>“On Skiddaw and Derwent Water>”


Skiddaw! upon thy cliffs the sun shines bright;
Yet only for a moment: then gives place
Unto a playful cloud, which on thy brow
Sports wantonly, soon melting into air;
But shadowing first thy side of broken green,
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And making more intense the sunʼs return.
Then, in the morning, on thy head those clouds
Rest, as upon a couch, and give fair scope
To fancyʼs play; and airy fortresses,
Towers, banners, spears and battlements appear
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Chasing the others off; a and in their turn
Are vanquished too, dissolving like the mould
Thatʼs trampled by the foot of urchin boy; b
And, rolling down, though once so firmly bound
By roots tenacious, while the upward spoiler
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Climbs on to invade the hidden eagleʼs nest. c
Skiddaw! majestic, a giant‐natureʼs work, d
Though less than Andes, or the Alpine heights, 1
Yet pyramids 2 to thee are nothing, they at best
Are but gigantic tombs,—the work of art.
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Proud nature makes no tombs, save where the snow—
The fleecy locks of winter fall around,
A mausoleum for the careless swain; e
Or where the ocean swallows navies down,
Or yawning earthquake covers cities vast,
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Shroudless, engulfed, without a knell or tear;
Or where another Herculaneum falls; 3
Or the great day of fire the general grave.
These are the tombs she makes, and buries all
Beneath them, but the soul; that, . . . scorns the dust. f
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Now Derwent Water come!—a looking‐glass g
Wherein reflected are the mountainʼs heights;
For thouʼrt a mirror, framed in rocks and woods.
Upon thee, seeming mounts arise, and trees
And seeming rivulets, that charm the eye;
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All on thee painted by a master hand,
Which not a critic can well criticise.
But to disturb thee oft, bluff Eolus
Descends upon thy heath‐top with his breath;
Thy polished surface is a boy at play,
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Who labours at the snow to make a man,
And when heʼs made it, he strikes it into ruin. h
So when thouʼst made a picture, thou dost play
At tearing it to pieces. Trees do first
Tremble, as if a monstrous heart of oak
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Were but an aspen leaf, and then as if
It were a cobweb in the tempest.
Thus like Penelope thou weavʼst a web,
And then thou dost undo it; thouʼrt like her
Because thouʼrt fair and full of labour too. 4
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