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Published in Fears in Solitude (London: Joseph Johnson, 1798), a quarto pamphlet that also included "Fears in Solitude" and "France: An Ode."
The frost performs its secret ministry
|Abstruser musings, save that at my side|
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
'Tis calm indeed! -- so calm that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
|This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,|
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! The thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film which fluttered on the grate
|Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.|
Methinks its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form
With which I can hold commune. Idle thought!
|But still the living spirit in our frame|
That loves not to behold a lifeless thing,
Transfuses into all its own delights
Its own volition -- sometimes with deep faith
And sometimes with fantastic playfulness.
| Ah me! amused by no such curious toys|
Of the self-watching subtilizing mind,
How often in my early schoolboy days,
With most believing superstitious wish
Presageful have I gazed upon the bars,
|To watch the stranger there! -- and oft belike,|
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birthplace, and the old church-tower
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
From morn to evening all the hot fair-day,
|So sweetly that they stirred and haunted me|
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I till the soothing things I dreamt
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
|And so I brooded all the following morn,|
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book;
Save if the door half-opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
|For still I hoped to see the stranger's face --|
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My playmate when we both were clothed alike!
Dear babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings heard in this dead calm
|Fill up the interspersed vacancies|
And momentary pauses of the thought;
My babe so beautiful, it fills my heart
With tender gladness thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore
|And in far other scenes! For I was reared|
In the great city, pent mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe, shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
|Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds|
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags; so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language which thy God
|Utters, who from eternity doth teach|
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal teacher! He shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.
Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
|Whether the summer clothe the general earth|
With greenness, or the redbreasts sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while all the thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
|Heard only in the trances of the blast,|
Or whether the secret ministry of cold
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet moon;
Like those, my babe, which ere tomorrow's warmth
|Have capped their sharp keen points with pendulous drops,|
Will catch thine eye, and with their novelty
Suspend thy little soul; then make thee shout
And stretch and flutter from thy mother's arms,
As thou would'st fly for very eagerness.