Selected Poetry of William Wordsworthby William Wordsworth, Mark Van Doren, David Bromwich
Selected Poetry of William Wordsworth represents Wordsworth’s prolific output, from the poems first published in Lyrical Ballads in 1798 that changed the face of English poetry to the late “Yarrow Revisited.” Wordsworth’s poetry is celebrated for its deep feeling, its use of ordinary speech, the love of nature it expresses, and its representation of commonplace things and events. As Matthew Arnold notes, “[Wordsworth’s poetry] is great because of the extraordinary power with which [he] feels the joy offered to us in nature, the joy offered to us in the simple elementary affections and duties.”
Read an Excerpt
An Evening Walk addressed to a young lady General Sketch of the Lakes — Author’s regret of his youth which was passed amongst them —Short description of Noon — Cascade — Noontide Retreat — Precipice and sloping Lights — Face of Nature as the Sun declines — Mountain-farm, and the Cock — Slate-quarry — Sunset — Superstition of the Country connected with that moment — Swans — Female Beggar — Twilight-sounds — Western Lights — Spirits — Night — Moonlight — Hope — Night-sounds — Conclusion.
Far from my dearest Friend, ’tis mine to rove
Through bare grey dell, high wood, and pastoral cove;
Where Derwent rests, and listens to the roar
That stuns the tremulous cliffs of high Lodore;
Where peace to Grasmere’s lonely island leads,
To willowy hedge-rows, and to emerald meads;
Leads to her bridge, rude church, and cottaged grounds,
Her rocky sheepwalks, and her woodland bounds;
Where, undisturbed by winds, Winander sleeps
’Mid clustering isles, and holly-sprinkled steeps;
Where twilight glens endear my Esthwaite’s shore,
And memory of departed pleasures, more.
Fair scenes, erewhile, I taught, a happy child,
The echoes of your rocks my carols wild:
The spirit sought not then, in cherished sadness,
A cloudy substitute for failing gladness.
In youth’s keen eye the livelong day was bright,
The sun at morning, and the stars at night,
Alike, when first the bittern’s hollow bill
Was heard, or woodcocks roamed the moonlight hill.
In thoughtless gaiety I coursed the plain,
And hope itself was all I knew of pain;
For then, the inexperienced heart would beat
At times, while young Content forsook her seat,
And wild Impatience, pointing upward, showed,
Through passes yet unreached, a brighter road,
Alas! the idle tale of man is found
Depicted in the dial’s moral round;
Hope with reflection blends her social rays
To gild the total tablet of his days;
Yet still, the sport of some malignant power,
He knows but from its shade the present hour.
But why, ungrateful, dwell on idle pain?
To show what pleasures yet to me remain,
Say, will my Friend, with unreluctant ear,
The history of a poet’s evening hear?
When, in the south, the wan noon, brooding still,
Breathed a pale steam around the glaring hill,
And shades of deep-embattled clouds were seen,
Spotting the northern cliffs with lights between;
When crowding cattle, checked by rails that make
A fence far stretched into the shallow lake,
Lashed the cool water with their restless tails,
Or from high points of rock looked out for fanning gales:
When school-boys stretched their length upon the green;
And round the broad-spread oak, a glimmering scene,
In the rough fern-clad park, the herded deer
Shook the still-twinkling tail and glancing ear;
When horses in the sunburnt intake stood,
And vainly eyed below the tempting flood,
Or tracked the passenger, in mute distress,
With forward neck the closing gate to press—
Then, while I wandered where the huddling rill
Brightens with water-breaks the hollow ghyll
As by enchantment, an obscure retreat
Opened at once, and stayed my devious feet.
While thick above the rill the branches close,
In rocky basin its wild waves repose,
Inverted shrubs, and moss of gloomy green,
Cling from the rocks, with pale wood-weeds between;
Meet the Author
Mark Van Doren (1894–1973) was an American Pulitzer Prize–winning poet and critic who taught English at Columbia University for nearly thirty years.
David Bromwich is a professor of English at Yale Univer-sity and the author of numerous books, including Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s.
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One major element of the greatness of Wordsworth is his meditation on the visionary gleam of youth lost, and its replacement by a quieter calmer more sober love of nature and humanity. His simplicity of language and his inherent dignity continually invoke the sublime. He too writes lines so classically beautiful that one thinks naturally that G-d wrote some of these lines and simply made Wordworth his agent in writing them down. But in any case in all cases this is an outstanding collection of one of the finest of all English poets.