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WORDSWORTH

| the presence of an alien element in Words

; worth's work, which never coalesced with Some English critics at the beginning what is really delightful in it, nor underof the present century had a great deal went his special power. Who that values to say concerning a distinction of much his writings most has not felt the intruimportance, as they thought, in the true sion there, from time to time, of someestimate of poetry, between the Fancy, thing tedious and prosaic? Of all poets and another more powerful faculty—the equally great, he would gain most by loo Imagination. This metaphysical distinc-i a skilfully made anthology. Such a selection, borrowed originally from the writ tion would show, in truth, not so much ings of German philosophers, and perhaps what he was, or to himself or others not always clearly apprehended by (10 seemed to be, as what, by the more enerthose who talked of it, involved a far i getic and fertile quality in his writings, deeper and more vital distinction, with he was ever tending to become. And the which indeed all true criticism more or mixture in his work, as it actually stands, less directly has to do, the distinction, is so perplexed, that one fears to miss the namely, between higher and lower de least promising composition even, lest grees of intensity in the poet's perception some precious morsel should be lying (70 of his subject, and in his concentration of hidden within—the few perfect lines, himself upon his work. Of those who the phrase, the single word perhaps, to dwelt upon the metaphysical distinc- which he often works up mechanically tion between the Fancy and the Im- (20 through a poem, almost the whole of agination, it was Wordsworth who made which may be tame enough. He who the most of it, assuming it as the basis thought that in all creative work the for the final classification of his poetical 1 larger part was given passively, to the writings; and it is in these writings that recipient mind, who waited so dutifully the deeper and more vital distinction, upon the gift, to whom so large a measwhich, as I have said, underlies the meta- ure was sometimes given, had his (80 physical distinction, is most needed, and times also of desertion and relapse; and may best be illustrated.

he has permitted the impress of these For nowhere is there so perplexed a too to remain in his work. And this mixture as in Wordsworth's own poe- [30 duality there the fitfulness with which try, of work touched with intense and the higher qualities manifest themselves individual power, with work of almost in it, gives the effect in his poetry of a no character at all. He has much con- | power not altogether his own, or under his ventional sentiment, and some of that control, which comes and goes when it insincere poetic diction, against which will, lifting or lowering a matter, poor in his most serious critical efforts were itself; so that that old fancy which (90 directed: the reaction in his political made the poet's art an enthusiasm, a ideas, consequent on the excesses of 1795, form of divine possession, seems almost makes him, at times, a mere declaimer literally true of him. on moral and social topics; and he [40 1 This constant suggestion of an absolute seems, sometimes, to force an unwilling duality between higher and lower moods, pen, and write by rule. By making the and the work done in them, stimulating most of these blemishes it is possible to one always to look below the surface, obscure the true ästhetic value of his makes the reading of Wordsworth an work, just as his life also, a life of much excellent sort of training towards the quiet delicacy and independence, might things of art and poetry. It begets in (100 easily be placed in a false focus, and made those, who, coming across him in youth, to appear a somewhat tame theme in can bear him at all, a habit of reading illustration of the more obvious parochial between the lines, a faith in the effect of virtues. And those who wish to under- 150 concentration and collectedness of mind stand his influence, and experience his in the right appreciation of poetry, an peculiar savor, must bear with patience expectation of things, in this order, com

ing to one by means of a right discipline human mind, its growth might be (160 of the temper as well as of the intellect. į traced from Rousseau to Chateaubriand, He meets us with the promise that he has from Chateaubriand to Victor Hugo: it much, and something very peculiar, (110 has doubtless some latent connection with to give us, if we will follow a certain those pantheistic theories which locate difficult way, and seems to have the secret an intelligent soul in material things, of a special and privileged state of mind. and have largely exercised men's minds And those who have undergone his in in some modern systems of philosophy: fluence, and followed this difficult way, it is traceable even in the graver writare like people who have passed through ings of historians: it makes as much difsome initiation, a disciplina arcani, by ference between ancient and modern (170 submitting to which they become able landscape art, as there is between the constantly to distinguish in art, speech, rough masks of an early mosaic and feeling, manners, that which is organic, (120 a portrait by Reynolds or Gainsborough. animated, expressive, from that which is Of this new sense, the writings of Wordsonly conventional, derivative, inexpressive. | worth are the central and elementary

But although the necessity of selecting expression: he is more simply and enthese precious morsels for oneself is an tirely occupied with it than any other opportunity for the exercise of Words poet, though there are fine expressions worth's peculiar influence, and induces a of precisely the same thing in so different kind of just criticism and true estimate a poet as Shelley. There was in his (180 of it, yet the purely literary product | own character a certain contentment, a would have been more excellent, had the sort of inborn religious placidity, seldom writer himself purged away that alien (130 found united with a sensibility so mobile element. How perfect would have been as his, which was favorable to the quiet, the little treasury, shut between the habitual observation of inanimate, or covers of how thin a book! Let us sup- imperfectly animate, existence. His life pose the desired separation made, the of eighty years is divided by no very proelectric thread untwined, the golden foundly felt incidents: its changes are pieces, great and small, lying apart to almost wholly inward, and it falls into gether. What are the peculiarities of this broad, untroubled, perhaps somewhat (190 residue? What special sense does Words monotonous spaces. What it most reworth exercise, and what instincts does sembles is the life of one of those early he satisfy? What are the subjects (140 Italian or Flemish painters, who, just and the motives which in him excite the because their minds were full of heavenly imaginative faculty? What are the quali- visions, passed, some of them, the better ties in things and persons which he values, part of sixty years in quiet, systematic the impression and sense of which he can industry. This placid life matured a convey to others, in an extraordinary way? quite unusual sensibility, really innate

in him, to the sights and sounds of the An intimate consciousness of the ex natural world—the flower and its (200 pression of natural things, which weighs, shadow on the stone, the cuckoo and its listens, penetrates, where the earlier echo. The poem of Resolution and Inmind passed roughly by, is a large ele- dependence is a storehouse of such records: ment in the complexion of modern (150 for its fulness of imagery it may be compoetry. It has been remarked as a fact | pared to Keats's Saint Agnes' Eve. To in mental history again and again. It read one of his longer pastoral poems reveals itself in many forms; but is for the first time, is like a day spent in strongest and most attractive in what is a new country: the memory is crowded

gest and most attractive in mod- for a while with its precise and vivid ern literature. It is exemplified, almost incidents, equally, by writers as unlike each other as Senancour and Théophile Gautier: as | “The pliant harebell swinging in the breeze a singular chapter in the history of the / On some gray rock”;

sti

(210

“The single sheep and the one blasted tree | more or less of a moral or spiritual life, And the bleak music from that old stone to be capable of a companionship with wall”;

man, full of expression, of inexplicable “And in the meadows and the lower

affinities and delicacies of intercourse.

An emanation, a particular spirit, begrounds Was all the sweetness of a common

longed, not to the moving leaves or water

only, but to the distant peak of the dawn”;

hills arising suddenly, by some change “And that green corn all day is rustling | of perspective, above the nearer horizon, in thine ears.”

to the passing space of light across the (270

plain, to the lichened Druidic stone even, Clear and delicate at once, as he is for a certain weird fellowship in it with in the outlining of visible imagery, he is the moods of men. It was like a “surmore clear and delicate still, and finely (220 vival," in the peculiar intellectual temscrupulous, in the noting of sounds; so perament of a man of letters at the end that he conceives a noble sound as even of the eighteenth century, of that primimoulding the human countenance to tive condition, which some philosophers nobler types, and as something actually have traced in the general history of “profaned” by color, by visible form, human culture, wherein all outward or image. He has a power likewise objects alike, including even the [280 of realizing, and conveying to the con- works of men's hands, were believed to sciousness of the reader, abstract and ele- | be endowed with animation, and the mentary impressions—silence, darkness, world was “full of souls”—that mood absolute motionlessness: or, again, the (230 in which the old Greek gods were first whole complex sentiment of a particu begotten, and which had many strange lar place, the abstract expression of aftergrowths. desolation in the long white road, of In the early ages, this belief, delightpeacefulness in a particular folding of ful as its effects on poetry often are, was the hills. In the airy building of the but the result of a crude intelligence. But, brain, a special day or hour even, comes in Wordsworth, such power of seeing (290 to have for him a sort of personal iden- life, such perception of a soul, in inanimate tity, a spirit or angel given to it, by things, came of an exceptional susceptiwhich, for its exceptional insight, or the bility to the impressions of eye and ear, happy light upon it, it has a presence in (240 and was, in its essence, a kind of senone's history, and acts there, as a separate suousness. At least, it is only in a tempower or accomplishment; and he has | perament exceptionally susceptible on celebrated in many of his poems the the sensuous side, that this sense of the “efficacious spirit,” which, as he says, expressiveness of outward things comes resides in these “particular spots” of to be so farge a part of life. That time.

he awakened “a sort of thought in (300 It is to such a world, and to a world sense,” is Shelley's just estimate of this of congruous meditation thereon, that we element in Wordsworth's poetry. see him retiring in his but lately published And it was through nature, thus enpoem of The Recluse-taking leave, (250 nobled by a semblance of passion and without much count of costs, of the world | thought, that he approached the specof business, of action and ambition, as tacle of human life. Human life, inalso of all that for the majority of man deed, is for him, at first, only an addikind counts as sensuous enjoyment. tional, accidental grace on an expressive

And so it came about that this sense landscape. When he thought of man, of a life in natural objects, which in most it was of man as in the presence and (310 poetry is but a rhetorical artifice, is under the influence of these effective with Wordsworth the assertion of what natural objects, and linked to them by for him is almost literal fact. To him many associations. The close connection every natural object seemed to possess [260 l of man with natural objects, the habitual association of his thoughts and feelings spot of earth with the great events of life, with a particular spot of earth, has some-| till the low walls, the green mounds, 1370 times seemed to degrade those who are the half-obliterated epitaphs seemed full of subject to its influence, as if it did but | voices, and a sort of natural oracles, the reinforce that physical connection of our | very religion of these people of the dales nature with the actual lime and clay of [320 appeared but as another link between the soil, which is always drawing us nearer them and the earth, and was literally to our end. But for Wordsworth, these a religion of nature. It tranquillized influences tended to the dignity of human them by bringing them under the placid nature, because they tended to tranquil- rule of traditional and narrowly locallize it. By raising nature to the level ized observances. “Grave livers,” they of human thought he gives it power and seemed to him, under this aspect, with (380 expression: he subdues man to the level stately speech, and something of that natof nature, and gives him thereby a ural dignity of manners, which underlies certain breadth and coolness and solem the highest courtesy. nity. The leech-gatherer on the moor, (330 And, seeing man thus as a part of nathe woman “stepping westward,” are ture, elevated and solemnized in proporfor him natural objects, almost in the tion as his daily life and occupations same sense as the aged thorn, or the brought him into companionship with perlichened rock on the heath. In this manent natural objects, his very religion sense the leader of the “Lake School,” forming new links for him with the narrow in spite of an earnest preoccupation with limits of the valley, the low vaults [390 man, his thoughts, his destiny, is the | of his church, the rough stones of his home, poet of nature. And of nature, after made intense for him now with profound all, in its modesty. The English lake sentiment, Wordsworth was able to apcountry has, of course, its grandeurs. (340 preciate passion in the lowly. He chooses But the peculiar function of Words to depict people from humble life, beworth's genius, as carrying in it a power cause, being nearer to nature than others, to open out the soul of apparently little they are on the whole more impasor familiar things, would have found its sioned, certainly more direct in their true test had he become the poet of expression of passion, than other men: it Surrey, say! and the prophet of its life. is for this direct expression of passion, 1400 The glories of Italy and Switzerland, that he values their humble words. In though he did write a little about | much that he said in exaltation of rural them, had too potent a material life of life, he was but pleading indirectly for their own to serve greatly his poetic (350 | that sincerity, that perfect fidelity to purpose.

one's own inward presentations, to the Religious sentiment, consecrating the precise features of the picture within, affections and natural regrets of the without which any profound poetry is human heart, above all, that pitiful awe impossible. It was not for their tameand care for the perishing human clay, ness, but for this passionate sincerity, of which relic-worship is but the corrup that he chose incidents and situations (410 tion, has always had much to do with from common life, “related in a selection localities, with the thoughts which attach of language really used by men." He themselves to actual scenes and places. constantly endeavors to bring his lanNow what is true of it everywhere, is (360 guage near to the real language of men: truest of it in those secluded valleys where to the real language of men, however, one generation after another maintains not on the dead level of their ordinary the same abiding-place; and it was on intercourse, but in select moments of this side, that Wordsworth apprehended | vivid sensation, when this language is religion most strongly. Consisting, as winnowed and ennobled by excitement. it did so much, in the recognition of local There are poets who have chosen rural [420 sanctities, in the habit of connecting life as their subject, for the sake of its the stones and trees of a particular passionless repose, and times when Wordsworth himself extols the mere calm and the stormy seas;" the wild woman teachdispassionate survey of things as the ing her child to pray for her betrayer; highest aim of poetical culture. But it incidents like the making of the shepherd's was not for such passionless calm that staff, or that of the young boy laying 1480 he preferred the scenes of pastoral life; the first stone of the sheepfold;-all the and the meditative poet, sheltering him pathetic episodes of their humble existself, as it might seem, from the agitations ence, their longing, their wonder at forof the outward world, is in reality only (430 tune, their poor pathetic pleasures, like clearing the scene for the great exhibi the pleasures of children, won so hardly tions of emotion, and what he values in the struggle for bare existence; their most is the almost elementary expression yearning towards each other, in their of elementary feelings.

darkened houses, or at their early toil. And so he has much for those who | A sort of biblical depth and solemnity value highly the concentrated present- hangs over this strange, new, pas- 1490 ment of passion, who appraise men and sionate, pastoral world, of which he first women by their susceptibility to it, raised the image, and the reflection of and art and poetry as they afford the which some of our best modern fiction spectacle of it. Breaking from time (440 has caught from him. to time into the pensive spectacle of their daily toil, their occupations near to He pondered much over the philosophy nature, come those great elementary of his poetry, and reading deeply in feelings, lifting and solemnizing their the history of his own mind, seems at language and giving it a natural music. times to have passed the borders of a The great, distinguishing passion came world of strange speculations, inconsistto Michael by the sheepfold, to Ruth ent enough, had he cared to note such 1500 by the wayside, adding these hum inconsistencies, with those traditional ble children of the furrow to the true beliefs, which were otherwise the object aristocracy of passionate souls. In this (450 of his devout acceptance. Thinking of respect, Wordsworth's work resembles the high value he set upon customariness, most that of George Sand, in those of her upon all that is habitual, local, rooted novels which depict country life. With a in the ground, in matters of religious penetrative pathos, which puts him in sentiment, you might sometimes regard the same rank with the masters of the him as one tethered down to a world, resentiment of pity in literature, with fined and peaceful indeed, but with no Meinhold and Victor Hugo, he collects broad outlook, a world protected, but (510 all the traces of vivid excitement which | somewhat narrowed, by the influence of were to be found in that pastoral world- received ideas. But he is at times also

e girl who rung her father's knell; the [460 something very different from this, and unborn infant feeling about its mother's something much bolder. A chance erheart; the instinctive touches of children; pression is overheard and placed in a the sorrows of the wild creatures, even new connection, the sudden memory of a their home-sickness, their strange yearn thing long past occurs to him, a distant ings; the tales of passionate regret that object is relieved for a while by a ranhang by a ruined farm-building, a heap dom gleam of light-accidents turning up of stones, a deserted sheepfold; that for a moment what lies below the (520 gay, false, adventurous, outer world, surface of our immediate experience which breaks in from time to time to be- and he passes from the humble graves wilder and deflower these quiet homes; (470 and lowly arches of "the little rock-like not "passionate sorrow” only, for the pile” of a Westmoreland church, on overthrow of the soul's beauty, but the bold trains of speculative thought, and loss of, or carelessness for personal beauty comes, from point to point, into strange even, in those whom men have wronged contact with thoughts which have visited, their pathetic wanness; the sailor “who, from time to time, far more venturesome, in his heart, was half a shepherd on perhaps errant, spirits.

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