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From The Prelude

    From The Prelude to the Lyrical Ballads

    William Wordsworth

    As the black storm upon the mountain top

    Sets off the sunbeam in the valley, so

    That huge fermenting mass of humankind

    Serves as a solemn background, or relief,

    To single forms and objects, whence they draw,

    For feeling and contemplative regard,

    More than inherent liveliness and power.

    How oft, amid those overflowing streets,

    Have I gone forward with the crowd, and said

    Unto myself, `The face of every one

    That passes by me is a mystery!'

    Thus have I looked, nor ceased to look, oppressed

    By thoughts of what and whither, when and how,

    Until the shapes before my eyes became

    A second-sight procession, such as glides

    Over still mountains, or appears in dreams;

    And once, far-travelled in such mood, beyond

    The reach of common indication, lost

    Amid the moving pageant, I was smitten

    Abruptly, with the view (a sight not rare)

    Of a blind Beggar, who, with upright face,

    Stood, propped against a wall, upon his chest

    Wearing a written paper, to explain

    His story, whence he came, and who he was.

    Caught by the spectacle my mind turned round

    As with the might of waters; an apt type

    This label seemed of the utmost we can know,

    Both of ourselves and of the universe;

    And, on the shape of that unmoving man,

    His fixed face and sightless eyes, I looked,

    As if admonished from another world.

    This poem is one of many published by the EServer at CMU, a nonprofit collective at Carnegie Mellon University.