The Pass of Kirkstone

William Wordsworth

WITHIN the mind strong fancies work,

A deep delight the bosom thrills,

Oft as I pass along the fork

Of these fraternal hills:

Where, save the rugged road, we find

No appanage of human kind,

Nor hint of man; if stone or rock

Seem not his handiwork to mock

By something cognizably shaped;

Mockery,—or model roughly hewn,

And left as if by earthquake strewn,

Or from the flood escaped:

Altars for Druid service fit

(But where no fire was ever lit,

Unless the glowworm to the skies

Thence offer nightly sacrifice);

Wrinkled Egyptian monument;

Green, moss-grown tower; or hoary tent;

Tents of a camp that never shall be raised,—

On which four thousand years have gazed!


Ye ploughshares sparkling on the slopes!

Ye snow-white lambs that trip

Imprisoned mid the formal props

Of restless ownership?

Ye trees, that may to-morrow fall

To feed the insatiate prodigal!

Lawns, houses, chattels, groves, and fields,

All that the fertile valley shields;

Wages of folly, baits of crime,

Of life’s uneasy game the stake,

Playthings that keep the eyes awake

Of drowsy, dotard Time;—

O care! O guilt! O vales and plains,

Here, mid his own unvexed domains,

A genius dwells, that can subdue

At once all memory of you,—

Most potent when mists veil the sky,

Mists that distort and magnify;

While the coarse rushes, to the sweeping breeze,

Sigh forth their ancient melodies!


List to those shriller notes!—that march

Perchance was on the blast,

When through this height’s inverted arch

Rome’s earliest legion passed!

They saw, adventurously impelled,

And older eyes than theirs beheld.

This block,—and yon, whose church-like frame

Gives to this savage pass its name.

Aspiring road! that lov’st to hide

Thy daring in a vapory bourn,

Not seldom may the hour return

When thou shalt be my guide;

And I (as all men may find cause,

When life is at a weary pause,

And they have panted up the hill

Of duty with reluctant will)

Be thankful, even though tired and faint,

For the rich bounties of constraint;

Whence oft invigorating transports flow

That choice lacked courage to bestow!


My soul was grateful for delight

That wore a threatening brow;

A veil is lifted,—can she slight

The scene that opens now?

Though habitation none appear,

The greenness tells man must be there;

The shelter—that the pérspective

Is of the clime in which we live;

Where Toil pursues his daily round;

Where Pity sheds sweet tears; and Love,

In woodbine bower or birchen grove,

Inflicts his tender wound.

Who comes not hither ne’er shall know

How beautiful the world below;

Nor can he guess how lightly leaps

The brook adown the rocky steeps.

Farewell, thou desolate domain!

Hope, pointing to the cultured plain,

Carols like a shepherd-boy;

And who is she?—can that be Joy!

Who, with a sunbeam for her guide,

Smoothly skims the meadows wide;

While Faith, from yonder opening cloud,

To hill and vale proclaims aloud,

“Whate’er the weak may dread, the wicked dare,

Thy lot, O man, is good, thy portion fair!”

Main Location:

Kirkstone Pass, Lake District National Park, Cumbria LA22, UK

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