William Wordsworth

Here you will find the Long Poem The Old Cumberland Beggar of poet William Wordsworth

The Old Cumberland Beggar

. I saw an aged Beggar in my walk;
 And he was seated, by the highway side,
 On a low structure of rude masonry
 Built at the foot of a huge hill, that they
 Who lead their horses down the steep rough road
 May thence remount at ease. The aged Man
 Had placed his staff across the broad smooth stone
 That overlays the pile; and, from a bag
 All white with flour, the dole of village dames,
 He drew his scraps and fragments, one by one;
 And scanned them with a fixed and serious look
 Of idle computation. In the sun,
 Upon the second step of that small pile,
 Surrounded by those wild, unpeopled hills,
 He sat, and ate his food in solitude:
 And ever, scattered from his palsied hand,
 That, still attempting to prevent the waste,
 Was baffled still, the crumbs in little showers
 Fell on the ground; and the small mountain birds
 Not venturing yet to peck their destined meal,
Approached within the length of half his staff.
 Him from my childhood have I known; and then
 He was so old, he seems not older now;
 He travels on, a solitary Man,
 So helpless in appearance, that from him
 The sauntering Horseman throws not with a slack
 And careless hand his alms upon the ground,
 But stops,--that he may safely lodge the coin
 Within the old Man's hat; nor quits him so,
 But still, when he has given his horse the rein,
 Watches the aged Beggar with a look
 Sidelong, and half-reverted. She who tends
 The toll-gate, when in summer at her door
 She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees
 The aged Beggar coming, quits her work,
 And lifts the latch for him that he may pass.
 The post-boy, when his rattling wheels o'ertake
 The aged Beggar in the woody lane,
 Shouts to him from behind; and if, thus warned,
 The old Man does not change his course, the boy
 Turns with less noisy wheels to the roadside,
 And passes gently by, without a curse
 Upon his lips, or anger at his heart.
 He travels on, a solitary Man;
 His age has no companion. On the ground
 His eyes are turned, and, as he moves along,
 They move along the ground; and, evermore,
 Instead of common and habitual sight
 Of fields, with rural works, of hill and dale,
 And the blue sky, one little span of earth
 Is all his prospect. Thus, from day to day,
 Bow-bent, his eyes forever on the ground,
 He plies his weary journey; seeing still,
 And seldom knowing that he sees, some straw,
 Some scattered leaf, or marks which, in one track,
 The nails of cart or chariot-wheel have left
 Impressed on the white road,--in the same line,
 At distance still the same. Poor Traveller!
 His staff trails with him; scarcely do his feet
 Disturb the summer dust; he is so still
 In look and motion, that the cottage curs,
 Ere he has passed the door, will turn away,
 Weary of barking at him. Boys and girls,
 The vacant and the busy, maids and youths,
 And urchins newly breeched--all pass him by:
 Him even the slow-paced waggon leaves behind.
 But deem not this Man useless.--Statesmen! ye
 Who are so restless in your wisdom, ye
 Who have a broom still ready in your hands
 To rid the world of nuisances; ye proud,
 Heart-swoln, while in your pride ye contemplate
 Your talents, power, or wisdom, deem him not
 A burden of the earth! 'Tis Nature's law
 That none, the meanest of created things,
 Of forms created the most vile and brute,
 The dullest or most noxious, should exist
 Divorced from good--a spirit and pulse of good,
 A life and soul, to every mode of being
 Inseparably linked. Then be assured
 That least of all can aught--that ever owned
 The heaven-regarding eye and front sublime
 Which man is born to--sink, howe'er depressed,
 So low as to be scorned without a sin;
 Without offence to God cast out of view;
 Like the dry remnant of a garden-flower
 Whose seeds are shed, or as an implement
 Worn out and worthless. While from door to door,
 This old Man creeps, the villagers in him
 Behold a record which together binds
 Past deeds and offices of charity,
 Else unremembered, and so keeps alive
 The kindly mood in hearts which lapse of years,
 And that half-wisdom half-experience gives,
 Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign
 To selfishness and cold oblivious cares,
 Among the farms and solitary huts,
 Hamlets and thinly-scattered villages,
 Where'er the aged Beggar takes his rounds,
 The mild necessity of use compels
The acts of love; and habit does the work
Of reason; yet prepares that after-joy
Which reason cherishes. And thus the soul,
By that sweet taste of pleasure unpursued,
Doth find herself insensibly disposed
To virtue and true goodness.
 Some there are

By their good works exalted, lofty minds
And meditative, authors of delight
And happiness,