Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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VERNAL ODE

        Rerum Natura tota est nusquam magis quam in minimis.
                                                    --PLIN. "Nat. Hist."

                                   I

          BENEATH the concave of an April sky,
          When all the fields with freshest green were dight,
          Appeared, in presence of the spiritual eye
          That aids or supersedes our grosser sight,
          The form and rich habiliments of One
          Whose countenance bore resemblance to the sun,
          When it reveals, in evening majesty,
          Features half lost amid their own pure light.
          Poised like a weary cloud, in middle air
          He hung,--then floated with angelic ease
          (Softening that bright effulgence by degrees)
          Till he had reached a summit sharp and bare,
          Where oft the venturous heifer drinks the noontide breeze.
          Upon the apex of that lofty cone
          Alighted, there the Stranger stood alone;
          Fair as a gorgeous Fabric of the east
          Suddenly raised by some enchanter's power,
          Where nothing was; and firm as some old Tower
          Of Britain's realm, whose leafy crest
          Waves high, embellished by a gleaming shower!

                                   II

          Beneath the shadow of his purple wings
          Rested a golden harp;--he touched the strings;
          And, after prelude of unearthly sound
          Poured through the echoing hills around,
          He sang--
                     "No wintry desolations,
          Scorching blight or noxious dew,
          Affect my native habitations;
          Buried in glory, far beyond the scope
          Of man's inquiring gaze, but to his hope
          Imaged, though faintly, in the hue
          Profound of night's ethereal blue;
          And in the aspect of each radiant orb;--
          Some fixed, some wandering with no timid curb:
          But wandering star and fixed, to mortal eye,
          Blended in absolute serenity,
          And free from semblance of decline;--
          Fresh as if Evening brought their natal hour,
          Her darkness splendour gave, her silence power
          To testify of Love and Grace divine.

                                  III

          "What if those bright fires
          Shine subject to decay,
          Sons haply of extinguished sires,
          Themselves to lose their light, or pass away
          Like clouds before the wind,
          Be thanks poured out to Him whose hand bestows,
          Nightly, on human kind
          That vision of endurance and repose.
          --And though to every draught of vital breath
          Renewed throughout the bounds of earth or ocean,
          The melancholy gates of Death
          Respond with sympathetic motion;
          Though all that feeds on nether air,
          Howe'er magnificent or fair,
          Grows but to perish, and entrust
          Its ruins to their kindred dust;
          Yet, by the Almighty's ever-during care,
          Her procreant vigils Nature keeps
          Amid the unfathomable deeps;
          And saves the peopled fields of earth
          From dread of emptiness or dearth.
          Thus, in their stations, lifting tow'rd the sky
          The foliaged head in cloud-like majesty,
          The shadow-casting race of trees survive:
          Thus, in the train of Spring, arrive
          Sweet flowers;--what living eye hath viewed
          Their myriads?--endlessly renewed,
          Wherever strikes the sun's glad ray;
          Where'er the subtle waters stray;
          Wherever sportive breezes bend
          Their course, or genial showers descend!
          Mortals, rejoice! the very Angels quit
          Their mansions unsusceptible of change,
          Amid your pleasant bowers to sit,
          And through your sweet vicissitudes to range!"

                                   IV

          Oh, nursed at happy distance from the cares
          Of a too-anxious world, mild pastoral Muse!
          That, to the sparkling crown Urania wears,
          And to her sister Clio's laurel wreath,
          Prefer'st a garland culled from purple heath,
          Or blooming thicket moist with morning dews;
          Was such bright Spectacle vouchsafed to me?
          And was it granted to the simple ear
          Of thy contented Votary
          Such melody to hear!
          'Him' rather suits it, side by side with thee,
          Wrapped in a fit of pleasing indolence,
          While thy tired lute hangs on the hawthorn-tree,
          To lie and listen--till o'er-drowsed sense
          Sinks, hardly conscious of the influence--
          To the soft murmur of the vagrant Bee.
          --A slender sound! yet hoary Time
          Doth to the 'Soul' exalt it with the chime
          Of all his years;--a company
          Of ages coming, ages gone;
          (Nations from before them sweeping,
          Regions in destruction steeping,)
          But every awful note in unison
          With that faint utterance, which tells
          Of treasure sucked from buds and bells,
          For the pure keeping of those waxen cells;
          Where She--a statist prudent to confer
          Upon the common weal; a warrior bold,
          Radiant all over with unburnished gold,
          And armed with living spear for mortal fight;
                    A cunning forager
          That spreads no waste; a social builder; one
          In whom all busy offices unite
          With all fine functions that afford delight--
          Safe through the winter storm in quiet dwells!

                                   V

          And is She brought within the power
          Of vision?--o'er this tempting flower
          Hovering until the petals stay
          Her flight, and take its voice away!--
          Observe each wing!--a tiny van!
          The structure of her laden thigh,
          How fragile! yet of ancestry
          Mysteriously remote and high;
          High as the imperial front of man;
          The roseate bloom on woman's cheek;
          The soaring eagle's curved beak;
          The white plumes of the floating swan;
          Old as the tiger's paw, the lion's mane
          Ere shaken by that mood of stern disdain
          At which the desert trembles.--Humming Bee!
          Thy sting was needless then, perchance unknown,
          The seeds of malice were not sown;
          All creatures met in peace, from fierceness free,
          And no pride blended with their dignity.
          --Tears had not broken from their source;
          Nor Anguish strayed from her Tartarean den;
          The golden years maintained a course
          Not undiversified though smooth and even;
          We were not mocked with glimpse and shadow then,
          Bright Seraphs mixed familiarly with men;
          And earth and stars composed a universal heaven!
                                                              1817.


CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD


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