time hast travelled
Toward the mighty gulf of things,
And the mazy stream unravelled
With thy best imaginings;
Think how pitiful that stay,
Did not virtue give the meanest
Charms superior to decay.
Sometimes frowns, or seems to frown;
Choose her thistle for thy sceptre,
While youth's roses are thy crown.
Fairest damsel of the green,
Thou wilt lack the only symbol
That proclaims a genuine queen;
Which selected spirits wear,
Bending low before the Donor,
Lord of heaven's unchanging year!
Farewell, thou little Nook of mountain-ground,
Of that magnificent temple which doth bound
One side of our whole vale with grandeur rare;
Sweet garden-orchard, eminently fair,
The loveliest spot that man hath ever found,
Farewell!--we leave thee to Heaven's peaceful care,
Thee, and the Cottage which thou dost surround.
And there will safely ride when we are gone;
The flowering shrubs that deck our humble door
Will prosper, though untended and alone:
Fields, goods, and far-off chattels we have none:
These narrow bounds contain our private store
Of things earth makes, and sun doth shine upon;
Here are they in our sight--we have no more.
For two months now in vain we shall be sought:
We leave you here in solitude to dwell
With these our latest gifts of tender thought;
Thou, like the morning, in thy saffron coat,
Bright gowan, and marsh-marigold, farewell!
Whom from the borders of the Lake we brought,
And placed together near our rocky Well.
And she will prize this Bower, this Indian shed,
Our own contrivance, Building without peer!
--A gentle Maid, whose heart is lowly bred,
Whose pleasures are in wild fields gathered,
With joyousness, and with a thoughtful cheer,
Will come to you; to you herself will wed;
And love the blessed life that we lead here.
Among the distant mountains, flower and weed,
Which thou hast taken to thee as thy own,
Making all kindness registered and known;
Thou for our sakes, though Nature's child indeed,
Fair in thyself and beautiful alone,
Hast taken gifts which thou dost little need.
Thou hast thy wayward moods, as thou dost show
To them who look not daily on thy face;
Who, being loved, in love no bounds dost know,
And say'st, when we forsake thee, 'Let them go!'
Thou easy-hearted Thing, with thy wild race
Of weeds and flowers, till we return be slow,
And travel with the year at a soft pace.
And this sweet spring, the best beloved and best;
Joy will be flown in its mortality;
Something must stay to tell us of the rest.
Here, thronged with primroses, the steep rock's breast
Glittered at evening like a starry sky;
And in this bush our sparrow built her nest,
Of which I sang one song that will not die.
Hath been so friendly to industrious hours;
And to soft slumbers, that did gently steep
Our spirits, carrying with them dreams of flowers,
And wild notes warbled among leafy bowers;
Two burning months let summer overleap,
And, coming back with Her who will be ours,
Into thy bosom we again shall creep.
A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal
A slumber did my spirit seal
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.
Do as Charles and I are doing!
Strawberry-blossoms, one and all,
We must spare them--here are many:
Look at it--the flower is small,
Small and low, though fair as any:
Do not touch it! summers two
I am older, Anne, than you.
Pull as many as you can.
--Here are daisies, take your fill;
Pansies, and the cuckoo-flower:
Of the lofty daffodil
Make your bed, or make your bower;
Fill your lap, and fill your bosom;
Only spare the strawberry-blossom!
Summer knows but little of them:
Violets, a barren kind,
Withered on the ground must lie;
Daisies leave no fruit behind
When the pretty flowerets die;
Pluck them, and another year
As many will be blowing here.
To the favoured strawberry-flower.
Hither soon as spring is fled
You and Charles and I will walk;
Lurking berries, ripe and red,
Then will hang on every stalk,
Each within its leafy bower;
And for that promise spare the flower!