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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 NoteII


Ἄγε, ζωγραϕῶν ἄριστε‎


  • 1Reynolds, come, thy pencil prove,
  • 2Reynolds, come and paint my love,
  • 3Shadow'd here her picture see
  • 4Shadow'd by the muse and me.
  • 5The muse who knows 'twere rash to dare
  • 6From life to paint a form so fair,
  • 7pg 262For sure so many charms combine
  • 8Half Apelles' fate were thine.
  • 9  Waving in the wanton air
  • 10Black and shining paint her hair;
  • 11Could with Life the canvass bloom
  • 12Thou might'st bid it breathe perfume.
  • 13Let her forehead smooth and clear
  • 14Through her shading locks appear,
  • 15As at eve the shepherd sees
  • 16The silver crescent through the trees;
  • 17Nicely bend the living line
  • 18Black and delicately fine,
  • 19As you paint her sable brows
  • 20Arch'd like two etherial bows.
  • 21  Gentle as a vernal sky
  • 22Soft and sleepy paint her eye,
  • 23Trembling as the lunar beam
  • 24Sweetly silvering o'er the stream.
  • 25Now her lovely cheek adorn
  • 26With the blushes of the morn.
  • 27Give her lip the rose's hue
  • 28Moisten'd with the morning dew,
  • 29Paint it breathing love and joy,
  • 30Breathing bliss that ne'er can cloy.
  • 31  Let thy softest pencil throw
  • 32O'er her neck a tint of snow,
  • 33There let all the Loves repair,
  • 34Let all the Graces flutter there.
  • 35Loosely chaste o'er all below
  • 36Let the snowy mantle flow,
  • Editor’s Note37As silvered by the morning beam
  • 38The white mist curls on Grasmere's stream,
  • 39Which, like a veil of flowing light,
  • 40Hides half the landskip from the sight.
  • 41Here I see the wandering rill,
  • 42The white flocks sleeping on the hill,
  • 43While Fancy paints, beneath the veil,
  • 44The pathway winding through the dale,
  • 45The cot, the seat of Peace and Love,
  • 46Peeping through the tufted grove.
  • 47  Reynolds, Heav'n directs the line,
  • 48Heav'n inspires the fair design;
  • 49All but Life thy pencil gives,
  • 50Gods! she comes, the picture lives.

Hawkshead, August 7th, 1786.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
p. 261. II. Anacreon—Imitation: This is the first of the poems preserved in a small quarto notebook bound in brown calf, into which W. copied several of his earliest verses. "Did W. ever tell you that the accident of his being given a manuscript book was the first occasion (I do not say cause) of his writing poetry? He thought it a pity, after filling up a few pages, to leave the remainder 'white and unwritten still', and so got into the habit of reducing to shape the thoughts which had before been vaguely haunting his brain, like to body-waiting souls, which wandered by the Lethean pools." (A. de Vere to W. R. Hamilton, Jan. 1843.) It seems likely that this is the notebook referred to, and several of its missing pages probably contained more of these schoolboy verses. It was used later, chiefly at Racedown, for rough drafts.
This poem, like Beauty and Moonlight (p. 263), seems to be a tribute to W.'s early affection for Mary Hutchinson, "the maid to whom were breathed my first fond vows". (Prelude, xi. 317, A2.)
Editor’s Note
37–45. Cf. Septimi Gades, 55–60, and Prelude (A), i. 589–93:
  • A Child—I held unconscious intercourse
  • With the eternal Beauty, drinking in
  • A pure organic pleasure from the lines
  • Of curling mist.
('Organic pleasure from the silver wreaths', etc. 1850.) Cf. also May, 78–80:
  • Such gentle mists as glide
  • Curling with unconfirmed intent,
  • On that green mountain's side.
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