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



By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

From “The Prelude

THERE was a time when whatsoe’er is feigned

Of airy palaces, and gardens built

By Genii of romance; or hath in grave

Authentic history been set forth of Rome,

Alcairo, Babylon, or Persepolis;

Or given upon report by pilgrim friars,

Of golden cities ten months’ journey deep

Among Tartarian wilds,—fell short, far short,

Of what my fond simplicity believed

And thought of London,—held me by a chain

Less strong of wonder and obscure delight.

Whether the bolt of childhood’s fancy shot

For me beyond its ordinary mark,

’T were vain to ask; but in our flock of boys

Was one, a cripple from his birth, whom chance

Summoned from school to London: fortunate

And envied traveller! When the boy returned,

After short absence, curiously I scanned

His mien and person, nor was free, in sooth,

From disappointment, not to find some change

In look and air, from that new region brought,

As if from Fairy-land. Much I questioned him;

And every word he uttered on my ears

Fell flatter than a cagéd parrot’s note,

That answers unexpectedly awry,

And mocks the prompter’s listening. Marvellous things

Had vanity (quick spirit that appears

Almost as deeply seated and as strong

In a child’s heart as fear itself) conceived

For my enjoyment. Would that I could now

Recall what then I pictured to myself

Of mitred prelates, lords in ermine clad,

The King and the King’s palace, and, not last,

Nor least, Heaven bless him! the renowned Lord Mayor:

Dreams not unlike to those which once begat

A change of purpose in young Whittington,

When he, a friendless and a drooping boy,

Sat on a stone, and heard the bells speak out

Articulate music. Above all, one thought

Baffled my understanding: how men lived

Even next-door neighbors, as we say, yet still

Strangers, not knowing each the other’s name.

O wondrous power of words, by simple faith

Licensed to take the meaning that we love!

Vauxhall and Ranelagh! I then had heard

Of your green groves, and wilderness of lamps

Dimming the stars, and fireworks magical,

And gorgeous ladies, under splendid domes,

Floating in dance, or warbling high in air

The songs of spirits! Nor had Fancy fed

With less delight upon that other class

Of marvels, broad-day wonders permanent:

The river proudly bridged; the dizzy top

And Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s; the tombs

Of Westminster; the giants of Guildhall;

Bedlam, and those carved maniacs at the gates,

Perpetually recumbent; statues—man,

And the horse under him—in gilded pomp

Adorning flowery gardens, mid vast squares;

The Monument, and that Chamber of the Tower

Where England’s sovereigns sit in long array,

Their steeds bestriding,—every mimic shape

Cased in the gleaming mail the monarch wore,

Whether for gorgeous tournament addressed,

Or life or death upon the battle-field.

Those bold imaginations in due time

Had vanished, leaving others in their stead:

And now I looked upon the living scene;

Familiarly perused it; oftentimes,

In spite of strongest disappointment, pleased

Through courteous self-submission, as a tax

Paid to the object by prescriptive right.

Ries, up thou monstrous ant-hill on the plain

Of a too busy world! Before me flow,

Thou endless stream of men and moving things!

Thy every-day appearance, as it strikes—

With wonder heightened, or sublimed by awe—

On strangers of all ages; the quick dance

Of colors, lights, and forms; the deafening din;

The comers and the goers face to face,

Face after face; the string of dazzling wares,

Shop after shop, with symbols, blazoned names,

And all the tradesman’s honors overhead:

Here fronts of houses, like a title-page,

With letters huge inscribed from top to toe,

Stationed above the door, like guardian saints;

There, allegoric shapes, female or male,

Or physiognomies of real men,

Land-warriors, kings, or admirals of the sea,

Boyle, Shakespeare, Newton, or the attractive head

Of some quack-doctor, famous in his day.

Meanwhile the roar continues, till at length,

Escaped as from an enemy, we turn

Abruptly into some sequestered nook,

Still as a sheltered place when winds blow loud!

At leisure, thence, through tracts of thin resort,

And sights and sounds that come at intervals,

We take our way. A raree-show is here,

With children gathered round; another street

Presents a company of dancing dogs,

Or dromedary, with an antic pair

Of monkeys on his back; a minstrel band

Of Savoyards; or, single and alone,

An English ballad-singer. Private courts,

Gloomy as coffins, and unsightly lanes

Thrilled by some female vender’s scream, belike

The very shrillest of all London cries,

May then entangle our impatient steps;

Conducted through those labyrinths, unawares,

To privileged regions and inviolate,

Where from their airy lodges studious lawyers

Look out on waters, walks, and gardens green.

Thence back into the throng, until we reach,

Following the tide that slackens by degrees,

Some half-frequented scene, where wider streets

Bring straggling breezes of suburban air.

Here files of ballads dangle from dead walls;

Advertisements, of giant size, from high

Press forward, in all colors, on the sight;

These, bold in conscious merit, lower down;

That, fronted with a most imposing word,

Is, peradventure, one in masquerade.

As on the broadening causeway we advance,

Behold, turned upwards, a face hard and strong

In lineaments, and red with over-toil.

’T is one encountered here and everywhere;

A travelling cripple, by the trunk cut short,

And stumping on his arms. In sailor’s garb

Another lies at length, beside a range

Of well-formed characters, with chalk inscribed

Upon the smooth flat stones: the nurse is here,

The bachelor, that loves to sun himself,

The military idler, and the dame,

That field-ward takes her walk with decent steps.

Now homeward through the thickening hubbub, where

See, among less distinguishable shapes,

The begging scavenger, with hat in hand;

The Italian, as he thrids his way with care,

Steadying, far-seen, a frame of images

Upon his head; with basket at his breast,

The Jew; the stately and slow-moving Turk,

With freight of slippers piled beneath his arm!

Enough;—the mighty concourse I surveyed

With no unthinking mind, well pleased to note

Among the crowd all specimens of man,

Through all the colors which the sun bestows,

And every character of form and face:

The Swede, the Russian; from the genial South,

The Frenchman and the Spaniard; from remote

America the hunter-Indian; Moors,

Malays, Lascars, the Tartar, the Chinese,

And negro ladies in white muslin gowns.