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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 Apparatuspg 43Editor’s NoteCritical ApparatusXXIITHE LAST OF THE FLOCK

[Composed 1798.—Published 1798.]


  • 1In distant countries have I been,
  • 2And yet I have not often seen
  • 3A healthy man, a man full grown,
  • 4Weep in the public roads, alone.
  • 5But such a one, on English ground,
  • 6And in the broad highway, I met;
  • 7Along the broad highway he came,
  • 8His cheeks with tears were wet:
  • 9Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;
  • 10And in his arms a Lamb he had.


  • 11He saw me, and he turned aside,
  • 12As if he wished himself to hide:
  • Critical Apparatus13And with his coat did then essay
  • 14To wipe those briny tears away.
  • 15I followed him, and said, "My friend,
  • 16What ails you? wherefore weep you so?"
  • 17—"Shame on me, Sir! this lusty Lamb,
  • 18He makes my tears to flow.
  • 19To-day I fetched him from the rock;
  • 20He is the last of all my flock.
  • III
  • 21"When I was young, a single man,
  • 22And after youthful follies ran,
  • 23Though little given to care and thought,
  • 24Yet, so it was, an ewe I bought;
  • 25And other sheep from her I raised,
  • 26As healthy sheep as you might see;
  • 27And then I married, and was rich
  • 28As I could wish to be;
  • 29Of sheep I numbered a full score,
  • 30And every year increased my store.

pg 44iv

  • 31"Year after year my stock it grew;
  • 32And from this one, this single ewe,
  • 33Full fifty comely sheep I raised,
  • Critical Apparatus34As fine a flock as ever grazed!
  • Critical Apparatus35Upon the Quantock hills they fed;
  • 36They throve, and we at home did thrive:
  • 37—This lusty Lamb of all my store
  • 38Is all that is alive;
  • 39And now I care not if we die,
  • 40And perish all of poverty.


  • Critical Apparatus41"Six Children, Sir! had I to feed;
  • 42Hard labour in a time of need!
  • 43My pride was tamed, and in our grief
  • 44I of the Parish asked relief.
  • 45They said, I was a wealthy man;
  • Critical Apparatus46My sheep upon the uplands fed,
  • 47And it was fit that thence I took
  • 48Whereof to buy us bread.
  • 49'Do this: how can we give to you,'
  • 50They cried, 'what to the poor is due?'


  • 51"I sold a sheep, as they had said,
  • 52And bought my little children bread,
  • 53And they were healthy with their food;
  • 54For me—it never did me good.
  • 55A woeful time it was for me,
  • 56To see the end of all my gains,
  • 57The pretty flock which I had reared
  • 58With all my care and pains,
  • 59To see it melt like snow away—
  • 60For me it was a woeful day.


  • 61"Another still! and still another!
  • 62A little lamb, and then its mother!
  • 63It was a vein that never stopped—
  • 64Like blood-drops from my heart they dropped.
  • pg 45 65Till thirty were not left alive
  • 66They dwindled, dwindled, one by one;
  • 67And I may say, that many a time
  • 68I wished they all were gone—
  • Critical Apparatus69Reckless of what might come at last
  • 70Were but the bitter struggle past.


  • 71"To wicked deeds I was inclined,
  • 72And wicked fancies crossed my mind;
  • 73And every man I chanced to see,
  • 74I thought he knew some ill of me:
  • 75No peace, no comfort could I find,
  • 76No ease, within doors or without;
  • 77And crazily and wearily
  • 78I went my work about;
  • Critical Apparatus79And oft was moved to flee from home,
  • 80And hide my head where wild beasts roam.


  • 81"Sir! 'twas a precious flock to me,
  • 82As dear as my own children be;
  • 83For daily with my growing store
  • 84I loved my children more and more.
  • 85Alas! it was an evil time;
  • 86God cursed me in my sore distress;
  • 87I prayed, yet every day I thought
  • 88I loved my children less;
  • 89And every week, and every day,
  • 90My flock it seemed to melt away.


  • 91"They dwindled, Sir, sad sight to see!
  • 92From ten to five, from five to three,
  • 93A lamb, a wether, and a ewe;—
  • 94And then at last from three to two;
  • pg 4695And, of my fifty, yesterday
  • 96I had but only one:
  • 97And here it lies upon my arm,
  • 98Alas! and I have none;—
  • 99To-day I fetched it from the rock;
  • 100It is the last of all my flock."

Notes Settings


Critical Apparatus
XXII. 1 have I 1815: I have 1798–1805
Editor’s Note
P. 43. XXII. The Last of the Flock: "Produced at the same time and for the same purpose. The incident occurred in the village of Holford, close by Alfoxden."—I. F. Written in revulsion from Godwin's attack on property in his Political Justice. "The man who holds with Godwin that property is the cause of every vice and the source of all the misery of the poor is naturally astonished to find that this so-called evil, the offspring of human institutions, is a vigorous instinct closely interwoven with the noblest feelings. It represents familiar and dearly-loved fields, a hereditary cottage, and flocks every animal of which has its own name." Legouis, Early Life of W., tr. Matthews, p. 310.
Critical Apparatus
13 so 1836: Then with his coat he made essay 1798–1832
Critical Apparatus
34 fine 1836: sweet 1798–1832
Critical Apparatus
35 so 1836: Upon the mountain did they feed 1798–1832
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41 Six 1800: Ten 1798
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46 uplands 1836: mountain 1798–1832
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69–70 so 1827:
  • They dwindled one by one away;
  • For me it was a woeful day
Critical Apparatus
79–80 so 1836:
  • Oft-times I thought to run away
  • For me it was a woeful day 1798–1820
  • Bent oftentimes to flee from home
etc. as 1836, 1827–32
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