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William Wordsworth

Helen Darbishire and Ernest De Selincourt (eds), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 4: Evening Voluntaries; Itinerary Poems of 1833; Poems of Sentiment and Reflection; Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty and Order; Miscellaneous Poems; Inscriptions; Selections From Chaucer; Poems Referring to the Period of Old Age; Epitaphs and Elegiac Pieces; Ode-Intimations of Immortality (Second Edition)

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[Composed 1835–6.—Published 1837.]

  • 1Who rashly strove thy Image to portray?
  • 2Thou buoyant minion of the tropic air;
  • 3How could he think of the live creature—gay
  • 4With a divinity of colours, drest
  • 5In all her brightness, from the dancing crest
  • 6Far as the last gleam of the filmy train
  • 7Extended and extending to sustain
  • 8The motions that it graces—and forbear
  • 9To drop his pencil! Flowers of every clime
  • 10Depicted on these pages smile at time;
  • 11And gorgeous insects copied with nice care
  • 12Are here, and likenesses of many a shell
  • 13Tossed ashore by restless waves,
  • 14Or in the diver's grasp fetched up from caves
  • 15Where sea-nymphs might be proud to dwell:
  • 16But whose rash hand (again I ask) could dare,
  • 17'Mid casual tokens and promiscuous shows,
  • 18To circumscribe this Shape in fixed repose;
  • 19Could imitate for indolent survey,
  • pg 12720Perhaps for touch profane,
  • 21Plumes that might catch, but cannot keep, a stain;
  • 22And, with cloud-streaks lightest and loftiest, share
  • 23The sun's first greeting, his last farewell ray!
  • 24  Resplendent Wanderer! followed with glad eyes
  • 25Where'er her course; mysterious Bird!
  • 26To whom, by wondering Fancy stirred,
  • 27Eastern Islanders have given
  • 28A holy name—the Bird of Heaven!
  • 29And even a title higher still,
  • 30The Bird of God! whose blessed will
  • 31She seems performing as she flies
  • 32Over the earth and through the skies
  • 33In never-wearied search of Paradise—
  • 34Region that crowns her beauty with the name
  • 35She bears for us—for us how blest,
  • 36How happy at all seasons, could like aim
  • 37Uphold our Spirits urged to kindred flight
  • 38On wings that fear no glance of God's pure sight,
  • 39No tempest from his breath, their promised rest
  • 40Seeking with indefatigable quest
  • 41Above a world that deems itself most wise
  • 42When most enslaved by gross realities!

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Editor’s Note
p. 126. XLIII. Upon seeing a Coloured Drawing of the Bird of Paradise: "I cannot forbear to record that the last seven lines of this Poem were composed in bed during the night of the day on which my sister Sara Hutchinson died about 6 p.m., and it was the thought of her innocent and beautiful life that, through faith, prompted the words—
  • 'On wings that fear no glance of God's pure sight,
  • No tempest from his breath.'
The reader will find two poems on pictures of this bird among my Poems. I will here observe that in a far greater number of instances than have been mentioned in these notes one Poem has, as in this case, grown out of another, either because I felt the subject had been inadequately treated, or that the thoughts and images suggested in course of composition have been such as I found interfered with the unity indispensable to every work of Art, however humble in character."—I. F. For the other poem on this subject v. Vol. II, p.320. S. H. died on June 23rd, 1835.
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