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POEMS ON THE NAMING OF PLACES

IV

          A NARROW girdle of rough stones and crags,
          A rude and natural causeway, interposed
          Between the water and a winding slope
          Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore
          Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy:
          And there myself and two beloved Friends,
          One calm September morning, ere the mist
          Had altogether yielded to the sun,
          Sauntered on this retired and difficult way.
          ----Ill suits the road with one in haste; but we            10
          Played with our time; and, as we strolled along,
          It was our occupation to observe
          Such objects as the waves had tossed ashore--
          Feather, or leaf, or weed, or withered bough,
          Each on the other heaped, along the line
          Of the dry wreck. And, in our vacant mood,
          Not seldom did we stop to watch some tuft
          Of dandelion seed or thistle's beard,
          That skimmed the surface of the dead calm lake,
          Suddenly halting now--a lifeless stand!                     20
          And starting off again with freak as sudden;
          In all its sportive wanderings, all the while,
          Making report of an invisible breeze
          That was its wings, its chariot, and its horse,
          Its playmate, rather say, its moving soul.
          --And often, trifling with a privilege
          Alike indulged to all, we paused, one now,
          And now the other, to point out, perchance
          To pluck, some flower or water-weed, too fair
          Either to be divided from the place                         30
          On which it grew, or to be left alone
          To its own beauty. Many such there are,
          Fair ferns and flowers, and chiefly that tall fern,
          So stately, of the queen Osmunda named;
          Plant lovelier, in its own retired abode
          On Grasmere's beach, than Naiad by the side
          Of Grecian brook, or Lady of the Mere,
          Sole-sitting by the shores of old romance.
          --So fared we that bright morning: from the fields
          Meanwhile, a noise was heard, the busy mirth                40
          Of reapers, men and women, boys and girls.
          Delighted much to listen to those sounds,
          And feeding thus our fancies, we advanced
          Along the indented shore; when suddenly,
          Through a thin veil of glittering haze was seen
          Before us, on a point of jutting land,
          The tall and upright figure of a Man
          Attired in peasant's garb, who stood alone,
          Angling beside the margin of the lake.
          "Improvident and reckless," we exclaimed,                   50
          "The Man must be, who thus can lose a day
          Of the mid harvest, when the labourer's hire
          Is ample, and some little might be stored
          Wherewith to cheer him in the winter time."
          Thus talking of that Peasant, we approached
          Close to the spot where with his rod and line
          He stood alone; whereat he turned his head
          To greet us--and we saw a Mam worn down
          By sickness, gaunt and lean, with sunken cheeks
          And wasted limbs, his legs so long and lean                 60
          That for my single self I looked at them,
          Forgetful of the body they sustained.--
          Too weak to labour in the harvest field,
          The Man was using his best skill to gain
          A pittance from the dead unfeeling lake
          That knew not of his wants. I will not say
          What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how
          The happy idleness of that sweet morn,
          With all its lovely images, was changed
          To serious musing and to self-reproach.                     70
          Nor did we fail to see within ourselves
          What need there is to be reserved in speech,
          And temper all our thoughts with charity.
          --Therefore, unwilling to forget that day,
          My Friend, Myself, and She who then received
          The same admonishment, have called the place
          By a memorial name, uncouth indeed
          As e'er by mariner was given to bay
          Or foreland, on a new-discovered coast;
          And POINT RASH-JUDGMENT is the name it bears.               80
                                                              1800.


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