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William Wordsworth

Helen Darbishire and Ernest De Selincourt (eds), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 3: Miscellaneous Sonnets; Memorials of Various Tours; Poems to National Independence and Liberty; The Egyptian Maid; The River Duddon Series; The White Doe and Other Narrative Poems; Ecclesiastical Sonnets (Second Edition)

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Editor’s NoteEditor’s NoteXXIIdecay of piety

[Composed 1821–2.—Published 1827.]

  • Critical Apparatus1Oft have I seen, ere Time had ploughed my cheek,
  • 2Matrons and Sires—who, punctual to the call
  • 3Of their loved Church, on fast or festival
  • Critical Apparatus4Through the long year the House of Prayer would seek:
  • Critical Apparatus5By Christmas snows, by visitation bleak
  • 6Of Easter winds, unscared, from hut or hall
  • 7They came to lowly bench or sculptured stall,
  • Critical Apparatus8But with one fervour of devotion meek.
  • Critical Apparatus9I see the places where they once were known,
  • 10And ask, surrounded even by kneeling crowds,
  • 11Is ancient Piety for ever flown?
  • 12Alas! even then they seemed like fleecy clouds
  • 13That, struggling through the western sky, have won
  • 14Their pensive light from a departed sun!

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Editor’s Note
p. 13. XXII. Decay of Piety: "Attendance at church on prayer-days, Wednesdays and Fridays and holidays, received a shock at the Revolution. It is now, however, happily reviving. The ancient people described in this sonnet were among the last of that pious class. May we hope that the practice, now in some degree renewed, will continue to spread."—I. F. The MS. readings quoted in the app. crit. are from a note-book, now in the Cornell University Library, chiefly devoted to the Ecclesiastical Sonnets (v. Eccl. Son., ed. A. P. Potts, p. 86).
Critical Apparatus
XXII. 1–2
  • A gleam of joy upon my furrowed cheek
  • I think of those who etc.
Critical Apparatus
4 High converse in the House etc. MS. corr.
Critical Apparatus
  • Such my youth saw, [corr.] by blasts of Ember week,
  • By Christmas snows [corr. to Easter rains] MS.
Critical Apparatus
8 fervour] spirit MS. corr.
Critical Apparatus
9 see] seek MS.
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