Wordsworth, William, 1770-1850


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149    Rise up, thou monstrous ant-hill on the plain
150    Of a too busy world! Before me flow,
151    Thou endless stream of men and moving things!
152    Thy every-day appearance, as it strikes---
153    With wonder heightened, or sublimed by awe---
154    On strangers, of all ages; the quick dance
155    Of colours, lights, and forms; the deafening din;
156    The comers and the goers face to face,
157    Face after face; the string of dazzling wares,
158    Shop after shop, with symbols, blazoned names,
159    And all the tradesman's honours overhead:

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160    Here, fronts of houses, like a title-page,
161    With letters huge inscribed from top to toe,
162    Stationed above the door, like guardian saints;
163    There, allegoric shapes, female or male,
164    Or physiognomies of real men,
165    Land-warriors, kings, or admirals of the sea,
166    Boyle, Shakspeare, Newton, or the attractive head
167    Of some quack-doctor, famous in his day.

168    Meanwhile the roar continues, till at length,
169    Escaped as from an enemy, we turn
170    Abruptly into some sequestered nook,
171    Still as a sheltered place when winds blow loud!
172    At leisure, thence, through tracts of thin resort,
173    And sights and sounds that come at intervals,
174    We take our way. A raree-show is here,
175    With children gathered round; another street
176    Presents a company of dancing dogs,
177    Or dromedary, with an antic pair
178    Of monkeys on his back; a minstrel band
179    Of Savoyards; or, single and alone,
180    An English ballad-singer. Private courts,
181    Gloomy as coffins, and unsightly lanes
182    Thrilled by some female vendor's scream, belike
183    The very shrillest of all London cries,

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184    May then entangle our impatient steps;
185    Conducted through those labyrinths, unawares,
186    To privileged regions and inviolate,
187    Where from their airy lodges studious lawyers
188    Look out on waters, walks, and gardens green.

189    Thence back into the throng, until we reach,
190    Following the tide that slackens by degrees,
191    Some half-frequented scene, where wider streets
192    Bring straggling breezes of suburban air.
193    Here files of ballads dangle from dead walls;
194    Advertisements, of giant-size, from high
195    Press forward, in all colours, on the sight;
196    These, bold in conscious merit, lower down;
197    That, fronted with a most imposing word,
198    Is, peradventure, one in masquerade.
199    As on the broadening causeway we advance,
200    Behold, turned upwards, a face hard and strong
201    In lineaments, and red with over-toil.
202    'Tis one encountered here and everywhere;
203    A travelling cripple, by the trunk cut short,
204    And stumping on his arms. In sailor's garb
205    Another lies at length, beside a range
206    Of well-formed characters, with chalk inscribed
207    Upon the smooth flat stones: the Nurse is here,

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208    The Bachelor, that loves to sun himself,
209    The military Idler, and the Dame,
210    That field-ward takes her walk with decent steps.

211    Now homeward through the thickening hubbub, where
212    See, among less distinguishable shapes,
213    The begging scavenger, with hat in hand;
214    The Italian, as he thrids his way with care,
215    Steadying, far-seen, a frame of images
216    Upon his head; with basket at his breast
217    The Jew; the stately and slow-moving Turk,
218    With freight of slippers piled beneath his arm!

219    Enough;---the mighty concourse I surveyed
220    With no unthinking mind, well pleased to note
221    Among the crowd all specimens of man,
222    Through all the colours which the sun bestows,
223    And every character of form and face:
224    The Swede, the Russian; from the genial south,
225    The Frenchman and the Spaniard; from remote
226    America, the Hunter-Indian; Moors,
227    Malays, Lascars, the Tartar, the Chinese,
228    And Negro Ladies in white muslin gowns.

229    At leisure, then, I viewed, from day to day,

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230    The spectacles within doors,---birds and beasts
231    Of every nature, and strange plants convened
232    From every clime; and, next, those sights that ape
233    The absolute presence of reality,
234    Expressing, as in mirror, sea and land,
235    And what earth is, and what she has to shew.
236    I do not here allude to subtlest craft,
237    By means refined attaining purest ends,
238    But imitations, fondly made in plain
239    Confession of man's weakness and his loves.
240    Whether the Painter, whose ambitious skill
241    Submits to nothing less than taking in
242    A whole horizon's circuit, do with power,
243    Like that of angels or commissioned spirits,
244    Fix us upon some lofty pinnacle,
245    Or in a ship on waters, with a world
246    Of life, and life-like mockery beneath,
247    Above, behind, far stretching and before;
248    Or more mechanic artist represent
249    By scale exact, in model, wood or clay,
250    From blended colours also borrowing help,
251    Some miniature of famous spots or things,---
252    St. Peter's Church; or, more aspiring aim,
253    In microscopic vision, Rome herself;
254    Or, haply, some choice rural haunt,---the Falls

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255    Of Tivoli; and, high upon that steep,
256    The Sibyl's mouldering Temple! every tree,
257    Villa, or cottage, lurking among rocks
258    Throughout the landscape; tuft, stone scratch minute---
259    All that the traveller sees when he is there.

260    And to these exhibitions, mute and still,
261    Others of wider scope, where living men,
262    Music, and shifting pantomimic scenes,
263    Diversified the allurement. Need I fear
264    To mention by its name, as in degree,
265    Lowest of these and humblest in attempt,
266    Yet richly graced with honours of her own,
267    Half-rural Sadler's Wells? Though at that time
268    Intolerant, as is the way of youth
269    Unless itself be pleased, here more than once
270    Taking my seat, I saw (nor blush to add,
271    With ample recompense) giants and dwarfs,
272    Clowns, conjurors, posture-masters, harlequins,
273    Amid the uproar of the rabblement,
274    Perform their feats. Nor was it mean delight
275    To watch crude Nature work in untaught minds;
276    To note the laws and progress of belief;
277    Though obstinate on this way, yet on that
278    How willingly we travel, and how far!

Bibliographic details for the Electronic File

Wordsworth, William, 1770-1850: The Prelude (1850)

Cambridge 1992
English Poetry Full-Text Database
Copyright (c) 1992 Chadwyck-Healey. Do not export or print from this database without checking the Copyright Conditions to see what is permitted.

Bibliographic details for the Source Text

Wordsworth, William, 1770-1850 (1770-1850)
The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet's Mind; An Autobiographical Poem; By William Wordsworth

Edward Moxon 1850
viii, 374 p.
Preliminaries and introductory matter omitted including preface