Home  »  Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse  »  Childhood and Age

Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

Childhood and Age

OUR birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
      And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness        5
    And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close        10
    Upon the growing boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
    He sees it in his joy;
The youth, who daily farther from the east
    Must travel, still is nature’s priest;        15
    And by the vision splendid
    Is on his way attended.
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
    O joy! that in our embers        20
    Is something that doth live,
    That nature yet remembers
    What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed        25
For that which is most worthy to be blest—
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
      Not for these I raise        30
      The song of thanks and praise;
    But for those obstinate questionings
    Of sense and outward things,
    Fallings from us, vanishings;
    Blank misgivings of a creature        35
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before which our mortal nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
      But for those first affections,
      Those shadowy recollections,        40
    Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being        45
Of the eternal silence: truths that wake,
      To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
      Nor man nor boy,
    Nor all that is at enmity with joy,        50
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
    Hence in a season of calm weather,
    Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
    Which brought us hither,        55
    Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.