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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[Composed 1805.—Published 1815.]

  • 1Sweet Flower! belike one day to have
  • 2A place upon thy Poet's grave,
  • 3I welcome thee once more:
  • 4But He, who was on land, at sea,
  • 5My Brother, too, in loving thee,
  • 6Although he loved more silently,
  • 7Sleeps by his native shore.
  • pg 2618Ah! hopeful, hopeful was the day
  • Critical Apparatus9When to that Ship he bent his way,
  • 10To govern and to guide:
  • 11His wish was gained: a little time
  • 12Would bring him back in manhood's prime
  • 13And free for life, these hills to climb;
  • 14With all his wants supplied.
  • Critical Apparatus15And full of hope day followed day
  • 16While that stout Ship at anchor lay
  • 17Beside the shores of Wight;
  • Critical Apparatus18The May had then made all things green;
  • Editor’s Note19And, floating there, in pomp serene,
  • 20That Ship was goodly to be seen,
  • 21His pride and his delight!
  • Critical Apparatus22Yet then, when called ashore, he sought
  • 23The tender peace of rural thought:
  • 24In more than happy mood
  • 25To your abodes, bright daisy Flowers!
  • Critical Apparatus26He then would steal at leisure hours,
  • 27And loved you glittering in your bowers,
  • 28A starry multitude.
  • 29But hark the word!—the ship is gone;—
  • Critical Apparatus30Returns from her long course:—anon
  • 31Sets sail:—in season due,
  • 32Once more on English earth they stand:
  • 33But, when a third time from the land
  • 34They parted, sorrow was at hand
  • 35For Him and for his crew.
  • Critical Apparatus36Ill-fated Vessel!—ghastly shock!
  • 37—At length delivered from the rock,
  • 38The deep she hath regained;
  • 39And through the stormy night they steer;
  • pg 26240Labouring for life, in hope and fear,
  • Critical Apparatus41To reach a safer shore—how near,
  • 42Yet not to be attained!
  • 43"Silence!" the brave Commander cried;
  • 44To that calm word a shriek replied,
  • 45It was the last death-shriek.
  • Critical Apparatus46—A few (my soul oft sees that sight)
  • 47Survive upon the tall mast's height;
  • 48But one dear remnant of the night—
  • 49For Him in vain I seek.
  • 50Six weeks beneath the moving sea
  • 51He lay in slumber quietly;
  • 52Unforced by wind or wave
  • 53To quit the Ship for which he died,
  • 54(All claims of duty satisfied);
  • 55And there they found him at her side;
  • 56And bore him to the grave.
  • 57Vain service! yet not vainly done
  • 58For this, if other end were none,
  • 59That He, who had been cast
  • 60Upon a way of life unmeet
  • 61For such a gentle Soul and sweet,
  • 62Should find an undisturbed retreat
  • 63Near what he loved, at last—
  • Critical Apparatus64That neighbourhood of grove and field
  • 65To Him a resting-place should yield,
  • 66A meek man and a brave!
  • 67The birds shall sing and ocean make
  • 68A mournful murmur for his sake;
  • 69And Thou, sweet Flower, shalt sleep and wake
  • 70Upon his senseless grave.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
p. 260. VII. To the Daisy: v. Vol. II, p. 135. This and the following poem are preserved, together with a hitherto unpublished poem given in Appendix xi, p. 372, in a booklet in the hand of S. H., which probably dates from shortly after their composition. The MS. readings given in the app. crit. are to be found there.
The news of John Wordsworth's death reached Grasmere on Feb. 11, 1805. W. sent the present poem to Lady Beaumont in a letter written Aug. 7, 1805 (E.L., pp. 512–13), introducing it thus:
"The following was written in remembrance of a beautiful letter of my Brother John, sent to us from Portsmouth, when he had left us at Grasmere, and first taken the command of his unfortunate ship, more than four years ago. Some of the expressions in the Poem are the very words he used in his letter. N.B. I have written two Poems to the same flower before—this is partly alluded to in the first stanza.—W. Wordsworth." v. note to ll. 19–28 infra.
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VII. 9 bent] went MS.
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15 And hopeful, hopeful was the day MS.
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  • And goodly, also, to be seen
  • Was that proud Ship, of Ships the Queen,
  • His hope
etc. MS.
Editor’s Note
19–28. John W. to D. W. writing from Portsmouth, April 2, 1801: "We are painting the Ship, and make all as smart—Never Ship was like ours—indeed we are not a little proud … . I have been on shore this afternoon to stretch my legs upon the Isle of White. The Primroses are beautiful and the daisy's after sunset are like little white stars upon the dark green fields." (Unpublished letter.)
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22–3 he sought … thought ] I know The truth of this (From his own pen) he told me so MS. corr. to text
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26 He then would steal] He sometimes stole corr. to He oft would steal MS.
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30 so MS., 1837: From her long course returns 1815–32
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36–49 not in MS.
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41 To reach 1837: Towards 1815–32
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46–8 so 1837:
  • —A few appear by morning light
  • Preserved upon the tall mast's height
  • Oft in my Soul I see that sight;
Critical Apparatus
64 grove] wood MS.
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