Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works


                "Not to the earth confined,
                 Ascend to heaven."

          WHERE will they stop, those breathing Powers,
          The Spirits of the new-born flowers?
          They wander with the breeze, they wind
          Where'er the streams a passage find;
          Up from their native ground they rise
          In mute aerial harmonies;
          From humble violet--modest thyme--
          Exhaled, the essential odours climb,
          As if no space below the sky
          Their subtle flight could satisfy:                          10
          Heaven will not tax our thoughts with pride
          If like ambition be 'their' guide.
            Roused by this kindliest of May-showers,
          The spirit-quickener of the flowers,
          That with moist virtue softly cleaves
          The buds, and freshens the young leaves,
          The birds pour forth their souls in notes
          Of rapture from a thousand throats--
          Here checked by too impetuous haste,
          While there the music runs to waste,                        20
          With bounty more and more enlarged,
          Till the whole air is overcharged;
          Give ear, O Man! to their appeal
          And thirst for no inferior zeal,
          Thou, who canst 'think', as well as feel.
            Mount from the earth; aspire! aspire!
          So pleads the town's cathedral quire,
          In strains that from their solemn height
          Sink, to attain a loftier flight;
          While incense from the altar breathes                       30
          Rich fragrance in embodied wreaths;
          Or, flung from swinging censer, shrouds
          The taper-lights, and curls in clouds
          Around angelic Forms, the still
          Creation of the painter's skill,
          That on the service wait concealed
          One moment, and the next revealed
          --Cast off your bonds, awake, arise,
          And for no transient ecstasies!
          What else can mean the visual plea                          40
          Of still or moving imagery--
          The iterated summons loud,
          Not wasted on the attendant crowd,
          Nor wholly lost upon the throng
          Hurrying the busy streets along?
            Alas! the sanctities combined
          By art to unsensualise the mind,
          Decay and languish; or, as creeds
          And humours change, are spurned like weeds:
          The priests are from their altars thrust;                   50
          Temples are levelled with the dust;
          And solemn rites and awful forms
          Founder amid fanatic storms.
          Yet evermore, through years renewed
          In undisturbed vicissitude
          Of seasons balancing their flight
          On the swift wings of day and night,
          Kind Nature keeps a heavenly door
          Wide open for the scattered Poor.
          Where flower-breathed incense to the skies                  60
          Is wafted in mute harmonies;
          And ground fresh-cloven by the plough
          Is fragrant with a humbler vow;
          Where birds and brooks from leafy dells
          Chime forth unwearied canticles,
          And vapours magnify and spread
          The glory of the sun's bright head--
          Still constant in her worship, still
          Conforming to the eternal Will,
          Whether men sow or reap the fields,                         70
          Divine monition Nature yields,
          That not by bread alone we live,
          Or what a hand of flesh can give;
          That every day should leave some part
          Free for a sabbath of the heart:
          So shall the seventh be truly blest,
          From morn to eve, with hallowed rest.



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