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John Bartlett (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

5084 William Wordsworth 1770-1850 John Bartlett

AUTHOR:William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
QUOTATION:As thou these ashes, little brook, wilt bear
Into the Avon, Avon to the tide
Of Severn, Severn to the narrow seas,
Into main ocean they, this deed accursed
An emblem yields to friends and enemies
How the bold teacher’s doctrine, sanctified
By truth, shall spread, throughout the world dispersed. 1
ATTRIBUTION:Ecclesiastical Sonnets. Part ii. xvii.To Wickliffe.
WORKS:William Wordsworth Collection.
Note 1.
In obedience to the order of the Council of Constance (1415), the remains of Wickliffe were exhumed and burned to ashes, and these cast into the Swift, a neighbouring brook running hard by; and “thus this brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over.”—Thomas Fuller: Church History, sect. ii. book iv. paragraph 53.

What Heraclitus would not laugh, or what Democritus would not weep?… For though they digged up his body, burned his bones, and drowned his ashes, yet the word of God and truth of his doctrine, with the fruit and success thereof, they could not burn.—Fox: Book of Martyrs, vol. i. p. 606 (edition, 1611).

“Some prophet of that day said,—
“‘The Avon to the Severn runs,
The Severn to the sea;
And Wickliffe’s dust shall spread abroad
Wide as the waters be.’”
Daniel Webster: Address before the Sons of New Hampshire, 1849.

These lines are similarly quoted by the Rev. John Cumming in the “Voices of the Dead.” [back]