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William Wordsworth
Complete Poetical Works

WATER-FOWL

OBSERVED FREQUENTLY OVER THE LAKES OF RYDAL AND GRASMERE

"Let me be allowed the aid of verse to describe the evolutions which these visitants sometimes perform, on a fine day towards the close of winter."--Extract from the Author's Book on the Lakes.

MARK how the feathered tenants of the flood,
With grace of motion that might scarcely seem
Inferior to angelical, prolong
Their curious pastime! shaping in mid air
(And sometimes with ambitious wing that soars
High as the level of the mountain-tops)
A circuit ampler than the lake beneath--
Their own domain; but ever, while intent
On tracing and retracing that large round,
Their jubilant activity evolves
Hundreds of curves and circlets, to and fro,
Upward and downward, progress intricate
Yet unperplexed, as if one spirit swayed
Their indefatigable flight. 'Tis done--
Ten times, or more, I fancied it had ceased;
But lo! the vanished company again
Ascending; they approach--I hear their wings,
Faint, faint at first; and then an eager sound,
Past in a moment--and as faint again!
They tempt the sun to sport amid their plumes;
They tempt the water, or the gleaming ice,
To show them a fair image; 'tis themselves,
Their own fair forms, upon the glimmering plain,
Painted more soft and fair as they descend
Almost to touch;--then up again aloft,
Up with a sally and a flash of speed,
As if they scorned both resting-place and rest!

1812.