The Wishing-Gate

William Wordsworth

Hope rules a land forever green:
All powers that serve the bright-eyed queen
Are confident and gay;
Clouds at her bidding disappear;
Points she to aught?—the bliss draws near,
And Fancy smooths the way.

Not such the land of Wishes,—there
Dwell fruitless day-dreams, lawless prayer,
And thotights with things at strife;
Yet how forlorn, should ye depart,
Ye superstitions of the heart,
How poor, were human life!

When magic lore abjured its might,
Ye did not forfeit one dear right,
One tender claim abate;
Witness this symbol of your sway,
Surviving near the public way,
The rustic Wishing-gate!

Inquire not if the faery race
Shed kindly influence on the place,
Ere northward they retired;
If here a warrior left a spell,
Panting for glory as he fell;
Or here a saint expired.

Enough that all around is fair,
Composed with Nature's finest care
And in her fondest love,—
Peace to embosom and content,—
To overawe the turbulent,
The selfish to reprove.

Yea! even the stranger from afar,
Reclining on this moss-grown bar,
Unknowing and unknown,
The infection of the ground partakes,
Longing for his beloved, who makes
All happiness her own.

Then why should conscious spirits fear
The mystic stirrings that are here,
The ancient faith disclaim?
The local genius ne'er befriends
Desires whose course in folly ends
Whose just reward is shame.

Smile if thou wilt, but not in scorn,
If some, by ceaseless pains outworn.
Here crave an easier lot;
If some have thirsted to renew
A broken vow, or bind a true
With firmer, holier knot.

And not in vain, when thoughts are cast
Upon the irrevocable past,
Some penitent sincere
May for a worthier future sigh,
While trickles from his downcast eye
No unavailing tear.

The worldling, pining to be freed
From turmoil, who would turn or speed
The current of his fate,
Might stop before this favoured scene,
At Nature's call, nor blush to lean
Upon the Wishing-gate.

The sage, who feels how blind, how weak
Is man, though loath such help to seek,
Yet, passing, here might pause,
And thirst for insight to allay
Misgiving, while the crimson day
In quietness withdraws;

Or when the church-clock's knell profound
To Time's first step across the bound
Of midnight makes reply;
Time pressing on with starry crest,
To filial sleep upon the breast
Of dread Eternity.

Poet William Wordsworth's note: In the Vale of Grasmere, by the side of the old high-way leading to Ambleside, is a gate which, time out of mind, has been called the Wishing-gate.

Having been told, upon what I thought good authority, that this gate had been destroyed, and the opening, where it hung, walled up, I gave vent immediately to my feelings in these stanzas. But going to the place some time after, I found, with much delight, my old favourite unmolested.

Poetry Atlas note: The old gate has now disappeared, and a new one stands in its place.

Main Location:

Wishing Gate, Grasmere, Lake District, Cumbria, England

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0