William Wordsworth

The Idle Shepherd Boys

The valley rings with mirth and joy; Among the hills the echoes play A never never ending song, To welcome in the May. The magpie chatters with delight; The mountain raven's youngling brood Have left the mother and the nest; And they go rambling east and west In search of their own food; Or through the glittering vapors dart In very wantonness of heart. Beneath a rock, upon the grass, Two boys are sitting in the sun; Their work, if any work they have, Is out of mind---or done. On pipes of sycamore they play The fragments of a Christmas hymn; Or with that plant which in our dale We call stag-horn, or fox's tail, Their rusty hats they trim: And thus, as happy as the day, Those Shepherds wear the time away. Along the river's stony marge The sand-lark chants a joyous song; The thrush is busy in the wood, And carols loud and strong. A thousand lambs are on the rocks, All newly born! both earth and sky Keep jubilee, and more than all, Those boys with their green coronal; They never hear the cry, That plaintive cry! which up the hill Comes from the depth of Dungeon-Ghyll. Said Walter, leaping from the ground, "Down to the stump of yon old yew We'll for our whistles run a race." Away the shepherds flew; They leapt---they ran---and when they came Right opposite to Dungeon-Ghyll, Seeing that he should lose the prize, "Stop! " to his comrade Walter cries--- James stopped with no good will: Said Walter then, exulting; "Here You'll find a task for half a year. Cross, if you dare, where I shall cross--- Come on, and tread where I shall tread." The other took him at his word, And followed as he led. It was a spot which you may see If ever you to Langdale go; Into a chasm a mighty block Hath fallen, and made a bridge of rock: The gulf is deep below; And, in a basin black and small, Receives a lofty waterfall. With staff in hand across the cleft The challenger pursued his march; And now, all eyes and feet, hath gained The middle of the arch. When list! he hears a piteous moan--- Again !---his heart within him dies--- His pulse is stopped, his breath is lost, He totters, pallid as a ghost, And, looking down, espies A lamb, that in the pool is pent Within that black and frightful rent. The lamb had slipped into the stream, And safe without a bruise or wound The cataract had borne him down Into the gulf profound. His dam had seen him when he fell, She saw him down the torrent borne; And, while with all a mother's love She from the lofty rocks above Sent forth a cry forlorn, The lamb, still swimming round and round, Made answer to that plaintive sound. When he had learnt what thing it was, That sent this rueful cry; I ween The Boy recovered heart, and told The sight which he had seen. Both gladly now deferred their task; Nor was there wanting other aid--- A Poet, one who loves the brooks Far better than the sages' books, By chance had thither strayed; And there the helpless lamb he found By those huge rocks encompassed round. He drew it from the troubled pool, And brought it forth into the light: The Shepherds met him with his charge, An unexpected sight! Into their arms the lamb they took, Whose life and limbs the flood had spared; Then up the steep ascent they hied, And placed him at his mother's side; And gently did the Bard Those idle Shepherd-Boys upbraid, And bade them better mind their trade.

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