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William Wordsworth
by [?]

The owner of this voice was not ten feet away, but he was standing up close to the wall and I had not seen him. I was somewhat startled at first. The man did not move. I stepped to one side to get a better view of my interlocutor, and saw him to be a large, red man of perhaps fifty. A handkerchief was knotted around his thick neck, and he held a heavy hoe in his hand. A genuine beefeater he was, only he ate too much beef and the ale he drank was evidently Extra XXX.

His scowl was so needlessly severe and his manner so belligerent that I–thrice armed, knowing my cause was just–could not restrain a smile. I touched my hat and said, “Ah, excuse me, Mr. Falstaff, you are the bouncer?”

“Never mind wot I am, sir–‘oo are you?”

“I am a great admirer of Wordsworth—-“

“That’s the way they all begins. Cawn’t ye hadmire ‘im on that side of the wall as well as this?”

There is no use of wasting argument with a man of this stamp; besides that, his question was to the point. But there are several ways of overcoming one’s adversary: I began feeling in my pocket for pence. My enemy ceased glaring, stepped up to the locked gate as though he half-wished to be friendly, and there was sorrow in his voice: “Don’t tempt me, sir; don’t do ut! The Missus is peekin’ out of the shutters at us now.”

“And do you never admit visitors, even to the grounds?”

“No, sir, never, God ‘elp me! and there’s many an honest bob I could turn by ut, and no one ‘urt. But I’ve lost my place twic’t by ut. They took me back though. The Guv’ner ‘ud never forgive me again. ‘It’s three times and out, Mister ‘Opkins,’ says ‘ee, only last Whitsuntide.”

“But visitors do come?”

“Yes, sir; but they never gets in. Mostly ‘mer’cans; they don’t know no better, sir. They picks all the ivy orf the outside of the wall, and you sees yourself there’s no leaves on the lower branches of that tree. Then they carries away so many pebbles from out there that I’ve to dump in a fresh weelbarrel full o’ gravel every week, sir, don’t you know.”

He thrust a pudgy, freckled hand through the bars of the gate to show that he bore me no ill-will, and also, I suppose, to mollify my disappointment. For although I had come too late to see the great poet himself and had even failed to see the inside of his house, yet I had at least been greeted at the gate by his proxy. I pressed the hand firmly, pocketed a handful of gravel as a memento, then turned and went my way.

And all there is to tell about my visit to Rydal Mount is this interview with the bouncer.

* * * * *

Wordsworth lived eighty years. His habitation, except for short periods, was never more than a few miles from his birthplace. His education was not extensive, his learning not profound. He lacked humor and passion; in his character there was little personal magnetism, and in his work there is small dramatic power.

He traveled more or less and knew humanity, but he did not know man. His experience in so-called practical things was slight, his judgment not accurate. So he lived–quietly, modestly, dreamily.

His dust rests in a country churchyard, the grave marked by a simple slab. A gnarled, old yew-tree stands guard above the grass-grown mound. The nearest railroad is fifteen miles away.

As a poet, Wordsworth stands in the front rank of the second class. Shelley, Browning, Mrs. Browning, Tennyson, far surpass him; and the sweet singer of Michigan, even in uninspired moments, never “threw off” anything worse than this: