William Wordsworth

The Prelude

A selection from Book First
Introduction--Childhood and School-Time
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. What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream Shall with its murmur lull me into rest? The earth is all before me. With a heart Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty, I look about; and should the chosen guide Be nothing better than a wandering cloud, I cannot miss my way. I breathe again! Trances of thought and mountings of the mind Come fast upon me: it is shaken off, That burthen of my own unnatural self, The heavy weight of many a weary day Not mine, and such as were not made for me. Long months of peace (if such bold word accord With any promises of human life), Long months of ease and undisturbed delight Are mine in prospect; whither shall I turn, By road or pathway, or through trackless field, Up hill or down, or shall some floating thing Upon the river point me out my course? Dear Liberty! Yet what would it avail But for a gift that consecrates the joy? For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven Was blowing on my body, felt within A correspondent breeze, that gently moved With quickening virtue, but is now become A tempest, a redundant energy, Vexing its own creation. Thanks to both, And their congenial powers, that, while they join In breaking up a long-continued frost, Bring with them vernal promises, the hope Of active days urged on by flying hours,-- Days of sweet leisure, taxed with patient thought Abstruse, nor wanting punctual service high, Matins and vespers of harmonious verse! Thus far, O Friend! did I, not used to make A present joy the matter of a song, Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains That would not be forgotten, and are here Recorded: to the open fields I told A prophecy: poetic numbers came Spontaneously to clothe in priestly robe A renovated spirit singled out, Such hope was mine, for holy services. My own voice cheered me, and, far more, the mind's Internal echo of the imperfect sound; To both I listened, drawing from them both A cheerful confidence in things to come. Content and not unwilling now to give A respite to this passion, I paced on With brisk and eager steps; and came, at length, To a green shady place, where down I sate Beneath a tree, slackening my thoughts by choice And settling into gentler happiness. 'Twas autumn, and a clear and placid day, With warmth, as much as needed, from a sun Two hours declined towards the west; a day With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass, And in the sheltered and the sheltering grove A perfect stillness. Many were the thoughts Encouraged and dismissed, till choice was made Of a known Vale, whither my feet should turn, Nor rest till they had reached the very door Of the one cottage which methought I saw. No picture of mere memory ever looked So fair; and while upon the fancied scene I gazed with growing love, a higher power Than Fancy gave assurance of some work Of glory there forthwith to be begun, Perhaps too there performed. Thus long I mused, Nor e'er lost sight of what I mused upon, Save when, amid the stately grove of oaks, Now here, now there, an acorn, from its cup Dislodged, through sere leaves rustled, or at once To the bare earth dropped with a startling sound. From that soft couch I rose not, till the sun Had almost touched the horizon; casting then A backward glance upon the curling cloud Of city smoke, by distance ruralised; Keen as a Truant or a Fugitive, But as a Pilgrim resolute, I took, Even with the chance equipment of that hour, The road that pointed toward the chosen Vale. It was a splendid evening, and my soul Once more made trial of her strength, nor lacked Aeolian visitations; but the harp Was soon defrauded, and the banded host Of harmony dispersed in straggling sounds, And lastly utter silence! "Be it so; Why think of anything but present good?" So, like a home-bound labourer, I pursued My way beneath the mellowing sun, that shed Mild influence; nor left in me one wish Again to bend the Sabbath of that time To a servile yoke. What need of many words? A pleasant loitering journey, through three days Continued, brought me to my hermitage. I spare to tell of what ensued, the life In common things--the endless store of things, Rare, or at least so seeming, every day Found all about me in one neighbourhood-- The self-congratulation, and, from morn To night, unbroken cheerfulness serene. But speedily an earnest longing rose To brace myself to some determined aim, Reading or thinking; either to lay up New stores, or rescue from decay the old By timely interference: and therewith Came hopes still higher, that with outward life I might endue some airy phantasies That had been floating loose about for years, And to such beings temperately deal forth The many feelings that oppressed my heart. That hope hath been discouraged; welcome light Dawns from the east, but dawns to disappear And mock me with a sky that ripens not Into a steady morning: if my mind, Remembering the bold promise of the past, Would gladly grapple with some noble theme, Vain is her wish; where'er she turns she finds Impediments from day to day renewed. spoken = Doug Ross