Lyrical Ballads, with other poems, by William Wordsworth

The Last of the Flock

In distant countries I have 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 high-way, I met;

Along the broad high-way he came,

His cheeks with tears were wet.

Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;

And in his arms a lamb he had.

He saw me, and he turned aside,

As if he wished himself to hide:

Then with his coat he made essay

To wipe those briny tears away.

I follow’d 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.”

When I was young, a single man,

And after youthful follies ran.

Though little given to care and thought,

Yet, so it was, a 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 increas’d my store.

Year after year my stock it grew,

And from this one, this single ewe,

Full fifty comely sheep I raised,

As sweet a flock as ever grazed!

Upon the mountain did they feed;

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.

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 ask’d relief.

They said I was a wealthy man;

My sheep upon the mountain 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?”

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.

Another still! and still another!

A little lamb, and then its mother!

It was a vein that never stopp’d,

Like blood-drops from my heart they dropp’d.

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:

They dwindled one by one away;

For me it was a woeful day.

To wicked deeds I was inclined,

And wicked fancies cross’d my mind,

And every man I chanc’d 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.

Oft-times I thought to run away;

For me it was a woeful day.

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.

They dwindled. Sir, sad sight to see!

From ten to five, from five to three,

A lamb, a weather, 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.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wordsworth/william/lyrical/poem5.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30