Elegiac Stanzas

William Wordsworth

The lamented youth whose untimely death gave occasion to these elegiac verses was Frederick William Goddard from Boston in North America. He was in his twentieth year, and had resided for some time with a clergyman in the neighborhood of Geneva for the completion of his education…. Mr. Goddard perished, being overset in a boat while crossing the lake of Zurich.—Author’s Note.


LULLED by the sound of pastoral bells,

Rude Nature’s pilgrims did we go,

From the dread summit of the queen

Of mountains, through a deep ravine,

Where, in her holy chapel, dwells

“Our Lady of the Snow.”


The sky was blue, the air was mild;

Free were the streams and green the bowers:

As if, to rough assaults unknown,

The genial spot had ever shown

A countenance that as sweetly smiled,—

The face of summer hours.


And we were gay, our hearts at ease;

With pleasure dancing through the frame

We journeyed; all we knew of care,

Our path that straggled here and there;

Of trouble, but the fluttering breeze;

Of Winter, but a name.


If foresight could have rent the veil

Of three short days—but hush!—no more!

Calm is the grave, and calmer none

Than that to which thy cares are gone,

Thou victim of the stormy gale,

Asleep on Zurich’s shore!


O Goddard! what art thou?—a name,—

A sunbeam followed by a shade!

Nor more, for aught that time supplies,

The great, the experienced, and the wise:

Too much from this frail earth we claim,

And therefore are betrayed.        30


We met, while festive mirth ran wild,

Where, from a deep lake’s mighty urn,

Forth slips, like an enfranchised slave,

A sea-green river, proud to lave,

With current swift and undefiled,

The towers of old Lucerne.


We parted upon solemn ground

Far lifted towards the unfading sky;

But all our thoughts were then of earth,

That gives to common pleasures birth,

And nothing in our hearts we found

That prompted even a sigh.


Fetch, sympathizing powers of air,

Fetch, ye that post o’er seas and lands,

Herbs moistened by Virginian dew,

A most untimely grave to strew,

Whose turf may never know the care

Of kindred human hands!


Beloved by every gentle Muse,

He left his transatlantic home:

Europe, a realized romance,

Had opened on his eager glance;

What present bliss! what golden views!

What stores for years to come!


Though lodged within no vigorous frame,

His soul her daily tasks renewed,

Blithe as the lark on sun-gilt wings

High poised, or as the wren that sings

In shady places to proclaim

Her modest gratitude.


Not vain is sadly uttered praise;

The words of truth’s memorial vow

Are sweet as morning fragrance shed

From flowers mid Goldau’s ruins bred,

As evening’s fondly lingering rays

On Righi’s silent brow.


Lamented youth! to thy cold clay

Fit obsequies the stranger paid;

And piety shall guard the stone

Which hath not left the spot unknown

Where the wild waves resigned their prey,

And that which marks thy bed.


And when thy mother weeps for thee,

Lost youth! a solitary mother;

This tribute from a casual friend

A not unwelcome aid may lend,

To feed the tender luxury,

The rising pang to smother.