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THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call The earth, and every common sight,
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel-I feel it all.
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother's arm :-
A single Field which I have looked upon,
Doth the same tale repeat:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
And cometh from afar:
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away, And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own; Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind, And, even with something of a Mother's mind, And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man, Forget the glories he hath known, And that imperial palace whence he came.
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
And this hath now his heart,
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little Actor cons another part;
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep
Broods like the Day, a Master o'er a Slave,
O joy! that in our embers
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
For that which is most worthy to be blest;
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour, Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Can in a moment travel thither,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
As to the tabor's sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,
What though the radiance which was once so bright The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
Which having been must ever be;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM, EARL OF LONSDALE, K.G.
OFT, through thy fair domains, illustrious Peer!
RYDAL MOUNT, WESTMORELAND, July 29, 1814.
Of high respect and gratitude sincere.
PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1814.
THE Title-page announces that this is only a portion of a poem; and the Reader must be here apprised that it belongs to the second part of a long and laborious Work, which is to consist of three parts. The Author will candidly acknowledge that, if the first of these had been completed, and in such a manner as to satisfy his own mind, he should have preferred the natural order of publication, and have given that to the world first; but, as the second division of the Work was designed to refer more to passing events, and to an existing state of things, than the others were meant to do, more continuous exertion was naturally bestowed upon it, and greater progress made here than in the rest of the poem; and as this part does not depend upon the preceding, to a degree which will materially injure its own peculiar interest, the Author, complying with the earnest entreaties of some valued Friends, presents the following pages to the Public.
It may be proper to state whence the poem, of which The Excursion is a part, derives its Title of THE RECLUSE.-Several years ago, when the
Author retired to his native mountains, with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary Work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how far Nature and Education had qualified him for such employment. As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as he was acquainted with them. That Work, addressed to a dear Friend, most distinguished for his knowledge and genius, and to whom the Author's Intellect is deeply indebted, has been long finished; and the result of the investigation which gave rise to it was a determination to compose a philosophical poem, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society; and to be entitled, the Recluse; as having for its principal subject the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement.-The preparatory poem is biographical, and conducts the history of the Author's mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his faculties were sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labour which he had proposed to himself; and the two Works have the
same kind of relation to each other, if he may so express himself, as the ante-chapel has to the body of a gothic church. Continuing this allusion, he may be permitted to add, that his minor Pieces, which have been long before the Public, when they shall be properly arranged, will be found by the attentive Reader to have such connection with the main Work as may give them claim to be likened to the little cells, oratories, and sepulchral recesses, ordinarily included in those edifices.
The Author would not have deemed himself justified in saying, upon this occasion, so much of performances either unfinished, or unpublished, if he had not thought that the labour bestowed by him upon what he has heretofore and now laid before the Public, entitled him to candid attention for such a statement as he thinks necessary to throw light upon his endeavours to please and, he would hope, to benefit his countrymen.-Nothing further need be added, than that the first and third parts of The Recluse will consist chiefly of meditations in the Author's own person; and that in the intermediate part (The Excursion) the intervention of characters speaking is employed, and something of a dramatic form adopted.
It is not the Author's intention formally to announce a system: it was more animating to him to proceed in a different course; and if he shall succeed in conveying to the mind clear thoughts, lively images, and strong feelings, the Reader will have no difficulty in extracting the system for himself. And in the mean time the following passage, taken from the conclusion of the first book of The Recluse, may be acceptable as a kind of Prospectus of the design and scope of the whole Poem.
'On Man, on Nature, and on Human Life,
Musing in solitude, I oft perceive
Fair trains of imagery before me rise,
Pure, or with no unpleasing sadness mixed;
And I am conscious of affecting thoughts
And dear remembrances, whose presence soothes
-To these emotions, whencesoe'er they come,
I would give utterance in numerous verse.
Of Truth, of Grandeur, Beauty, Love, and Hope,
Of blessed consolations in distress;
Of the individual Mind that keeps her own
So prayed, more gaining than he asked, the Bard-
For I must tread on shadowy ground, must sink
Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out
Can it be called) which they with blended might
Within the walls of cities-may these sounds
Dreaming on things to come; and dost possess
A metropolitan temple in the hearts
Of mighty Poets: upon me bestow
A gift of genuine insight; that my Song