Jump to Content
Jump to chapter

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)

Find Location in text

Main Text


[Composed November, 1835.—Published December 12, 1835 (The Athenӕum); ed. 1837.]

  • 1When first, descending from the moorlands,
  • 2I saw the Stream of Yarrow glide
  • 3Along a bare and open valley,
  • 4The Ettrick Shepherd was my guide.
  • pg 2775When last along its banks I wandered,
  • 6Through groves that had begun to shed
  • 7Their golden leaves upon the pathways,
  • 8My steps the Border-minstrel led.
  • 9The mighty Minstrel breathes no longer,
  • 10'Mid mouldering ruins low he lies;
  • 11And death upon the braes of Yarrow,
  • 12Has closed the Shepherd-poet's eyes:
  • 13Nor has the rolling year twice measured,
  • 14From sign to sign, its stedfast course,
  • 15Since every mortal power of Coleridge
  • 16Was frozen at its marvellous source;
  • 17The rapt One, of the godlike forehead,
  • 18The heaven-eyed creature sleeps in earth:
  • 19And Lamb, the frolic and the gentle,
  • 20Has vanished from his lonely hearth.
  • 21Like clouds that rake the mountain-summits,
  • 22Or waves that own no curbing hand,
  • 23How fast has brother followed brother,
  • 24From sunshine to the sunless land!
  • Critical Apparatus25Yet I, whose lids from infant slumber
  • 26Were earlier raised, remain to hear
  • 27A timid voice, that asks in whispers,
  • 28"Who next will drop and disappear?"
  • 29Our haughty life is crowned with darkness,
  • 30Like London with its own black wreath,
  • 31On which with thee, O Crabbe! forth-looking
  • 32I gazed from Hampstead's breezy heath.
  • 33As if but yesterday departed,
  • 34Thou too art gone before; but why,
  • 35O'er ripe fruit, seasonably gathered,
  • 36Should frail survivors heave a sigh?
  • Critical Apparatus37Mourn rather for that holy Spirit,
  • 38Sweet as the spring, as ocean deep;
  • pg 27839For Her who, ere her summer faded,
  • 40Has sunk into a breathless sleep.
  • 41No more of old romantic sorrows,
  • 42For slaughtered Youth or love-lorn Maid!
  • 43With sharper grief is Yarrow smitten,
  • Critical Apparatus44And Ettrick mourns with her their Poet dead.1

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
p. 276. XVI. Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg: "These verses were written extempore, immediately after reading a notice of the Ettrick Shepherd's death in the Newcastle paper, to the Editor of which I sent a copy for publication. The persons lamented in these verses were all either of my friends or acquaintance. In Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott an account is given of my first meeting with him in 1803. How the Ettrick Shepherd and I became known to each other has already been mentioned in these notes. He was undoubtedly a man of original genius, but of coarse manners and low and offensive opinions. Of Coleridge and Lamb I need not speak here. Crabbe I have met in London at Mr. Rogers's, but more frequently and favorably at Mr. Hoare's upon Hampstead Heath. Every spring he used to pay that family a visit of some length, and was upon terms of intimate friendship with Mrs. Hoare, and still more with her daughter-in-law, who has a large collection of his letters addressed to herself. After the Poet's decease, application was made to her to give up these letters to his biographer, that they, or at least part of them, might be given to the public. She hesitated to comply, and asked my opinion on the subject. 'By no means,' was my answer, grounded not upon any objection there might be to publishing a selection from these letters, but from an aversion I have always felt to meet idle curiosity by calling back the recently departed to become the object of trivial and familiar gossip. Crabbe obviously for the most part preferred the company of women to that of men, for this among other reasons, that he did not like to be put upon the stretch in general conversation: accordingly in miscellaneous society his talk was so much below what might have been expected from a man so deservedly celebrated, that to me it seemed trifling. It must upon other occasions have been of a different character, as I found in our rambles together on Hampstead Heath, and not so much from a readiness to communicate his knowledge of life and manners as of Natural History in all its branches. His mind Was inquisitive, and he seems to have taken refuge from a remembrance of the distresses he had gone through, in these studies and the employments to which they led. Moreover, such contemplations might tend profitably to counterbalance the painful truths which he had collected from his intercourse with mankind. Had I been more intimate with him, I should have ventured to touch upon his office as a Minister of the Gospel, and how far his heart and soul were in it so as to make him a zealous and diligent labourer. In poetry, though he wrote much, as we all know, he assuredly was not so. I happened once to speak of pains as necessary to produce merit of a certain kind which I highly valued: his observation was—'It is not worth while.' You are quite right, thought I, if the labour encroaches upon the time due to teach truth as a steward of the mysteries of God: if there be cause to fear that, write less: but, if poetry is to be produced at all, make what you do produce as good as you can. Mr. Rogers once told me that he expressed his regret to Crabbe that he wrote in his later works so much less correctly than in his earlier. 'Yes,' replied he, 'but then I had a reputation to make; now I can afford to relax.' Whether it was from a modest estimate of his own qualifications, or from causes less creditable, his motives for writing verse and his hopes and aims were not so high as is to be desired. After being silent for more than twenty years, he again applied himself to poetry, upon the spur of applause he received from the periodical publications of the day, as he himself tells us in one of his prefaces. Is it not to be lamented that a man who was so conversant with permanent truth, and whose writings are so valuable an acquisition to our country's literature, should have required an impulse from such a quarter?1 Mrs. Hemans was unfortunate as a Poetess in being obliged by circumstances to write for money, and that so frequently and so much, that she was compelled to look out for subjects wherever she could find them, and to write as expeditiously as possible. As a woman, she was to a considerable degree a spoilt child of the world. She had been early in life distinguished for talent, and poems of hers were published whilst she was a girl. She had also been handsome in her youth, but her education had been most unfortunate. She was totally ignorant of housewifery, and could as easily have managed the spear of Minerva as her needle. It was from observing these deficiencies that, one day while she was under my roof, I purposely directed her attention to household economy, and told her I had purchased Scales, which I intended to present to a young lady as a wedding present; pointed out their utility (for her especial benefit), and said that no ménage ought to be without them. Mrs. Hemans, not in the least suspecting my drift, reported this saying, in a letter to a friend at the time, as a proof of my simplicity. Being disposed to make large allowances for the faults of her education and the circumstances in which she was placed, I felt most kindly disposed towards her, and took her part upon all occasions, and I was not a little affected by learning that after she withdrew to Ireland, a long and severe sickness raised her spirit as it depressed her body. This I heard from her most intimate friends, and there is striking evidence of it in a poem entitled [ ]2 written and published not long before her death. These notices of Mrs. Hemans would be very unsatisfactory to her intimate friends, as indeed they are to myself, not so much for what is said, but what for brevity's sake is left unsaid. Let it suffice to add, there was much sympathy between us, and, if opportunity had been allowed me to see more of her, I should have loved and valued her accordingly; as it is, I remember her with true affection for her amiable qualities, and, above all, for her delicate and irreproachable conduct during her long separation from an unfeeling husband, whom she had been led to marry from the romantic notions of inexperienced youth. Upon this husband I never heard her cast the least reproach, nor did I ever hear her even name him, though she did not forbear wholly to touch upon her domestic position; but never so as that any fault could be found with her manner of adverting to it."—I. F.

Walter Scott

died 21st Sept., 1832.

S. T. Coleridge

ʺ 25th July, 1834.

Charles Lamb

ʺ 27th Dec., 1834.

Geo. Crabbe

ʺ 3rd Feb., 1832.

Felicia Hemans

ʺ 16th May, 1835.

Hogg died 21st Nov. 1835.
The extempore character of the verses is independently attested by the following record in the Diary of the Rev. Francis Kilvert, who met W.'s niece, Miss Hutchinson,1 at Whitney in 1871: "Miss Hutchinson said that once when she was staying at the Wordsworths' the poet was much affected by reading in the newspaper the death of Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. Half an hour afterwards he came into the room where the ladies were sitting and asked Miss Hutchinson to write down some lines which he had just composed. She did so and these lines were the beautiful Poem called The Graves of the Poets." v. Addenda, p. 469.
Editor’s Note
1 "Daddy dear, I don't like this—think how many reasons there were to depress his Muse; to say nothing of his duties as a Priest, and probably he found poetry interfere with them; he did not require such praise to make him write, but it just put it into his heart to try again, and gave him the courage to do so."—Note by Dora Q. in I. F.
Editor’s Note
2 "Do you mean A Sonnet entitled Sabbath Sonnet composed by Mrs. Hemans April 26th, 1835, a few days before her death.
How many blessed groups … ." (Pencil note by E. Q. in I. F.)
But W. probably means Flowers and Music in a Room of Sickness which he selects for praise in a letter to Mrs. Hemans, Sept. 1834 (L.Y., p. 714).
Editor’s Note
1 Elizabeth Hutchinson, daughter of M. W.'s brother, Thomas Hutchinson, and Mary, née Monkhouse. The Rector of Whitney, Mr. Dew, married the only daughter of Thomas Monkhouse.
Editor’s Note
p. 462. l. 21: after " … Graves of the Poets" add 21. Like clouds that rake the mountain-summits. This expression is borrowed from a Sonnet by Mr. G. Bell, the author of a small volume of Poems lately printed at Penrith. Speaking of Skiddaw he says—"Yon dark cloud 'rakes' and shrouds its noble brow". Henry Reed, 1837.
Critical Apparatus
XVI. 25 slumber 1845: slumbers 1835–43
Critical Apparatus
  • She too, a Muse whose holy Spirit
  • Was sweet as etc.
  • She, ere her Summer yet was faded MS.
  • Grieve rather for that holy Spirit
  • Pure as the sky
etc. C
Critical Apparatus
44 And Ettrick mourns her Shepherd poet dead C
Editor’s Note
1 See Note.
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out