Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works



          LADY! a Pen (perhaps with thy regard,
          Among the Favoured, favoured not the least)
          Left, 'mid the Records of this Book inscribed,
          Deliberate traces, registers of thought
          And feeling, suited to the place and time
          That gave them birth:--months passed, and still this hand,
          That had not been too timid to imprint
          Words which the virtues of thy Lord inspired,
          Was yet not bold enough to write of Thee.
          And why that scrupulous reserve? In sooth                   10
          The blameless cause lay in the Theme itself.
          Flowers are there many that delight to strive
          With the sharp wind, and seem to court the shower,
          Yet are by nature careless of the sun
          Whether he shine on them or not; and some,
          Where'er he moves along the unclouded sky,
          Turn a broad front full on his flattering beams:
          Others do rather from their notice shrink,
          Loving the dewy shade,--a humble band,
          Modest and sweet, a progeny of earth,                       20
          Congenial with thy mind and character,
          High-born Augusta!
                              Witness, Towers and Groves!
          And Thou, wild Stream, that giv'st the honoured name
          Of Lowther to this ancient Line, bear witness
          From thy most secret haunts; and ye Parterres,
          Which She is pleased and proud to call her own,
          Witness how oft upon my noble Friend
          'Mute' offerings, tribute from an inward sense
          Of admiration and respectful love,
          Have waited--till the affections could no more              30
          Endure that silence, and broke out in song,
          Snatches of music taken up and dropt
          Like those self-solacing, those under, notes
          Trilled by the redbreast, when autumnal leaves
          Are thin upon the bough. Mine, only mine,
          The pleasure was, and no one heard the praise,
          Checked, in the moment of its issue, checked
          And reprehended, by a fancied blush
          From the pure qualities that called it forth.
            Thus Virtue lives debarred from Virtue's meed;            40
          Thus, Lady, is retiredness a veil
          That, while it only spreads a softening charm
          O'er features looked at by discerning eyes,
          Hides half their beauty from the common gaze;
          And thus, even on the exposed and breezy hill
          Of lofty station, female goodness walks,
          When side by side with lunar gentleness,
          As in a cloister. Yet the grateful Poor
          (Such the immunities of low estate,
          Plain Nature's enviable privilege,                          50
          Her sacred recompence for many wants
          Open their hearts before Thee, pouring out
          All that they think and feel, with tears of joy;
          And benedictions not unheard in heaven:
          And friend in the ear of friend, where speech is free
          To follow truth, is eloquent as they.
            Then let the Book receive in these prompt lines
          A just memorial; and thine eyes consent
          To read that they, who mark thy course, behold
          A life declining with the golden light                      60
          Of summer, in the season of sere leaves;
          See cheerfulness undamped by stealing Time;
          See studied kindness flow with easy stream,
          Illustrated with inborn courtesy;
          And an habitual disregard of self
          Balanced by vigilance for others' weal.
            And shall the Verse not tell of lighter gifts
          With these ennobling attributes conjoined
          And blended, in peculiar harmony,
          By Youth's surviving spirit? What agile grace!              70
          A nymph-like liberty, in nymph-like form,
          Beheld with wonder; whether floor or path
          Thou tread; or sweep--borne on the managed steed--
          Fleet as the shadows, over down or field,
          Driven by strong winds at play among the clouds.
            Yet one word more--one farewell word--a wish
          Which came, but it has passed into a prayer--
          That, as thy sun in brightness is declining,
          So--at an hour yet distant for 'their' sakes
          Whose tender love, here faltering on the way                80
          Of a diviner love, will be forgiven--
          So may it set in peace, to rise again
          For everlasting glory won by faith.



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