Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works




          WHAT He--who, 'mid the kindred throng
          Of Heroes that inspired his song,
          Doth yet frequent the hill of storms,
          The stars dim-twinkling through their forms!
          What! Ossian here--a painted Thrall,
          Mute fixture on a stuccoed wall;
          To serve--an unsuspected screen
          For show that must not yet be seen;
          And, when the moment comes, to part
          And vanish by mysterious art;                               10
          Head, harp, and body, split asunder,
          For ingress to a world of wonder;
          A gay saloon, with waters dancing
          Upon the sight wherever glancing;
          One loud cascade in front, and lo!
          A thousand like it, white as snow--
          Streams on the walls, and torrent-foam
          As active round the hollow dome,
          Illusive cataracts! of their terrors
          Not stripped, nor voiceless in the mirrors,                 20
          That catch the pageant from the flood
          Thundering adown a rocky wood.
          What pains to dazzle and confound!
          What strife of colour, shape and sound
          In this quaint medley, that might seem
          Devised out of a sick man's dream!
          Strange scene, fantastic and uneasy
          As ever made a maniac dizzy,
          When disenchanted from the mood
          That loves on sullen thoughts to brood!                     30
            O Nature--in thy changeful visions,
          Through all thy most abrupt transitions
          Smooth, graceful, tender, or sublime--
          Ever averse to pantomime,
          Thee neither do they know nor us
          Thy servants, who can trifle thus;
          Else verily the sober powers
          Of rock that frowns, and stream that roars,
          Exalted by congenial sway
          Of Spirits, and the undying Lay,                            40
          And Names that moulder not away,
          Had wakened some redeeming thought
          More worthy of this favoured Spot;
          Recalled some feeling--to set free
          The Bard from such indignity!
            The Effigies of a valiant Wight
          I once beheld, a Templar Knight;
          Not prostrate, not like those that rest
          On tombs, with palms together prest,
          But sculptured out of living stone,                         50
          And standing upright and alone,
          Both hands with rival energy
          Employed in setting his sword free
          From its dull sheath--stern sentinel
          Intent to guard St. Robert's cell;
          As if with memory of the affray
          Far distant, when, as legends say,
          The Monks of Fountain's thronged to force
          From its dear home the Hermit's corse,
          That in their keeping it might lie,                         60
          To crown their abbey's sanctity.
          So had they rushed into the grot
          Of sense despised, a world forgot,
          And torn him from his loved retreat,
          Where altar-stone and rock-hewn seat
          Still hint that quiet best is found,
          Even by the 'Living', under ground;
          But a bold Knight, the selfish aim
          Defeating, put the monks to shame,
          There where you see his Image stand                         70
          Bare to the sky, with threatening brand
          Which lingering NID is proud to show
          Reflected in the pool below.
            Thus, like the men of earliest days,
          Our sires set forth their grateful praise:
          Uncouth the workmanship, and rude!
          But, nursed in mountain solitude,
          Might some aspiring artist dare
          To seize whate'er, through misty air,
          A ghost, by glimpses, may present                           80
          Of imitable lineament,
          And give the phantom an array
          That less should scorn the abandoned clay;
          Then let him hew with patient stroke
          An Ossian out of mural rock,
          And leave the figurative Man--
          Upon thy margin, roaring Bran!--
          Fixed, like the Templar of the steep,
          An everlasting watch to keep;
          With local sanctities in trust,                             90
          More precious than a hermit's dust;
          And virtues through the mass infused,
          Which old idolatry abused.
            What though the Granite would deny
          All fervour to the sightless eye;
          And touch from rising suns in vain
          Solicit a Memnonian strain;
          Yet, in some fit of anger sharp,
          The wind might force the deep-grooved harp
          To utter melancholy moans                                  100
          Not unconnected with the tones
          Of soul-sick flesh and weary bones;
          While grove and river notes would lend,
          Less deeply sad, with these to blend!
            Vain pleasures of luxurious life,
          For ever with yourselves at strife;
          Through town and country both deranged
          By affectations interchanged,
          And all the perishable gauds
          That heaven-deserted man applauds;                         110
          When will your hapless patrons learn
          To watch and ponder--to discern
          The freshness, the everlasting youth,
          Of admiration sprung from truth;
          From beauty infinitely growing
          Upon a mind with love o'erflowing--
          To sound the depths of every Art
          That seeks its wisdom through the heart?
            Thus (where the intrusive Pile, ill-graced
          With baubles of theatric taste,                            120
          O'erlooks the torrent breathing showers
          On motley bands of alien flowers
          In stiff confusion set or sown,
          Till Nature cannot find her own,
          Or keep a remnant of the sod
          Which Caledonian Heroes trod)
          I mused; and, thirsting for redress,
          Recoiled into the wilderness.



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