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Poems Every Child Should Know by  Mary E. Burt

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FIDELITY

[120] "Fidelity," by William Wordsworth (1770-1850), is placed here out of respect to a boy of eleven years who liked the poem well enough to recite it frequently. The scene is laid on Helvellyn, to me the most impressive mountain of the Lake District of England. Wordsworth is a part of this country. I once heard John Burroughs say: "I went to the Lake District to see what kind of a country it could be that would produce a Wordsworth."

A barking sound the Shepherd hears,

A cry as of a dog or fox;

He halts—and searches with his eyes

Among the scattered rocks;

And now at distance can discern

A stirring in a brake of fern;

And instantly a Dog is seen,

Glancing through that covert green.


The Dog is not of mountain breed;

Its motions, too, are wild and shy;

With something, as the Shepherd thinks,

Unusual in its cry:

Nor is there any one in sight

All round, in hollow or on height;

Nor shout, nor whistle strikes his ear;

What is the Creature doing here?


It was a cove, a huge recess,

That keeps, till June, December's snow.

A lofty precipice in front,

A silent tarn below!

Far in the bosom of Helvellyn,

Remote from public road or dwelling,

Pathway, or cultivated land;

From trace of human foot or hand.


[121]

There sometimes doth a leaping fish

Send through the tarn a lonely cheer;

The crags repeat the raven's croak,

In symphony austere;

Thither the rainbow comes—the cloud—

And mists that spread the flying shroud;

And sunbeams; and the sounding blast,

That, if it could, would hurry past,


But that enormous barrier binds it fast.

Not free from boding thoughts, a while

The Shepherd stood: then makes his way

Toward the Dog, o'er rocks and stones,

As quickly as he may;

Nor far had gone, before he found

A human skeleton on the ground;

The appalled discoverer with a sigh

Looks round, to learn the history.


From those abrupt and perilous rocks

The Man had fallen, that place of fear!

At length upon the Shepherd's mind

It breaks, and all is clear:

He instantly recalled the name,

And who he was, and whence he came;

Remembered, too, the very day

On which the traveller passed this way.


But hear a wonder, for whose sake

This lamentable tale I tell!

A lasting monument of words

This wonder merits well.

[122]

The Dog, which still was hovering nigh,

Repeating the same timid cry,

This Dog had been through three months space

A dweller in that savage place.


Yes, proof was plain that, since the day

When this ill-fated traveller died,

The Dog had watched about the spot,

Or by his master's side:

How nourished here through such long time

He knows, who gave that love sublime;

And gave that strength of feeling, great

Above all human estimate.


WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.


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