Resolution and Independence

Original Text: 
William Wordsworth, Poems in Two Volumes (1807). See The Manuscript of William Wordsworth's Poems, in Two Volumes (1807): A Facsimile (London: British Library, 1984). bib MASS (Massey College Library, Toronto).
2The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
3But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
4The birds are singing in the distant woods;
5Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
6The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
7And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.
8All things that love the sun are out of doors;
9The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
10The grass is bright with rain-drops;--on the moors
11The hare is running races in her mirth;
12And with her feet she from the plashy earth
13Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun,
14Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.
15I was a Traveller then upon the moor;
16I saw the hare that raced about with joy;
17I heard the woods and distant waters roar;
18Or heard them not, as happy as a boy:
19The pleasant season did my heart employ:
20My old remembrances went from me wholly;
21And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy.
22But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
23Of joys in minds that can no further go,
24As high as we have mounted in delight
25In our dejection do we sink as low;
26To me that morning did it happen so;
27And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
28Dim sadness--and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.
29I heard the sky-lark warbling in the sky;
30And I bethought me of the playful hare:
31Even such a happy Child of earth am I;
32Even as these blissful creatures do I fare;
33Far from the world I walk, and from all care;
34But there may come another day to me--
35Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.
36My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,
37As if life's business were a summer mood;
38As if all needful things would come unsought
39To genial faith, still rich in genial good;
40But how can He expect that others should
41Build for him, sow for him, and at his call
42Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?
44The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
46Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
47By our own spirits are we deified:
48We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
49But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
50Now, whether it were by peculiar grace,
51A leading from above, a something given,
52Yet it befell that, in this lonely place,
53When I with these untoward thoughts had striven,
54Beside a pool bare to the eye of heaven
55I saw a Man before me unawares:
56The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs.
57As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie
58Couched on the bald top of an eminence;
59Wonder to all who do the same espy,
60By what means it could thither come, and whence;
61So that it seems a thing endued with sense:
62Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
63Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself;
64Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead,
65Nor all asleep--in his extreme old age:
66His body was bent double, feet and head
67Coming together in life's pilgrimage;
68As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
69Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
70A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.
71Himself he propped, limbs, body, and pale face,
72Upon a long grey staff of shaven wood:
73And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
74Upon the margin of that moorish flood
75Motionless as a cloud the old Man stood,
76That heareth not the loud winds when they call,
77And moveth all together, if it move at all.
78At length, himself unsettling, he the pond
79Stirred with his staff, and fixedly did look
80Upon the muddy water, which he conned,
81As if he had been reading in a book:
82And now a stranger's privilege I took;
83And, drawing to his side, to him did say,
84"This morning gives us promise of a glorious day."
85A gentle answer did the old Man make,
86In courteous speech which forth he slowly drew:
87And him with further words I thus bespake,
88"What occupation do you there pursue?
89This is a lonesome place for one like you."
90Ere he replied, a flash of mild surprise
91Broke from the sable orbs of his yet-vivid eyes.
92His words came feebly, from a feeble chest,
93But each in solemn order followed each,
94With something of a lofty utterance drest--
95Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
96Of ordinary men; a stately speech;
97Such as grave Livers do in Scotland use,
98Religious men, who give to God and man their dues.
99He told, that to these waters he had come
100To gather leeches, being old and poor:
101Employment hazardous and wearisome!
102And he had many hardships to endure:
103From pond to pond he roamed, from moor to moor;
104Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance;
105And in this way he gained an honest maintenance.
106The old Man still stood talking by my side;
107But now his voice to me was like a stream
108Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
109And the whole body of the Man did seem
110Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
111Or like a man from some far region sent,
112To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.
113My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;
114And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
115Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
116And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
117--Perplexed, and longing to be comforted,
118My question eagerly did I renew,
119"How is it that you live, and what is it you do?"
120He with a smile did then his words repeat;
121And said that, gathering leeches, far and wide
122He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
123The waters of the pools where they abide.
124"Once I could meet with them on every side;
125But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
126Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."
127While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
128The old Man's shape, and speech--all troubled me:
129In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
130About the weary moors continually,
131Wandering about alone and silently.
132While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
133He, having made a pause, the same discourse renewed.
134And soon with this he other matter blended,
135Cheerfully uttered, with demeanour kind,
136But stately in the main; and, when he ended,
137I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
138In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
139"God," said I, "be my help and stay secure;
140I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!"


1] For the meeting with the old leech-gatherer, see Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal, October 3, 1800. Back to Line
43] Chatterton. Unable to make a living as a poet, he committed suicide in London in 1770, at the age of eighteen. Back to Line
45] The reference is to Burns. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
J. R. MacGillivray
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.368.