Home  »  The Complete Poetical Works by William Wordsworth  »  “WHEN TO THE ATTRACTIONS OF THE BUSY WORLD.”


WHEN, to the attractions of the busy world, Preferring studious leisure, I had chosen A habitation in this peaceful Vale, Sharp season followed of continual storm In deepest winter; and, from week to week, Pathway, and lane, and public road, were clogged With frequent showers of snow. Upon a hill At a short distance from my cottage, stands A stately Fir-grove, whither I was wont To hasten, for I found, beneath the roof 10 Of that perennial shade, a cloistral place Of refuge, with an unincumbered floor. Here, in safe covert, on the shallow snow, And, sometimes, on a speck of visible earth, The redbreast near me hopped; nor was I loth To sympathise with vulgar coppice birds That, for protection from the nipping blast, Hither repaired.–A single beech-tree grew Within this grove of firs! and, on the fork Of that one beech, appeared a thrush’s nest; 20 A last year’s nest, conspicuously built At such small elevation from the ground As gave sure sign that they, who in that house Of nature and of love had made their home Amid the fir-trees, all the summer long Dwelt in a tranquil spot. And oftentimes, A few sheep, stragglers from some mountain-flock, Would watch my motions with suspicious stare, From the remotest outskirts of the grove,– Some nook where they had made their final stand, 30 Huddling together from two fears–the fear Of me and of the storm. Full many an hour Here did I lose. But in this grove the trees Had been so thickly planted, and had thriven In such perplexed and intricate array; That vainly did I seek, beneath their stems A length of open space, where to and fro My feet might move without concern or care; And, baffled thus, though earth from day to day Was fettered, and the air by storm disturbed, 40 I ceased the shelter to frequent,–and prized, Less than I wished to prize, that calm recess. The snows dissolved, and genial Spring returned To clothe the fields with verdure. Other haunts Meanwhile were mine; till, one bright April day, By chance retiring from the glare of noon To this forsaken covert, there I found A hoary pathway traced between the trees, And winding on with such an easy line Along a natural opening, that I stood 50 Much wondering how I could have sought in vain For what was now so obvious. To abide, For an allotted interval of ease, Under my cottage-roof, had gladly come From the wild sea a cherished Visitant; And with the sight of this same path–begun, Begun and ended, in the shady grove, Pleasant conviction flashed upon my mind That, to this opportune recess allured, He had surveyed it with a finer eye, 60 A heart more wakeful; and had worn the track By pacing here, unwearied and alone, In that habitual restlessness of foot That haunts the Sailor measuring o’er and o’er His short domain upon the vessel’s deck, While she pursues her course through the dreary sea. When thou hadst quitted Esthwaite’s pleasant shore, And taken thy first leave of those green hills And rocks that were the play-ground of thy youth, Year followed year, my Brother! and we two, 70 Conversing not, knew little in what mould Each other’s mind was fashioned; and at length, When once again we met in Grasmere Vale, Between us there was little other bond Than common feelings of fraternal love. But thou, a Schoolboy, to the sea hadst carried Undying recollections! Nature there Was with thee; she, who loved us both, she still Was with thee; and even so didst thou become A ‘silent’ Poet; from the solitude 80 Of the vast sea didst bring a watchful heart Still couchant, an inevitable ear, And an eye practised like a blind man’s touch. –Back to the joyless Ocean thou art gone; Nor from this vestige of thy musing hours Could I withhold thy honoured name,–and now I love the fir-grove with a perfect love. Thither do I withdraw when cloudless suns Shine hot, or wind blows troublesome and strong; And there I sit at evening, when the steep 90 Of Silver-how, and Grasmere’s peaceful lake, And one green island, gleam between the stems Of the dark firs, a visionary scene! And, while I gaze upon the spectacle Of clouded splendour, on this dream-like sight Of solemn loveliness, I think on thee, My Brother, and on all which thou hast lost. Nor seldom, if I rightly guess, while Thou, Muttering the verses which I muttered first Among the mountains, through the midnight watch 100 Art pacing thoughtfully the vessel’s deck In some far region, here, while o’er my head, At every impulse of the moving breeze, The fir-grove murmurs with a sea-like sound, Alone I tread this path;–for aught I know, Timing my steps to thine; and, with a store Of undistinguishable sympathies, Mingling most earnest wishes for the day When we, and others whom we love, shall meet A second time, in Grasmere’s happy Vale. 110 1805.