« PreviousContinue »
M ISS WORDSWORTH did not write much poetry.
I The few pieces she has left behind, though not of the highest order, are sufficient to show that had she devoted herself to it, she might have attained distinction. She was so devoted to her brother that she did not attempt for herself an independent position. She preferred to find subjects for the more skilful pen of her brother, and to act as his amanuensis. The poems that she did write, and which have been published with those of her brother, are worthy of a place here. The first of these, written in 1805, is
“THE COTTAGER TO HER INFANT. (Suggested to Miss Wordsworth when watching one of the Poet's
“The days are cold, the nights are long,
The north wind sings a doleful song;
Then hush again upon my breast;
All merry things are now at rest,
Save thee, my pretty Love!
“The kitten sleeps upon the hearth,
The crickets long have ceased their mirth;
There's nothing stirring in the house
Save one wee, hungry, nibbling mouse,
Then why so busy thou?
“Nay! start not at that sparkling light;
'Tis but the moon that shines so bright
On the window pane, bedropped with rain :
Then, little Darling! sleep again,
And wake when it is day."
The following (written in 1806) has been described by Charles Lamb as masterly :
“ADDRESSED TO A CHILD (DURING A BOIS
TEROUS WINTER EVENING).
“What way does the Wind come? What way does he go?
He rides over the water, and over the snow;
Through wood and through vale; and o'er rocky height
Which the goat cannot climb, takes his sounding flight;
He tosses about in every bare tree,
As, if you look up, you plainly may see;
But how he will come, and whither he goes,
There's never a scholar in England knows.
He will suddenly stop in a cunning nook,
And ring a sharp 'larum ; — but, if you should look,
There's nothing to see but a cushion of snow
Round as a pillow, and whiter than milk,
And softer than if it were covered with silk.
Sometimes he'll hide in the cave of a rock,
Then whistle as shrill as the buzzard cock;
- Yet seek him, - and what shall you find in the place?
Nothing but silence and empty space;
Save, in a corner, a heap of dry leaves,
That he's left, for a bed, to beggars or thieves !
As soon as 'tis daylight to-morrow, with me,
You shall go to the orchard, and then you will see
That he has been there, and made such a rout,
And cracked the branches, and strewn them about;
Heaven grant that he spare but that one upright twig
That looked up at the sky so proud and big
All last summer, as well you know,
Studded with apples, a beautiful show!
Hark! over the roof he makes a pause,
And growls as if he would fix his claws
Right in the slates, and with a huge rattle,
Drive them down, like men in a battle:
– But let him range round; he does us no harm,
We build up the fire, we're snug and warm;
Untouched by his breath, see the candle shines bright,
And burns with a clear and steady light;
Books have we to read, - but that half-stifled knell,
Alas! 'tis the sound of the eight o'clock bell.
- Come now, we'll to bed! and when we are there,
He may work his own will, and what shall we care ?
He may knock at the door, — we'll not let him in;
May drive at the windows, - we'll laugh at his din;
Let him seek his own home, wherever it be;
Here's a cozie warm house for Edward and me."
The next (also a child's poem), written in 1807, was composed on the eve of the return of Mrs. Wordsworth, after a month's absence in London. Miss Wordsworth and the children were then staying at Coleorton :
“THE MOTHER'S RETURN.
“ A month, sweet little-ones, is past
Since your dear Mother went away,
And she to-morrow will return;
To-morrow is the happy day.
“O blessed tidings ! thought of joy!
The eldest heard with steady glee; Silent he stood; then laughed amain, And shouted, 'Mother, come to me!'
“Louder and louder did he shout,
With witless hope to bring her near; *Nay, patience ! patience, little boy! Your tender mother cannot hear.'
“I told of hills, and far-off towns,
And long, long vales to travel through, He listens, puzzled, sore perplexed, But he submits; what can he do?
“No strife disturbs his sister's breast;
She wars not with the mystery
Of time and distance, night and day;
The bonds of our humanity.
“Her joy is like an instinct - joy
Of kitten, bird, or summer fly;
She dances, runs without an aim ;
She chatters in her ecstasy.
“Her brother now takes up the note,
And echoes back his sister's glee;
They hug the infant in my arms,
As if to force his sympathy.
“Then, settling into fond discourse,
We rested in the garden bower; While sweetly shone the evening sun,
In his departing hour.
“We told o'er all that we had done,
Our rambles by the swift brook's side,
Far as the willow-skirted pool,
Where two fair swans together glide.
“ We talked of change, of winter gone,
Of green leaves on the hawthorn spray,
Of birds that build their nests and sing,
And all ‘since Mother went away!'
"To her these tales they will repeat,
To her our new-born tribes will show,
The goslings green, the ass's colt,
The lambs that in the meadow go.
“ — But see, the evening star comes forth!
To bed the children must depart;
A moment's heaviness they feel,
A sadness at the heart:
“ 'Tis gone — and in a merry fit
They run upstairs in gamesome race;
I, too, infected by their mood,
I could have joined the wanton chase.
“Five minutes past — and, O the change!
Asleep upon their beds they lie;
Their busy limbs in perfect rest,
And closed the sparkling eye.”
The following poem was written at Rydal Mount in 1832. Wordsworth has said he believed it arose out of a casual expression of one of Mr. Swinburne's children:
LOVING AND LIKING: IRREGULAR VERSES, AD
DRESSED TO A CHILD.
“There's more in words than I can teach;
Yet listen, Child! - I would not preach;
But only give some plain directions
To guide your speech and your affections.
Say not you love a roasted fowl,
But you may love a screaming owl,