William Wordsworth

From "The Prelude"

“Oh! when I have hung                    

          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               

          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! 

 

“Imagination! lifting up itself

Before the eye and progress of my Song

Like and unfather'd vapour; here that Power

In all the might of its endowments, came

Athwart me; I was lost as in a cloud,

Halted without a struggle to break through,

And now recovering to my Soul I say

I recognize they glory; in such strength

Of usurpation, in such visitings

Of awful promise, when the light of sense

Goes out in flashes that have shewn to us

The invisible world, doth Greatness make abode

There harbours whether we be young or old.

Our destiny, our nature, and our home

Is with infinitude, and only there;

With hope it is, hope that can never die,

Effort, and expectation, and desire,

And something evermore about to be.”

 

“Here must thou be, O man,

Strength to thyself — no helper hast thou here —

Here keepest thou thy individual state:

No other can divide with thee this work,

No secondary hand can intervene

To fashion this ability. 'Tis thine,

The prime and vital principle is thine

In the recesses of thy nature, far

From any reach of outward fellowship,

Else 'tis not thine at all.”


From "The Prelude": Thus I fared,
Dragging all passions, notions, shapes of faith
Like culprits to the bar, suspiciously
Calling the mind to establish in plain day
Her titles and her honours, now believing,
Now disbelieving, endlessly perplexed
With impulse, motive, right and wrong, the ground
Of moral obligation, what the rule
And what the sanction, till, demanding proof,
And seeking it in every thing, I lost
All feeling of conviction, and in fine
Sick, wearied out with contrarieties,
Yielded up moral questions in despair.

The immeasurable height
Of woods decaying, never to be decayed,
The stationary blasts of water-falls,
And every where along the hollow rent
Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn,
The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky,
The rocks that muttered close upon our ears,
Black drizzling crags that spake by the way-side
As if a voice were in them, the sick sight
And giddy prospect of the raving stream,
The unfettered clouds, and region of the Heavens,
Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light
Were all like workings of one mind, the features
Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,
Characters of the great Apocalypse,
The types and symbols of Eternity,
Of first and last, and midst, and without end.

The Sea was laughing at a distance; all
The solid Mountains were as bright as clouds,
Grain-tinctured, drenched in empyrean light;
And, in the meadows and the lower grounds
Was all the sweetness of a common dawn,
Dews, vapours, and the melody of birds,
And Labourers going forth into the fields.

Visionary power
Attends upon the motions of the winds
Embodied in the mystery of words.
There darkness makes abode, and all the host
Of shadowy things do work their changes there,
As in a mansion like their proper home:
Even forms and substances are circumfused
By that transparent veil with light divine,
And through the turnings intricate of Verse
Present themselves as objects recognised,
In flashes, and with a glory scarce their own.


What we have loved
Others will love; and we may teach them how,
Instruct them how the mind of Man becomes
A thousand times more beautiful than the earth
On which he dwells, above this Frame of things
(Which 'mid all revolution in the hopes
And fears of Men doth still remain unchanged)
In beauty exalted, as it is itself
Of substance and of fabric more divine.

Not Chaos, not
The darkest pit of lowest Erebus,
Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out
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.


Back to the database of writers | Send more excerpts | Back to Literature | Home