Old Man Travelling: Animal Tranquility and Decay, a Sketch by William Wordsworth
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
In the Oxford Book of English Verse, edited by Christopher Ricks, there are 9 William Wordsworth poems. Old Man Travelling, animal tranquility and decay was selected twice.
Like many of Wordsworth's best poems, this one power is so subtle it is easy to miss it. However, it is poetry and art par excellence.
Since the poem is so short I do not wish to spoil the exhilarating emotional revelation that occurs in a renewed investigation into this poem, so I will merely say that the experience this poem will give you will make you a better person. (Please note that I do not say "may" make you a better person.)
Old Man Travelling: Animal Tranquility and Decay,
By William Wordsworth
The little hedge-row birds,
That peck along the road, regard him not.
He travels on, and in his face, his step,
His gait, is one expression; every limb,
His look and bending figure, all bespeak
A man who does not move with pain, but moves
With thought—He is insensibly subdued
To settled quiet: he is one by whom
All effort seems forgotten, one to whom
Long patience has such mild composure given,
That patience now doth seem a thing, of which
He hath no need. He is by nature led
To peace so perfect, that the young behold
With envy, what the old man hardly feels.
—I asked him whither he was bound, and what
The object of his journey; he replied
“Sir! I am going many miles to take
“A last leave of my son, a mariner,
“Who from a sea-fight has been brought to
“And there is dying in an hospital.”