Jump to Content
Jump to chapter

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)

Find Location in text

Main Text

Editor’s NoteEditor’s NoteXXVIITHE SAILOR'S MOTHER

[Composed March 11, 12, 1802.—Published 1807.]

  • 1One morning (raw it was and wet—
  • 2A foggy day in winter time)
  • 3A Woman on the road I met,
  • 4Not old, though something past her prime:
  • 5Majestic in her person, tall and straight;
  • 6And like a Roman matron's was her mien and gait.
  • 7The ancient spirit is not dead;
  • 8Old times, thought I, are breathing there;
  • 9Proud was I that my country bred
  • 10Such strength, a dignity so fair:
  • 11She begged an alms, like one in poor estate;
  • 12I looked at her again, nor did my pride abate.
  • 13When from these lofty thoughts I woke,
  • Critical Apparatus14"What is it," said I, "that you bear,
  • 15Beneath the covert of your Cloak,
  • 16Protected from this cold damp air?"
  • 17She answered, soon as she the question heard,
  • 18"A simple burthen, Sir, a little Singing-bird."
  • Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus19And, thus continuing, she said,
  • 20"I had a Son, who many a day
  • 21Sailed on the seas, but he is dead;
  • 22In Denmark he was cast away:
  • Critical Apparatus23And I have travelled weary miles to see
  • 24If aught which he had owned might still remain for me.
  • pg 5525"The bird and cage they both were his:
  • 26'Twas my Son's bird; and neat and trim
  • 27He kept it: many voyages
  • Critical Apparatus28The singing-bird had gone with him;
  • 29When last he sailed, he left the bird behind;
  • Critical Apparatus30From bodings, as might be, that hung upon his mind.
  • 31"He to a fellow-lodger's care
  • 32Had left it, to be watched and fed,
  • Critical Apparatus33And pipe its song in safety;—there
  • 34I found it when my Son was dead;
  • 35And now, God help me for my little wit!
  • Critical Apparatus36I bear it with me, Sir;—he took so much delight in it."

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
p. 54. XXVII. The Sailor's Mother. "Town-End, 1800. I met this woman near the Wishing-Gate, on the high-road that then led from Grasmere to Ambleside. Her appearance was exactly as here described, and such was her account, nearly to the letter."—I. F. For the correct date of the poem v. D. W.'s Journal for March 11–12, 1802, where it is named The Singing Bird. On the next two days W. wrote Alice Fell and Beggars, all three of them in his homeliest style, to be criticized by Coleridge, with Simon Lee and Anecdote for Fathers, as poems which "notwithstanding the beauties which are to be found in each of them where the poet interposes the music of his own thoughts, would have been more delightful to me in prose" (Biog. Lit., chap. xviii). It was to meet this objection that W. made several attempts to improve the text.
Critical Apparatus
XXVII. 14–16 so 1836:
  • With the first word I had to spare
  • I said to her "Beneath your Cloak
  • What's that which on your arm you bear?
" MS., 1807–15
  • "What treasure," said I, "do you bear
  • Beneath the covert of your Cloak
  • Protected from the cold damp air?"
Critical Apparatus
19–21 so 1807–15, 1832:
  • I had a son—the waves might roar
  • He feared them not, a Sailor gay!
  • But he will cross the waves no more;
1820, so 1827 but in 21 deep for waves
Editor’s Note
19–36. Coleridge says of these stanzas (loc. cit.) that they "furnish the only fair instance that I have been able to discover in all Mr W.'s writings of an actual adoption, or true imitation, of the real and very language of low and rustic life, freed from provincialisms." For W.'s reply to Barron Field's objection to some of his alterations of the text v. L.Y., p. 309.
Critical Apparatus
XXVII. 23–4 so 1827:
  • And I have been as far as Hull to see
  • What clothes he might have left, or other property
MS., 1807 And I have travelled far etc. 1815
Critical Apparatus
28 The … had 1845: This … hath> MS. 1807: His … hath 1815: This … had 1820–36
Critical Apparatus
30 so 1827: As it might be, perhaps, from bodings of his mind MS., 1807–20
Critical Apparatus
33 so 1827: Till he come back again; and there 1807–20
Critical Apparatus
36 bear 1827: trail 1807 MS. 20
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out