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POEMS OF THE IMAGINATION.

I.

THERE WAS A BOY.

(WRITTEN in Germany. This is an extract from the poem on my

own poetical education. This practice of making an instrument of their own fingers is known to most boys, though some are more skilful at it than others. William Raincock Rayrigg, a fine spirited lad, took the lead of all my schoolfellows in this art.]

THERE was a Boy; ye knew him well, ye cliffs
And islands of Winander !-many a time,
At evening, when the earliest stars began
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone,
Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake;
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls,
That they might answer him.-- And they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call,—with quivering peals,
And long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud
Redoubled and redoubled; concourse wild

Of jocund din! And, when there came pause
Of silence such as baffled his best skill:
Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.

This boy was taken from his mates, and died
In childhood, ere he was full twelve

years

old. Pre-eminent in beauty is the vale Where he was born and bred: the church-yard hangs Upon a slope above the village-school; And, through that church-yard when my way has led On summer-evenings, I believe, that there A long half-hour together I have stood Mute-looking at the grave in which he lies!

1799.

II.

TO THE CUCKOO.

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[COMPOSED in the orchard, Town-end, Grasmere.]
O BLITHE New-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
O Cuckoo ! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering Voice ?

While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear,
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off, and near.

Though babbling only to the Vale,
Of sunshine and of flowers,
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.

Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring !
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;
The same whom in my school-boy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.

To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen.
And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.

O blessèd Bird! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial, faery place;
That is fit home for Thee!

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III.

A NIGHT-PIECE.

[COMPOSED on the road between Nether Stowey and Alfoxden,

extempore. I distinctly recollect the very moment when I was struck, as described, —“He looks up- the clouds are split” &c.]

-The sky is overcast With a continuous cloud of texture close, Heavy and wan, all whitened by the Moon, Which through that veil is indistinctly seen, A dull, contracted circle, yielding light So feebly spread, that not a shadow falls, Chequering the ground—from rock, plant, tree, or

tower. At length a pleasant instantaneous gleam Startles the pensive traveller while he treads His lonesome path, with unobserving eye Bent earthwards; he looks up—the clouds are split Asunder,—and above his head he sees The clear Moon, and the glory of the heavens. There, in a black-blue vault she sails along, Followed by multitudes of stars, that, small And sharp, and bright, along the dark abyss Drive as she drives : how fast they wheel away, Yet vanish not !-the wind is in the tree, But they are silent ;-still they roll along Immeasurably distant; and the vault, Built round by those white clouds, enormous clouds, Still deepens its unfathomable depth.

At length the Vision closes; and the mind,
Not undisturbed by the delight it feels,
Which slowly settles into peaceful calm,
Is left to muse upon the solemn scene.

1798.

IV.

AIREY-FORCE VALLEY,

Not a breath of air Ruffles the bosom of this leafy glen. From the brook's margin, wide around, the trees Are stedfast as the rocks; the brook itself, Old as the hills that feed it from afar, Doth rather deepen than disturb the calm Where all things else are still and motionless. And yet, even now, a little breeze, perchance Escaped from boisterous winds that rage without, Has entered, by the sturdy oaks unfelt, But to its gentle touch how sensitive Is the light ash! that, pendent from the brow Of yon dim cave, in seeming silence makes A soft eye-music of slow-waving boughs, Powerful almost as vocal harmony To stay the wanderer's steps and soothe his thoughts.

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