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O joy! that in our embers
What was so fugitive!
benediction : not indeed
Not for these I raise
Blank misgivings of a Creature
But for those first affections,
Which, be they what they may,
To perish never;
Nor Man nor Boy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy! 6 These “ questionings of sense and outward things” are, I suppose, the ques. tions which the soul puts to its visible surroundings, ever seeking from them what they have not to give: that is, the soul is so unable to acquiesce in death as the end of its being, that it cannot choose but keep interrogating the world of sense for answers which must come from a higher source; and this is taken as arguing that the soul is itself framed and attuned to a world above and beyond the present. Thus the poet finds cause to rejoice in the moral disappointments he has sustained,to rejoice that the glories he saw in childhood have fallen away from him, and van. Ished under the pressure of experience; because all this is a sort of pledge that his being has in it something
greater and better than this world; that the soul's true home is in a world where life is unfailing and death is unknown. And so, in his view, for the purpose in question, the “philosophic mind” more than compensates the loss of the instinctive faith of childhood." Wordsworth here shows that the thought is at least a good one for poetical use; and I think it may be shown to be a good one for practical use. For, in fact, the strongest natural argument for a future life is, that the higher needs and instincts of our moral being are not met in this world: in other words, conscience and the present state of thing do not go together; the one does not answer to the other; and the world is full of beginnings that are to be finished elsewhere, if inished at all. See page 214, note 4.
Hence in a season of calm weather,
Though inland far we be,
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound!
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Feel the gladness of the May !
Though nothing can bring back the hour
We will grieve not, rather find
In the faith that looks through death,
XI. And 0, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves, Förebode not any severing of our loves ! Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might; I only have relinquish'd one delight To live beneath your more habitual sway. I love the Brooks which down their channels fret, Even more than when I tripp'd lightly as they; The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet; The Clouds that gather round the setting Sun Do take a sober colouring from an eye That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality: Another race hath been, and other palms are won. Thanks to the human heart by which we live, Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
PREFATORY NOTE.-This poem was begun early in 1799, and was finished in the Summer of 1805. During that time, the author, as he himself tells us, was ineditating a much larger work, of which The Excursion forms a part; and by way of preparation for this work," he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, so far as he was acquainted with them.” And he adds the following: “The preparatory poem is autobiographical, and conducts the history of the author's mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his faculties were sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labour which he had proposed to himselt'; and the two works have the same kind of relation to each other, if he may so express himself, as the Ante-chapel has to the body of a Gothic Church.” — The Prelude was addressed to Coleridge, who was residing in Malta for the restoration of his health when the greater part of it was composed. On his return to England, Wordsworth read the poem to him; and the impression it made upon him is set forth in some very noble verses addressed to Wordsworth, which will be found among the poems by Coleridge given in this volume. Wordsworth speaks of The Prelude as being “addressed to a dear friend, most distinguished for his knowledge and genius, and to whom the author's intellect is deeply indebted.” - The poem was not published till 1850, soon after the author's death. On its first appearance, it was, I think, rather disappointing to the lovers of Wordsworth; but it wears well, and, if my own experience be any test, never fails to improve on further acquaintance. - The whole poem consists of fourteen Books. Of these, I give the first two Books entire, and portions of several others; which is all I can make room for, without excluding other pieces that seem better suited to the purpose of this volume.
INTRODUCTION CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-TIME.
To none more grateful than to me; escaped 7 This great Ode is now commonly accepted as the crowning effort of modern imaginative discourse; but I suspect that few have grown to a full comprehension of its meaning, So deep and strong, indeed, is the undercurrent of thought, and so rich and varied the imagery and expression by which those depths are symbolized, that one may converse with it every day for a lifetime, without exhausting its sig. nificance. I must dismiss it with a brief comment from Coleridge: “To the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, the poet might have prefixed the lines which Dante addressed to one of his own Canzoni:
O lyric song, there will be few, think I,
Thou art for them so arduous and so high!' But the Ode was intended for such readers only as had been accustomed to watch the flux and reflux of their inmost nature, to venture at times into the twilight realms of consciousness, and to feel a deep interest in modes of inmost being, to which
they know that the attributes of time and space are inapplicable and alien, but which yet cannot be conveyed save in symbols of time and space. For such readers the sense is sufficiently plain."
From the vast city, where I long had pined
Dear Liberty! Yet what would it avail
Thus far, 0 Friend! did I, not used to make A present joy the matter of a song,
Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains 1 This was the city of Goslar, in Germany, where Wordsworth and his sister spent part of the Winter of 1798-99, having arrived there on the 6th of October. The Winter was intensely cold, - the coldest of the whole century; so that
the poet had to keep within doors far more than he was used to do. He left there February 10th, and was much exhilarated on escaping from the dreary confinement, as these lines amply testify.
That would not be forgotten, and are here
Content, and not unwilling now to give
2 The Vale of Grasmere, where the poet and his sister took up their abode soon after their return from Germany.