On April 20 1815, William Wordsworth finishes writing the dedication to a revised version of his poem The White Doe of Rylstone or, the Fate of the Nortons, which is to be published this year. The dedication is to his wife, Mary.
IN trellised shed with clustering roses gay,
And, MARY! oft beside our blazing fire,
When yeas of wedded life were as a day
Whose current answers to the heart’s desire,
Did we together read in Spenser’s Lay
How Una, sad of soul–in sad attire,
The gentle Una, of celestial birth,
To seek her Knight went wandering o’er the earth.
Ah, then, Beloved! pleasing was the smart,
And the tear precious in compassion shed
For Her, who, pierced by sorrow’s thrilling dart,
Did meekly bear the pang unmerited;
Meek as that emblem of her lowly heart
The milk-white Lamb which in a line she led,–
And faithful, loyal in her innocence,
Like the brave Lion slain in her defence.
Notes could we hear as of a faery shell
Attuned to words with sacred wisdom fraught;
Free Fancy prized each specious miracle,
And all its finer inspiration caught;
Till in the bosom of our rustic Cell,
We by a lamentable change were taught
That “bliss with mortal Man may not abide:”
How nearly joy and sorrow are allied!
For us the stream of fiction ceased to flow,
For us the voice of melody was mute.
–But, as soft gales dissolve the dreary snow,
And give the timid herbage leave to shoot,
Heaven’s breathing influence failed not to bestow
A timely promise of unlooked-for fruit,
Fair fruit of pleasure and serene content
From blossoms wild of fancies innocent.
It soothed us–it beguiled us–then, to hear
Once more of troubles wrought by magic spell;
And griefs whose aery motion comes not near
The pangs that tempt the Spirit to rebel:
Then, with mild Una in her sober cheer,
High over hill and low adown the dell
Again we wandered, willing to partake
All that she suffered for her dear Lord’s sake.
Then, too, this Song ‘of mine’ once more could please,
Where anguish, strange as dreams of restless sleep,
Is tempered and allayed by sympathies
Aloft ascending, and descending deep,
Even to the inferior Kinds; whom forest-trees
Protect from beating sunbeams, and the sweep
Of the sharp winds;–fair Creatures!–to whom Heaven
A calm and sinless life, with love, hath given.
This tragic Story cheered us; for it speaks
Of female patience winning firm repose;
And, of the recompense that conscience seeks,
A bright, encouraging, example shows;
Needful when o’er wide realms the tempest breaks,
Needful amid life’s ordinary woes;–
Hence, not for them unfitted who would bless
A happy hour with holier happiness.
He serves the Muses erringly and ill,
Whose aim is pleasure light and fugitive:
Oh, that my mind were equal to fulfil
The comprehensive mandate which they give–
Vain aspiration of an earnest will!
Yet in this moral Strain a power may live,
Beloved Wife! such solace to impart
As it hath yielded to thy tender heart.
RYDAL MOUNT, WESTMORELAND,
April 20, 1815.