James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

July 21

At the Grave of Burns

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

  • July 21, 1803, seven years after his death.

  • I SHIVER, Spirit fierce and bold,

    At thought of what I now behold:

    As vapors breathed from dungeons cold,

    Strike pleasure dead,

    So sadness comes from out the mould

    Where Burns is laid.

    And have I then thy bones so near,

    And thou forbidden to appear?

    As if it were thyself that’s here

    I shrink with pain;

    And both my wishes and my fear

    Alike are vain.

    Off weight—nor press on weight!—away

    Dark thoughts!—they came, but not to stay;

    With chastened feelings would I pay

    The tribute due

    To him, and aught that hides his clay

    From mortal view.

    Fresh as the flower, whose modest worth

    He sang, his genius “glinted” forth,

    Rose like a star that touching earth,

    For so it seems,

    Doth glorify its humble birth

    With matchless beams.

    The piercing eye, the thoughtful brow,

    The struggling heart, where be they now?—

    Full soon the Aspirant of the plough,

    The prompt, the brave,

    Slept, with the obscurest, in the low

    And silent grave.

    I mourned with thousands, but as one

    More deeply grieved, for He was gone

    Whose light I hailed when first it shone,

    And showed my youth

    How Verse may build a princely throne

    On humble truth.

    Alas! where’er the current tends,

    Regret pursues and with it blends,—

    Huge Criffel’s hoary top ascends

    By Skiddaw seen,—

    Neighbors we were, and loving friends

    We might have been;

    True friends though diversely inclined;

    But heart with heart and mind with mind,

    Where the main fibres are entwined,

    Through Nature’s skill,

    May even by contraries be joined

    More closely still.

    The tear will start, and let it flow;

    Thou “poor Inhabitant below,”

    At this dread moment—even so—

    Might we together

    Have sate and talked where gowans blow,

    Or on wild heather.

    What treasures would have then been placed

    Within my reach; of knowledge graced

    By fancy what a rich repast!

    But why go on?—

    Oh! spare to sweep, thou mournful blast,

    His grave grass-grown.

    There, too, a Son, his joy and pride,

    (Not three weeks past the Stripling died,)

    Lies gathered to his Father’s side,

    Soul-moving sight!

    Yet one to which is not denied

    Some sad delight:

    For he is safe, a quiet bed

    Hath early found among the dead,

    Harbored where none can be misled,

    Wronged, or distrest;

    And surely here it may be said

    That such are blest.

    And oh for Thee, by pitying grace

    Checked oft-times in a devious race,

    May He who halloweth the place

    Where Man is laid

    Receive thy Spirit in the embrace

    For which it prayed!

    Sighing I turned away; but ere

    Night fell I heard, or seemed to hear,

    Music that sorrow comes not near,

    A ritual hymn,

    Chanted in love that casts out fear

    By Seraphim.