"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

17 May 2016


McCleary, Morning Sun on the Meadow, undated

PRELUDE: BOOK 2: SCHOOL-TIME                                                    

Thus far, O Friend! have we, though leaving much
Unvisited, endeavour'd to retrace 
My life through its first years, and measured back 
The way I travell'd when I first began 
To love the woods and fields; the passion yet 
Was in its birth, sustain'd, as might befal, 
By nourishment that came unsought, for still, 
From week to week, from month to month, we liv'd 
A round of tumult: duly were our games 
Prolong'd in summer till the day-light fail'd; 
No chair remain'd before the doors, the bench 
And threshold steps were empty; fast asleep 
The Labourer, and the old Man who had sate, 
A later lingerer, yet the revelry 
Continued, and the loud uproar: at last, 
When all the ground was dark, and the huge clouds 
Were edged with twinkling stars, to bed we went, 
With weary joints, and with a beating mind. 
Ah! is there one who ever has been young, 
Nor needs a monitory voice to tame 
The pride of virtue, and of intellect? 
And is there one, the wisest and the best 
Of all mankind, who does not sometimes wish 
For things which cannot be, who would not give, 
If so he might, to duty and to truth 
The eagerness of infantine desire? 
A tranquillizing spirit presses now 
On my corporeal frame: so wide appears 
The vacancy between me and those days, 
Which yet have such self-presence in my mind 
That, sometimes, when I think of them, I seem 
Two consciousnesses, conscious of myself 
And of some other Being. A grey Stone 
Of native rock, left midway in the Square 
Of our small market Village, was the home 
And centre of these joys, and when, return'd 
After long absence, thither I repair'd, 
I found that it was split, and gone to build 
A smart Assembly-room that perk'd and flar'd 
With wash and rough-cast elbowing the ground 
Which had been ours. But let the fiddle scream, 
And be ye happy! yet, my Friends! I know 
That more than one of you will think with me 
Of those soft starry nights, and that old Dame 
From whom the stone was nam'd who there had sate 
And watch'd her Table with its huckster's wares 
Assiduous, thro' the length of sixty years. 

       We ran a boisterous race; the year span round 
With giddy motion. But the time approach'd 
That brought with it a regular desire 
For calmer pleasures, when the beauteous forms 
Of Nature were collaterally attach'd 
To every scheme of holiday delight, 
And every boyish sport, less grateful else, 
And languidly pursued. 

                                                       When summer came 
It was the pastime of our afternoons 
To beat along the plain of Windermere 
With rival oars, and the selected bourne 
Was now an Island musical with birds 
That sang for ever; now a Sister Isle 
Beneath the oaks' umbrageous covert, sown 
With lillies of the valley, like a field; 
And now a third small Island where remain'd 
An old stone Table, and a moulder'd Cave, 
A Hermit's history. In such a race, 
So ended, disappointment could be none, 
Uneasiness, or pain, or jealousy: 
We rested in the shade, all pleas'd alike, 
Conquer'd and Conqueror. Thus the pride of strength, 
And the vain-glory of superior skill 
Were interfus'd with objects which subdu'd 
And temper'd them, and gradually produc'd 
A quiet independence of the heart. 
And to my Friend, who knows me, I may add, 
Unapprehensive of reproof, that hence 
Ensu'd a diffidence and modesty, 
And I was taught to feel, perhaps too much, 
The self-sufficing power of solitude. 

       No delicate viands sapp'd our bodily strength; 
More than we wish'd we knew the blessing then 
Of vigorous hunger, for our daily meals 
Were frugal, Sabine fare! and then, exclude 
A little weekly stipend, and we lived 
Through three divisions of the quarter'd year 
In pennyless poverty. But now, to School 
Return'd, from the half-yearly holidays, 
We came with purses more profusely fill'd, 
Allowance which abundantly suffic'd 
To gratify the palate with repasts 
More costly than the Dame of whom I spake, 
That ancient Woman, and her board supplied. 
Hence inroads into distant Vales, and long 
Excursions far away among the hills, 
Hence rustic dinners on the cool green ground, 
Or in the woods, or near a river side, 
Or by some shady fountain, while soft airs 
Among the leaves were stirring, and the sun 
Unfelt, shone sweetly round us in our joy. 

       Nor is my aim neglected, if I tell 
How twice in the long length of those half-years 
We from our funds, perhaps, with bolder hand 
Drew largely, anxious for one day, at least, 
To feel the motion of the galloping Steed; 
And with the good old Inn-keeper, in truth, 
On such occasion sometimes we employ'd 
Sly subterfuge; for the intended bound 
Of the day's journey was too distant far 
For any cautious man, a Structure famed 
Beyond its neighbourhood, the antique Walls 
Of that large Abbey which within the vale 
Of Nightshade, to St. Mary's honour built, 
Stands yet, a mouldering Pile, with fractured Arch, 
Belfry, and Images, and living Trees, 
A holy Scene! along the smooth green turf 
Our Horses grazed: to more than inland peace 
Left by the sea wind passing overhead 
(Though wind of roughest temper) trees and towers 
May in that Valley oftentimes be seen, 
Both silent and both motionless alike; 
Such is the shelter that is there, and such 
The safeguard for repose and quietness. 

       Our steeds remounted, and the summons given, 
With whip and spur we by the Chauntry flew 
In uncouth race, and left the cross-legg'd Knight, 
And the stone-Abbot, and that single Wren 
Which one day sang so sweetly in the Nave 
Of the old Church, that, though from recent showers 
The earth was comfortless, and, touch'd by faint 
Internal breezes, sobbings of the place, 
And respirations, from the roofless walls 
The shuddering ivy dripp'd large drops, yet still, 
So sweetly 'mid the gloom the invisible Bird 
Sang to itself, that there I could have made 
My dwelling-place, and liv'd for ever there 
To hear such music. Through the Walls we flew 
And down the valley, and a circuit made 
In wantonness of heart, through rough and smooth 
We scamper'd homeward. Oh! ye Rocks and Streams, 
And that still Spirit of the evening air! 
Even in this joyous time I sometimes felt 
Your presence, when with slacken'd step we breath'd 
Along the sides of the steep hills, or when, 
Lighted by gleams of moonlight from the sea, 
We beat with thundering hoofs the level sand. 

       Upon the Eastern Shore of Windermere, 
Above the crescent of a pleasant Bay, 
There stood an Inn, no homely-featured Shed, 
Brother of the surrounding Cottages, 
But 'twas a splendid place, the door beset 
With Chaises, Grooms, and Liveries, and within 
Decanters, Glasses, and the blood-red Wine. 
In ancient times, or ere the Hall was built 
On the large Island, had this Dwelling been 
More worthy of a Poet's love, a Hut, 
Proud of its one bright fire, and sycamore shade. 
But though the rhymes were gone which once inscribed 
The threshold, and large golden characters 
On the blue-frosted Signboard had usurp'd 
The place of the old Lion, in contempt 
And mockery of the rustic painter's hand, 
Yet to this hour the spot to me is dear 
With all its foolish pomp. The garden lay 
Upon a slope surmounted by the plain 
Of a small Bowling-green; beneath us stood 
A grove; with gleams of water through the trees 
And over the tree-tops; nor did we want 
Refreshment, strawberries and mellow cream. 
And there, through half an afternoon, we play'd 
On the smooth platform, and the shouts we sent 
Made all the mountains ring. But ere the fall 
Of night, when in our pinnace we return'd 
Over the dusky Lake, and to the beach 
Of some small Island steer'd our course with one, 
The Minstrel of our troop, and left him there, 
And row'd off gently, while he blew his flute 
Alone upon the rock; Oh! then the calm 
And dead still water lay upon my mind 
Even with a weight of pleasure, and the sky 
Never before so beautiful, sank down 
Into my heart, and held me like a dream. 

       Thus daily were my sympathies enlarged, 
And thus the common range of visible things 
Grew dear to me: already I began 
To love the sun, a Boy I lov'd the sun, 
Not as I since have lov'd him, as a pledge 
And surety of our earthly life, a light 
Which while we view we feel we are alive; 
But, for this cause, that I had seen him lay 
His beauty on the morning hills, had seen 
The western mountain touch his setting orb, 
In many a thoughtless hour, when, from excess 
Of happiness, my blood appear'd to flow 
With its own pleasure, and I breath'd with joy. 
And from like feelings, humble though intense, 
To patriotic and domestic love 
Analogous, the moon to me was dear; 
For I would dream away my purposes, 
Standing to look upon her while she hung 
Midway between the hills, as if she knew 
No other region; but belong'd to thee, 
Yea, appertain'd by a peculiar right 
To thee and thy grey huts, my darling Vale! 

       Those incidental charms which first attach'd 
My heart to rural objects, day by day 
Grew weaker, and I hasten on to tell 
How Nature, intervenient till this time, 
And secondary, now at length was sought 
For her own sake. But who shall parcel out 
His intellect, by geometric rules, 
Split, like a province, into round and square? 
Who knows the individual hour in which 
His habits were first sown, even as a seed, 
Who that shall point, as with a wand, and say, 
'This portion of the river of my mind 
Came from yon fountain?' Thou, my Friend! art one 
More deeply read in thy own thoughts; to thee 
Science appears but, what in truth she is, 
Not as our glory and our absolute boast, 
But as a succedaneum, and a prop 
To our infirmity. Thou art no slave 
Of that false secondary power, by which, 
In weakness, we create distinctions, then 
Deem that our puny boundaries are things 
Which we perceive, and not which we have made. 
To thee, unblinded by these outward shows, 
The unity of all has been reveal'd 
And thou wilt doubt with me, less aptly skill'd 
Than many are to class the cabinet 
Of their sensations, and, in voluble phrase, 
Run through the history and birth of each, 
As of a single independent thing. 
Hard task to analyse a soul, in which, 
Not only general habits and desires, 
But each most obvious and particular thought, 
Not in a mystical and idle sense, 
But in the words of reason deeply weigh'd, 
Hath no beginning. 

                                              Bless'd the infant Babe, 
(For with my best conjectures I would trace 
The progress of our Being) blest the Babe, 
Nurs'd in his Mother's arms, the Babe who sleeps 
Upon his Mother's breast, who, when his soul 
Claims manifest kindred with an earthly soul, 
Doth gather passion from his Mother's eye! 
Such feelings pass into his torpid life 
Like an awakening breeze, and hence his mind 
Even [in the first trial of its powers] 
Is prompt and watchful, eager to combine 
In one appearance, all the elements 
And parts of the same object, else detach'd 
And loth to coalesce. Thus, day by day, 
Subjected to the discipline of love, 
His organs and recipient faculties 
Are quicken'd, are more vigorous, his mind spreads, 
Tenacious of the forms which it receives. 
In one beloved presence, nay and more, 
In that most apprehensive habitude 
And those sensations which have been deriv'd 
From this beloved Presence, there exists 
A virtue which irradiates and exalts 
All objects through all intercourse of sense. 
No outcast he, bewilder'd and depress'd; 
Along his infant veins are interfus'd 
The gravitation and the filial bond 
Of nature, that connect him with the world. 
Emphatically such a Being lives, 
An inmate of this active universe; 
From nature largely he receives; nor so 
Is satisfied, but largely gives again, 
For feeling has to him imparted strength, 
And powerful in all sentiments of grief, 
Of exultation, fear, and joy, his mind, 
Even as an agent of the one great mind, 
Creates, creator and receiver both, 
Working but in alliance with the works 
Which it beholds.—Such, verily, is the first 
Poetic spirit of our human life; 
By uniform control of after years 
In most abated or suppress'd, in some, 
Through every change of growth or of decay, 
Pre-eminent till death. 

                                                    From early days, 
Beginning not long after that first time 
In which, a Babe, by intercourse of touch, 
I held mute dialogues with my Mother's heart 
I have endeavour'd to display the means 
Whereby this infant sensibility, 
Great birthright of our Being, was in me 
Augmented and sustain'd. Yet is a path 
More difficult before me, and I fear 
That in its broken windings we shall need 
The chamois' sinews, and the eagle's wing: 
For now a trouble came into my mind 
From unknown causes. I was left alone, 
Seeking the visible world, nor knowing why. 
The props of my affections were remov'd, 
And yet the building stood, as if sustain'd 
By its own spirit! All that I beheld 
Was dear to me, and from this cause it came, 
That now to Nature's finer influxes 
My mind lay open, to that more exact 
And intimate communion which our hearts 
Maintain with the minuter properties 
Of objects which already are belov'd, 
And of those only. Many are the joys 
Of youth; but oh! what happiness to live 
When every hour brings palpable access 
Of knowledge, when all knowledge is delight, 
And sorrow is not there. The seasons came, 
And every season to my notice brought 
A store of transitory qualities 
Which, but for this most watchful power of love 
Had been neglected, left a register 
Of permanent relations, else unknown, 
Hence life, and change, and beauty, solitude 
More active, even, than 'best society', 
Society made sweet as solitude 
By silent inobtrusive sympathies, 
And gentle agitations of the mind 
From manifold distinctions, difference 
Perceived in things, where to the common eye, 
No difference is; and hence, from the same source 
Sublimer joy; for I would walk alone, 
In storm and tempest, or in starlight nights 
Beneath the quiet Heavens; and, at that time, 
Have felt whate'er there is of power in sound 
To breathe an elevated mood, by form 
Or image unprofaned; and I would stand, 
Beneath some rock, listening to sounds that are 
The ghostly language of the ancient earth, 
Or make their dim abode in distant winds. 
Thence did I drink the visionary power. 
I deem not profitless those fleeting moods 
Of shadowy exultation: not for this, 
That they are kindred to our purer mind 
And intellectual life; but that the soul, 
Remembering how she felt, but what she felt 
Remembering not, retains an obscure sense 
Of possible sublimity, to which, 
With growing faculties she doth aspire, 
With faculties still growing, feeling still 
That whatsoever point they gain, they still 
Have something to pursue. 

                                                             And not alone, 
In grandeur and in tumult, but no less 
In tranquil scenes, that universal power 
And fitness in the latent qualities 
And essences of things, by which the mind 
Is mov'd by feelings of delight, to me 
Came strengthen'd with a superadded soul, 
A virtue not its own. My morning walks 
Were early; oft, before the hours of School 
I travell'd round our little Lake, five miles 
Of pleasant wandering, happy time! more dear 
For this, that one was by my side, a Friend 
Then passionately lov'd; with heart how full 
Will he peruse these lines, this page, perhaps 
A blank to other men! for many years 
Have since flow'd in between us; and our minds, 
Both silent to each other, at this time 
We live as if those hours had never been. 
Nor seldom did I lift our cottage latch 
Far earlier, and before the vernal thrush 
Was audible, among the hills I sate 
Alone, upon some jutting eminence 
At the first hour of morning, when the Vale 
Lay quiet in an utter solitude. 
How shall I trace the history, where seek 
The origin of what I then have felt? 
Oft in these moments such a holy calm 
Did overspread my soul, that I forgot 
That I had bodily eyes, and what I saw 
Appear'd like something in myself, a dream, 
A prospect in my mind. 

                                                       'Twere long to tell 
What spring and autumn, what the winter snows, 
And what the summer shade, what day and night, 
The evening and the morning, what my dreams 
And what my waking thoughts supplied, to nurse 
That spirit of religious love in which 
I walked with Nature. But let this, at least 
Be not forgotten, that I still retain'd 
My first creative sensibility, 
That by the regular action of the world 
My soul was unsubdu'd. A plastic power 
Abode with me, a forming hand, at times 
Rebellious, acting in a devious mood, 
A local spirit of its own, at war 
With general tendency, but for the most 
Subservient strictly to the external things 
With which it commun'd. An auxiliar light 
Came from my mind which on the setting sun 
Bestow'd new splendor, the melodious birds, 
The gentle breezes, fountains that ran on, 
Murmuring so sweetly in themselves, obey'd 
A like dominion; and the midnight storm 
Grew darker in the presence of my eye. 
Hence by obeisance, my devotion hence, 
And hence my transport. 

                                                          Nor should this, perchance, 
Pass unrecorded, that I still have lov'd 
The exercise and produce of a toil 
Than analytic industry to me 
More pleasing, and whose character I deem 
Is more poetic as resembling more 
Creative agency. I mean to speak 
Of that interminable building rear'd 
By observation of affinities 
In objects where no brotherhood exists 
To common minds. My seventeenth year was come 
And, whether from this habit, rooted now 
So deeply in my mind, or from excess 
Of the great social principle of life, 
Coercing all things into sympathy, 
To unorganic natures I transferr'd 
My own enjoyments, or, the power of truth 
Coming in revelation, I convers'd 
With things that really are, I, at this time 
Saw blessings spread around me like a sea. 
Thus did my days pass on, and now at length 
From Nature and her overflowing soul 
I had receiv'd so much that all my thoughts 
Were steep'd in feeling; I was only then 
Contented when with bliss ineffable 
I felt the sentiment of Being spread 
O'er all that moves, and all that seemeth still, 
O'er all, that, lost beyond the reach of thought 
And human knowledge, to the human eye 
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart, 
O'er all that leaps, and runs, and shouts, and sings, 
Or beats the gladsome air, o'er all that glides 
Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself 
And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not 
If such my transports were; for in all things 
I saw one life, and felt that it was joy. 
One song they sang, and it was audible, 
Most audible then when the fleshly ear, 
O'ercome by grosser prelude of that strain, 
Forgot its functions, and slept undisturb'd. 

       If this be error, and another faith 
Find easier access to the pious mind, 
Yet were I grossly destitute of all 
Those human sentiments which make this earth 
So dear, if I should fail, with grateful voice 
To speak of you, Ye Mountains and Ye Lakes, 
And sounding Cataracts! Ye Mists and Winds 
That dwell among the hills where I was born. 
If, in my youth, I have been pure in heart, 
If, mingling with the world, I am content 
With my own modest pleasures, and have liv'd, 
With God and Nature communing, remov'd 
From little enmities and low desires, 
The gift is yours; if in these times of fear, 
This melancholy waste of hopes o'erthrown, 
If, 'mid indifference and apathy 
And wicked exultation, when good men, 
On every side fall off we know not how, 
To selfishness, disguis'd in gentle names 
Of peace, and quiet, and domestic love, 
Yet mingled, not unwillingly, with sneers 
On visionary minds; if in this time 
Of dereliction and dismay, I yet 
Despair not of our nature; but retain 
A more than Roman confidence, a faith 
That fails not, in all sorrow my support, 
The blessing of my life, the gift is yours, 
Ye mountains! thine, O Nature! Thou hast fed 
My lofty speculations; and in thee, 
For this uneasy heart of ours I find 
A never-failing principle of joy, 
And purest passion. 

                                                Thou, my Friend! wert rear'd 
In the great City, 'mid far other scenes; 
But we, by different roads at length have gain'd 
The self-same bourne. And for this cause to Thee 
I speak, unapprehensive of contempt, 
The insinuated scoff of coward tongues, 
And all that silent language which so oft 
In conversation betwixt man and man 
Blots from the human countenance all trace 
Of beauty and of love. For Thou hast sought 
The truth in solitude, and Thou art one, 
The most intense of Nature's worshippers 
In many things my Brother, chiefly here 
In this my deep devotion.

                                                            Fare Thee well! 
Health, and the quiet of a healthful mind 
Attend thee! seeking oft the haunts of men, 
And yet more often living with Thyself, 
And for Thyself, so haply shall thy days 
Be many, and a blessing to mankind. 

William Wordsworth

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