Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[blocks in formation]

3 In ed. 1807, the following verse follows the first

Whence the Voice ? from air or earth ?
This the Cuckoo cannot tell ;
But a startling sound had birth,
As the Bird must know full well;

[blocks in formation]

Such rebounds our inward ear
Catches sometimes from afar-1
Listen, ponder, hold them dear;2
For of God, of God they are.

The place where this echo was heard can easily be identified by any one walking along the southern, or Loughrigg shore of Rydal. The Fenwick note refers to a wish of Dorothy Wordsworth to have her name inscribed on a stone amongst the rocks of Loughrigg Fell. It is impossible to know whether it was ever carried out or not. If it was, the place is undiscoverable, like the spot on the banks of the Rotha, where Joanna's name was graven “deep in the living rock," or the place where Wordsworth carved his wife's initials (as recorded in Mrs Heman's Memoirs), or where the Daisy was found, which suggested the lines

"Small service is true service while it lasts ;” and it is well that they are undiscoverable. It is so easy for posterity to vulgarise, by idle and unappreciative curiosity, spots that are sacred only to the few who feel them to be shrines. The very grave where. Wordsworth rests runs the risk of being thus abused by the unthinking crowds. But, in the hope that no one will desecrate it as the Rock of Names has been injured, I may mention that there is a stone with the initial “ W." deeply cut, near Rydal Mere, on the north-eastern slope of Loughrigg. The exact locality need not be more minutely indicated. In the edition of 1827, this poem was called The Echo. It was always classed amongst the “Poems of the Imagination.”—ED.

Comp. 1806.

Pub. 1807. [In the cottage, Town-end, Grasmere, one afternoon in 1801, my sister read to me the sonnets of Milton. I had long been well acquainted

[blocks in formation]

2 1807.

Giddy mortals ! hold them dear ;

1827. Ed. 1832 returns to text of 1807.

with them, but I was particularly struck on that occasion with the dignified simplicity and majestic harmony that runs through most of them,-in character so totally different from the Italian, and still more so from Shakspeare's fine sonnets. I took fire, if I may be allowed to say so, and produced three sonnets the same afternoon, the first I ever wrote, except an irregular one at school. Of these three, the only one I distinctly remember is—“I grieved for Buonaparte.” One was never written down; the third, which was, I believe, preserved, I cannot particularise.]

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room ;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels ;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells :
In truth the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me, 1
In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

This sonnet was named “Prefatory Sonnet,” and, as such, was prefixed to the series of “Miscellaneous Sonnets” in the editions of 1807, 1815, and 1820. In 1827, it took its place as the first of the series.

In Wordsworth's time “Furness-fells.” was a generic phrase for all the hills east of the Duddon, south of the Brathay, and west of Windermere; including the Coniston group, Wetherlam, with the Yewdale and Tilberthwaite fells. The district of Furness, like that of Craven in Yorkshire, being originally ecclesiastical, had a wide area, of which the abbey of Furness was the centre. With the lines

the prison, unto which we doom Ourselves, no prison is :

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

compare those in Lovelace's poem, To Althea from Prison

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage ;
Minds innocent and quiet take

These for a hermitage.
With the phrase-

The weight of too much liberty, compare the line in the Ode to Duty

Me this unchartered freedom tires. In the Fenwick note prefixed to this sonnet, Wordsworth refers to his earliest attempt at sonnet writing. He says he wrote an irregular one at school, and the next were three sonnets written one afternoon in Dove Cottage in the year 1801, after his sister had read the sonnets of Milton. This note is not, however, to be trusted. It was not in 1801, but on the 21st of May 1802, that his sister read to him these sonnets of Milton; and he afterwards wrote not one but two sonnets on Buonaparte. What the irregular sonnet written at school was it is impossible to say, unless he refers to the one described in 1807, and subsequent editions, as "written in very early youth ;" that, viz., beginning

Calm is all nature as a resting wheel. But, as indicated in the note preceding the preface to the first volume of this edition, Wordsworth wrote on a copy of The Evening Walk (edition 1793) :-“This is the first of my published poems, with the exception of a sonnet, written when I was a schoolboy, and published in the ‘European Magazine' in June or July 1786, and signed Axiologus.” Even as to this date his memory was at fault.

It was published in 1787, when he was seventeen years of age. Its full title may be given ; although, for reasons already stated, it would be unjustifiable to republish the sonnet. It was entitled, “Sonnet, on seeing Miss Maria Williams weep at a Tale of Distress.” But, fully ten years before the date mentioned by Dorothy Wordsworth in her Grasmere journal-as the day on which she read Milton's sonnets to her brother, and on which he wrote the two on Buonaparte-he had written others, the existence of which he had evidently forgotten. On the 6th of May 1792, his sister wrote thus from Forncett Rectory in Norfolk to her friend, Miss Jane Pollard :—"I promised to transcribe some of William's compositions. As I made the promise, I will give you a little sonnet .... I take the first that offers. It is very valuable to me, because the cause which gave birth to it was the favourite evening walk of William and me

I have not chosen this sonnet from any particular beauty it has. was the first I laid my hands upon.From the clause I have italicised, it would almost seem that other sonnets belong to that period, viz., before 1793, when The Evening Walk appeared. She would hardly have spoken of it as she did, if this was

the only sonnet her brother had then written. Though very inferior to his later work, this Forncett sonnet—as it may perhaps be called may be reproduced as a specimen of Wordsworth's earlier mannerbefore he had broken away, by the force of his own imagination, from the trammels of the conventional style

Sweet was the walk along the narrow lane
At noon, the bank and hedgerows all the way
Shagged with wild pale-green tufts of fragrant Hay,
Caught by the hawthorns from our loaded Wain,
Which Age with many a slow stoop strove to gain ;
And Childhood seeming still more busy, took
His little rake, with cunning side-long look
Sauntering to pluck the strawberries wild unseen,
Now too on Melancholy's idle Dream,
Musing, the live spot with my

soul agrees
Quiet and dark; for, through the thick-wove trees
Scarce peeps the curious Star till solemn gleams
The clouded Moon, and calls me forth to stray
Through tall green silent woods and ruins

gray. From the above, it will be seen that Wordsworth's memory cannot be always relied upon, in reference to dates, and similar details, in these Fenwick memoranda.--Ed.

PERSONAL TALK.

Comp. 1806.

Pub. 1807. [Written at Town-end, Grasmere. The last line but two stood, at first, better and more characteristically, thus :

By my half-kitchen and half-parlour fire.” My sister and I were in the habit of having the tea-kettle in our little sitting room ; and we toasted the bread ourselves, which reminds me of a little circumstance not unworthy to be set down among these minutiæ. Happening both of us to be engaged a few minutes one morning when we had a young prig of a Scotch lawyer to breakfast with us, my dear Sister, with her usual simplicity, past the toasting fork with a slice of bread into the hands of this Edinburgh genius. Our little book-case stood on one side of the fire. To prevent loss of time, he took down a book, and fell to reading, to the neglect of the toast, which was burnt to a cinder. Many a time have we laughed at this circumstance, and other cottage simplicities of that day. By the bye, I have a spite at one of this series of Sonnets (I will leave the reader to discover which) as having been the means of nearly putting off for ever

« ПредишнаНапред »