William Wordsworth

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The eye— it cannot choose but see;
we cannot bid the ear be still;
our bodies feel, where'er they be,
against or with our will.

William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770April 23, 1850) was a major English poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, launched the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 publication of Lyrical Ballads.

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  • Oh, be wiser thou!
    Instructed that true knowledge leads to love.
    • Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
    And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.
    • Guilt and Sorrow, st. 41 (1791-1794)
  • There's something in a flying horse,
    There's something in a huge balloon;
    But through the clouds I'll never float
    Until I have a little Boat,
    Shaped like the crescent-moon.
    • Peter Bell, Prologue, st. 1 (1798)
  • A primrose by a river's brim
    A yellow primrose was to him,
    And it was nothing more.
    • Peter Bell, Pt. I, st. 12 (1798)
  • I traveled among unknown men,
    In lands beyond the sea;
    Nor, England! did I know till then
    What love I bore to thee.
    • I Traveled Among Unknown Men, st. 1 (1799)
  • Much converse do I find in thee,
    Historian of my infancy!
    Float near me; do not yet depart!
    Dead times revive in thee:
    Thou bring'st, gay creature as thou art!
    A solemn image to my heart.
    • To a Butterfly (Stay Near Me), st. 1 (1801)
  • Behold, within the leafy shade,
    Those bright blue eggs together laid!
    On me the chance-discovered sight
    Gleamed like a vision of delight.
    • The Sparrow's Nest, st. 1 (1801)
  • She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
    And humble cares,and delicate fears;
    A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
    And love, and thought, and joy.
    • The Sparrow's Nest, st. 2 (1801)
  • Sweet childish days, that were as long
    As twenty days are now.
    • To a Butterfly (I've Watched You Now a Full Half-Hour), st. 2 (1801)
  • Like an army defeated
    The snow hath retreated,
    And now doth fare ill
    On the top of the bare hill;
    The Ploughboy is whooping— anon— anon!
    There's joy in the mountains:
    There's life in the fountains;
    Small clouds are sailing,
    Blue sky prevailing;
    The rain is over and gone.
    • Written in March, st. 2 (1801)
  • My heart leaps up when I behold
    A rainbow in the sky
    :
    So was it when my life began;
    So is it now I am a man;
    So be it when I shall grow old,
    Or let me die!
    The Child is father of the Man;
    I could wish my days to be
    Bound each to each by natural piety.
  • Earth has not anything to show more fair:
    Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
    A sight so touching in its majesty:
    This City now doth, like a garment, wear
    The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
    Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
    Open unto the fields and to the sky;
    All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
    • Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802, l. 1 (1802)
  • Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
    The river glideth at his own sweet will:
    Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
    And all that mighty heart is lying still!
    • Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802, l. 11 (1802)
  • Rapine, avarice, expense
    This is idolatry; and these we adore:
    Plain living and high thinking are no more:
    The homely beauty of the good old cause
    Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
    And pure religion breathing household laws.
    • Written in London, September 1802, l. 9 (1802)
  • O for a single hour of that Dundee,
    Who on that day the word of onset gave!
    • Sonnet. In the Pass of Killicranky, l. 11 (1803)
  • Pleasures newly found are sweet
    When they lie about our feet.
    • To the Same Flower (the Small Celandine), st. 1 (1803)
  • Every gift of noble origin
    Is breathed upon by Hope's perpetual breath.
    • These Times strike Monied Worldlings, l. 1 (1803)
  • Hail to thee, far above the rest
    In joy of voice and pinion!
    Thou, linnet! in thy green array,
    Presiding spirit here to-day,
    Dost lead the revels of the May;
    And this is thy dominion.
    • The Green Linnet, st. 2 (1803)
  • Lady of the Mere,
    Sole-sitting by the shores of old romance.
    • A Narrow Girdle of Rough Stones and Crags, l. 37 (1803)
  • There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
    Which to this day stands single, in the midst
    Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore.
    • Yew-Trees, l. 1 (1803)
  • Of vast circumference and gloom profound,
    This solitary Tree! A living thing
    Produced too slowly ever to decay;
    Of form and aspect too magnificent
    To be destroyed.
    • Yew-Trees, l. 9 (1803)
  • Bright flower! whose home is everywhere
    Bold in maternal nature's care
    And all the long year through the heir
    Of joy or sorrow,
    Methinks that there abides in thee
    Some concord with humanity,
    Given to no other flower I see
    The forest through.
    • To the Daisy (third poem), st. 1 (1803)
  • O Blithe newcomer! I have heard,
    I hear thee and rejoice.
    O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
    Or but a wandering Voice?
    • To the Cuckoo, st. 1 (1804)
  • No bird, but an invisible thing,
    A voice, a mystery.
    • To the Cuckoo, st. 4 (1804)
  • Thou unassuming Common-place
    Of Nature, with that homely face,
    And yet with something of a grace,
    Which Love makes for thee!
    • To the Same Flower (the Daisy), st. 1 (1805)
  • Oft on the dappled turf at ease
    I sit, and play with similes,
    Loose types of things through all degrees.
    • To the Same Flower (the Daisy), st. 2 (1805)
  • The light that never was, on sea or land,
    The consecration, and the poet's dream.
    • Elegiac Stanzas. Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm, st. 4 (1805)
  • Dear Child of Nature, let them rail!
    • To a Young Lady, st. 1 (1805)
  • Thou, while thy babes around thee cling,
    Shalt show us how divine a thing
    A Woman may be made.
    • To a Young Lady, st. 2 (1805)
  • But an old age serene and bright,
    And lovely as a Lapland night,
    Shall lead thee to thy grave.
    • To a Young Lady, st. 3 (1805)
  • Happier of happy though I be, like them
    I cannot take possession of the sky,
    Mount with a thoughtless impulse, and wheel there
    One of a mighty multitude whose way
    Is a perpetual harmony and dance
    Magnificent.
    • The Recluse, l. 198 (1805)
  • Is there not
    An art, a music, and a stream of words
    That shalt be life, the acknowledged voice of life?
    • The Recluse, l. 401 (1805)
  • Not Chaos, not
    The darkest pit of lowest Erebus,
    Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out
    By help of dreams - can breed such fear and awe
    As fall upon us often when we look
    Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man.
    • The Recluse, l. 788 (1805)
  • She hath smiles to earth unknown—
    Smiles that with motion of their own
    Do spread, and sink, and rise.
    • Cancelled lines originally in the second stanza of Louisa (1805)
  • Like—but oh, how different!
    • Yes, It Was the Mountain Echo, st. 2 (1806)
  • In truth the prison, unto which we doom
    Ourselves, no prison is.
    • Nuns Fret Not, l. 8 (1806)
  • The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
    • The World Is Too Much with Us, l. 1 (1806)
  • Great God! I'd rather be
    A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
    • The World Is Too Much with Us, l. 9 (1806)
  • Where lies the Land to which yon Ship must go?
    Fresh as a lark mounting at break of day,
    Festively she puts forth in trim array.
    • Where Lies the Land, l. 1 (1806)
  • Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
    Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!
    • To Sleep (A Flock of Sheep), l. 13 (1806)
  • Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
    Are a substantial world, both pure and good:
    Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
    Our pastime and our happiness will grow.
    • Personal Talk, sonnet 3 (1806)
  • Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.
    • Letter to Lady Beaumont (May 21, 1807)
  • I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
    The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
    Of Him who walked in glory and in joy
    Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
    By our own spirits are we deified:
    We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
    But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
    • Resolution and Independence, st. 7 (1807)
  • Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
    Of ordinary men.
    • Resolution and Independence, st. 14 (1807)
  • And mighty poets in their misery dead.
    • Resolution and Independence, st. 17 (1807)
  • It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
    The holy time is quiet as a Nun
    Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
    Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
    The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea.
    • It Is a Beautious Evening, l. 1 (1807)
  • Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
    And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
    God being with thee when we know it not.
    • It Is a Beautious Evening, l. 12 (1807)
  • Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee;
    And was the safeguard of the west: the worth
    Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
    Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.
    • On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic, l. 1 (1807)
  • Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
    Of that which once was great, is passed away.
    • On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic, l. 13 (1807)
  • Thou hast great allies;
    Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
    And love, and man's unconquerable mind.
    • To Toussaint L'Ouverture, l. 12 (1807)
  • Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour:
    England hath need of thee: she is a fen
    Of stagnant waters.
    • London, 1802, l. 1 (1807)
  • Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
    Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
    Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
    So didst thou travel on life's common way,
    In cheerful godliness.
    • London, 1802, l. 9 (1807)
  • We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
    That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold
    Which Milton held.
    • It Is Not to Be Thought Of, l. 11 (1807)
  • He sang of love, with quiet blending,
    Slow to begin, and never ending;
    Of serious faith, and inward glee;
    That was the song,— the song for me!
    • O Nightingale! Thou Surely Art, l. 17 (1807)
  • Two Voices are there; one is of the sea,
    One of the mountains; each a mighty Voice.
    • Thought of a Briton on the Subjugation of Switzerland, l. 1 (1807)
  • Love had he found in huts where poor men lie;
    His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
    The silence that is in the starry sky,
    The sleep that is among the lonely hills.
    • Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle, l. 161 (1807)
  • Action is transitory — a step, a blow—
    The motion of a muscle— this way or that—
    'Tis done; and in the after-vacancy
    We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed.
    • The White Doe of Rylstone, l. 1 (1807)
  • A few strong instincts and a few plain rules,
    Among the herdsmen of the Alps, have wrought
    More for mankind at this unhappy day
    Then all the pride of intellect and thought?
    • Alas! What Boots the Long Laborious Quest?, l. 11 (1809)
  • Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
    • Letter to his Wife (April 29 1812)
  • A cheerful life is what the Muses love,
    A soaring spirit is their prime delight.
    • From the Dark Chambers of Dejection Freed, l. 13 (1814)
  • For the gods approve
    The depth, and not the tumult, of the soul.
    • Laodamia, st. 13 (1814)
  • Mightier far
    Than strength of nerve or sinew, or the sway
    Of magic potent over sun and star,
    Is Love, though oft to agony distrest,
    And though his favorite seat be feeble woman's breast.
    • Laodamia, st. 14 (1814)
  • But shapes that come not at an earthly call,
    Will not depart when mortal voices bid.
    • Dion, st. 5 (1814)
  • Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind.
    • Surprised by Joy, l. 1 (1815)
  • And beauty, for confiding youth,
    Those shocks of passion can prepare
    That kill the bloom before its time;
    And blanch, without the owner's crime,
    The most resplendent hair.
    • Lament of Mary Queen of Scots, st. 6 (1817)
  • What is pride? A whizzing rocket
    That would emulate a star.
    • Inscriptions Supposed to be Found in and near a Hermit's Cell, l. 11 (1818)
  • Enough, if something from our hands have power
    To live, and act, and serve the future hour.
    • The River Duddon, sonnet 34 - Afterthought, l. 10 (1820)
  • We feel that we are greater than we know.
    • The River Duddon, sonnet 34 - Afterthought, l. 14 (1820)
  • The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.
    • Not Love, Not War, Nor the Tumultuous Swell, l. 14
  • Lives there a man whose sole delights
    Are trivial pomp and city noise,
    Hardening a heart that loathes or slights
    What every natural heart enjoys?
    • To the Lady Fleming, st. 6 (1823)
  • A soul so pitiably forlorn,
    If such do on this earth abide,
    May season apathy with scorn,
    May turn indifference to pride;
    And still be not unblest— compared
    With him who grovels, self-debarred
    From all that lies within the scope
    Of holy faith and christian hope;
    Or, shipwrecked, kindles on the coast
    False fires, that others may be lost.
    • To the Lady Fleming, st. 7 (1823)
  • But hushed be every thought that springs
    From out the bitterness of things.
    • Elegiac Stanzas. Addressed to Sir G.H.B., st. 7 (1824)
  • True beauty dwells in deep retreats,
    Whose veil is unremoved
    Till heart with heart in concord beats,
    And the lover is beloved.
    • To ____ . (Let other Bards of Angels sing), st. 3 (1824)
  • Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
    True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!
    • To a Skylark, st. 2 (1825)
  • Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
    Mindless of its just honours; with this key
    Shakespeare unlocked his heart
    • Scorn Not the Sonnet, l. 1 (1827)
  • Ocean is a mighty harmonist.
    • On the Power of Sound, st. 12 (1828)
  • These feeble and fastidious times.
    • Letter to Alexander Dyce (April 19, 1830)
  • Myriads of daisies have shone forth in flower
    Near the lark's nest, and in their natural hour
    Have passed away; less happy than the one
    That by the unwilling ploughshare died to prove
    The tender charm of poetry and love.
    • Poems Composed or Suggested During a Tour in the Summer of 1833, "There!" said a Stripling, l. 10 (1833)
  • Small service is true service while it lasts.
    Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one:
    The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
    Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun.
    • To a Child. Written in her Album (1834)
  • How does the Meadow-flower its bloom unfold?
    Because the lovely little flower is free
    Down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold.
    • A Poet!—He Hath Put His Heart to School, l. 9 (1842)
  • Minds that have nothing to confer
    Find little to perceive.
    • Yes, Thou art Fair, Yet Be Not Moved, st. 2 (1845)
  • Thought and theory must precede all action that moves to salutary purposes. Yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.
    • Attributed by Anna Jameson in her A Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories and Fancies (1854).

Lyrical Ballads (1798-1800)

  • Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science.
    • Preface
  • The human mind is capable of excitement without the application of gross and violent stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity who does not know this.
    • Preface
  • In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs—in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time.
    • Preface
  • A multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor.
    • Preface
  • What is a Poet?...He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.
    • Preface
  • I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
    • Preface
  • All men feel something of an honorable bigotry for the objects which have long continued to please them.
    • Preface
  • — A simple child,
    That lightly draws its breath,
    And feels its life in every limb,
    What should it know of death?
    • We Are Seven, st. 1 (1798)
  • In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
    Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
    • Lines Written in Early Spring, st. 1 (1798)
  • Have I not reason to lament
    What man has made of man?
    • Lines Written in Early Spring, st. 6 (1798)
  • The eye— it cannot choose but see;
    we cannot bid the ear be still;
    our bodies feel, where'er they be,
    against or with our will.
    • Expostulation and Reply, st. 5 (1798)
  • Nor less I deem that there are Powers
    Which of themselves our minds impress;
    That we can feed this mind of ours
    In a wise passiveness.
    • Expostulation and Reply, st. 6 (1798)
  • Come forth into the light of things,
    Let Nature be your teacher.
    • The Tables Turned, st. 4 (1798)
  • One impulse from a vernal wood
    May teach you more of man,
    Of moral evil and of good,
    Than all the sages can.
    • The Tables Turned, st. 6 (1798)
  • O Reader! had you in your mind
    Such stores as silent thought can bring,
    O gentle Reader! you would find
    A tale in everything.
    • Simon Lee, st. 9 (1798)
  • I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
    With coldness still returning;
    Alas! the gratitude of men
    Hath oftener left me mourning.
    • Simon Lee, st. 12 (1798)
  • What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
    Into a lover's head!
    "O mercy!" to myself I cried,
    "If Lucy should be dead!"
    • Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known, st. 7 (1799)
  • She dwelt among the untrodden ways
    Beside the springs of Dove,
    A maid whom there were none to praise
    And very few to love:
    • She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways, st. 1 (1799)
  • She lived unknown, and few could know
    When Lucy ceased to be;
    But she is in her grave, and, oh,
    The difference to me!
    • She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways, st. 3 (1799)
  • Three years she grew in sun and shower,
    Then Nature said, "A lovelier flower
    On earth was never sown;
    This Child I to myself will take;
    She shall be mine, and I will make
    A Lady of my own."
    • Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower, st. 1 (1799)
  • A slumber did my spirit seal;
    I had no human fears:
    She seemed a thing that could not feel
    The touch of earthly years.

    No motion has she now, no force;
    She neither hears nor sees;
    Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
    With rocks, and stones, and trees.
    • A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal (1799)
  • A fingering slave,
    One that would peep and botanize
    Upon his mother's grave.
    • A Poet's Epitaph, st. 5 (1799)
  • A reasoning, self-sufficing thing,
    An intellectual All-in-all!
    • A Poet's Epitaph, st. 8 (1799)
  • And you must love him, ere to you
    He will seem worthy of your love.
    • A Poet's Epitaph, st. 11 (1799)
  • The sweetest thing that ever grew
    Beside a human door!
    • Lucy Gray, or Solitude, st. 2 (1799)
  • And sings a solitary song
    That whistles in the wind.
    • Lucy Gray, or Solitude, st. 16 (1799)
  • A youth to whom was given
    So much of earth—so much of heaven,
    And such impetuous blood.
    • Ruth, st. 21 (1799)
  • My eyes are dim with childish tears,
    My heart is idly stirred,
    For the same sound is in my ears
    Which in those days I heard.

    Thus fares it still in our decay:
    And yet the wiser mind
    Mourns less for what age takes away
    Than what it leaves behind.
    • The Fountain, st. 8 & 9 (1799)
  • Something between a hindrance and a help.
    • Michael. A Pastoral Poem, l. 189 (1800)
  • Drink, pretty creature, drink!
    • The Pet Lamb. A Pastoral, st. 1 (1800)
  • May no rude hand deface it,
    And its forlorn Hic jacet!
    • Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle, st. 7 (1800)

Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey (1798)

On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798

  • Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
    Of five long winters! and again I hear
    These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
    With a sweet inland murmur. —Once again
    Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
    Which on a wild secluded scene impress
    Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
    The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
    • Stanza 1
  • These beauteous forms,
    Through a long absence, have not been to me
    As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
    But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
    Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
    In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
    Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
    And passing even into my purer mind,
    With tranquil restoration: —feelings too
    Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
    As have no slight or trivial influence
    On that best portion of a good man's life,
    His little, nameless, unremembered acts
    Of kindness and of love.
    Nor less, I trust,
    To them I may have owed another gift,
    Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
    In which the burthen of the mystery,
    In which the heavy and the weary weight
    Of all this unintelligible world
    Is lighten'd:— that serene and blessed mood,
    In which the affections gently lead us on,—
    Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
    And even the motion of our human blood
    Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
    In body, and become a living soul:
    While with an eye made quiet by the power
    Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
    We see into the life of things.
    • Stanza 2
  • O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
    How often has my spirit turned to thee!
    • Stanza 3
  • And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
    With many recognitions dim and faint,
    And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
    The picture of the mind revives again:
    While here I stand, not only with the sense
    Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
    That in this moment there is life and food
    For future years.
    And so I dare to hope,
    Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
    I came among these hills;
    • Stanza 3
  • For nature then
    (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
    And their glad animal movements all gone by)
    To me was all in all.— I cannot paint
    What then I was.
    • Stanza 3
  • The sounding cataract
    Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
    The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
    Their colours and their forms, were then to me
    An appetite; a feeling and a love,
    That had no need of a remoter charm,
    By thought supplied, nor any interest
    Unborrowed from the eye.
    • Stanza 3
  • That time is past,
    And all its aching joys are now no more,
    And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
    Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts
    Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
    Abundant recompence. For I have learned
    To look on nature, not as in the hour
    Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
    The still, sad music of humanity,
    Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
    To chasten and subdue.
    And I have felt
    A presence that disturbs me with the joy
    Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
    Of something far more deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
    And the round ocean and the living air,
    And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
    A motion and a spirit, that impels
    All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
    And rolls through all things.
    Therefore am I still
    A lover of the meadows and the woods,
    And mountains; and of all that we behold
    From this green earth; of all the mighty world
    Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
    And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
    In nature and the language of the sense,
    The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
    The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
    Of all my moral being.
    • Stanza 3
  • Nor, perchance,
    If I were not thus taught, Should I the more
    Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
    For thou art with me here upon the banks
    Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
    My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
    The language of my former heart, and read
    My former pleasures in the shooting lights
    Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
    May I behold in thee what I was once,
    My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
    Knowing that Nature never did betray
    The heart that loved her
    ; 'tis her privilege,
    Through all the years of this our life, to lead
    From joy to joy: for she can so inform
    The mind that is within us, so impress
    With quietness and beauty, and so feed
    With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
    Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
    Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
    The dreary intercourse of daily life,
    Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
    Our cheerful faith that all which we behold
    Is full of blessings.
    • Stanza 4
  • If I should be, where I no more can hear
    Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
    Of past existence, wilt thou then forget
    That on the banks of this delightful stream
    We stood together; And that I, so long
    A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
    Unwearied in that service: rather say
    With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
    Of holier love. Now wilt thou then forget,
    That after many wanderings, many years
    Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
    And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
    More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake.
    • Stanza 4

The Prelude (1799-1805)

Quotations are from the 1850 text unless otherwise stated.

  • Oh there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
    A visitant that while it fans my cheek
    Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
    From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
    Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
    To none more grateful than to me; escaped
    From the vast city, where I long had pined
    A discontented sojourner: now free,
    Free as a bird to settle where I will.
    • Bk. I, l. 1
  • Fair seedtime had my soul, and I grew up
    Fostered alike by beauty and by fear.
    • Bk. I, l. 301
  • Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
    Like harmony in music; there is a dark
    Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
    Discordant elements, makes them cling together
    In one society.
    • Bk. I, l. 340
  • The grim shape
    Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
    For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
    And measured motion like a living thing,
    Strode after me.
    • Bk. I, l. 381
  • Huge and mighty forms, that do not live
    Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
    By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.
    • Bk. I, l. 398
  • Where the statue stood
    Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
    The marble index of a mind forever
    Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.
    • Bk. III, l. 60
  • When from our better selves we have too long
    Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
    Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
    How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.
    • Bk. IV, l. 354
  • A day
    Spent in a round of strenuous idleness.
    • Bk. IV, l. 377
  • Whether we be young or old,
    Our destiny, our being's heart and home,
    Is with infinitude, and only there;
    With hope it is, hope that can never die,
    Effort and expectation, and desire,
    And something evermore about to be.
    • Bk. VI, l. 603
  • Brothers all
    In honor, as in one community,
    Scholars and gentlemen.
    • Bk. IX, l. 227
  • Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
    But to be young was very heaven!
    • Bk. XI, l. 108
  • There is
    One great society alone on earth:
    The noble Living and the noble Dead.
    • Bk. XI, l. 393

Memorials of a Tour in Scotland (1803)

  • Sweet Mercy! to the gates of Heaven
    This minstrel lead, his sins forgiven;
    The rueful conflict, the heart riven
    With vain endeavour,
    And memory of earth's bitter leaven
    Effaced forever.
    • Thoughts Suggested on the Banks of the Nith, st. 10
  • And stepping westward seemed to be
    A kind of heavenly destiny.
    • Stepping Westward, st. 2
  • I listened, motionless and still;
    And, as I mounted up the hill,
    The music in my heart I bore,
    Long after it was heard no more.
    • The Solitary Reaper, st. 4
  • Yet was Rob Roy as wise as brave;
    Forgive me if the phrase be strong;—
    A Poet worthy of Rob Roy
    Must scorn a timid song.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 3
  • Burn all the statutes and their shelves:
    They stir us up against our kind;
    And worse, against ourselves.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 5
  • The good old rule
    Sufficeth them, the simple plan,
    That they should take, who have the power,
    And they should keep who can.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 9
  • A brotherhood of venerable trees.
    • Sonnet. Composed at ____ Castle, l. 6
  • From Stirling Castle we had seen
    The mazy Forth unravelled;
    Had trod the banks of Clyde and Tay,
    And with the Tweed had travelled;
    And when we came to Clovenford,
    Then said "my winsome marrow,"
    "Whate'er betide, we'll turn aside,
    And see the braes of Yarrow."
    • Yarrow Unvisited, st. 1

She Was a Phantom of Delight (aka Perfect Woman) (1804)

  • She was a Phantom of delight
    When first she gleamed upon my sight;
    A lovely Apparition, sent
    To be a moment's ornament.
    • Stanza 1
  • A Creature not too bright or good
    For human nature's daily food;
    For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
    Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.
    • Stanza 2
  • And now I see with eye serene
    The very pulse of the machine.
    • Stanza 3
  • A perfect woman, nobly planned,
    To warn, to comfort, and command.
    • Stanza 3

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (1804)

  • I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils.
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
    • Stanza 1
  • Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the milky way.
    • Stanza 2
  • Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
    Tosing their heads in sprightly dance.
    • Stanza 2
  • A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company.
    • Stanza 3
  • That inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude.
    • Stanza 4

Ode to Duty (1805)

  • A light to guide, a rod
    To check the erring, and reprove.
    • Stanza 1
  • Me this unchartered freedom tires;
    I feel the weight of chance-desires:
    My hopes no more must change their name,
    I long for a repose that ever is the same.
    • Stanza 5
  • Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
    And the most ancient heavens, through Thee, are fresh and strong.
    • Stanza 6
  • Give unto me, made lowly wise,
    The spirit of self-sacrifice;
    The confidence of reason give,
    And in the light of truth thy bondman let me live!
    • Stanza 7

Character of the Happy Warrior (1806)

  • Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
    That every man in arms should wish to be?
    • Line 1
  • Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
    And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
    Turns his necessity to glorious gain.
    • Line 12
  • More skillful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
    As tempted more; more able to endure,
    As more exposed to suffering and distress.
    • Line 23
  • But who, if he be called upon to face
    Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
    Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
    Is happy as a Lover.
    • Line 48
  • And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
    In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw.
    • Line 53
  • Whom neither shape of danger can dismay,
    Nor thought of tender happiness betray.
    • Line 72

The Excursion (1814)

  • Strongest minds
    Are often those of whom the noisy world
    Hears least.
    • Book I - The Wanderer, l. 91
  • The imperfect offices of prayer and praise.
    • Book I - The Wanderer, l. 216
  • The good die first,
    And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
    Burn to the socket.
    • Book I - The Wanderer, l. 500
  • Wisdom is ofttimes nearer when we stoop
    Than when we soar.
    • Book III - Despondency, l. 231
  • Wrongs unredressed, or insults unavenged.
    • Book III - Despondency, l. 374
  • The intellectual power, through words and things,
    Went sounding on, a dim and perilous way!
    • Book III - Despondency, l. 700
    • Variant: Three sleepless nights I passed in sounding on,
      Through words and things, a dim and perilous way. - Borderers, written 18 years before Excursion
  • Society became my glittering bride.
    • Book III - Despondency, l. 735
  • For by superior energies; more strict
    Affiance in each other; faith more firm
    In their unhallowed principles; the bad
    Have fairly earned a victory o'er the weak,
    The vacillating, inconsistent good.
    • Book IV - Despondency Corrected, l. 305
  • There is a luxury in self-dispraise;
    And inward self-disparagement affords
    To meditative spleen a grateful feast.
    • Book IV - Despondency Corrected, l. 475
  • Lost in a gloom of uninspired research.
    • Book IV - Despondency Corrected, l. 626
  • We live by Admiration, Hope and Love.
    • Book IV - Despondency Corrected, l. 763
  • I have seen
    A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
    Of inland ground, applying to his ear
    The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;
    To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
    Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
    Brightened with joy; for from within were heard
    Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed
    Mysterious union with its native sea.
    • Book IV - Despondency Corrected, l. 1132
  • One in whom persuasion and belief
    Had ripened into faith, and faith become
    A passionate intuition.
    • Book IV - Despondency Corrected, l. 1293
  • Spires whose "silent finger points to heaven."
    • Book VI - The Churchyard among the Mountains, l. 19
  • Wild is the music of the autumnal wind
    Among the faded woods.
    • Book VI - The Churchyard among the Mountains, l. 858.
    • These lines appear only in the earliest editions of The Excursion; they were re-written for the 1837 edition.
  • A man he seems of cheerful yesterdays
    And confident tomorrows.
    • Book VII - The Churchyard among the Mountains, cont., l. 557

Ecclesiastical Sonnets (1821)

  • Babylon,
    Learned and wise, hath perished utterly,
    Nor leaves her speech one word to aid the sigh
    That would lament her.
    • Part I, No. 25 - Missions and Travels.
  • As thou these ashes, little brook! will bear
    Into the Avon, Avon to the tide
    Of Severn, Severn to the narrow seas,
    Into main ocean they, this deed accurst,
    An emblem yields to friends and enemies
    How the bold teacher's doctrine, sanctified
    By truth, shall spread throughout the world dispersed.
    • Part II, No. 17 - Wicliffe. In obedience to the order of the Council of Constance (1415), the remains of Wickliffe were exhumed and burned to ashes, and these cast into the Swift, a neighbouring brook running hard by; and "thus this brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over", Thomas Fuller, Church History, section ii, book iv, paragraph 53; Compare also: "What Heraclitus would not laugh, or what Democritus would not weep?… For though they digged up his body, burned his bones, and drowned his ashes, yet the word of God and truth of his doctrine, with the fruit and success thereof, they could not burn", Fox, Book of Martyrs, vol. i. p. 606 (edition, 1611); "Some prophet of that day said,—
      "'The Avon to the Severn runs, / The Severn to the sea; / And Wickliffe's dust shall spread abroad / Wide as the waters be'", Daniel Webster, Address before the Sons of New Hampshire (1849), and similarly quoted by the Rev. John Cumming in the Voices of the Dead.
  • Habit rules the unreflecting herd.
    • Part II, No. 28 - Reflections.
  • The feather, whence the pen
    Was shaped that traced the lives of these good men,
    Dropped from an Angel's wing.
    • Part III, No. 5 - Walton's Book of Lives. Compare: "The pen wherewith thou dost so heavenly sing / Made of a quill from an angel's wing", Henry Constable, Sonnet; "Whose noble praise / Deserves a quill pluckt from an angel's wing", Dorothy Berry, Sonnet.
  • Meek Walton's heavenly memory.
    • Part III, No. 5 – Walton's Book of Lives.
  • But who would force the soul tilts with a straw
    Against a champion cased in adamant.
    • Part III, No. 7 - Persecution of the Scottish Covenanters.
  • Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore
    Of nicely calculated less or more.
    • Part III, No. 43 - Inside of King's College Chapel, Cambridge.
  • Where music dwells
    Lingering and wandering on as loth to die,
    Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
    That they were born for immortality.
    • Part III, No. 43 - Inside of King's College Chapel, Cambridge.

Unsourced

  • In modern business it is not the crook who is to be feared most, it is the honest man who doesn't know what he is doing.
    • Also, and more plausibly, attributed to the American businessman Owen D Young.
  • Life is divided into three terms - that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future.
  • To begin, begin.
    • Also attributed to Peter Nivio Zarlenga.

Misattributed

  • Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer.
    • Actually Night I, line 390 of Edward Young's Night Thoughts.
  • How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
    • Occasionally misattributed to Wordsworth, but in fact by Edward Young again. It is from his Night Thoughts, Night II, line 602.
  • Life's cares are comforts; such by Heav'n design'd;
    He that hath none must make them, or be wretched.
    • Another couplet from Edward Young: this time Night Thoughts, Night II, line 160.
  • Pictures deface walls more often than they decorate them.
    • This is only a slightly misquoted version of "Pictures deface walls oftener than they decorate them", written by Frank Lloyd Wright in the magazine Architectural Record in March 1908.
  • We take no note of time but from its loss.
    • Actually Night I, lines 55-56 of Young's Night Thoughts.
  • What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out.
    • This was not Wordsworth's viewpoint at all. The words are in fact those of Bertrand Russell in his Sceptical Essays (1928).
  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

Criticism

  • Just for a handful of silver he left us,
    Just for a riband to stick in his coat.
  • He lived amidst th'untrodden ways
    To Rydal Lake that lead:-
    A bard whom there were none to praise,
    And very few to read.

    Behind a cloud his mystic sense,
    Deep-hidden, who can spy?
    Bright as the night, when not a star
    Is shining in the sky.

    Unread his works – his "Milk-white Doe"
    With dust is dark and dim;
    It's still in Longman's shop, and Oh!
    The difference to him!
  • He is in this sense the most original poet now living, and the one whose writings could the least be spared: for they have no substitute elsewhere. The vulgar do not read them; the learned, who see all things through books, do not understand them; the great despise. The fashionable may ridicule them: but the author has created himself an interest in the heart of the retired and lonely student of nature, which can never die.
  • But that which Wordsworth knew, even the old man
    When poetry had failed like desire, was something
    I have yet to learn, and you, Duddon,
    Have learned and re-learned to forget and forget again.
    Not the radical, the poet and heretic,
    To whom the water-forces shouted and the fells
    Were like a blackboard for the scrawls of God,
    But the old man, inarticulate and humble,
    Knew that eternity flows in a mountain beck.
  • He wasn't a man as was thowte a deal o' for his potry when he was hereabout. It hed no laugh in it same as Lile Hartley [Coleridge]'s, bided a deal o makkin I darsay. It was kept oer long in his heead mappen. But then for aw that, he had best eye to mountains and streams, and buildings in the daale, notished ivvry stean o' the fellside, and we nin on us durst bang a bowder stean a bit or cut a bit coppy or raase an old wa' doon when he was astir.
    • Canon Rawnsley Literary Associations of the English Lakes (1894) p. 137.
    • Recording a Westmorland peasant's memories of Wordsworth.
  • Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
    It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
    Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
    Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
    And one is of an old half-witted sheep
    Which bleats articulate monotony,
    And indicates that two and one are three,
    That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep
    And, Wordsworth, both are thine.
  • Wordsworth went to the lakes, but he was never a lake poet. He found in stones the sermons he had already hidden there.

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