Michael: A Pastoral Poem, written in 1800, is a one of William Wordsworth's most well-known poems and the subject of much critical literature. It was first published in the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads. It is a pastoral poem that tells the story of the eponymous Michael, an aging shepherd, and his only child Luke.
Michael has lost half his land which he used as surety for a nephew who met with financial misfortune. When Luke reaches the age of 18, Michael sends Luke to stay with a merchant that he might learn a trade and acquire sufficient wealth to regain the land that Michael has lost. It breaks Michael's heart to send Luke away and he makes Luke lay the first stone of a sheepfold as a covenant between them that Luke will return. However, Luke is corrupted in the city and is forced to flee the country and Michael must live out his life without his son. He returns sometimes to the sheepfold but no longer has the heart to complete it.
The epigraph of George Eliot's Silas Marner is taken from the poem.