Anecdote For Fathers
by William Wordsworth
Retine vim istam, falsa enim dicam, si coges. -- Eusebius
I have a boy of five years old;
His face is fair and fresh to see;
His limbs are cast in beauty's mould,
And dearly he loves me.
One morn we strolled on our dry walk,
Our quiet home all full in view,
And held such intermitted talk
As we are wont to do.
My thoughts on former pleasures ran;
I thought of Kilve's delightful shore,
Our pleasant home when spring began,
A long, long year before.
A day it was when I could bear
Some fond regrets to entertain;
With so much happiness to spare,
I could not feel a pain.
The green earth echoed to the feet
Of lambs that bounded through the glade,
From shade to sunshine, and as fleet
From sunshine back to shade.
Birds warbled round me -- and each trace
of inward sadness had its charm;
Kilve, thought I, was a favored place,
And so is Liswyn farm.
My boy beside me tripped, so slim
And graceful in his rustic dress!
And, as we talked, I questioned him,
In very idleness.
Now tell me, had you rather be,
I said, and took him by the arm,
On Kilve's smooth shore, by the green sea,
Or here at Liswyn farm?
In careless mood he looked at me,
While still I held him by the arm,
At Kilve I'd rather be
Than here at Liswyn farm.
Now, little Edward, say why so: --
My little Edward, tell me why.
I cannot tell, I do not know. --
Why, this is strange, said I;
For, here are woods, hills smooth and warm:
There surely must some reason be
Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm
For Kilve by the green sea.
At this, my boy hung down his head,
He blushed with shame, nor made reply;
And three times to the child I said,
Why, Edward, tell me why?
His head he raised -- there was in sight,
It caught his eye, he saw it plain --
Upon the house-top, glittering bright,
A broad and gilded vane.
Then did the boy his tongue unlock,
And eased his mind with this reply:
At Kilve there was no weather-cock;
And that's the reason why.
O dearest, dearest boy! my heart
For better lore would seldom yearn,
Could I but teach the hundredth part
Of what from thee I learn.
Notes to the poem:
Written and first published in 1798.
This was suggested in front of Alfoxden. The Boy was a son of my friend, Basil Montagu, who had been two or three years under our care. The name of Kilve is from a village on the Bristol Channel, about a mile from Alfoxden; and the name of Liswin Farm was taken from a beautiful spot on the Wye. When Mr. Coleridge, my sister, and I had been visiting the famous John Thelwall, who had taken refuge from politics, after a trial for high treason, with a view to bring up his family by the profits of agriculture, which proved as unfortunate a speculation as that he had fled from, Coleridge and he had been public lecturers; Coleridge mingling, with his politics, Theology, from which the other elocutionist abstained, unless it were for the sake of a sneer. This quondam community of public employment induced Thelwall to visit Coleridge at Nether Stowey, where he fell in my way. He really was a man of extraordinary talent, an affectionate husband, and a good father. Though brought up in the City, he was truly sensible of the beauty of natural objects. I remember once, when Coleridge, he, and I were seated together upon the turf on the brink of a stream in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful glen of Alfoxden, Coleridge exclaimed,
This is a place to reconcile one to all the jarrings and conflicts of the wide world. --
Nay, said Thelwall,
to make one forget them altogether. The visit of this man to Coleridge was, as I believe Coleridge has related, the occasion of a spy being sent by Government to watch our proceedings, which were, I can say with truth, such as the world at large would have thought ludicrously harmless.
Source:The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth
Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., New York