William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was born in northwestern England, the second of five children. He developed a great love of nature living in the beautiful countryside. He was especially close to his sister Dorothy and lived with her through much of his early adult life. He married Mary Hutchinson in 1802 and they were blessed with five children. He was named Poet Laureate of England in 1843, a position he held until the end of his life.

Wordsworth along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge began the period of English Romanticism. The publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798 was the most dramatic event in English literature since John Milton's Paradise Lost. Lyrical Ballads began with Coleridge's haunting tale, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a ballad that may be interpreted either as a story of sin, punishment, repentance, and forgiveness, or, from an Eastern viewpoint, a classic expression of karma. Lyrical Ballads ended with Wordsworth's poem, Lines Written a few miles above Tintern Abbey. Tintern Abbey was decommissioned in 1536 and fell into ruins following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

Wordsworth wrote the Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads in 1800 in which he defined the nature of romantic poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," which "takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity." Coleridge, in Chapter 14 of his 1817 Biographia Literaria, considered the purpose of Lyrical Ballads was to establish two principles of poetry: "the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty to the modifying colors of imagination."

The Virgin is a poem from Part II of Wordsworth's 1822 Ecclesiastical Sonnets and is a tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary, "tainted nature's solitary boast."


Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy Image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in Thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!

William Wordsworth