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Idle Shepherd Boys, The Analysis

Author: Poetry of William Wordsworth Type: Poetry Views: 320

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The valley rings with mirth and joy;

Among the hills the echoes play

A never never ending song,

To welcome in the May.

The magpie chatters with delight;

The mountain raven's youngling brood

Have left the mother and the nest;

And they go rambling east and west

In search of their own food;

Or through the glittering vapors dart

In very wantonness of heart.

Beneath a rock, upon the grass,

Two boys are sitting in the sun;

Their work, if any work they have,

Is out of mind---or done.

On pipes of sycamore they play

The fragments of a Christmas hymn;

Or with that plant which in our dale

We call stag-horn, or fox's tail,

Their rusty hats they trim:

And thus, as happy as the day,

Those Shepherds wear the time away.

Along the river's stony marge

The sand-lark chants a joyous song;

The thrush is busy in the wood,

And carols loud and strong.

A thousand lambs are on the rocks,

All newly born! both earth and sky

Keep jubilee, and more than all,

Those boys with their green coronal;

They never hear the cry,

That plaintive cry! which up the hill

Comes from the depth of Dungeon-Ghyll.

Said Walter, leaping from the ground,

"Down to the stump of yon old yew

We'll for our whistles run a race."

Away the shepherds flew;

They leapt---they ran---and when they came

Right opposite to Dungeon-Ghyll,

Seeing that he should lose the prize,

"Stop! " to his comrade Walter cries---

James stopped with no good will:

Said Walter then, exulting; "Here

You'll find a task for half a year.

Cross, if you dare, where I shall cross---

Come on, and tread where I shall tread."

The other took him at his word,

And followed as he led.

It was a spot which you may see

If ever you to Langdale go;

Into a chasm a mighty block

Hath fallen, and made a bridge of rock:

The gulf is deep below;

And, in a basin black and small,

Receives a lofty waterfall.

With staff in hand across the cleft

The challenger pursued his march;

And now, all eyes and feet, hath gained

The middle of the arch.

When list! he hears a piteous moan---

Again !---his heart within him dies---

His pulse is stopped, his breath is lost,

He totters, pallid as a ghost,

And, looking down, espies

A lamb, that in the pool is pent

Within that black and frightful rent.

The lamb had slipped into the stream,

And safe without a bruise or wound

The cataract had borne him down

Into the gulf profound.

His dam had seen him when he fell,

She saw him down the torrent borne;

And, while with all a mother's love

She from the lofty rocks above

Sent forth a cry forlorn,

The lamb, still swimming round and round,

Made answer to that plaintive sound.

When he had learnt what thing it was,

That sent this rueful cry; I ween

The Boy recovered heart, and told

The sight which he had seen.

Both gladly now deferred their task;

Nor was there wanting other aid---

A Poet, one who loves the brooks

Far better than the sages' books,

By chance had thither strayed;

And there the helpless lamb he found

By those huge rocks encompassed round.

He drew it from the troubled pool,

And brought it forth into the light:

The Shepherds met him with his charge,

An unexpected sight!

Into their arms the lamb they took,

Whose life and limbs the flood had spared;

Then up the steep ascent they hied,

And placed him at his mother's side;

And gently did the Bard

Those idle Shepherd-Boys upbraid,

And bade them better mind their trade.


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