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Stepping Westward, By William Wordsworth

June 28, 1998

While my Fellow-traveller and I were walking by the side of Loch Ketterine, one fine evening after sun-set, in our road to a Hut where in the course of our Tour we had been hospitably entertained some weeks before, we met, in one of the loneliest parts of that solitary region, two well-dressed Women, one of whom said to us, by way of greeting, 'What you are stepping westward?'

'What you are stepping westward?'--'Yea.'

--'Twould be a wildish destiny,

If we, who thus together roam

In a strange Land, and far from home,

Were in this place the guests of Chance:

Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,

Though home or shelter he had none,

With such a Sky to lead him on?

The dewy ground was dark and cold;

Behind, all gloomy to behold;

And stepping westward seemed to be

A kind of heavenly destiny;

I liked the greeting; 'twas a sound

Of something without place or bound;

And seemed to give me spiritual right

To travel through that region bright.

The voice was soft, and she who spake

Was walking by her native Lake:

The salutation had to me

The very sound of courtesy:

Its power was felt; and while my eye

Was fixed upon the glowing sky,

The echo of the voice enwrought

A human sweetness with the thought

Of travelling through the world that lay

Before me in my endless way.

From "William Wordsworth: Selected Poetry," edited by Nicholas Roe (Penguin: 312 pp., $8)

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