William Wordsworth

Here you will find the Long Poem The Prelude, Book 1: Childhood and School-time of poet William Wordsworth

The Prelude, Book 1: Childhood and School-time

--Was it for this 
 That one, the fairest of all Rivers, lov'd
 To blend his murmurs with my Nurse's song,
 And from his alder shades and rocky falls,
 And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
 That flow'd along my dreams? For this, didst Thou,
 O Derwent! travelling over the green Plains
 Near my 'sweet Birthplace', didst thou, beauteous Stream
 Make ceaseless music through the night and day
 Which with its steady cadence, tempering
 Our human waywardness, compos'd my thoughts
 To more than infant softness, giving me,
 Among the fretful dwellings of mankind,
 A knowledge, a dim earnest, of the calm
 That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.
 When, having left his Mountains, to the Towers
 Of Cockermouth that beauteous River came,
 Behind my Father's House he pass'd, close by,
 Along the margin of our Terrace Walk.
 He was a Playmate whom we dearly lov'd.
 Oh! many a time have I, a five years' Child,
 A naked Boy, in one delightful Rill,
 A little Mill-race sever'd from his stream,
 Made one long bathing of a summer's day,
 Bask'd in the sun, and plunged, and bask'd again
 Alternate all a summer's day, or cours'd
 Over the sandy fields, leaping through groves
 Of yellow grunsel, or when crag and hill,
 The woods, and distant Skiddaw's lofty height,
 Were bronz'd with a deep radiance, stood alone
 Beneath the sky, as if I had been born
 On Indian Plains, and from my Mother's hut
 Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport,
 A naked Savage, in the thunder shower.

 Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
 Foster'd alike by beauty and by fear;
 Much favour'd in my birthplace, and no less
 In that beloved Vale to which, erelong,
 I was transplanted. Well I call to mind
 ('Twas at an early age, ere I had seen
 Nine summers) when upon the mountain slope
 The frost and breath of frosty wind had snapp'd
 The last autumnal crocus, 'twas my joy
 To wander half the night among the Cliffs
 And the smooth Hollows, where the woodcocks ran
 Along the open turf. In thought and wish
 That time, my shoulder all with springes hung,
 I was a fell destroyer. On the heights
 Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
 My anxious visitation, hurrying on,
 Still hurrying, hurrying onward; moon and stars
 Were shining o'er my head; I was alone,
 And seem'd to be a trouble to the peace
 That was among them. Sometimes it befel
 In these night-wanderings, that a strong desire
 O'erpower'd my better reason, and the bird
 Which was the captive of another's toils
 Became my prey; and, when the deed was done
 I heard among the solitary hills
 Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
 Of undistinguishable motion, steps
 Almost as silent as the turf they trod.
 Nor less in springtime when on southern banks
 The shining sun had from his knot of leaves
 Decoy'd the primrose flower, and when the Vales
 And woods were warm, was I a plunderer then
 In the high places, on the lonesome peaks
 Where'er, among the mountains and the winds,
 The Mother Bird had built her lodge. Though mean
 My object, and inglorious, yet the end
 Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung
 Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
 And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
 But ill sustain'd, and almost, as it seem'd,
 Suspended by the blast which blew amain,
 Shouldering the naked crag; Oh! at that time,
 While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
 With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
 Blow through my ears! the sky seem'd not a sky
 Of earth, and with what motion mov'd the clouds!

 The mind of Man is fram'd even like the breath
 And harmony of music. There is a dark
 Invisible workmanship that reconciles
 Discordant elements, and makes them move
 In one society. Ah me! that all
 The terrors, all the early miseries
 Regrets, vexations, lassitudes, that all
 The thoughts and feelings which have been infus'd
 Into my mind, should ever have made up
 The calm existence that is mine when I
 Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!
 Thanks likewise for the means! But I believe
 That Nature, oftentimes, when she would frame
 A favor'd Being, from his earliest dawn
 Of infancy doth open out the clouds,
 As at the touch of lightning, seeking him
 With gentlest visitation; not the less,
 Though haply aiming at the self-same end,
 Does it delight her sometimes to employ
 Severer interventions, ministry
 More palpable, and so she dealt with me.

 One evening (surely I was led by her)
 I went alone into a Shepherd's Boat,
 A Skiff that to a Willow tree was tied
 Within a rocky Cave, its usual home.
 'Twas by the shores of Patterdale, a Vale
 Wherein I was a Stranger, thither come
 A School-boy Traveller, at the Holidays.