Every now and then our senses encounter a moment of that changes the way we see the ourselves in the world, when the experience becomes for us a portal or gate to the eternal. Wordsworth saw in such poetic moments an “intimation of immortality,” a trace of the soul’s eternal existence before our birth. Celtic Christianity described the event biblically as a “thin space” or “thin place” where whatever separates the seen and unseen dimensions of our being becomes almost transparent. There are many kinds of thin places. Of course, nature, especially wilderness areas; but also music; poetry and literature; the visual arts, dance, … can all become thin places in which the boundary between one’s self and the world momentarily disappears. We move into a slow thinking lane and walk in two places, as it were. Such was William Wordsworth's encounter with a thin place in the mountains of the Lake District as a schoolboy. He later expressed it as a secular sacrament; a dialogue between self and society which was to be part of his projected masterpiece, which he never finished entitled 'On Man, Nature, and On Human Life'.




            ONCE to the verge of yon steep barrier came
          A roving school-boy; what the adventurer's age
          Hath now escaped his memory--but the hour,
          One of a golden summer holiday,
          He well remembers, though the year be gone--
          Alone and devious from afar he came;
          And, with a sudden influx overpowered
          At sight of this seclusion, he forgot
          His haste, for hasty had his footsteps been
          As boyish his pursuits; and sighing said,                   10
          "What happy fortune were it here to live!
          And, if a thought of dying, if a thought
          Of mortal separation, could intrude
          With paradise before him, here to die!"
          No Prophet was he, had not even a hope,
          Scarcely a wish, but one bright pleasing thought,
          A fancy in the heart of what might be
          The lot of others, never could be his.
            The station whence he looked was soft and green,
          Not giddy yet aerial, with a depth                          20
          Of vale below, a height of hills above.
          For rest of body perfect was the spot,
          All that luxurious nature could desire;
          But stirring to the spirit; who could gaze
          And not feel motions there? He thought of clouds
          That sail on winds: of breezes that delight
          To play on water, or in endless chase
          Pursue each other through the yielding plain
          Of grass or corn, over and through and through,
          In billow after billow, evermore                            30
          Disporting--nor unmindful was the boy
          Of sunbeams, shadows, butterflies and birds;
          Of fluttering sylphs and softly-gliding Fays,
          Genii, and winged angels that are Lords
          Without restraint of all which they behold.
          The illusion strengthening as he gazed, he felt
          That such unfettered liberty was his,
          Such power and joy; but only for this end,
          To flit from field to rock, from rock to field,
          From shore to island, and from isle to shore,               40
          From open ground to covert, from a bed
          Of meadow-flowers into a tuft of wood;
          From high to low, from low to high, yet still
          Within the bound of this huge concave; here
          Must be his home, this valley be his world.
            Since that day forth the Place to him--'to me'
          (For I who live to register the truth
          Was that same young and happy Being) became
          As beautiful to thought, as it had been
          When present, to the bodily sense; a haunt                  50
          Of pure affections, shedding upon joy
          A brighter joy; and through such damp and gloom
          Of the gay mind, as ofttimes splenetic youth
          Mistakes for sorrow, darting beams of light
          That no self-cherished sadness could withstand;
          And now 'tis mine, perchance for life, dear Vale,
          Beloved Grasmere (let the wandering streams
          Take up, the cloud-capt hills repeat, the Name)
          One of thy lowly Dwellings is my Home.
            And was the cost so great? and could it seem              60
          An act of courage, and the thing itself
          A conquest? who must bear the blame? Sage man
          Thy prudence, thy experience, thy desires,
          Thy apprehensions--blush thou for them all.
            Yes the realities of life so cold,
          So cowardly, so ready to betray,
          So stinted in the measure of their grace
          As we pronounce them, doing them much wrong,
          Have been to me more bountiful than hope,
          Less timid than desire--but that is past.                   70
            On Nature's invitation do I come,
          By Reason sanctioned. Can the choice mislead,
          That made the calmest fairest spot of earth
          With all its unappropriated good
          My own; and not mine only, for with me
          Entrenched, say rather peacefully embowered,
          Under yon orchard, in yon humble cot,
          A younger Orphan of a home extinct,
          The only Daughter of my Parents dwells.
            Ay, think on that, my heart, and cease to stir,           80
          Pause upon that and let the breathing frame
          No longer breathe, but all be satisfied.
          --Oh, if such silence be not thanks to God
          For what hath been bestowed, then where, where then
          Shall gratitude find rest? Mine eyes did ne'er
          Fix on a lovely object, nor my mind
          Take pleasure in the midst of happy thoughts,
          But either She whom now I have, who now
          Divides with me this loved abode, was there,
          Or not far off. Where'er my footsteps turned,               90
          Her voice was like a hidden Bird that sang,
          The thought of her was like a flash of light,
          Or an unseen companionship, a breath
          Of fragrance independent of the Wind.
          In all my goings, in the new and old
          Of all my meditations, and in this
          Favourite of all, in this the most of all.
          --What being, therefore, since the birth of Man
          Had ever more abundant cause to speak
          Thanks, and if favours of the Heavenly Muse                100
          Make him more thankful, then to call on Verse
          To aid him and in song resound his joy?
          The boon is absolute; surpassing grace
          To me hath been vouchsafed; among the bowers
          Of blissful Eden this was neither given
          Nor could be given, possession of the good
          Which had been sighed for, ancient thought fulfilled,
          And dear Imaginations realised,
          Up to their highest measure, yea and more.
            Embrace me then, ye Hills, and close me in;              110
          Now in the clear and open day I feel
          Your guardianship; I take it to my heart;
          'Tis like the solemn shelter of the night.
          But I would call thee beautiful, for mild,
          And soft, and gay, and beautiful thou art
          Dear Valley, having in thy face a smile
          Though peaceful, full of gladness. Thou art pleased,
          Pleased with thy crags and woody steeps, thy Lake,
          Its one green island and its winding shores;
          The multitude of little rocky hills,                       120
          Thy Church and cottages of mountain stone
          Clustered like stars some few, but single most,
          And lurking dimly in their shy retreats,
          Or glancing at each other cheerful looks
          Like separated stars with clouds between.
          What want we? have we not perpetual streams,
          Warm woods, and sunny hills, and fresh green fields,
          And mountains not less green, and flocks and herds,
          And thickets full of songsters, and the voice
          Of lordly birds, an unexpected sound                       130
          Heard now and then from morn to latest eve,
          Admonishing the man who walks below
          Of solitude and silence in the sky?
          These have we, and a thousand nooks of earth
          Have also these, but nowhere else is found,
          Nowhere (or is it fancy?) can be found
          The one sensation that is here; 'tis here,
          Here as it found its way into my heart
          In childhood, here as it abides by day,
          By night, here only; or in chosen minds                    140
          That take it with them hence, where'er they go.
          --'Tis, but I cannot name it, 'tis the sense
          Of majesty, and beauty, and repose,
          A blended holiness of earth and sky,
          Something that makes this individual spot,
          This small abiding-place of many men,
          A termination, and a last retreat,
          A centre, come from wheresoe'er you will,
          A whole without dependence or defect,
          Made for itself, and happy in itself,                      150
          Perfect contentment, Unity entire.
            Bleak season was it, turbulent and bleak,
          When hitherward we journeyed side by side
          Through burst of sunshine and through flying showers;
          Paced the long vales--how long they were--and yet
          How fast that length of way was left behind,
          Wensley's rich Vale, and Sedbergh's naked heights.
          The frosty wind, as if to make amends
          For its keen breath, was aiding to our steps,
          And drove us onward like two ships at sea,                 160
          Or like two birds, companions in mid-air,
          Parted and reunited by the blast.
            Stern was the face of nature; we rejoiced
          In that stern countenance, for our souls thence drew
          A feeling of their strength. The naked trees,
          The icy brooks, as on we passed, appeared
          To question us. "Whence come ye, to what end?"
          They seemed to say, "What would ye," said the shower,
          "Wild Wanderers, whither through my dark domain?"
          The sunbeam said, "Be happy." When this vale               170
          We entered, bright and solemn was the sky
          That faced us with a passionate welcoming,
          And led us to our threshold. Daylight failed
          Insensibly, and round us gently fell
          Composing darkness, with a quiet load
          Of full contentment, in a little shed
          Disturbed, uneasy in itself as seemed,
          And wondering at its new inhabitants.
          It loves us now, this Vale so beautiful
          Begins to love us! by a sullen storm,                      180
          Two months unwearied of severest storm,
          It put the temper of our minds to proof,
          And found us faithful through the gloom, and heard
          The poet mutter his prelusive songs
          With cheerful heart, an unknown voice of joy
          Among the silence of the woods and hills;
          Silent to any gladsomeness of sound
          With all their shepherds.
            But the gates of Spring
          Are opened; churlish winter hath given leave
          That she should entertain for this one day,                190
          Perhaps for many genial days to come,
          His guests, and make them jocund.--They are pleased,
          But most of all the birds that haunt the flood
          With the mild summons; inmates though they be
          Of Winter's household, they keep festival
          This day, who drooped, or seemed to droop, so long;
          They show their pleasure, and shall I do less?
          Happier of happy though I be, like them
          I cannot take possession of the sky,
          Mount with a thoughtless impulse, and wheel there          200
          One of a mighty multitude, whose way
          Is a perpetual harmony and dance
          Magnificent. Behold how with a grace
          Of ceaseless motion, that might scarcely seem
          Inferior to angelical, they prolong
          Their curious pastime, shaping in mid-air,
          And sometimes with ambitious wing that soars
          High as the level of the mountain tops,
          A circuit ampler than the lake beneath,
          Their own domain;--but ever, while intent                  210
          On tracing and retracing that large round,
          Their jubilant activity evolves
          Hundreds of curves and circlets, to and fro,
          Upwards and downwards; progress intricate
          Yet unperplexed, as if one spirit swayed
          Their indefatigable flight. 'Tis done,
          Ten times and more I fancied it had ceased,
          But lo! the vanished company again
          Ascending, they approach. I hear their wings
          Faint, faint at first; and then an eager sound             220
          Passed in a moment--and as faint again!
          They tempt the sun to sport among their plumes;
          Tempt the smooth water, or the gleaming ice,
          To show them a fair image,--'tis themselves,
          Their own fair forms upon the glimmering plain
          Painted more soft and fair as they descend,
          Almost to touch,--then up again aloft,
          Up with a sally and a flash of speed,
          As if they scorned both resting-place and rest!
          --This day is a thanksgiving, 'tis a day                   230
          Of glad emotion and deep quietness;
          Not upon me alone hath been bestowed,
          Me rich in many onward-looking thoughts,
          The penetrating bliss; oh surely these
          Have felt it, not the happy choirs of spring,
          Her own peculiar family of love
          That sport among green leaves, a blither train!
            But two are missing, two, a lonely pair
          Of milk-white Swans; wherefore are they not seen
          Partaking this day's pleasure? From afar                   240
          They came, to sojourn here in solitude,
          Choosing this Valley, they who had the choice
          Of the whole world. We saw them day by day,
          Through those two months of unrelenting storm,
          Conspicuous at the centre of the Lake
          Their safe retreat, we knew them well, I guess
          That the whole valley knew them; but to us
          They were more dear than may be well believed,
          Not only for their beauty, and their still
          And placid way of life, and constant love                  250
          Inseparable, not for these alone,
          But that 'their' state so much resembled ours,
          They having also chosen this abode;
          They strangers, and we strangers, they a pair,
          And we a solitary pair like them.
          They should not have departed; many days
          Did I look forth in vain, nor on the wing
          Could see them, nor in that small open space
          Of blue unfrozen water, where they lodged
          And lived so long in quiet, side by side.                  260
          Shall we behold them consecrated friends,
          Faithful companions, yet another year
          Surviving, they for us, and we for them,
          And neither pair be broken? nay perchance
          It is too late already for such hope;
          The Dalesmen may have aimed the deadly tube,
          And parted them; or haply both are gone
          One death, and that were mercy given to both.
          Recall, my song, the ungenerous thought; forgive,
          Thrice favoured Region, the conjecture harsh               270
          Of such inhospitable penalty
          Inflicted upon confidence so pure.
          Ah! if I wished to follow where the sight
          Of all that is before my eyes, the voice
          Which speaks from a presiding spirit here,
          Would lead me, I should whisper to myself:
          They who are dwellers in this holy place
          Must needs themselves be hallowed, they require
          No benediction from the stranger's lips,
          For they are blessed already; none would give              280
          The greeting "peace be with you" unto them,
          For peace they have; it cannot but be theirs,
          And mercy, and forbearance--nay--not these--
          'Their' healing offices a pure good-will
          Precludes, and charity beyond the bounds
          Of charity--an overflowing love;
          Not for the creature only, but for all
          That is around them; love for everything
          Which in their happy Region they behold!
            Thus do we soothe ourselves, and when the thought        290
          Is passed, we blame it not for having come.
          --What if I floated down a pleasant stream,
          And now am landed, and the motion gone,
          Shall I reprove myself? Ah no, the stream
          Is flowing, and will never cease to flow,
          And I shall float upon that stream again.
          By such forgetfulness the soul becomes,
          Words cannot say how beautiful: then hail,
          Hail to the visible Presence, hail to thee,
          Delightful Valley, habitation fair!                        300
          And to whatever else of outward form
          Can give an inward help, can purify,
          And elevate, and harmonise, and soothe,
          And steal away, and for a while deceive
          And lap in pleasing rest, and bear us on
          Without desire in full complacency,
          Contemplating perfection absolute,
          And entertained as in a placid sleep.
            But not betrayed by tenderness of mind
          That feared, or wholly overlooked the truth,               310
          Did we come hither, with romantic hope
          To find in midst of so much loveliness
          Love, perfect love: of so much majesty
          A like majestic-frame of mind in those
          Who here abide, the persons like the place.
          Not from such hope, or aught of such belief,
          Hath issued any portion of the joy
          Which I have felt this day. An awful voice
          'Tis true hath in my walks been often heard,
          Sent from the mountains or the sheltered fields,           320
          Shout after shout--reiterated whoop,
          In manner of a bird that takes delight
          In answering to itself: or like a hound
          Single at chase among the lonely woods,
          His yell repeating; yet it was in truth
          A human voice--a spirit of coming night;
          How solemn when the sky is dark, and earth
          Not dark, nor yet enlightened, but by snow
          Made visible, amid a noise of winds
          And bleatings manifold of mountain sheep,                  330
          Which in that iteration recognise
          Their summons, and are gathering round for food,
          Devoured with keenness, ere to grove or bank
          Or rocky bield with patience they retire.
            That very voice, which, in some timid mood
          Of superstitious fancy, might have seemed
          Awful as ever stray demoniac uttered,
          His steps to govern in the wilderness;
          Or as the Norman Curfew's regular beat
          To hearths when first they darkened at the knell:          340
          That shepherd's voice, it may have reached mine ear
          Debased and under profanation, made
          The ready organ of articulate sounds
          From ribaldry, impiety, or wrath,
          Issuing when shame hath ceased to check the brawls
          Of some abused Festivity--so be it.
          I came not dreaming of unruffled life,
          Untainted manners; born among the hills,
          Bred also there, I wanted not a scale
          To regulate my hopes; pleased with the good                350
          I shrink not from the evil with disgust,
          Or with immoderate pain. I look for Man,
          The common creature of the brotherhood,
          Differing but little from the Man elsewhere,
          For selfishness and envy and revenge,
          Ill neighbourhood--pity that this should be--
          Flattery and double-dealing, strife and wrong.
            Yet is it something gained, it is in truth
          A mighty gain, that Labour here preserves
          His rosy face, a servant only here                         360
          Of the fireside or of the open field,
          A Freeman therefore sound and unimpaired:
          That extreme penury is here unknown,
          And cold and hunger's abject wretchedness
          Mortal to body and the heaven-born mind:
          That they who want are not too great a weight
          For those who can relieve; here may the heart
          Breathe in the air of fellow-suffering
          Dreadless, as in a kind of fresher breeze
          Of her own native element, the hand                        370
          Be ready and unwearied without plea,
          From tasks too frequent or beyond its power,
          For languor or indifference or despair.
          And as these lofty barriers break the force
          Of winds,--this deep Vale, as it doth in part
          Conceal us from the storm, so here abides
          A power and a protection for the mind,
          Dispensed indeed to other solitudes
          Favoured by noble privilege like this,
          Where kindred independence of estate                       380
          Is prevalent, where he who tills the field,
          He, happy man! is master of the field,
          And treads the mountains which his Fathers trod.
            Not less than halfway up yon mountain's side,
          Behold a dusky spot, a grove of Firs
          That seems still smaller than it is; this grove
          Is haunted--by what ghost? a gentle spirit
          Of memory faithful to the call of love;
          For, as reports the Dame, whose fire sends up
          Yon curling smoke from the grey cot below,                 390
          The trees (her first-born child being then a babe)
          Were planted by her husband and herself,
          That ranging o'er the high and houseless ground
          Their sheep might neither want from perilous storm
          Of winter, nor from summer's sultry heat,
          A friendly covert; "and they knew it well,"
          Said she, "for thither as the trees grew up
          We to the patient creatures carried food
          In times of heavy snow." She then began
          In fond obedience to her private thoughts                  400
          To speak of her dead husband; is there not
          An art, a music, and a strain of words
          That shall be life, the acknowledged voice of life,
          Shall speak of what is done among the fields,
          Done truly there, or felt, of solid good
          And real evil, yet be sweet withal,
          More grateful, more harmonious than the breath,
          The idle breath of softest pipe attuned
          To pastoral fancies? Is there such a stream
          Pure and unsullied flowing from the heart                  410
          With motions of true dignity and grace?
          Or must we seek that stream where Man is not?
          Methinks I could repeat in tuneful verse,
          Delicious as the gentlest breeze that sounds
          Through that aerial fir-grove--could preserve
          Some portion of its human history
          As gathered from the Matron's lips, and tell
          Of tears that have been shed at sight of it,
          And moving dialogues between this Pair
          Who in their prime of wedlock, with joint hands            420
          Did plant the grove, now flourishing, while they
          No longer flourish, he entirely gone,
          She withering in her loneliness. Be this
          A task above my skill--the silent mind
          Has her own treasures, and I think of these,
          Love what I see, and honour humankind.
            No, we are not alone, we do not stand,
          My sister here misplaced and desolate,
          Loving what no one cares for but ourselves,
          We shall not scatter through the plains and rocks          430
          Of this fair Vale, and o'er its spacious heights,
          Unprofitable kindliness, bestowed
          On objects unaccustomed to the gifts
          Of feeling, which were cheerless and forlorn
          But few weeks past, and would be so again
          Were we not here; we do not tend a lamp
          Whose lustre we alone participate,
          Which shines dependent upon us alone,
          Mortal though bright, a dying, dying flame.
          Look where we will, some human hand has been               440
          Before us with its offering; not a tree
          Sprinkles these little pastures, but the same
          Hath furnished matter for a thought; perchance
          For some one serves as a familiar friend.
          Joy spreads, and sorrow spreads; and this whole Vale,
          Home of untutored shepherds as it is,
          Swarms with sensation, as with gleams of sunshine,
          Shadows or breezes, scents or sounds. Nor deem
          These feelings, though subservient more than ours
          To every day's demand for daily bread,                     450
          And borrowing more their spirit and their shape
          From self-respecting interests; deem them not
          Unworthy therefore, and unhallowed--no,
          They lift the animal being, do themselves
          By nature's kind and ever-present aid
          Refine the selfishness from which they spring,
          Redeem by love the individual sense
          Of anxiousness, with which they are combined.
          And thus it is that fitly they become
          Associates in the joy of purest minds:                     460
          They blend therewith congenially: meanwhile
          Calmly they breathe their own undying life
          Through this their mountain sanctuary; long
          Oh long may it remain inviolate,
          Diffusing health and sober cheerfulness,
          And giving to the moments as they pass
          Their little boons of animating thought
          That sweeten labour, make it seen and felt
          To be no arbitrary weight imposed,
          But a glad function natural to man.                        470
           Fair proof of this, newcomer though I be,
          Already have I gained; the inward frame,
          Though slowly opening, opens every day
          With process not unlike to that which cheers
          A pensive stranger journeying at his leisure
          Through some Helvetian Dell; when low-hung mists
          Break up and are beginning to recede;
          How pleased he is where thin and thinner grows
          The veil, or where it parts at once, to spy
          The dark pines thrusting forth their spiky heads;          480
          To watch the spreading lawns with cattle grazed;
          Then to be greeted by the scattered huts
          As they shine out; and 'see' the streams whose murmur
          Had soothed his ear while 'they' were hidden; how pleased
          To have about him which way e'er he goes
          Something on every side concealed from view,
          In every quarter something visible
          Half seen or wholly, lost and found again,
          Alternate progress and impediment,
          And yet a growing prospect in the main.                    490
            Such pleasure now is mine, albeit forced,
          Herein less happy than the Traveller,
          To cast from time to time a painful look
          Upon unwelcome things which unawares
          Reveal themselves, not therefore is my heart
          Depressed, nor does it fear what is to come;
          But confident, enriched at every glance,
          The more I see the more delight my mind
          Receives, or by reflection can create:
          Truth justifies herself, and as she dwells                 500
          With Hope, who would not follow where she leads?
            Nor let me pass unheeded other loves
          Where no fear is, and humbler sympathies.
          Already hath sprung up within my heart
          A liking for the small grey horse that bears
          The paralytic man, and for the brute
          In Scripture sanctified--the patient brute
          On which the cripple, in the quarry maimed,
          Rides to and fro: I know them and their ways.
          The famous sheep-dog, first in all the vale,               510
          Though yet to me a stranger, will not be
          A stranger long; nor will the blind man's guide,
          Meek and neglected thing, of no renown!
          Soon will peep forth the primrose, ere it fades
          Friends shall I have at dawn, blackbird and thrush
          To rouse me, and a hundred warblers more!
          And if those Eagles to their ancient hold
          Return, Helvellyn's Eagles! with the Pair
          From my own door I shall be free to claim
          Acquaintance, as they sweep from cloud to cloud.           520
          The owl that gives the name to Owlet-Crag
          Have I heard whooping, and he soon will be
          A chosen one of my regards. See there
          The heifer in yon little croft belongs
          To one who holds it dear; with duteous care
          She reared it, and in speaking of her charge
          I heard her scatter some endearing words
          Domestic, and in spirit motherly,
          She being herself a mother; happy Beast,
          If the caresses of a human voice                           530
          Can make it so, and care of human hands.
            And ye as happy under Nature's care,
          Strangers to me and all men, or at least
          Strangers to all particular amity,
          All intercourse of knowledge or of love
          That parts the individual from his kind.
          Whether in large communities ye keep
          From year to year, not shunning man's abode,
          A settled residence, or be from far
          Wild creatures, and of many homes, that come               540
          The gift of winds, and whom the winds again
          Take from us at your pleasure; yet shall ye
          Not want for this your own subordinate place
          In my affections. Witness the delight
          With which erewhile I saw that multitude
          Wheel through the sky, and see them now at rest,
          Yet not at rest upon the glassy lake:
          They 'cannot' rest--they gambol like young whelps;
          Active as lambs, and overcome with joy
          They try all frolic motions; flutter, plunge,              550
          And beat the passive water with their wings.
          Too distant are they for plain view, but lo!
          Those little fountains, sparkling in the sun,
          Betray their occupation, rising up
          First one and then another silver spout,
          As one or other takes the fit of glee,
          Fountains and spouts, yet somewhat in the guise
          Of plaything fireworks, that on festal nights
          Sparkle about the feet of wanton boys.
          --How vast the compass of this theatre,                    560
          Yet nothing to be seen but lovely pomp
          And silent majesty; the birch-tree woods
          Are hung with thousand thousand diamond drops
          Of melted hoar-frost, every tiny knot
          In the bare twigs, each little budding-place
          Cased with its several beads; what myriads these
          Upon one tree, while all the distant grove,
          That rises to the summit of the steep,
          Shows like a mountain built of silver light:
          See yonder the same pageant, and again                     570
          Behold the universal imagery
          Inverted, all its sun-bright features touched
          As with the varnish and the gloss of dreams.
          Dreamlike the blending also of the whole
          Harmonious landscape: all along the shore
          The boundary lost--the line invisible
          That parts the image from reality;
          And the clear hills, as high as they ascend
          Heavenward, so deep piercing the lake below.
          Admonished of the days of love to come                     580
          The raven croaks, and fills the upper air
          With a strange sound of genial harmony;
          And in and all about that playful band,
          Incapable although they be of rest,
          And in their fashion very rioters,
          There is a stillness, and they seem to make
          Calm revelry in that their calm abode.
          Them leaving to their joyous hours I pass,
          Pass with a thought the life of the whole year
          That is to come: the throng of woodland flowers            590
          And lilies that will dance upon the waves.
            Say boldly then that solitude is not
          Where these things are: he truly is alone,
          He of the multitude whose eyes are doomed
          To hold a vacant commerce day by day
          With Objects wanting life--repelling love;
          He by the vast metropolis immured,
          Where pity shrinks from unremitting calls,
          Where numbers overwhelm humanity,
          And neighbourhood serves rather to divide                  600
          Than to unite--what sighs more deep than his,
          Whose nobler will hath long been sacrificed;
          Who must inhabit under a black sky
          A city, where, if indifference to disgust
          Yield not to scorn or sorrow, living men
          Are ofttimes to their fellow-men no more
          Than to the forest Hermit are the leaves
          That hang aloft in myriads; nay, far less,
          For they protect his walk from sun and shower,
          Swell his devotion with their voice in storms,             610
          And whisper while the stars twinkle among them
          His lullaby. From crowded streets remote,
          Far from the living and dead Wilderness
          Of the thronged world, Society is here
          A true community--a genuine frame
          Of many into one incorporate.
          'That' must be looked for here: paternal sway,
          One household, under God, for high and low,
          One family and one mansion; to themselves
          Appropriate, and divided from the world,                   620
          As if it were a cave, a multitude
          Human and brute, possessors undisturbed
          Of this Recess--their legislative Hall,
          Their Temple, and their glorious Dwelling-place.
            Dismissing therefore all Arcadian dreams,
          All golden fancies of the golden age,
          The bright array of shadowy thoughts from times
          That were before all time, or are to be
          Ere time expire, the pageantry that stirs
          Or will be stirring, when our eyes are fixed               630
          On lovely objects, and we wish to part
          With all remembrance of a jarring world,
          --Take we at once this one sufficient hope,
          What need of more? that we shall neither droop
          Nor pine for want of pleasure in the life
          Scattered about us, nor through want of aught
          That keeps in health the insatiable mind.
          --That we shall have for knowledge and for love
          Abundance, and that feeling as we do
          How goodly, how exceeding fair, how pure                   640
          From all reproach is yon ethereal vault,
          And this deep Vale, its earthly counterpart,
          By which and under which we are enclosed
          To breathe in peace; we shall moreover find
          (If sound, and what we ought to be ourselves,
          If rightly we observe and justly weigh)
          The inmates not unworthy of their home,
          The Dwellers of their Dwelling.
            And if this
          Were otherwise, we have within ourselves
          Enough to fill the present day with joy,                   650
          And overspread the future years with hope,
          Our beautiful and quiet home, enriched
          Already with a stranger whom we love
          Deeply, a stranger of our Father's house,
          A never-resting Pilgrim of the Sea,
          Who finds at last an hour to his content
          Beneath our roof. And others whom we love
          Will seek us also, Sisters of our hearts,
          And one, like them, a Brother of our hearts,
          Philosopher and Poet, in whose sight                       660
          These mountains will rejoice with open joy.
          --Such is our wealth! O Vale of Peace we are
          And must be, with God's will, a happy Band.
            Yet 'tis not to enjoy that we exist,
          For that end only; something must be done:
          I must not walk in unreproved delight
          These narrow bounds, and think of nothing more,
          No duty that looks further, and no care.
          Each Being has his office, lowly some
          And common, yet all worthy if fulfilled                    670
          With zeal, acknowledgment that with the gift
          Keeps pace a harvest answering to the seed.
          Of ill-advised Ambition and of Pride
          I would stand clear, but yet to me I feel
          That an internal brightness is vouchsafed
          That must not die, that must not pass away.
          Why does this inward lustre fondly seek
          And gladly blend with outward fellowship?
          Why do 'they' shine around me whom I love?
          Why do they teach me, whom I thus revere?                  680
          Strange question, yet it answers not itself.
          That humble Roof embowered among the trees,
          That calm fireside, it is not even in them,
          Blest as they are, to furnish a reply
          That satisfies and ends in perfect rest.
          Possessions have I that are solely mine,
          Something within which yet is shared by none,
          Not even the nearest to me and most dear,
          Something which power and effort may impart;
          I would impart it, I would spread it wide:                 690
          Immortal in the world which is to come--
          Forgive me if I add another claim--
          And would not wholly perish even in this,
          Lie down and be forgotten in the dust,
          I and the modest Partners of my days
          Making a silent company in death;
          Love, knowledge, all my manifold delights,
          All buried with me without monument
          Or profit unto any but ourselves!
          It must not be, if I, divinely taught,                     700
          Be privileged to speak as I have felt
          Of what in man is human or divine.
            While yet an innocent little one, with a heart
          That doubtless wanted not its tender moods,
          I breathed (for this I better recollect)
          Among wild appetites and blind desires,
          Motions of savage instinct my delight
          And exaltation. Nothing at that time
          So welcome, no temptation half so dear
          As that which urged me to a daring feat,                   710
          Deep pools, tall trees, black chasms, and dizzy crags,
          And tottering towers: I loved to stand and read
          Their looks forbidding, read and disobey,
          Sometimes in act and evermore in thought.
          With impulses, that scarcely were by these
          Surpassed in strength, I heard of danger met
          Or sought with courage; enterprise forlorn
          By one, sole keeper of his own intent,
          Or by a resolute few, who for the sake
          Of glory fronted multitudes in arms.                       720
          Yea, to this hour I cannot read a Tale
          Of two brave vessels matched in deadly fight,
          And fighting to the death, but I am pleased
          More than a wise man ought to be; I wish,
          Fret, burn, and struggle, and in soul am there.
          But me hath Nature tamed, and bade to seek
          For other agitations, or be calm;
          Hath dealt with me as with a turbulent stream,
          Some nursling of the mountains which she leads
          Through quiet meadows, after he has learnt                 730
          His strength, and had his triumph and his joy,
          His desperate course of tumult and of glee.
          That which in stealth by Nature was performed
          Hath Reason sanctioned: her deliberate Voice
          Hath said; be mild, and cleave to gentle things,
          Thy glory and thy happiness be there.
          Nor fear, though thou confide in me, a want
          Of aspirations that have been--of foes
          To wrestle with, and victory to complete,
          Bounds to be leapt, darkness to be explored;               740
          All that inflamed thy infant heart, the love,
          The longing, the contempt, the undaunted quest,
          All shall survive, though changed their office, all
          Shall live, it is not in their power to die.
            Then farewell to the Warrior's Schemes, farewell
          The forwardness of soul which looks that way
          Upon a less incitement than the Cause
          Of Liberty endangered, and farewell
          That other hope, long mine, the hope to fill
          The heroic trumpet with the Muse's breath!                 750
          Yet in this peaceful Vale we will not spend
          Unheard-of days, though loving peaceful thought,
          A voice shall speak, and what will be the theme?
            On Man, on Nature, and on Human Life,
          Musing in solitude, I oft perceive
          Fair trains of imagery before me rise,
          Accompanied by feelings of delight
          Pure, or with no unpleasing sadness mixed;
          And I am conscious of affecting thoughts
          And dear remembrances, whose presence soothes              760
          Or elevates the Mind, intent to weigh
          The good and evil of our mortal state.
          --To these emotions, whencesoe'er they come,
          Whether from breath of outward circumstance,
          Or from the Soul--an impulse to herself--
          I would give utterance in numerous verse.
          Of Truth, of Grandeur, Beauty, Love, and Hope,
          And melancholy Fear subdued by Faith;
          Of blessed consolations in distress;
          Of moral strength, and intellectual Power;                 770
          Of joy in widest commonalty spread;
          Of the individual Mind that keeps her own
          Inviolate retirement, subject there
          To Conscience only, and the law supreme
          Of that Intelligence which governs all--
          I sing:--"fit audience let me find though few!"
            So prayed, more gaining than he asked, 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!               780
          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 the empyreal thrones--
          I pass them unalarmed. Not Chaos, not
          The darkest pit of lowest Erebus,
          Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out                  790
          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                  800
          Elysian, Fortunate Fields--like those of old
          Sought in the 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            810
          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 exquisitely the individual Mind
          (And the progressive powers perhaps no less
          Of the whole species) to the external World
          Is fitted:--and how exquisitely, too--
          Theme this but little heard of among men--                 820
          The external World is fitted to the Mind;
          And the creation (by no lower name
          Can it be called) 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                        830
          Brooding above the fierce confederate storm
          Of sorrow, barricadoed evermore
          Within the walls of cities--may these sounds
          Have their authentic comment; that even these
          Hearing, I be not downcast or forlorn!--
          [[http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww3010.html|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                            840
          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                           850
          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!               860