Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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PRELUDE

PREFIXED TO THE VOLUME ENTITLED "POEMS CHIEFLY OF EARLY AND LATE YEARS"

          IN desultory walk through orchard grounds,
          Or some deep chestnut grove, oft have I paused
          The while a Thrush, urged rather than restrained
          By gusts of vernal storm, attuned his song
          To his own genial instincts; and was heard
          (Though not without some plaintive tones between)
          To utter, above showers of blossom swept
          From tossing boughs, the promise of a calm,
          Which the unsheltered traveller might receive
          With thankful spirit. The descant, and the wind             10
          That seemed to play with it in love or scorn,
          Encouraged and endeared the strain of words
          That haply flowed from me, by fits of silence
          Impelled to livelier pace. But now, my Book!
          Charged with those lays, and others of like mood,
          Or loftier pitch if higher rose the theme,
          Go, single--yet aspiring to be joined
          With thy Forerunners that through many a year
          Have faithfully prepared each other's way--
          Go forth upon a mission best fulfilled                      20
          When and wherever, in this changeful world,
          Power hath been given to please for higher ends
          Than pleasure only; gladdening to prepare
          For wholesome sadness, troubling to refine,
          Calming to raise; and, by a sapient Art
          Diffused through all the mysteries of our Being,
          Softening the toils and pains that have not ceased
          To cast their shadows on our mother Earth
          Since the primeval doom. Such is the grace
          Which, though unsued for, fails not to descend              30
          With heavenly inspiration; such the aim
          That Reason dictates; and, as even the wish
          Has virtue in it, why should hope to me
          Be wanting that sometimes, where fancied ills
          Harass the mind and strip from off the bowers
          Of private life their natural pleasantness,
          A Voice--devoted to the love whose seeds
          Are sown in every human breast, to beauty
          Lodged within compass of the humblest sight,
          To cheerful intercourse with wood and field,                40
          And sympathy with man's substantial griefs--
          Will not be heard in vain? And in those days
          When unforeseen distress spreads far and wide
          Among a People mournfully cast down,
          Or into anger roused by venal words
          In recklessness flung out to overturn
          The judgment, and divert the general heart
          From mutual good--some strain of thine, my Book!
          Caught at propitious intervals, may win
          Listeners who not unwillingly admit                         50
          Kindly emotion tending to console
          And reconcile; and both with young and old
          Exalt the sense of thoughtful gratitude
          For benefits that still survive, by faith
          In progress, under laws divine, maintained.
                                                       RYDAL MOUNT,
                                                         March 26, 1842.


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