Yarrow Visited. September, 1814

Original Text: 
William Wordsworth, Poems (London: Longman, 1815). PR 5850 E15 (Victoria College Library).
2Of which my fancy cherished,
3So faithfully, a waking dream?
4An image that hath perished!
5O that some Minstrel's harp were near,
6To utter notes of gladness,
7And chase this silence from the air,
8That fills my heart with sadness!
9Yet why?--a silvery current flows
10With uncontrolled meanderings;
11Nor have these eyes by greener hills
12Been soothed, in all my wanderings.
14Is visibly delighted;
15For not a feature of those hills
16Is in the mirror slighted.
17A blue sky bends o'er Yarrow vale,
18Save where that pearly whiteness
19Is round the rising sun diffused,
20A tender hazy brightness;
21Mild dawn of promise! that excludes
22All profitless dejection;
23Though not unwilling here to admit
24A pensive recollection.
26Of Yarrow Vale lay bleeding?
27His bed perchance was yon smooth mound
28On which the herd is feeding:
29And haply from this crystal pool,
30Now peaceful as the morning,
32And gave his doleful warning.
33Delicious is the Lay that sings
34The haunts of happy Lovers,
35The path that leads them to the grove,
36The leafy grove that covers:
37And Pity sanctifies the Verse
38That paints, by strength of sorrow,
39The unconquerable strength of love;
40Bear witness, rueful Yarrow!
41But thou, that didst appear so fair
42To fond imagination,
43Dost rival in the light of day
44Her delicate creation:
45Meek loveliness is round thee spread,
46A softness still and holy;
47The grace of forest charms decayed,
48And pastoral melancholy.
49That region left, the vale unfolds
50Rich groves of lofty stature,
51With Yarrow winding through the pomp
52Of cultivated nature;
53And, rising from those lofty groves,
54Behold a Ruin hoary!
56Renowned in Border story.
57Fair scenes for childhood's opening bloom,
58For sportive youth to stray in;
59For manhood to enjoy his strength;
60And age to wear away in!
61Yon cottage seems a bower of bliss,
62A covert for protection
63Of tender thoughts, that nestle there--
64The brood of chaste affection.
65How sweet, on this autumnal day,
66The wild-wood fruits to gather,
67And on my True-love's forehead plant
68A crest of blooming heather!
69And what if I enwreathed my own!
70'Twere no offence to reason;
71The sober Hills thus deck their brows
72To meet the wintry season.
73I see--but not by sight alone,
74Loved Yarrow, have I won thee;
75A ray of fancy still survives--
76Her sunshine plays upon thee!
77Thy ever-youthful waters keep
78A course of lively pleasure;
79And gladsome notes my lips can breathe,
80Accordant to the measure.
81The vapours linger round the Heights,
82They melt, and soon must vanish;
83One hour is theirs, nor more is mine--
84Sad thought, which I would banish,
85But that I know, where'er I go,
86Thy genuine image, Yarrow!
87Will dwell with me--to heighten joy,
88And cheer my mind in sorrow.


1] In 1803 Wordsworth, who with his sister was making a pedestrian tour in the Border Country, reluctantly gave up a projected excursion to the Valley of the Yarrow. Hence a poem entitled "Yarrow Unvisited". In 1814 under the guidance of the Scottish poet Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, he visited the Yarrow, and this poem, first published in 1815, is the result. In 1831 Wordsworth again visited the same scene, and commemorates the occasion in a third poem "Yarrow Revisited". The Yarrow is the scene of various poems (see, for example "The Braes of Yarrow", (it says to see page 4, but obviously that would not be effective in this situation) and these had already given to Wordsworth an imaginative picture, and interest in the locality. Back to Line
13] St. Mary's Lake. It is in "lone St. Mary's silent lake" (described at length by Scott, "Marmion," Introd. to Canto II) that the Yarrow finds its source. Back to Line
25] Wordsworth is recalling the "Braes of Yarrow" written by the 18th-century poet, Logan, where the dead lover is called "the flower of Yarrow". Back to Line
31] Water-wraith. A water spirit. "Thrice did the water wraith asend / And gave a doleful groan through Yarrow." (Logan.) Back to Line
55] Newark's Towers. It is here that Scott represents the "Last Minstrel" as singing his lay. "He passed where Newark's stately tower / Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RPO Edition: 
RP (1912), pp. 113-16; RPO 1997.