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  bullet   William Wordsworth
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William Wordsworth

Born: April 7, 1770 // Died: April 23, 1850

William Wordsworth In 1793, Wordsworth published his first two books of verse, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. Each was a longish poem in heroic couplets, the dominant English verse form of the eighteenth century. Essentially backward-looking in style and sensibility, they were false starts for a radical thinker who would soon also be the most revolutionary poet of the time.

He met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a twenty-two-year-old fellow poet and radical, who already knew and admired Wordsworth's poetry. Coleridge passed on to Wordsworth his enthusiasm for the associationist philosophy of David Hartley, which held that the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual elements of human nature are formed by our earliest sense impressions, that character is a function of environment. Together they published anonymously "Lyrical Ballads" in 1978. It contained "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and 3 other poems by Colderige.

Wordsworth's importance as an innovator is enormous. As would his modernist heirs a century later, he appeared at a time of outworn traditions and exhausted conventions, and refreshed the current of poetry by reminding his contemporaries of its need to renew itself in both content and manner of expression. His radical experiments in poetic simplicity remain more important for the theories behind them than for their actual poetic accomplishment, but the best of the works that he produced in the years immediately after Lyrical Ballads, few though they may be in the vast bulk of his collected poetry, ensure him a permanent place not only in literary history but in the hearts of all who value the highest artistic achievements that humanity is capable of.

  William Wordsworth's Poetry: (click on a title to read a poem)
  The World is Too Much...   I Wandered Lonely as a...   The Solitary Reaper
  It is a Beauteous Evening   London, 1802   She Dwelt Among the...
  I Traveled Among...   Most Sweet It Is   A Poet! He Hath Put His...
  She Was A Phantom of...   The Two April Mornings   A Slumber Did My Spirit...

The World is Too Much With Us
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-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 wreathèd horn.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

The Solitary Reaper
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?--
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;--
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

It is a Beauteous Evening
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 tranquility;
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 worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not

London, 1802
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;
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 the heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay

She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways
She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
--Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!

I Traveled Among Unknown Men
I travelled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea;
Nor, England! did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.

'Tis past, that melancholy dream!
Nor will I quit thy shore
A second time; for still I seem
To love thee more and more.

Among thy mountains did I feel
The joy of my desire;
And she I cherished turned her wheel
Beside an English fire.

Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,
The bowers where Lucy played;
And thine too is the last green field
That Lucy's eyes surveyed.

Most Sweet It Is
Most sweet it is with unuplifted eyes
To pace the ground, if path be there or none,
While a fair region round the traveller lies
Which he forbears again to look upon;
Pleased rather with some soft ideal scene,
The work of Fancy, or some happy tone
Of meditation, slipping in between
The beauty coming and the beauty gone.
If Thought and Love desert us, from that day
Let us break off all commerce with the Muse:
With Thought and Love companions of our way,
Whate'er the senses take or may refuse,
The Mind's internal heaven shall shed her dews
Of inspiration on the humblest lay.

A Poet!  He Hath Put His Heart to School
A poet!--He hath put his heart to school,
Nor dares to move unpropped upon the staff
Which art hath lodged within his hand--must laugh
By precept only, and shed tears by rule.
Thy Art be Nature; the live current quaff,
And let the groveller sip his stagnant pool,
In fear that else, when Critics grave and cool
Have killed him, Scorn should write his epitaph.
How does the Meadow-flower its bloom unfold?
Because the lovely little flower is free
Down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold;
And so the grandeur of the Forest-tree
Comes not by casting in a formal mould,
But from its own divine vitality.

She Was A Phantom of Delight
She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament;
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin-liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.
And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
A Traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.

The Two April Mornings
We walked along, while bright and red
Uprose the morning sun;
And Matthew stopped, he looked, and said
`The will of God be done!'

A village schoolmaster was he,
With hair of glittering grey;
As blithe a man as you could see
On a spring holiday.

And on that morning, through the grass
And by the steaming rills
We travelled merrily, to pass
A day among the hills.

`Our work,' said I, `was well begun;
Then, from thy breast what thought,
Beneath so beautiful a sun,
So sad a sigh has brought?'

A second time did Matthew stop;
And fixing still his eye
Upon the eastern mountain-top,
To me he made reply:

`Yon cloud with that long purple cleft
Brings fresh into my mind
A day like this, which I have left
Full thirty years behind.

`And just above yon slope of corn
Such colours, and no other,
Were in the sky, that April morn,
Of this the very brother.

`With rod and line I sued the sport
Which that sweet season gave,
And, to the churchyard come, stopped short
Beside my daughter's grave.

`Nine summers had she scarcely seen,
The pride of all the vale;
And then she sang: -she would have been
A very nightingale.

`Six feet in earth my Emma lay;
And yet I loved her more -
For so it seemed, -than till that day
I e'er had loved before.

`And turning from her grave, I met
Beside the churchyard yew
A blooming girl, whose hair was wet
With points of morning dew.

`A basket on her head she bare;
Her brow was smooth and white:
To see a child so very fair,
It was a pure delight!

`No fountain from its rocky cave
E'er tripped with foot so free;
She seemed as happy as a wave
That dances on the sea.

`There came from me a sigh of pain
Which I could ill confine;
I looked at her, and looked again:
And did not wish her mine!'

- Matthew is in his grave, yet now
Methinks I see him stand
As that moment, with a bough
Of wilding in his hand.

A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal
A slumber did my spirit seal
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.

William Wordsworth, Poems in Two Volumes (1807). See The Manuscript of William Wordsworth's Poems, in Two Volumes (1807): A Facsimile (London: British Library, 1984). bib MASS (Massey College Library, Toronto). First Publication Date: 1807

William Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, 2nd edn. (London: Longman, 1800). No. 5, 1 (c.1,2), 2(c.1) (Victoria College Library, Toronto). First Publication Date: 1800.

William Wordsworth, Yarrow Revisited, and Other Poems (London: Longman, 1835). B-10 4884 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). First Publication Date: 1835.

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