William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

England, 1802

i

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.

ii

Milton! thou shouldst 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;
	O 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.

iii

Great men have been among us; hands that penn'd
	And tongues that utter'd wisdom—better none:
	The later Sidney, Marvel, Harrington,
Young Vane, and others who call'd 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!

iv

It is 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 flow'd, 'with pomp of waters, unwithstood,'
Roused though it be full often to a mood
	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 for ever. In our halls is hung
	Armoury of the invincible Knights of old:
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.

v

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?
	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;
	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!

vi

I must not grieve my Love, whose eyes would read
Lines of delight, whereon her youth might smile;
Flowers have time before they come to seed,
And she is young, and now must sport the while.
And sport, Sweet Maid, in season of these years,
And learn to gather flowers before they wither;
And where the sweetest blossom first appears,
Let Love and Youth conduct thy pleasures thither.
Lighten forth smiles to clear the clouded air,
And calm the tempest which my sighs do raise;
Pity and smiles do best become the fair;
Pity and smiles must only yield thee praise.
	 Make me to say when all my griefs are gone,
	 Happy the heart that sighed for such a one!

The Sonnet

i

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room,
	And hermits are contented with their cells,
	And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
	High as the highest peak of Furness fells,
	Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison unto which we doom
Ourselves no prison is: and hence for me,
	In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
	Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
	Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

ii

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frown'd,
	Mindless of its just honours; with this key
	Shakespeare unlock'd his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
	With it Camöens sooth'd an exile's grief;
	The Sonnet glitter'd a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crown'd
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
	It cheer'd mild Spenser, call'd from Faery-land
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, too few!

Upon Westminster Bridge

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!

Evening on Calais Beach

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 untouch'd by solemn thought,
	Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
	And worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
	God being with thee when we know it not.

On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic, 1802

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 reach'd its final day:
Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
	Of that which once was great is pass'd away.

The World

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!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
	The winds that will be howling at all hours,
	And are up-gather'd 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.

Desideria

Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
	I turned to share the transport—O! with whom
	But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recall'd thee to my mind—
	But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
	Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss?—That thought's return
	Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
	Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
	Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon

I thought of Thee, my partner and my guide,
	As being pass'd away.—Vain sympathies!
	For, backward, Duddon! as I cast my eyes,
I see what was, and is, and will abide;
Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
	The Form remains, the Function never dies;
	While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise,
We Men, who in our morn of youth defied
The elements, must vanish;—be it so!
	Enough, if something from our hands have power
	To live, and act, and serve the future hour;
And if, as toward the silent tomb we go,
	Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower,
We feel that we are greater than we know.

Mutability

From low to high doth dissolution climb,
	And sink from high to low, along a scale
	Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail;
A musical but melancholy chime,
Which they can hear who meddle not with crime,
	Nor avarice, nor over-anxious care.
	Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear
The longest date do melt like frosty rime,
That in the morning whiten'd hill and plain
And is no more; drop like the tower sublime
	Of yesterday, which royally did wear
His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain
	Some casual shout that broke the silent air,
Or the unimaginable touch of Time.

The Trosachs

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
Wither'd 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
Untouch'd, 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!

Speak!

Why art thou silent! Is thy love a plant
	Of such weak fibre that the treacherous air
	Of absence withers what was once so fair?
Is there no debt to pay, no boon to grant?
Yet have my thoughts for thee been vigilant—
	Bound to thy service with unceasing care,
The mind's least generous wish a mendicant
	For nought but what thy happiness could spare.
Speak—though this soft warm heart, once free to hold
	A thousand tender pleasures, thine and mine,
Be left more desolate, more dreary cold
	Than a forsaken bird's-nest filled with snow
	'Mid its own bush of leafless eglantine—
	Speak, that my torturing doubts their end may know!

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I poems sono nel public domain. Costruzione del luogo © 2003 Éamon Mag Uidhir