Page images

Along the public way, this Peak, so high
Above us, and so distant in its height,
Is visible; and often seems to send
Its own deep quiet to restore our hearts.
The meteors make of it a favorite haunt:
The star of Jove, so beautiful and large,
In the mid heavens, is never half so fair
As when he shines above it. 'Tis in truth
The loneliest place we have among the clouds.
(And She who dwells with me, whom I have loved
With such communion, that no place on earth
Can ever be a solitude to me,
Hath to this lonely Summit given my Name.”

As this poem was written in the first year of their residence at Grasmere, the reference in the closing lines can be to no other person than Miss Wordsworth.

Still another poem of the series owes its origin to a walk by the poet, in the company of his sister and Coleridge. The path here referred to, by the side of the lake, has, we are informed, lost its privacy and beauty, by reason of the making of the new highway from Rydal to Grasmere :

“ A narrow girdle of rough stones and crags,

A rude and natural causeway, interposed
Between the water and a winding slope
Of copse and thicket, leaves the eastern shore
Of Grasmere safe in its own privacy:
And there, myself and two beloved Friends,
One calm September morning, ere the mist
Had altogether yielded to the sun,

Sauntered on this retired and difficult way. -“Ill suits the road with one in haste; but we

Played with our time; and, as we strolled along,
It was our occupation to observe

Such objects as the waves had tossed ashore -
Feather, or leaf, or weed, or withered bough,
Each on the other heaped, along the line
Of the dry wreck. And, in our vacant mood,
Not seldom did we stop to watch some tuft
Of dandelion seed or thistle's beard,
That skimmed the surface of the dead calm lake,
Suddenly halting now — a lifeless stand!
And starting off again with freak as sudden;
In all its sportive wanderings, all the while
Making report of an invisible breeze
That was its wings, its chariot, and its horse,
Its playmate, rather say, its moving soul.

“And often, trifling with a privilege

Alike indulged to all, we paused, one now,
And now the other, to point out, perchance
To pluck, some flower or water-weed, too fair
Either to be divided from the place
On which it grew, or to be left alone
To its own beauty."

The poem goes on to relate how they saw in the distance, angling by the margin of the lake, a man in the garb of a peasant, while from the fields the merry noise of the reapers fell upon their ears. They somewhat hastily came to the conclusion that the man was an idler, who, instead of spending his time at the gentle craft, might have been more profitably engaged in the harvest. Upon a near approach they, however, found that he was a feeble old man, wasted by sickness, and too week to labor, who was doing his best to gain a scanty pittance from the lake. It concludes by alluding to the self-upbraiding of the three friends, in consequence of their too rashly formed opinion :

“I will not say
What thoughts immediately were ours, nor how
The happy idleness of that sweet morn,
With all its lovely images, was changed
To serious musing and to self-reproach.
Nor did we fail to see within ourselves
What need there is to be reserved in speech,
And temper all our thoughts with charity.
- Therefore, unwilling to forget that day,
My Friend, Myself, and She who then received
The same admonishment, have called the place
By a memorial name, uncouth indeed,
As e'er by mariner was given to bay
Or foreland, on a new-discovered coast;
And Point Rash-Judgment is the name it bears."

Another memorial of Miss Wordsworth in her prime is to be found in the “Rock of Names,” which stands on the right-hand side of the road from Grasmere to Keswick, near the head of Thirlmere, and about a mile beyond “Wytheburn's modest House of Prayer." This was a meeting-place of Wordsworth and Coleridge, who was then resident at Keswick, and their friends. On the surface of this “ upright mural block of stone," moss-crowned, smooth-faced, and lichenpatched, are cut the following letters :

[ocr errors]

It is hardly necessary to state that the initials are those of William Wordsworth, Mary Hutchinson (afterwards his wife), Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Wordsworth (the poet's brother), and Sarah Hutchinson (the sister of Mrs. Wordsworth). It is greatly to be regretted that on the completion of the projected reservoir of the Manchester Corporation, this rock, unless steps are taken for its preservation, will be submerged in its waters. Seldom did half-adozen more poetic and fervent natures meet and leave a more unique, and attractive memorial. It is to be hoped that means will be adopted not only to have the rock removed to a place of safety, but also. to preserve it from further mutilation. Although these initials have withstood the storms and blasts of more than four score winters, they are yet perfectly distinct and legible, and their original character is preserved. Whilst there are, unfortunately, now other initials and marks upon the face of the rock, it is more free from them than might have been expected. The very fact of attention being called to such an interesting memento, while being a source of pleasure to the admirers of the gifted children of genius who made this their trysting-place, also arouses the puerile am

bition of those whose interest centres in themselves, - and to whom no associations are dear, to inscribe

their own scratch. In this way there has already been added the letter J. before the original D. W. of Miss Wordsworth. Wordsworth's allusion to this rock, in a note to some editions of his poem, “ The Waggoner,” is as follows:

“Light is the strain, but not unjust

To Thee, and thy memorial-trust
That once seemed only to express
Love that was love in idleness;
Tokens, as year hath followed year,
How changed, alas, in character !
For they were graven on thy smooth breast
By hands of those my soul loved best;
Meek women, men as true and brave
As ever went to a hopeful grave:
Their hands and mine, when side by side,
With kindred zeal and mutual pride,
We worked until the Initials took
Shapes that defied a scornful look. --
Long as for us a genial feeling
Survives, or one in need of healing,
The power, dear Rock, around thee cast,
Thy monumental power, shall last
For me and mine! O thought of pain,
That would impair it or profane!
And fail not Thou, loved Rock! to keep

Thy charge when we are laid asleep.” In this place a reference by Wordsworth to his little poem, commencing “Yes, it was the mountain echo,” will be of interest. “The echo came from Nab-scar, when I was walking on the opposite side of Rydal Mere. I will here mention, for my dear sister's sake, that while she was sitting alone one day, high up on this part of Loughrigg fell, she was so affected by the voice of the cuckoo, heard from the crags at some distance, that she could not suppress a wish to have a stone inscribed with her name among the rocks from which the sound proceeded.”

« PreviousContinue »