William Wordsworth

The Last Of The Flock

I IN distant countries have I been, And yet I have not often seen A healthy man, a man full grown, Weep in the public roads, alone. But such a one, on English ground, And in the broad highway, I met; Along the broad highway he came, His cheeks with tears were wet: Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad; And in his arms a Lamb he had. II He saw me, and he turned aside, As if he wished himself to hide: And with his coat did then essay To wipe those briny tears away. I followed him, and said, "My friend, What ails you? wherefore weep you so?" --"Shame on me, Sir! this lusty Lamb, He makes my tears to flow. To-day I fetched him from the rock; He is the last of all my flock, III "When I was young, a single man, And after youthful follies ran, Though little given to care and thought, Yet, so it was, an ewe I bought; And other sheep from her I raised, As healthy sheep as you might see; And then I married, and was rich As I could wish to be; Of sheep I numbered a full score, And every year increased my store. IV "Year after year my stock it grew; And from this one, this single ewe, Full fifty comely sheep I raised, As fine a flock as ever grazed! Upon the Quantock hills they fed; They throve, and we at home did thrive: --This lusty Lamb of all my store Is all that is alive; And now I care not if we die, And perish all of poverty. V "Six Children, Sir! had I to feed; Hard labour in a time of need! My pride was tamed, and in our grief I of the Parish asked relief. They said, I was a wealthy man; My sheep upon the uplands fed, And it was fit that thence I took Whereof to buy us bread. 'Do this: how can we give to you,' They cried, 'what to the poor is due?' VI "I sold a sheep, as they had said, And bought my little children bread, And they were healthy with their food For me--it never did me good. A woeful time it was for me, To see the end of all my gains, The pretty flock which I had reared With all my care and pains, To see it melt like snow away-- For me it was a woeful day. VII "Another still! and still another! A little lamb, and then its mother! It was a vein that never stopped-- Like blood-drops from my heart they dropped. 'Till thirty were not left alive They dwindled, dwindled, one by one And I may say, that many a time I wished they all were gone-- Reckless of what might come at last Were but the bitter struggle past. VIII "To wicked deeds I was inclined, And wicked fancies crossed my mind; And every man I chanced to see, I thought he knew some ill of me: No peace, no comfort could I find, No ease, within doors or without; And, crazily and wearily I went my work about; And oft was moved to flee from home, And hide my head where wild beasts roam. IX "Sir! 'twas a precious flock to me, As dear as my own children be; For daily with my growing store I loved my children more and more. Alas! it was an evil time; God cursed me in my sore distress; I prayed, yet every day I thought I loved my children less; And every week, and every day, My flock it seemed to melt away. X "They dwindled, Sir, sad sight to see! From ten to five, from five to three, A lamb, a wether, and a ewe;-- And then at last from three to two; And, of my fifty, yesterday I had but only one: And here it lies upon my arm, Alas! and I have none;-- To-day I fetched it from the rock; It is the last of all my flock."

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