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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


Dungeon-Ghyll Force

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

  • Ghyll, in the dialect of Cumberland and Westmoreland, is a short, and for the most part a steep, narrow valley, with a stream running through it. Force is the word universally employed in these dialects for waterfall.

  • THE VALLEY rings with mirth and joy;

    Among the hills the echoes play

    A never, never ending song,

    To welcome in the May.

    The magpie chatters with delight;

    The mountain raven’s youngling brood

    Have left the mother and the nest,

    And they go rambling east and west

    In search of their own food,

    Or through the glittering vapors dart

    In very wantonness of heart.

    Beneath a rock, upon the grass,

    Two boys are sitting in the sun;

    Their work, if any work they have,

    Is out of mind, or done.

    On pipes of sycamore they play

    The fragments of a Christmas hymn;

    Or with that plant which in our dale

    We call stag-horn, or fox’s tail,

    Their rusty hats they trim:

    And thus, as happy as the day,

    Those shepherds wear the time away.

    Along the river’s stony marge

    The sand-lark chants a joyous song;

    The thrush is busy in the wood,

    And carols loud and strong.

    A thousand lambs are on the rocks,

    All newly born! both earth and sky

    Keep jubilee, and more than all,

    Those boys with their green coronal;

    They never hear the cry,

    That plaintive cry! which up the hill

    Comes from the depth of Dungeon-Ghyll.

    Said Walter, leaping from the ground,

    “Down to the stump of yon old yew

    We ’ll for our whistles run a race.”

    Away the shepherds flew;

    They leapt, they ran; and when they came

    Right opposite to Dungeon-Ghyll,

    Seeing that he should lose the prize,

    “Stop!” to his comrade Walter cries.

    James stopped with no good-will:

    Said Walter then, exulting, “Here

    You ’ll find a task for half a year.

    “Cross, if you dare, where I shall cross,—

    Come on, and tread where I shall tread.”

    The other took him at his word,

    And followed as he led.

    It was a spot which you may see

    If ever you to Langdale go;

    Into the chasm a mighty block

    Hath fallen, and made a bridge of rock:

    The gulf is deep below,

    And in a basin black and small

    Receives a lofty waterfall.

    With staff in hand across the cleft

    The challenger pursued his march;

    And now, all eyes and feet, hath gained

    The middle of the arch.

    When list! he hears a piteous moan.

    Again!—his heart within him dies;

    His pulse is stopped, his breath is lost,

    He totters, pallid as a ghost,

    And, looking down, espies

    A lamb, that in the pool is pent

    Within that black and frightful rent.

    The lamb had slipped into the stream,

    And safe without a bruise or wound

    The cataract had borne him down

    Into the gulf profound.

    His dam had seen him when he fell,

    She saw him down the torrent borne;

    And, while with all a mother’s love

    She from the lofty rocks above

    Sent forth a cry forlorn,

    The lamb, still swimming round and round,

    Made answer in that plaintive sound.

    When he had learnt what thing it was

    That sent this rueful cry, I ween

    The boy recovered heart, and told

    The sight which he had seen.

    Both gladly now deferred their task;

    Nor was there wanting other aid:

    A poet, one who loves the brooks

    Far better than the sages’ books,

    By chance had hither strayed;

    And there the helpless lamb he found

    By those huge rocks encompassed round.

    He drew it from the troubled pool,

    And brought it forth into the light;

    The shepherds met him with his charge,

    An unexpected sight!

    Into their arms the lamb they took,

    Whose life and limbs the flood had spared;

    Then up the steep ascent they hied,

    And placed him at his mother’s side;

    And gently did the bard

    Those idle shepherd-boys upbraid,

    And bade them better mind their trade.