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THE PRELUDE

BOOK FIRST

INTRODUCTION--CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-TIME

          OH there is blessing in this gentle breeze,

          A visitant that while it fans my cheek

          Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings

          From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.

          Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come

          To none more grateful than to me; escaped

          From the vast city, where I long had pined

          A discontented sojourner: now free,

          Free as a bird to settle where I will.

          What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale                10

          Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove

          Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream

          Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?

          The earth is all before me. With a heart

          Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,

          I look about; and should the chosen guide

          Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,

          I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!

          Trances of thought and mountings of the mind

          Come fast upon me: it is shaken off,                        20

          That burthen of my own unnatural self,

          The heavy weight of many a weary day

          Not mine, and such as were not made for me.

          Long months of peace (if such bold word accord

          With any promises of human life),

          Long months of ease and undisturbed delight

          Are mine in prospect; whither shall I turn,

          By road or pathway, or through trackless field,

          Up hill or down, or shall some floating thing

          Upon the river point me out my course?                      30

 

            Dear Liberty! Yet what would it avail

          But for a gift that consecrates the joy?

          For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven

          Was blowing on my body, felt within

          A correspondent breeze, that gently moved

          With quickening virtue, but is now become

          A tempest, a redundant energy,

          Vexing its own creation. Thanks to both,

          And their congenial powers, that, while they join

          In breaking up a long-continued frost,                      40

          Bring with them vernal promises, the hope

          Of active days urged on by flying hours,--

          Days of sweet leisure, taxed with patient thought

          Abstruse, nor wanting punctual service high,

          Matins and vespers of harmonious verse!

 

            Thus far, O Friend! did I, not used to make

          A present joy the matter of a song,

          Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains

          That would not be forgotten, and are here

          Recorded: to the open fields I told                         50

          A prophecy: poetic numbers came

          Spontaneously to clothe in priestly robe

          A renovated spirit singled out,

          Such hope was mine, for holy services.

          My own voice cheered me, and, far more, the mind's

          Internal echo of the imperfect sound;

          To both I listened, drawing from them both

          A cheerful confidence in things to come.

 

            Content and not unwilling now to give

          A respite to this passion, I paced on                       60

          With brisk and eager steps; and came, at length,

          To a green shady place, where down I sate

          Beneath a tree, slackening my thoughts by choice

          And settling into gentler happiness.

          'Twas autumn, and a clear and placid day,

          With warmth, as much as needed, from a sun

          Two hours declined towards the west; a day

          With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass,

          And in the sheltered and the sheltering grove

          A perfect stillness. Many were the thoughts                 70

          Encouraged and dismissed, till choice was made

          Of a known Vale, whither my feet should turn,

          Nor rest till they had reached the very door

          Of the one cottage which methought I saw.

          No picture of mere memory ever looked

          So fair; and while upon the fancied scene

          I gazed with growing love, a higher power

          Than Fancy gave assurance of some work

          Of glory there forthwith to be begun,

          Perhaps too there performed. Thus long I mused,             80

          Nor e'er lost sight of what I mused upon,

          Save when, amid the stately grove of oaks,

          Now here, now there, an acorn, from its cup

          Dislodged, through sere leaves rustled, or at once

          To the bare earth dropped with a startling sound.

          From that soft couch I rose not, till the sun

          Had almost touched the horizon; casting then

          A backward glance upon the curling cloud

          Of city smoke, by distance ruralised;

          Keen as a Truant or a Fugitive,                             90

          But as a Pilgrim resolute, I took,

          Even with the chance equipment of that hour,

          The road that pointed toward the chosen Vale.

          It was a splendid evening, and my soul

          Once more made trial of her strength, nor lacked

          Aeolian visitations; but the harp

          Was soon defrauded, and the banded host

          Of harmony dispersed in straggling sounds,

          And lastly utter silence! "Be it so;

          Why think of anything but present good?"                   100

          So, like a home-bound labourer, I pursued

          My way beneath the mellowing sun, that shed

          Mild influence; nor left in me one wish

          Again to bend the Sabbath of that time

          To a servile yoke. What need of many words?

          A pleasant loitering journey, through three days

          Continued, brought me to my hermitage.

          I spare to tell of what ensued, the life

          In common things--the endless store of things,

          Rare, or at least so seeming, every day                    110

          Found all about me in one neighbourhood--

          The self-congratulation, and, from morn

          To night, unbroken cheerfulness serene.

          But speedily an earnest longing rose

          To brace myself to some determined aim,

          Reading or thinking; either to lay up

          New stores, or rescue from decay the old

          By timely interference: and therewith

          Came hopes still higher, that with outward life

          I might endue some airy phantasies                         120

          That had been floating loose about for years,

          And to such beings temperately deal forth

          The many feelings that oppressed my heart.

          That hope hath been discouraged; welcome light

          Dawns from the east, but dawns to disappear

          And mock me with a sky that ripens not

          Into a steady morning: if my mind,

          Remembering the bold promise of the past,

          Would gladly grapple with some noble theme,

          Vain is her wish; where'er she turns she finds             130

          Impediments from day to day renewed.

 

            And now it would content me to yield up

          Those lofty hopes awhile, for present gifts

          Of humbler industry. But, oh, dear Friend!

          The Poet, gentle creature as he is,

          Hath, like the Lover, his unruly times;

          His fits when he is neither sick nor well,

          Though no distress be near him but his own

          Unmanageable thoughts: his mind, best pleased

          While she as duteous as the mother dove                    140

          Sits brooding, lives not always to that end,

          But like the innocent bird, hath goadings on

          That drive her as in trouble through the groves;

          With me is now such passion, to be blamed

          No otherwise than as it lasts too long.

 

            When, as becomes a man who would prepare

          For such an arduous work, I through myself

          Make rigorous inquisition, the report

          Is often cheering; for I neither seem

          To lack that first great gift, the vital soul,             150

          Nor general Truths, which are themselves a sort

          Of Elements and Agents, Under-powers,

          Subordinate helpers of the living mind:

          Nor am I naked of external things,

          Forms, images, nor numerous other aids

          Of less regard, though won perhaps with toil

          And needful to build up a Poet's praise.

          Time, place, and manners do I seek, and these

          Are found in plenteous store, but nowhere such

          As may be singled out with steady choice;                  160

          No little band of yet remembered names

          Whom I, in perfect confidence, might hope

          To summon back from lonesome banishment,

          And make them dwellers in the hearts of men

          Now living, or to live in future years.

          Sometimes the ambitious Power of choice, mistaking

          Proud spring-tide swellings for a regular sea,

          Will settle on some British theme, some old

          Romantic tale by Milton left unsung;

          More often turning to some gentle place                    170

          Within the groves of Chivalry, I pipe

          To shepherd swains, or seated harp in hand,

          Amid reposing knights by a river side

          Or fountain, listen to the grave reports

          Of dire enchantments faced and overcome

          By the strong mind, and tales of warlike feats,

          Where spear encountered spear, and sword with sword

          Fought, as if conscious of the blazonry

          That the shield bore, so glorious was the strife;

          Whence inspiration for a song that winds                   180

          Through ever-changing scenes of votive quest

          Wrongs to redress, harmonious tribute paid

          To patient courage and unblemished truth,

          To firm devotion, zeal unquenchable,

          And Christian meekness hallowing faithful loves.

          Sometimes, more sternly moved, I would relate

          How vanquished Mithridates northward passed,

          And, hidden in the cloud of years, became

          Odin, the Father of a race by whom

          Perished the Roman Empire: how the friends                 190

          And followers of Sertorius, out of Spain

          Flying, found shelter in the Fortunate Isles,

          And left their usages, their arts and laws,

          To disappear by a slow gradual death,

          To dwindle and to perish one by one,

          Starved in those narrow bounds: but not the soul

          Of Liberty, which fifteen hundred years

          Survived, and, when the European came

          With skill and power that might not be withstood,

          Did, like a pestilence, maintain its hold                  200

          And wasted down by glorious death that race

          Of natural heroes: or I would record

          How, in tyrannic times, some high-souled man,

          Unnamed among the chronicles of kings,

          Suffered in silence for Truth's sake: or tell,

          How that one Frenchman, through continued force

          Of meditation on the inhuman deeds

          Of those who conquered first the Indian Isles,

          Went single in his ministry across

          The Ocean; not to comfort the oppressed,                   210

          But, like a thirsty wind, to roam about

          Withering the Oppressor: how Gustavus sought

          Help at his need in Dalecarlia's mines:

          How Wallace fought for Scotland; left the name

          Of Wallace to be found, like a wild flower,

          All over his dear Country; left the deeds

          Of Wallace, like a family of Ghosts,

          To people the steep rocks and river banks,

          Her natural sanctuaries, with a local soul

          Of independence and stern liberty.                         220

          Sometimes it suits me better to invent

          A tale from my own heart, more near akin

          To my own passions and habitual thoughts;

          Some variegated story, in the main

          Lofty, but the unsubstantial structure melts

          Before the very sun that brightens it,

          Mist into air dissolving! Then a wish,

          My last and favourite aspiration, mounts

          With yearning toward some philosophic song

          Of Truth that cherishes our daily life;                    230

          With meditations passionate from deep

          Recesses in man's heart, immortal verse

          Thoughtfully fitted to the Orphean lyre;

          But from this awful burthen I full soon

          Take refuge and beguile myself with trust

          That mellower years will bring a riper mind

          And clearer insight. Thus my days are past

          In contradiction; with no skill to part

          Vague longing, haply bred by want of power,

          From paramount impulse not to be withstood,                240

          A timorous capacity, from prudence,

          From circumspection, infinite delay.

          Humility and modest awe, themselves

          Betray me, serving often for a cloak

          To a more subtle selfishness; that now

          Locks every function up in blank reserve,

          Now dupes me, trusting to an anxious eye

          That with intrusive restlessness beats off

          Simplicity and self-presented truth.

          Ah! better far than this, to stray about                   250

          Voluptuously through fields and rural walks,

          And ask no record of the hours, resigned

          To vacant musing, unreproved neglect

          Of all things, and deliberate holiday.

          Far better never to have heard the name

          Of zeal and just ambition, than to live

          Baffled and plagued by a mind that every hour

          Turns recreant to her task; takes heart again,

          Then feels immediately some hollow thought

          Hang like an interdict upon her hopes.                     260

          This is my lot; for either still I find

          Some imperfection in the chosen theme,

          Or see of absolute accomplishment

          Much wanting, so much wanting, in myself,

          That I recoil and droop, and seek repose

          In listlessness from vain perplexity,

          Unprofitably travelling toward the grave,

          Like a false steward who hath much received

          And renders nothing back.

                                     Was it for this

          That one, the fairest of all rivers, loved                 270

          To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song,

          And, from his alder shades and rocky falls,

          And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice

          That flowed along my dreams? For this, didst thou,

          O Derwent! winding among grassy holms

          Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,

          Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts

          To more than infant softness, giving me

          Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind

          A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm                    280

          That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.

 

            When he had left the mountains and received

          On his smooth breast the shadow of those towers

          That yet survive, a shattered monument

          Of feudal sway, the bright blue river passed

          Along the margin of our terrace walk;

          A tempting playmate whom we dearly loved.

          Oh, many a time have I, a five years' child,

          In a small mill-race severed from his stream,

          Made one long bathing of a summer's day;                   290

          Basked in the sun, and plunged and basked again

          Alternate, all a summer's day, or scoured

          The sandy fields, leaping through flowery groves

          Of yellow ragwort; or, when rock and hill,

          The woods, and distant Skiddaw's lofty height,

          Were bronzed with deepest radiance, stood alone

          Beneath the sky, as if I had been born

          On Indian plains, and from my mother's hut

          Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport

          A naked savage, in the thunder shower.                     300

 

            Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up

          Fostered alike by beauty and by fear:

          Much favoured in my birth-place, and no less

          In that beloved Vale to which erelong

          We were transplanted;--there were we let loose

          For sports of wider range. Ere I had told

          Ten birth-days, when among the mountain slopes

          Frost, and the breath of frosty wind, had snapped

          The last autumnal crocus, 'twas my joy

          With store of springes o'er my shoulder hung               310

          To range the open heights where woodcocks run

          Along the smooth green turf. Through half the night,

          Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied

          That anxious visitation;--moon and stars

          Were shining o'er my head. I was alone,

          And seemed to be a trouble to the peace

          That dwelt among them. Sometimes it befell

          In these night wanderings, that a strong desire

          O'erpowered my better reason, and the bird

          Which was the captive of another's toil                    320

          Became my prey; and when the deed was done

          I heard among the solitary hills

          Low breathings coming after me, and sounds

          Of undistinguishable motion, steps

          Almost as silent as the turf they trod.

 

            Nor less, when spring had warmed the cultured Vale,

          Moved we as plunderers where the mother-bird

          Had in high places built her lodge; though mean

          Our object and inglorious, yet the end

          Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung                      330

          Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass

          And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock

          But ill sustained, and almost (so it seemed)

          Suspended by the blast that blew amain,

          Shouldering the naked crag, oh, at that time

          While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,

          With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind

          Blow through my ear! the sky seemed not a sky

          Of earth--and with what motion moved the clouds!

 

            Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows                340

          Like harmony in music; there is a dark

          Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles

          Discordant elements, makes them cling together

          In one society. How strange, that all

          The terrors, pains, and early miseries,

          Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused

          Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,

          And that a needful part, in making up

          The calm existence that is mine when I

          Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!                    350

          Thanks to the means which Nature deigned to employ;

          Whether her fearless visitings, or those

          That came with soft alarm, like hurtless light

          Opening the peaceful clouds; or she would use

          Severer interventions, ministry

          More palpable, as best might suit her aim.

 

            One summer evening (led by her) I found

          A little boat tied to a willow tree

          Within a rocky cave, its usual home.

          Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in             360

          Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth

          And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice

          Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;

          Leaving behind her still, on either side,

          Small circles glittering idly in the moon,

          Until they melted all into one track

          Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,

          Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point

          With an unswerving line, I fixed my view

          Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,                         370

          The horizon's utmost boundary; far above

          Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.

          She was an elfin pinnace; lustily

          I dipped my oars into the silent lake,

          And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat

          Went heaving through the water like a swan;

          When, from behind that craggy steep till then

          The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,

          As if with voluntary power instinct,

          Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,              380

          And growing still in stature the grim shape

          Towered up between me and the stars, and still,

          For so it seemed, with purpose of its own

          And measured motion like a living thing,

          Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,

          And through the silent water stole my way

          Back to the covert of the willow tree;

          There in her mooring-place I left my bark,--

          And through the meadows homeward went, in grave

          And serious mood; but after I had seen                     390

          That spectacle, for many days, my brain

          Worked with a dim and undetermined sense

          Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts

          There hung a darkness, call it solitude

          Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes

          Remained, no pleasant images of trees,

          Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;

          But huge and mighty forms, that do not live

          Like living men, moved slowly through the mind

          By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.                   400

 

            Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!

          Thou Soul that art the eternity of thought

          That givest to forms and images a breath

          And everlasting motion, not in vain

          By day or star-light thus from my first dawn

          Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me

          The passions that build up our human soul;

          Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,

          But with high objects, with enduring things--

          With life and nature--purifying thus                       410

          The elements of feeling and of thought,

          And sanctifying, by such discipline,

          Both pain and fear, until we recognise

          A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.

          Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me

          With stinted kindness. In November days,

          When vapours rolling down the valley made

          A lonely scene more lonesome, among woods,

          At noon and 'mid the calm of summer nights,

          When, by the margin of the trembling lake,                 420

          Beneath the gloomy hills homeward I went

          In solitude, such intercourse was mine;

          Mine was it in the fields both day and night,

          And by the waters, all the summer long.

 

            And in the frosty season, when the sun

          Was set, and visible for many a mile

          The cottage windows blazed through twilight gloom,

          I heeded not their summons: happy time

          It was indeed for all of us--for me

          It was a time of rapture! Clear and loud                   430

          The village clock tolled six,--I wheeled about,

          Proud and exulting like an untired horse

          That cares not for his home. All shod with steel,

          We hissed along the polished ice in games

          Confederate, imitative of the chase

          And woodland pleasures,--the resounding horn,

          The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.

          So through the darkness and the cold we flew,

          And not a voice was idle; with the din

          Smitten, the precipices rang aloud;                        440

          The leafless trees and every icy crag

          Tinkled like iron; while far distant hills

          Into the tumult sent an alien sound

          Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars

          Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west

          The orange sky of evening died away.

          Not seldom from the uproar I retired

          Into a silent bay, or sportively

          Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,

          To cut across the reflex of a star                         450

          That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed

          Upon the glassy plain; and oftentimes,

          When we had given our bodies to the wind,

          And all the shadowy banks on either side

          Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still

          The rapid line of motion, then at once

          Have I, reclining back upon my heels,

          Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs

          Wheeled by me--even as if the earth had rolled

          With visible motion her diurnal round!                     460

          Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,

          Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched

          Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.

 

            Ye Presences of Nature in the sky

          And on the earth! Ye Visions of the hills!

          And Souls of lonely places! can I think

          A vulgar hope was yours when ye employed

          Such ministry, when ye, through many a year

          Haunting me thus among my boyish sports,

          On caves and trees, upon the woods and hills,              470

          Impressed, upon all forms, the characters

          Of danger or desire; and thus did make

          The surface of the universal earth,

          With triumph and delight, with hope and fear,

          Work like a sea?

                            Not uselessly employed,

          Might I pursue this theme through every change

          Of exercise and play, to which the year

          Did summon us in his delightful round.

 

            We were a noisy crew; the sun in heaven

          Beheld not vales more beautiful than ours;

          Nor saw a band in happiness and joy                        480

          Richer, or worthier of the ground they trod.

          I could record with no reluctant voice

          The woods of autumn, and their hazel bowers

          With milk-white clusters hung; the rod and line,

          True symbol of hope's foolishness, whose strong

          And unreproved enchantment led us on

          By rocks and pools shut out from every star,

          All the green summer, to forlorn cascades

          Among the windings hid of mountain brooks.

          --Unfading recollections! at this hour                     490

          The heart is almost mine with which I felt,

          From some hill-top on sunny afternoons,

          The paper kite high among fleecy clouds

          Pull at her rein like an impetuous courser;

          Or, from the meadows sent on gusty days,

          Beheld her breast the wind, then suddenly

          Dashed headlong, and rejected by the storm.

 

            Ye lowly cottages wherein we dwelt,

          A ministration of your own was yours;

          Can I forget you, being as you were                        500

          So beautiful among the pleasant fields

          In which ye stood? or can I here forget

          The plain and seemly countenance with which

          Ye dealt out your plain comforts? Yet had ye

          Delights and exultations of your own.

          Eager and never weary we pursued

          Our home-amusements by the warm peat-fire

          At evening, when with pencil, and smooth slate

          In square divisions parcelled out and all

          With crosses and with cyphers scribbled o'er,              510

          We schemed and puzzled, head opposed to head

          In strife too humble to be named in verse:

          Or round the naked table, snow-white deal,

          Cherry or maple, sate in close array,

          And to the combat, Loo or Whist, led on

          A thick-ribbed army; not, as in the world,

          Neglected and ungratefully thrown by

          Even for the very service they had wrought,

          But husbanded through many a long campaign.

          Uncouth assemblage was it, where no few                    520

          Had changed their functions: some, plebeian cards

          Which Fate, beyond the promise of their birth,

          Had dignified, and called to represent

          The persons of departed potentates.

          Oh, with what echoes on the board they fell!

          Ironic diamonds,--clubs, hearts, diamonds, spades,

          A congregation piteously akin!

          Cheap matter offered they to boyish wit,

          Those sooty knaves, precipitated down

          With scoffs and taunts, like Vulcan out of heaven:         530

          The paramount ace, a moon in her eclipse,

          Queens gleaming through their splendour's last decay,

          And monarchs surly at the wrongs sustained

          By royal visages. Meanwhile abroad

          Incessant rain was falling, or the frost

          Raged bitterly, with keen and silent tooth;

          And, interrupting oft that eager game,

          From under Esthwaite's splitting fields of ice

          The pent-up air, struggling to free itself,

          Gave out to meadow grounds and hills a loud                540

          Protracted yelling, like the noise of wolves

          Howling in troops along the Bothnic Main.

 

            Nor, sedulous as I have been to trace

          How Nature by extrinsic passion first

          Peopled the mind with forms sublime or fair,

          And made me love them, may I here omit

          How other pleasures have been mine, and joys

          Of subtler origin; how I have felt,

          Not seldom even in that tempestuous time,

          Those hallowed and pure motions of the sense               550

          Which seem, in their simplicity, to own

          An intellectual charm; that calm delight

          Which, if I err not, surely must belong

          To those first-born affinities that fit

          Our new existence to existing things,

          And, in our dawn of being, constitute

          The bond of union between life and joy.

 

            Yes, I remember when the changeful earth,

          And twice five summers on my mind had stamped

          The faces of the moving year, even then                    560

          I held unconscious intercourse with beauty

          Old as creation, drinking in a pure

          Organic pleasure from the silver wreaths

          Of curling mist, or from the level plain

          Of waters coloured by impending clouds.

 

            The sands of Westmoreland, the creeks and bays

          Of Cumbria's rocky limits, they can tell

          How, when the Sea threw off his evening shade,

          And to the shepherd's hut on distant hills

          Sent welcome notice of the rising moon,                    570

          How I have stood, to fancies such as these

          A stranger, linking with the spectacle

          No conscious memory of a kindred sight,

          And bringing with me no peculiar sense

          Of quietness or peace; yet have I stood,

          Even while mine eye hath moved o'er many a league

          Of shining water, gathering as it seemed,

          Through every hair-breadth in that field of light,

          New pleasure like a bee among the flowers.

 

            Thus oft amid those fits of vulgar joy                   580

          Which, through all seasons, on a child's pursuits

          Are prompt attendants, 'mid that giddy bliss

          Which, like a tempest, works along the blood

          And is forgotten; even then I felt

          Gleams like the flashing of a shield;--the earth

          And common face of Nature spake to me

          Rememberable things; sometimes, 'tis true,

          By chance collisions and quaint accidents

          (Like those ill-sorted unions, work supposed

          Of evil-minded fairies), yet not vain                      590

          Nor profitless, if haply they impressed

          Collateral objects and appearances,

          Albeit lifeless then, and doomed to sleep

          Until maturer seasons called them forth

          To impregnate and to elevate the mind.

          --And if the vulgar joy by its own weight

          Wearied itself out of the memory,

          The scenes which were a witness of that joy

          Remained in their substantial lineaments

          Depicted on the brain, and to the eye                      600

          Were visible, a daily sight; and thus

          By the impressive discipline of fear,

          By pleasure and repeated happiness,

          So frequently repeated, and by force

          Of obscure feelings representative

          Of things forgotten, these same scenes so bright,

          So beautiful, so majestic in themselves,

          Though yet the day was distant, did become

          Habitually dear, and all their forms

          And changeful colours by invisible links                   610

          Were fastened to the affections.

                                            I began

          My story early--not misled, I trust,

          By an infirmity of love for days

          Disowned by memory--ere the breath of spring

          Planting my snowdrops among winter snows:

          Nor will it seem to thee, O Friend! so prompt

          In sympathy, that I have lengthened out

          With fond and feeble tongue a tedious tale.

          Meanwhile, my hope has been, that I might fetch

          Invigorating thoughts from former years;                   620

          Might fix the wavering balance of my mind,

          And haply meet reproaches too, whose power

          May spur me on, in manhood now mature

          To honourable toil. Yet should these hopes

          Prove vain, and thus should neither I be taught

          To understand myself, nor thou to know

          With better knowledge how the heart was framed

          Of him thou lovest; need I dread from thee

          Harsh judgments, if the song be loth to quit

          Those recollected hours that have the charm                630

          Of visionary things, those lovely forms

          And sweet sensations that throw back our life,

          And almost make remotest infancy

          A visible scene, on which the sun is shining?

 

            One end at least hath been attained; my mind

          Hath been revived, and if this genial mood

          Desert me not, forthwith shall be brought down

          Through later years the story of my life.

          The road lies plain before me;--'tis a theme

          Single and of determined bounds; and hence                 640

          I choose it rather at this time, than work

          Of ampler or more varied argument,

          Where I might be discomfited and lost:

          And certain hopes are with me, that to thee

          This labour will be welcome, honoured Friend!