Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works


          WHAT though the Accused, upon his own appeal
          To righteous Gods when man has ceased to feel,
          Or at a doubting Judge's stern command,
          Before the STONE OF POWER no longer stand--
          To take his sentence from the balanced Block,
          As, at his touch, it rocks, or seems to rock;
          Though, in the depths of sunless groves, no more
          The Druid-priest the hallowed Oak adore;
          Yet, for the Initiate, rocks and whispering trees
          Do still perform mysterious offices!                        10
          And functions dwell in beast and bird that sway
          The reasoning mind, or with the fancy play,
          Inviting, at all seasons, ears and eyes
          To watch for undelusive auguries:--
          Not uninspired appear their simplest ways;
          Their voices mount symbolical of praise--
          To mix with hymns that Spirits make and hear;
          And to fallen man their innocence is dear.
          Enraptured Art draws from those sacred springs
          Streams that reflect the poetry of things!                  20
          Where christian Martyrs stand in hues portrayed,
          That, might a wish avail, would never fade;
          Borne in their hands the lily and the palm
          Shed round the altar a celestial calm;
          There, too, behold the lamb and guileless dove
          Prest in the tenderness of virgin love
          To saintly bosoms!--Glorious is the blending
          Of right affections climbing or descending
          Along a scale of light and life, with cares
          Alternate; carrying holy thoughts and prayers               30
          Up to the sovereign seat of the Most High;
          Descending to the worm in charity;
          Like those good Angels whom a dream of night
          Gave, in the field of Luz, to Jacob's sight
          All, while 'he' slept, treading the pendent stairs
          Earthward or heavenward, radiant messengers,
          That, with a perfect will in one accord
          Of strict obedience, serve the Almighty Lord;
          And with untired humility forbore
          To speed their errand by the wings they wore.               40
            What a fair world were ours for verse to paint,
          If Power could live at ease with self-restraint!
          Opinion bow before the naked sense
          Of the great Vision,--faith in Providence;
          Merciful over all his creatures, just
          To the least particle of sentient dust:
          But, fixing by immutable decrees,
          Seedtime and harvest for his purposes!
          Then would be closed the restless oblique eye
          That looks for evil like a treacherous spy;                 50
          Disputes would then relax, like stormy winds
          That into breezes sink; impetuous minds
          By discipline endeavour to grow meek
          As Truth herself, whom they profess to seek.
          Then Genius, shunning fellowship with Pride,
          Would braid his golden locks at Wisdom's side;
          Love ebb and flow untroubled by caprice;
          And not alone 'harsh' tyranny would cease,
          But unoffending creatures find release
          From qualified oppression, whose defence                    60
          Rests on a hollow plea of recompence;
          Thought-tempered wrongs, for each humane respect
          Oft worse to bear, or deadlier in effect.
          Witness those glances of indignant scorn
          From some high-minded Slave, impelled to spurn
          The kindness that would make him less forlorn;
          Or, if the soul to bondage be subdued,
          His look of pitiable gratitude!
            Alas for thee, bright Galaxy of Isles,
          Whose day departs in pomp, returns with smiles--            70
          To greet the flowers and fruitage of a land,
          As the sun mounts, by sea-born breezes fanned;
          A land whose azure mountain-tops are seats
          For Gods in council, whose green vales, retreats
          Fit for the shades of heroes, mingling there
          To breathe Elysian peace in upper air.
            Though cold as winter, gloomy as the grave,
          Stone-walls a prisoner make, but not a slave.
          Shall man assume a property in man?
          Lay on the moral will a withering ban?                      80
          Shame that our laws at distance still protect
          Enormities, which they at home reject!
          "Slaves cannot breathe in England"--yet that boast
          Is but a mockery! when from coast to coast,
          Though 'fettered' slave be none, her floors and soil
          Groan underneath a weight of slavish toil,
          For the poor Many, measured out by rules
          Fetched with cupidity from heartless schools,
          That to an Idol, falsely called "the Wealth
          Of Nations," sacrifice a People's health,                   90
          Body and mind and soul; a thirst so keen
          Is ever urging on the vast machine
          Of sleepless Labour, 'mid whose dizzy wheels
          The Power least prized is that which thinks and feels.
            Then, for the pastimes of this delicate age,
          And all the heavy or light vassalage
          Which for their sakes we fasten, as may suit
          Our varying moods, on human kind or brute,
          'Twere well in little, as in great, to pause,
          Lest Fancy trifle with eternal laws.                       100
          Not from his fellows only man may learn
          Rights to compare and duties to discern!
          All creatures and all objects, in degree,
          Are friends and patrons of humanity.
          There are to whom the garden, grove, and field,
          Perpetual lessons of forbearance yield;
          Who would not lightly violate the grace
          The lowliest flower possesses in its place;
          Nor shorten the sweet life, too fugitive,
          Which nothing less than Infinite Power could give.         110



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