Helen Darbishire and Ernest De Selincourt (eds), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 1: Poems Written in Youth; Poems Referring to the Period of Childhood (Second Edition)

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Editor’s NoteXIORPHEUS AND EURYDICE

(Translated from Virgil, Georgics, iv. 464–527.)

  • 1He wandering far along the lonely main
  • 2Sooth'd with the hollow shell his sickly pain;
  • 3Thee, thee, dear wife, [ ] he sung forlorn,
  • 4From morn to eve, and thee from eve to morn.
  • 5He pierced the grove where brooding darkness flings
  • 6A cold black horror from his [      ] wings,
  • 7To where Hell's King in griesly state appears
  • 8And round him hearts unmov'd by human tears;
  • 9On as he pass'd and struck the plaintive shell
  • 10Ambrosial music fill'd the ear of hell.
  • 11[              ] from the lowest bound
  • 12Of Erebus the shadows flock'd around,
  • 13As birds unnumbered seek their leafy bower,
  • 14Driv'n by the twilight dark, or morning shower,
  • 15Boys, men, and matrons old, the tender maid,
  • 16And mighty heroes' more majestic shade.
  • 17Felt his dear wife the sweet approach of light
  • 18Following behind—ah why did Fate impose
  • 19This cruel mandate, source of all his woes?
  • 20When [               ] a sudden madness stole
  • 21His swimming senses from the lover's soul.
  • 22The deed might not in vain for pardon sue
  • 23If Hell the sweets of gentle pardon knew.
  • pg 28424He paus'd, and treading on the edge of day
  • 25Mindless, his parting soul dissolved away,
  • 26He turn'd and gaz'd. [                
  • 27             ] and thrice a dismal shriek
  • 28From Hell's still waters thrice was heard to break.
  • 29Then she—"what God our Ruin hath decreed,
  • 30And why, my Orpheus, why this desperate deed?
  • 31Once more I hear a dreadful voice, it cries
  • 32Come come away [                 ]
  • 33Farewell my life, farewell my soul's delight,
  • 34A death-like darkness tears me from thy sight
  • 35But ah, my Orpheus, ah, no longer mine;
  • 36Thy fond Eurydice, no longer thine,
  • 37[? Still] through the gloomy door with eager pain
  • 38Stretches her powerless arm to thee in vain."
  • 39What prayers or songs of weeping can now move
  • 40The cruel fates to grant again his love?
  • 41Even now cold shivering in the boat she stood,
  • 42That slowly struggled through the torpid flood.
  • 43For seven long moons, by Strymon's desert side,
  • 44He wept unceasing to the hollow tide;
  • 45While overhead, as still he wept and sung,
  • 46Aerial rocks in shaggy prospect hung.
  • 47Meek grew the tigers when in caverns hoar
  • 48He sung his tale of sorrow o'er and o'er;
  • 49The solemn forest at the magic song
  • 50Had ears to joy—and slowly moved along
  • Critical Apparatus51So darkling in the poplar's shady gloom
  • 52Mourns the lorn nightingale her hapless doom;
  • 53Mourns with low sighs and sadly pleasing tongue,
  • 54Torn callow from their nest, her darling young;
  • 55All night she weeps, slow-pouring from her throat
  • 56Renew'd at every fall the plaintive note,
  • 57Moans round the chearless nest with pious love;
  • 58The solemn warblings sadden all the grove.
  • 59No maid the mourner's widow'd bosom moves
  • 60He sicken'd at the thought of other loves;
  • pg 28561Hopeless and sad, with never ceasing moan,
  • 62He trod the snowy Tanais all alone.
  • 63He lov'd through cold Rhipaean snows to roam,
  • 64Cold fields of ice and snow his only home;
  • 65[? Reft] of his dear lost partner did he plain
  • 66Giv'n to his arms from Death, but giv'n in vain;
  • 67For which sad dearer office coldly spurn'd
  • 68The fell Ciconian Matrons inly burn'd
  • 69[        ] to Bacchus, as they paid
  • 70Nocturnal orgies in the midnight shade;
  • 71Him, mourning still, the savage maenads found
  • 72And strew'd his mangled limbs the plain around;
  • 73His head was from its neck of marble torn
  • 74And down the Œagrian Hebrus slowly borne.
  • 75Then too upon the voice and faltering tongue
  • 76Eurydice in dying accents hung;
  • 77Ah! poor Eurydice, it feebly cried;
  • 78Eurydice, the moaning banks replied.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
p. 283. XI. Orpheus and Eurydice: preserved in the same MS. as contains MS. C of the Vale of Esthwaite, and obviously composed shortly afterwards. It is for the most part very carelessly written and not consecutively, so that I have had to piece the translation together; its probable date is 1788–9. The variant of ll. 51–8 appears in a letter from D.W. to Quillinan, 1822.
Critical Apparatus
51–8
  • Even so bewails, the poplar groves among,
  • Sad Philomela her evanished young;
  • Whom the harsh rustic from the nest hath torn,
  • An unfledg'd brood; but on the bough forlorn
  • She sits, in mournful darkness, and night long
  • Renews and still renews her doleful song
  • And fills the leavy grove, complaining of her wrong.
MS. (after 1820)
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