William Wordsworth - Itinerary Poems of 1833

[part of above - cantos XII-XXII]



RANGING the heights of Scawfell or Blackcomb,
In his lone course the Shepherd oft will pause,
And strive to fathom the mysterious laws
By which the clouds, arrayed in light or gloom,
On Mona settle, and the shapes assume
Of all her peaks and ridges. What he draws
From sense, faith reason, fancy, of the cause,
He will take with him to the silent tomb.
Or by his fire, a child upon his knee,
Haply the untaught Philosopher may speak
Of the strange sight, nor hide his theory
That satisfies the simple and the meek,
Blest in their pious ignorance, though weak
To cope with Sages undevoutly free.



BOLD words affirmed, in days when faith was strong
And doubts and scruples seldom teased the brain,
That no adventurer's bark had power to gain
These shores if he approached them bent on wrong;
For, suddenly up-conjured from the Main,
Mists rose to hide the Land-that search, though long
And eager, might be still pursued in vain.
O Fancy, what an age was that for song!
That age, when not by laws inanimate,
As men believed, the waters were impelled,
The air controlled, the stars their courses held;
But element and orb on acts did wait
Of Powers endued with visible form, instinct
With will, and to their work by passion linked.


DESIRE we past illusions to recall?
To reinstate wild Fancy, would we hide
Truths whose thick veil Science has drawn aside?
No, -let this Age, high as she may, instal
In her esteem the thirst that wrought man's fall,
The universe is infinitely wide;
And conquering Reason, if self-glorified,
Can nowhere move uncrossed by some new wall
Or gulf, of mystery, which thou alone,
Imaginative Faith ! canst overleap,
In progress toward the fount of Love, - the throne
Of Power whose ministers the records keep
Of periods fixed, and laws established, less
Flesh to exalt than prove its nothingness.



"Dignum laude virum Musa vetat mori."

The feudal Keep, the bastions of Cohorn.
Even when they rose to cheek or to repel
Tides of aggressive war, oft served as well
Greedy ambition, armed to treat with scorn
Just limits; but yon Tower, whose smiles adorn
This perilous bay, stands clear of all offence;
Blest work it is of love and innocence,
A Tower of refuge built for the else forlorn.
Spare it, ye waves, and lift the mariner,
Struggling for life., into its saving arms!
Spare, too, the human helpers! Do they stir
'Mid your fierce shook like men afraid to die?
No; their dread service nerves the heart it warms,
And they are led by noble HILLARY.3



WHY stand we gazing on the sparkling Brine,
With wonder emit by its transparency,
And all-enraptured with its purity?-
Because the unstained, the clear, the crystalline,
Have ever in them something of benign;
Whether in gem, in water, or in sky,
A sleeping infant's brow, or wakeful eye
Of a young maiden, only not divine.
Scarcely the hand forbears to dip its palm
For beverage drawn as from a mountain well.
Temptation centres in the liquid Calm;
Our daily raiment, seems no obstacle
To instantaneous plunging in deep Sea !
And revelling in long embrace with thee1.



A YOUTH too certain of his power to wade
On the smooth bottom of this clear bright sea,
To sight so shallow, with a bather's glee,
Leapt from this rock, and but for timely aid
He by the alluring element betrayed,
Had perished. Then might Sea-nymphs (and with sighs
Of self-reproach) have chanted elegies
Bewailing his sad fate, when he was laid
In peaceful earth. for, doubtless, he was frank,
Utterly in himself devoid of guile;
Knew not the double-dealing of a smile;
Nor aught that makes men's promises a blank
Or deadly snare: and He survives to bless
The Power that saved him in his strange distress.



DID Pangs of grief for lenient time too keen,
Grief that devouring waves had caused or guilt
Which they had witnessed, sway the man who built
This Homestead, placed where nothing could be seen,
Nought heard, of ocean troubled or serene?
A tired Ship-soldier on paternal land,
That o'er the channel holds august command,
The dwelling raised,-a veteran Marine.
He, in disgust, turned from the neighbouring sea
To shun the memory of a listless life
That hung between two callings;. May no strife
More hurtful here beset him, doomed though free,
Self-doomed, to worse inaction, till his eye
Shrink from the daily sight of earth and sky !


:A Friend of the. Author.

From early youth I ploughed the restless Main
My mind as restless and as apt to change;
Through every clime and ocean did I range,
In hope at length a competence to gain;
For poor to Sea I went and poor I remain.
Year after year I strove, but strove in
And hardships manifold did I endure,
For Fortune on me never deigned to smile;
Yet I at last a resting-place have found
With just enough life's comforts to procure,
In a snug Cove on this our favoured Isle.
A peaceful spot where Nature's abound;
Then sure I have no reason to complain
Though poor to Sea I went and poor I still remain.


Supposed to be written by a Friend.

Broken in fortune, but in mind entire
And sound in principle, I seek repose
Where ancient trees this convent-pile enclose2,
In ruin beautiful. When vain desire
Intrudes on peace, I pray the eternal Sire
To Cast a soul-subduing shade on me,
A grey-haired, pensive, thankful Refugee
A shade--but with some sparks of heavenly fire
Once to these cells vouchsafed. And when I note
The old Towers brow yellowed as with the beams
Of sunset ever there,. albeit streams
Of stormy weather-stains that semblance wrought~
I thank the silent Monitor, and say
"Shine so, my aged brow, at all hours of, the day!



ONCE on the top of Tynwald's formal mound
(Still marked with green turf circles narrowing
Stage above stage) would sit this Island's King,
The laws to Promulgate, enrobed and crowned;
While, compassing the little mound around,
Degrees and Orders stood, each under each:
Now, like to things within fate's easiest reach,
The power is merged, the pomp a grave has found.
Off with yon cloud, old Snafell ! that thine eye
Over three Realms may take its widest range;
And let for them, thy fountains utter strange
Voices, thy winds break forth in prophecy,
If the whole State must suffer mortal change,
Like Mona's miniature of sovereignty.


DESPOND Who will-I heard a voice exclaim,
Though fierce the assault, and shattered the defence,
It cannot be that Britain's social frame,
The glorious work of time and providence
Before a flying season's rash pretence
Should fall; that She, whose virtue put to shame
When Europe prostrate lay, the Conqueror's aim,
Should perish, self-subverted. Black and dense
The cloud is, but brings that a day of doom
To Liberty? Her sun is up the while,
That orb whose beams round Saxon Alfred shone:
Then laugh, ye innocent Vales! ye Streams, sweep on,
Nor let one billow of our heaven-blest isle
Toss in the fanning wind a humbler plume."


1 The sea-water on the of the Isle of Man is singularly pure and beautiful [Ed (T Hutchinson) of Collected Works]

2 Rushen Abbey.

The following notes are by Wordsworth:

3 "And they are led by noble.Hillary "

The TOWER OF REFUFE, an ornament to Douglas Bay, was erected chiefly through the humanity and zeal of Sir William Hillary,; and he also was the founder of the lifeboat establishment at that place; by which, under his superintendence, and often by his exertions at the immninent hazard of his own life, many seamen and passengers have been saved.-W.


This unpretending sonnet is by a gentleman nearly connected with me, and I hope, as It fails so easily Into its place that both the writer and the reader will excuse its appearance here.-W.

[this was his brother in law Henry Hutchinson]

"Off with yon cloud, old Snafell!"

The summit of this mountain is well chosen by Cowley as the scene of the " Vision," In which the spectral angel discourses with him concerning the government of Oliver Cromwell. "I found myself " says he, " on the top of that famous hill in the Island Mona, which has the prospect of three great, and not long since most happy kingdoms. As soon as ever 1 looked upon them they called forth the sad representation of all the sins and all the miseries that had overwhelmed them these twenty years." It not to be denied that the changes now in progress, the passions, and the way in which they work, strikingly resemble those which led to the disasters the philosophic writer so feelingly bewails. God grant that the resemblance may not become still more striking as months and years advance -W.

(a) Fpc - the Cookson family friends lived at Ballasalla

[also see his sister's, Dorthy Wordsworth, diaries re her visit to the Island in 1828]

Note also the Wordsworth's lines on Peele Castle, though sometimes ascribed to Peel Castle, IoM, do in fact refer to the Peele at Foudrey near Barrow and were written on seeing an painting of the view - an engraving of this is shown below. The confusion with Peel Castle on the Island is an all too common mistake by those who merely quote the line - including it must be said the contributor to the literature section in Volume 5 of the New History of the Isle of Man !

There is a reference to Wordsworth visiting Peel - in a diary kept by a Mr Jones during a stay in Peel in 1837 (quoted at length in Palmer 'Glimpses of Old Peel' and from an unreferenced article in Peel City Guardian of 1880's where the writer (? Goodwin) also comments that the two hours were subsequently extended to three weeks - probably again by mis-reading the poem)

Tuesday, September 19th. - Met Mr. Grellier at the end of the pier. He told me that when Wordsworth came on a short visit, a few years ago [ie 1833], to Mr. William Hillary, at Douglas, he paid a flying visit to Peel. He went up to Mount Morrison to see Mr. Grellier, who took him to the summer-house, where they viewed the bay and castle. Mr. Gellier asked the poet to write a sonnet on the scene, saying he wished to put it in the Manx Sun, he being editor of that paper. But Wordsworth refused; indeed he seemed to be in a shocking bad temper. His visit did not occupy more than two hours.


[Composed 1805.-Published 1807.]

Peele Castle

I WAS thy neighbour once, thou rugged Pile!
Four summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee:
I saw thee every day; and all the while
Thy Form was sleeping on a glassy sea.

So pure the sky, so quiet was the air!
So like, so very like, was day to day!
Whene'er I looked, thy Image still was there ;
It trembled, but it never passed away.

How perfect was the calm! it seemed no sleep ;
No mood, which season takes away, or brings:
I could have fancied that the might Deep
Was even the gentlest of all gentle Things.

Ah ! THEN, if mine had been the Painter's hand,
To express what then I saw; and add the gleam,
The light that never was, on sea or land,
The consecration, and the Poet's dream;

I would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile
Amid a world how different from this!
Beside a sea that could not cease to smile;
On tranquil land, beneath a sky of bliss.

Thou shouldst have seemed a treasure-house divine
Of peaceful years; a chronicle of heaven;
Of all the sunbeams that did ever shine
The very sweetest had to thee been given.

A Picture had it been of lasting ease,
Elysian quiet, without toil or strife;
No motion but the moving tide, a breeze.
Or merely silent Nature's breathing life.

Such, in the fond illusion of my heart,
Such Picture would I at that time have made:
And seen the soul of truth in every part,
A steadfast peace that might not be betrayed.

So once it would have been,-'tis so no more;
1 have submitted to a new control
A power is gone, which nothing can re-store;
A deep distress hath humanised my Soul.

Not for a moment could I now behold
A smiling sea, and be what I have been
The feeling of my loss will ne'er be old;
This, Which I know, I speak with mind serene.

Then, Beaumont, Friend! who would have been the Friend,
if he had lived, of Him whom I deplore,
This work of thine I blame not, but commend;
This sea in anger, and that dismal shore.

O 'tis a passionate Work!-yet wise and well,
Well chosen is the spirit that is here;
That Hulk which labours in the deadly swell,
This rueful sky, this pageantry of fear !

And this huge Castle, standing here sublime,
I love to see the look with which it braves,
Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time,
The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves.

Farewell, farewell the heart that lives alone,
Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind !
Such happiness, wherever it be known,
Is to be pitied; for 'tis surely blind.

But welcome fortitude, and patient cheer,
And frequent sights of what is to be borne!
Such sights, or worse, as are before me here.-
Not without hope we suffer and we mourn.

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