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,

A Sketch

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

Falmouth,

“And there is dying in an hospital.”