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Sonnet to Thomas Clarkson


On the final passing of the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave
Trade, March, 1807.


Clarkson! it was an obstinate Hill to climb;
How toilsome, nay how dire it was, by Thee
Is known,--by none, perhaps, so feelingly;
But Thou, who, starting in thy fervent prime,
Didst first lead forth this pilgrimage sublime,
Hast heard the constant Voice its charge repeat,
Which, out of thy young heart's oracular seat,
First roused thee.--O true yoke-fellow of Time
With unabating effort, see, the palm
Is won, and by all Nations shall be worn!
The bloody Writing is for ever torn,
And Thou henceforth shalt have a good Man's calm,
A great Man's happiness; thy zeal shall find
Repose at length, firm Friend of human kind!


* * * * *


Once in a lonely Hamlet I sojourn'd
In which a Lady driv'n from France did dwell;
The big and lesser griefs, with which she mourn'd,
In friendship she to me would often tell.

This Lady, dwelling upon English ground,
Where she was childless, daily did repair
To a poor neighbouring Cottage; as I found,
For sake of a young Child whose home was there.

Once did I see her clasp the Child about,
And take it to herself; and I, next day, 10
Wish'd in my native tongue to fashion out
Such things as she unto this Child might say:
And thus, from what I knew, had heard, and guess'd,
My song the workings of her heart express'd.

"Dear Babe, thou Daughter of another,
One moment let me be thy Mother!
An Infant's face and looks are thine;
And sure a Mother's heart is mine:
Thy own dear Mother's far away,
At labour in the harvest-field: 20
Thy little Sister is at play;--
What warmth, what comfort would it yield
To my poor heart, if Thou wouldst be
One little hour a child to me!"

"Across the waters I am come,
And I have left a Babe at home:
A long, long way of land and sea!
Come to me--I'm no enemy:
I am the same who at thy side
Sate yesterday, and made a nest 30
For thee, sweet Baby!--thou hast tried.
Thou know'st, the pillow of my breast:
Good, good art thou; alas! to me
Far more than I can be to thee."

"Here little Darling dost thou lie;
An Infant Thou, a Mother I!
Mine wilt thou be, thou hast no fears;
Mine art thou--spite of these my tears.
Alas! before I left the spot,
My Baby and its dwelling-place; 40
The Nurse said to me, 'Tears should not
Be shed upon an Infant's face,
It was unlucky'--no, no, no;
No truth is in them who say so!"

"My own dear Little-one will sigh,
Sweet Babe! and they will let him die.
'He pines,' they'll say, 'it is his doom,
And you may see his hour is come.'
Oh! had he but thy chearful smiles,
Limbs stout as thine, and lips as gay, 50
Thy looks, thy cunning, and thy wiles,
And countenance like a summer's day,
They would have hopes of him--and then
I should behold his face again!"

"'Tis gone--forgotten--let me do
My best--there was a smile or two,
I can remember them, I see
The smiles, worth all the world to me.
Dear Baby! I must lay thee down;
Thou troublest me with strange alarms; 60
Smiles hast Thou, sweet ones of thy own;
I cannot keep thee in my arms,
For they confound me: as it is,
I have forgot those smiles of his."

"Oh! how I love thee! we will stay
Together here this one half day.
My Sister's Child, who bears my name,
From France across the Ocean came;
She with her Mother cross'd the sea;
The Babe and Mother near me dwell: 70
My Darling, she is not to me
What thou art! though I love her well:
Rest, little Stranger, rest thee here;
Never was any Child more dear!"

"--I cannot help it--ill intent
I've none, my pretty Innocent!
I weep--I know they do thee wrong,
These tears--and my poor idle tongue.
Oh what a kiss was that! my cheek
How cold it is! but thou art good; 80
Thine eyes are on me--they would speak,
I think, to help me if they could.
Blessings upon that quiet face,
My heart again is in its place!"

"While thou art mine, my little Love,
This cannot be a sorrowful grove;
Contentment, hope, and Mother's glee.
I seem to find them all in thee:
Here's grass to play with, here are flowers;
I'll call thee by my Darling's name; 90
Thou hast, I think, a look of ours,
Thy features seem to me the same;
His little Sister thou shalt be;
And, when once more my home I see,
I'll tell him many tales of Thee."

William Wordsworth