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He had pondered deeply, for in- 1530 | life in outward things, a single, all-perstance, on those strange reminiscences and vading mind in them, of which man, forebodings, which seem to make our lives and even the poet's imaginative energy, stretch before and behind us, beyond are but moments—that old dream of where we can see or touch anything, or the anima mundi, the mother of all things trace the lines of connection. Following and their grave, in which some had desired the soul, backwards and forwards, on to lose themselves, and others had (590 these endless ways, his sense of man's become indifferent to the distinctions of dim, potential powers became a pledge to good and evil. It would come, somehim, indeed, of a future life, but carried him times, like the sign of the macrocosm to back also to that mysterious notion 1540 Faust in his cell: the network of man and of an earlier state of existence the fancy nature was seen to be peryaded by a of the Platonists—the old heresy of common, universal life: a new, bold Origen. It was in this mood that he thought lifted him above the furrow, conceived those oft-reiterated regrets for above the green turf of the Westmoreland a half-ideal childhood, when the relics churchyard, to a world altogether differof Paradise still clung about the soul ent in its vagueness and vastness, and (600 -a childhood, as it seemed, full of the the narrow glen was full of the brooding fruits of old age, lost for all, in a degree, power of one universal spirit. in the passing away of the youth of the world, lost for each one, over again, in (550 And so he has something, also, for the passing away of actual youth. It is those who feel the fascination of bold this ideal childhood which he celebrates speculative ideas, who are really capable in his famous Ode on the Recollections of of rising upon them to conditions of Childhood, and some other poems which poetical thought. He uses them, indeed, may be grouped around it, such as the always with a very fine apprehension of lines on Tintern Abbey, and something the limits within which alone philosophical like what he describes was actually imaginings have any place in true poe- (610 truer of himself than he seems to have try; and using them only for poetical purunderstood; for his own most delightful poses, is not too careful even to make poems were really the instinctive pro- 1560 them consistent with each other. To ductions of earlier life, and most surely for him, theories which for other men bring him, “the first diviner influence of this a world of technical diction, brought perworld” passed away, more and more fect form and expression, as in those completely, in his contact with ex- two lofty books of the Prelude, which perience.
describe the decay and the restoration of Sometimes as he dwelt upon those Imagination and Taste. Skirting the moments of profound, imaginative power, borders of this world of bewildering (620 in which the outward object appears to heights and depths, he got but the first take color and expression, a new nature exciting influence of it, that joyful enalmost, from the prompting of the 1570 thusiasm which great imaginative theories observant mind, the actual world would, I prompt, when the mind first comes to as it were, dissolve and detach itself, have an understanding of them; and flake by flake, and he himself seemed to it is not under the influence of these be the creator, and when he would, the thoughts that his poetry becomes tedious destroyer, of the world in which he lived- or loses its blitheness. He keeps them, that old isolating thought of many a too, always within certain ethical bounds, brain-sick mystic of ancient and modern so that no word of his could offend the (630 times.
simplest of those simple souls which are At other times, again, in those periods always the largest portion of mankind. of intense susceptibility, in which he [580 But it is, nevertheless, the contact of appeared to himself as but the passive these thoughts, the speculative boldrecipient of external influences, he was ness in them, which constitutes, at attracted by the thought of a spirit of least for some minds, the secret attraction of much of his best poetry—the sud years perhaps, may be surprised at findden passage from lowly thoughts and ing how well old favorites wear, how their places to the majestic forms of philosoph- strange, inventive turns of diction or ical imagination, the play of these (640 thought still send through them the old forms over a world so different, enlarging so feeling of surprise. Those who lived strangely the bounds of its humble church about Wordsworth were all great lovers yards, and breaking such a wild light on of the older English literature, and often the graves of christened children.
times there came out in him a noticeable And these moods always brought with likeness to our earlier poets. He quotes them faultless expression. In regard to unconsciously, but with new power of (700 expression, as with feeling and thought, meaning, a clause from one of Shakethe duality of the higher and lower moods speare's sonnets; and, as with some other was absolute. It belonged to the higher, men's most famous work, the Ode on the the imaginative mood, and was the (650 Recollections of Childhood had its anticipledge of its reality, to bring the appropri- pator. He drew something too from ate language with it. In him, when the the unconscious mysticism of the old really poetical motive worked at all, it English language itself, drawing out the united, with absolute justice, the word inward significance of its racy idiom, and and the idea; each, in the imaginative | the not wholly unconscious poetry of the flame, becoming inseparably one with language used by the simplest people (710 the other, by that fusion of matter and under strong excitement-language, there form, which is the characteristic of the fore, at its origin. highest poetical expression. His words are themselves thought and feeling; (660 The office of the poet is not that of the not eloquent, or musical words merely, moralist, and the first aim of Wordsbut that sort of creative language which worth's poetry is to give the reader a carries the reality of what it depicts, peculiar kind of pleasure. But through directly, to the consciousness.
his poetry, and through this pleasure in The music of mere metre performs it, he does actually convey to the reader but a limited, yet a very peculiar and an extraordinary wisdom in the things subtly ascertained function, in Words of practice. One lesson, if men must (720 worth's poetry. With him, metre is but an have lessons, he conveys more clearly additional grace, accessory to that deeper than all, the supreme importance of conmusic of words and sounds, that (670 templation in the conduct of life. moving power, which they exercise in the Contemplation-impassioned contemnobler prose no less than in formal poetry. plation—that is with Wordsworth the It is a sedative to that excitement, an end-in-itself, the perfect end. We see the excitement sometimes almost painful, majority of mankind going most often under which the language, alike of poetry to definite ends, lower or higher ends, and prose, attains a rhythmical power, as their own instincts may determine; but independent of metrical combination, | the end may never be attained, and (730 and dependent rather on some subtle the means not be quite the right means, adjustment of the elementary sounds of great ends and little ones alike being, words themselves to the image or feel- [680 for the most part, distant, and the ways ing they convey. Yet some of his pieces, to them, in this dim world, somewhat pieces prompted by a sort of half-playful vague. Meantime, to higher or lower mysticism, like the Daffodils and The ends, they move too often with something Two April Mornings, are distinguished of a sad countenance, with hurried and igby a certain quaint gaiety of metre, noble gait, becoming, unconsciously, someand rival by their perfect execution, in thing like thorns, in their anxiety to bear this respect, similar pieces 'among our grapes; it being possible for people, (740 own Elizabethan, or contemporary French in the pursuit of even great ends, to bepoetry. And those who take up these come themselves thin and impoverished poems after an interval of months, or (690 | in spirit and temper, thus diminishing the sum of perfection in the world, at its profoundly on the true relation of means very sources. We understand this when to ends in life, and on the distinction beit is a question of mean, or of intensely tween what is desirable in itself and [800 selfish ends of Grandet, or Javert. We what is desirable only as machinery, that think it bad morality to say that the end when the battle which he and his friends justifies the means, and we know how false were waging had been won, the world to all higher conceptions of the reli- (750 would need more than ever those qualities gious life is the type of one who is ready which Wordsworth was keeping alive and to do evil that good may come. We nourishing. contrast with such dark, mistaken eager That the end of life is not action but ness, a type like that of Saint Catherine contemplation-being as distinct from doof Siena, who made the means to her ing-a certain disposition of the mind: is, ends so attractive, that she has won for in some shape or other, the principle (810 herself an undying place in the House of all the higher morality. In poetry, in Beautiful, not by her rectitude of soul art, if you enter into their true spirit at only, but by its "fairness”—by those all, you touch this principle, in a measquite different qualities which com- 1760 ure: these, by their very sterility, are a mend themselves to the poet and the artist. type of beholding for the mere joy of
Yet, for most of us, the conception of beholding. To treat life in the spirit of means and ends covers the whole of life, art, is to make life a thing in which means and is the exclusive type or figure under and ends are identified: to encourage which we represent our lives to ourselves. such treatment, the true moral significance Such a figure, reducing all things to of art and poetry. Wordsworth, (820 machinery, though it has on its side the and other poets who have been like him authority of that old Greek moralist who in ancient or more recent times, are the has fixed for succeeding generations the masters, the experts, in this art of impasoutline of the theory of right living, 1770 sioned contemplation. Their work is, not is too like a mere picture or description to teach lessons, or enforce rules, or even of men's lives as we actually find them, to stimulate us to noble ends; but_to to be the basis of the higher ethics. It i withdraw the thoughts for a little while covers the meanness of men's daily lives, from the mere machinery of life, to and much of the dexterity and the vigor fix them, with appropriate emotions, on with which they pursue what may seem | the spectacle of those great facts in (830 to them the good of themselves or of man's existence which no machinery others; but not the intangible perfection affects, “on the great and universal pasof those whose ideal is rather in being than sions of men, the most general and inin doing—not those manners which 1780 teresting of their occupations, and the are, in the deepest as in the simplest entire world of nature,”-on "the operasense, morals, and without which one tions of the elements and the appearances cannot so much as offer a cup of water to of the visible universe, on storm and suna poor man without offence-not the part shine, on the revolutions of the seasons, of “antique Rachel,” sitting in the com on cold and heat, on loss of friends and pany of Beatrice; and even the moralist kindred, on injuries and resentments, (840 might well endeavor rather to withdraw on gratitude and hope, on fear and sormen from the too exclusive consideration | row.” To witness this spectacle with of means and ends, in life.
appropriate emotions is the aim of all Against this predominance of ma- 1790 culture; and of these emotions poetry chinery in our existence, Wordsworth's like Wordsworth's is a great nourisher poetry, like all great art and poetry, is a and stimulant. He sees nature full of continual protest. Justify rather the end sentiment and excitement; he sees men by the means, it seems to say: whatever and women as parts of nature, passionmay become of the fruit, make sure of the ate, excited, in strange grouping and conflowers and the leaves. It was justly said,nection with the grandeur and beauty (850 therefore, by one who had meditated very 1 of the natural world:-images, in his own words, "of man suffering, amid awful be hurriedly concealed. Hence a whole forms and powers.”
chapter of sights and customs striking to
the mind, from the pyramids of Egypt Such is the figure of the more powerful to the gibbets and dule trees of mediæval and original poet, hidden away, in part, Europe. The poorest persons have a bit under those weaker elements in Words of pageant going towards the tomb; worth's poetry, which for some minds de memorial stones are set up over the least termine their entire character; a poet memorable; and, in order to preserve some somewhat bolder and more passionate show of respect for what remains of our than might at first sight be supposed, (860 old loves and friendships, we must 130 but not too bold for true poetical taste; accompany it with much grimly ludicrous an unimpassioned writer, you might ceremonial, and the hired undertaker sometimes fancy, yet thinking the chief parades before the door. All this, and aim, in life and art alike, to be a certain much more of the same sort, accomdeep emotion; seeking most often the panied by the eloquence of poets, has great elementary passions in lowly places; gone a great way to put humanity in having at least this condition of all im error; nay, in many philosophies the error passioned work, that he aims always has been embodied and laid down with at an absolute sincerity of feeling and every circumstance of logic; although in diction, so ihat he is the true fore- (870 real life the bustle and swiftness, in 140 runner of the deepest and most passionate leaving people little time to think, have poetry of our own day; yet going back not left them time enough to go dangeralso, with something of a protest against ously wrong in practice. the conventional fervor of much of the • As a matter of fact, although few things poetry popular in his own time, to those are spoken of with more fearful whisperolder English poets, whose unconscious ings than this prospect of death, few have likeness often comes out in him.
less influence on conduct under healthy circumstances. We have all heard of
cities in South America built upon the ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON side of fiery mountains, and how, even 150 (1850-1894)
in this tremendous neighborhood, the
inhabitants are not a jot more impressed ÆS TRIPLEX
by the solemnity of mortal conditions
than if they were delving gardens in the The changes wrought by death are in greenest corner of England. There are themselves so sharp and final, and so serenades and suppers and much gallantry terrible and melancholy in their conse among the myrtles overhead; and meanquences, that the thing stands alone in while the foundation shudders underfoot, man's experience, and has no parallel the bowels of the mountain growl, and upon earth. It outdoes all other acci at any moment living ruin may leap (60 dents because it is the last of them. Some sky-high into the moonlight, and tumble times it leaps suddenly upon its victims, man and his merry-making in the dust. like a thug; sometimes it lays a regular | In the eyes of very young people, and very siege and creeps upon their citadel (10 dull old ones, there is something inde during a score of years. And when the scribably reckless and desperate in such business is done, there is sore havoc made a picture. It seems not credible that in other people's lives, and a pin knocked respectable married people, with umout by which many subsidiary friendships brellas, should find appetite for a bit of hung together. There are empty chairs, supper within quite a long distance of a solitary walks, and single beds at night. fiery mountain; ordinary life begins (70 Again, in taking away our friends, death to smell of high-handed debauch when does not take them away utterly, but it is carried on so close to a catastrophe; leaves behind a mocking, tragical, and and even cheese and salad, it seems, could soon intolerable residue, which must (20 hardly be relished in such circumstances
without something like a defiance of the their grog at night, and tell the raciest Creator. It should be a place for nobody stories; they hear of the death of (130 but hermits dwelling in prayer and people about their own age, or even maceration, or mere born-devils drowning younger, not as if it was a grisly warning, care in a perpetual carouse.
but with a simple childlike pleasure at And yet, when one comes to think (80 having outlived some one else; and when upon it calmly, the situation of these | a draught might puff them out like a South American citizens forms only a guttering candle, or a bit of a stumble very pale figure for the state of ordinary shatter them like so much glass, their old mankind. This world itself, travelling | hearts keep sound and unaffrighted, and blindly and swiftly in over-crowded space, they go on, bubbling with laughter, among a million other worlds travelling through years of man's age compared (140 blindly and swiftly in contrary directions, to which the valley at Balaclava was as may very well come by a knock that safe and peaceful as a village cricket-green would set it into explosion like a penny on Sunday. It may fairly be questioned squib. And what, pathologically 190 (if we look to the peril only) whether looked at, is the human body with all it was a much more daring feat for Curtius its organs, but a mere bagful of petards? | to plunge into the gulf, than for any old The least of these is as dangerous to the gentleman of ninety to doff his clothes whole economy as the ship's powder- and clamber into bed. magazine to the ship; and with every Indeed, it is a memorable subject for breath we breathe, and every meal we consideration, with what unconcern (150 eat, we are putting one or more of them and gaiety mankind pricks on along the in peril. If we clung as devotedly as some Valley of the Shadow of Death. The philosophers pretend we do to the abstract | whole way is one wilderness of snares, idea of life, or were half as frightened (100 and the end of it, for those who fear the as they make out we are, for the subver- last pinch, is irrevocable ruin. And sive accident that ends it all, the trumpets yet we go spinning through it all, like a might sound by the hour and no one party for the Derby. Perhaps the reader would follow them into battle-the blue remembers one of the humorous devices peter might fly at the truck, but who of the deified Caligula: how he encourwould climb into a sea-going ship? Think aged a vast concourse of holiday- (160 (if these philosophers were right) with makers on to his bridge over Baiæ bay; what a preparation of spirit we should and when they were in the height of their affront the daily peril of the dinner-table; enjoyment, turned loose the Prætorian a deadlier spot than any battle-field (110 guards among the company, and had in history, where the far greater propor them tossed into the sea. This is no bad tion of our ancestors have miserably left miniature of the dealings of nature with their bones! What woman would ever the transitory race of man. Only, what be lured into marriage, so much more a chequered picnic we have of it, even dangerous than the wildest sea? And while it lasts! and into what great waters, what would it be to grow old? For, not to be crossed by any swimmer, (170 after a certain distance, every step we God's pale Prætorian throws us over in take in life we find the ice growing thinner the end! below our feet, and all around us and We live the time that a match flickers; behind us we see our contemporaries (120 we pop the cork of a ginger-beer bottle, going through. By the time a man gets and the earthquake swallows us on the well into the seventies, his continued instant. Is it not odd, is it not inconexistence is a mere miracle; and when he gruous, is it not in the highest sense of lays his old bones in bed for the night, human speech, incredible, that we should there is an overwhelming probability that | think so highly of the ginger-beer, and he will never see the day. Do the old regard so little the devouring earth- (180 men mind it, as a matter of fact? Why, quake? The love of Life and the fear of no. They were never merrier; they have | Death are two famous phrases that grow