Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works


                ------------- Carmina possumus
                Donare, et pretium dicere muneri.
                Non incisa notis marmora publicis,
                Per quae spiritus et vita redit bonis
                Post mortem ducibus
                --------------- clarius indicant
                Laudes, quam ----------- Pierides; neque,
                Si chartae sileant quod bene feceris,
                Mercedem tuleris.----HOR. Car. 8, Lib. 4.


          WHEN the soft hand of sleep had closed the latch
          On the tired household of corporeal sense,
          And Fancy, keeping unreluctant watch,
          Was free her choicest favours to dispense;
          I saw, in wondrous perspective displayed,
          A landscape more august than happiest skill
          Of pencil ever clothed with light and shade;
          An intermingled pomp of vale and hill,
          City, and naval stream, suburban grove,
          And stately forest where the wild deer rove;
          Nor wanted lurking hamlet, dusky towns,
          And scattered rural farms of aspect bright;
          And, here and there, between the pastoral downs,
          The azure sea upswelled upon the sight.
          Fair prospect, such as Britain only shows!
          But not a living creature could be seen
          Through its wide circuit, that, in deep repose,
          And, even to sadness, lonely and serene,
          Lay hushed; till--through a portal in the sky
          Brighter than brightest loop-hole, in a storm,
          Opening before the sun's triumphant eye--
          Issued, to sudden view, a glorious Form!
          Earthward it glided with a swift descent:
          Saint George himself this Visitant must be;
          And, ere a thought could ask on what intent
          He sought the regions of Humanity,
          A thrilling voice was heard, that vivified
          City and field and flood;--aloud it cried--

              "Though from my celestial home,
              "Like a Champion, armed I come;
              "On my helm the dragon crest,
              "And the red cross on my breast;
              "I, the Guardian of this Land,
              "Speak not now of toilsome duty;
              "Well obeyed was that command--
              "Whence bright days of festive beauty;
          "Haste, Virgins, haste!--the flowers which summer gave
              "Have perished in the field;
          "But the green thickets plenteously shall yield
              "Fit garlands for the brave,
          "That will be welcome, if by you entwined;
          "Haste, Virgins, haste; and you, ye Matrons grave,
          "Go forth with rival youthfulness of mind,
              "And gather what ye find
          "Of hardy laurel and wild holly boughs--
          "To deck your stern Defenders' modest brows!
              "Such simple gifts prepare,
          "Though they have gained a worthier meed;
              "And in due time shall share
          "Those palms and amaranthine wreaths
          "Unto their martyred Countrymen decreed,
          "In realms where everlasting freshness breathes!"


            And lo! with crimson banners proudly streaming,
          And upright weapons innocently gleaming,
          Along the surface of a spacious plain
          Advance in order the redoubted Bands,
          And there receive green chaplets from the hands
              Of a fair female train--
              Maids and Matrons, dight
              In robes of dazzling white;
          While from the crowd bursts forth a rapturous noise
              By the cloud-capt hills retorted;
              And a throng of rosy boys
              In loose fashion tell their joys;
          And grey-haired sires, on staffs supported,
          Look round, and by their smiling seem to say,
          Thus strives a grateful Country to display
          The mighty debt which nothing can repay!


            Anon before my sight a palace rose
          Built of all precious substances,--so pure
          And exquisite, that sleep alone bestows
          Ability like splendour to endure:
          Entered, with streaming thousands, through the gate,
          I saw the banquet spread beneath a Dome of state,
          A lofty Dome, that dared to emulate
          The heaven of sable night
          With starry lustre; yet had power to throw
          Solemn effulgence, clear as solar light,
          Upon a princely company below,
          While the vault rang with choral harmony,
          Like some Nymph-haunted grot beneath the roaring sea.
          --No sooner ceased that peal, than on the verge
          Of exultation hung a dirge
          Breathed from a soft and lonely instrument,
              That kindled recollections
              Of agonised affections;
          And, though some tears the strain attended,
              The mournful passion ended
          In peace of spirit, and sublime content!


            But garlands wither; festal shows depart,
          Like dreams themselves; and sweetest sound--
              (Albeit of effect profound)
              It was--and it is gone!
          Victorious England! bid the silent Art
          Reflect, in glowing hues that shall not fade,
          Those high achievements; even as she arrayed
          With second life the deed of Marathon
              Upon Athenian walls;
          So may she labour for thy civic halls:
              And be the guardian spaces
              Of consecrated places,
          As nobly graced by Sculpture's patient toil;
          And let imperishable Columns rise
          Fixed in the depths of this courageous soil;
          Expressive signals of a glorious strife,
          And competent to shed a spark divine
          Into the torpid breast of daily life;--
          Records on which, for pleasure of all eyes,
              The morning sun may shine
          With gratulation thoroughly benign!


            And ye, Pierian Sisters, sprung from Jove
          And sage Mnemosyne,--full long debarred
          From your first mansions, exiled all too long
          From many a hallowed stream and grove,
          Dear native regions where ye wont to rove,
          Chanting for patriot heroes the reward
              Of never-dying song!
          Now (for, though Truth descending from above
          The Olympian summit hath destroyed for aye
          Your kindred Deities, 'Ye' live and move,
          Spared for obeisance from perpetual love
          For privilege redeemed of godlike sway)
          Now, on the margin of some spotless fountain,
          Or top serene of unmolested mountain,
          Strike audibly the noblest of your lyres,
          And for a moment meet the soul's desires!
          That I, or some more favoured Bard, may hear
          What ye, celestial Maids! have often sung
          Of Britain's acts,--may catch it with rapt ear,
          And give the treasure to our British tongue!
          So shall the characters of that proud page
          Support their mighty theme from age to age;
          And, in the desert places of the earth,
          When they to future empires have given birth,
          So shall the people gather and believe
          The bold report, transferred to every clime;
          And the whole world, not envious but admiring,
              And to the like aspiring,
          Own--that the progeny of this fair Isle
          Had power as lofty actions to achieve
          As were performed in man's heroic prime;
          Nor wanted, when their fortitude had held
          Its even tenor, and the foe was quelled,
          A corresponding virtue to beguile
          The hostile purpose of wide-wasting Time--
          That not in vain they laboured to secure,
          For their great deeds, perpetual memory,
          And fame as largely spread as land and sea,
          By Works of spirit high and passion pure!



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