Poems: Ecclesiastical Sonnets of Wordsworth

While Wordsworth was something of a radical in his early years, he settled down into a comfortable but apparently sincere Anglican faith.  His Ecclesiastical Sonnets are not, it goes without saying, among his best read works, but they are carefully, even elegantly written.

Trepidation of the Druids

Screams round the Arch-druid's brow the seamew--white
As Menai's foam; and toward the mystic ring
Where Augurs stand, the Future questioning,
Slowly the cormorant aims her heavy flight,
Portending ruin to each baleful rite,
That, in the lapse of ages, hath crept o'er
Diluvian truths, and patriarchal lore.
Haughty the Bard: can these meek doctrines blight
His transports? wither his heroic strains?
But all shall be fulfilled;--the Julian spear
A way first opened; and, with Roman chains,
The tidings come of Jesus crucified;
They come--they spread--the weak, the suffering, hear;
Receive the faith, and in the hope abide.

The seamew was, among the Druids, an emblem of those
traditions connected with the Deluge that made an important part
of their mysteries. The Cormorant was a bird of bad omen.


DARKNESS surrounds us; seeking, we are lost
On Snowdon's wilds, amid Brigantian coves,
Or where the solitary shepherd roves
Along the plain of Sarum, by the ghost
Of Time and shadows of Tradition, crost;
And where the boatman of the Western Isles
Slackens his course--to mark those holy piles
Which yet survive on bleak Iona's coast.
Nor these, nor monuments of eldest name,
Nor Taliesin's unforgotten lays,
Nor characters of Greek or Roman fame,
To an unquestionable Source have led;
Enough--if eyes, that sought the fountainhead
In vain, upon the growing Rill may gaze.

Casual Incitement

A bright-haired company of youthful slaves,
Beautiful strangers, stand within the pale
Of a sad market, ranged for public sale,
Where Tiber's stream the immortal City laves:
ANGLI by name; and not an ANGEL waves
His wing who could seem lovelier to man's eye
Than they appear to holy Gregory;
Who, having learnt that name, salvation craves
For Them, and for their Land. The earnest Sire,
His questions urging, feels, in slender ties
Of chiming sound, commanding sympathies;
DE-IRIANS--he would save them from God's IRE;
Subjects of Saxon AELLA--they shall sing
Glad HALLE-lujahs to the eternal King!

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina