William Wordsworth

Here you will find the Long Poem Michael: A Pastoral Poem of poet William Wordsworth

Michael: A Pastoral Poem

If from the public way you turn your steps 
Up the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll, 
You will suppose that with an upright path 
Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent 
The pastoral mountains front you, face to face. 
But, courage! for around that boisterous brook 
The mountains have all opened out themselves, 
And made a hidden valley of their own. 
No habitation can be seen; but they 
Who journey thither find themselves alone 
With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites 
That overhead are sailing in the sky. 
It is in truth an utter solitude; 
Nor should I have made mention of this Dell 
But for one object which you might pass by, 
Might see and notice not. Beside the brook 
Appears a straggling heap of unhewn stones! 
And to that simple object appertains 
A story--unenriched with strange events, 
Yet not unfit, I deem, for the fireside, 
Or for the summer shade. It was the first 
Of those domestic tales that spake to me 
Of shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men 
Whom I already loved; not verily 
For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills 
Where was their occupation and abode. 
And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy 
Careless of books, yet having felt the power 
Of Nature, by the gentle agency 
Of natural objects, led me on to feel 
For passions that were not my own, and think 
(At random and imperfectly indeed) 
On man, the heart of man, and human life. 
Therefore, although it be a history 
Homely and rude, I will relate the same 
For the delight of a few natural hearts; 
And, with yet fonder feeling, for the sake 
Of youthful Poets, who among these hills 
Will be my second self when I am gone. 
UPON the forest-side in Grasmere Vale 
There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name; 
An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb. 
His bodily frame had been from youth to age 
Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen, 
Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs, 
And in his shepherd's calling he was prompt 
And watchful more than ordinary men. 
Hence had he learned the meaning of all winds, 
Of blasts of every tone; and, oftentimes, 
When others heeded not, He heard the South 
Make subterraneous music, like the noise 
Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills. 
The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock 
Bethought him, and he to himself would say, 
"The winds are now devising work for me!" 
And, truly, at all times, the storm, that drives 
The traveller to a shelter, summoned him 
Up to the mountains: he had been alone 
Amid the heart of many thousand mists, 
That came to him, and left him, on the heights. 
So lived he till his eightieth year was past. 
And grossly that man errs, who should suppose 
That the green valleys, and the streams and rocks, 
Were things indifferent to the Shepherd's thoughts. 
Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed 
The common air; hills, which with vigorous step 
He had so often climbed; which had impressed 
So many incidents upon his mind 
Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear; 
Which, like a book, preserved the memory 
Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved, 
Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts 
The certainty of honourable gain; 
Those fields, those hills--what could they less? had laid 
Strong hold on his affections, were to him 
A pleasurable feeling of blind love, 
The pleasure which there is in life itself. 
His days had not been passed in singleness. 
His Helpmate was a comely matron, old-- 
Though younger than himself full twenty years. 
She was a woman of a stirring life, 
Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had 
Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool; 
That small, for flax; and if one wheel had rest 
It was because the other was at work. 
The Pair had but one inmate in their house, 
An only Child, who had been born to them 
When Michael, telling o'er his years, began 
To deem that he was old,--in shepherd's phrase, 
With one foot in the grave. This only Son, 
With two brave sheep-dogs tried in many a storm, 
The one of an inestimable worth, 
Made all their household. I may truly say, 
That they were as a proverb in the vale 
For endless industry. When day was gone 
And from their occupations out of doors 
The Son and Father were come home, even then, 
Their labour did not cease; unless when all 
Turned to the cleanly supper-board, and there, 
Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk, 0 
Sat round the basket piled with oaten cakes, 
And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when the meal 
Was ended, Luke (for so the Son was named) 
And his old Father both betook themselves 
To such convenient work as might employ 
Their hands by the fireside; perhaps to card 
Wool for the Housewife's spindle,