Alice Fell; or, Poverty. William Wordsworth – 1802.


Play an audio version of this poem.

The Post-boy drove with fierce career,
For threatening clouds the moon had drowned;
When suddenly I seemed to hear
A moan, a lamentable sound.

As if the wind blew many ways
I heard the sound, and more and more:
It seemed to follow with the Chaise,
And still I heard it as before.

At length I to the Boy called out;
He stopped his horses at the word;
But neither cry, nor voice, nor shout,
Nor aught else like it could be heard.

The Boy then smacked his whip, and fast
The horses scampered through the rain;
And soon I heard upon the blast
The voice, and bade him halt again.

Said I, alighting on the ground,
"What can it be, this piteous moan?"
And there a little Girl I found,
Sitting behind the Chaise, alone.

"My Cloak!" the word was last and first,
And loud and bitterly she wept,
As if her very heart would burst;
And down from off her seat she leapt.

"What ails you, Child?" she sobb'd, "Look here!"
I saw it in the wheel entangled,
A weather-beaten Rag as e'er
From any garden scare-crow dangled.

'Twas twisted betwixt nave and spoke;
Her help she lent, and with good heed
Together we released the Cloak;
A wretched, wretched rag indeed!

"And whither are you going, Child,
To night along these lonesome ways?"
"To Durham" answered she half wild,
"Then come with me into the chaise."

She sate like one past all relief;
Sob after sob she forth did send
In wretchedness, as if her grief
Could never, never, have an end.

"My Child, in Durham do you dwell?"
She check'd herself in her distress,
And said, "My name is Alice Fell;
I'm fatherless and motherless.

And I to Durham, Sir, belong."
And then, as if the thought would choke
Her very heart, her grief grew strong;
And all was for her tattered Cloak!

The chaise drove on; our journey's end
Was nigh; and, sitting by my side,
As if she'd lost her only friend
She wept, nor would be pacified.

Up to the Tavern-door we post;
Of Alice and her grief I told;
And I gave money to the Host,
To buy a new Cloak for the old.

"And let it be of duffil grey,
As warm a cloak as man can sell!"
Proud Creature was she the next day,
The little Orphan, Alice Fell!

Poet's Corner

Like so many, my first contact with poetry was at school. In my teens I tried my hand at poetry and found that I rather enjoyed it. As a musician, poetry enabled me to write songs - really cool to be a teenager and strumming out your own songs (badly in my case) on the guitar. I decided to build this site alongside a corresponding YouTube channel (Poets' Corner) and include both a narrated version of each poem along with the printed version. Having always loved (and many times visited) The Lake District in northwest England it seemed only right to start with Wiliam Wordsworth and, once I've created a significant body of his work, I'll start working on other poets.

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