William Wordsworth

English Romantic poet (1770–1850)

William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770April 23, 1850) was a major English poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, launched the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 publication of Lyrical Ballads.

Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.
See also:
Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (1807)
The Excursion (1814)


My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
The eye—it cannot choose but see;
we cannot bid the ear be still;
our bodies feel, where'er they be,
against or with our will.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…
Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Minds that have nothing to confer
Find little to perceive.
  • "frank hearted maids of rocky Cumberland"

Wordsworths' approval of the locals following a night of dancing during his 1788 summer vacation away from Cambridge University.[1]

  • From the sweet thoughts of home
    And from all hope I was forever hurled.

    For me—farthest from earthly port to roam
    Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.
    • Guilt and Sorrow, st. 41 (1791-1794) Section XL
  • And oft I thought (my fancy was-so strong)
    That I, at last, a resting-place had found:
    'Here: will I dwell,' said I,' my whole life long,
    Roaming the illimitable waters round;
    Here will I live, of all but heaven disowned.
    And end my days upon the peaceful flood—
    To break my dream the vessel reached its bound;
    And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
    And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.
    • Guilt and Sorrow, st. 41 (1791-1794) Section XLI
  • I travelled among unknown men,
    In lands beyond the sea;
    Nor, England! did I know till then
    What love I bore to thee.
    • I Travelled Among Unknown Men, st. 1 (1799)
  • Much converse do I find in thee,
    Historian of my infancy!
    Float near me; do not yet depart!
    Dead times revive in thee:
    Thou bring'st, gay creature as thou art!
    A solemn image to my heart.
    • To a Butterfly (Stay Near Me), st. 1 (1801)
  • Behold, within the leafy shade,
    Those bright blue eggs together laid!
    On me the chance-discovered sight
    Gleamed like a vision of delight.
    • The Sparrow's Nest, st. 1 (1801)
  • She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
    And humble cares,and delicate fears;
    A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
    And love, and thought, and joy.
    • The Sparrow's Nest, st. 2 (1801)
  • Sweet childish days, that were as long
    As twenty days are now.
    • To a Butterfly (I've Watched You Now a Full Half-Hour), st. 2 (1801)
  • Like an army defeated
    The snow hath retreated,
    And now doth fare ill
    On the top of the bare hill;
    The Ploughboy is whooping—anon—anon!
    There's joy in the mountains:
    There's life in the fountains;
    Small clouds are sailing,
    Blue sky prevailing;
    The rain is over and gone.
    • Written in March, st. 2 (1801)
  • My heart leaps up when I behold
    A rainbow in the sky
    So was it when my life began;
    So is it now I am a man;
    So be it when I shall grow old,
    Or let me die!
    The Child is father of the Man;
    And I could wish my days to be
    Bound each to each by natural piety.
  • Earth has not anything to show more fair:
    Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
    A sight so touching in its majesty:
    This City now doth, like a garment, wear
    The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
    Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
    Open unto the fields and to the sky;
    All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
    • Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802, l. 1 (1802)
  • Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
    The river glideth at his own sweet will:
    Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
    And all that mighty heart is lying still!
    • Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802, l. 11 (1802)
  • Rapine, avarice, expense
    This is idolatry; and these we adore:
    Plain living and high thinking are no more:
    The homely beauty of the good old cause
    Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence,
    And pure religion breathing household laws.
    • Written in London, September 1802, l. 9 (1802)
  • O for a single hour of that Dundee,
    Who on that day the word of onset gave!
    • Sonnet. In the Pass of Killicranky, l. 11 (1803)
  • Pleasures newly found are sweet
    When they lie about our feet.
    • To the Same Flower (the Small Celandine), st. 1 (1803)
  • Every gift of noble origin
    Is breathed upon by Hope's perpetual breath.
    • These Times strike Monied Worldlings, l. 1 (1803)
  • Hail to thee, far above the rest
    In joy of voice and pinion!
    Thou, linnet! in thy green array,
    Presiding spirit here to-day,
    Dost lead the revels of the May;
    And this is thy dominion.
    • The Green Linnet, st. 2 (1803)
  • Lady of the Mere,
    Sole-sitting by the shores of old romance.
    • A Narrow Girdle of Rough Stones and Crags, l. 37 (1803)
  • There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
    Which to this day stands single, in the midst
    Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore.
    • Yew-Trees, l. 1 (1803)
  • Of vast circumference and gloom profound,
    This solitary Tree! A living thing
    Produced too slowly ever to decay;
    Of form and aspect too magnificent
    To be destroyed.
    • Yew-Trees, l. 9 (1803)
  • Bright flower! whose home is everywhere
    Bold in maternal nature's care
    And all the long year through the heir
    Of joy or sorrow,
    Methinks that there abides in thee
    Some concord with humanity,
    Given to no other flower I see
    The forest through.
    • To the Daisy (third poem), st. 1 (1803)
  • O Blithe newcomer! I have heard,
    I hear thee and rejoice.
    O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
    Or but a wandering Voice?
    • To the Cuckoo, st. 1 (1804)
  • No bird, but an invisible thing,
    A voice, a mystery.
    • To the Cuckoo, st. 4 (1804)
  • Thou unassuming Common-place
    Of Nature, with that homely face,
    And yet with something of a grace,
    Which Love makes for thee!
    • To the Same Flower (the Daisy), st. 1 (1805)
  • Oft on the dappled turf at ease
    I sit, and play with similes,
    Loose types of things through all degrees.
    • To the Same Flower (the Daisy), st. 2 (1805)
  • The light that never was, on sea or land,
    The consecration, and the poet's dream.
    • Elegiac Stanzas. Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm, st. 4 (1805)
  • Dear Child of Nature, let them rail!
    • To a Young Lady, st. 1 (1805)
  • Thou, while thy babes around thee cling,
    Shalt show us how divine a thing
    A Woman may be made.
    • To a Young Lady, st. 2 (1805)
  • But an old age serene and bright,
    And lovely as a Lapland night,
    Shall lead thee to thy grave.
    • To a Young Lady, st. 3 (1805)
  • Happier of happy though I be, like them
    I cannot take possession of the sky,
    Mount with a thoughtless impulse, and wheel there
    One of a mighty multitude whose way
    Is a perpetual harmony and dance
    • The Recluse, l. 198 (1805)
  • Is there not
    An art, a music, and a stream of words
    That shalt be life, the acknowledged voice of life?
    • The Recluse, l. 401 (1805)
  • Not Chaos, not
    The darkest pit of lowest Erebus,
    Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out
    By help of dreams - can breed such fear and awe
    As fall upon us often when we look
    Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man.
    • The Recluse, l. 788 (1805)
  • She hath smiles to earth unknown—
    Smiles that with motion of their own
    Do spread, and sink, and rise.
    • Cancelled lines originally in the second stanza of Louisa (1805)
  • Like—but oh, how different!
    • Yes, It Was the Mountain Echo, st. 2 (1806)
  • In truth the prison, unto which we doom
    Ourselves, no prison is.
    • Nuns Fret Not, l. 8 (1806)
  • The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
    • The World Is Too Much with Us, l. 1 (1806)
  • Great God! I'd rather be
    A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
    • The World Is Too Much with Us, l. 9 (1806)
  • Where lies the Land to which yon Ship must go?
    Fresh as a lark mounting at break of day,
    Festively she puts forth in trim array.
    • Where Lies the Land, l. 1 (1806)
  • Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
    Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!
    • To Sleep (A Flock of Sheep), l. 13 (1806)
  • Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
    Are a substantial world, both pure and good:
    Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
    Our pastime and our happiness will grow.
    • Personal Talk, sonnet 3 (1806)
  • Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.
    • Letter to Lady Beaumont (May 21, 1807)
  • It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
    The holy time is quiet as a Nun
    Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
    Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
    The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea.
    • It Is a Beautious Evening, l. 1 (1807)
  • Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
    And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
    God being with thee when we know it not.
    • It Is a Beautious Evening, l. 12 (1807)
  • Once did She hold the gorgeous east in fee;
    And was the safeguard of the west: the worth
    Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
    Venice, the eldest Child of Liberty.
    • On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic, l. 1 (1807)
  • Men are we, and must grieve when even the Shade
    Of that which once was great, is passed away.
    • On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic, l. 13 (1807)
  • Thou has left behind
    Powers that will work for thee,—air, earth, and skies!
    There 's not a breathing of the common wind
    That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
    Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
    And love, and man's unconquerable mind.
    • To Toussaint L'Ouverture, l. 12 (1807)
  • Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour:
    England hath need of thee: she is a fen
    Of stagnant waters.
    • London, 1802, l. 1 (1807)
  • Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
    Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
    Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
    So didst thou travel on life's common way,
    In cheerful godliness.
    • London, 1802, l. 9 (1807)
  • We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
    That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold
    Which Milton held.
    • It Is Not to Be Thought Of, l. 11 (1807)
  • He sang of love, with quiet blending,
    Slow to begin, and never ending;
    Of serious faith, and inward glee;
    That was the song,—the song for me!
    • O Nightingale! Thou Surely Art, l. 17 (1807)
  • Two Voices are there; one is of the sea,
    One of the mountains; each a mighty Voice.
    • Thought of a Briton on the Subjugation of Switzerland, l. 1 (1807)
  • Love had he found in huts where poor men lie;
    His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
    The silence that is in the starry sky,
    The sleep that is among the lonely hills.
    • Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle, l. 161 (1807)
  • Action is transitory—a step, a blow—
    The motion of a muscle—this way or that—
    'Tis done; and in the after-vacancy
    We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed.
    • The White Doe of Rylstone, l. 1 (1807)
  • A few strong instincts and a few plain rules,
    Among the herdsmen of the Alps, have wrought
    More for mankind at this unhappy day
    Then all the pride of intellect and thought?
    • Alas! What Boots the Long Laborious Quest?, l. 11 (1809)
  • Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
    • Letter to his Wife (April 29 1812)
  • A cheerful life is what the Muses love,
    A soaring spirit is their prime delight.
    • From the Dark Chambers of Dejection Freed, l. 13 (1814)
  • But shapes that come not at an earthly call,
    Will not depart when mortal voices bid.
    • Dion, st. 5 (1814)
  • Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind.
    • Surprised by Joy, l. 1 (1815)
  • And beauty, for confiding youth,
    Those shocks of passion can prepare
    That kill the bloom before its time;
    And blanch, without the owner's crime,
    The most resplendent hair.
    • Lament of Mary Queen of Scots, st. 6 (1817)
  • What is pride? A whizzing rocket
    That would emulate a star.
    • Inscriptions Supposed to be Found in and near a Hermit's Cell, l. 11 (1818)
  • Enough, if something from our hands have power
    To live, and act, and serve the future hour.
    • The River Duddon, sonnet 34 - Afterthought, l. 10 (1820)
  • Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower,
    We feel that we are greater than we know.
    • The River Duddon, sonnet 34 - Afterthought, l. 13 (1820)
  • The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.
    • Not Love, Not War, Nor the Tumultuous Swell, l. 14
  • Lives there a man whose sole delights
    Are trivial pomp and city noise,
    Hardening a heart that loathes or slights
    What every natural heart enjoys?
    • To the Lady Fleming, st. 6 (1823)
  • A soul so pitiably forlorn,
    If such do on this earth abide,
    May season apathy with scorn,
    May turn indifference to pride;
    And still be not unblest—compared
    With him who grovels, self-debarred
    From all that lies within the scope
    Of holy faith and christian hope;
    Or, shipwrecked, kindles on the coast
    False fires, that others may be lost.
    • To the Lady Fleming, st. 7 (1823)
  • But hushed be every thought that springs
    From out the bitterness of things.
    • Elegiac Stanzas. Addressed to Sir G.H.B., st. 7 (1824)
  • True beauty dwells in deep retreats,
    Whose veil is unremoved
    Till heart with heart in concord beats,
    And the lover is beloved.
    • To ____ . (Let other Bards of Angels sing), st. 3 (1824)
  • Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
    True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!
    • To a Skylark, st. 2 (1825)
  • Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
    Mindless of its just honours; with this key
    Shakespeare unlocked his heart
    • Scorn Not the Sonnet, l. 1 (1827)
  • Ocean is a mighty harmonist.
    • On the Power of Sound, st. 12 (1828)
  • These feeble and fastidious times.
    • Letter to Alexander Dyce (April 19, 1830)
  • Myriads of daisies have shone forth in flower
    Near the lark's nest, and in their natural hour
    Have passed away; less happy than the one
    That by the unwilling ploughshare died to prove
    The tender charm of poetry and love.
    • Poems Composed or Suggested During a Tour in the Summer of 1833, "There!" said a Stripling, l. 10 (1833)
  • Small service is true service while it lasts.
    Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one:
    The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
    Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun.
    • To a Child. Written in her Album (1834)
  • One solace yet remains for us who came
    Into this world in days when story lacked
    Severe research, that in our hearts we know
    How, for exciting youth's heroic flame,
    Assent is power, belief the soul of fact.
    • Memorials of a Tour in Italy (1837), IV ("story" refers to History)
  • How does the Meadow-flower its bloom unfold?
    Because the lovely little flower is free
    Down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold.
    • A Poet!—He Hath Put His Heart to School, l. 9 (1842)
  • Minds that have nothing to confer
    Find little to perceive.
    • Yes, Thou art Fair, Yet Be Not Moved, st. 2 (1845)
  • Thought and theory must precede all action that moves to salutary purposes. Yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.
    • Attributed by Anna Jameson in her A Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories and Fancies (1854)

Descriptive Sketches Taken during a Pedestrian Tour among the Alps (1793)


We do think all lovers of nature and free spirits should read these pages before visiting Lake Como. In Wordsworth’s view, the Earth itself is jealous of Lake Como because she’s aware of its unique beauty.”

And, Lake Como! thou, a treasure whom the earth

Keeps to herself, confined as in a depth

Of Abyssinian privacy. I spake

Of thee, thy chestnut woods, and garden plots

Of Indian-corn tended by dark-eyed maids;

Thy lofty steeps, and pathways roofed with vines,

Winding from house to house, from town to town,

Sole link that binds them to each other ; walks,

League after league, and cloistral avenues,

Where silence dwells if music be not there:

While yet a youth undisciplined in verse,

Through fond ambition of that hour, I strove

To chant your praise ; nor can approach you now

Ungreeted by- a more melodious song,

Where tones of nature smoothed by learned art

May flow in lasting current. Like a breeze

Or sunbeam over your domain I passed

In motion without pause; but ye have left

Your beauty with me, a serene accord

Of forms and colors, passive, yet endowed

In their subinissivencss with power as sweet

And gracious, almost might I dare to say,

As virtue is, or goodness; sweet as love,

Or the remembrance of a generous deed,

Or mildest visitation of pure thought,

When God, the giver of all joy, is thanked

Religiously, in silent blessedness;

Sweet as this last herself, for such it is.

Lines (1795)

Left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree, which stands near the Lake of Esthwaile, on a desolate part of the Shore, commanding a beautiful Prospect.
  • —Who he was
    That piled these stones, and with the mossy sod
    First covered, and here taught this aged Tree
    With its dark arms to form a circling bower,
    I well remember.—He was one who owned
    No common soul.
    In youth by science nursed.
    And led by nature into a wild scene
    Of lofty hopes, he to the world went forth
    A favoured Being, knowing no desire
    Which genius did not hallow; 'gainst the taint
    Of dissolute tongues, and jealousy, and hate,
    And scorn,—against all enemies prepared,
    All but neglect. The world, for so it thought,
    Owed him no service; wherefore he at once
    With indignation turned himself away,
    And with the food of pride sustained his soul
    In solitude.
  • A morbid pleasure nourished, tracing here
    An emblem of his own unfruitful life:
    And, lifting up his head, he then would gaze
    On the more distant scene,—how lovely 'tis
    Thou seest,—and he would gaze till it became
    Far lovelier, and his heart could not sustain
    The beauty, still more beauteous! Nor, that time,
    When nature had subdued him to herself,
    Would he forget those Beings to whose minds,
    Warm from the labours of benevolence,
    The world and human life appeared a scene
    Of kindred loveliness: then he would sigh,
    Inly disturbed, to think that others felt
    What he must never feel: and so, lost Man!
    On visionary views would fancy feed,
    Till his eye streamed with tears. In this deep vale
    He died,—this seat his only monument.
  • If Thou be one whose heart the holy forms
    Of young imagination have kept pure
    Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know that pride,
    Howe'er disguised in its own majesty,
    Is littleness; that he who feels contempt
    For any living thing, hath faculties
    Which he has never used; that thought with him
    Is in its infancy. The man whose eye
    Is ever on himself doth look on one,
    The least of Nature's works, one who might move
    The wise man to that scorn which wisdom holds
    Unlawful, ever. O be wiser, thou !
    Instructed that true knowledge leads to love;
    True dignity abides with him alone
    Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
    Can still suspect, and still revere himself,
    In lowliness of heart.
  • Oh, be wise, Thou!
    Instructed that true knowledge leads to love.
    • Quote reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 419-23

Peter Bell (1798)

  • There's something in a flying horse,
    There's something in a huge balloon;
    But through the clouds I'll never float
    Until I have a little Boat,
    Shaped like the crescent-moon.
    • Prologue, stanza 1
  • The common growth of Mother Earth
    Suffices me,—her tears, her mirth,
    Her humblest mirth and tears.
    • Prologue, stanza 27
  • A primrose by a river's brim
    A yellow primrose was to him,
    And it was nothing more.
    • Part I, stanza 12
  • The soft blue sky did never melt
    Into his heart; he never felt
    The witchery of the soft blue sky!
    • Part I, stanza 15
  • On a fair prospect some have looked,
    And felt, as I have heard them say,
    As if the moving time had been
    A thing as steadfast as the scene
    On which they gazed themselves away.
    • Part I, stanza 16
  • As if the man had fixed his face,
    In many a solitary place,
    Against the wind and open sky!
    • Part I, stanza 16

Lyrical Ballads (1798–1800)

Poetry...takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
  • The Poet writes under one restriction only, namely, the necessity of giving immediate pleasure
    Nor let this necessity … be considered as a degradation of the Poet’s art. It is far otherwise. It is an acknowledgment of the beauty of the universe, an acknowledgment the more sincere because not formal, but indirect; it is a task light and easy to him who looks at the world in the spirit of love; further, it is a homage paid to the native and naked dignity of man, to the grand elementary principle of pleasure, by which he knows and feels and lives and moves
    Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science
    In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, — in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time … Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge — it is as immortal as the heart of man.
    • Preface
  • The human mind is capable of excitement without the application of gross and violent stimulants; and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity who does not know this.
    • Preface
  • A multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor.
    • Preface
  • What is a Poet?...He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.
    • Preface
  • But, whenever a portion of this facility we may suppose even the greatest Poet to possess, there cannot be a doubt that the language which it will suggest of him, must, in liveliness and truth, fall far short of that with is uttered by men in real life, under the actual pressure of these passions, certain shadows of which the poet thus produced, or feels to be produced, in himself. However exalted a notion we would wish to cherish of the character of a Poet, it is obvious, that, while he describes and imitates passions, his situation is altogether slavish and mechanical, compared with the freedom and power of real and substantial action and suffering.
    • Preface
  • I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
    • Preface
  • All men feel something of an honorable bigotry for the objects which have long continued to please them.
    • Preface
  • — A simple child,
    That lightly draws its breath,
    And feels its life in every limb,
    What should it know of death?
    • We Are Seven, st. 1 (1798)
  • In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
    Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
    • Lines Written in Early Spring, st. 1 (1798)
  • Have I not reason to lament
    What man has made of man?
    • Lines Written in Early Spring, st. 6 (1798)
  • The eye—it cannot choose but see;
    we cannot bid the ear be still;
    our bodies feel, where'er they be,
    against or with our will.
    • Expostulation and Reply, st. 5 (1798)
  • Nor less I deem that there are Powers
    Which of themselves our minds impress;
    That we can feed this mind of ours
    In a wise passiveness.
    • Expostulation and Reply, st. 6 (1798)
  • Come forth into the light of things,
    Let Nature be your teacher.
    • The Tables Turned, st. 4 (1798)
  • One impulse from a vernal wood
    May teach you more of man,
    Of moral evil and of good,
    Than all the sages can.
    • The Tables Turned, st. 6 (1798)
  • O Reader! had you in your mind
    Such stores as silent thought can bring,
    O gentle Reader! you would find
    A tale in everything.
    • Simon Lee, st. 9 (1798)
  • I've heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
    With coldness still returning;
    Alas! the gratitude of men
    Hath oftener left me mourning.
    • Simon Lee, st. 12 (1798)
  • What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
    Into a lover's head!
    "O mercy!" to myself I cried,
    "If Lucy should be dead!"
    • Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known, st. 7 (1799)
  • She dwelt among the untrodden ways
    Beside the springs of Dove,
    A maid whom there were none to praise
    And very few to love:
    • She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways, st. 1 (1799)
  • She lived unknown, and few could know
    When Lucy ceased to be;
    But she is in her grave, and, oh,
    The difference to me!
    • She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways, st. 3 (1799)
  • Three years she grew in sun and shower,
    Then Nature said, "A lovelier flower
    On earth was never sown;
    This Child I to myself will take;
    She shall be mine, and I will make
    A Lady of my own."
    • Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower, st. 1 (1799)
  • A slumber did my spirit seal;
    I had no human fears:
    She seemed a thing that could not feel
    The touch of earthly years.

    No motion has she now, no force;
    She neither hears nor sees;
    Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
    With rocks, and stones, and trees.
    • A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal (1799)
  • The sweetest thing that ever grew
    Beside a human door!
    • Lucy Gray, or Solitude, st. 2 (1799)
  • And sings a solitary song
    That whistles in the wind.
    • Lucy Gray, or Solitude, st. 16 (1799)
  • A youth to whom was given
    So much of earth—so much of heaven,
    And such impetuous blood.
    • Ruth, st. 21 (1799)
  • My eyes are dim with childish tears,
    My heart is idly stirred,
    For the same sound is in my ears
    Which in those days I heard.

    Thus fares it still in our decay:
    And yet the wiser mind
    Mourns less for what age takes away
    Than what it leaves behind.
    • The Fountain, st. 8 & 9 (1799)
  • Something between a hindrance and a help.
    • Michael. A Pastoral Poem, l. 189 (1800)
  • Drink, pretty creature, drink!
    • The Pet Lamb. A Pastoral, st. 1 (1800)
  • May no rude hand deface it,
    And its forlorn Hic jacet!
    • Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle, st. 7 (1800)
Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798
  • Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
    Of five long winters! and again I hear
    These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
    With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again
    Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
    Which on a wild secluded scene impress
    Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
    The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
    • Stanza 1
  • These beauteous forms,
    Through a long absence, have not been to me
    As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
    But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
    Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
    In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
    Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
    And passing even into my purer mind,
    With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
    Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
    As have no slight or trivial influence
    On that best portion of a good man's life,
    His little, nameless, unremembered acts
    Of kindness and of love.
    Nor less, I trust,
    To them I may have owed another gift,
    Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
    In which the burthen of the mystery,
    In which the heavy and the weary weight
    Of all this unintelligible world
    Is lighten'd:—that serene and blessed mood,
    In which the affections gently lead us on,—
    Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
    And even the motion of our human blood
    Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
    In body, and become a living soul:
    While with an eye made quiet by the power
    Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
    We see into the life of things.
    • Stanza 2
  • O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
    How often has my spirit turned to thee!
    • Stanza 3
  • And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
    With many recognitions dim and faint,
    And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
    The picture of the mind revives again:
    While here I stand, not only with the sense
    Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
    That in this moment there is life and food
    For future years.
    And so I dare to hope,
    Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
    I came among these hills;
    • Stanza 3
  • For nature then
    (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
    And their glad animal movements all gone by)
    To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
    What then I was.
    • Stanza 3
  • The sounding cataract
    Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
    The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
    Their colours and their forms, were then to me
    An appetite; a feeling and a love,
    That had no need of a remoter charm,
    By thought supplied, nor any interest
    Unborrowed from the eye.
    • Stanza 3
  • That time is past,
    And all its aching joys are now no more,
    And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
    Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts
    Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
    Abundant recompence. For I have learned
    To look on nature, not as in the hour
    Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
    The still, sad music of humanity,
    Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
    To chasten and subdue.
    And I have felt
    A presence that disturbs me with the joy
    Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
    Of something far more deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
    And the round ocean and the living air,
    And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
    A motion and a spirit, that impels
    All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
    And rolls through all things.
    Therefore am I still
    A lover of the meadows and the woods,
    And mountains; and of all that we behold
    From this green earth; of all the mighty world
    Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
    And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
    In nature and the language of the sense,
    The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
    The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
    Of all my moral being.
    • Stanza 3
  • Nor, perchance,
    If I were not thus taught, Should I the more
    Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
    For thou art with me here upon the banks
    Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
    My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
    The language of my former heart, and read
    My former pleasures in the shooting lights
    Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
    May I behold in thee what I was once,
    My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
    Knowing that Nature never did betray
    The heart that loved her
    ; 'tis her privilege,
    Through all the years of this our life, to lead
    From joy to joy: for she can so inform
    The mind that is within us, so impress
    With quietness and beauty, and so feed
    With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
    Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
    Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
    The dreary intercourse of daily life,
    Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
    Our cheerful faith that all which we behold
    Is full of blessings.
    • Stanza 4
  • If I should be, where I no more can hear
    Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
    Of past existence, wilt thou then forget
    That on the banks of this delightful stream
    We stood together; And that I, so long
    A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
    Unwearied in that service: rather say
    With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
    Of holier love. Now wilt thou then forget,
    That after many wanderings, many years
    Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
    And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
    More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake.
    • Stanza 4

A Poet's Epitaph (1799)

  • A fingering slave,
    One that would peep and botanize
    Upon his mother's grave.
    • Stanza 5
  • A reasoning, self-sufficing thing,
    An intellectual All-in-all!
    • Stanza 8
  • He murmurs near the running brooks
    A music sweeter than their own.
    • Stanza 10
  • And you must love him, ere to you
    He will seem worthy of your love.
    • Stanza 11
  • The harvest of a quiet eye,
    That broods and sleeps on his own heart.
    • Stanza 13

The Prelude (1799-1805)

Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society.
Text from the 1850 edition, unless otherwise stated.
Whether we be young or old,
Our destiny, our being's heart and home,
Is with infinitude, and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be.
There is
One great society alone on earth:
The noble Living and the noble Dead.
  • Oh there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
    A visitant that while it fans my cheek
    Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
    From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
    Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
    To none more grateful than to me; escaped
    From the vast city, where I long had pined
    A discontented sojourner: now free,
    Free as a bird to settle where I will.
    • Bk. I, l. 1
  • Fair seedtime had my soul, and I grew up
    Fostered alike by beauty and by fear.
    • Bk. I, l. 301
  • The grim shape
    Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
    For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
    And measured motion like a living thing,
    Strode after me.
    • Bk. I, l. 381
  • Huge and mighty forms, that do not live
    Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
    By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.
    • Bk. I, l. 398
  • Where the statue stood
    Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
    The marble index of a mind forever
    Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.
    • Bk. III, l. 60
  • When from our better selves we have too long
    Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
    Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
    How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.
    • Bk. IV, l. 354
  • A day
    Spent in a round of strenuous idleness.
    • Bk. IV, l. 377
  • Another morn
    Risen on mid-noon.
    • Bk. VI, l. 197
  • Brothers all
    In honour, as in one community,
    Scholars and gentlemen.
    • Bk. IX, l. 227
  • Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
    But to be young was very heaven!
    • Bk. XI, l. 108
  • The budding rose above the rose full blown.
    • Bk. XI, l. 121

Memorials of a Tour in Scotland (1803)

  • Sweet Mercy! to the gates of Heaven
    This minstrel lead, his sins forgiven;
    The rueful conflict, the heart riven
    With vain endeavour,
    And memory of earth's bitter leaven
    Effaced forever.
    • Thoughts Suggested on the Banks of the Nith, st. 10
  • And stepping westward seemed to be
    A kind of heavenly destiny.
    • Stepping Westward, st. 2
  • I listened, motionless and still;
    And, as I mounted up the hill,
    The music in my heart I bore,
    Long after it was heard no more.
    • The Solitary Reaper, st. 4
  • A famous man is Robin Hood,
    The English ballad-singer's joy.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 1
  • Yet was Rob Roy as wise as brave;
    Forgive me if the phrase be strong;—
    A Poet worthy of Rob Roy
    Must scorn a timid song.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 3
  • Burn all the statutes and their shelves:
    They stir us up against our kind;
    And worse, against ourselves.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 5
  • The good old rule
    Sufficeth them, the simple plan,
    That they should take, who have the power,
    And they should keep who can.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 9
  • The Eagle, he was lord above,
    And Rob was lord below.
    • Rob Roy's Grave, st. 14
  • A brotherhood of venerable trees.
    • Sonnet. Composed at ____ Castle, l. 6
  • From Stirling Castle we had seen
    The mazy Forth unravelled;
    Had trod the banks of Clyde and Tay,
    And with the Tweed had travelled;
    And when we came to Clovenford,
    Then said "my winsome marrow,"
    "Whate'er betide, we'll turn aside,
    And see the braes of Yarrow."
    • Yarrow Unvisited, st. 1
  • She was a Phantom of delight
    When first she gleamed upon my sight;
    A lovely Apparition, sent
    To be a moment's ornament;
    Her eyes as stars of twilight fair,
    Like twilights too her dusky hair,
    But all things else about her drawn
    From May-time and the cheerful dawn.
    • Stanza 1
  • A Creature not too bright or good
    For human nature's daily food;
    For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
    Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.
    • Stanza 2
  • And now I see with eye serene
    The very pulse of the machine.
    • Stanza 3
  • The reason firm, the temperate will,
    Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
    perfect woman, nobly planned,
    To warn, to comfort, and command.
    • Stanza 3
  • I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils.
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
    • Stanza 1
  • Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the milky way.
    • Stanza 2
  • Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
    • Stanza 2
  • A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company.
    • Stanza 3
  • That inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude.
    • Stanza 4
  • Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!
    • Stanza 1
  • A light to guide, a rod
    To check the erring, and reprove.
    • Stanza 1
  • Me this unchartered freedom tires;
    I feel the weight of chance-desires:
    My hopes no more must change their name,
    I long for a repose that ever is the same.
    • Stanza 5
  • Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
    And the most ancient heavens, through Thee, are fresh and strong.
  • Give unto me, made lowly wise,
    The spirit of self-sacrifice;
    The confidence of reason give,
    And in the light of truth thy bondman let me live!
    • Stanza 8
  • Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
    That every man in arms should wish to be?
    • Line 1
  • Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
    And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
    Turns his necessity to glorious gain.
    • Line 12
  • Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves
    Of their bad influence, and their good receives.
    • Line 17
  • More skillful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
    As tempted more; more able to endure,
    As more exposed to suffering and distress.
    • Line 23
  • But who, if he be called upon to face
    Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
    Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
    Is happy as a Lover.
    • Line 48
  • And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
    In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw.
    • Line 53
  • Whom neither shape of danger can dismay,
    Nor thought of tender happiness betray.
    • Line 72

Resolution and Independence (1807)

  • As high as we have mounted in delight,
    In our dejection do we sink as low.
    • Stanza 4
  • But how can he expect that others should
    Build for him, sow for him, and at his call
    Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?
    • Stanza 6
  • I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
    The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
    Of Him who walked in glory and in joy
    Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
    By our own spirits are we deified:
    We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
    But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
    • Stanza 7
  • That heareth not the loud winds when they call,
    And moveth all together, if it moves at all.
    • Stanza 11
  • Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
    Of ordinary men.
    • Stanza 14
  • And mighty poets in their misery dead.
    • Stanza 17

Laodamia (1814)

  • For the gods approve
    The depth, and not the tumult, of the soul.
    • Stanza 13
  • Mightier far
    Than strength of nerve or sinew, or the sway
    Of magic potent over sun and star,
    Is Love, though oft to agony distrest,
    And though his favorite seat be feeble woman's breast.
    • Stanza 14
  • Elysian beauty, melancholy grace,
    Brought from a pensive though a happy place.
    • Stanza 16
  • He spake of love, such love as spirits feel
    In worlds whose course is equable and pure;
    No fears to beat away, no strife to heal,—
    The past unsighed for, and the future sure.
    • Stanza 17
  • Of all that is most beauteous, imaged there
    In happier beauty; more pellucid streams,
    An ampler ether, a diviner air,
    And fields invested with purpureal gleams.
    • Stanza 18
  • Yet tears to human suffering are due;
    And mortal hopes defeated and o'erthrown
    Are mourned by man, and not by man alone.
    • Stanza 28

Ecclesiastical Sonnets (1821)

  • Babylon,
    Learned and wise, hath perished utterly,
    Nor leaves her speech one word to aid the sigh
    That would lament her.
    • Part I, No. 25 - Missions and Travels
  • As thou these ashes, little brook! will bear
    Into the Avon, Avon to the tide
    Of Severn, Severn to the narrow seas,
    Into main ocean they, this deed accurst,
    An emblem yields to friends and enemies
    How the bold teacher's doctrine, sanctified
    By truth, shall spread throughout the world dispersed.
    • Part II, No. 17 - Wicliffe; in obedience to the order of the Council of Constance (1415), the remains of Wickliffe were exhumed and burned to ashes, and these cast into the Swift, a neighbouring brook running hard by; and "thus this brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over", Thomas Fuller, Church History, section ii, book iv, paragraph 53; Compare also: "What Heraclitus would not laugh, or what Democritus would not weep?… For though they digged up his body, burned his bones, and drowned his ashes, yet the word of God and truth of his doctrine, with the fruit and success thereof, they could not burn", Fox, Book of Martyrs, vol. i. p. 606 (edition, 1611); "Some prophet of that day said,—
      "'The Avon to the Severn runs, / The Severn to the sea; / And Wickliffe's dust shall spread abroad / Wide as the waters be'", Daniel Webster, Address before the Sons of New Hampshire (1849), and similarly quoted by the Rev. John Cumming in the Voices of the Dead.
  • Habit rules the unreflecting herd.
    • Part II, No. 28 - Reflections
  • The feather, whence the pen
    Was shaped that traced the lives of these good men,
    Dropped from an Angel's wing.
    • Part III, No. 5 - Walton's Book of Lives. Compare: "The pen wherewith thou dost so heavenly sing / Made of a quill from an angel's wing", Henry Constable, Sonnet; "Whose noble praise / Deserves a quill pluckt from an angel's wing", Dorothy Berry, Sonnet
  • Meek Walton's heavenly memory.
    • Part III, No. 5 – Walton's Book of Lives
  • But who would force the soul tilts with a straw
    Against a champion cased in adamant.
    • Part III, No. 7 - Persecution of the Scottish Covenanters
  • Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore
    Of nicely calculated less or more.
    • Part III, No. 43 - Inside of King's College Chapel, Cambridge
  • Where music dwells
    Lingering and wandering on as loth to die,
    Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
    That they were born for immortality.
    • Part III, No. 43 - Inside of King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Every gift of noble origin
    Is breathed upon by Hope’s perpetual breath.
    • These Times strike Monied Worldlings
  • Oh for a single hour of that Dundee
    Who on that day the word of onset gave!
    • Sonnet, in the Pass of Killicranky
  • In years that bring the philosophic mind.
    • Intimations of Immortality Stanza 10
  • To me the meanest flower that blows can give
    Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
    • Intimations of Immortality Stanza 11
  • Three sleepless nights I passed in sounding on,
    Through words and things, a dim and perilous way.
    • The Borderers Act iv. Sc. 2
  • And 't is my faith, that every flower
    Enjoys the air it breathes.
    • Lines written in Early Spring
  • Up! up! my friend, and quit your books,
    Or surely you 'll grow double!
    Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks!
    Why all this toil and trouble?
    • The Tables Turned
  • The bane of all that dread the Devil.
    • The Idiot Boy
  • The fretful stir
    Unprofitable, and the fever of the world
    Have hung upon the beatings of my heart.
    • Lines completed a few miles above Tintern Abbey
  • Men who can hear the Decalogue, and feel
    To self-reproach.
    • The Old Cumberland Beggar
  • As in the eye of Nature he has lived,
    So in the eye of Nature let him die!
    • The Old Cumberland Beggar
  • Full twenty times was Peter feared,
    For once that Peter was respected.
    • Peter Bell, Part I, stanza 3
  • One of those heavenly days that cannot die.
    • Nutting
  • A violet by a mossy stone
    Half hidden from the eye;
    Fair as a star, when only one
    Is shining in the sky.
    • She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways, st. ? (1799)
  • The stars of midnight shall be dear
    To her; and she shall lean her ear
    In many a secret place
    Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
    And beauty born of murmuring sound
    Shall pass into her face.
    • Three years she grew in Sun and Shower
  • The cattle are grazing,
    Their heads never raising;
    There are forty feeding like one!
    • The Cock is crowing
  • Often have I sighed to measure
    By myself a lonely pleasure,—
    Sighed to think I read a book,
    Only read, perhaps, by me.
    • To the Small Celandine
  • Yet sometimes, when the secret cup
    Of still and serious thought went round,
    It seemed as if he drank it up,
    He felt with spirit so profound.
    • Matthew
  • A happy youth, and their old age
    Is beautiful and free.
    • The Fountain, st. ?? (1799)
  • And often, glad no more,
    We wear a face of joy because
    We have been glad of yore.
    • The Fountain, st. ?? (1799)
  • Until a man might travel twelve stout miles,
    Or reap an acre of his neighbor's corn.
    • The Brothers
  • And he is oft the wisest man
    Who is not wise at all.
    • The Oak and the Broom
  • "A jolly place," said he, "in times of old!
    But something ails it now: the spot is cursed."
    • Hart-leap Well, part ii
  • Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.
    • Hart-leap Well, part ii
  • Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
    With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.
    • Hart-leap Well, part ii
  • A noticeable man, with large gray eyes.
    • Stanzas written in Thomson's Castle of Indolence
  • We meet thee, like a pleasant thought,
    When such are wanted.
    • To the Daisy
  • The poet's darling.
    • To the Daisy
  • The best of what we do and are,
    Just God, forgive!
    • Thoughts suggested on the Banks of the Nith
  • For old, unhappy, far-off things,
    And battles long ago.
    • The Solitary Reaper
  • Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain
    That has been, and may be again.
    • The Solitary Reaper
  • Yon foaming flood seems motionless as ice;
    Its dizzy turbulence eludes the eye,
    Frozen by distance.
    • Address to Kilchurn Castle
  • Let beeves and home-bred kine partake
    The sweets of Burn-mill meadow;
    The swan on still St. Mary's Lake
    Float double, swan and shadow!
    • Yarrow Unvisited
  • A remnant of uneasy light.
    • The Matron of Jedborough
  • To be a Prodigal's favourite,—then, worse truth,
    A Miser's pensioner,—behold our lot!
    • The Small Celandine
  • Maidens withering on the stalk.
    • Personal Talk, Stanza 1
  • Sweetest melodies
    Are those that are by distance made more sweet.
    • Personal Talk, Stanza 2
  • The gentle Lady married to the Moor,
    And heavenly Una with her milk-white lamb.
    • Personal Talk, Stanza 3
  • Blessings be with them, and eternal praise,
    Who gave us nobler loves, and nobler cares!—
    The Poets, who on earth have made us heirs
    Of truth and pure delight by heavenly lays.
    • Personal Talk, Stanza 4
  • A power is passing from the earth.
    • Lines on the expected Dissolution of Mr. Fox
  • Earth helped him with the cry of blood.
    • Song at the Feast of Broughton Castle
  • The monumental pomp of age
    Was with this goodly personage;
    A stature undepressed in size,
    Unbent, which rather seemed to rise
    In open victory o'er the weight
    Of seventy years, to loftier height.
    • The White Doe of Rylstone, canto iii
  • "What is good for a bootless bene?"
    With these dark words begins my tale;
    And their meaning is, Whence can comfort spring
    When prayer is of no avail?
    • Force of Prayer
  • But thou that didst appear so fair
    To fond imagination,
    Dost rival in the light of day
    Her delicate creation.
    • Yarrow Visited
  • 'T is hers to pluck the amaranthine flower
    Of faith, and round the sufferer's temples bind
    Wreaths that endure affliction's heaviest shower,
    And do not shrink from sorrow's keenest wind.
    • Weak is the Will of Man
  • We bow our heads before Thee, and we laud
    And magnify thy name Almighty God!
    But man is thy most awful instrument
    In working out a pure intent.
    • Ode. Imagination before Content
  • Sad fancies do we then affect,
    In luxury of disrespect
    To our own prodigal excess
    Of too familiar happiness.
    • Ode to Lycoris
  • The sightless Milton, with his hair
    Around his placid temples curled;
    And Shakespeare at his side,—a freight,
    If clay could think and mind were weight,
    For him who bore the world!
    • The Italian Itinerant
  • Meek Nature's evening comment on the shows
    That for oblivion take their daily birth
    From all the fuming vanities of earth.
    • Sky-Prospect from the Plain of France
  • Turning, for them who pass, the common dust
    Of servile opportunity to gold.
    • Desultory Stanza
  • To the solid ground
    Of Nature trusts the mind that builds for aye.
    • A Volant Tribe of Bards on Earth
  • Soft is the music that would charm forever;
    The flower of sweetest smell is shy and lowly.
    • Not Love, not War
  • A Briton even in love should be
    A subject, not a slave!
    • Ere with Cold Beads of Midnight Dew
  • And when a damp
    Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
    The thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
    Soul-animating strains,—alas! too few.
    • Scorn not the Sonnet
  • But he is risen, a later star of dawn.
    • A Morning Exercise
  • Bright gem instinct with music, vocal spark.
    • A Morning Exercise
  • When his veering gait
    And every motion of his starry train
    Seem governed by a strain
    Of music, audible to him alone.
    • The Triad
  • Alas! how little can a moment show
    Of an eye where feeling plays
    In ten thousand dewy rays:
    A face o'er which a thousand shadows go!
    • The Triad
  • Stern Winter loves a dirge-like sound.
    • On the Power of Sound, xii
  • The bosom-weight, your stubborn gift,
    That no philosophy can lift.
    • Presentiments
  • Nature's old felicities.
    • The Trosachs
  • Since every mortal power of Coleridge
    Was frozen at its marvellous source,
    The rapt one, of the godlike forehead,
    The heaven-eyed creature sleeps in earth:
    And Lamb, the frolic and the gentle,
    Has vanished from his lonely hearth.
    • Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg
  • How fast has brother followed brother,
    From sunshine to the sunless land!
    • Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg
  • Those old credulities, to Nature dear,
    Shall they no longer bloom upon the stock
    Of history?
    • Memorials of a Tour in Italy, iv


  • Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer.
  • Faith is a passionate intuition
    • Garbled version of c. l 1295 of Despondency Corrected (Vol. 5 of W's Poetical Works on Gurenberg)
  • How blessings brighten as they take their flight!
    • Occasionally misattributed to Wordsworth, but in fact by Edward Young again. It is from his Night Thoughts, Night II, line 602
  • Life's cares are comforts; such by Heav'n design'd;
    He that hath none must make them, or be wretched.
    • Another couplet from Edward Young: this time Night Thoughts, Night II, line 160
  • Pictures deface walls more often than they decorate them.
    • This is only a slightly misquoted version of "Pictures deface walls oftener than they decorate them", written by Frank Lloyd Wright in the magazine Architectural Record in March 1908
  • We take no note of time but from its loss.
    • Actually Night I, lines 55-56 of Young's Night Thoughts
  • What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite.
    • This was not Wordsworth's viewpoint at all. The words are in fact those of Bertrand Russell in his Sceptical Essays (1928), p. 157
  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

Quotes about Wordsworth

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
  • My poetry has a haunted sense to it and it has a sorrow and a grievingness in it that comes directly from being split, not in two but in twenty, and never being able to reconcile all the places that I am. I think of it as Wordsworth did when he said we come into this world "trailing clouds of glory," when he said nothing can bring back the hour when we saw "splendor in the grass and glory in the flower." We shall not weep but find strength in what remains behind. That poem-I was in college, I was a sophomore when I read it, and I just wept. I was completely, absolutely desolate because I thought he understood. He understood, of course, in his own way exactly what happens when your reality is so disordered that you can't ever make it whole, but you have the knowledge of what has happened, what has been done.
  • You may have experienced this fundamental energy spontaneously, at some high point in your life. Wordsworth described it as: "A sense sublime/Of something far more deeply interfused,/Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,/And the round ocean and the living air,/And the blue sky, and in the mind of man..."
  • Just for a handful of silver he left us,
    Just for a riband to stick in his coat.
  • The languid way in which he gives you a handful of numb unresponsive fingers is very significant. It seems also rather to grieve him that you have any admiration for anybody but him. No man that I ever met has give me less, has disappointed me less. My peace be with him, and a happy evening to his, on the whole, respectable life.
    • Thomas Carlyle in J.A. Froude's Thomas Carlyle: A History of his Life in London 1834-1881 (1884)
  • He lived amidst th'untrodden ways
    To Rydal Lake that lead:-
    A bard whom there were none to praise,
    And very few to read.

    Behind a cloud his mystic sense,
    Deep-hidden, who can spy?
    Bright as the night, when not a star
    Is shining in the sky.

    Unread his works – his "Milk-white Doe"
    With dust is dark and dim;
    It's still in Longman's shop, and Oh!
    The difference to him!

  • I also liked the Romantic poets. Wordsworth, Keats, Burns and Blake were some of my favourites. There was something about their rebellious spirit against the evils of industrialization that moved me. Of course now, some of their pessimism, mysticism and limited critical realist visions make me quite uncomfortable.
  • He is in this sense the most original poet now living, and the one whose writings could the least be spared: for they have no substitute elsewhere. The vulgar do not read them; the learned, who see all things through books, do not understand them; the great despise. The fashionable may ridicule them: but the author has created himself an interest in the heart of the retired and lonely student of nature, which can never die.


  • Wordsworth would have been very upset to know that his wonderful poems were being used as a weapon of empire. That is why, as soon as I had my own garden, I planted twenty thousand daffodils on the lawn. I was going to stop at ten, but they were just so beautiful that I kept going. It was, I suppose, my reconciliation with Wordsworth.
  • Wordsworth said "the child is father to the man" and that poetry is "emotion recalled in tranquility." I must say that he had something there although I wouldn't exactly put it in those same words. But poetry begins with the ability to recognize that you are feeling and to be able to re-create that feeling, to get in touch with it again. It isn't lost. To emote is not poetry. To emote is absolutely necessary, but that is not poetry. It's vital to recall the emotion that moved you and to see through it to the thrill out of which that emotion grew. Then you begin to make connections. It's the seeing through that enables you to begin making the images that connect with an experience different from yours. The magic that occurs with poetry is the ability to see through emotion.
    • 1978 interview in Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)
  • I needed to be made to feel that there was real, permanent happiness in tranquil contemplation. Wordsworth taught me this, not only without turning away from, but with a greatly increased interest in, the common feelings and common destiny of human beings.
  • Time-saving... became an important part of labor-saving. And as time was accumulated and put by, it was reinvested, like money capital, in new forms of exploitation. From now on filling time and killing time became important considerations: the early paleotechnic employers even stole time from their workers by blowing the factory whistle... earlier in the morning, or moving the hands of the clock... during lunch... Time was a commodity in the sense that money had become a commodity. Time as pure duration, time dedicated to contemplation and reverie, time divorced from mechanical operations, was treated as heinous waste. The paleotechnic world did not heed Wordsworth's Expostulation and Reply: it had no mind to sit on an old gray stone and dream its time away.
  • But that which Wordsworth knew, even the old man
    When poetry had failed like desire, was something
    I have yet to learn, and you, Duddon,
    Have learned and re-learned to forget and forget again.
    Not the radical, the poet and heretic,
    To whom the water-forces shouted and the fells
    Were like a blackboard for the scrawls of God,
    But the old man, inarticulate and humble,
    Knew that eternity flows in a mountain beck.
  • I think that poetry, in general, after a certain point in a poet's life, has to do with the acknowledgment of mortality. And even the most joyful poems have to do with, "Yes, let's not forget that life is brief." Once I started dealing with grief in poetry, I discovered that I had found my way to poetry. I think that so many young poets are only writing about the joy of love and that sort of thing and don't understand that the great poetry, like Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle" and like Wordsworth's "Intimations" and "Tintern Abby," has all been a moment when the poet realizes that "this is my time to express what I have gathered in this brief life."
    • Judith Ortiz Cofer, interview (2000) in A Poet's Truth: Conversations with Latino/Latina Poets
  • He wasn't a man as was thowte a deal o' for his potry when he was hereabout. It hed no laugh in it same as Lile Hartley [Coleridge]'s, bided a deal o makkin I darsay. It was kept oer long in his heead mappen. But then for aw that, he had best eye to mountains and streams, and buildings in the daale, notished ivvry stean o' the fellside, and we nin on us durst bang a bowder stean a bit or cut a bit coppy or raase an old wa' doon when he was astir.
    • Canon Rawnsley, recording a Westmorland peasant's memories of Wordsworth, in Literary Associations of the English Lakes (1894) p. 137
  • I began seriously writing in a period (the 1950s to late 1960s) in American poetry that assumed extreme gender positioning-"the poet is a man speaking to men," as Wordsworth had put it even as he was trying to democratize English poetry.
  • In his youth Wordsworth sympathized with the French Revolution, went to France, wrote good poetry, and had a natural daughter. At this period he was called a "bad" man. Then he became "good", abandoned his daughter, adopted correct principles, and wrote bad poetry.
  • What a beastly and pitiful wretch that Wordsworth! That such a man should be such a poet! I can compare him with no one but Simonides, that flatterer of the Sicilian tyrants, and at the same time the most natural and tender of lyric poets.
  • Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
    It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
    Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
    Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
    And one is of an old half-witted sheep
    Which bleats articulate monotony,
    And indicates that two and one are three,
    That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep
    And, Wordsworth, both are thine.
  • Wordsworth went to the lakes, but he was never a lake poet. He found in stones the sermons he had already hidden there.
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  1. The Early Life of William Wordsworth. Emile Legouis.Pub Dent & Co. 1897. Page 100.
  2. The early life of william wordsworth 1770-1798 a study of the preludeby Emile Legouis. Pub 1921.Page397 https://archive.org/details/earlylifeofwilli0000emil/page/397/mode/1up