Ernest De Selincourt (ed.), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 2: Poems Founded on the Affections; Poems on the Naming of Places; Poems of the Fancy; Poems of the Imagination (Second Edition)

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Editor’s NoteCritical ApparatusXXIVTHE AFFLICTION OF MARGARET ——

[Dated 1804 (W.).— Probably composed earlier (1801?).—Published 1807.]


  • 1Where art thou, my beloved Son,
  • 2Where art thou, worse to me than dead?
  • 3Oh find me, prosperous or undone!
  • 4Or, if the grave be now thy bed,
  • pg 485Why am I ignorant of the same
  • 6That I may rest; and neither blame
  • 7Nor sorrow may attend thy name?


  • 8Seven years, alas! to have received
  • 9No tidings of an only child;
  • Critical Apparatus10To have despaired, have hoped, believed,
  • Critical Apparatus11And been for evermore beguiled;
  • 12Sometimes with thoughts of very bliss!
  • 13I catch at them, and then I miss;
  • 14Was ever darkness like to this?


  • 15He was among the prime in worth,
  • 16An object beauteous to behold;
  • 17Well born, well bred; I sent him forth
  • 18Ingenuous, innocent, and bold:
  • 19If things ensued that wanted grace,
  • 20As hath been said, they were not base;
  • 21And never blush was on my face.


  • 22Ah! little doth the young-one dream,
  • 23When full of play and childish cares,
  • Critical Apparatus24What power is in his wildest scream,
  • 25Heard by his mother unawares!
  • 26He knows it not, he cannot guess:
  • 27Years to a mother bring distress;
  • 28But do not make her love the less.


  • 29Neglect me! no, I suffered long
  • 30From that ill thought; and, being blind,
  • 31Said, "Pride shall help me in my wrong:
  • 32Kind mother have I been, as kind
  • 33As ever breathed:" and that is true;
  • 34I've wet my path with tears like dew,
  • 35Weeping for him when no one knew.

pg 49vi.

  • 36My Son, if thou be humbled, poor,
  • 37Hopeless of honour and of gain,
  • 38Oh! do not dread thy mother's door;
  • 39Think not of me with grief and pain:
  • 40I now can see with better eyes;
  • 41And worldly grandeur I despise,
  • 42And fortune with her gifts and lies.


  • 43Alas! the fowls of heaven have wings,
  • 44And blasts of heaven will aid their flight;
  • 45They mount—how short a voyage brings
  • 46The wanderers back to their delight!
  • 47Chains tie us down by land and sea;
  • 48And wishes, vain as mine, may be
  • 49All that is left to comfort thee.


  • 50Perhaps some dungeon hears thee groan,
  • 51Maimed, mangled by inhuman men;
  • 52Or thou upon a desert thrown
  • 53Inheritest the lion's den;
  • 54Or hast been summoned to the deep,
  • 55Thou, thou and all thy mates, to keep
  • 56An incommunicable sleep.


  • 57I look for ghosts; but none will force
  • 58Their way to me: 'tis falsely said
  • 59That there was ever intercourse
  • Critical Apparatus60Between the living and the dead;
  • 61For, surely, then I should have sight
  • 62Of him I wait for day and night,
  • 63With love and longings infinite.


  • 64My apprehensions come in crowds;
  • 65I dread the rustling of the grass;
  • 66The very shadows of the clouds
  • 67Have power to shake me as they pass:
  • 68I question things and do not find
  • 69One that will answer to my mind;
  • 70And all the world appears unkind.

pg 50xi.

  • 71Beyond participation lie
  • 72My troubles, and beyond relief:
  • 73If any chance to heave a sigh,
  • 74They pity me, and not my grief.
  • 75Then come to me, my Son, or send
  • 76Some tidings that my woes may end;
  • 77I have no other earthly friend!

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
XXIV. MARGARET—1845: Mary— of — MS.: Margaret— of — 1807–15: Margaret 1820–36
Editor’s Note
p. 47. XXIV. The Affliction of Margaret. "Town-End, Grasmere. 1804. This was taken from the case of a poor widow who lived in the town of Penrith. Her sorrow was well known to Mary, to my Sister, and, I believe, to the whole town. She kept a shop, and when she saw a stranger passing by, she was in the habit of going out into the street to inquire of him after her son."—I. F. On the correct date v. note to XII. The Forsaken, supra. The Longman MS. gives the following introductory lines, which, however, W. wisely cancelled before publication:
  • This Book, which strives to express in tuneful sound
  • The joys and sorrows which through life abound,
  • (Some great, some small, some frequent, and some rare,
  • Yet all observ'd or felt and truly there)
  • May in the following pages, which are penn'd
  • From general motives, gain a private end:
  • This little wandering Book (for who can say
  • Into what coverts it shall find its way)
  • May reach, perchance, the very Man, whose ear
  • Knows nothing of what many Strangers hear,
  • Whether through his mishap or his neglect:
  • A doleful plaint it is, to this effect.
Critical Apparatus
10 have hoped, 1836: and have 1807–32
Critical Apparatus
11 been 1836: be 1807–32
Critical Apparatus
24 is in 1832: hath even 1807–27
Critical Apparatus
60Between 1832: Betwixt 1807–27
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