William Wordsworth


Written with a Slate-Pencil upon a Stone, the Largest of a Heap Lying near a Deserted Quarry, upon One of the Islands at Rydal


STRANGER! this hillock of misshapen stones

Is not a ruin spared or made by time,

Nor, as perchance thou rashly deem’st, the cairn

Of some old British chief: ’t is nothing more

Than the rude embyro of a little dome

Or pleasure-house, once destined to be built

Among the birch-trees of this rocky isle.

But, as it chanced, Sir William having learned

That from the shore a full-grown man might wade,

And make himself a freeman of this spot

At any hour he chose, the prudent knight

Desisted, and the quarry and the mound

Are monuments of his unfinished task.

The block on which these lines are traced, perhaps,

Was once selected as the corner-stone

Of that intended pile, which would have been

Some quaint odd plaything of elaborate skill,

So that, I guess, the linnet and the thrush,

And other little builders who dwell here,

Had wondered at the work. But blame him not,

For old Sir William was a gentle knight,

Bred in this vale, to which he appertained

With all his ancestry. Then peace to him,

And for the outrage which he had devised,

Entire forgiveness! But if thou art one

On fire with thy impatience to become

An inmate of these mountains,—if, disturbed

By beautiful conceptions, thou hast hewn

Out of the quiet rock the elements

Of thy trim mansion destined soon to blaze

In snow-white splendor,—think again; and, taught

By old Sir William and his quarry, leave

Thy fragments to the bramble and the rose;

There let the venial slow-worm sun himself,

And let the redbreast hop from stone to stone.


Main Location:

Rydal, Cumbria LA22, UK