Irregular Verses

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Irregular Verses  (1829) 
by Dorothy Wordsworth
Written as Christmas-verses to her twenty year old goddaughter Julia, whom Wordsworth encouraged to write poetry; written in 1829.

    Ah Julia! ask a Christmas rhyme
    Of me who in the golden time
    Of careless, hopeful, happy youth
    Ne’er strove to decorate the truth
    Contented to lay bare my heart
    To one dear Friend, who had her part
    In all the love and all the care
    And every joy that harboured there.
    —To her I told in simple prose
    Each girlish vision, as it rose
    Before an active busy brain
    That needed neither spur nor rein,
    That still enjoyed the present hour
    Yet for the future raised a tower
    Of bliss more exquisite and pure
    Bliss that (so deemed we) should endure
    Maxims of caution, prudent fears
    Vexed not the projects of those years
    Simplicity our steadfast theme,
    No works of Art adorned our scheme.—
    A cottage in a verdant dell,
    A foaming stream, a crystall Well,
    A garden stored with fruit and flowers
    And sunny seats and shady bowers,
    A file of hives for humming bees
    Under a row of stately trees
    And, sheltering all this faery ground,
    A belt of hills must wrap it round,
    Not stern or mountainous, or bare,
    Nor lacking herbs to scent the air;
    Nor antient trees, nor scattered rocks,
    And pastured by the blameless flocks
    That print their green tracks to invite
    Our wanderings to the topmost height.
       Such was the spot I fondly framed
    When life was new, and hope untamed:
    There with my one dear Friend would dwell,
    Nor wish for aught beyond the dell.
       Alas! the cottage fled in air,
    The streamlet never flowed:
    —Yet did those visions pass away
    So gently that they seemed to stay,
    Though in our riper years we each pursued a different way.

    —We parted, sorrowful; by duty led;
    My Friend, ere long a happy Wife
    Was seen with dignity to tread
    The paths of usefulness, in active life;
    And such her course through later days;
    The same her honour and her praise;
    As thou canst witness, thou dear Maid,
    One of the Darlings of her care;
    Thy Mother was that Friend who still repaid
    Frank confidence with unshaken truth:
    This was the glory of her youth,
    A brighter gem than shines in prince’s diadem.

       You ask why in that jocund time
    Why did I not in jingling rhyme
    Display those pleasant guileless dreams
    That furnished still exhaustless themes?
    —I reverenced the Poet’s skill,
    And might have nursed a mounting Will
    To imitate the tender Lays
    Of them who sang in Nature’s praise;
    But bashfulness, a struggling shame
    A fear that elder heads might blame
    —Or something worse—a lurking pride
    Whispering my playmates would deride
    Stifled ambition, checked the aim
    If e’er by chance “the numbers came”
    —Nay even the mild maternal smile,
    That oft-times would repress, beguile
    The over-confidence of youth,
    Even that dear smile, to own the truth,
    Was dreaded by a fond self-love;
    “‘Twill glance on me—and to reprove
    Or,” (sorest wrong in childhood’s school)
    “Will point the sting of ridicule.”

       And now, dear Girl, I hear you ask
    Is this your lightsome, chearful task?
    You tell us tales of forty years,
    Of hopes extinct, of childish fears,
    Why cast among us thoughts of sadness
    When we are seeking mirth and gladness?
       Nay, ill those words befit the Maid
    Who pleaded for my Christmas rhyme
    Mirthful she is; but placid—staid—
    Her heart beats to no giddy chime
    Though it with Chearfulness keep time
    For Chearfulness, a willing guest,
    Finds ever in her tranquil breast
    A fostering home, a welcome rest.
    And well she knows that, casting thought away,
    We lose the best part of our day;
    That joys of youth remembered when our youth is past
    Are joys that to the end of life will last;

       And if this poor memorial strain,
    Breathed from the depth of years gone by,
    Should touch her Mother’s heart with tender pain,
    Or call a tear into her loving eye,
    She will not check the tear or still the rising sigh.
    —The happiest heart is given to sadness;
    The saddest heart feels deepest gladness.

    Thou dost not ask, thou dost not need
    A verse from me; nor wilt thou heed
    A greeting masked in laboured rhyme
    From one whose heart has still kept time
    With every pulse of thine.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.