Composed in 1806 by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth indicated in a letter that he had first seen the picture of Peele Castle when staying at the house of the painter, Sir George Beaumont, in London in April of 1806. Sir George Beaumont was a wealthy landowner and an admiring friend of Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; he also had a fair reputation in his day as a landscape painter. The Peele Castle is on the coast of Lancashire, near the village of Rampside where Wordsworth had spent a month his time visiting a cousin in 1796.

I was thy neighbour once, thou rugged Pile!
Four summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee:
I saw thee every day; and all the while
Thy Form was sleeping on a glassy sea.

So pure the sky, so quiet was the air!
So like, so very like, was day to day!
Whene'er I looked, thy Image still was there;
It trembled, but it never passed away.

How perfect was the calm! it seemed no sleep;
No mood, which season takes away, or brings:
I could have fancied that the mighty Deep
Was even the gentlest of all gentle things.

Ah! then, if mine had been the Painter's hand,
To express what then I saw; and add the gleam,
The light that never was, on sea or land,
The consecration, and the Poet's dream;

I would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile
Amid a world how different from this!
Beside a sea that could not cease to smile;
On tranquil land, beneath a sky of bliss.

Thou shouldst have seemed a treasure-house divine
Of peaceful years; a chronicle of heaven;--
Of all the sunbeams that did ever shine
The very sweetest had to thee been given.

A Picture had it been of lasting ease,
Elysian quiet, without toil or strife;
No motion but the moving tide, a breeze,
Or merely silent Nature's breathing life.

Such, in the fond illusion of my heart,
Such Picture would I at that time have made:
And seen the soul of truth in every part,
A steadfast peace that might not be betrayed.

So once it would have been,--'tis so no more;
I have submitted to a new control:
A power is gone, which nothing can restore;
A deep distress hath humanised my Soul.

Not for a moment could I now behold
A smiling sea, and be what I have been:
The feeling of my loss will ne'er be old;
This, which I know, I speak with mind serene.

Then, Beaumont, Friend! who would have been the Friend,
If he had lived, of Him whom I deplore,
This work of thine I blame not, but commend;
This sea in anger, and that dismal shore.

O 'tis a passionate Work!--yet wise and well,
Well chosen is the spirit that is here;
That Hulk which labours in the deadly swell,
This rueful sky, this pageantry of fear!

And this huge Castle, standing here sublime,
I love to see the look with which it braves,
Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time,
The lightning, the fierce wind, the trampling waves.

Farewell, farewell the heart that lives alone,
Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind!
Such happiness, wherever it be known,
Is to be pitied; for 'tis surely blind.

But welcome fortitude, and patient cheer,
And frequent sights of what is to be borne!
Such sights, or worse, as are before me here.--
Not without hope we suffer and we mourn.

As a romantic poet, William Wordsworth employs many images of nature in his work. In his “Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm,” Wordsworth proves the ability to take several subjects that often appear in romantic poetry and create a fantastic poem about memory and loss. Wordsworth utilizes three nature related subjects— the wind, the sea, and the sun—in “Elegiac Stanzas,” and these topics also show up in other great works by the poet with similar descriptions that reveal Wordsworth’s personal emotions connected with them.

Wordsworth’s depiction of the sun in “Elegiac Stanzas” reveals that the poet believes a connection exists between light and happiness.

Thou shouldst have seem’d a treasure-house, a mine
Of peaceful years; a chronicle of heaven: --
Of all the sunbeams that ever did shine
The very sweetest had to thee been given.

The narrator wishes that the painter of Peele Castle would have given the scene a brighter and more peaceful setting, rather than a dismally dark and stormy one. Wordsworth demonstrates through this image his fondness for the light of the sun. He spent a month living by the castle and noticed how the place attracted “the sweetest” sunbeams. He wishes that Beaumont would have depicted this in his painting instead of the stormy darkness. This sweet light also appears in “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” and “The Wanderer.” In “Westminster Bridge,” Wordsworth writes that “Never did the sun more beautifully steep/ In his first splendor valley, rock, or hill,” when describing the morning light in the city. Here also, the narrator looks at the light as a wonderfully happy part of nature. In “The Wanderer” Wordsworth writes that the wise man “beheld the sun/ Rise up, and bathe the world in light!” Within both of these pieces as well as in “Elegiac Stanzas,” the sunlight gives a peaceful and joyous impression to both the narrator and the reader. The writer seeks to establish a warm, gentle ambiance in “Elegiac Stanzas” along with other poems also, and he does so exceptionally well.

The wind in Wordsworth’s depictions of nature tend to evince a chilly and/or frightening setting, and in “Elegiac Stanzas” the rough wind appears harsh and hurtful to the narrator.

And this huge Castle, standing here sublime,
I love to see the look with which it braves,
Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time,
The lightening, the fierce wind, and trampling waves.

In this passage the wind blows fierce. The painter’s menacing wind disturbs the narrator because he does not remember Peele Castle that way. Similar depictions of the wind appear in “Lucy Gray” and in “Surprised by Joy—Impatient as the Wind.” The ghost of Lucy Gray sings in the final stanza, “a solitary song/ That whistles in the wind,” which evokes a ghostly image to the reader. In “Surprised by Joy,” the first line says the narrator is “impatient as the Wind,” beginning an Italian sonnet about loss and grieving. Wordsworth’s personal feelings concerning wind prove unpleasing, because the wind in his work tends to blow as a harsh and scary gale. “Elegiac Stanzas” contains this type of imagery as well as other pieces by Wordsworth.

The sea often tends to be depicted as an animal in works by Wordsworth, and shows up in “Elegiac Stanzas” this way as well.

How perfect was the calm! it seem’d no sleep;
No mood, which season takes away, or brings:
I could have fancied that the mighty Deep
Was even the gentlest of all gentle Things.

In this stanza the sea is a gentle thing, implying that it has some knowing capability to be soft or cruel. Also in later stanzas the sea is described as something “that could not cease to smile,” and that its waves in Beaumont’s painting are “trampling.” These descriptions personify the sea; it can smile as if it has a mouth, and can trample as though it had legs. These creature-like sea images also show up in Wordsworth’s “It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free,” and in “The Solitary Reaper.” In “Beauteous Evening,” the sea is described as a “mighty Being” and his movement makes “A sound like thunder.” In “Solitary Reaper,” the Cuckoo-bird is said to break“the silence of the seas,” personifying the sea by implicating that it could speak. Wordsworth breathes life into the sea imagery, turning the water into a living creature in “Elegiac Stanzas.” The sea expresses anger and tranquillity to create a great romantic image that has appeared similarly in other pieces by Wordsworth as well.

The subjects of sun, wind, and the sea appear often in Wordsworth’s poetry, and all three nature related images are found in “Elegiac Stanzas.” The subjects tend to evoke similar ideas in each poem they appear in, demonstrating that Wordsworth has definite personal feelings about those images and what they mean to him. The sun is a source of happiness, the wind a source of fear, and the sea is a mystifying creature that seems to have a life of its own. By writing about these images so powerfully, Wordsworth is able to use these subjects numerous times without wearing them out, and proves this with the beauty of “Elegiac Stanzas,” written near the end of his great period.

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