William Wordsworth.

LXXV sonnets online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryWilliam WordsworthLXXV sonnets → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

\ n i r~\ . i -




Rare Books Department


Estate of S. H. Cowell

Wordsworth's Sonnets


William Wordsworth

The Riverside Press

Table of First Lines


The world is too much with us; late and soon, 1

Earth has not anything to show more fair : 2

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free, 3

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the sky, 4

With Ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh, 5

Where lies the Land to which yon Ship must go ? 6

I dropped my pen; and listened to the Wind 7

How clear, how keen, how marvellously bright 8

The Shepherd, looking eastward, softly said, 9

Brook ! whose society the Poet seeks, 1

One who was suffering tumult in his soul, 1 1

Clouds, lingering yet, extend in solid bars 1 2
Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they 1 3

There is a little unpretending Rill 14

There 7 s not a nook within this solemn Pass, 1 5

4 There ! ' said a Stripling, pointing with meet pride 1 6

Hark ! 't is the Thrush, undaunted, undeprest, 1 7

Motions and Means, on land and sea at war 1 8

'Beloved Vale!' I said, 'when I shall con' 19

Sole listener, Duddon ! to the breeze that played 20

Those words were uttered as in pensive mood 21
Well may'st thou halt and gaze with brightening eye ! 22

Hail, Twilight, sovereign of one peaceful hour ! 23

Is then no nook of English ground secure 24


Fair Star of evening, Splendour of the west, 25

Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men ! 26

Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee; 27

O Friend! I know not which way I must look 28

Milton ! thou should'st be living at this hour : 29

Great men have been among us; hands that penned 30

Calvert! it must not be unheard by them 3 1

Two Voices are there ; one is of the sea, 32

Though narrow be that old Man's cares, and near, 3 3

Say, what is Honour ? 'T is the finest sense 34

A vaunt all specious pliancy of mind 35

The power of Armies is a visible thing, 36

Affections lose their object; Time brings forth 37

Young England what is then become of Old, 38

Discourse was deemed Man's noblest attribute, 39

I, who accompanied with faithful pace 4O

Behold a pupil of the monkish gown, 41

When thy great soul was freed from mortal chains, 42

A pleasant music floats along the Mere, 43

The woman-hearted Confessor prepares 44

The turbaned Race are poured in thickening swarms 45

There are no colours in the fairest sky 46

Well worthy to be magnified are they 47

Why sleeps the future, as a snake enrolled, 48


Scorn not the Sonnet ; Critic, you have frowned, 49

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room ; 5O

There is a pleasure in poetic pains 5 1

A Poet ! He hath put his heart to school, 5 2

Praised be the Art whose subtle power could stay 5 3

High is our calling, Friend ! Creative Art 54

Ye sacred Nurseries of blooming Youth ! 5 5

Not Love, not War, nor the tumultuous swell 56

I am not One who much or oft delight 5 7

4 Yet life,' you say,' is life; we have seen and see,' 58

Wings have we, and as far as we can go, 59

Nor can I not believe but that hereby 60

gentle Sleep ! do they belong to thee, 6 1
A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by, 62
Fond words have oft been spoken to thee, Sleep ! 6 3
4 Why, Minstrel, these untuneful murmurings ' 64
Her only pilot the soft breeze, the boat 65
Surprised by joy impatient as the Wind 66
Weak is the will of Man, his judgment blind ; 6 7
Grief, thou hast lost an ever-ready friend 68
While flowing rivers yield a blameless sport, 69
Most sweet it is with unuplifted eyes 70
If these brief Records, by the Muses' art 71
Even so for me a Vision sanctified 72
Adieu, Rydalian Laurels ! that have grown 73

1 thought of Thee, my partner and my guide, 74>
Serving no haughty Muse, my hands have here 75




The world is too much with us ; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers :
Little we see in Nature that is ours ;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon !
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon ;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers ;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune ;
It moves us not. Great God ! I 'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn ;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn ;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea ;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

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,
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
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill ;
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 !

' rf>> I ... 4 ilV J

.{>'..;*> iron 'fli^J ciij
fa srft-lo yttJiidd 3d

C 3 3

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,

The holy time is quiet as a Nun

Breathless with adoration ; the broad sun

Is sinking down in its tranquillity ;

The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea :

Listen ! the mighty Being is awake,

And doth with his eternal motion make

A sound like thunder everlastingly.

Dear Child ! dear Girl ! that walkest with me here,

If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,

Thy nature is not therefore less divine :

Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;

And worship' st at the Temple's inner shrine,

God being with thee when we know it not.

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb 'st the sky,
4 How silently, and with how wan a face ! '
Where art thou ? Thou so often seen on high
Running among the clouds a Wood-nymph's race!
Unhappy Nuns, whose common breath 's a sigh
Which they would stifle, move at such a pace !
The northern Wind, to call thee to the chase,
Must blow to-night his bugle horn. Had I
The power of Merlin, Goddess ! this should be :
And all the stars, fast as the clouds w r ere riven,
Should sally forth, to keep thee company,
Hurrying and sparkling through the clear blue heaven.
But, Cynthia ! should to thee the palm be given,
Queen both for beauty and for majesty.

C s

With Ships the sea was sprinkled far and nigh,

Like stars in heaven, and joyously it showed ;

Some lying fast at anchor in the road,

Some veering up and down, one knew not why.

A goodly Vessel did I then espy

Come like a giant from a haven broad ;

And lustily along the bay she strode,

Her tackling rich, and of apparel high.

This Ship was nought to me, nor I to her,

Yet I pursued her with a Lover's look ;

This Ship to all the rest did I prefer :

When will she turn, and whither? She will brook

No tarrying ; where She comes the winds must stir

On went She, and due north her journey took.

Where lies the Land to which yon Ship must go?

Fresh as a lark mounting at break of day,

Festively she puts forth in trim array ;

Is she for tropic suns, or polar snow?

What boots the inquiry? Neither friend nor foe

She cares for ; let her travel where she may,

She finds familiar names, a beaten way

Ever before her, and a wind to blow.

Yet still I ask, what haven is her mark?

And, almost as it was when ships were rare,

(From time to time, like Pilgrims, here and there

Crossing the waters) doubt, and something dark,

Of the old Sea some reverential fear,

Is with me at thy farewell, joyous Bark !


I dropped my pen ; and listened to the Wind

That sang of trees uptorn and vessels tost

A midnight harmony ; and wholly lost

To the general sense of men by chains confined

Of business, care, or pleasure ; or resigned

To timely sleep. Thought I, the impassioned strain,

Which, without aid of numbers, I sustain,

Like acceptation from the World will find.

Yet some with apprehensive ear shall drink

A dirge devoutly breathed o'er sorrows past;

And to the attendant promise will give heed

The prophecy, like that of this wild blast,

Which, while it makes the heart with sadness shrink,

Tells also of bright calms that shall succeed.

How clear, how keen, how marvellously bright

The effluence from yon distant mountain's head,

Which, strewn with snow smooth as the sky can shed,

Shines like another sun on mortal sight

Uprisen, as if to check approaching Night,

And all her twinkling stars. Who now would tread,

If so he might, yon mountain's glittering head

Terrestrial, but a surface, by the flight

Of sad mortality's earth-sullying wing,

Unswept, unstained? Nor shall the aerial Powers

Dissolve that beauty, destined to endure,

White, radiant, spotless, exquisitely pure,

Through all vicissitudes, till genial Spring

Has filled the laughing vales with welcome flowers.

1 9

The Shepherd, looking eastward, softly said,
' Bright is thy veil, O Moon, as thou art bright !
Forthwith, that little cloud, in ether spread
And penetrated all with tender light,
She cast away, and showed her fulgent head
Uncovered; dazzling the Beholder's sight
As if to vindicate her beauty's right
Her beauty thoughtlessly disparaged.
Meanwhile that veil, removed or thrown aside,
Went floating from her, darkening as it went ;
And a huge mass, to bury or to hide,
Approached this glory of the firmament ;
Who meekly yields, and is obscured content
With one calm triumph of a modest pride.

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 water-breaks ;
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 :
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.


One who was suffering tumult in his soul,

Yet failed to seek the sure relief of prayer,

Went forth his course surrendering to the care

Of the fierce wind, while mid-day lightnings prowl

Insidiously, untimely thunders growl ;

While trees, dim-seen, in frenzied numbers, tear

The lingering remnant of their yellow hair,

And shivering wolves, surprised with darkness, howl

As if the sun were not. He raised his eye

Soul-smitten ; for, that instant, did appear

Large space ('mid dreadful clouds) of purest sky,

An azure disc shield of Tranquillity ;

Invisible, unlooked-for, minister

Of providential goodness ever nigh !


Clouds, lingering yet, extend in solid bars

Through the grey west ; and lo ! these waters, steeled

By breezeless air to smoothest polish, yield

A vivid repetition of the stars ;

Jove, Venus, and the ruddy crest of Mars

Amid his fellows beauteously revealed

At happy distance from earth's groaning field,

Where ruthless mortals wage incessant wars.

Is it a mirror? or the nether Sphere

Opening to view the abyss in which she feeds

Her own calm fires? But list ! a voice is near ;

Great Pan himself low- whispering through the reeds,

'Be thankful, thou ; for, if unholy deeds

Ravage the world, tranquillity is here ! '


Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they*

But hardier far, once more I see thee bend

Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,

Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,

Storms, sallying from the mountain- tops, waylay

The rising sun, and on the plains descend ;

Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend

Whose zeal outruns his promise ! Blue-eyed May

Shall soon behold this border thickly set

With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing

On the soft west- wind and his frolic peers ;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,

Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,

And pensive monitor of fleeting years !


There is a little unpretending Rill

Of limpid water, humbler far than aught

That ever among Men or Naiads sought

Notice or name ! It quivers down the hill,

Furrowing its shallow way with dubious will;

Yet to my mind this scanty Stream is brought

Oftener than Ganges or the Nile ; a thought

Of private recollection sweet and still !

Months perish with their moons ; year treads on year !

But, faithful Emma ! thou with me canst say

That, while ten thousand pleasures disappear,

And flies their memory fast almost as they ;

The immortal Spirit of one happy day

Lingers beside that Rill, in vision clear.

C ls

There 's not a nook within this solemn Pass

But were an apt confessional for One

Taught by his summer spent, his autumn gone,

That Life is but a tale of morning grass

Withered at eve. From scenes of art which chase

That thought away, turn, and with watchful eyes

Feed it 'mid Nature's old felicities,

Rocks, rivers, and smooth lakes more clear than glass

Untouched, unbreathed upon. Thrice happy quest,

If from a golden perch of aspen spray

(October's workmanship to rival May)

The pensive warbler of the ruddy breast

That moral sweeten by a heaven- taught lay,

Lulling the year, with all its cares, to rest!

* There ! ' said a Stripling, pointing with meet pride
Towards a low roof with green trees half concealed,
4 Is Mosgiel Farm ; and that 's the very field
Where Burns ploughed up the Daisy.' Far and wide
A plain below stretched seaward, while, descried
Above sea-clouds, the Peaks of Arran rose;
And, by that simple notice, the repose
Of earth, sky, sea, and air, was vivified.
Beneath ' the random bield of clod or stone '
Myriads of daisies have shone forth in flower
Near the lark's nest, and in their natural hour
Have passed away ; less happy than the One
That, by the unwilling ploughshare, died to prove
The tender charm of poetry and love.


Hark! 'tis the Thrush, undaunted, undeprest,

By twilight premature of cloud and rain ;

Nor does that roaring wind deaden his strain

Who carols thinking of his Love and nest,

And seems, as more incited, still more blest.

Thanks; thou hast snapped a fireside Prisoner's chain,

Exulting Warbler! eased a fretted brain,

And in a moment charmed my cares to rest.

Yes, I will forth, bold Bird ! and front the blast,

That we may sing together, if thou wilt,

So loud, so clear, my Partner through life's day,

Mute in her nest love-chosen, if not love-built

Like thine, shall gladden, as in seasons past,

Thrilled by loose snatches of the social Lay.

C 18 3

Motions and Means, on land and sea at war

With old poetic feeling, not for this,

Shall ye by Poets even, be judged amiss !

Nor shall your presence, howsoe'er it mar

The loveliness of Nature, prove a bar

To the Mind's gaining that prophetic sense

Of future change, that point of vision, whence

May be discovered what in soul ye are.

In spite of all that beauty may disown

In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace

Her lawful offspring in Man's art; and Time,

Pleased with your triumphs o'er his brother Space,

Accepts from your bold hands the proffered crown

Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime.


4 Beloved Vale ! ' I said, * when I shall con
Those many records of my childish years,
Remembrance of myself and of my peers
Will press me down : to think of what is gone
Will be an awful thought, if life have one. '
But, when into the Vale I came, no fears
Distressed me ; from mine eyes escaped no tears ;
Deep thought, or dread remembrance, had I none,
By doubts and thousand petty fancies crost
I stood, of simple shame the blushing Thrall ;
So narrow seemed the brooks, the fields so small !
A Juggler's balls old Time about him tossed ;
I looked, I stared, I smiled, I laughed ; and all
The weight of sadness was in wonder lost.


Sole listener, Duddon ! to the breeze that played
With thy clear voice, I caught the fitful sound
Wafted o'er sullen moss and craggy mound
Unfruitful solitudes, that seemed to upbraid
The sun in heaven ! but now, to form a shade
For Thee, green alders have together wound
Their foliage ; ashes flung their arms around ;
And birch-trees risen in silver colonnade.
And thou hast also tempted here to rise,
'Mid sheltering pines, this Cottage rude and grey;
Whose ruddy children, by the mother's eyes
Carelessly watched, sport through the summer day,
Thy pleased associates : light as endless May
On infant bosoms lonely Nature lies.

4 they are of the sky,

And from our earthly memory fade away.'

Those words were uttered as in pensive mood
We turned, departing from that solemn sight:
A contrast and reproach to gross delight,
And life's unspiritual pleasures daily wooed !
But now upon this thought I cannot brood ;
It is unstable as a dream of night ;
Nor will I praise a cloud, however bright,
Disparaging Man's gifts, and proper food.
Grove, isle, with every shape of sky-built dome,
Though clad in colours beautiful and pure,
Find in the heart of man no natural home :
The immortal Mind craves objects that endure:
These cleave to it; from these it cannot roam,
Nor they from it : their fellowship is secure.

C 22 3

Well may'st thou halt and gaze with brightening eye !

The lovely Cottage in the guardian nook

Hath stirred thee deeply ; with its own dear brook,

Its own small pasture, almost its own sky !

But covet not the Abode ; forbear to sigh,

As many do, repining while they look ;

Intruders who would tear from Nature's book

This precious leaf, with harsh impiety.

Think what the home must be if it were thine,

Even thine, though few thy wants ! Roof, window, door,

The very flowers are sacred to the Poor,

The roses to the porch which they entwine :

Yea, all, that now enchants thee, from the day

On which it should be touched, would melt away.

n 2s 3

Hail, Twilight, sovereign of one peaceful hour!

Not dull art Thou as undiscerning Night ;

But studious only to remove from sight

Day's mutable distinctions. Ancient Power!

Thus did the waters gleam, the mountains lower,

To the rude Briton, when, in wolf-skin vest

Here roving wild, he laid him down to rest

On the bare rock, or through a leafy bower

Looked ere his eyes were closed. By him was seen

The self-same Vision which we now behold,

At thy meek bidding, shadowy Power ! brought forth

These mighty barriers, and the gulf between;

The flood, the stars, a spectacle as old

As the beginning of the heavens and earth !

Is then no nook of English ground secure

From rash assault? Schemes of retirement sown

In youth, and 'mid the busy world kept pure

As when their earliest flowers of hope were blown,

Must perish ; how can they this blight endure?

And must he too the ruthless change bemoan

Who scorns a false utilitarian lure

'Mid his paternal fields at random thrown?

Baffle the threat, bright Scene, from Orrest-head

Given to the pausing traveller's rapturous glance:

Plead for thy peace, thou beautiful romance

Of nature ; and, if human hearts be dead,

Speak, passing winds ; ye torrents, with your strong

And constant voice, protest against the wrong.


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

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.

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 do not love her, linger here.



Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men !
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den ;
O miserable Chieftain ! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow :
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee ; air, earth, and skies ;
There 's not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man's unconquerable mind.


Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee ;
And was the safeguard of the west : the worth
Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.
She was a maiden City, bright and free ;
No guile seduced, no force could violate ;
And, when she took unto herself a Mate,
She must espouse the everlasting Sea.
And what if she had seen those glories fade,
Those titles vanish, and that strength decay ;
Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid
When her long life hath reached its final day :
Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
Of that which once was great, is passed away.


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

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 :

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.

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
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh ! raise us up, return to us again ;
And give* us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart :
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea :
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.

n 3

Great men have been among us ; hands that penned

And tongues that uttered wisdom better none:

The later Sidney, Marvel, Harrington,

Young Vane, and others who called Milton friend.

These moralists could act and comprehend :

They knew how genuine glory was put on ;

Taught us how rightfully a nation shone

In splendour : what strength was, that would not bend

But in magnanimous meekness. France, 'tis strange,

Hath brought forth no such souls as we had then.

Perpetual emptiness ! unceasing change !

No single volume paramount, no code,

No master spirit, no determined road ;

But equally a want of books and men !

C 31

Calvert ! it must not be unheard by them
Who may respect my name, that I to thee
Owed many years of early liberty.
This care was thine when sickness did condemn
Thy youth to hopeless wasting, root and stem
That I, if frugal and severe, might stray
Where'er I liked ; and finally array
My temples with the Muse's diadem.
Hence, if in freedom I have loved the truth ;
If there be aught of pure, or good, or great,
In my past verse ; or shall be, in the lays
Of higher mood, which now I meditate ;
It gladdens me, O worthy, short-lived, Youth !
To think how much of this will be thy praise.

C 32 1

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
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;
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 !

C 33

Though narrow be that old Man's cares, and near,
The poor old Man is greater than he seems :
For he hath waking empire, wide as dreams ;
An ample sovereignty of eye and ear.

1 3

Online LibraryWilliam WordsworthLXXV sonnets → online text (page 1 of 3)