Helen Darbishire and Ernest De Selincourt (eds), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 3: Miscellaneous Sonnets; Memorials of Various Tours; Poems to National Independence and Liberty; The Egyptian Maid; The River Duddon Series; The White Doe and Other Narrative Poems; Ecclesiastical Sonnets (Second Edition)
Editor’s NoteXVIIIat vallombrosa
- Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
- In Vallombrosa, where Etrurian shades
- High over-arch'd embower.2
- Paradise Lost.
- 1"Vallombrosa—I longed in thy shadiest wood
- 2To slumber, reclined on the moss-covered floor!"
- Critical Apparatus3Fond wish that was granted at last, and the Flood,
- 4That lulled me asleep, bids me listen once more.
- Critical Apparatus5Its murmur how soft! as it falls down the steep,
- 6Near that Cell—yon sequestered Retreat high in air—
- 7Where our Milton was wont lonely vigils to keep
- 8For converse with God, sought through study and prayer.
- pg 224Critical Apparatus9The Monks still repeat the tradition with pride,
- 10And its truth who shall doubt? for his Spirit is here;
- 11In the cloud-piercing rocks doth her grandeur abide,
- 12In the pines pointing heavenward her beauty austere;
- 13In the flower-besprent meadows his genius we trace
- 14Turned to humbler delights, in which youth might confide,
- 15That would yield him fit help while prefiguring that Place
- 16Where, if Sin had not entered, Love never had died.
- 17When with life lengthened out came a desolate time,
- Editor’s Note18And darkness and danger had compassed him round,
- Critical Apparatus19With a thought he would flee to these haunts of his prime,
- 20And here once again a kind shelter be found.
- 21And let me believe that when nightly the Muse
- Critical Apparatus22Did waft him to Sion, the glorified hill,
- Critical Apparatus23Here also, on some favoured height, he would choose
- 24To wander, and drink inspiration at will.
- Critical Apparatus25Vallombrosa! of thee I first heard in the page
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus26Of that holiest of Bards, and the name for my mind
- 27Had a musical charm, which the winter of age
- 28And the changes it brings had no power to unbind.
- 29And now, ye Miltonian shades! under you
- 30I repose, nor am forced from sweet fancy to part,
- 31While your leaves I behold and the brooks they will strew,
- 32And the realised vision is clasped to my heart.
- Critical Apparatus33Even so, and unblamed, we rejoice as we may
- 34In Forms that must perish, frail objects of sense;
- 35Unblamed—if the Soul be intent on the day
- 36When the Being of Beings shall summon her hence.
- Critical Apparatus37For he and he only with wisdom is blest
p. 223.XVIII. At Vallombbosa: The name of Milton is pleasingly connected with Vallombrosa in many ways. The pride with which the Monk, without any previous question from me, pointed out his residence, I shall not readily forget. It may be proper here to defend the Poet from a charge which has been brought against him, in respect to the passage in "Paradise Lost", where this place is mentioned. It is said, that he has erred in speaking of the trees there being deciduous, whereas they are, in fact, pines. The fault-finders are themselves mistaken; the natural woods of the region of Vallombrosa are deciduous, and spread to a great extent; those near the convent are, indeed, mostly pines; but they are avenues of trees planted within a few steps of each other, and thus composing large tracts of wood; plots of which are periodically cut down. The appearance of those narrow avenues, upon steep slopes open to the sky, on account of the height which the trees attain by being forced to grow upwards, is often very impressive. My guide, a boy of about fourteen years old, pointed this out to me in several places.—W.
"I must confess, though of course I did not acknowledge it in the few lines I wrote in the Strangers' book kept at the convent, that I was somewhat disappointed at Vallombrosa. I had expected, as the name implies, a deep and narrow valley overshadowed by enclosing hills; but the spot where the convent stands is in fact not a valley at all, but a cove or crescent open to an extensive prospect. In the book before mentioned I read the notice in the English language that if anyone would ascend the steep ground above the convent, and wander over it, he would be abundantly rewarded by magnificent views. I had not time to act upon this recommendation, and only went with my young guide to a point, nearly on a level with the site of the convent, that overlooks the vale of Amo for some leagues. To praise great and good men has ever been deemed one of the worthiest employments of poetry, but the objects of admiration vary so much with time and circumstances, and the noblest of mankind have been found, when intimately known, to be of characters so imperfect, that no eulogist can find a subject which he will venture upon with the animation necessary to create sympathy, unless he confines himself to a particular art or he takes something of a one-sided view of the person he is disposed to celebrate. This is a melancholy truth, and affords a strong reason for the poetic mind being chiefly exercised in works of fiction: the poet can then follow wherever the spirit of admiration leads him, unchecked by such suggestions as will be too apt to cross his way if all that he is prompted to utter is to be tested by fact. Something in this spirit I have written in the note attached to the Sonnet on the king of Sweden; and many will think that in this poem and elsewhere I have spoken of the author of 'Paradise Lost' in a strain of panegyric scarcely justifiable by the tenor of some of his opinions, whether theological or political, and by the temper he carried into public affairs in which, unfortunately for his genius, he was so much concerned."—I. F.
The quotation from Milton which heads the poem is from P.L. i. 302–4.
2 See for the two first lines, "Stanzas composed in the Simplon Pass".
XVIII. 3 The wish has been granted MS.
- The murmur it makes &
- By the cell where, if local traditions speak truth,
- Our Milton was tempted lone &
- For study and prayer in his spring-time of youth. MS.
9–24 not in MS.
18. darkness and danger had compassed him round] P.L. vii. 27.
19 would 1845: might 1842
22 Did 1845: Would 1842
23 he 1845: they 1842
25 of thee] thy name MS.
- Of that holiest of Poets, the musical sound
- It hung on my ears till the winter of age,
- A spell by which fancy was willingly bound.
- And now, loved Etruria …
- Do I rest etc.
26. holiest of Bards] cf. Prospectus to Excursion, 24–5, where MSS., read "Thus prayed the Bard, Holiest of Men".
- So fare we through life, passing on with a soul
- United to body and objects of sense
- For mutual support, yea, for mutual controul
- Till … us hence.
37 he … he … he … is ] they … they … are MS.
38–9 true … Look ] pure …Look MS.
40 Fountain whence] Fount whence both MS.