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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 NoteEditor’s NoteVI

[Begun August 29, 30, 1800.—Finished 1802.—Published 1815.]

  • Critical Apparatus1When, to the attractions of the busy world
  • 2Preferring studious leisure, I had chosen
  • 3A habitation in this peaceful Vale,
  • 4Sharp season followed of continual storm
  • 5In deepest winter; and, from week to week,
  • 6Pathway, and lane, and public road, were clogged
  • pg 1197With frequent showers of snow. Upon a hill,
  • 8At a short distance from my cottage, stands
  • 9A stately Fir-grove, whither I was wont
  • Critical Apparatus10To hasten, for I found, beneath the roof
  • 11Of that perennial shade, a cloistral place
  • 12Of refuge, with an unincumbered floor.
  • 13Here, in safe covert, on the shallow snow,
  • 14And, sometimes, on a speck of visible earth,
  • 15The redbreast near me hopped; nor was I loth
  • 16To sympathize with vulgar coppice birds
  • Critical Apparatus17That, for protection from the nipping blast,
  • 18Hither repaired.—A single beech-tree grew
  • 19Within this grove of firs! and, on the fork
  • 20Of that one beech, appeared a thrush's nest;
  • 21A last year's nest, conspicuously built
  • Critical Apparatus22At such small elevation from the ground
  • Critical Apparatus23As gave sure sign that they, who in that house
  • 24Of nature and of love had made their home
  • 25Amid the fir-trees, all the summer long
  • Critical Apparatus26Dwelt in a tranquil spot. And oftentimes
  • Critical Apparatus27A few sheep, stragglers from some mountain-flock,
  • 28Would watch my motions with suspicious stare,
  • 29From the remotest outskirts of the grove,—
  • 30Some nook where they had made their final stand,
  • 31Huddling together from two fears—the fear
  • 32Of me and of the storm. Full many an hour
  • Critical Apparatus33Here did I lose. But in this grove the trees
  • 34Had been so thickly planted, and had thriven
  • 35In such perplexed and intricate array,
  • 36That vainly did I seek, beneath their stems,
  • 37A length of open space, where to and fro
  • pg 12038My feet might move without concern or care;
  • Critical Apparatus39And, baffled thus, though earth from day to day
  • 40Was fettered, and the air by storm disturbed,
  • 41I ceased the shelter to frequent,—and prized,
  • 42Less than I wished to prize, that calm recess.
  • 43  The snows dissolved, and genial Spring returned
  • 44To clothe the fields with verdure. Other haunts
  • 45Meanwhile were mine; till one bright April day,
  • 46By chance retiring from the glare of noon
  • 47To this forsaken covert, there I found
  • 48A hoary pathway traced between the trees,
  • 49And winding on with such an easy line
  • 50Along a natural opening, that I stood
  • Critical Apparatus51Much wondering how I could have sought in vain
  • 52For what was now so obvious. To abide,
  • pg 12153For an allotted interval of ease,
  • 54Under my cottage-roof, had gladly come
  • 55From the wild sea a cherished Visitant;
  • 56And with the sight of this same path—begun,
  • 57Begun and ended, in the shady grove,
  • 58Pleasant conviction flashed upon my mind
  • 59That, to this opportune recess allured,
  • 60He had surveyed it with a finer eye,
  • 61A heart more wakeful; and had worn the track
  • 62By pacing here, unwearied and alone,
  • 63In that habitual restlessness of foot
  • Critical Apparatus64That haunts the Sailor measuring o'er and o'er
  • 65His short domain upon the vessel's deck,
  • 66While she pursues her course through the dreary sea.
  • Critical Apparatus67  When thou hadst quitted Esthwaite's pleasant shore,
  • 68And taken thy first leave of those green hills
  • 69And rocks that were the play-ground of thy youth,
  • pg 12270Year followed year, my Brother! and we two,
  • 71Conversing not, knew little in what mould
  • 72Each other's mind was fashioned; and at length,
  • 73When once again we met in Grasmere Vale,
  • 74Between us there was little other bond
  • 75Than common feelings of fraternal love.
  • 76But thou, a School-boy, to the sea hadst carried
  • 77Undying recollections; Nature there
  • 78Was with thee; she, who loved us both, she still
  • 79Was with thee; and even so didst thou become
  • 80A silent Poet; from the solitude
  • 81Of the vast sea didst bring a watchful heart
  • 82Still couchant, an inevitable ear,
  • 83And an eye practised like a blind man's touch.
  • 84—Back to the joyless Ocean thou art gone;
  • Critical Apparatus85Nor from this vestige of thy musing hours
  • 86Could I withhold thy honoured name,—and now
  • 87I love the fir-grove with a perfect love.
  • 88Thither do I withdraw when cloudless suns
  • 89Shine hot, or wind blows troublesome and strong;
  • 90And there I sit at evening, when the steep
  • Critical Apparatus91Of Silver-how, and Grasmere's peaceful lake,
  • 92And one green island, gleam between the stems
  • Critical Apparatus93Of the dark firs, a visionary scene!
  • 94And while I gaze upon the spectacle
  • 95Of clouded splendour, on this dream-like sight
  • 96Of solemn loveliness, I think on thee,
  • 97My Brother, and on all which thou hast lost.
  • 98Nor seldom, if I rightly guess, while Thou,
  • 99Muttering the verses which I muttered first
  • 100Among the mountains, through the midnight watch
  • Critical Apparatus101Art pacing thoughtfully the vessel's deck
  • 102In some far region, here, while o'er my head,
  • 103At every impulse of the moving breeze,
  • 104The fir-grove murmurs with a sea-like sound,
  • 105Alone I tread this path;—for aught I know,
  • 106Timing my steps to thine; and, with a store
  • 107Of undistinguishable sympathies,
  • pg 123108Mingling most earnest wishes for the day
  • 109When we, and others whom we love, shall meet
  • 110A second time, in Grasmere's happy Vale.

Note.—This wish was not granted; the lamented Person not long after perished by shipwreck, in discharge of his duty as Commander of the Honourable East India Company's Vessel, the Earl of Abergavenny.

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Editor’s Note
p. 118. VI. When, to the attractions of the busy world. "1805. The grove still exists, but the plantation has been walled in, and is not so accessible as when my brother John wore the path in the manner here described. The grove was a favourite haunt with us all while we lived at Town-End."—I. F.
The poem was dated 1802 by W. in edd. 1815 and 1820, but 1805 in 1836 and I. F. An entry in D. W.'s Journal for Sept. 1, 1800: "W. read Joanna and The Firgrove to Coleridge", suggests that an early draft of ll. 1–83 was in existence at that date, though the view of Dowden and Hutchinson that this is the poem to which she refers on Aug. 30 as the Inscription of the Pathway is made unlikely by the discovery, in the Longman MS., of six lines, headed The Orchard Pathway, and intended as the motto for a group of poems:
  • Orchard Pathway, to and fro,
  • Ever with thee, did I go,
  • Weaving Verses, a huge store!
  • These, and many hundreds more,
  • And, in memory of the same,
  • This little lot shall bear thy name!
It seems probable that the poem was complete in the form given in the extant MSS. (one of which is found in MS. M, in the hand of D. W. and the other in the hand of S. H.) in 1802, when John was on a voyage to China; the revision into something like its first published form may have been the work of 1805. But it is clear, from the note appended to the poem in 1815 and subsequently, that it was not substantially altered after Feb. 11, 1805, the day on which the news of John W.'s death reached Grasmere. John W.'s sojourn at Town End had been from Jan. or Feb. to May 14, and from June 8 to Sept. 29, 1800.
The "Firgrove" is situated in Ladywood, above and almost exactly opposite to the Wishing Gate. From the reference to Silver How in l. 91, it has been conjectured that this is the poem D. W. refers to on March 26, 1802, as "his Silver How poem".
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VI. 1–6
  • When first I journey'd hither to a home
  • And dwelling of my own, it was a cold
  • Tempestuous [And stormy] season, and from week to week,
  • The pathways of the public roads were clogg'd
Critical Apparatus
  •       for within its shade I found
  • commodious harbour, a sequestered nook
  • A cloister with an unencumber'd floor
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17–18 That … repaired ] That hither come MSS.
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22/23 That even an unbreech'd boy might look into it MSS.
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  • And I have guess'd
    Sure sign, I thought


Critical Apparatus
26 tranquil spot] quiet place MSS.
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27–8 of a scatter'd flock Were my companions and would stare [look] at me MSS.
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  • Here did I lose, if hours be lost that we
  • Give to ourselves. But in this grove the trees
  • Had by the planter been so crowded each
  • Upon the other, and withal had thriven
  • In such perplex'd array, that I in vain
  • Between their stems endeavour'd to find out
  • A length of open space where I might walk
  • With back and forward steps, each following each,
    Backwards and forwards, long as I had liking,

  • In easy and mechanic thoughtlessness.
  • And, for this cause, I loved that shady grove
  • Less than I wished to love a place so sweet.
  •    I have a Brother—many times the leaves
  • Have faded, many times the Spring has touch'd
  • The heart of bird and beast, since from the shores
  • Of Windermere, from Esthwaite's chearful lake
  • And her grey cottages, from all the life
  • And beauty of his native hills he went
  • To be a sea boy on the barren seas.
  • When we had been divided fourteen years
  • At length he came to sojourn a short while
  • Beneath my roof, nor had the Sun twice set
  • Before he made discovery of the grove
  • Whither from that time forward he repaired
  • With daily visitation. Other haunts
  • Meanwhile were mine, but from the sultry heat
  • One morning chancing to betake myself
Critical Apparatus
39–40 so 1836: And baffled thus, before the Storm relaxed, etc. 1815–32
Critical Apparatus
  • Much wondering of my own simplicity
  • How I myself had ever failed in search
  • Of what was now so obvious—with a sense
  • Of lively joy did I behold this path
  • Beneath the fir-trees, for at once I knew
  • That by the seaman's [my Brother's] steps it had been traced.
  • My thoughts were pleased within me to perceive
  • That hither he had brought a finer eye
  • A heart more wakeful, that more loth to part
  • From place so lovely he had worn the track
  • One of his own deep paths! by pacing here,
  • In that habitual restlessness of foot
  • Wherewith the Sailor measures o'er and o'er
  • His short domain upon the vessel's deck
  • While she is travelling through the dreary seas.
MS. 1, so MS. 2, but omitting One of his own etc. (5 ll. from end) and reading in next line By for In
Critical Apparatus
51–61 so 1827: but 54 Beneath for Under (1845) and newly for gladly 1840
  • Much wondering at my own simplicity
  • How I could e'er have made a fruitless search
  • For what was now so obvious. At the sight
  • Conviction also flashed upon my mind
  • That this same path (within the shady grove
  • Begun and ended) by my Brother's steps
  • Had been impressed.—To sojourn a short while
  • Beneath my roof He from the barren seas
  • Had newly come—a cherished Visitant!
  • And much did it delight me to perceive
  • That, to this opportune recess allured,
  • He had surveyed it with a finer eye,
  • A heart more wakeful; that, more loth to part
  • From place so lovely, he had worn the track
Critical Apparatus
64–6 so 1845: 1815–36 as MS.
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  • When thou hadst gone away from Esthwaite's shore etc. as text MS. 1
  • When thou hadst gone away from these green hills
  • And rocks
MS. 2
Critical Apparatus
  • And now I call the pathway by thy name
  • And love etc.
Critical Apparatus
88 withdraw] repair MSS.
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91 peaceful] silent MSS.
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93 dark] close MSS.
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101 thoughtfully] to and fro MSS.
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