Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works



APRIL 1837

          YE Apennines! with all your fertile vales
          Deeply embosomed, and your winding shores
          Of either sea--an Islander by birth,
          A Mountaineer by habit, would resound
          Your praise, in meet accordance with your claims
          Bestowed by Nature, or from man's great deeds
          Inherited:--presumptuous thought!--it fled
          Like vapour, like a towering cloud, dissolved.
          Not, therefore, shall my mind give way to sadness;--
          Yon snow-white torrent-fall, plumb down it drops            10
          Yet ever hangs or seems to hang in air,
          Lulling the leisure of that high perched town,
          AQUAPENDENTE, in her lofty site
          Its neighbour and its namesake--town, and flood
          Forth flashing out of its own gloomy chasm
          Bright sunbeams--the fresh verdure of this lawn
          Strewn with grey rocks, and on the horizon's verge,
          O'er intervenient waste, through glimmering haze,
          Unquestionably kenned, that cone-shaped hill
          With fractured summit, no indifferent sight                 20
          To travellers, from such comforts as are thine,
          Bleak Radicofani! escaped with joy--
          These are before me; and the varied scene
          May well suffice, till noon-tide's sultry heat
          Relax, to fix and satisfy the mind
          Passive yet pleased. What! with this Broom in flower
          Close at my side! She bids me fly to greet
          Her sisters, soon like her to be attired
          With golden blossoms opening at the feet
          Of my own Fairfield. The glad greeting given,               30
          Given with a voice and by a look returned
          Of old companionship, Time counts not minutes
          Ere, from accustomed paths, familiar fields,
          The local Genius hurries me aloft,
          Transported over that cloud-wooing hill,
          Seat Sandal, a fond suitor of the clouds,
          With dream-like smoothness, to Helvellyn's top,
          There to alight upon crisp moss and range,
          Obtaining ampler boon, at every step,
          Of visual sovereignty--hills multitudinous,                 40
          (Not Apennine can boast of fairer) hills
          Pride of two nations, wood and lake and plains,
          And prospect right below of deep coves shaped
          By skeleton arms, that, from the mountain's trunk
          Extended, clasp the winds, with mutual moan
          Struggling for liberty, while undismayed
          The shepherd struggles with them. Onward thence
          And downward by the skirt of Greenside fell,
          And by Glenridding-screes, and low Glencoign,
          Places forsaken now, though loving still                    50
          The muses, as they loved them in the days
          Of the old minstrels and the border bards.--
          But here am I fast bound; and let it pass,
          The simple rapture;--who that travels far
          To feed his mind with watchful eyes could share
          Or wish to share it?--One there surely was,
          "The Wizard of the North," with anxious hope
          Brought to this genial climate, when disease
          Preyed upon body and mind--yet not the less
          Had his sunk eye kindled at those dear words                60
          That spake of bards and minstrels; and his spirit
          Had flown with mine to old Helvellyn's brow,
          Where once together, in his day of strength,
          We stood rejoicing, as if earth were free
          From sorrow, like the sky above our heads.
            Years followed years, and when, upon the eve
          Of his last going from Tweed-side, thought turned,
          Or by another's sympathy was led,
          To this bright land, Hope was for him no friend,
          Knowledge no help; Imagination shaped                       70
          No promise. Still, in more than ear-deep seats,
          Survives for me, and cannot but survive
          The tone of voice which wedded borrowed words
          To sadness not their own, when, with faint smile
          Forced by intent to take from speech its edge,
          He said, "When I am there, although 'tis fair,
          'Twill be another Yarrow." Prophecy
          More than fulfilled, as gay Campania's shores
          Soon witnessed, and the city of seven hills,
          Her sparkling fountains and her mouldering tombs;           80
          And more than all, that Eminence which showed
          Her splendours, seen, not felt, the while he stood
          A few short steps (painful they were) apart
          From Tasso's Convent-haven, and retired grave.
            Peace to their Spirits! why should Poesy
          Yield to the lure of vain regret, and hover
          In gloom on wings with confidence outspread
          To move in sunshine?--Utter thanks, my Soul!
          Tempered with awe, and sweetened by compassion
          For them who in the shades of sorrow dwell,                 90
          That I--so near the term to human life
          Appointed by man's common heritage,
          Frail as the frailest, one withal (if that
          Deserve a thought) but little known to fame--
          Am free to rove where Nature's loveliest looks,
          Art's noblest relics, history's rich bequests,
          Failed to reanimate and but feebly cheered
          The whole world's Darling--free to rove at will
          O'er high and low, and if requiring rest,
          Rest from enjoyment only.
                                     Thanks poured forth             100
          For what thus far hath blessed my wanderings, thanks
          Fervent but humble as the lips can breathe
          Where gladness seems a duty--let me guard
          Those seeds of expectation which the fruit
          Already gathered in this favoured Land
          Enfolds within its core. The faith be mine,
          That He who guides and governs all, approves
          When gratitude, though disciplined to look
          Beyond these transient spheres, doth wear a crown
          Of earthly hope put on with trembling hand;                110
          Nor is least pleased, we trust, when golden beams,
          Reflected through the mists of age, from hours
          Of innocent delight, remote or recent,
          Shoot but a little way--'tis all they can--
          Into the doubtful future. Who would keep
          Power must resolve to cleave to it through life,
          Else it deserts him, surely as he lives.
          Saints would not grieve nor guardian angels frown
          If one--while tossed, as was my lot to be,
          In a frail bark urged by two slender oars                  120
          Over waves rough and deep, that, when they broke,
          Dashed their white foam against the palace walls
          Of Genoa the superb--should there be led
          To meditate upon his own appointed tasks,
          However humble in themselves, with thoughts
          Raised and sustained by memory of Him
          Who oftentimes within those narrow bounds
          Rocked on the surge, there tried his spirit's strength
          And grasp of purpose, long ere sailed his ship
          To lay a new world open.
                                    Nor less prized                  130
          Be those impressions which incline the heart
          To mild, to lowly, and to seeming weak,
          Bend that way her desires. The dew, the storm--
          The dew whose moisture fell in gentle drops
          On the small hyssop destined to become,
          By Hebrew ordinance devoutly kept,
          A purifying instrument--the storm
          That shook on Lebanon the cedar's top,
          And as it shook, enabling the blind roots
          Further to force their way, endowed its trunk              140
          With magnitude and strength fit to uphold
          The glorious temple--did alike proceed
          From the same gracious will, were both an offspring
          Of bounty infinite.
                               Between Powers that aim
          Higher to lift their lofty heads, impelled
          By no profane ambition, Powers that thrive
          By conflict, and their opposites, that trust
          In lowliness--a midway tract there lies
          Of thoughtful sentiment for every mind
          Pregnant with good. Young, Middle-aged, and Old,           150
          From century on to century, must have known
          The emotion--nay, more fitly were it said--
          The blest tranquillity that sunk so deep
          Into my spirit, when I paced, enclosed
          In Pisa's Campo Santo, the smooth floor
          Of its Arcades paved with sepulchral slabs,
          And through each window's open fretwork looked
          O'er the blank Area of sacred earth
          Fetched from Mount Calvary, or haply delved
          In precincts nearer to the Saviour's tomb,                 160
          By hands of men, humble as brave, who fought
          For its deliverance--a capacious field
          That to descendants of the dead it holds
          And to all living mute memento breathes,
          More touching far than ought which on the walls
          Is pictured, or their epitaphs can speak,
          Of the changed City's long-departed power,
          Glory, and wealth, which, perilous as they are,
          Here did not kill, but nourished, Piety.
          And, high above that length of cloistral roof,             170
          Peering in air and backed by azure sky,
          To kindred contemplations ministers
          The Baptistery's dome, and that which swells
          From the Cathedral pile; and with the twain
          Conjoined in prospect mutable or fixed
          (As hurry on in eagerness the feet,
          Or pause) the summit of the Leaning-tower.
          Nor less remuneration waits on him
          Who having left the Cemetery stands
          In the Tower's shadow, of decline and fall                 180
          Admonished not without some sense of fear,
          Fear that soon vanishes before the sight
          Of splendour unextinguished, pomp unscathed,
          And beauty unimpaired. Grand in itself,
          And for itself, the assemblage, grand and fair
          To view, and for the mind's consenting eye
          A type of age in man, upon its front
          Bearing the world-acknowledged evidence
          Of past exploits, nor fondly after more
          Struggling against the stream of destiny,                  190
          But with its peaceful majesty content.
          --Oh what a spectacle at every turn
          The Place unfolds, from pavement skinned with moss
          Or grass-grown spaces, where the heaviest foot
          Provokes no echoes, but must softly tread;
          Where Solitude with Silence paired stops short
          Of Desolation, and to Ruin's scythe
          Decay submits not.
                              But where'er my steps
          Shall wander, chiefly let me cull with care
          Those images of genial beauty, oft                         200
          Too lovely to be pensive in themselves
          But by reflection made so, which do best
          And fitliest serve to crown with fragrant wreaths
          Life's cup when almost filled with years, like mine
          --How lovely robed in forenoon light and shade,
          Each ministering to each, didst thou appear
          Savona, Queen of territory fair
          As aught that marvellous coast thro' all its length
          Yields to the Stranger's eye. Remembrance holds
          As a selected treasure thy one cliff,                      210
          That, while it wore for melancholy crest
          A shattered Convent, yet rose proud to have
          Clinging to its steep sides a thousand herbs
          And shrubs, whose pleasant looks gave proof how kind
          The breath of air can be where earth had else
          Seemed churlish. And behold, both far and near,
          Garden and field all decked with orange bloom,
          And peach and citron, in Spring's mildest breeze
          Expanding; and, along the smooth shore curved
          Into a natural port, a tideless sea,                       220
          To that mild breeze with motion and with voice
          Softly responsive; and, attuned to all
          Those vernal charms of sight and sound, appeared
          Smooth space of turf which from the guardian fort
          Sloped seaward, turf whose tender April green,
          In coolest climes too fugitive, might even here
          Plead with the sovereign Sun for longer stay
          Than his unmitigated beams allow,
          Nor plead in vain, if beauty could preserve,
          From mortal change, aught that is born on earth            230
          Or doth on time depend.
                                   While on the brink
          Of that high Convent-crested cliff I stood,
          Modest Savona! over all did brood
          A pure poetic Spirit--as the breeze,
          Mild--as the verdure, fresh--the sunshine, bright--
          Thy gentle Chiabrera!--not a stone,
          Mural or level with the trodden floor,
          In Church or Chapel, if my curious quest
          Missed not the truth, retains a single name
          Of young or old, warrior, or saint, or sage,               240
          To whose dear memories his sepulchral verse
          Paid simple tribute, such as might have flowed
          From the clear spring of a plain English heart,
          Say rather, one in native fellowship
          With all who want not skill to couple grief
          With praise, as genuine admiration prompts.
          The grief, the praise, are severed from their dust,
          Yet in his page the records of that worth
          Survive, uninjured;--glory then to words,
          Honour to word-preserving Arts, and hail                   250
          Ye kindred local influences that still,
          If Hope's familiar whispers merit faith,
          Await my steps when they the breezy height
          Shall range of philosophic Tusculum;
          Or Sabine vales explored inspire a wish
          To meet the shade of Horace by the side
          Of his Bandusian fount; or I invoke
          His presence to point out the spot where once
          He sate, and eulogized with earnest pen
          Peace, leisure, freedom, moderate desires;                 260
          And all the immunities of rural life
          Extolled, behind Vacuna's crumbling fane.
          Or let me loiter, soothed with what is given
          Nor asking more, on that delicious Bay,
          Parthenope's Domain--Virgilian haunt,
          Illustrated with never-dying verse,
          And, by the Poet's laurel-shaded tomb,
          Age after age to Pilgrims from all lands
                     And who--if not a man as cold
          In heart as dull in brain--while pacing ground             270
          Chosen by Rome's legendary Bards, high minds
          Out of her early struggles well inspired
          To localize heroic acts--could look
          Upon the spots with undelighted eye,
          Though even to their last syllable the Lays
          And very names of those who gave them birth
          Have perished?--Verily, to her utmost depth,
          Imagination feels what Reason fears not
          To recognize, the lasting virtue lodged
          In those bold fictions that, by deeds assigned             280
          To the Valerian, Fabian, Curian Race,
          And others like in fame, created Powers
          With attributes from History derived,
          By Poesy irradiate, and yet graced,
          Through marvellous felicity of skill,
          With something more propitious to high aims
          Than either, pent within her separate sphere,
          Can oft with justice claim.
                                       And not disdaining
          Union with those primeval energies
          To virtue consecrate, stoop ye from your height            290
          Christian Traditions! at my Spirit's call
          Descend, and, on the brow of ancient Rome
          As she survives in ruin manifest
          Your glories mingled with the brightest hues
          Of her memorial halo, fading, fading,
          But never to be extinct while Earth endures.
          O come, if undishonoured by the prayer,
          From all her Sanctuaries!--Open for my feet
          Ye Catacombs, give to mine eyes a glimpse
          Of the Devout, as, 'mid your glooms convened               300
          For safety, they of yore enclasped the Cross
          On knees that ceased from trembling, or intoned
          Their orisons with voices half-suppressed,
          But sometimes heard, or fancied to be heard,
          Even at this hour.
                              And thou Mamertine prison,
          Into that vault receive me from whose depth
          Issues, revealed in no presumptuous vision,
          Albeit lifting human to divine,
          A Saint, the Church's Rock, the mystic Keys
          Grasped in his hand; and lo! with upright sword            310
          Prefiguring his own impendent doom,
          The Apostle of the Gentiles; both prepared
          To suffer pains with heathen scorn and hate
          Inflicted;--blessed Men, for so to Heaven
          They follow their dear Lord!
                                        Time flows--nor winds,
          Nor stagnates, nor precipitates his course,
          But many a benefit borne upon his breast
          For human-kind sinks out of sight, is gone,
          No one knows how; nor seldom is put forth
          An angry arm that snatches good away,                      320
          Never perhaps to reappear. The Stream
          Has to our generation brought and brings
          Innumerable gains; yet we, who now
          Walk in the light of day, pertain full surely
          To a chilled age, most pitiably shut out
          From that which 'is' and actuates, by forms,
          Abstractions, and by lifeless fact to fact
          Minutely linked with diligence uninspired,
          Unrectified, unguided, unsustained,
          By godlike insight. To this fate is doomed                 330
          Science, wide-spread and spreading still as be
          Her conquests, in the world of sense made known,
          So with the internal mind it fares; and so
          With morals, trusting, in contempt or fear
          Of vital principle's controlling law,
          To her purblind guide Expediency; and so
          Suffers religious faith. Elate with view
          Of what is won, we overlook or scorn
          The best that should keep pace with it, and must,
          Else more and more the general mind will droop,            340
          Even as if bent on perishing. There lives
          No faculty within us which the Soul
          Can spare, and humblest earthly Weal demands,
          For dignity not placed beyond her reach,
          Zealous co-operation of all means
          Given or acquired, to raise us from the mire,
          And liberate our hearts from low pursuits.
          By gross Utilities enslaved, we need
          More of ennobling impulse from the past,
          If to the future aught of good must come                   350
          Sounder and therefore holier than the ends
          Which, in the giddiness of self-applause,
          We covet as supreme. O grant the crown
          That Wisdom wears, or take his treacherous staff
          From Knowledge!--If the Muse, whom I have served
          This day, be mistress of a single pearl
          Fit to be placed in that pure diadem;
          Then, not in vain, under these chestnut boughs
          Reclined, shall I have yielded up my soul
          To transports from the secondary founts                    360
          Flowing of time and place, and paid to both
          Due homage; nor shall fruitlessly have striven,
          By love of beauty moved, to enshrine in verse
          Accordant meditations, which in times
          Vexed and disordered, as our own, may shed
          Influence, at least among a scattered few,
          To soberness of mind and peace of heart
          Friendly; as here to my repose hath been
          This flowering broom's dear neighbourhood, the light
          And murmur issuing from yon pendent flood,                 370
          And all the varied landscape. Let us now
          Rise, and to-morrow greet magnificent Rome.



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