Even such a shell the universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith; and there are times,
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow and ever-during power;
And central peace subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation. Here you stand,
Adore and worship, when you know it not;
Pious beyond the intention of your thought;
Devout above the meaning of your will.
Some one has told us that Heaven is not a place but a condition of mind, and it is possible that he is right.
But if Heaven is a place, surely it is not unlike Grasmere. Such loveliness of landscape–such sylvan stretches of crystal water–peace and quiet and rest!
Great, green hills lift their heads to the skies, and all the old stone walls and hedgerows are covered with trailing vines and blooming flowers. The air is rich with song of birds, sweet with perfume, and the blossoms gaily shower their petals on the passer-by. Overhead, white, billowy clouds float lazily over their background of ethereal blue. Cool June breezes fan the cheek. Distant knolls are dotted with flocks of sheep whose bells tinkle dreamily; and drowsy hum of beetle makes the bass, while lark song forms the air of the sweet symphony that Nature plays. Such was Grasmere as I first saw it.
To love the plain, homely, common, simple things of earth, of these to sing; to make the familiar beautiful and the commonplace enchanting; to cause each bush to burn with the actual presence of the living God: this is the poet’s office. And if the poet lives near Grasmere, his task does not seem difficult.
From Seventeen Hundred Ninety-nine to Eighteen Hundred Eight, Wordsworth lived at Dove Cottage. Thanks to a few earnest souls, the place is now secured to the people of England and the lovers of poetry wherever they may be. A good old woman has charge of the cottage, and for a slight fee shows you the house and garden and little orchard and objects of interest, all the while talking: and you are glad, for, although unlettered, she is reverent and honest. She was born here, and all she knows is Wordsworth and the people and the things he loved. Is not this enough?
Here Wordsworth lived before anything he wrote was published in book form: here his best work was done, and here Dorothy–splendid, sympathetic Dorothy—was inspiration, critic, friend. But who inspired Dorothy? Coleridge perhaps more than all others, and we know somewhat of their relationship as told in Dorothy’s diary. There is a little Wordsworth Library in Dove Cottage, and I sat at the window of “De Quincey’s room” and read for an hour. Says Dorothy:
“Sat until four o’clock reading dear Coleridge’s letters.”
“We paced the garden until moonrise at one o’clock–we three, brother, Coleridge and I.” “I read Spenser to him aloud and then we had a midnight tea.”
Here in this little, terraced garden, behind the stone cottage with its low ceilings and wide window-seats and little, diamond panes, she in her misery wrote:
“Oh, the pity of it all! Yet there is recompense; every sight reminds me of Coleridge, dear, dear fellow; of our walks and talks by day and night; of all the bright and witty, and sad sweet things of which we spoke and read. I was melancholy and could not talk, and at last I eased my heart by weeping.”
Alas, too often there is competition between brother and sister, then follow misunderstandings; but here the brotherly and sisterly love stands out clear and strong after these hundred years have passed, and we contemplate it with delight. Was ever woman more honestly and better praised than Dorothy?
“The blessings of my later years
Were with me when I was a boy.
She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,
And humble cares and gentle fears,
A heart! the fountain of sweet tears,
And love and thought and joy.
And she hath smiles to earth unknown,
Smiles that with motion of their own
Do spread and sink and rise;
That come and go with endless play,
And ever as they pass away
Are hidden in her eyes.”