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
 
At the Grave of Burns
By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
 
1803

(Seven Years after his Death)

I SHIVER, Spirit fierce and bold,
At thought of what I now behold:
As vapours breathed from dungeons cold
    Strike pleasure dead,
So sadness comes from out the mould        5
    Where Burns is laid.
 
And have I then thy bones so near,
And thou forbidden to appear?
As if it were thyself that ’s here
    I shrink with pain;        10
And both my wishes and my fear
    Alike are vain.
 
Off weight—nor press on weight!—away
Dark thoughts!—they came, but not to stay;
With chastened feelings would I pay        15
    The tribute due
To him, and aught that hides his clay
    From mortal view.
 
Fresh as the flower, whose modest worth
He sang, his genius ‘glinted’ forth,        20
Rose like a star that touching earth,
    For so it seems,
Doth glorify its humble birth
    With matchless beams.
 
The piercing eye, the thoughtful brow,        25
The struggling heart, where be they now?—
Full soon the Aspirant of the plough,
    The prompt, the brave,
Slept, with the obscurest, in the low
    And silent grave.        30
 
I mourned with thousands, but as one
More deeply grieved, for He was gone
Whose light I hailed when first it shone,
    And showed my youth
How Verse may build a princely throne        35
    On humble truth.
 
Alas! where’er the current tends,
Regret pursues and with it blends,—
Huge Criffel’s hoary top ascends
    By Skiddaw seen,—        40
Neighbours we were, and loving friends
    We might have been:
 
True friends though diversely inclined;
But heart with heart and mind with mind,
Where the main fibres are entwined,        45
    Through Nature’s skill,
May even by contraries be joined
    More closely still.
 
The tear will start, and let it flow;
Thou ‘poor Inhabitant below,’        50
At this dread moment—even so—
    Might we together
Have sate and talked where gowans blow,
    Or on wild heather.
 
What treasures would have then been placed        55
Within my reach; of knowledge graced
By fancy what a rich repast!
    But why go on?—
Oh! spare to sweep, thou mournful blast,
    His grave grass-grown.        60
 
There, too, a Son, his joy and pride,
(Not three weeks past the Stripling died,)
Lies gathered to his Father’s side,
    Soul-moving sight!
Yet one to which is not denied        65
    Some sad delight.
 
For he is safe, a quiet bed
Hath early found among the dead,
Harboured where none can be misled,
    Wronged, or distrest;        70
And surely here it may be said
    That such are blest.
 
And oh for Thee, by pitying grace
Checked oft-times in a devious race,
May He who halloweth the place        75
    Where Man is laid
Receive thy Spirit in the embrace
    For which it prayed!
 
Sighing I turned away; but ere
Night fell I heard, or seemed to hear,        80
Music that sorrow comes not near,
    A ritual hymn,
Chaunted in love that casts out fear
    By Seraphim.
 
 
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