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CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD


THE PRELUDE

BOOK FIRST

INTRODUCTION--CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-TIME

          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.
          What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale                10
          Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
          Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
          Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
          The earth is all before me. With a heart
          Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
          I look about; and should the chosen guide
          Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
          I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!
          Trances of thought and mountings of the mind
          Come fast upon me: it is shaken off,                        20
          That burthen of my own unnatural self,
          The heavy weight of many a weary day
          Not mine, and such as were not made for me.
          Long months of peace (if such bold word accord
          With any promises of human life),
          Long months of ease and undisturbed delight
          Are mine in prospect; whither shall I turn,
          By road or pathway, or through trackless field,
          Up hill or down, or shall some floating thing
          Upon the river point me out my course?                      30

            Dear Liberty! Yet what would it avail
          But for a gift that consecrates the joy?
          For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven
          Was blowing on my body, felt within
          A correspondent breeze, that gently moved
          With quickening virtue, but is now become
          A tempest, a redundant energy,
          Vexing its own creation. Thanks to both,
          And their congenial powers, that, while they join
          In breaking up a long-continued frost,                      40
          Bring with them vernal promises, the hope
          Of active days urged on by flying hours,--
          Days of sweet leisure, taxed with patient thought
          Abstruse, nor wanting punctual service high,
          Matins and vespers of harmonious verse!

            Thus far, O Friend! did I, not used to make
          A present joy the matter of a song,
          Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains
          That would not be forgotten, and are here
          Recorded: to the open fields I told                         50
          A prophecy: poetic numbers came
          Spontaneously to clothe in priestly robe
          A renovated spirit singled out,
          Such hope was mine, for holy services.
          My own voice cheered me, and, far more, the mind's
          Internal echo of the imperfect sound;
          To both I listened, drawing from them both
          A cheerful confidence in things to come.

            Content and not unwilling now to give
          A respite to this passion, I paced on                       60
          With brisk and eager steps; and came, at length,
          To a green shady place, where down I sate
          Beneath a tree, slackening my thoughts by choice
          And settling into gentler happiness.
          'Twas autumn, and a clear and placid day,
          With warmth, as much as needed, from a sun
          Two hours declined towards the west; a day
          With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass,
          And in the sheltered and the sheltering grove
          A perfect stillness. Many were the thoughts                 70
          Encouraged and dismissed, till choice was made
          Of a known Vale, whither my feet should turn,
          Nor rest till they had reached the very door
          Of the one cottage which methought I saw.
          No picture of mere memory ever looked
          So fair; and while upon the fancied scene
          I gazed with growing love, a higher power
          Than Fancy gave assurance of some work
          Of glory there forthwith to be begun,
          Perhaps too there performed. Thus long I mused,             80
          Nor e'er lost sight of what I mused upon,
          Save when, amid the stately grove of oaks,
          Now here, now there, an acorn, from its cup
          Dislodged, through sere leaves rustled, or at once
          To the bare earth dropped with a startling sound.
          From that soft couch I rose not, till the sun
          Had almost touched the horizon; casting then
          A backward glance upon the curling cloud
          Of city smoke, by distance ruralised;
          Keen as a Truant or a Fugitive,                             90
          But as a Pilgrim resolute, I took,
          Even with the chance equipment of that hour,
          The road that pointed toward the chosen Vale.
          It was a splendid evening, and my soul
          Once more made trial of her strength, nor lacked
          Aeolian visitations; but the harp
          Was soon defrauded, and the banded host
          Of harmony dispersed in straggling sounds,
          And lastly utter silence! "Be it so;
          Why think of anything but present good?"                   100
          So, like a home-bound labourer, I pursued
          My way beneath the mellowing sun, that shed
          Mild influence; nor left in me one wish
          Again to bend the Sabbath of that time
          To a servile yoke. What need of many words?
          A pleasant loitering journey, through three days
          Continued, brought me to my hermitage.
          I spare to tell of what ensued, the life
          In common things--the endless store of things,
          Rare, or at least so seeming, every day                    110
          Found all about me in one neighbourhood--
          The self-congratulation, and, from morn
          To night, unbroken cheerfulness serene.
          But speedily an earnest longing rose
          To brace myself to some determined aim,
          Reading or thinking; either to lay up
          New stores, or rescue from decay the old
          By timely interference: and therewith
          Came hopes still higher, that with outward life
          I might endue some airy phantasies                         120
          That had been floating loose about for years,
          And to such beings temperately deal forth
          The many feelings that oppressed my heart.
          That hope hath been discouraged; welcome light
          Dawns from the east, but dawns to disappear
          And mock me with a sky that ripens not
          Into a steady morning: if my mind,
          Remembering the bold promise of the past,
          Would gladly grapple with some noble theme,
          Vain is her wish; where'er she turns she finds             130
          Impediments from day to day renewed.

            And now it would content me to yield up
          Those lofty hopes awhile, for present gifts
          Of humbler industry. But, oh, dear Friend!
          The Poet, gentle creature as he is,
          Hath, like the Lover, his unruly times;
          His fits when he is neither sick nor well,
          Though no distress be near him but his own
          Unmanageable thoughts: his mind, best pleased
          While she as duteous as the mother dove                    140
          Sits brooding, lives not always to that end,
          But like the innocent bird, hath goadings on
          That drive her as in trouble through the groves;
          With me is now such passion, to be blamed
          No otherwise than as it lasts too long.

            When, as becomes a man who would prepare
          For such an arduous work, I through myself
          Make rigorous inquisition, the report
          Is often cheering; for I neither seem
          To lack that first great gift, the vital soul,             150
          Nor general Truths, which are themselves a sort
          Of Elements and Agents, Under-powers,
          Subordinate helpers of the living mind:
          Nor am I naked of external things,
          Forms, images, nor numerous other aids
          Of less regard, though won perhaps with toil
          And needful to build up a Poet's praise.
          Time, place, and manners do I seek, and these
          Are found in plenteous store, but nowhere such
          As may be singled out with steady choice;                  160
          No little band of yet remembered names
          Whom I, in perfect confidence, might hope
          To summon back from lonesome banishment,
          And make them dwellers in the hearts of men
          Now living, or to live in future years.
          Sometimes the ambitious Power of choice, mistaking
          Proud spring-tide swellings for a regular sea,
          Will settle on some British theme, some old
          Romantic tale by Milton left unsung;
          More often turning to some gentle place                    170
          Within the groves of Chivalry, I pipe
          To shepherd swains, or seated harp in hand,
          Amid reposing knights by a river side
          Or fountain, listen to the grave reports
          Of dire enchantments faced and overcome
          By the strong mind, and tales of warlike feats,
          Where spear encountered spear, and sword with sword
          Fought, as if conscious of the blazonry
          That the shield bore, so glorious was the strife;
          Whence inspiration for a song that winds                   180
          Through ever-changing scenes of votive quest
          Wrongs to redress, harmonious tribute paid
          To patient courage and unblemished truth,
          To firm devotion, zeal unquenchable,
          And Christian meekness hallowing faithful loves.
          Sometimes, more sternly moved, I would relate
          How vanquished Mithridates northward passed,
          And, hidden in the cloud of years, became
          Odin, the Father of a race by whom
          Perished the Roman Empire: how the friends                 190
          And followers of Sertorius, out of Spain
          Flying, found shelter in the Fortunate Isles,
          And left their usages, their arts and laws,
          To disappear by a slow gradual death,
          To dwindle and to perish one by one,
          Starved in those narrow bounds: but not the soul
          Of Liberty, which fifteen hundred years
          Survived, and, when the European came
          With skill and power that might not be withstood,
          Did, like a pestilence, maintain its hold                  200
          And wasted down by glorious death that race
          Of natural heroes: or I would record
          How, in tyrannic times, some high-souled man,
          Unnamed among the chronicles of kings,
          Suffered in silence for Truth's sake: or tell,
          How that one Frenchman, through continued force
          Of meditation on the inhuman deeds
          Of those who conquered first the Indian Isles,
          Went single in his ministry across
          The Ocean; not to comfort the oppressed,                   210
          But, like a thirsty wind, to roam about
          Withering the Oppressor: how Gustavus sought
          Help at his need in Dalecarlia's mines:
          How Wallace fought for Scotland; left the name
          Of Wallace to be found, like a wild flower,
          All over his dear Country; left the deeds
          Of Wallace, like a family of Ghosts,
          To people the steep rocks and river banks,
          Her natural sanctuaries, with a local soul
          Of independence and stern liberty.                         220
          Sometimes it suits me better to invent
          A tale from my own heart, more near akin
          To my own passions and habitual thoughts;
          Some variegated story, in the main
          Lofty, but the unsubstantial structure melts
          Before the very sun that brightens it,
          Mist into air dissolving! Then a wish,
          My last and favourite aspiration, mounts
          With yearning toward some philosophic song
          Of Truth that cherishes our daily life;                    230
          With meditations passionate from deep
          Recesses in man's heart, immortal verse
          Thoughtfully fitted to the Orphean lyre;
          But from this awful burthen I full soon
          Take refuge and beguile myself with trust
          That mellower years will bring a riper mind
          And clearer insight. Thus my days are past
          In contradiction; with no skill to part
          Vague longing, haply bred by want of power,
          From paramount impulse not to be withstood,                240
          A timorous capacity, from prudence,
          From circumspection, infinite delay.
          Humility and modest awe, themselves
          Betray me, serving often for a cloak
          To a more subtle selfishness; that now
          Locks every function up in blank reserve,
          Now dupes me, trusting to an anxious eye
          That with intrusive restlessness beats off
          Simplicity and self-presented truth.
          Ah! better far than this, to stray about                   250
          Voluptuously through fields and rural walks,
          And ask no record of the hours, resigned
          To vacant musing, unreproved neglect
          Of all things, and deliberate holiday.
          Far better never to have heard the name
          Of zeal and just ambition, than to live
          Baffled and plagued by a mind that every hour
          Turns recreant to her task; takes heart again,
          Then feels immediately some hollow thought
          Hang like an interdict upon her hopes.                     260
          This is my lot; for either still I find
          Some imperfection in the chosen theme,
          Or see of absolute accomplishment
          Much wanting, so much wanting, in myself,
          That I recoil and droop, and seek repose
          In listlessness from vain perplexity,
          Unprofitably travelling toward the grave,
          Like a false steward who hath much received
          And renders nothing back.
                                     Was it for this
          That one, the fairest of all rivers, loved                 270
          To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song,
          And, from his alder shades and rocky falls,
          And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
          That flowed along my dreams? For this, didst thou,
          O Derwent! winding among grassy holms
          Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,
          Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts
          To more than infant softness, giving me
          Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind
          A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm                    280
          That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.

            When he had left the mountains and received
          On his smooth breast the shadow of those towers
          That yet survive, a shattered monument
          Of feudal sway, the bright blue river passed
          Along the margin of our terrace walk;
          A tempting playmate whom we dearly loved.
          Oh, many a time have I, a five years' child,
          In a small mill-race severed from his stream,
          Made one long bathing of a summer's day;                   290
          Basked in the sun, and plunged and basked again
          Alternate, all a summer's day, or scoured
          The sandy fields, leaping through flowery groves
          Of yellow ragwort; or, when rock and hill,
          The woods, and distant Skiddaw's lofty height,
          Were bronzed with deepest radiance, stood alone
          Beneath the sky, as if I had been born
          On Indian plains, and from my mother's hut
          Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport
          A naked savage, in the thunder shower.                     300

            Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
          Fostered alike by beauty and by fear:
          Much favoured in my birth-place, and no less
          In that beloved Vale to which erelong
          We were transplanted;--there were we let loose
          For sports of wider range. Ere I had told
          Ten birth-days, when among the mountain slopes
          Frost, and the breath of frosty wind, had snapped
          The last autumnal crocus, 'twas my joy
          With store of springes o'er my shoulder hung               310
          To range the open heights where woodcocks run
          Along the smooth green turf. Through half the night,
          Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
          That anxious visitation;--moon and stars
          Were shining o'er my head. I was alone,
          And seemed to be a trouble to the peace
          That dwelt among them. Sometimes it befell
          In these night wanderings, that a strong desire
          O'erpowered my better reason, and the bird
          Which was the captive of another's toil                    320
          Became my prey; and when the deed was done
          I heard among the solitary hills
          Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
          Of undistinguishable motion, steps
          Almost as silent as the turf they trod.

            Nor less, when spring had warmed the cultured Vale,
          Moved we as plunderers where the mother-bird
          Had in high places built her lodge; though mean
          Our object and inglorious, yet the end
          Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung                      330
          Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
          And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
          But ill sustained, and almost (so it seemed)
          Suspended by the blast that blew amain,
          Shouldering the naked crag, oh, at that time
          While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
          With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
          Blow through my ear! the sky seemed not a sky
          Of earth--and with what motion moved the clouds!

            Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows                340
          Like harmony in music; there is a dark
          Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
          Discordant elements, makes them cling together
          In one society. How strange, that all
          The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
          Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
          Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,
          And that a needful part, in making up
          The calm existence that is mine when I
          Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!                    350
          Thanks to the means which Nature deigned to employ;
          Whether her fearless visitings, or those
          That came with soft alarm, like hurtless light
          Opening the peaceful clouds; or she would use
          Severer interventions, ministry
          More palpable, as best might suit her aim.

            One summer evening (led by her) I found
          A little boat tied to a willow tree
          Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
          Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in             360
          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,                         370
          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,              380
          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                     390
          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.                   400

            Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!
          Thou Soul that art the eternity of thought
          That givest to forms and images a breath
          And everlasting motion, not in vain
          By day or star-light thus from my first dawn
          Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
          The passions that build up our human soul;
          Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
          But with high objects, with enduring things--
          With life and nature--purifying thus                       410
          The elements of feeling and of thought,
          And sanctifying, by such discipline,
          Both pain and fear, until we recognise
          A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.
          Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me
          With stinted kindness. In November days,
          When vapours rolling down the valley made
          A lonely scene more lonesome, among woods,
          At noon and 'mid the calm of summer nights,
          When, by the margin of the trembling lake,                 420
          Beneath the gloomy hills homeward I went
          In solitude, such intercourse was mine;
          Mine was it in the fields both day and night,
          And by the waters, all the summer long.

            And in the frosty season, when the sun
          Was set, and visible for many a mile
          The cottage windows blazed through twilight gloom,
          I heeded not their summons: happy time
          It was indeed for all of us--for me
          It was a time of rapture! Clear and loud                   430
          The village clock tolled six,--I wheeled about,
          Proud and exulting like an untired horse
          That cares not for his home. All shod with steel,
          We hissed along the polished ice in games
          Confederate, imitative of the chase
          And woodland pleasures,--the resounding horn,
          The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.
          So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
          And not a voice was idle; with the din
          Smitten, the precipices rang aloud;                        440
          The leafless trees and every icy crag
          Tinkled like iron; while far distant hills
          Into the tumult sent an alien sound
          Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars
          Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west
          The orange sky of evening died away.
          Not seldom from the uproar I retired
          Into a silent bay, or sportively
          Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
          To cut across the reflex of a star                         450
          That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed
          Upon the glassy plain; and oftentimes,
          When we had given our bodies to the wind,
          And all the shadowy banks on either side
          Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still
          The rapid line of motion, then at once
          Have I, reclining back upon my heels,
          Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs
          Wheeled by me--even as if the earth had rolled
          With visible motion her diurnal round!                     460
          Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,
          Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched
          Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.

            Ye Presences of Nature in the sky
          And on the earth! Ye Visions of the hills!
          And Souls of lonely places! can I think
          A vulgar hope was yours when ye employed
          Such ministry, when ye, through many a year
          Haunting me thus among my boyish sports,
          On caves and trees, upon the woods and hills,              470
          Impressed, upon all forms, the characters
          Of danger or desire; and thus did make
          The surface of the universal earth,
          With triumph and delight, with hope and fear,
          Work like a sea?
                            Not uselessly employed,
          Might I pursue this theme through every change
          Of exercise and play, to which the year
          Did summon us in his delightful round.

            We were a noisy crew; the sun in heaven
          Beheld not vales more beautiful than ours;
          Nor saw a band in happiness and joy                        480
          Richer, or worthier of the ground they trod.
          I could record with no reluctant voice
          The woods of autumn, and their hazel bowers
          With milk-white clusters hung; the rod and line,
          True symbol of hope's foolishness, whose strong
          And unreproved enchantment led us on
          By rocks and pools shut out from every star,
          All the green summer, to forlorn cascades
          Among the windings hid of mountain brooks.
          --Unfading recollections! at this hour                     490
          The heart is almost mine with which I felt,
          From some hill-top on sunny afternoons,
          The paper kite high among fleecy clouds
          Pull at her rein like an impetuous courser;
          Or, from the meadows sent on gusty days,
          Beheld her breast the wind, then suddenly
          Dashed headlong, and rejected by the storm.

            Ye lowly cottages wherein we dwelt,
          A ministration of your own was yours;
          Can I forget you, being as you were                        500
          So beautiful among the pleasant fields
          In which ye stood? or can I here forget
          The plain and seemly countenance with which
          Ye dealt out your plain comforts? Yet had ye
          Delights and exultations of your own.
          Eager and never weary we pursued
          Our home-amusements by the warm peat-fire
          At evening, when with pencil, and smooth slate
          In square divisions parcelled out and all
          With crosses and with cyphers scribbled o'er,              510
          We schemed and puzzled, head opposed to head
          In strife too humble to be named in verse:
          Or round the naked table, snow-white deal,
          Cherry or maple, sate in close array,
          And to the combat, Loo or Whist, led on
          A thick-ribbed army; not, as in the world,
          Neglected and ungratefully thrown by
          Even for the very service they had wrought,
          But husbanded through many a long campaign.
          Uncouth assemblage was it, where no few                    520
          Had changed their functions: some, plebeian cards
          Which Fate, beyond the promise of their birth,
          Had dignified, and called to represent
          The persons of departed potentates.
          Oh, with what echoes on the board they fell!
          Ironic diamonds,--clubs, hearts, diamonds, spades,
          A congregation piteously akin!
          Cheap matter offered they to boyish wit,
          Those sooty knaves, precipitated down
          With scoffs and taunts, like Vulcan out of heaven:         530
          The paramount ace, a moon in her eclipse,
          Queens gleaming through their splendour's last decay,
          And monarchs surly at the wrongs sustained
          By royal visages. Meanwhile abroad
          Incessant rain was falling, or the frost
          Raged bitterly, with keen and silent tooth;
          And, interrupting oft that eager game,
          From under Esthwaite's splitting fields of ice
          The pent-up air, struggling to free itself,
          Gave out to meadow grounds and hills a loud                540
          Protracted yelling, like the noise of wolves
          Howling in troops along the Bothnic Main.

            Nor, sedulous as I have been to trace
          How Nature by extrinsic passion first
          Peopled the mind with forms sublime or fair,
          And made me love them, may I here omit
          How other pleasures have been mine, and joys
          Of subtler origin; how I have felt,
          Not seldom even in that tempestuous time,
          Those hallowed and pure motions of the sense               550
          Which seem, in their simplicity, to own
          An intellectual charm; that calm delight
          Which, if I err not, surely must belong
          To those first-born affinities that fit
          Our new existence to existing things,
          And, in our dawn of being, constitute
          The bond of union between life and joy.

            Yes, I remember when the changeful earth,
          And twice five summers on my mind had stamped
          The faces of the moving year, even then                    560
          I held unconscious intercourse with beauty
          Old as creation, drinking in a pure
          Organic pleasure from the silver wreaths
          Of curling mist, or from the level plain
          Of waters coloured by impending clouds.

            The sands of Westmoreland, the creeks and bays
          Of Cumbria's rocky limits, they can tell
          How, when the Sea threw off his evening shade,
          And to the shepherd's hut on distant hills
          Sent welcome notice of the rising moon,                    570
          How I have stood, to fancies such as these
          A stranger, linking with the spectacle
          No conscious memory of a kindred sight,
          And bringing with me no peculiar sense
          Of quietness or peace; yet have I stood,
          Even while mine eye hath moved o'er many a league
          Of shining water, gathering as it seemed,
          Through every hair-breadth in that field of light,
          New pleasure like a bee among the flowers.

            Thus oft amid those fits of vulgar joy                   580
          Which, through all seasons, on a child's pursuits
          Are prompt attendants, 'mid that giddy bliss
          Which, like a tempest, works along the blood
          And is forgotten; even then I felt
          Gleams like the flashing of a shield;--the earth
          And common face of Nature spake to me
          Rememberable things; sometimes, 'tis true,
          By chance collisions and quaint accidents
          (Like those ill-sorted unions, work supposed
          Of evil-minded fairies), yet not vain                      590
          Nor profitless, if haply they impressed
          Collateral objects and appearances,
          Albeit lifeless then, and doomed to sleep
          Until maturer seasons called them forth
          To impregnate and to elevate the mind.
          --And if the vulgar joy by its own weight
          Wearied itself out of the memory,
          The scenes which were a witness of that joy
          Remained in their substantial lineaments
          Depicted on the brain, and to the eye                      600
          Were visible, a daily sight; and thus
          By the impressive discipline of fear,
          By pleasure and repeated happiness,
          So frequently repeated, and by force
          Of obscure feelings representative
          Of things forgotten, these same scenes so bright,
          So beautiful, so majestic in themselves,
          Though yet the day was distant, did become
          Habitually dear, and all their forms
          And changeful colours by invisible links                   610
          Were fastened to the affections.
                                            I began
          My story early--not misled, I trust,
          By an infirmity of love for days
          Disowned by memory--ere the breath of spring
          Planting my snowdrops among winter snows:
          Nor will it seem to thee, O Friend! so prompt
          In sympathy, that I have lengthened out
          With fond and feeble tongue a tedious tale.
          Meanwhile, my hope has been, that I might fetch
          Invigorating thoughts from former years;                   620
          Might fix the wavering balance of my mind,
          And haply meet reproaches too, whose power
          May spur me on, in manhood now mature
          To honourable toil. Yet should these hopes
          Prove vain, and thus should neither I be taught
          To understand myself, nor thou to know
          With better knowledge how the heart was framed
          Of him thou lovest; need I dread from thee
          Harsh judgments, if the song be loth to quit
          Those recollected hours that have the charm                630
          Of visionary things, those lovely forms
          And sweet sensations that throw back our life,
          And almost make remotest infancy
          A visible scene, on which the sun is shining?

            One end at least hath been attained; my mind
          Hath been revived, and if this genial mood
          Desert me not, forthwith shall be brought down
          Through later years the story of my life.
          The road lies plain before me;--'tis a theme
          Single and of determined bounds; and hence                 640
          I choose it rather at this time, than work
          Of ampler or more varied argument,
          Where I might be discomfited and lost:
          And certain hopes are with me, that to thee
          This labour will be welcome, honoured Friend!


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