Favorite Poems

Favorite Poems

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by William Wordsworth

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Widely considered the greatest and most influential of the English Romantic poets, William Wordsworth (1770–1850) remains today among the most admired and studied of all English writers. He is best remembered for the poems he wrote between 1798 and 1806, the period most fully represented in this selection of 39 of his most highly regarded works. Among them are


Widely considered the greatest and most influential of the English Romantic poets, William Wordsworth (1770–1850) remains today among the most admired and studied of all English writers. He is best remembered for the poems he wrote between 1798 and 1806, the period most fully represented in this selection of 39 of his most highly regarded works. Among them are poems from the revolutionary Lyrical Ballads of 1798, including the well-known "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abby"; the famous "Lucy" series of 1799; the political and social commentaries of 1802; the moving "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"; and the great "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" — all reprinted from an authoritative edition.

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Favorite Poems


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Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.
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ISBN: 978-0-486-27073-9


    Hymn to the Night


    I heard the trailing garments of the Night
    Sweep through her marble halls!
    I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
    From the celestial walls!

    I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
    Stoop o'er me from above;
    The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
    As of the one I love.

    I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
    The manifold, soft chimes,
    That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,
    Like some old poet's rhymes.

    From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
    My spirit drank repose;
    The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,—
    From those deep cisterns flows.

    O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
    What man has borne before!
    Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care,
    And they complain no more.

    Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
    Descend with broad-winged flight,
    The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
    The best-beloved Night!

    A Psalm of Life


    Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
    Life is but an empty dream!—
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
    And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real! Life is earnest!
    And the grave is not its goal;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
    Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
    Is our destined end or way;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
    Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
    And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
    Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world's broad field of battle,
    In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
    Be a hero in the strife!

    Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
    Let the dead Past bury its dead!
    Act,—act in the living Present!
    Heart within, and God o'erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
    Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
    Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
    Learn to labor and to wait.

    The Reaper and the Flowers

    There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
    And, with his sickle keen,
    He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
    And the flowers that grow between.

    "Shall I have naught that is fair?" saith he;
    "Have naught but the bearded grain?
    Though the breath of these flowers is sweet to me,
    I will give them all back again."

    He gazed at the flowers with tearful eyes,
    He kissed their drooping leaves;
    It was for the Lord of Paradise
    He bound them in his sheaves.

    "My Lord has need of these flowerets gay,"
    The Reaper said, and smiled;
    "Dear tokens of the earth are they,
    Where He was once a child.

    "They shall all bloom in fields of light,
    Transplanted by my care,
    And saints, upon their garments white,
    These sacred blossoms wear."

    And the mother gave, in tears and pain,
    The flowers she most did love;
    She knew she should find them all again
    In the fields of light above.

    Oh, not in cruelty, not in wrath,
    The Reaper came that day;
    'T was an angel visited the green earth,
    And took the flowers away.

    The Light of Stars

    The night is come, but not too soon;
    And sinking silently,
    All silently, the little moon
    Drops down behind the sky.

    There is no light in earth or heaven
    But the cold light of stars;
    And the first watch of night is given
    To the red planet Mars.

    Is it the tender star of love?
    The star of love and dreams?
    Oh no! from that blue tent above
    A hero's armor gleams.

    And earnest thoughts within me rise,
    When I behold afar,
    Suspended in the evening skies,
    The shield of that red star.

    O star of strength! I see thee stand
    And smile upon my pain;
    Thou beckonest with thy mailed hand,
    And I am strong again.

    Within my breast there is no light
    But the cold light of stars;
    I give the first watch of the night
    To the red planet Mars.

    The star of the unconquered will,
    He rises in my breast,
    Serene, and resolute, and still,
    And calm, and self-possessed.

    And thou, too, whosoe'er thou art,
    That readest this brief psalm,
    As one by one thy hopes depart,
    Be resolute and calm.

    Oh, fear not in a world like this,
    And thou shalt know erelong,
    Know how sublime a thing it is
    To suffer and be strong.

    The Wreck of the Hesperus

    It was the schooner Hesperus,
    That sailed the wintry sea;
    And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
    To bear him company.

    Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
    Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
    And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
    That ope in the month of May.

    The skipper he stood beside the helm,
    His pipe was in his mouth,
    And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
    The smoke now West, now South.

    Then up and spake an old Sailòr,
    Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
    "I pray thee, put into yonder port,
    For I fear a hurricane.

    "Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
    And to-night no moon we see!"
    The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
    And a scornful laugh laughed he.

    Colder and louder blew the wind,
    A gale from the Northeast,
    The snow fell hissing in the brine,
    And the billows frothed like yeast.

    Down came the storm, and smote amain
    The vessel in its strength;
    She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
    Then leaped her cables length.

    "Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
    And do not tremble so;
    For I can weather the roughest gale
    That ever wind did blow."

    He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
    Against the stinging blast;
    He cut a rope from a broken spar,
    And bound her to the mast.

    "O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
    Oh say, what may it be?"
    "'T is a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!"—
    And he steered for the open sea.

    "O father! I hear the sound of guns,
    Oh say, what may it be?"
    "Some ship in distress, that cannot live
    In such an angry sea!"

    "O father! I see a gleaming light,
    Oh say, what may it be?"
    But the father answered never a word,
    A frozen corpse was he.

    Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
    With his face turned to the skies,
    The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
    On his fixed and glassy eyes.

    Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
    That saved she might be;
    And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
    On the Lake of Galilee.

    And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
    Through the whistling sleet and snow,
    Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
    Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

    And ever the fitful gusts between
    A sound came from the land;
    It was the sound of the trampling surf
    On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

    The breakers were right beneath her bows,
    She drifted a dreary wreck,
    And a whooping billow swept the crew
    Like icicles from her deck.

    She struck where the white and fleecy waves
    Looked soft as carded wool,
    But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
    Like the horns of an angry bull.

    Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
    With the masts went by the board;
    Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
    Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

    At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
    A fisherman stood aghast,
    To see the form of a maiden fair,
    Lashed close to a drifting mast.

    The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
    The salt tears in her eyes;
    And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
    On the billows fall and rise.

    Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
    In the midnight and the snow!
    Christ save us all from a death like this,
    On the reef of Normans Woe!

    The Village Blacksmith

    Under a spreading chestnut-tree
    The village smithy stands;
    The smith, a mighty man is he,
    With large and sinewy hands;
    And the muscles of his brawny arms
    Are strong as iron bands.

    His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
    His face is like the tan;
    His brow is wet with honest sweat,
    He earns whate'er he can,
    And looks the whole world in the face,
    For he owes not any man.

    Week in, week out, from morn till night,
    You can hear his bellows blow;
    You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
    With measured beat and slow,
    Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
    When the evening sun is low.

    And children coming home from school
    Look in at the open door;
    They love to see the flaming forge,
    And hear the bellows roar,
    And catch the burning sparks that fly
    Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

    He goes on Sunday to the church,
    And sits among his boys;
    He hears the parson pray and preach,
    He hears his daughters voice,
    Singing in the village choir,
    And it makes his heart rejoice.

    It sounds to him like her mothers voice,
    Singing in Paradise!
    He needs must think of her once more,
    How in the grave she lies;
    And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
    A tear out of his eyes.

    Onward through life he goes;
    Each morning sees some task begin,
    Each evening sees it close;
    Something attempted, something done,
    Has earned a night's repose.

    Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
    For the lesson thou hast taught!
    Thus at the flaming forge of life
    Our fortunes must be wrought;
    Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
    Each burning deed and thought.

    The Rainy Day

    The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
    It rains, and the wind is never weary;
    The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
    But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
    And the day is dark and dreary.

    My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
    It rains, and the wind is never weary;
    My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
    But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
    And the days are dark and dreary.

    Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
    Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
    Thy fate is the common fate of all,
    Into each life some rain must fall,
    Some days must be dark and dreary.


    The shades of night were falling fast,
    As through an Alpine village passed
    A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
    A banner with the strange device,

    His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
    Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
    And like a silver clarion rung
    The accents of that unknown tongue,

    In happy homes he saw the light
    Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
    Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
    And from his lips escaped a groan,

    "Try not the Pass!" the old man said;
    "Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
    The roaring torrent is deep and wide!"
    And loud that clarion voice replied,

    "Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest
    Thy weary head upon this breast!"
    A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
    But still he answered, with a sigh,

    "Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
    Beware the awful avalanche!"
    This was the peasants last Good-night,
    A voice replied, far up the height,

    At break of day, as heavenward
    The pious monks of Saint Bernard
    Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
    A voice cried through the startled air,

    A traveller, by the faithful hound,
    Half-buried in the snow was found,
    Still grasping in his hand of ice
    That banner with the strange device,

    There in the twilight cold and gray,
    Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
    And from the sky, serene and far,
    A voice fell, like a falling star,

    The Slave's Dream

    Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
    His sickle in his hand;
    His breast was bare, his matted hair
    Was buried in the sand.
    Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
    He saw his Native Land.

    Wide through the landscape of his dreams
    The lordly Niger flowed;
    Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
    Once more a king he strode;
    And heard the tinkling caravans
    Descend the mountain road.

    He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
    Among her children stand;
    They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,
    They held him by the hand!—
    A tear burst from the sleepers lids
    And fell into the sand.

    And then at furious speed he rode
    Along the Niger's bank;
    His bridle-reins were golden chains,
    And, with a martial clank,
    At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
    Smiting his stallion's flank.

    Before him, like a blood-red flag,
    The bright flamingoes flew;
    From morn till night he followed their flight,
    O'er plains where the tamarind grew,
    Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
    And the ocean rose to view.

    At night he heard the lion roar,
    And the hyena scream,
    And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds
    Beside some hidden stream;
    And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums,
    Through the triumph of his dream.

    The forests, with their myriad tongues,
    Shouted of liberty;
    And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
    With a voice so wild and free,
    That he started in his sleep and smiled
    At their tempestuous glee.

    He did not feel the drivers whip,
    Nor the burning heat of day;
    For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,
    And his lifeless body lay
    A worn-out fetter, that the soul
    Had broken and thrown away!

    The Bridge

    I stood on the bridge at midnight,
    As the clocks were striking the hour,
    And the moon rose o'er the city,
    Behind the dark church-tower.

    I saw her bright reflection
    In the waters under me,
    Like a golden goblet falling
    And sinking into the sea.

    And far in the hazy distance
    Of that lovely night in June,
    The blaze of the flaming furnace
    Gleamed redder than the moon.

    Among the long, black rafters
    The wavering shadows lay,
    And the current that came from the ocean
    Seemed to lift and bear them away;

    As, sweeping and eddying through them,
    Rose the belated tide,
    And, streaming into the moonlight,
    The seaweed floated wide.

    And like those waters rushing
    Among the wooden piers,
    A flood of thoughts came o'er me
    That filled my eyes with tears.

    How often, oh how often,
    In the days that had gone by,
    I had stood on that bridge at midnight
    And gazed on that wave and sky!

    How often, oh how often,
    I had wished that the ebbing tide
    Would bear me away on its bosom
    O'er the ocean wild and wide!

    For my heart was hot and restless,
    And my life was full of care,
    And the burden laid upon me
    Seemed greater than I could bear.

    But now it has fallen from me,
    It is buried in the sea;
    And only the sorrow of others
    Throws its shadow over me.

    Yet whenever I cross the river
    On its bridge with wooden piers,
    Like the odor of brine from the ocean
    Comes the thought of other years.

    And I think how many thousands
    Of care-encumbered men,
    Each bearing his burden of sorrow,
    Have crossed the bridge since then.

    I see the long procession
    Still passing to and fro,
    The young heart hot and restless,
    And the old subdued and slow!

    And forever and forever,
    As long as the river flows,
    As long as the heart has passions,
    As long as life has woes;

    The moon and its broken reflection
    And its shadows shall appear,
    As the symbol of love in heaven,
    And its wavering image here.

    The Day Is Done

    The day is done, and the darkness
    Falls from the wings of Night,
    As a feather is wafted downward
    From an eagle in his flight.

    I see the lights of the village
    Gleam through the rain and the mist,
    And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
    That my soul cannot resist:

    A feeling of sadness and longing,
    That is not akin to pain,
    And resembles sorrow only
    As the mist resembles the rain.

    Come, read to me some poem,
    Some simple and heartfelt lay,
    That shall soothe this restless feeling,
    And banish the thoughts of day.

    Not from the grand old masters,
    Not from the bards sublime,
    Whose distant footsteps echo
    Through the corridors of Time.

    For, like strains of martial music,
    Their mighty thoughts suggest
    Life's endless toil and endeavor;
    And to-night I long for rest.

    Read from some humbler poet,
    Whose songs gushed from his heart,
    As showers from the clouds of summer,
    Or tears from the eyelids start;

    Who, through long days of labor,
    And nights devoid of ease,
    Still heard in his soul the music
    Of wonderful melodies.

    Such songs have power to quiet
    The restless pulse of care,
    And come like the benediction
    That follows after prayer.

    Then read from the treasured volume
    The poem of thy choice,
    And lend to the rhyme of the poet
    The beauty of thy voice.

    And the night shall be filled with music,
    And the cares, that infest the day,
    Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
    And as silently steal away.

    The Arrow and the Song

    I shot an arrow into the air,
    It fell to earth, I knew not where;
    For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
    Could not follow it in its flight.

    I breathed a song into the air,
    It fell to earth, I knew not where;
    For who has sight so keen and strong,
    That it can follow the flight of song?

    Long, long afterward, in an oak
    I found the arrow, still unbroke;
    And the song, from beginning to end,
    I found again in the heart of a friend.


Excerpted from Favorite Poems by HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW, STANLEY APPELBAUM. Copyright © 1992 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Favorite Poems 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Desert_Sage More than 1 year ago
I love this collection of Wordsworth's poetry because it contains my favorite of his poems--Ode: Intimations of Immortality. I've always enjoyed British Romantic Poets and Our Walt Whitman. Wordsworth writes about the beauty of the world we live in and our connection to God within this world. In a fast paced world, it is good to take a few moments either out of doors or at home reading his works and reconnecting our spirit to something greater than ourselves.