Manuscript of The Waggoner by Wordsworth

Description

This hand-bound manuscript of William Wordsworth’s poem The Waggoner was written out by Sara Hutchinson, with corrections, additions and deletions in the poet’s hand.

When was it first composed?

Under a ‘lively impulse of feeling’ in the first fortnight of 1806, Wordsworth notes at the front; it was finished by 29 March 1806, though the revisions continued up until its eventual publication in 1819.

Who is it dedicated to?

In a letter published with the poem, Wordsworth dedicates it to the writer Charles Lamb, explaining that the manuscript had been read to Lamb in 1806, and he had subsequently asked what had become of it.

What sort of poem is it?

The Waggoner tells a playful story about misbehaving animals, drunkenness and a trip, via a pub, across parts of the Lake District; it is light verse, perhaps in response to a stressful moment in the poet’s life. It is very clearly not The Recluse, the major philosophical poetic project on which Wordsworth felt he should have been making more progress. He himself called The Waggoner ‘purely fanciful’, while the editor Henry Crabb Robinson compared it to the folk-ballad feel of Robert Burns’s narrative poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’ (1791).

Who is the Waggoner of the title?

This character, also called ‘Benjamin’ in the poem, seems to be a reasonably faithful description of a man called Jackson, who was the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s one-time landlord: ‘a lover of learning’ who had assembled himself a ‘respectable’ library purely through savings from his low-paid waggoning work.

                                                                                          1
                                                                                          1
This Poem was at first wri[tten] thrown
off from ^ under a lively impulse of feeling,
in ^ during the first fortnight of the month
of Jan[uary] 1806 and has since
at several times been carefully revised
and with the Authors best efforts, ^ reluctantly improved

                               W Wordsworth

                                             Benjamin the Waggoner &c

                   
                                                                                            B

- And the silence makes it sweet
Hush! there is some One on the stir!
- Tis Benjamin the Waggoner.
Who long hath trod this mountain ^ toilsome way
Companion of the night or day.
That far-off tinkling’s drowsy cheer,
Mix’d with a faint yet grating sound
In a moment lost and found,
The Wain announces by whose side
Along the banks of Rydale Mere
He paces on, a trusty Guide;
Listen! you can hardly hear.
- Hither he [h]is course is bending
Now he leaves the lower ground                    his
And up the craggy hill ascending
Many a stop and stay he makes
Many a breathing fit he takes.
Steep the way and wearisome,
Yet all the while [h]is whip is dumb

The Horses &c


                                                                                        3
                                                                                        2

                                      [blank page]

. This is the Beginning .
‘Tis spent - this burning day of June!
Its very Twilight is gone out
The Night-hawk is singing his frog like tune
While restlessly he wheels about
That solitary Bird &c.
Is all that &c
[‘Tis short - this burning day of June

Spent is this ^ this loitering day
It[s] lingering ^ very sunlight is gone out
As restlessly he wheals about
That solitary bird
Is all that can be heard]
[all the above stanza is crossed-out]

[in pencil follows:]
That never resting [bird]

The Cottage
And the little

[The little glow-worms] nothing dread
X Rich prize as their bright lamps would be
* Forth they come in company
And shine in quietness secure
On the mossy bank by the cottage door.
A[s] safe as on the loneliest moor
In the sky &c.

                                                                                                          5
                                                                                                          3
from last version [?]
‘Tis spent, - this burning day of June
Its very twilight is gone ^ last remain are going out
The Night-hawk is singing his frog like tune
As restlessly he wheels about
That solitary Bird
Is all that can be heard
[all the above stanza is crossed-out with a single large X]

Benjamin the Waggoner &c
             Canto 1st
‘Tis spent &c see opposite page 1
          At last this loitering day of June
          This long long day is going out,
          The Night-hawk is singing his frog-like tune
          Twirling his Watchman’s rattle about
          That ever busy ^ never-resting Bird
          [the above stanza is crossed-out with a single large X]

Is all that can be heard
In silence deeper far, than that of deepest noon.

Now that the Children are abed
The little Glow-worms nothing dread ^ dread
X Pretty playthings as they would be ^ Rich prize as their bright lamps would be
* Forth they come in company
And lift the fearless head.
In the sky and on the hill
Every thing is hushed and still
The clouds shew here and there a spot
Of a star that twinkles not
The air is like a Lion’s den
Close and hot, and now and then 20
Comes a tired and sultry breeze



x      Who long hath trod this mountain way
        Companion of the night or day
        That far off tinkling’s drowsy chear
        That tinkling dull that grating sound
        That indistinct yet grating sound ^ Mix’d with a faint yet grating sound
        In a moment lost & found
        That far off tinkling’s drowsy chear
        The Wain announces by whose side
        Along the Banks of Rydale Mere
        He paces on a trusty Guide
                  Listen! - you can hardly hear

         [Hush - there is some one on the stir!
         ‘Tis Benjamin the Waggoner.
x        That indistinct ^ yet fretful sound
          In a moment lost and found
          The Wain announces by whose side
          Along the banks of Rydal Mere
          He paces on a trusty Guide
          Along the banks of Rydale Mere
                    Listen. You can hardly hear!
                               banks]
  [all the above stanza is crossed-out]

  [Taken [from] the note of Rydale Mere
             Hither he his course is bending
             Now he leaves the gre[e]ner ground
             And up the craggy hill &c
             Hither they ^ they that He [h]is Course is bending
             Now they leave ^ he leave the lower ground
             And up the craggy ascent]
  [all the above stanza is crossed-out]

             Hither he [h]is course is bending
             Now he leaves the lower ground
             And up the craggy hill ascending


                                                                                                                              7
                                                                                                                              4
                    With a haunting, and a panting
                    Like the stifling of disease
                    The mountains are ^ seem of wondrous height
                    And in the heavens there is a weight
                    But the dews allay the heat
                    And the silence makes it sweet
                                                              Turn back to 1st leaf in this book, mark’d B

                    Hush ^ Hush there is some one on the stir
1st               ‘Tis Benjamin the Waggoner
2nd              The dark night’s Fellow traveller
                    Long back he trod this x mountain way x
                    From the side of Rydale mere
                    Hither he his course is bending
                    With a faint and fretful sound
           [a line here has been erased, replaced by two:]
                    ^ In a moment lost and found
                    ^ Listen – you can hardly hear
                    Now he leaves the lower ground
                    And up the craggy hill ascending
                    Many a stop and stay he makes
                    Many a breathing fit he takes
                    Steep the way and wearisome
                    Yet all the while his whip is dumb

                    The Horses have worked with right good will
                    And now are up at the top of the hill
                    He was patient they were strong
                    And now they smoothly glide along
                    Gathering breath and pleased to win
                    The praises of good Benjamin
                    Heaven shield him and from ill defend
                    For he is their Father and their Friend


x Why need our traveller then, (though frail
Then why need Benjamin (though frail
His best resolves) be on his guard

                                                                                                           9
                                                                                                           5
              From all mishap and every snare!
              But why so early with this prayer?
              Is it for threatenings in the sky
              Or for some other danger nigh
              No, none is near him yet, though he
              Be one of much infirmity
              For at the bottom of the Brow                          60
              Where once the Dove and Olive-bough
              Offered a greeting of good Ale
              To all who entered Grasmere Vale
              And tempted him who must depart
              To leave it with a jovial heart
              There where the Dove and Olive-bough
              Once hung, a Poet harbours now
              A simple water-drinking Bard
X            Then why need Ben ^ Why need our Traveller then (Though frail His best resolves) be on his guard?
              He marches by secure and bold
              Yet thinking on the times of old
              It seems that all looks wond’rous cold
              He shrugs his shoulders shakes his head
              And for the honest Folks within
              It is a doubt with Benjamin
              Whether they be alive or dead

                         No danger’s here, no none at all
              Beyond his wish is xxx ^ He secure
              But pass a mile and then for trial 80
              There for the pride of self-denial
          he If then ^ he resist that tempting door

[in pencil, overwritten in ink as below]
If they ^ he resist those casement panes
And that bright gleam which thence will fall
Upon his Leader’s bells and manes
Inviting him with chearful lure.
For still though all be dark elsewhere
bridle &c

[ink, overwriting pencil]
  * If he resist those casement panes
  * And that bright gleam which thence will fall
     Upon his Leader’s bells and manes
     Inviting him with chearful lure.
     For still, ^ bright though all be dark elsewhere
     Some shining notice will be there
     Of wakeful House and ready fare.
               The Place &c

               ^ still
                          _____
    Some luring notice will be there;
    Of wakeful house and ready fare.



“Then

                                                                                                           11
                                                                                                            6
Which with such friendly voice will call
Look at thee with so bright a lure
For surely if no other where
Candle or Lamp is burning there
.

           The place to Benjamin full well
Is known and for as strong a spell
As used to be that Sign of love
And hope the Olive-bough and Dove
He knows it to his cost, good Man!
Who does not know the famous Swan?
Uncouth although the object be
An image of perplexity
But what of that ^ Yet not the less it is our boast
For it was painted by the Host                                                      100
His own conceit the figure plann’d
‘Twas coloured all by his own hand
And Ben with self-dissatisfaction
Could tell long tales of its attraction.

Well! that is past, and in despite
Of open door and shining light
And now good Benjamin essays
The long ascent of Dunmal-raise
And with his Team is gentle here
As when he clomb from Rydale-Mere
His whip they do not dread: his voice
They only hear it to rejoice
Their efforts and their time they measure

X                Will work for nobody but me
                  Let Simon flog and Arthur curse
                  He knows they only make bad worse.
                  Good proof of this the country gain’d
                  One day when ye were vex’d and strained
                  Entrusted then to others care
                  And forc’d unworthy stripes to bear.
                  Here was it, on this rugged spot
                  Which now contented with our lot
                  We climb, that piteously abused                                40
                  Ye plung’d in anger & confused.
                  As chance would have it, passing by,
                  I saw you in your jeopardy;
                  A word from me was like a charm
                  The ranks were taken with one mind
                  And your huge burthen safe from harm
                  Moved like a vessel in the wind.
                - Yes, without me up hills so high
                  ‘Tis vain to strive for mastery
                  Let Simon flog and Arthur curse, ^ they only make
                  He knows, they only make bad worse
                  That ^ Yes without me up hills so high
                  ‘Tis vain to strive for mastery
                  Let force and flattery both be tried
                  This Monster at our heels must lie
                  Midway upon the huge ^ bleak the steep the bleak fell - side
                  As dead &c.
                  Midway upon the bleak fel Fell-side
                  As dead as Bowder-Stone; - to stir
                  - No more till Ben be Waggoner
                            grieve not &c




                                                                                                        13
                                                                                                         7
                     To stand or go is at their pleasure
                     He knows that each will do his best
                     And while they strain and while they rest
                     He thus pursues his thoughts at leisure

                     Now am I fairly safe tonight
                     And never was my heart more light
                     I’ve been a sinner I avow 120
                     But better times are coming now
                     A sinner, lately worse than ever
                     But God will bless a good endeavour
                     And to my soul’s delight I find
                     the evil One is cast behind
                     Yes, let my Master fume and fret
                     I’m here and with my Horses yet
                     He makes a mightly noise about me ^ When I was gone he felt his luck
                     And yet he cannot do without me ^ And was right glad to have me back
Tea[m]           My jolly Team he finds that ye
                     Will work for nobody but me
X see opp[osite] page
             That without me up hills so high
             ‘Tis vain to strive, for mastery
             This Monster at our heels must lie
[two lines erased, replaced by:]
                   As dead as Bowder-stone, to stir
                   No more till Ben be Waggoner.
                   When I was gone he felt his lack
                   And was right glad to have me back
                   Then grieve not jolly Team! though tough
                   Our road be sometimes steep and rough

Full title:
Fair copy of The Waggoner, written in a notebook by Sara Hutchinson
Created:
1806-19
Format:
Manuscript / Fair copy
Creator:
William Wordsworth
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Ashley MS 4637

Full catalogue details

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