Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works


          WHEN, to the attractions of the busy world,
          Preferring studious leisure, I had chosen
          A habitation in this peaceful Vale,
          Sharp season followed of continual storm
          In deepest winter; and, from week to week,
          Pathway, and lane, and public road, were clogged
          With frequent showers of snow. Upon a hill
          At a short distance from my cottage, stands
          A stately Fir-grove, whither I was wont
          To hasten, for I found, beneath the roof                    10
          Of that perennial shade, a cloistral place
          Of refuge, with an unincumbered floor.
          Here, in safe covert, on the shallow snow,
          And, sometimes, on a speck of visible earth,
          The redbreast near me hopped; nor was I loth
          To sympathise with vulgar coppice birds
          That, for protection from the nipping blast,
          Hither repaired.--A single beech-tree grew
          Within this grove of firs! and, on the fork
          Of that one beech, appeared a thrush's nest;                20
          A last year's nest, conspicuously built
          At such small elevation from the ground
          As gave sure sign that they, who in that house
          Of nature and of love had made their home
          Amid the fir-trees, all the summer long
          Dwelt in a tranquil spot. And oftentimes,
          A few sheep, stragglers from some mountain-flock,
          Would watch my motions with suspicious stare,
          From the remotest outskirts of the grove,--
          Some nook where they had made their final stand,            30
          Huddling together from two fears--the fear
          Of me and of the storm. Full many an hour
          Here did I lose. But in this grove the trees
          Had been so thickly planted, and had thriven
          In such perplexed and intricate array;
          That vainly did I seek, beneath their stems
          A length of open space, where to and fro
          My feet might move without concern or care;
          And, baffled thus, though earth from day to day
          Was fettered, and the air by storm disturbed,               40
          I ceased the shelter to frequent,--and prized,
          Less than I wished to prize, that calm recess.
            The snows dissolved, and genial Spring returned
          To clothe the fields with verdure. Other haunts
          Meanwhile were mine; till, one bright April day,
          By chance retiring from the glare of noon
          To this forsaken covert, there I found
          A hoary pathway traced between the trees,
          And winding on with such an easy line
          Along a natural opening, that I stood                       50
          Much wondering how I could have sought in vain
          For what was now so obvious. To abide,
          For an allotted interval of ease,
          Under my cottage-roof, had gladly come
          From the wild sea a cherished Visitant;
          And with the sight of this same path--begun,
          Begun and ended, in the shady grove,
          Pleasant conviction flashed upon my mind
          That, to this opportune recess allured,
          He had surveyed it with a finer eye,                        60
          A heart more wakeful; and had worn the track
          By pacing here, unwearied and alone,
          In that habitual restlessness of foot
          That haunts the Sailor measuring o'er and o'er
          His short domain upon the vessel's deck,
          While she pursues her course through the dreary sea.
            When thou hadst quitted Esthwaite's pleasant shore,
          And taken thy first leave of those green hills
          And rocks that were the play-ground of thy youth,
          Year followed year, my Brother! and we two,                 70
          Conversing not, knew little in what mould
          Each other's mind was fashioned; and at length,
          When once again we met in Grasmere Vale,
          Between us there was little other bond
          Than common feelings of fraternal love.
          But thou, a Schoolboy, to the sea hadst carried
          Undying recollections! Nature there
          Was with thee; she, who loved us both, she still
          Was with thee; and even so didst thou become
          A 'silent' Poet; from the solitude                          80
          Of the vast sea didst bring a watchful heart
          Still couchant, an inevitable ear,
          And an eye practised like a blind man's touch.
          --Back to the joyless Ocean thou art gone;
          Nor from this vestige of thy musing hours
          Could I withhold thy honoured name,--and now
          I love the fir-grove with a perfect love.
          Thither do I withdraw when cloudless suns
          Shine hot, or wind blows troublesome and strong;
          And there I sit at evening, when the steep                  90
          Of Silver-how, and Grasmere's peaceful lake,
          And one green island, gleam between the stems
          Of the dark firs, a visionary scene!
          And, while I gaze upon the spectacle
          Of clouded splendour, on this dream-like sight
          Of solemn loveliness, I think on thee,
          My Brother, and on all which thou hast lost.
          Nor seldom, if I rightly guess, while Thou,
          Muttering the verses which I muttered first
          Among the mountains, through the midnight watch            100
          Art pacing thoughtfully the vessel's deck
          In some far region, here, while o'er my head,
          At every impulse of the moving breeze,
          The fir-grove murmurs with a sea-like sound,
          Alone I tread this path;--for aught I know,
          Timing my steps to thine; and, with a store
          Of undistinguishable sympathies,
          Mingling most earnest wishes for the day
          When we, and others whom we love, shall meet
          A second time, in Grasmere's happy Vale.                   110



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