Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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"ONCE I COULD HAIL (HOWE'ER SERENE THE SKY)"

            "Late, late yestreen I saw the new moone
             Wi' the auld moone in hir arme."
                       'Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence, Percy's Reliques.'

          ONCE I could hail (howe'er serene the sky)
          The Moon re-entering her monthly round,
          No faculty yet given me to espy
          The dusky Shape within her arms imbound,
          That thin memento of effulgence lost
          Which some have named her Predecessor's ghost.

          Young, like the Crescent that above me shone,
          Nought I perceived within it dull or dim;
          All that appeared was suitable to One
          Whose fancy had a thousand fields to skim;                  10
          To expectations spreading with wild growth,
          And hope that kept with me her plighted troth.

          I saw (ambition quickening at the view)
          A silver boat launched on a boundless flood;
          A pearly crest, like Dian's when it threw
          Its brightest splendour round a leafy wood;
          But not a hint from under-ground, no sign
          Fit for the glimmering brow of Proserpine.

          Or was it Dian's self that seemed to move
          Before me?--nothing blemished the fair sight;               20
          On her I looked whom jocund Fairies love,
          Cynthia, who puts the 'little' stars to flight,
          And by that thinning magnifies the great,
          For exaltation of her sovereign state.

          And when I learned to mark the spectral Shape
          As each new Moon obeyed the call of Time,
          If gloom fell on me, swift was my escape;
          Such happy privilege hath life's gay Prime,
          To see or not to see, as best may please
          A buoyant Spirit, and a heart at ease.                      30

          Now, dazzling Stranger! when thou meet'st my glance,
          Thy dark Associate ever I discern;
          Emblem of thoughts too eager to advance
          While I salute my joys, thoughts sad or stern;
          Shades of past bliss, or phantoms that, to gain
          Their fill of promised lustre, wait in vain.

          So changes mortal Life with fleeting years;
          A mournful change, should Reason fail to bring
          The timely insight that can temper fears,
          And from vicissitude remove its sting;                      40
          While Faith aspires to seats in that domain
          Where joys are perfect--neither wax nor wane.
                                                              1826.


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