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THE PRELUDE

BOOK SEVENTH

RESIDENCE IN LONDON

 SIX changeful years have vanished since I first Poured out (saluted by that quickening breeze Which met me issuing from the City's walls) A glad preamble to this Verse: I sang Aloud, with fervour irresistible Of short-lived transport, like a torrent bursting, From a black thunder-cloud, down Scafell's side To rush and disappear. But soon broke forth (So willed the Muse) a less impetuous stream, That flowed awhile with unabating strength, 10 Then stopped for years; not audible again Before last primrose-time. Beloved Friend! The assurance which then cheered some heavy thoughts On thy departure to a foreign land Has failed; too slowly moves the promised work. Through the whole summer have I been at rest, Partly from voluntary holiday, And part through outward hindrance. But I heard, After the hour of sunset yester-even, Sitting within doors between light and dark, 20 A choir of redbreasts gathered somewhere near My threshold,--minstrels from the distant woods Sent in on Winter's service, to announce, With preparation artful and benign, That the rough lord had left the surly North On his accustomed journey. The delight, Due to this timely notice, unawares Smote me, and, listening, I in whispers said, "Ye heartsome Choristers, ye and I will be Associates, and, unscared by blustering winds, 30 Will chant together." Thereafter, as the shades Of twilight deepened, going forth, I spied A glow-worm underneath a dusky plume Or canopy of yet unwithered fern, Clear-shining, like a hermit's taper seen Through a thick forest. Silence touched me here No less than sound had done before; the child Of Summer, lingering, shining, by herself, The voiceless worm on the unfrequented hills, Seemed sent on the same errand with the choir 40 Of Winter that had warbled at my door, And the whole year breathed tenderness and love. The last night's genial feeling overflowed Upon this morning, and my favourite grove, Tossing in sunshine its dark boughs aloft, As if to make the strong wind visible, Wakes in me agitations like its own, A spirit friendly to the Poet's task, Which we will now resume with lively hope, Nor checked by aught of tamer argument 50 That lies before us, needful to be told. Returned from that excursion, soon I bade Farewell for ever to the sheltered seats Of gowned students, quitted hall and bower, And every comfort of that privileged ground, Well pleased to pitch a vagrant tent among The unfenced regions of society. Yet, undetermined to what course of life I should adhere, and seeming to possess A little space of intermediate time 60 At full command, to London first I turned, In no disturbance of excessive hope, By personal ambition unenslaved, Frugal as there was need, and, though self-willed, From dangerous passions free. Three years had flown Since I had felt in heart and soul the shock Of the huge town's first presence, and had paced Her endless streets, a transient visitant: Now, fixed amid that concourse of mankind Where Pleasure whirls about incessantly, 70 And life and labour seem but one, I filled An idler's place; an idler well content To have a house (what matter for a home?) That owned him; living cheerfully abroad With unchecked fancy ever on the stir, And all my young affections out of doors. There was a time when whatsoe'er is feigned Of airy palaces, and gardens built By Genii of romance; or hath in grave Authentic history been set forth of Rome, 80 Alcairo, Babylon, or Persepolis; Or given upon report by pilgrim friars, Of golden cities ten months' journey deep Among Tartarian wilds--fell short, far short, Of what my fond simplicity believed And thought of London--held me by a chain Less strong of wonder and obscure delight. Whether the bolt of childhood's Fancy shot For me beyond its ordinary mark, 'Twere vain to ask; but in our flock of boys 90 Was One, a cripple from his birth, whom chance Summoned from school to London; fortunate And envied traveller! When the Boy returned, After short absence, curiously I scanned His mien and person, nor was free, in sooth, From disappointment, not to find some change In look and air, from that new region brought, As if from Fairy-land. Much I questioned him; And every word he uttered, on my ears Fell flatter than a caged parrot's note, 100 That answers unexpectedly awry, And mocks the prompter's listening. Marvellous things Had vanity (quick Spirit that appears Almost as deeply seated and as strong In a Child's heart as fear itself) conceived For my enjoyment. Would that I could now Recall what then I pictured to myself, Of mitred Prelates, Lords in ermine clad, The King, and the King's Palace, and, not last, Nor least, Heaven bless him! the renowned Lord Mayor. 110 Dreams not unlike to those which once begat A change of purpose in young Whittington, When he, a friendless and a drooping boy, Sate on a stone, and heard the bells speak out Articulate music. Above all, one thought Baffled my understanding: how men lived Even next-door neighbours, as we say, yet still Strangers, not knowing each the other's name. Oh, wondrous power of words, by simple faith Licensed to take the meaning that we love! 120 Vauxhall and Ranelagh! I then had heard Of your green groves, and wilderness of lamps Dimming the stars, and fireworks magical, And gorgeous ladies, under splendid domes, Floating in dance, or warbling high in air The songs of spirits! Nor had Fancy fed With less delight upon that other class Of marvels, broad-day wonders permanent: The River proudly bridged; the dizzy top And Whispering Gallery of St. Paul's; the tombs 130 Of Westminster; the Giants of Guildhall; Bedlam, and those carved maniacs at the gates, Perpetually recumbent; Statues--man, And the horse under him--in gilded pomp Adorning flowery gardens, 'mid vast squares; The Monument, and that Chamber of the Tower Where England's sovereigns sit in long array, Their steeds bestriding,--every mimic shape Cased in the gleaming mail the monarch wore, Whether for gorgeous tournament addressed, 140 Or life or death upon the battle-field. Those bold imaginations in due time Had vanished, leaving others in their stead: And now I looked upon the living scene; Familiarly perused it; oftentimes, In spite of strongest disappointment, pleased Through courteous self-submission, as a tax Paid to the object by prescriptive right. Rise up, thou monstrous ant-hill on the plain Of a too busy world! Before me flow, 150 Thou endless stream of men and moving things! Thy every-day appearance, as it strikes-- With wonder heightened, or sublimed by awe-- On strangers, of all ages; the quick dance Of colours, lights, and forms; the deafening din; The comers and the goers face to face, Face after face; the string of dazzling wares, Shop after shop, with symbols, blazoned names, And all the tradesman's honours overhead: Here, fronts of houses, like a title-page, 160 With letters huge inscribed from top to toe, Stationed above the door, like guardian saints; There, allegoric shapes, female or male, Or physiognomies of real men, Land-warriors, kings, or admirals of the sea, Boyle, Shakspeare, Newton, or the attractive head Of some quack-doctor, famous in his day. Meanwhile the roar continues, till at length, Escaped as from an enemy, we turn Abruptly into some sequestered nook, 170 Still as a sheltered place when winds blow loud! At leisure, thence, through tracts of thin resort, And sights and sounds that come at intervals, We take our way. A raree-show is here, With children gathered round; another street Presents a company of dancing dogs, Or dromedary, with an antic pair Of monkeys on his back; a minstrel band Of Savoyards; or, single and alone, An English ballad-singer. Private courts, 180 Gloomy as coffins, and unsightly lanes Thrilled by some female vendor's scream, belike The very shrillest of all London cries, May then entangle our impatient steps; Conducted through those labyrinths, unawares, To privileged regions and inviolate, Where from their airy lodges studious lawyers Look out on waters, walks, and gardens green. Thence back into the throng, until we reach, Following the tide that slackens by degrees, 190 Some half-frequented scene, where wider streets Bring straggling breezes of suburban air. Here files of ballads dangle from dead walls; Advertisements, of giant-size, from high Press forward, in all colours, on the sight; These, bold in conscious merit, lower down; 'That', fronted with a most imposing word, Is, peradventure, one in masquerade. As on the broadening causeway we advance, Behold, turned upwards, a face hard and strong 200 In lineaments, and red with over-toil. 'Tis one encountered here and everywhere; A travelling cripple, by the trunk cut short, And stumping on his arms. In sailor's garb Another lies at length, beside a range Of well-formed characters, with chalk inscribed Upon the smooth flint stones: the Nurse is here, The Bachelor, that loves to sun himself, The military Idler, and the Dame, That field-ward takes her walk with decent steps. 210 Now homeward through the thickening hubbub, where See, among less distinguishable shapes, The begging scavenger, with hat in hand; The Italian, as he thrids his way with care, Steadying, far-seen, a frame of images Upon his head; with basket at his breast The Jew; the stately and slow-moving Turk, With freight of slippers piled beneath his arm! Enough;--the mighty concourse I surveyed With no unthinking mind, well pleased to note 220 Among the crowd all specimens of man, Through all the colours which the sun bestows, And every character of form and face: The Swede, the Russian; from the genial south, The Frenchman and the Spaniard; from remote America, the Hunter-Indian; Moors, Malays, Lascars, the Tartar, the Chinese, And Negro Ladies in white muslin gowns. At leisure, then, I viewed, from day to day, The spectacles within doors,--birds and beasts 230 Of every nature, and strange plants convened From every clime; and, next, those sights that ape The absolute presence of reality, Expressing, as in mirror, sea and land, And what earth is, and what she has to show. I do not here allude to subtlest craft, By means refined attaining purest ends, But imitations, fondly made in plain Confession of man's weakness and his loves. Whether the Painter, whose ambitious skill 240 Submits to nothing less than taking in A whole horizon's circuit, do with power, Like that of angels or commissioned spirits, Fix us upon some lofty pinnacle, Or in a ship on waters, with a world Of life, and life-like mockery beneath, Above, behind, far stretching and before; Or more mechanic artist represent By scale exact, in model, wood or clay, From blended colours also borrowing help, 250 Some miniature of famous spots or things,-- St. Peter's Church; or, more aspiring aim, In microscopic vision, Rome herself; Or, haply, some choice rural haunt,--the Falls Of Tivoli; and, high upon that steep, The Sibyl's mouldering Temple! every tree, Villa, or cottage, lurking among rocks Throughout the landscape; tuft, stone scratch minute-- All that the traveller sees when he is there. Add to these exhibitions, mute and still, 260 Others of wider scope, where living men, Music, and shifting pantomimic scenes, Diversified the allurement. Need I fear To mention by its name, as in degree, Lowest of these and humblest in attempt, Yet richly graced with honours of her own, Half-rural Sadler's Wells? Though at that time Intolerant, as is the way of youth Unless itself be pleased, here more than once Taking my seat, I saw (nor blush to add, 270 With ample recompense) giants and dwarfs, Clowns, conjurors, posture-masters, harlequins, Amid the uproar of the rabblement, Perform their feats. Nor was it mean delight To watch crude Nature work in untaught minds; To note the laws and progress of belief; Though obstinate on this way, yet on that How willingly we travel, and how far! To have, for instance, brought upon the scene The champion, Jack the Giant-killer: Lo! 280 He dons his coat of darkness; on the stage Walks, and achieves his wonders, from the eye Of living Mortal covert, "as the moon Hid in her vacant interlunar cave." Delusion bold! and how can it be wrought? The garb he wears is black as death, the word "Invisible" flames forth upon his chest. Here, too, were "forms and pressures of the time," Rough, bold, as Grecian comedy displayed When Art was young; dramas of living men, 290 And recent things yet warm with life; a sea-fight, Shipwreck, or some domestic incident Divulged by Truth and magnified by Fame; Such as the daring brotherhood of late Set forth, too serious theme for that light place-- I mean, O distant Friend! a story drawn From our own ground,--the Maid of Buttermere,-- And how, unfaithful to a virtuous wife Deserted and deceived, the Spoiler came And wooed the artless daughter of the hills, 300 And wedded her, in cruel mockery Of love and marriage bonds. These words to thee Must needs bring back the moment when we first, Ere the broad world rang with the maiden's name, Beheld her serving at the cottage inn; Both stricken, as she entered or withdrew, With admiration of her modest mien And carriage, marked by unexampled grace. We since that time not unfamiliarly Have seen her,--her discretion have observed, 310 Her just opinions, delicate reserve, Her patience, and humility of mind Unspoiled by commendation and the excess Of public notice--an offensive light To a meek spirit suffering inwardly. From this memorial tribute to my theme I was returning, when, with sundry forms Commingled--shapes which met me in the way That we must tread--thy image rose again, Maiden of Buttermere! She lives in peace 320 Upon the spot where she was born and reared; Without contamination doth she live In quietness, without anxiety: Beside the mountain chapel, sleeps in earth Her new-born infant, fearless as a lamb That, thither driven from some unsheltered place, Rests underneath the little rock-like pile When storms are raging. Happy are they both-- Mother and child!--These feelings, in themselves Trite, do yet scarcely seem so when I think 330 On those ingenuous moments of our youth Ere we have learnt by use to slight the crimes And sorrows of the world. Those simple days Are now my theme; and, foremost of the scenes, Which yet survive in memory, appears One, at whose centre sate a lovely Boy, A sportive infant, who, for six months' space, Not more, had been of age to deal about Articulate prattle--Child as beautiful As ever clung around a mother's neck, 340 Or father fondly gazed upon with pride. There, too, conspicuous for stature tall And large dark eyes, beside her infant stood The mother; but, upon her cheeks diffused, False tints too well accorded with the glare From play-house lustres thrown without reserve On every object near. The Boy had been The pride and pleasure of all lookers-on In whatsoever place, but seemed in this A sort of alien scattered from the clouds. 350 Of lusty vigour, more than infantine He was in limb, in cheek a summer rose Just three parts blown--a cottage-child--if e'er, By cottage-door on breezy mountain-side, Or in some sheltering vale, was seen a babe By Nature's gifts so favoured. Upon a board Decked with refreshments had this child been placed 'His' little stage in the vast theatre, And there he sate, surrounded with a throng Of chance spectators, chiefly dissolute men 360 And shameless women, treated and caressed; Ate, drank, and with the fruit and glasses played, While oaths and laughter and indecent speech Were rife about him as the songs of birds Contending after showers. The mother now Is fading out of memory, but I see The lovely Boy as I beheld him then Among the wretched and the falsely gay, Like one of those who walked with hair unsinged Amid the fiery furnace. Charms and spells 370 Muttered on black and spiteful instigation Have stopped, as some believe, the kindliest growths. Ah, with how different spirit might a prayer Have been preferred, that this fair creature, checked By special privilege of Nature's love, Should in his childhood be detained for ever! But with its universal freight the tide Hath rolled along, and this bright innocent, Mary! may now have lived till he could look With envy on thy nameless babe that sleeps, 380 Beside the mountain chapel, undisturbed. Four rapid years had scarcely then been told Since, travelling southward from our pastoral hills, I heard, and for the first time in my life, The voice of woman utter blasphemy-- Saw woman as she is, to open shame Abandoned, and the pride of public vice; I shuddered, for a barrier seemed at once Thrown in that from humanity divorced Humanity, splitting the race of man 390 In twain, yet leaving the same outward form. Distress of mind ensued upon the sight, And ardent meditation. Later years Brought to such spectacle a milder sadness, Feelings of pure commiseration, grief For the individual and the overthrow Of her soul's beauty; farther I was then But seldom led, or wished to go; in truth The sorrow of the passion stopped me there. But let me now, less moved, in order take 400 Our argument. Enough is said to show How casual incidents of real life, Observed where pastime only had been sought, Outweighed, or put to flight, the set events And measured passions of the stage, albeit By Siddons trod in the fulness of her power. Yet was the theatre my dear delight; The very gilding, lamps and painted scrolls, And all the mean upholstery of the place, Wanted not animation, when the tide 410 Of pleasure ebbed but to return as fast With the ever-shifting figures of the scene, Solemn or gay: whether some beauteous dame Advanced in radiance through a deep recess Of thick entangled forest, like the moon Opening the clouds; or sovereign king, announced With flourishing trumpet, came in full-blown state Of the world's greatness, winding round with train Of courtiers, banners, and a length of guards; Or captive led in abject weeds, and jingling 420 His slender manacles; or romping girl Bounced, leapt, and pawed the air; or mumbling sire, A scare-crow pattern of old age dressed up In all the tatters of infirmity All loosely put together, hobbled in, Stumping upon a cane with which he smites, From time to time, the solid boards, and makes them Prate somewhat loudly of the whereabout Of one so overloaded with his years. But what of this! the laugh, the grin, grimace, 430 The antics striving to outstrip each other, Were all received, the least of them not lost, With an unmeasured welcome. Through the night, Between the show, and many-headed mass Of the spectators, and each several nook Filled with its fray or brawl, how eagerly And with what flashes, as it were, the mind Turned this way--that way! sportive and alert And watchful, as a kitten when at play, While winds are eddying round her, among straws 440 And rustling leaves. Enchanting age and sweet! Romantic almost, looked at through a space, How small, of intervening years! For then, Though surely no mean progress had been made In meditations holy and sublime, Yet something of a girlish child-like gloss Of novelty survived for scenes like these; Enjoyment haply handed down from times When at a country-playhouse, some rude barn Tricked out for that proud use, if I perchance 450 Caught, on a summer evening through a chink In the old wall, an unexpected glimpse Of daylight, the bare thought of where I was Gladdened me more than if I had been led Into a dazzling cavern of romance, Crowded with Genii busy among works Not to be looked at by the common sun. The matter that detains us now may seem, To many, neither dignified enough Nor arduous, yet will not be scorned by them, 460 Who, looking inward, have observed the ties That bind the perishable hours of life Each to the other, and the curious props By which the world of memory and thought Exists and is sustained. More lofty themes, Such as at least do wear a prouder face, Solicit our regard; but when I think Of these, I feel the imaginative power Languish within me; even then it slept, When, pressed by tragic sufferings, the heart 470 Was more than full; amid my sobs and tears It slept, even in the pregnant season of youth. For though I was most passionately moved And yielded to all changes of the scene With an obsequious promptness, yet the storm Passed not beyond the suburbs of the mind; Save when realities of act and mien, The incarnation of the spirits that move In harmony amid the Poet's world, Rose to ideal grandeur, or, called forth 480 By power of contrast, made me recognise, As at a glance, the things which I had shaped, And yet not shaped, had seen and scarcely seen, When, having closed the mighty Shakspeare's page, I mused, and thought, and felt, in solitude. Pass we from entertainments, that are such Professedly, to others titled higher, Yet, in the estimate of youth at least, More near akin to those than names imply,-- I mean the brawls of lawyers in their courts 490 Before the ermined judge, or that great stage Where senators, tongue-favoured men, perform, Admired and envied. Oh! the beating heart, When one among the prime of these rose up,-- One, of whose name from childhood we had heard Familiarly, a household term, like those, The Bedfords, Glosters, Salsburys, of old, Whom the fifth Harry talks of. Silence! hush! This is no trifler, no short-flighted wit, No stammerer of a minute, painfully 500 Delivered, No! the Orator hath yoked The Hours, like young Aurora, to his car: Thrice welcome Presence! how can patience e'er Grow weary of attending on a track That kindles with such glory! All are charmed, Astonished; like a hero in romance, He winds away his never-ending horn; Words follow words, sense seems to follow sense: What memory and what logic! till the strain Transcendent, superhuman as it seemed, 510 Grows tedious even in a young man's ear. Genius of Burke! forgive the pen seduced By specious wonders, and too slow to tell Of what the ingenuous, what bewildered men, Beginning to mistrust their boastful guides, And wise men, willing to grow wiser, caught, Rapt auditors! from thy most eloquent tongue-- Now mute, for ever mute in the cold grave. I see him,--old, but vigorous in age,-- Stand like an oak whose stag-horn branches start 520 Out of its leafy brow, the more to awe The younger brethren of the grove. But some-- While he forewarns, denounces, launches forth, Against all systems built on abstract rights, Keen ridicule; the majesty proclaims Of Institutes and Laws, hallowed by time; Declares the vital power of social ties Endeared by Custom; and with high disdain, Exploding upstart Theory, insists Upon the allegiance to which men are born-- 530 Some--say at once a froward multitude-- Murmur (for truth is hated, where not loved) As the winds fret within the Aeolian cave, Galled by their monarch's chain. The times were big With ominous change, which, night by night, provoked Keen struggles, and black clouds of passion raised; But memorable moments intervened, When Wisdom, like the Goddess from Jove's brain, Broke forth in armour of resplendent words, Startling the Synod. Could a youth, and one 540 In ancient story versed, whose breast had heaved Under the weight of classic eloquence, Sit, see, and hear, unthankful, uninspired? Nor did the Pulpit's oratory fail To achieve its higher triumph. Not unfelt Were its admonishments, nor lightly heard The awful truths delivered thence by tongues Endowed with various power to search the soul; Yet ostentation, domineering, oft Poured forth harangues, how sadly out of place!-- 550 There have I seen a comely bachelor, Fresh from a toilette of two hours, ascend His rostrum, with seraphic glance look up, And, in a tone elaborately low Beginning, lead his voice through many a maze A minuet course; and, winding up his mouth, From time to time, into an orifice Most delicate, a lurking eyelet, small, And only not invisible, again Open it out, diffusing thence a smile 560 Of rapt irradiation, exquisite. Meanwhile the Evangelists, Isaiah, Job, Moses, and he who penned, the other day, The Death of Abel, Shakspeare, and the Bard Whose genius spangled o'er a gloomy theme With fancies thick as his inspiring stars, And Ossian (doubt not--'tis the naked truth) Summoned from streamy Morven--each and all Would, in their turns, lend ornaments and flowers To entwine the crook of eloquence that helped 570 This pretty Shepherd, pride of all the plains, To rule and guide his captivated flock. I glance but at a few conspicuous marks, Leaving a thousand others, that, in hall, Court, theatre, conventicle, or shop, In public room or private, park or street, Each fondly reared on his own pedestal, Looked out for admiration. Folly, vice, Extravagance in gesture, mien, and dress, And all the strife of singularity, 580 Lies to the ear, and lies to every sense-- Of these, and of the living shapes they wear, There is no end. Such candidates for regard, Although well pleased to be where they were found, I did not hunt after, nor greatly prize, Nor made unto myself a secret boast Of reading them with quick and curious eye; But, as a common produce, things that are To-day, to-morrow will be, took of them Such willing note, as, on some errand bound 590 That asks not speed, a traveller might bestow On sea-shells that bestrew the sandy beach, Or daisies swarming through the fields of June. But foolishness and madness in parade, Though most at home in this their dear domain, Are scattered everywhere, no rarities, Even to the rudest novice of the Schools. Me, rather, it employed, to note, and keep In memory, those individual sights Of courage, or integrity, or truth, 600 Or tenderness, which there, set off by foil, Appeared more touching. One will I select-- A Father--for he bore that sacred name;-- Him saw I, sitting in an open square, Upon a corner-stone of that low wall, Wherein were fixed the iron pales that fenced A spacious grass-plot; there, in silence, sate This One Man, with a sickly babe outstretched Upon his knee, whom he had thither brought For sunshine, and to breathe the fresher air. 610 Of those who passed, and me who looked at him, He took no heed; but in his brawny arms (The Artificer was to the elbow bare, And from his work this moment had been stolen) He held the child, and, bending over it, As if he were afraid both of the sun And of the air, which he had come to seek, Eyed the poor babe with love unutterable. As the black storm upon the mountain top Sets off the sunbeam in the valley, so 620 That huge fermenting mass of human-kind Serves as a solemn back-ground, or relief, To single forms and objects, whence they draw, For feeling and contemplative regard, More than inherent liveliness and power. How oft, amid those overflowing streets, Have I gone forward with the crowd, and said Unto myself, "The face of every one That passes by me is a mystery!" Thus have I looked, nor ceased to look, oppressed 630 By thoughts of what and whither, when and how, Until the shapes before my eyes became A second-sight procession, such as glides Over still mountains, or appears in dreams; And once, far-travelled in such mood, beyond The reach of common indication, lost Amid the moving pageant, I was smitten Abruptly, with the view (a sight not rare) Of a blind Beggar, who, with upright face, Stood, propped against a wall, upon his chest 640 Wearing a written paper, to explain His story, whence he came, and who he was. Caught by the spectacle my mind turned round As with the might of waters; and apt type This label seemed of the utmost we can know, Both of ourselves and of the universe; And, on the shape of that unmoving man, His steadfast face and sightless eyes, I gazed, As if admonished from another world. Though reared upon the base of outward things, 650 Structures like these the excited spirit mainly Builds for herself; scenes different there are, Full-formed, that take, with small internal help, Possession of the faculties,--the peace That comes with night; the deep solemnity Of nature's intermediate hours of rest, When the great tide of human life stands still: The business of the day to come, unborn, Of that gone by, locked up, as in the grave; The blended calmness of the heavens and earth, 660 Moonlight and stars, and empty streets, and sounds Unfrequent as in deserts; at late hours Of winter evenings, when unwholesome rains Are falling hard, with people yet astir, The feeble salutation from the voice Of some unhappy woman, now and then Heard as we pass, when no one looks about, Nothing is listened to. But these, I fear, Are falsely catalogued; things that are, are not, As the mind answers to them, or the heart 670 Is prompt, or slow, to feel. What say you, then, To times, when half the city shall break out Full of one passion, vengeance, rage, or fear? To executions, to a street on fire, Mobs, riots, or rejoicings? From these sights Take one,--that ancient festival, the Fair, Holden where martyrs suffered in past time, And named of St. Bartholomew; there, see A work completed to our hands, that lays, If any spectacle on earth can do, 680 The whole creative powers of man asleep!-- For once, the Muse's help will we implore, And she shall lodge us, wafted on her wings, Above the press and danger of the crowd, Upon some showman's platform. What a shock For eyes and ears! what anarchy and din, Barbarian and infernal,--a phantasma, Monstrous in colour, motion, shape, sight, sound! Below, the open space, through every nook Of the wide area, twinkles, is alive 690 With heads; the midway region, and above, Is thronged with staring pictures and huge scrolls, Dumb proclamations of the Prodigies; With chattering monkeys dangling from their poles, And children whirling in their roundabouts; With those that stretch the neck and strain the eyes, And crack the voice in rivalship, the crowd Inviting; with buffoons against buffoons Grimacing, writhing, screaming,--him who grinds The hurdy-gurdy, at the fiddle weaves, 700 Rattles the salt-box, thumps the kettle-drum, And him who at the trumpet puffs his cheeks, The silver-collared Negro with his timbrel, Equestrians, tumblers, women, girls, and boys, Blue-breeched, pink-vested, with high-towering plumes.-- All moveables of wonder, from all parts, Are here--Albinos, painted Indians, Dwarfs, The Horse of knowledge, and the learned Pig, The Stone-eater, the man that swallows fire, Giants, Ventriloquists, the Invisible Girl, 710 The Bust that speaks and moves its goggling eyes, The Wax-work, Clock-work, all the marvellous craft Of modern Merlins, Wild Beasts, Puppet-shows, All out-o'-the-way, far-fetched, perverted things, All freaks of nature, all Promethean thoughts Of man, his dulness, madness, and their feats All jumbled up together, to compose A Parliament of Monsters. Tents and Booths Meanwhile, as if the whole were one vast mill, Are vomiting, receiving on all sides, 720 Men, Women, three-years' Children, Babes in arms. Oh, blank confusion! true epitome Of what the mighty City is herself, To thousands upon thousands of her sons, Living amid the same perpetual whirl Of trivial objects, melted and reduced To one identity, by differences That have no law, no meaning, and no end-- Oppression, under which even highest minds Must labour, whence the strongest are not free. 730 But though the picture weary out the eye, By nature an unmanageable sight, It is not wholly so to him who looks In steadiness, who hath among least things An under-sense of greatest; sees the parts As parts, but with a feeling of the whole. This, of all acquisitions, first awaits On sundry and most widely different modes Of education, nor with least delight On that through which I passed. Attention springs, 740 And comprehensiveness and memory flow, From early converse with the works of God Among all regions; chiefly where appear Most obviously simplicity and power. Think, how the everlasting streams and woods, Stretched and still stretching far and wide, exalt The roving Indian, on his desert sands: What grandeur not unfelt, what pregnant show Of beauty, meets the sun-burnt Arab's eye: And, as the sea propels, from zone to zone, 750 Its currents; magnifies its shoals of life Beyond all compass; spreads, and sends aloft Armies of clouds,--even so, its powers and aspects Shape for mankind, by principles as fixed, The views and aspirations of the soul To majesty. Like virtue have the forms Perennial of the ancient hills; nor less The changeful language of their countenances Quickens the slumbering mind, and aids the thoughts, However multitudinous, to move 760 With order and relation. This, if still, As hitherto, in freedom I may speak, Not violating any just restraint, As may be hoped, of real modesty,-- This did I feel, in London's vast domain. The Spirit of Nature was upon me there; The soul of Beauty and enduring Life Vouchsafed her inspiration, and diffused, Through meagre lines and colours, and the press Of self-destroying, transitory things, 770 Composure, and ennobling Harmony. 


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