Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  William Wordsworth

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Francis Turner Palgrave 1824–97

William Wordsworth


GENTLE and grave, in simple dress,

And features by keen mountain air

Moulded to solemn ruggedness,

The man we came to see sat there:

Not apt for speech, nor quickly stirr’d

Unless when heart to heart replied;

A bearing equally remov’d

From vain display or sullen pride.

The sinewy frame yet spoke of one

Known to the hillsides: on his head

Some five-and-seventy winters gone

Their crown of perfect white had shed:—

As snow-tipp’d summits toward the sun

In calm of lonely radiance press,

Touch’d by the broadening light of death

With a serener pensiveness.

O crown of venerable age!

O brighter crown of well-spent years!

The bard, the patriot, and the sage,

The heart that never bow’d to fears!

That was an age of soaring souls;

Yet none with a more liberal scope

Survey’d the sphere of human things;

None with such manliness of hope.

Others, perchance, as keenly felt,

As musically sang as he;

To Nature as devoutly knelt,

Or toil’d to serve humanity:

But none with those ethereal notes,

That star-like sweep of self-control;

The insight into worlds unseen,

The lucid sanity of soul.

The fever of our fretful life,

The autumn poison of the air,

The soul with its own self at strife,

He saw and felt, but could not share:

With eye made clear by pureness, pierced

The life of Man and Nature through;

And read the heart of common things,

Till new seem’d old, and old was new.

To his own self not always just,

Bound in the bonds that all men share,—

Confess the failings as we must,

The lion’s mark is always there!

Nor any song so pure, so great

Since his, who closed the sightless eyes,

Our Homer of the war in Heaven,

To wake in his own Paradise.

O blaring trumpets of the world!

O glories, in their budding sere!

O flaunting roll of Fame unfurl’d!

Here was the king—the hero here!

It was a strength and joy for life

In that great presence once to be;

That on the boy he gently smil’d,

That those white hands were laid on me.