Saturday, 8 March 2014

To the Daisy - William Wordsworth

On my way through Wordsworth's Poetical Works I found an elegy William Wordsworth wrote for his brother John, who was killed in a shipwreck in 1805. Although unpromisingly entitled To the Daisy, I found it one of the most personal and touching expressions of grief in the collection so far, and thought I'd share it here, as Google seems to think that Wordsworth's To the Daisy is a completely different poem. It's a little long, but worth it:

Sweet flower! belike, one day, to have
A place upon thy poet's grave,
I welcome thee once more:
But he, who was on land, at sea,
My brother, too, in loving thee,
Although he loved more silently,
Sleeps by his native shore.

Ah! hopeful, hopeful was the day
When to that ship he bent his way,
To govern and to guide:
His wish was gain'd: a little time
Would bring him back in manhood's prime,
And free for life, these hills to climb,
With all his wants supplied.

And full of hope day follow'd day,
While that stout ship at anchor lay
Beside the shores of Wight;
The May had then made all things green,
And, floating there in pomp serene,
That ship was goodly to be seen,
His pride and his delight!

Yet then, when call'd ashore, he sought,
The tender peace of rural thought;
In more than happy mood,
To your abodes, bright daisy flowers;
He then would steal at leisure hours,
And loved you glittering in your bowers,
A starry multitude.

But hark the word! - the ship is gone;
From her long course returns - anon
Sets sail: in season due,
Once more on English earth they stand:
But when a third time from the land
They parted, sorrow was at hand
For him and for his crew.

Ill-fated vessel! ghastly shock!
At length deliver'd from the rock,
The deep she hath regain'd;
And through the stormy night they steer,
Labouring for life, in hope and fear,
Towards a safer shore - how near,
Yet not to be attain'd!

"Silence!" the brave commander cried!
To that calm word a shriek replied,
It was the last death-shriek.
A few appear by morning light,
Preserved upon the tall mast's height:
Oft in my soul I see that sight;
But one dear remnant of the night -
For him in vain I seek.

Six weeks, beneath the moving sea,
He lay in slumber quietly:
Unforced, by wind or wave,
To quit the ship for which he died,
(All claims of duty satisfied;)
And there they found him at her side,
And bore him to the grave.

Vain service! yet not vainly done,
For this, if other end were none,
That he, who had been cast
Upon a way of life unmeet
For such a gentle soul and sweet,
Should find an undisturb'd retreat
Near what he loved, at last;

That neighbourhood of grove and field
To him a resting-place should yield.
A meek man and a brave!
The birds shall sing, and ocean make
A mournful murmur, for his sake;
And though, sweet flower, shalt sleep and wake
Upon his senseless grave!

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