Little did I know until this morning that the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth himself had a particular interest in the legend of Henry Clifford, the so-called “Shepherd Lord” who was supposedly brought up among sheepherders following the death of his father the day before the Battle of Towton. I’ll have to save the story of the Shepherd Lord for a later post, but here, in the meantime, is Wordsworth’s 1807 poem, “Song At The Feast Of Brougham Castle Upon The Restoration Of Lord Clifford, The Shepherd, To The Estates And Honours Of His Ancestors,” in Poetry X 7 Jul 2003, (19 April 2011).
High in the breathless Hall the Minstrel sate,
And Emont’s murmur mingled with the Song.—
The words of ancient time I thus translate,
A festal strain that hath been silent long:—
“From town to town, from tower to tower,
The red rose is a gladsome flower.
Her thirty years of winter past,
The red rose is revived at last;
She lifts her head for endless spring,
For everlasting blossoming:
Both roses flourish, red and white:
In love and sisterly delight
The two that were at strife are blended,
And all old troubles now are ended.—
Joy! joy to both! but most to her
Who is the flower of Lancaster!
Behold her how She smiles to-day
On this great throng, this bright array!
Fair greeting doth she send to all
From every corner of the hall;
But chiefly from above the board
Where sits in state our rightful Lord,
A Clifford to his own restored!
“They came with banner, spear, and shield;
And it was proved in Bosworth-field.
Not long the Avenger was withstood—
Earth helped him with the cry of blood:
St. George was for us, and the might
Of blessed Angels crowned the right.
Loud voice the Land has uttered forth,
We loudest in the faithful north:
Our fields rejoice, our mountains ring,
Our streams proclaim a welcoming;
Our strong-abodes and castles see
The glory of their loyalty.
“How glad is Skipton at this hour—
Though lonely, a deserted Tower;
Knight, squire, and yeoman, page and groom,
We have them at the feast of Brough’m.
How glad Pendragon—though the sleep
Of years be on her!—She shall reap
A taste of this great pleasure, viewing
As in a dream her own renewing.
Rejoiced is Brough, right glad, I deem,
Beside her little humble stream;
And she that keepeth watch and ward
Her statelier Eden’s course to guard;
They both are happy at this hour,
Though each is but a lonely Tower:—
But here is perfect joy and pride
For one fair House by Emont’s side,
This day, distinguished without peer,
To see her Master and to cheer—
Him, and his Lady-mother dear!
“Oh! it was a time forlorn
When the fatherless was born—
Give her wings that she may fly,
Or she sees her infant die!
Swords that are with slaughter wild
Hunt the Mother and the Child.
Who will take them from the light?
—Yonder is a man in sight—
Yonder is a house—but where?
No, they must not enter there.
To the caves, and to the brooks,
To the clouds of heaven she looks;
She is speechless, but her eyes
Pray in ghostly agonies.
Blissful Mary, Mother mild,
Maid and Mother undefiled,
Save a Mother and her Child!
“Now who is he that bounds with joy
On Carrock’s side, a Shepherd-boy?
No thoughts hath he but thoughts that pass
Light as the wind along the grass.
Can this be He who hither came
In secret, like a smothered flame?
O’er whom such thankful tears were shed
For shelter, and a poor man’s bread!
God loves the Child; and God hath willed
That those dear words should be fulfilled,
The Lady’s words, when forced away
The last she to her Babe did say:
“My own, my own, thy fellow-guest
I may not be; but rest thee, rest,
For lowly shepherd’s life is best!”
“Alas! when evil men are strong
No life is good, no pleasure long.
The Boy must part from Mosedale’s groves,
And leave Blencathara’s rugged coves,
And quit the flowers that summer brings
To Glenderamakin’s lofty springs;
Must vanish, and his careless cheer
Be turned to heaviness and fear.
—Give Sir Lancelot Threlkeld praise!
Hear it, good man, old in days!
Thou tree of covert and of rest
For this young Bird that is distrest;
Among thy branches safe he lay,
And he was free to sport and play,
When falcons were abroad for prey.
“A recreant harp, that sings of fear
And heaviness in Clifford’s ear!
I said, when evil men are strong,
No life is good, no pleasure long,
A weak and cowardly untruth!
Our Clifford was a happy Youth,
And thankful through a weary time,
That brought him up to manhood’s prime.
—Again he wanders forth at will,
And tends a flock from hill to hill:
His garb is humble; ne’er was seen
Such garb with such a noble mien;
Among the shepherd-grooms no mate
Hath he, a Child of strength and state!
Yet lacks not friends for simple glee,
Nor yet for higher sympathy.
To his side the fallow-deer
Came and rested without fear;
The eagle, lord of land and sea,
Stooped down to pay him fealty;
And both the undying fish that swim
Through Bowscale-tarn did wait on him;
The pair were servants of his eye
In their immortality;
And glancing, gleaming, dark or bright,
Moved to and fro, for his delight.
He knew the rocks which Angels haunt
Upon the mountains visitant;
He hath kenned them taking wing:
And into caves where Faeries sing
He hath entered; and been told
By Voices how men lived of old.
Among the heavens his eye can see
The face of thing that is to be;
And, if that men report him right,
His tongue could whisper words of might.
—Now another day is come,
Fitter hope, and nobler doom;
He hath thrown aside his crook,
And hath buried deep his book;
Armour rusting in his halls
On the blood of Clifford calls,—
‘Quell the Scot,’ exclaims the Lance—
Bear me to the heart of France,
Is the longing of the Shield—
Tell thy name, thou trembling field;
Field of death, where’er thou be,
Groan thou with our victory!
Happy day, and mighty hour,
When our Shepherd, in his power,
Mailed and horsed, with lance and sword,
To his ancestors restored
Like a re-appearing Star,
Like a glory from afar
First shall head the flock of war!”
Alas! the impassioned minstrel did not know
How, by Heaven’s grace, this Clifford’s heart was framed:
How he, long forced in humble walks to go,
Was softened into feeling, soothed, and tamed.
Love had he found in huts where poor men lie;
His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.
In him the savage virtue of the Race,
Revenge and all ferocious thoughts were dead:
Nor did he change; but kept in lofty place
The wisdom which adversity had bred.
Glad were the vales, and every cottage-hearth;
The Shepherd-lord was honoured more and more;
And, ages after he was laid in earth,
“The good Lord Clifford” was the name he bore.
1 thought on “Poetry Corner: William Wordsworth on "the Shepherd Lord"”
I really like the sound of the Shepherd Lord!
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