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To slacken in his duty; and, at length,
He in the dissolute city gave himself
To evil courses : ignominy and shame
Fell on him, so that he was driven at last
To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.



There is a comfort in the strength of love;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain, or break the heart:
I have conversed with more than one who well
Remember the old man, and what he was
Years after he had heard this heavy news.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength.

Among the rocks
He went, and still looked up to sun and cloud,
And listened to the wind; and, as before,
Performed all kinds of labor for his sheep,
And for the land, his small inheritance.
And to that hollow dell from time to time
Did he repair, to build the fold of which
His flock had need. 'Tis not forgotten yet
The pity which was then in every heart
For the old man - and 'tis believed by all
That many, and many a day he thither went,
And never lifted up a single stone.




There, by the sheepfold, sometimes was he seen
Sitting alone, or with his faithful dog,
Then old, beside him, lying at his feet.
The length of full seven years, from time to time,
He at the building of this sheepfold wrought,
And left the work unfinished when he died.
Three years, or little more, did Isabel


Survive her husband : at her death the estate
Was sold, and went into a stranger's hand.
The cottage which was named the EVENING STAR
Is gone - the plowshare has been through the ground
On which it stood: great changes have been wrought
In all the neighborhood :— yet the oak is left
That grew beside their door; and the remains
Of the unfinished sheepfold may be seen
Beside the boisterous brook of Green-head Ghyll.




1. Read the entire poem. Of what kind of life and people does it treat ? Why would such a subject seldom be considered fit material for poetry?

2. Give briefly the structure, or plan, of the poem. Is the language very difficult to understand? Are the thoughts of Michael expressed in such language as a shepherd would ordinarily use ? Are there many figures of speech ? Select and explain those you like best.

3. Make a list of the human feelings which are the basis of the poem? Refer to lines or passages which express or suggest these feelings. Why are such feelings usually strongest in people who live simply and humbly? What feelings common to higher life are not introduced into the poem ?

4. Does this poem appeal most strongly to the intellect, the imagination, or the feelings? In what respects does it differ from Bryant's “ Sella”?

II. SPECIAL EXERCISES 2. tumultuous. A “Ghyll” (from “ gill ”) is a deep narrow valley, through which a rushing brook flows. 3. Is “upright path” to be taken literally? 5. Explain “front you.” 7. What is the scene? 11. kites. 15. What is the significance of mentioning only “one” object ? 18. appertains. 21. Compare the following lines from Wordsworth's “Hart-Lear Well”

36. 66


“ 'Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,

To pipe a simple song for thinking hearts.” 24. verily. 28–33. Much of Wordsworth's poetry is an attempt to express. this incomprehensible influence of Nature. Who is the American poet of Nature? 32. random.

Grasmere," a village near a beautiful lake of the same name in the northwestern part of England. Wordsworth lived here for eight years, and it is the place of his burial. 41. frugal, apt. 45. What is the force of the word “tone"? 47. Explain “subterraneous music.” 48. bagpipers. Where are these “ Highland hills ”? 50. Bethought him.

55. What is the common name for such “inists? 58. grossly, errs. 72. What is the meaning of “blind love ” in this connection ? 75. matron. 84. telling.

88. “inestimable” – why? 95. cleanly. 96. What is a “mess of pottage”? 102. card.

107. uncouth. 108. What is the force of the word “overbrowed”? 111. utensil. 114. Explain the figure in this line. 124. Discuss the fitness of the comparison. 126. symbol. 129. prospect. 130. DunmailRaise (dūn'-māl rāz), a pass, 780 feet above the sea-level, near Gras

135. What is the special significance, or fitness, of this name? 141. “ blindly” refer to line 72. 145. What are these “stirrings of inquietude"? What is the antecedent of “they”? 152. enforced.

157. albeit. 161. Note the mention of a “single” tree; what other “single” objects have been mentioned ? 163. covert. 164. rustic dialect.

175. What is the advance here in the narration ? 176. coppice. 177. sapling. 179. requisites. 183. What was “his office”? What is the force of “prematurely”? 184. divine. 187. Explain "hire of praise.”

197. “emanations” – to what part of the boy's nature does this word refer? 198. Interpret the line.

207. surety. 211. Explain “discharge the forfeiture.” 213. “half his substance” means what here? 219. sole, resource. 220. patrimonial. 232. To whom is he referring ?

240. What is the relation of this line to the rest of the poem? 255. A “parish boy” was a lad kept by public charity. 256. gathering. 272. Explain the full meaning of this line..

Compare and comment on lines 274, 280, 289. 295. jocund.

301. ensuing. 320. What is a “sheepfold”? 321. “ his melancholy loss” refers to what?,


359. What “gift” has he in mind ? 366. What is meant by “the family mold”? 370. How had the fields been “burthened "? 386. hale. 397. Could any bonds be stronger? 410. covenant.

440. dissolute. 441. ignominy.

462. Why was it thought that at times the old man never lifted up a single stone”?

How is the last part of the poem associated, in thought, with the first part? Is this story chiefly about Nature, human life, or the supernatural ? In regard to its power to interest and impress you, compare this story with “Sella”; with “ Feathertop”; with other stories you have read.


“ The Shepherd's Cottage.” Describe the situation of the cottage, as given in the poemn — imagine, and describe its outside appearance

the arrangement and furnishings of the interior what became of the cottage ?

“ The Pastoral Life.” Tell briefly where Michael lived — what he did to procure “honorable gain,” his incidental labors, Luke's assistance — Isabel's duties — intimate association with Nature — not much variety, intense interest in seemingly simple affairs - compare with city life.

“ The Character of Michael.” Select all passages in the poem which express or imply different traits of Michael's character, and use them as the basis for a well-connected essay.

“ The Blessings and Tribulations of Fatherhood.” Why Michael was so fond of Luke — his feelings as the boy grew up - his thoughts and feelings when it was decided that Luke should leave home minor troubles — the great sorrow of the old man's life.

“Bits of Homely Narrative in the Poem.” The general character of the narration — special examples — why it does not seem commonplace.

“ Communion with Nature.” With Michael as a special example, write an essay to illustrate the truth of the opening lines of Bryant's “ Thanatopsis ”':

“ To him who in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language: for his gayer hours


She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty; and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away

Their sharpness, ere he is aware.”
Blighted Hope.” The power of hope in the human heart -
Michael's hope for a contented old age, and his pride in Luke — how
these hopes were blotted out — the effect on his life.

“ Building the Sheepfold.” The preparation -- the covenantwhy the sheepfold was never finished.

“ The Character of Isabel.” Mention the peculiar traits of the shepherd's wife, such as her devotion to her housework, her curiosity, her faith in Luke, her simple pride in his letters, etc. show how she was the opposite of Michael.

Leaving Home.” The cause — the importance of this step in this case — the results — general remark in conclusion.

“ The Mystery of Misfortune.” Michael's first disappointment its effect on him the second misfortune — discussion of the mystery of such misfortunes.

Yielding to Temptation.” Write an imagined account of how Luke was tempted, yielded, and suffered in his disgrace.

“A Comparison of Sella and Michael.”



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