Its opening lines evoke anything but a sense of delicate pastoral charm and tranquillity. And to that hollow dell from time to time Did he repair, to build the Fold of which His flock had need. These fields were burthened when they came to me; Till I was forty years of age, not more Than half of my inheritance was mine. At eighty-four I still am strong and hale;--do thou thy part; I will do mine. At the son's home in the pastoral mountains, he is protected from the evils of the world and lives as an innocent child, for he knows no evil outside of his own lot.
The city, which is far from nature, corrupts Luke. As the world changes the old die away, the young retreat in shame and only small signs, the oak tree and the unfinished sheepfold, remain to warn of the loss that progress brings. Nay, Boy, be of good hope;--we both may live To see a better day. That evening her best fare Did she bring forth, and all together sat Like happy people round a Christmas fire. Until… Yeah, it doesn't last. So lived he till his eightieth year was past.
When day was gone, And from their occupations out of doors The Son and Father were come home, even then, Their labour did not cease; unless when all Turned to the cleanly supper-board, and there, Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk, Sat round the basket piled with oaten cakes, And their plain home-made cheese. Both of them sleep together: h. This unlooked-for claim, At the first hearing, for a moment took More hope out of his life than he supposed That any old man ever could have lost. And now, when Luke had reached his eighteenth year, There by the light of this old lamp they sate, Father and Son, while far into the night The Housewife plied her own peculiar work, Making the cottage through the silent hours Murmur as with the sound of summer flies. Hence had he learned the meaning of all winds, Of blasts of every tone; and, oftentimes, When others heeded not, He heard the South Make subterraneous music, like the noise Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills. She was a woman of a stirring life, Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool; That small, for flax; and if one wheel had rest It was because the other was at work.
Day by day passed on, And still I loved thee with increasing love. I wished that thou should'st live the life they lived: But, 'tis a long time to look back, my Son, And see so little gain from threescore years. At the age of five he is given a shepherds staff from his father. Hushed was that House in peace, or seeming peace, Ere the Night fell:with morrows dawn the Boy Began his journey, and when he had reached The public way, he put on a bold face; And all the neighbours, as he passed their doors, Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers, That followed him till he was out of sight. It is the story, loosely based on actual tales known to Wordsworth from boyhood, of the disappearance of a kind of person and way of life from the modern Western world: Michael is a shepherd who has tended flocks on a small plot inherited from his ancestors, and has thus over time nourished deep affection for this land, even as his family and his story have become a center of significance in the small local community of Grasmere. It was the first Of those domestic tales that spake to me Of shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men Whom I already loved; not verily For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills Where was their occupation and abode.
This light was famous in its neighbourhood, And was a public symbol of the life That thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced, Their cottage on a plot of rising ground Stood single, with large prospect, north and south, High into Easedale, up to Dunmail-Raise, And westward to the village near the lake; And from this constant light, so regular And so far seen, the House itself, by all Who dwelt within the limits of the vale, Both old and young, was named The Evening Star. Soon Michael dies and his wife follows him. Michael is then described as a shepherd who has worked the land all his life. The deep love of Michael for Isabel is emphasized throughout the whole poem. It is the concluding poem of Lyrical Ballads.
She was a woman of a stirring life, Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool; That small, for flax; and if one wheel had rest It was because the other was at work. Michael has kept these stones to build a sheepfold, and he asks Luke to lay the corner stone as a sign that he will return to finish the fold with his father. The Pair had but one inmate in their house, An only Child, who had been born to them When Michael, telling o'er his years, began To deem that he was old,--in shepherd's phrase, With one foot in the grave. His bodily frame had been from youth to age Of an unusual strength. A good report did from their kinsman come, Of Luke and his well-doing: and the Boy Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news, Which, as the Housewife phrased it, were throughout The prettiest letters that were ever seen. Their little tract of land serves as a kind of permanent rallying point for their domestic feelings, as a tablet on which they are written, which makes them objects of memory in a thousand instances, when they would otherwise be forgotten. These thoughts, and many others of like sort, Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel, And her face brightened.
When I began, my purpose was to speak Of remedies and of a cheerful hope. There's Richard Bateman, thought she to herself, He was a parish-boy--at the church-door They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence And halfpennies, wherewith the neighbours bought A basket, which they filled with pedlar's wares; And, with this basket on his arm, the lad Went up to London, found a master there, Who, out of many, chose the trusty boy To go and overlook his merchandise Beyond the seas; where he grew wondrous rich, And left estates and monies to the poor, And, at his birth-place, built a chapel, floored With marble which he sent from foreign lands. An evil man That was, and made an evil choice, if he Were false to us; and, if he were not false, There are ten thousand to whom loss like this Had been no sorrow. Thus in his Father's sight the Boy grew up: And now, when he had reached his eighteenth year, He was his comfort and his daily hope. And now, when Luke had reached his eighteenth year, There by the light of this old lamp they sate, Father and Son, while far into the night The Housewife plied her own peculiar work, Making the cottage through the silent hours Murmur as with the sound of summer flies.
Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land Shall not go from us, and it shall be free; He shall possess it, free as is the wind That passes over it. Meantime Luke began To slacken in his duty; and, at length, He in the dissolute city gave himself To evil courses: ignominy and shame Fell on him, so that he was driven at last To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas. This light was famous in its neighbourhood, And was a public symbol of the life That thrifty Pair had lived. An evil man That was, and made an evil choice, if he Were false to us; and if he were not false, There are ten thousand to whom loss like this Had been no sorrow. Our lot is a hard lot; the sun himself Has scarcely been more diligent than I; And I have lived to be a fool at last To my own family. Never to living ear came sweeter sounds Than when I heard thee by our own fireside First uttering, without words, a natural tune: While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy Sing at thy Mothers breast. The domestic affections will always be strong amongst men who live in a country not crowded with population; if these men are placed above poverty.