William Wordsworth

Helen Darbishire and Ernest De Selincourt (eds), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 4: Evening Voluntaries; Itinerary Poems of 1833; Poems of Sentiment and Reflection; Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty and Order; Miscellaneous Poems; Inscriptions; Selections From Chaucer; Poems Referring to the Period of Old Age; Epitaphs and Elegiac Pieces; Ode-Intimations of Immortality (Second Edition)

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Editor’s NoteVIIIA POET'S EPITAPH

[Composed 1799.—Published 1800.]

  • Critical Apparatus1Art thou a Statist in the van
  • Critical Apparatus2Of public conflicts trained and bred?
  • 3—First learn to love one living man;
  • 4Then may'st thou think upon the dead.
  • pg 669Art thou a Man of purple cheer?
  • 10A rosy Man, right plump to see?
  • 11Approach; yet, Doctor, not too near,
  • 12This grave no cushion is for thee.
  • 13Or art thou one of gallant pride,
  • Critical Apparatus14A Soldier and no man of chaff?
  • 15Welcome!—but lay thy sword aside,
  • 16And lean upon a peasant's staff.
  • 17Physician art thou?—one, all eyes,
  • 18Philosopher!—a fingering slave,
  • 19One that would peep and botanize
  • 20Upon his mother's grave?
  • 21Wrapt closely in thy sensual fleece,
  • 22O turn aside,—and take, I pray,
  • 23That he below may rest in peace,
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus24Thy ever-dwindling soul, away!
  • 25A Moralist perchance appears;
  • 26Led, Heaven knows how! to this poor sod:
  • 27And he has neither eyes nor ears;
  • 28Himself his world, and his own God;
  • 29One to whose smooth-rubbed soul can cling
  • 30Nor form, nor feeling, great or small;
  • Critical Apparatus31A reasoning, self-sufficing thing,
  • 32An intellectual All-in-all!
  • 33Shut close the door; press down the latch;
  • 34Sleep in thy intellectual crust;
  • 35Nor lose ten tickings of thy watch
  • 36Near this unprofitable dust.
  • 37But who is He, with modest looks,
  • 38And clad in homely russet brown?
  • 39He murmurs near the running brooks
  • 40A music sweeter than their own.
  • pg 6741He is retired as noontide dew,
  • 42Or fountain in a noon-day grove;
  • 43And you must love him, ere to you
  • 44He will seem worthy of your love.
  • 45The outward shows of sky and earth,
  • 46Of hill and valley, he has viewed;
  • 47And impulses of deeper birth
  • 48Have come to him in solitude.
  • 49In common things that round us lie
  • 50Some random truths he can impart,—
  • 51The harvest of a quiet eye
  • 52That broods and sleeps on his own heart.
  • 53But he is weak; both Man and Boy,
  • 54Hath been an idler in the land;
  • 55Contented if he might enjoy
  • 56The things which others understand.
  • 57—Come hither in thy hour of strength;
  • 58Come, weak as is a breaking wave!
  • 59Here stretch thy body at full length;
  • 60Or build thy house upon this grave.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
p. 65. VIII. The Poet's Epitaph: Mr. T. E. Casson (Times Lit. Suppl., Sept. 11, 1937) calls attention to the parallel between this poem, especially the last couplet, and Theocritus, Epigram XIX:
  •                  Ὁ μουσοποιὸϛ ἐνθάδ᾿ Ἱππῶναξ κεῖται.
  •                  εἰ μὲν πονηρόϛ, μὴ ποτέρχευ τῷ τύμβῷ.
  •                  εἰ δ᾿ ἐσσὶ κρήγυός τε καὶ παρὰ χρηστῶν,
  •                  θαρσέων καθίζευ, κὴν θέλῃϛ, ἀπόβριξον.
(Here lies the poet Hipponax! If thou art a sinner draw not near this tomb, but if thou art a true man, and the son of righteous sires, sit boldly down here, yea, and sleep if thou wilt. Trs. Lang.) It is noteworthy that in the February of the year in which the poem was composed W., in writing to Coleridge, refers to Theocritus. Cf. also Burns, A Bard's Epitaph.
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VIII. 1 Statist 1837: Statesman 1800–32
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2 conflicts 1837: business 1800–32
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6 fitter 1820: other 1800–15
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7–8 so 1820:
  • The hardness of thy coward eye,
  • The falsehood of thy sallow face.
1800–15
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13 so 1820: Art thou a man etc. 1800–15
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30 or 1837: nor 1800–32
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24 so 1837: Thy pinpoint of a soul, 1800–5: That abject thing, thy soul 1815–32
Editor’s Note
24. (App. crit.) Lamb wrote in a letter, 1801: "The Poet's Epitaph is disfigured, to my taste, by the common satire upon parsons and lawyers in the beginning, and the coarse epithet of 'pin-point' in the sixth stanza."
Critical Apparatus
31 self-sufficing 1800, 1815–50: self-sufficient 1802–5
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