Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Fountain: A Conversation
By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
WE talked with open heart, and tongue
    Affectionate and true:
A pair of friends, though I was young,
    And Matthew seventy-two.
We lay beneath a spreading oak,        5
    Beside a mossy seat;
And from the turf a fountain broke
    And gurgled at our feet.
“Now, Matthew!” said I, “let us match
    This water’s pleasant tune        10
With some old border-song or catch
    That suits a summer’s noon;
“Or of the church clock and the chimes
    Sing here beneath the shade,
That half-mad thing of witty rhymes        15
    Which you last April made!”
In silence Matthew lay, and eyed
    The spring beneath the tree;
And thus the dear old man replied,—
    The gray-haired man of glee:—        20
“No check, no stay, this streamlet fears;
    How merrily it goes!
’Twill murmur on a thousand years,
    And flow as now it flows.
“And here, on this delightful day,        25
    I cannot choose but think
How oft, a vigorous man, I lay
    Beside this fountain’s brink.
“My eyes are dim with childish tears,
    My heart is idly stirred,        30
For the same sound is in my ears
    Which in those days I heard.
“Thus fares it still in our decay;
    And yet the wiser mind
Mourns less for what age takes away        35
    Than what it leaves behind.
“The blackbird amid leafy trees,
    The lark above the hill,
Let loose their carols when they please,
    Are quiet when they will.        40
“With Nature never do they wage
    A foolish strife; they see
A happy youth, and their old age
    Is beautiful and free:
“But we are pressed by heavy laws;        45
    And often, glad no more,
We wear a face of joy, because
    We have been glad of yore.
“If there be one who need bemoan
    His kindred laid in earth,        50
The household hearts that were his own,
    It is the man of mirth.
“My days, my friend, are almost gone,
    My life has been approved,
And many love me; but by none        55
    Am I enough beloved.”—
“Now both himself and me he wrongs,
    The man who thus complains:
I live and sing my idle songs
    Upon these happy plains;        60
“And, Matthew, for thy children dead
    I’ll be a son to thee!”
At this he grasped my hand, and said,
    “Alas! that cannot be.”
We rose up from the fountain-side;        65
    And down the smooth descent
Of the green sheep-track did we glide;
    And through the wood we went:
And ere we came to Leonard’s rock,
    He sang those witty rhymes        70
About the crazy old church clock,
    And the bewildered chimes.

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