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To Conscience only, and the law supreme
Of that intelligence which governs all, -
I sing: “fit audience let me find, though few!

So pray'd, more gaining than he ask'd, the Bard,
In holiest mood." Urania, I shall need
Thy guidance, or a greater Muse, if such
Descend to Earth or dwell in highest Heaven!
For I must tread on shadowy ground, must sink
Deep, -- and, aloft ascending, breathe in worlds
To which the Heaven of heavens is but a veil.
All strength, — all terror, single or in bands,
That ever was put forth in personal form, -
Jehovah, with His thunder, and the choir
Of shouting Angels, and th' empyreal thrones, –

them unalarm'd. Not Chaos, not The darkest pit of lowest Erebus, Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scoop'd out By help of dreams, can breed such fear and awe As fall upon us often when we look Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man, My haunt, and the main region of my song. Beauty -- a living Presence of the Earth, Surpassing the most fair ideal Forms Which craft of delicate Spirits hath composed From Earth's materials – waits upon my steps; Pitches her tents before me as I move, An hourly neighbour. Paradise, and groves Elysian, Fortunate Fields, - like those of old Sought in th’ Atlantic Main, - why should they be A history only of departed things, Or a mere fiction of what never was ? For the discerning intellect of Man, When wedded to this goodly Universe In love and holy passion, shall find these A simple produce of the common day. I, long before the blissful hour arrives, Would chant, in lonely peace, the spousal verse Of this great consummation: and, by words Which speak of nothing more than what we are, Would I arouse the sensual from their sleep Of Death, and win the vacant and the vain To noble raptures; while my voice proclaims How éxquisitely th' individual Mind

1 Milton is the “Bard” referred to. The quotation is from Paradise Lost, vii. 31 :

“ Still govern thou my song, Urania, and fit audience find, though few."

(And the progressive powers perhaps no less
Of the whole species) to th' external World
Is fitted ;- and how exquisitely, too,-
Theme this but little heard of among men,
Th’ external World is fitted to the Mind;
And the creation (by no lower name
Can it be call's) which they with blended might
Accomplish:- this is our high argument.
Such grateful haunts foregoing, if I oft
Must turn elsewhere, - to travel near the tribes
And fellowships of men, and see ill sights
Of madding passions mutually inflamed;
Must hear Humanity in fields and groves
Pipe solitary anguish; or must hang
Brooding above the fierce confederate storm
Of sorrow, barricado'd evermore
Within the walls of cities, — may these sounds
Have their authentic comment; that, even these
Hlearing, I be not downcast or forlorn!
Descend, prophetic Spirit! that inspir’st
The human Soul of universal Earth,
Dreaming on things to come; and dost possess
A metropolitan temple in the hearts
Of mighty Poets: upon me bestow
A gift of genuine insight; that my Song
With star-like virtue in its place may shine,
Shedding benignant influence, and secure,
Itself, from all malevolent effect
Of those mutations that extend their sway
Throughout the nether sphere! - And if with this
I mix more lowly matter; with the thing
Contemplated, describe the Mind and Man
Contemplating; and who and what he was, –
The transitory Being that beheld
This Vision; when and where and how he lived ;
Be not this labour useless. If such theme
May sort with highest objects, then, dread Power!
Whose gracious favour is the primal source
Of all illumination, may my Life
Express the image of a better time,
More wise desires, and simpler manners;--- nurse
My Heart in genuine freedom:- all pure thoughts
Be with me; —so shall Thy unfailing love
Guide, and support, and cheer me to the end !
2 So in Shakespeare's 107th sonnet:

“Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,” &c.



'Twas Summer, and the Sun had mounted high:
Southward the landscape indistinctly glared
Through a pale steam; but all the northern downs,*
In clearest air ascending, show'd far off
A surface dappled o'er with shadows flung
From brooding clouds; shadows that lay in spots
Determined and unmoved, with steady beams
Of bright and pleasant sunshine interposed;
To him most pleasant who on soft cool moss
Extends his careless limbs along the front
Of some huge cave, whose rocky ceiling casts
A twilight of its own,

an ample shade
Where the wren warbles, — while the dreaming man
Half conscious of the soothing melody,
With sidelong eye looks out upon the scene,
By power of that impending covert thrown
To finer distance. Mine was at that hour
Far other lot, yet with good hope that soon
Under a shade as grateful I should find

Rest, and be welcomed there to livelier joy. 3. My lamented friend Southey used to say that, had he been a Papist, the course of life which in all probability would have been his was that of a Benedictine Monk, in a convent furnished, as many once were, and some still are, with an inexhaustible library. Books, as appears from many passages in his writings, and was evident to those who had opportunities of observing his daily life, were in fact his passion; and wandering, I can with truth affirm, was mine: but this propensity in me was happily counteracted by inability from want of fortune to fulfil my wishes. But, had I been born in a class which would have deprived me of what is called a liberal education, it is not unlikely that, being strong in body, I should have taken to a way of lite such as that in which my "Wanderer" passed the greater part of his days. At all events, I am here called upon freely to acknowledge that the character I have represented in his person is chiefly an idea of what I fancied my own character might have become in his circumstances. Nevertheless much of what he says and does had an external existence, that fell under my own youthful and subsequent observation. An individual named Patrick, by birth and education a Scotchman, followed this humble occupation for many years, and afterwards settled in the town of Kendal, He married a kinsman of my wife's, and her sister Sarah spent part of her childhood under this good man's eye. My own imagination I was happy to find clothed in re. ality, and fresh ones suggested, by what she reported of this man's tenderness of heart, his strong and pure imagination, and his solid attainments in literature, chiefly religious, whether in prose or verse. At Hawkshead, also, while I was a schoolboy, there occasionally resided a packman, (the name then generally given to this calling,) with whom I had frequent conversations upon what had befallen him, and what he had observed during his wandering life; and, as was natural, we took much to each other: and upon the subject of Pediarism in general, as then followed, and its favourableness to an intimate knowledge of human concerns, not merely among the humbler classes of society, I need say nothing here in addition to what is to be found in The Excursion. - Author's Notes, 1843.

4 Downs, in French dunes, are, properly, sand-banks. But in some parts of England the word appears to be used for certain risings or swellings of earth, probably from their resemblance to sand-banks.

Across a bare wide Common” I was toiling
With languid steps that by the slippery turf
Were baffled; nor could my weak arm disperso
The host of insects gathering round my face,
And ever with me as I paced along.

Upon that open moorland stood a grove,
The wish’d-for port to which my course was bound.
Thither I came, and there, amid the gloom
Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elms,
Appear'd a roofless Hut; four naked walls
That stared upon each other! I look'd round,
And to my wish and to my hope espied
The Friend I sought, a Man of reverend age,
But stout and hale, for travel unimpair'd.
There was he seen upon the cottage-bench,
Recumbent in the shade, as if asleep;
An iron-pointed staff lay at his side.

Him had I mark’d the day before, alone
And station'd in the public way, with face
Turn’d toward the Sun then setting, while that staff
Afforded, to the figure of the man
Detain'd for contemplation or repose,
Graceful support: his countenance as he stood
Was hidden from my view, and he remain'd
Unrecognised; but, stricken by the sight,
With slacken'd footsteps I advanced, and soon
A glad congratulation we exchanged
At such unthought-of meeting. - For the night
We parted, nothing willingly; and now
He by appointment waited for me here,
Under the covert of these clustering elms.

We were tried Friends : amid a pleasant vale,
In th' antique market-village where was pass'd
My school-time, an apartment he had own's,
To which at intervals the Wanderer drew,
And found a kind of home or harbour there.
He loved me; from a swarm of rosy boys
Singled out me, as he in sport would say,
For my grave looks, too thoughtful for my years
As I grew up, it was my best delight
To be his chosen comrade. Many a time,
On holidays, we rambled through the woods;
We sate, we walk'd; he pleased me with report

Of things which he had seen; and often touch'd B A common, as the word is here used, is a piece of land, generally pasture, occupied by the people of a given neighborhood in common, as distinguished from lands owned exclusively by individuals.


Abstrusest matter, reasonings of the mind
Turn'd inward; or at my request would sing
Old songs, the product of his native hills;
A skilful distribution of sweet sounds,
Feeding the soul, and eagerly imbibed
As cool refreshing water, by the care
Of the industrious husbandman, diffused
Through a parch'd meadow-ground, in time of drought.
Still deeper welcome found his pure discourse;
How precious when in riper days I learn'd
To weigh with care his words, and to rejoice
In the plain presence of his dignity!

0, many are the Poets that are sown
By Nature! men endow'd with highest gifts,
The vision and the faculty divine;
Yet wanting the accomplishment of verse,
(Which, in the docile season of their youth,
It was denied them to acquire, through lack
Of culture and th’inspiring aid of books,
Or haply by a temper too severe,
Or a nice backwardness afraid of shame,)
Nor having e'er, as life advanced, been led
By circumstance to take unto the height
The measure of themselves, these favour'd Beings,
All but a scatter'd few, live out their time,
Husbanding that which they possess within,
And go to th' grave, unthought of. Strongest minds
Are often those of whom the noisy world
Hears least; else surely this Man had not left
His graces unreveal'd and unproclaim'd.
But, as the mind was fill'd with inward light,
So not without distinction had he lived,
Beloved and honour'd, — far as he was known.
And some small portion of his eloquent speech,
And something that may serve to set in view
The feeling pleasures of his loneliness,
His observations, and the thoughts his mind
Had dealt with, - I will here record in verse;
Which, if with truth it correspond, and sink

Or rise as venerable Nature leads, 6 This line has grown to be a sort of proverbial expression for the high gift of poetic genius. - Coleridge questions the truth of this fine passage. “Such sentiments," says he,“ in such language do one's heart good; though I, for my part, have not the fullest faith in the truth of the observation. When I find, even in situations the most favorable, according to Mr. Wordsworth, for the formation of a pure and poetical language, in situations which ensure familiarity with the grandest objects of the imagination — but one BURNS among the shepherds of Scotland, and not a single poet of humble life among those of English lakes and mountains; I conclude that POETIC GENIUS is not only a very delicate but a very rare plant.”

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