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William Wordsworth

It is in the light of romantic sensibility that we are to consider the writers of that short period know as English Romanticism. The literary production of these writers, this eruption into the fashionable world, made an impact on English poetry and English criticism from which it will never recover. William Wordsworth, the subject of this particular portrait, represents English Romanticism like no other of the age.

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My heart leaps
Sonnet XXI
MILTON! thou shouldst be living at this hour
SHE dwelt among the untrodden ways
Ethereal minstrel! pilgrim of the sky

Scorn not the Sonnet

Scorn not the Sonnet

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless ofits just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch’s wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
With it Camoens soothed an exile’s grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with wich Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains - alas, too few!

The Rainbow

MY heart leaps up when I behold
    A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
    Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

1   I heard a thousand blended notes,
2   While in a grove I sate reclined,
3   In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
4   Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

5   To her fair works did nature link
6   The human soul that through me ran;
7   And much it griev'd me my heart to think
8   What man has made of man.

9   Through primrose-tufts, in that sweet bower,
10 The periwinkle trail'd its wreathes;
11 And 'tis my faith that every flower
12 Enjoys the air it breathes.

13 The birds around me hopp'd and play'd:
14 Their thoughts I cannot measure,
15 But the least motion which they made,
16 It seem'd a thrill of pleasure.

17 The budding twigs spread out their fan,
18 To catch the breezy air;
19 And I must think, do all I can,
20 That there was pleasure there.

21 If I these thoughts may not prevent,
22 If such be of my creed the plan,
23 Have I not reason to lament
24 What man has made of man?

Sonnet XXI

Whence that low voice? – A whisper from the heart,
That told of days long past, when here I roved
With friends and kindred tenderly beloved;
Some who had early mandates to depart,
Yet are allowed to steal my path athwarth
By Duddon’s side; once more do we unite,
Once more beneath the kind Earth’s tranquil light;
And smothered joys into new being start.
From her unworthy seat, the cloudy stall
Of Time, breaks forth triumphant Memory;
Her glistening tresses bound, yet light and free
As golden locks of birch, that rise and fall
On gales that breathe too gently to recall
Aught of the fading year’s inclemency!

MILTON! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
    Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
    O raise us up, return to us again,
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power!
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart;
    Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
    Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
    So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
   The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

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!

1     Ethereal minstrel! pilgrim of the sky!
2     Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?
3     Or, while the wings aspire, are heart and eye
4     Both with thy nest upon the dewy ground?
5     Thy nest which thou canst drop into at will,
6     Those quivering wings composed, that music still!

7     Leave to the nightingale her shady wood;
8     A privacy of glorious light is thine;
9     Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood
10   Of harmony, with instinct more divine;
11   Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
12   True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!

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© 2000 Elena and Yacov Feldman