Romantic Poetry Showcase

Joy and despair, rapture and dread are frequently found in the intense self-expression of the Romantic poets. Embracing emotion, wonder and originality rather than the wit and restraint of poets from earlier in the eighteenth century, the Romantic poets brought about a profound transformation in artistic styles.  In a period from around 1780 to 1850 these poets demonstrated a fascination with nature and the individual, imagination and the human heart.

This showcase features many much loved poems by the famous names of the period. You will find Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’ and Keats’ ‘Ode To Autumn’ but we hope you will revel in discovering less well known poems too like Mary Robinson’s mysterious ‘The Haunted Beach’, Charlotte Smith’s powerful and unsettling ‘On Being Cautioned’, and John Clare’s visionary examination of his place in the world. As you browse you will discover desires and dreams sitting alongside acutely observed everyday realities. Enjoy!

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Battles
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The Sea
Time Passing
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The Poplar Field

The Poplars are fell’d, farewell to the shade And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade, The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves, Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives. Twelve years have elapsed since I last took a view Of my favourite field and the bank where they grew, And now in the grass behold they are laid, And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade. The black-bird has fled to another retreat Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat, And the scene where his melody charm’d me before, Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more. My fugitive years are all hasting away, And I must e’er long lie as lowly as they, With a turf on my breast and a stone at my head E’er another such grove shall arise in its stead. ’Tis a sight to engage me if any thing can To muse on the perishing pleasures of Man; Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see, Have a Being less durable even than he.

Epitaph on a Hare

Here lies, whom hound did ne'er pursue, Nor swifter greyhound follow, Whose foot ne'er tainted morning dew, Nor ear heard huntsman's halloo', Old Tiney, surliest of his kind, Who, nursed with tender care, And to domestic bounds confined, Was still a wild jack-hare. Though duly from my hand he took His pittance every night, He did it with a jealous look, And, when he could, would bite. His diet was of wheaten bread, And milk, and oats, and straw, Thistles, or lettuces instead, With sand to scour his maw. On twigs of hawthorn he regaled, On pippins' russet peel; And, when his juicy salads failed, Sliced carrot pleased him well. A Turkey carpet was his lawn, Whereon he loved to bound, To skip and gambol like a fawn, And swing his rump around. His frisking was at evening hours, For then he lost his fear; But most before approaching showers, Or when a storm drew near. Eight years and five round-rolling moons He thus saw steal away, Dozing out his idle noons, And every night at play. I kept him for his humour's sake, For he would oft beguile My heart of thoughts that made it ache, And force me to a smile. But now, beneath this walnut-shade He finds his long, last home, And waits in snug concealment laid, Till gentler Puss shall come. He, still more aged, feels the shocks From which no care can save, And, partner once of Tiney's box, Must soon partake his grave.

William Cowper
1731 - 1800

The Mouse’s Petition

Oh, hear a pensive captive’s prayer, For liberty that sighs, And never let thine heart be shut Against the prisoner’s cries! For here forlorn and sad I sit, Within the wiry grate, And tremble at the approaching morn Which brings impending fate. If e'er thy breast with freedom glowed, And spurned a tyrant's chain, Let not thy strong oppressive force A free-born mouse detain! Oh, do not stain with guiltless blood Thy hospitable hearth, Nor triumph that thy wiles betrayed A prize so little worth. The scattered gleanings of a feast My scanty meals supply – But if thine unrelenting heart That slender boon deny, The cheerful light, the vital air, Are blessings widely given; Let Nature's commoners enjoy The common gifts of Heaven. The well-taught philosophic mind To all compassion gives; Casts round the world an equal eye, And feels for all that lives. If mind, as ancient sages taught, A never-dying flame, Still shifts through matter's varying forms, In every form the same, Beware, lest in the worm you crush, A brother's soul you find; And tremble lest thy luckless hand Dislodge a kindred mind. Or, if this transient gleam of day Be all of life we share, Let pity plead within thy breast That little all to spare. So may thy hospitable board With health and peace be crowned, And every charm of heartfelt ease Beneath thy roof be found. So when unseen destruction lurks, Which mice like men may share, May some kind angel clear thy path, And break the hidden snare.

The Rights of Woman

Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right! Woman! too long degraded, scorned, oppressed; O born to rule in partial Law's despite, Resume thy native empire o'er the breast! Go forth arrayed in panoply divine, That angel pureness which admits no stain; Go, bid proud Man his boasted rule resign, And kiss the golden sceptre of thy reign. Go, gird thyself with grace, collect thy store Of bright artillery glancing from afar; Soft melting tones thy thundering cannon's roar, Blushes and fears thy magazine of war. Thy rights are empire: urge no meaner claim — Felt, not defined, and if debated, lost; Like sacred mysteries which, withheld from fame, Shunning discussion, are revered the most. Try all that wit and art suggest to bend Of thy imperial foe the stubborn knee; Make treacherous Man thy subject, not thy friend; Thou mayst command, but never canst be free. Awe the licentious and restrain the rude; Soften the sullen, clear the cloudy brow: Be, more than princes' gifts thy favours sued - She hazards all, who will the least allow. But hope not, courted idol of mankind, On this proud eminence secure to stay; Subduing and subdued, thou soon shalt find Thy coldness soften, and thy pride give way. Then, then, abandon each ambitious thought; Conquest or rule thy heart shall feebly move, In Nature's school, by her soft maxims taught That separate rights are lost in mutual love.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld
1743 - 1825

On being Cautioned against Walking on a Headland

Is there a solitary wretch who hies To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow, And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes Its distance from the waves that chide below; Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf, With hoarse, half-uttered lamentation, lies Murmuring responses to the dashing surf? In moody sadness, on the giddy brink, I see him more with envy than with fear; He has no nice felicities that shrink From giant horrors; wildly wandering here, He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know The depth or the duration of his woe.

To a Nightingale

Poor melancholy bird, that all night long Tell'st to the moon thy tale of tender woe; From what sad cause can such sweet sorrow flow, And whence this mournful melody of song? Thy poet's musing fancy would translate What mean the sounds that swell thy little breast, When still at dewy eve thou leav'st thy nest, Thus to the listening night to sing thy fate. Pale Sorrow's victims wert thou once among, Though now released in woodlands wild to rove; Say, hast thou felt from friends some cruel wrong, Or diedst thou – martyr of disastrous love? Ah, songstress sad, that such my lot might be; To sigh and sing at liberty, like thee!

Written on the sea shore

Charlotte Smith
1749 - 1806

A Hymn to the Evening

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain; Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr's wing, Exhales the incense of the blooming spring. Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes, And through the air their mingled music floats. Through all the heav'ns what beauteous dies are spread! But the west glories in the deepest red: So may our breasts with ev'ry virtue glow, The living temples of our God below! Fill'd with the praise of him who gives the light, And draws the sable curtains of the night, Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind, At morn to wake more heav'nly, more refin'd; So shall the labours of the day begin More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin. Night's leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes, Then cease, my song, till fair Aurora rise.

On Imagination

Thy various works, imperial queen, we see, How bright their forms! how deck'd with pomp by thee! Thy wond'rous acts in beauteous order stand, And all attest how potent is thine hand. From Helicon's refulgent heights attend, Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend: To tell her glories with a faithful tongue, Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song. Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies, Till some lov'd object strikes her wand'ring eyes, Whose silken fetters all the senses bind, And soft captivity involves the mind. Imagination! who can sing thy force? Or who describe the swiftness of thy course? Soaring through air to find the bright abode, Th' empyreal palace of the thund'ring God, We on thy pinions can surpass the wind, And leave the rolling universe behind: From star to star the mental optics rove, Measure the skies, and range the realms above. There in one view we grasp the mighty whole, Or with new worlds amaze th' unbounded soul. Though Winter frowns to Fancy's raptur'd eyes The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise; The frozen deeps may break their iron bands, And bid their waters murmur o'er the sands. Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign, And with her flow'ry riches deck the plain; Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round, And all the forest may with leaves be crown'd: Show'rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose, And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose. Such is thy pow'r, nor are thine orders vain, O thou the leader of the mental train: In full perfection all thy works are wrought, And thine the sceptre o'er the realms of thought. Before thy throne the subject-passions bow, Of subject-passions sov'reign ruler thou; At thy command joy rushes on the heart, And through the glowing veins the spirits dart. Fancy might now her silken pinions try To rise from earth, and sweep th' expanse on high: From Tithon's bed now might Aurora rise, Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies, While a pure stream of light o'erflows the skies. The monarch of the day I might behold, And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold, But I reluctant leave the pleasing views, Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse; Winter austere forbids me to aspire, And northern tempests damp the rising fire; They chill the tides of Fancy's flowing sea, Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay.

Phillis Wheatley
1753 - 1784

London

I wander through each chartered street, Near where the chartered Thames does flow, And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every man, In every infant’s cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forged manacles I hear: How the chimney-sweeper’s cry Every black’ning church appalls, And the hapless soldier’s sigh Runs in blood down palace walls. But most through midnight streets I hear How the youthful harlot’s curse Blasts the new-born infant’s tear, And blights with plagues the marriage hearse.

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright. And my foe beheld it shine. And he knew that it was mine, And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole; In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Holy Thursday

‘Twas on a holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean, The children walking two and two in red and blue and green: Grey-headed beadles walked before, with wands as white as snow, Till into the high dome of Paul’s they like Thames waters flow. O what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town! Seated in companies they sit, with radiance all their own. The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs, Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands. Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song, Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among: Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor. Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies. Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, and what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And, when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? and what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And watered Heaven with their tears, Did He smile His work to see? Did He who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Sick Rose

The Chimney Sweeper

When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" So your chimneys I sweep and in soot I sleep. There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved, so I said, "Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare, You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." And so he was quiet, and that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight! That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffins of black; And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he opened the coffins and set them all free; Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run, And wash in a river and shine in the Sun. Then naked and white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind. And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, He'd have God for his father and never want joy. And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark And got with our bags and our brushes to work. Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm; So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

Auguries of innocence

To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. A Robin Redbreast in a Cage Puts all Heaven in a Rage. A dove house fill'd with doves and pigeons Shudders Hell thro' all its regions. A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate Predicts the ruin of the State. A Horse misused upon the Road Calls to Heaven for Human blood. Each outcry of the hunted Hare A fibre from the Brain does tear. A Skylark wounded in the wing, A Cherubim does cease to sing. The Game Cock clip'd and arm'd for fight Does the Rising Sun affright. Every Wolf's and Lion's howl Raises from Hell a Human Soul. The wild deer, wand'ring here and there, Keeps the Human Soul from Care. The Lamb Misused breeds Public strife, And yet forgives the Butcher's Knife. The Bat that flits at close of Eve Has left the Brain that won't Believe. The Owl that calls upon the Night Speaks the Unbeliever's fright. He who shall hurt the little Wren Shall never be beloved by Men. He who the Ox to wrath has moved Shall never be by Woman loved. The wanton Boy that kills the Fly Shall feel the Spider's enmity. He who torments the Chafer's sprite Weaves a Bower in endless Night. The Caterpillar on the Leaf Repeats to thee thy Mother's grief. Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly, For the Last Judgement draweth nigh.

William Blake
1757 - 1827

The Haunted Beach

Upon a lonely desert beach Where the white foam was scattered, A little shed upreared its head, Though lofty barks were shattered. The sea-weeds gathering near the door A sombre path displayed; And, all around, the deafening roar Re-echoed on the chalky shore, By the green billows made. Above a jutting cliff was seen Where sea-birds hovered, craving; And all around the crags were bound With weeds–for ever waving. And here and there, a cavern wide lts shadowy jaws displayed; And near the sands, at ebb of tide, A shivered mast was seen to ride Where the green billows strayed. And often, while the moaning wind Stole o'er the summer ocean, The moonlight scene was all serene, The waters scarce in motion; Then, while the smoothly slanting sand The tall cliff wrapped in shade, The fisherman beheld a band Of spectres gliding hand in hand– Where the green billows played. And pale their faces were as snow, And sullenly they wandered; And to the skies with hollow eyes They looked as though they pondered. And sometimes, from their hammock shroud, They dismal howlings made, And while the blast blew strong and loud The clear moon marked the ghastly crowd, Where the green billows played! And then above the haunted hut The curlews screaming hovered; And the low door, with furious roar, The frothy breakers covered. For in the fisherman's lone shed A murdered man was laid, With ten wide gashes in his head, And deep was made his sandy bed Where the green billows played. A shipwrecked mariner was he, Doomed from his home to sever, Who swore to be through wind and sea Firm and undaunted ever! And when the wave resistless rolled, About his arm he made A packet rich of Spanish gold, And, like a British sailor bold, Plunged where the billows played! The spectre band, his messmates brave, Sunk in the yawning ocean, While to the mast he lashed him fast, And braved the storm's commotion. The winter moon upon the sand A silvery carpet made, And marked the sailor reach the land, And marked his murderer wash his hand Where the green billows played. And since that hour the fisherman Has toiled and toiled in vain; For all the night the moony light Gleams on the spectered main! And when the skies are veiled in gloom, The murderer's liquid way Bounds o'er the deeply yawning tomb, And flashing fires the sands illume, Where the green billows play! Full thirty years his task has been, Day after day more weary; For Heaven designed his guilty mind Should dwell on prospects dreary. Bound by a strong and mystic chain, He has not power to stray; But destined misery to sustain, He wastes, in solitude and pain, A loathsome life away.

Mary Robinson
1758 - 1800

Song (‘Ae fond kiss, and then we sever’)

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever! Ae fareweel, alas, for ever! Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee. Who shall say that Fortune grieves him, While the star of hope she leaves him? Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me, Dark despair around benights me. I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy: Naething could resist my Nancy! But to see her was to love her; Love but her, and love for ever. Had we never lov'd sae kindly, Had we never lov'd sae blindly, Never met — or never parted — We had ne'er been broken-hearted. Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest! Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest! Thine be ilka joy and treasure, Peace, enjoyment, love and pleasure! Ae fond kiss, and then we sever! Ae fareweel, alas, for ever! Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee, Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.

A Red, Red Rose

Oh my love’s like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June; My love’s like the melody That’s sweetly played in tune. As fair art thou, my bonny lass, So deep in love am I; And I can love thee still, my dear, Till a’ the seas gang dry. Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi’ the sun; I will love thee still, my dear, While the sands o’ life shall run. And fare thee weel, my only love, Oh fare thee weel awhile! And I will come again, my love, Though ‘twere ten thousand mile.

Robert Burns
1759 - 1796

A Song

I No riches from his scanty store My lover could impart; He gave a boon I valued more — He gave me all his heart! II His soul sincere, his generous worth, Might well this bosom move; And when I asked for bliss on earth, I only meant his love. III But now for me, in search of gain From shore to shore he flies; Why wander riches to obtain, When love is all I prize? IV The frugal meal, the lowly cot If blest my love with thee! That simple fare, that humble lot, Were more than wealth to me. V While he the dangerous ocean braves, My tears but vainly flow: Is pity in the faithless waves To which I pour my woe? VI The night is dark, the waters deep, Yet soft the billows roll; Alas! at every breeze I weep — The storm is in my soul.

Helen Maria Williams
1761 - 1827

A Mother to Her Waking Infant

Now in thy dazzling half-oped eye, Thy curled nose and lip awry, Uphoisted arms and noddling head, And little chin with crystal spread, Poor helpless thing! what do I see, That I should sing of thee? From thy poor tongue no accents come, Which can but rub thy toothless gum: Small understanding boasts thy face, Thy shapeless limbs nor step nor grace: A few short words thy feats may tell, And yet I love thee well. When sudden wakes the bitter shriek, And redder swells thy little cheek When rattled keys thy woes beguile, And through thine eyelids gleams the smile, Still for thy weakly self is spent Thy little silly plaint. But when thy friends are in distress, Thou'lt laugh and chuckle n'er the less, Nor e'en with sympathy be smitten, Tho' all are sad but thee and kitten; Yet little varlet that thou art, Thou twitchest at the heart. Thy rosy cheek so soft and warm; Thy pinky hand and dimpled arm; Thy silken locks that scantly peep, With gold-tipped ends, where circles deep, Around thy neck in harmless grace, So soft and sleekly hold their place, Might harder hearts with kindness fill, And gain our right good will. Each passing clown bestows his blessing, Thy mouth is worn with old wives' kissing: E'en lighter looks the gloomy eye Of surly sense, when thou art by; And yet, I think, whoe'er they be, They love thee not like me. Perhaps when time shall add a few Short years to thee, thou'lt love me too; and after that, through life's weary way, Become my sure and cheering stay; Wilt care for me and be my hold, When I am weak and old. Thou'lt listen to my lengthened tale, And pity me when I am frail-- But see, the sweepy spinning fly Upon the window takes thine eye. Go to thy little senseless play; Thou dost not heed my lay.

Joanna Baillie
1762 - 1851

Envy

This rose-tree is not made to bear The violet blue, nor lily fair, Nor the sweet mignionet: And if this tree were discontent, Or wished to change its natural bent, It all in vain would fret. And should it fret, you would suppose It ne’er had seen its own red rose, Nor after gentle shower Had ever smelled its rose’s scent, Or it could ne’er be discontent With its own pretty flower. Like such a blind and senseless tree As I’ve imagined this to be, All envious persons are: With care and culture all may find Some pretty flower in their own mind, Some talent that is rare.

Mary Lamb
1764 - 1847

Sunset

Soft o'er the mountain's purple brow Meek Twilight draws her shadows grey: From tufted woods and vallies low, Light's magic colours steal away. Yet still, amid the spreading gloom, Resplendent glow the western waves, That roll o'er Neptune's coral caves, A zone of light on Ev'ning's dome. On this lone summit let me rest, And view the forms to Fancy dear, 'Till on the Ocean's darken'd breast The stars of Ev'ning tremble clear; Or the moon's pale orb appear, Throwing her line of radiance wide, Far o'er the lightly-curling tide, That seems the yellow sands to chide. No sounds o'er silence now prevail, Save of the dying wave below, Or sailor's song borne on the gale, Or oar at distance striking slow. So sweet! so tranquil! may my ev'ning ray Set to this world---and rise in future day!

Ann Radcliffe
1764 - 1823

To Toussaint L’Ouverture

The Solitary Reaper

Behold her, single in the field, Yon solitary Highland Lass! Reaping and singing by herself; Stop here, or gently pass! Alone she cuts and binds the grain, And sings a melancholy strain; O listen! for the vale profound Is overflowing with the sound. No Nightingale did ever chant More welcome notes to weary bands Of travellers in some shady haunt, Among Arabian sands: A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird, Breaking the silence of the seas Among the farthest Hebrides. Will no one tell me what she sings? - Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow For old, unhappy, far-off things, And battles long ago: Or is it some more humble lay, Familiar matter of today? Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain, That has been, and may be again? Whate'er the theme, the maiden sang As if her song could have no ending; I saw her singing at her work, And o'er the sickle bending;- 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.

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey

The full title of this poem is 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour July 13, 1798'. Only lines 77-113 should be recited, as shown below I cannot paint What then I was. 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, not any interest Unborrowed from the eye.— 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 recompense. 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.

A Complaint

There is a change—and I am poor; Your love hath been, nor long ago, A fountain at my fond heart's door, Whose only business was to flow; And flow it did; not taking heed Of its own bounty, or my need. What happy moments did I count! Blest was I then all bliss above! Now, for that consecrated fount Of murmuring, sparkling, living love, What have I? shall I dare to tell? A comfortless and hidden well. A well of love—it may be deep— I trust it is,—and never dry: What matter? if the waters sleep In silence and obscurity. —Such change, and at the very door Of my fond heart, hath made me poor.

Boat Stealing (excerpt from The Prelude)

Two versions of this extract from The Prelude are shown here.
  • Wordsworth's last version from 1850.
  • Wordsworth's first version, published in 1799.
You may choose which version you recite.   1850 version One summer evening (led by her) I found A little boat tied to a willow tree Within a rocky cove, its usual home. Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on; Leaving behind her still, on either side, Small circles glittering idly in the moon, Until they melted all into one track Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows, Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point With an unswerving line, I fixed my view Upon the summit of a craggy ridge, The horizon's utmost boundary; far above Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky. She was an elfin
pinnace; lustily I dipped my oars into the silent lake, And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat Went heaving through the water like a swan; When, from behind that craggy steep till then The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge, As if with voluntary power instinct, Upreared its head. I struck and struck again, And growing still in stature 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. With trembling oars I turned, And through the silent water stole my way Back to the covert of the willow tree; There in her mooring-place I left my bark, - And through the meadows homeward went, in grave And serious mood; but after I had seen That spectacle, for many days, my brain Worked with a dim and undetermined sense Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts There hung a darkness, call it solitude Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes Remained, no pleasant images of trees, Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields; But 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.   1799 version I went alone into a Shepherd’s boat, A skiff, that to a willow-tree was tied Within a rocky cave, its usual home. The moon was up, the lake was shining clear Among the hoary mountains; from the shore I pushed, and struck the oars, and struck again In cadence, and my little boat moved on Just like a man who walks with stately step Though bent on speed. It was an act of stealth And troubled pleasure. Not without the voice Of mountain echoes did my boat move on, Leaving behind her still on either side Small circles glittering idly in the moon, Until they melted all into one track Of sparkling light. A rocky steep uprose Above the cavern of the willow-tree, And now, as suited one who proudly rowed With his best skill, I fixed a steady view Upon the top of that same craggy ridge, The bound of the horizon—for behind Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky. She was an elfin pinnace; twenty times I dipped my oars into the silent lake, And as I rose upon the stroke my boat Went heaving through the water like a swan – When from behind that rocky steep, till then The bound of the horizon, a huge cliff, As if voluntary power instinct, Upreared its head. I struck, and struck again, And, growing still in stature, the huge cliff Rose up between me and the stars, and still, With measured motion, like a living thing Strode after me. With trembling hands I turned, And through the silent water stole my way Back to the cavern of the willow tree. There in her mooring-place I left my bark, And through the meadows homeward went with grave And serious thoughts; and after I had seen That spectacle, for many days my brain Worked with a dim and undetermined sense Of unknown modes of being. In my thoughts There was a darkness – call it solitude, Or blank desertion – no familiar shapes Of hourly objects, images of trees, Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields, But huge and mighty forms that do not live Like living men moved slowly through my mind By day, and were the trouble of my dreams.

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge

Daffodils

We are Seven

A simple child, dear brother Jim, That lightly draws its breath, And feels its life in every limb, What should it know of death? I met a little cottage-girl— She was eight years old, she said – Her hair was thick with many a curl That clustered round her head. She had a rustic, woodland air, And she was wildly clad; Her eyes were fair, and very fair – Her beauty made me glad. ‘Sisters and brothers, little maid, How many may you be?’ ‘How many? Seven in all,’ she said, And wondering looked at me. ‘And where are they, I pray you tell?’ She answered, ‘Seven are we, And two of us at Conway dwell, And two are gone to sea; Two of us in the churchyard lie, My sister and my brother; And in the churchyard-cottage, I Dwell near them with my mother.’ ‘You say that two at Conway dwell, And two are gone to sea, Yet ye are seven – I pray you tell, Sweet maid, how this may be?’ Then did the little maid reply, ‘Seven boys and girls are we – Two of us in the churchyard lie, Beneath the churchyard-tree.’ ‘You run about, my little maid, Your limbs they are alive; If two are in the churchyard laid, Then ye are only five.’ ‘Their graves are green, they may be seen,’ The little maid replied, ‘Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door, And they are side by side. My stockings there I often knit, My kerchief there I hem, And there upon the ground I sit, I sit and sing to them. And often after sunset, sir, When it is light and fair, I take my little porringer And eat my supper there. The first that died was sister Jane; In bed she moaning lay, Till God released her of her pain, And then she went away. So in the churchyard she was laid, And all the summer dry Together round her grave we played, My brother John and I. And when the ground was white with snow, And I could run and slide, My brother John was forced to go, And he lies by her side.’ ‘How many are you, then,’ said I, ‘If they two are in Heaven?’ The little maiden did reply, ‘Oh master, we are seven!’ ‘But they are dead, those two are dead – Their spirits are in Heaven!’ ’Twas throwing words away, for still The little maid would have her will, And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!’

William Wordsworth
1770 - 1850

Floating Island

Harmonious Powers with Nature work On sky, earth, river, lake, and sea: Sunshine and storm, whirlwind and breeze All in one duteous task agree. Once did I see a slip of earth, By throbbing waves long undermined, Loosed from its hold; — how no one knew But all might see it float, obedient to the wind. Might see it, from the mossy shore Dissevered float upon the Lake, Float, with its crest of trees adorned On which the warbling birds their pastime take. Food, shelter, safety there they find There berries ripen, flowerets bloom; There insects live their lives — and die: A peopled world it is; in size a tiny room. And thus through many seasons’ space This little Island may survive But Nature, though we mark her not, Will take away — may cease to give. Perchance when you are wandering forth Upon some vacant sunny day Without an object, hope, or fear, Thither your eyes may turn — the Isle is passed away. Buried beneath the glittering Lake! Its place no longer to be found, Yet the lost fragments shall remain, To fertilize some other ground.

Dorothy Wordsworth
1771 - 1855

Lochinvar

Oh young Lochinvar is come out of the west, Through all the wide Border his steed was the best, And save his good broadsword, he weapons had none - He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone. So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war, There never was knight like the young Lochinvar! He stayed not for brake, and he stopped not for stone, He swam the Esk river where ford there was none; But ere he alighted at Netherby gate, The bride had consented - the gallant came late! For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war, Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar. So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall, Among bride’s-men, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all; Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword (For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word), ‘Oh come ye in peace here, or come ye in war, Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?’ ‘I long wooed your daughter – my suit you denied— Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide, And now I am come, with this lost love of mine To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine. There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far, That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.’ The bride kissed the goblet, the knight took it up – He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup. She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh, With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye. He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar— ‘Now tread we a measure!’ said young Lochinvar. So stately his form, and so lovely her face, That never a hall such a galliard did grace – While her mother did fret, and her father did fume, And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume; And the bride-maidens whispered, ‘ ’Twere better by far To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’ One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear, When they reached the hall-door, and the charger stood near; So light to the croup the fair lady he swung, So light to the saddle before her he sprung! ‘She is won! We are gone, over bank, bush, and scar – They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,’ quoth young Lochinvar. There was mounting ’mong Graemes of the Netherby clan; Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran; There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee, But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see – So daring in love, and so dauntless in war, Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

Walter Scott
1771 - 1832

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (verses 14-21)

And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold: And ice, mast-high, came floating by, As green as emerald. And through the drifts the snowy clifts Did send a dismal sheen: Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken— The ice was all between. The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around: It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound! At length did cross an Albatross, Thorough the fog it came; As if it had been a Christian soul, We hailed it in God's name. It ate the food it ne'er had eat, And round and round it flew. The ice did split with a thunder-fit; The helmsman steered us through! And a good south wind sprung up behind; The Albatross did follow, And every day, for food or play, Came to the mariner's hollo! In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, It perched for vespers nine; Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white, Glimmered the white Moon-shine.' 'God save thee, ancient Mariner! From the fiends, that plague thee thus!— Why look'st thou so?'—With my cross-bow I shot the ALBATROSS.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (verses 26-35)

Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round: And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! A savage place! as holy and enchanted As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover! And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty fountain momently was forced: Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever It flung up momently the sacred river. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, Then reached the caverns measureless to man, And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean: And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war! The shadow of the dome of pleasure Floated midway on the waves; Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves. It was a miracle of rare device, A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw: It was an Abyssinian maid And on her dulcimer she played, Singing of Mount Abora. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight ’twould win me, That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice! And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1772 - 1834

The Cataract of Lodore

This poem has seven sections. If you want to recite a smaller part of it, we recommend sections two or three.   "How does the Water, Come down at Lodore?" My little boy asked me Thus, once on a time; And moreover he tasked me To tell him in rhyme. Anon at the word, There first came one daughter And then came another, To second and third The request of their brother, And to hear how the Water Comes down at Lodore, With its rush and its roar, As many a time They had seen it before. So I told them in rhyme, For of rhymes I had store; And 'twas in my vocation For their recreation That so I should sing; Because I was Laureate To them and the King. From its sources which well In the Tarn on the fell; From its fountains In the mountains, Its rills and its gills; Through moss and through brake, It runs and it creeps For awhile, till it sleeps In its own little Lake. And thence at departing, Awakening and starting, It runs through the reeds, And away it proceeds, Through meadow and glade, In sun and in shade, And through the wood-shelter, Among crags in its flurry, Helter-skelter, Hurry-skurry. Here it comes sparkling, And there it lies darkling; Now smoking and frothing Its tumult and wrath in, Till, in this rapid race On which it is bent, It reaches the place Of its steep descent. The Cataract strong Then plunges along, Striking and raging As if a war raging Its caverns and rocks among: Rising and leaping, Sinking and creeping, Swelling and sweeping, Showering and springing, Flying and flinging, Writhing and ringing, Eddying and whisking, Spouting and frisking, Turning and twisting, Around and around With endless rebound; Smiting and fighting, A sight to delight in; Confounding, astounding, Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound. Collecting, projecting, Receding and speeding, And shocking and rocking, And darting and parting, And threading and spreading, And whizzing and hissing, And dripping and skipping, And hitting and splitting, And shining and twining, And rattling and battling, And shaking and quaking, And pouring and roaring, And waving and raving, And tossing and crossing, And flowing and going, And running and stunning, And foaming and roaming, And dinning and spinning, And dropping and hopping, And working and jerking, And guggling and struggling, And heaving and cleaving, And moaning and groaning; And glittering and frittering, And gathering and feathering, And whitening and brightening, And quivering and shivering, And hurrying and skurrying, And thundering and floundering; Dividing and gliding and sliding, And falling and brawling and sprawling, And driving and riving and striving, And sprinkling and twinkling and wrinkling, And sounding and bounding and rounding, And bubbling and troubling and doubling, And grumbling and rumbling and tumbling, And clattering and battering and shattering; Retreating and beating and meeting and sheeting, Delaying and straying and playing and spraying, Advancing and prancing and glancing and dancing, Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling and boiling, And gleaming and streaming and steaming and beaming, And rushing and flushing and brushing and gushing, And flapping and rapping and clapping and slapping, And curling and whirling and purling and twirling, And thumping and plumping and bumping and jumping, And dashing and flashing and splashing and clashing; And so never ending, but always descending, Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending, All at once and all o'er, with a mighty uproar, And this way the Water comes down at Lodore.

The Complaints of the Poor

Robert Southey
1774 - 1843

The Last Rose of Summer

‘Tis the last rose of summer Left blooming alone; All her lovely companions Are faded and gone; No flower of her kindred, No rosebud is nigh, To reflect back her blushes, Or give sigh for sigh. I'll not leave thee, thou lone one! To pine on the stem; Since the lovely are sleeping, Go, sleep thou with them. Thus kindly I scatter Thy leaves o'er the bed, Where thy mates of the garden Lie scentless and dead. So soon may I follow, When friendships decay, And from Love's shining circle The gems drop away. When true hearts lie withered And fond ones are flown, Oh! who would inhabit This bleak world alone?

Thomas Moore
1779 - 1852

Darkness

I had a dream, which was not all a dream: The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space, Rayless and pathless, and the icy Earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air! Morn came, and went, and came – and brought no day. And men forgot their passions in the dread Of this their desolation; and all hearts Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light. And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones, The palaces of crownéd kings, the huts, The habitations of all things which dwell, Were burnt for beacons. Cities were consumed, And men were gathered round their blazing homes To look once more into each other's face. Happy were those who dwelt within the eye Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch! A fearful hope was all the World contained – Forests were set on fire, but hour by hour They fell and faded, and the crackling trunks Extinguished with a crash, and all was black. The brows of men by the despairing light Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits The flashes fell upon them. Some lay down And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest Their chins upon their clenchéd hands, and smiled; And others hurried to and fro, and fed Their funeral-piles with fuel, and lookéd up With mad disquietude on the dull sky, The pall of a past World – and then again With curses cast them down upon the dust, And gnashed their teeth and howled. The wild birds shrieked And, terrified, did flutter on the ground, And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled And twined themselves among the multitude, Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food! And War, which for a moment was no more, Did glut himself again: a meal was bought With blood, and each sat sullenly apart Gorging himself in gloom. No love was left. All earth was but one thought, and that was death, Immediate and inglorious – and the pang Of famine fed upon all entrails! Men Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh. The meagre by the meagre were devoured. Even dogs assailed their masters – all save one, And he was faithful to a corse, and kept The birds and beasts and famished men at bay, Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead Lured their lank jaws – himself sought out no food, But with a piteous and perpetual moan, And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand Which answered not with a caress, he died. The crowd was famished by degrees; but two Of an enormous city did survive, And they were enemies. They met beside The dying embers of an altar-place Where had been heaped a mass of holy things For an unholy usage; they raked up, And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath Blew for a little life, and made a flame Which was a mockery. Then they lifted up Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld Each other's aspects—saw, and shrieked, and died— Even of their mutual hideousness they died, Unknowing who he was upon whose brow Famine had written fiend! The world was void: The populous and the powerful was a lump, Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless— A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay! The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still, And nothing stirred within their silent depths. Ships, sailorless, lay rotting on the sea, And their masts fell down piecemeal – as they dropped They slept on the abyss without a surge. The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave (The Moon, their mistress, had expired before); The winds were withered in the stagnant air, And the clouds perished – Darkness had no need Of aid from them—She was the Universe!

So We’ll Go No More A-Roving

So we'll go no more a-roving So late into the night, Though the heart be still as loving, And the moon be still as bright. For the sword outwears its sheath, And the soul wears out the breast, And the heart must pause to breathe, And love itself have rest. Though the night was made for loving, And the day returns too soon, Yet we'll go no more a roving By the light of the moon.

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold; And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea, When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee. Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green, That host with their banners at sunset were seen: Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown, That host on the morrow lay withered and strown. For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed; And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still. And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide, But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride: And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf, And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf. And there lay the rider distorted and pale, With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail; And the tents were all silent, the banners alone, The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown. And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail, And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal; And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword, Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

She Walks In Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes: Thus mellowed to that tender light Which Heaven to gaudy day denies. One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impaired the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o’er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express, How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent!

When We Two Parted

When we two parted In silence and tears, Half broken-hearted To sever for years, Pale grew thy cheek and cold, Colder thy kiss; Truly that hour foretold Sorrow to this. The dew of the morning Sunk chill on my brow – It felt like the warning Of what I feel now. Thy vows are all broken, And light is thy fame; I hear thy name spoken, And share in its shame. They name thee before me, A knell in mine ear; A shudder comes o'er me— Why wert thou so dear? They know not I knew thee, Who knew thee too well— Long, long shall I rue thee, Too deeply to tell. In secret we met— In silence I grieve, That thy heart could forget, Thy spirit deceive. If I should meet thee After long years, How should I greet thee?— With silence and tears.

George Gordon Byron
1788 - 1824

Love’s Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river And the rivers with the Ocean, The winds of Heaven mix for ever With a sweet emotion; Nothing in the world is single; All things by a law divine in one another’s being mingle – Why not I with thine? See the mountains kiss high Heaven And the waves clasp one another; No sister-flower would be forgiven If it disdain’d its brother: And the sunlight clasps the earth, And the moonbeams kiss the sea – what are all these kissings worth, If thou kiss not me?

Ode to the West Wind (stanza I)

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley
1792 - 1822

I Am

I am — yet what I am, none cares or knows; My friends forsake me like a memory lost: — I am the self-consumer of my woes; — They rise and vanish in oblivion’s host, Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes: — And yet I am, and live—like vapours tost Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, — Into the living sea of waking dreams, Where there is neither sense of life or joys, But the vast shipwreck of my lifes esteems; Even the dearest, that I love the best Are strange — nay, rather stranger than the rest. I long for scenes where man hath never trod A place where woman never smiled or wept There to abide with my Creator, God; And sleep as I in childhood, sweetly slept, Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie, The grass below — above the vaulted sky.

The Flood

On Lolham Brigs in wild and lonely mood I've seen the winter floods their gambols play Through each old arch that trembled while I stood Bent o'er its wall to watch the dashing spray As their old stations would be washed away Crash came the ice against the jambs and then A shudder jarred the arches - yet once more It breasted raving waves and stood agen To wait the shock as stubborn as before - White foam brown crested with the russet soil As washed from new ploughed lands – would dart beneath Then round and round a thousand eddies boil On tother side - then pause as if for breath One minute - and engulphed - like life in death Whose wrecky stains dart on the floods away More swift than shadows in a stormy day Straws trail and turn and steady - all in vain The engulphing arches shoot them quickly through The feather dances flutters and again Darts through the deepest dangers still afloat Seeming as faireys whisked it from the view And danced it o'er the waves as pleasures boat Light hearted as a thought in May - Trays - uptorn bushes - fence demolished rails Loaded with weeds in sluggish motions stray Like water monsters lost each winds and trails Till near the arches - then as in affright It plunges - reels - and shudders out of sight Waves trough - rebound - and fury boil again Like plunging monsters rising underneath Who at the top curl up a shaggy main A moment catching at a surer breath Then plunging headlong down and down - and on Each following boil the shadow of the last And other monsters rise when those are gone Crest their fringed waves - plunge onward and are past - The chill air comes around me ocean blea From bank to bank the waterstrife is spread Strange birds like snow spots o'er the huzzing sea Hang where the wild duck hurried past and fled --On roars the flood - all restless to be free Like trouble wandering to eternity

‘I found a ball of grass among the hay’

I found a ball of grass among the hay And progged it as I passed and went away; And when I looked I fancied something stirred, And turned again and hoped to catch the bird— When out an old mouse bolted in the wheats With all her young ones hanging at her teats; She looked so odd and so grotesque to me, I ran and wondered what the thing could be, And pushed the knapweed bunches where I stood; Then the mouse hurried from the craking brood. The young ones squeaked, and as I went away She found her nest again among the hay. The water o'er the pebbles scarce could run And broad old cesspools glittered in the sun.

First Love

I ne’er was struck before that hour With love so sudden and so sweet, Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower And stole my heart away complete. My face turned pale a deadly pale, My legs refused to walk away, And when she looked, what could I ail? My life and all seemed turned to clay. And then my blood rushed to my face And took my eyesight quite away, The trees and bushes round the place Seemed midnight at noonday. I could not see a single thing, Words from my eyes did start - They spoke as chords do from the string, And blood burnt round my heart. Are flowers the winter's choice? Is love’s bed always snow? She seemed to hear my silent voice, Not love's appeals to know. I never saw so sweet a face As that I stood before. My heart has left its dwelling-place And can return no more.

John Clare
1793 - 1864

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? The sedge has withered from the lake, And no birds sing. O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, So haggard and so woe-begone? The squirrel's granary is full, And the harvest's done. I see a lily on thy brow, With anguish moist and fever dew, And on thy cheek a fading rose Fast withereth too. I met a lady in the meads, Full beautiful - a faery's child, Her hair was long, her foot was light, And her eyes were wild. I made a garland for her head, And bracelets too, and fragrant zone; She looked at me as she did love, And made sweet moan. I set her on my pacing steed, And nothing else saw all day long, For sidelong would she bend, and sing A faery's song. She found me roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew, And sure in language strange she said - ‘I love thee true’. She took me to her elfin grot, And there she wept and sighed full sore, And there I shut her wild wild eyes With kisses four. And there she lulled me asleep And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! – The latest dream I ever dreamt On the cold hill side. I saw pale kings, and princes too, Pale warriors, death-pale were they all; They cried— ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci Thee hath in thrall!’ I saw their starved lips in the gloam, With horrid warning gapèd wide, And I awoke and found me here, On the cold hill’s side. And this is why I sojourn here Alone and palely loitering, Though the sedge is withered from the lake, And no birds sing.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells. Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep, Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers; And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep Steady thy laden head across a brook; Or by a cider-press, with patient look, Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours. Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too – While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft; And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But being too happy in thine happiness-- That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees, In some melodious plot Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, Singest of summer in full-throated ease. O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth, Tasting of Flora and the country green, Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth! O for a beaker full of the warm South, Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, And purple-stained mouth; That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim: Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness, the fever, and the fret Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs; Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, Or new Love pine at them beyond tomorrow. Away! away! for I will fly to thee, Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: Already with thee! tender is the night, And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, Clustered around by all her starry Fays; But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet Wherewith the seasonable month endows The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; Fast fading violets covered up in leaves; And mid-May's eldest child, The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves. Darkling I listen; and, for many a time I have been half in love with easeful Death, Called him soft names in many a musèd rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die, To cease upon the midnight with no pain, While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad In such an ecstasy! Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain-- To thy high requiem become a sod. Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird! No hungry generations tread thee down; The voice I hear this passing night was heard In ancient days by emperor and clown: Perhaps the self-same song that found a path Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien corn; The same that oft-times hath Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in fairy lands forlorn. Forlorn! the very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu! The fancy cannot cheat so well As she is famed to do, deceiving elf. Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades Past the near meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep In the next valley-glades: Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music: - Do I wake or sleep?

When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be

When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain, Before high piled books, in charact’ry, Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain; When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, And feel that I may never live to trace Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance; And when I feel, fair creature of an hour! That I shall never look upon thee more, Never have relish in the faery power Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think, Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art— Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night And watching, with eternal lids apart, Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite, The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth's human shores, Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask Of snow upon the mountains and the moors— No – yet still stedfast, still unchangeable, Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast, To feel for ever its soft fall and swell, Awake for ever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever – or else swoon to death.

The Eve of St Agnes (stanzas 1-3)

Only stanzas 1-3 should be recited, as shown below   St. Agnes' Eve—ah, bitter chill it was! The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold; The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass, And silent was the flock in woolly fold; Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told His rosary, and while his frosted breath, Like pious incense from a censer old, Seemed taking flight for Heaven, without a death, Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith. His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man; Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees, And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan, Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees. The sculptured dead, on each side, seem to freeze, Imprisoned in black, purgatorial rails: Knights, ladies, praying in dumb oratories, He passeth by, and his weak spirit fails To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails. Northward he turneth through a little door, And scarce three steps, ere music's golden tongue Flattered to tears this agéd man and poor; But no—already had his deathbell rung; The joys of all his life were said and sung - His was harsh penance on St. Agnes' Eve! Another way he went, and soon among Rough ashes sat he for his soul's reprieve, And all night kept awake, for sinners' sake to grieve.

John Keats
1795 - 1821

A Legend of Tintagel Castle

Alone in the forest, Sir Lancelot rode, O'er the neck of his courser the reins lightly flowed, And beside hung his helmet, for bare was his brow To meet the soft breeze that was fanning him now. And "the flowers of the forest" were many and sweet, Which, crushed at each step by his proud courser's feet, Gave forth all their fragrance, while thick over-head The boughs of the oak and the elm-tree were spread. The wind stirred the branches, as if its low suit Were urged, like a lover who wakens the lute, And through the dark foliage came sparkling and bright, Like rain from the green leaves, in small gems of light. There was stillness, not silence, for dancing along, A brook went its way like a child with a song; Now hidden, where rushes and water-flags grow; Now clear, while white pebbles were glistening below. Lo, bright as a vision, and fair as a dream, The face of a maiden is seen in the stream; With her hair like a mantle of gold to her knee, Stands a lady as lovely as lady can be. Short speech tells a love-tale; - the bard's sweetest words Are poor, beside those which each memory hoards: Sound of some gentle whisper, the haunting and low, Such as love may have murmured – ah, long, long ago. She led him away to an odorous cave, Where the emerald spars shone like stars in the wave, And the green moss and violets crowded beneath, And the ash at the entrance hung down like a wreath. They might have been happy, if love could but learn A lesson from some flowers, and like their leaves turn Round their own inward world, their own lone fragrant nest, Content with its sweetness, content with its rest. But the sound of the trumpet was heard from afar, And Sir Lancelot rode forth again to the war; And the wood-nymph was left as aye woman will be, Who trusts her whole being, oh, false love, to thee. For months, every sunbeam that brightened the gloom, She deemed was the waving of Lancelot's plume; She knew not of the proud and the beautiful queen, Whose image was treasured as hers once had been. There was many a fair dame, and many a knight, Made the banks of the river like fairy-land bright; And among those whose shadow was cast on the tide, Was Lancelot kneeling near Genevra's side. With purple sails heavily drooping around, The mast, and the prow, with the vale lily bound; And towed by two swans, a small vessel drew near, But high on the deck was a pall-covered bier. They oared with their white wings, the bark thro' the flood, Till arrived at the bank where Sir Lancelot stood: A wind swept the river, and flung back the pall, And there lay a lady, the fairest of all. But pale as a statue, like sunshine on snow, The bright hair seemed mocking the cold face below: Sweet truants, the blush and the smile both are fled— Sir Lancelot weeps as he kneels by the dead. And these are love's records; a vow and a dream, And the sweet shadow passes away from life's stream: Too late we awake to regret—but what tears Can bring back the waste to our hearts and our years?

Letitia Elizabeth Landon
1802 - 1838