Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
A Poet’s Epitaph
By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
 
ART thou a Statist in the van
Of public conflicts trained and bred?
—First learn to love one living man;
Then may’st thou think upon the dead.
 
A Lawyer art thou?—draw not nigh!        5
Go, carry to some fitter place
The keenness of that practised eye,
The hardness of that sallow face.
 
Art thou a Man of purple cheer?
A rosy Man, right plump to see?        10
Approach; yet, Doctor, not too near,
This grave no cushion is for thee.
 
Or art thou one of gallant pride,
A Soldier and no man of chaff?
Welcome!—but lay thy sword aside,        15
And lean upon a peasant’s staff.
 
Physician art thou? one all eyes,
Philosopher! a fingering slave,
One that would peep and botanize
Upon his mother’s grave?        20
 
Wrapt closely in thy sensual fleece,
O turn aside,—and take, I pray,
That he below may rest in peace,
Thy ever-dwindling soul, away!
 
A Moralist perchance appears;        25
Led, Heaven knows how! to this poor sod:
And he has neither eyes nor ears;
Himself his world, and his own God;
 
One to whose smooth-rubbed soul can cling
Nor form, nor feeling, great or small;        30
A reasoning, self-sufficing thing,
An intellectual All-in-all!
 
Shut close the door; press down the latch;
Sleep in thy intellectual crust;
Nor lose ten tickings of thy watch        35
Near this unprofitable dust.
 
But who is He, with modest looks,
And clad in homely russet brown?
He murmurs near the running brooks
A music sweeter than their own.        40
 
He is retired as noontide dew,
Or fountain in a noon-day grove;
And you must love him, ere to you
He will seem worthy of your love.
 
The outward shows of sky and earth,        45
Of hill and valley, he has viewed;
And impulses of deeper birth
Have come to him in solitude.
 
In common things that round us lie
Some random truths he can impart,—        50
The harvest of a quiet eye
That broods and sleeps on his own heart.
 
But he is weak; both Man and Boy,
Hath been an idler in the land;
Contented if he might enjoy        55
The things which others understand.
 
—Come hither in thy hour of strength;
Come, weak as is a breaking wave!
Here stretch thy body at full length;
Or build thy house upon this grave.
(1799.)    
        60
 
 
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