>“On Skiddaw and Derwent Water>”

ON SKIDDAW AND DERWENT WATER

Skiddaw, upon thy heights the sun shines bright,
But only for a moment: then gives place
Unto a playful cloud which on thy brow
Sports wantonly,—then floats away in air,
Throwing its shadow on thy towering height;
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And, darkening for a moment thy green side,
But adds unto its beauty, as it makes
The sun more bright when it again appears.
Thus a in the morning on thy brow thoseclouds
Rest as upon a couch, and give fair scope
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For fancyʼs play, and airy fortresses,
And towers, battlements, and all appear
Chasing each other off, and in their turn
Are chasèd by the others. b But enough
Iʼve treated of the clouds. c Now Skiddaw come, d
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Noble, and grand, and beauteous, clothed with green,
And yet but scantily. And in some parts
A bare, terrific cliff precipitate
Descends, with only here and there a bush,
A straggler with its roots fixed in the stone
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And bare and scraggy as befits the soil. e
Skiddaw, majestic! Giant Natureʼs work!
Lower than Alps or Andes. Pyrenees
Are all much higher. 1 But those works of Art,
Those giant works of Art, 2 with thee compared,
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Sink into nothing; all that Art can do
Is nothing beside thee. The touch of man
Raised pigmy mountains, but gigantic tombs.
The touch of Nature raised the mountainʼs brow,
But made no tombs at all, save where the snow—
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The fleecy locks of winter fall around
And form a frail memorial for the swain f
Who wanders far from home, and meets his death
Amidst the cold of winter. But no more
On this sad subject on this happy day. g
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Now Derwent Water come!—A looking‐glass
Wherein reflected are the mountainʼs heights,
As in a mirror, framed in rocks and woods;
So upon thee there is a seeming mount,
A seeming tree, a seeming rivulet.
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All upon thee are painted by a hand
Which not a critic can well criticise.
But to disturb thee oft, bluff Eolus
Descends upon the mountains, 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, knocks it down again;— 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 tempestʼs blow.
Thus like Penelope thou weavʼst a web
And then thou dost undo it. Thouʼrt like her
Because thouʼrt fair, and oft deceiving too. 3
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Sweet Derwent, on thy winding shore,
Beside thy mountain forests hoar,
There would I like to wander still.
And drink from out the rippling rill,
Which from thy mountain‐head doth fall i
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And mingles with the eaglesʼ call;
While on Helvellynʼs thunder roars,
Re‐echoed by all j Derwentʼs shores;
And where the lightning flashes still,
Reflected in the mountain rill.
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