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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 NoteEditor’s NoteXXXINCIPIENT MADNESS


  • 1I crossed the dreary moor
  • 2In the clear moonlight: when I reached the hut
  • 3I entered in, but all was still and dark,
  • 4Only within the ruin I beheld
  • 5At a small distance, on the dusky ground
  • 6A broken pane which glittered in the moon
  • 7And seemed akin to life. There is a mood
  • 8A settled temper of the heart, when grief,
  • pg 3159Become an instinct, fastening on all things
  • 10That promise food, doth like a sucking babe
  • 11Create it where it is not. From this time
  • Critical Apparatus12That speck of glass was dearer to my soul
  • 13Than was the moon in heaven. Another time
  • 14The winds of Autumn drove me o'er the heath
  • 15One gloomy evening: by the storm compell'd
  • 16The poor man's horse that feeds along the lanes
  • 17Had hither come among these fractur'd walls
  • 18To weather out the night; and as I pass'd
  • 19While restlessly he turn'd from the fierce wind
  • 20And from the open sky, I heard, within,
  • 21The iron links with which his feet were clogg'd
  • 22Mix their dull clanking with the heavy noise
  • 23Of falling rain—I started from the spot
  • 24And heard the sound still following in the wind.
  • 25                         Three weeks
  • 26O'er arched by the same bramble's dusky shade
  • 27On this green bank a glow worm hung its light
  • 28And then was seen no more. Within the thorn
  • 29Whose flowery head half hides those ruined pales
  • 30Three seasons did a blackbird build his nest
  • 31And then he disappear'd. On the green top
  • 32Of that tall ash a linnet perch'd himself
  • 33And sang a pleasant melancholy song
  • 34Two summers and then vanished. I alone
  • 35Remained: the winds of heaven remained: with them
  • 36My heart claimed fellowship and with the beams
  • 37Of dawn and of the setting sun that seemed
  • 38To live and linger on the mouldering walls.
  • 39          I have seen the Baker's horse
  • 40As he had been accustomed at your door
  • pg 31641Stop with the loaded wain, when o'er his head
  • 42Smack went the whip, and you were left, as if
  • 43You were not born to live, or there had been
  • 44No bread in all the land. Five little ones,
  • 45They at the rumbling of the distant wheels
  • 46Had all come forth, and, ere the grove of birch
  • 47Concealed the wain, into their wretched hut
  • 48They all returned. While in the road I stood
  • 49Pursuing with involuntary look
  • 50The wain now seen no longer, to my side
  • 51[ ] came, a pitcher in her hand
  • 52Filled from the spring; she saw what way my eyes
  • 53Were turned, and in a low and fearful voice
  • 54By misery and rumination deep
  • 55Tied to dead things, and seeking sympathy
  • 56She said: "that waggon does not care for us"—
  • 57The words were simple, but her look and voice
  • 58Made up their meaning, and bespoke a mind
  • 59Which being long neglected, and denied
  • 60The common food of hope, was now become
  • 61Sick and extravagant,—by strong access
  • 62Of momentary pangs driven to that state
  • 63In which all past experience melts away,
  • 64And the rebellious heart to its own will
  • 65Fashions the laws of nature.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
p. 314. XXX. Incipient Madness: preserved on a folio sheet with watermark 1795, and probably written soon after, certainly before The Ruined Cottage, in which W. makes use of lines 15–18 and 4–6. Ll. 38-end, written on the back of the sheet, may be a fragment of another poem, or the draft of a passage for possible inclusion in The Ruined Cottage.
Critical Apparatus
  • I found my sickly heart had tied itself
  • Even to this tiny speck of glass—it could produce
  • A feeling of absence [
  •           ] on the moment when my sight
  • Should feed on it again. Many long months
  • Confirmed this strange incontinence; my eye
  • Did every evening measure the moon's height
  • And forth I went before her yellow beams
  • Could overtop the elmtrees oer the heath,
  • I went, I reach'd the cottage, and I found
  • Still undisturb'd and glittering in its place
  • That speck of glass more precious to my soul etc.
other MS.
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