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Towns like the living rock from which they grew?
An artist-poet of rare but wild and wayward The air is sweet with violets, running wild
genius-touched with a 'fine poetic madness'-apMid broken friezes and fallen capitals ; Sweet as when Tully, writing down his thoughts,
peared in WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827), whose life Those thoughts so precious and so lately lost
has been written with admirable taste and feeling Turning to thee, divine philosophy,
by Allan Cunningham (Lives of British Painters, Ever at hand to calm his troubled soul
1830), and in a more copious form by Alexander Sailed slowly by, two thousand years ago,
Gilchrist (1863). Blake was a native of London, son For Athens, when a ship, if north-east winds
of a hosier. He was apprenticed to an engraver, Blew from the Pæstan gardens, slacked her course. but devoted all his leisure to drawing (in which On as he moved along the level shore,
he had occasional instruction from Flaxman and These temples, in their splendour eminent
Fuseli), and in composing verses. Between his Mid arcs and obelisks, and domes and towers, twelfth and twentieth years he produced a variety Reflecting back the radiance of the west,
of songs, ballads, and a dramatic poem. A collecWell might he dream of glory! Now, coiled up,
tion of these was printed at the cost of Flaxman The serpent sleeps within them; the she-wolf Suckles her young ; and as alone I stand
and a gentleman named Matthews, who presented
the sheets to their author to dispose of for his In this, the nobler pile, the elements Of earth and air its only floor and covering,
own advantage. In 1789 Blake himself published How solemn is the stillness ! Nothing stirs
a series of Songs of Innocence, with a great number Save the shrill-voiced cicala flitting round
of illustrations etched on copper by the poet and On the rough pediment to sit and sing;
his wife—the affectionate, 'dark-eyed Kate.' His Or the green lizard rustling through the grass, wife, we are told, worked off the plates in the press, And up the fluted shaft with short quick spring, and Blake tinted the impressions, designs, and To vanish in the chinks that time has made.
letter-press with a variety of pleasing colours. In such an hour as this, the sun's broad disk His next work was a series of sixteen small Seen at his setting, and a flood of light
designs, entitled The Gates of Paradise (1793) ; Filling the courts of these old sanctuaries
these were followed by Urizen, or twenty-seven Gigantic shadows, broken and confused,
designs representing hell and its mysteries ; and Athwart the innumerable columns flung,
shortly afterwards by a series of illustrations of In such an hour he came, who saw and told,
Young's Night Thoughts-a congenial theme. Led by the mighty genius of the place.? Walls of some capital city first appeared,
Flaxman introduced Blake to Hayley the poet, Half razed, half sunk, or scattered as in scorn ;
and Hayley persuaded the artist to remove to And what within them? What but in the midst Felpham in Sussex, to make engravings for the These three in more than their original grandeur, Life of Cowper. At Felpham Blake resided And, round about, no stone upon another?
three years (1800-3), and in the comparative soliAs if the spoiler had fallen back in fear,
tude of the country, in lonely musings by the seaAnd, turning, left them to the elements.
shore, indulged in those hallucinations which indicated a state of diseased imagination or
chronic insanity. He conceived that he had On a Tear.
lived in other days, and had formed friendships O that the chemist's magic art
with Homer and Moses, with Pindar and Virgil, Could crystallise this sacred treasure !
with Dante and Milton. These great men, he Long should it glitter near my heart,
asserted, appeared to him in visions, and even A secret source of pensive pleasure.
entered into conversation. When asked about
the looks of those visions, he answered: “They are The little brilliant, ere it fell,
all majestic shadows, gray but luminous, and Its lustre caught from Chloe's eye ;
superior to the common height of men' (CunThen, trembling, left its coral cell
ningham). Blake laboured indefatigably, but The spring of Sensibility!
with little worldly gain, at his strange fanciful illus
trations. A work entitled Jerusalem comprised Sweet drop of pure and pearly light, In thee the rays of Virtue shine ;
a hundred designs; he executed twelve designs for More calmly clear, more mildly bright,
Blair's Grave, and a water-colour painting of the Than any gem that gilds the mine.
Canterbury Pilgrims, which was exhibited with
other productions of the artist. These were exBenign restorer of the soul !
plained in a Descriptive Catalogue as eccentric as Who ever fliest to bring relief,
the designs, but which had a criticism on Chaucer When first we feel the rude control
admired by Charles Lamb as displaying 'wonderOf Love or Pity, Joy or Grief.
ful power and spirit.' Lamb also considered
Blake's little poem on the tiger as 'glorious. The The sage’s and the poet's theme,
remaining works of the artist were Twenty-one In every clime, in every age :
Illustrations to the Book of Job, and two works of
Prophecies (1793-4), one on America in eighteen
plates, and the other on Europe in seventeen ; The very law which moulds a tear,
he also illustrated Dante, but only seven of his And bids it trickle from its source,
illustrations were engraved. Three days before That law preserves the earth a sphere,
his death he was working on one of his prophetic And guides the planets in their course.
works, the ‘ Ancient of Days.' 'He sat bolstered
up in bed, and tinted it with his choicest colours, !They are said to have been discovered by accident about the and in his happiest style. He touched and remiddle of the last century.
touched it-held it at arm's length, and then threw
it from him, exclaiming: “ There! that will do! I cannot mend it." He saw his wife in tears-she felt this was to be the last of his works—“ Stay, Kate!” cried Blake ; “keep just as you are-I will draw your portrait-for you have ever been an angel to me." She obeyed, and the dying artist ma it a fine likeness.' The poems of Blake have been frequently printed--at least in partand his designs are now eagerly sought after.
So he vanished from my sight;
And I plucked a hollow reed, And I made a rural pen,
And I stained the water clear, And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.
The Lamb.-From the same,
Little lamb, who made thee?
Little lamb, who made thee?
To the Muses.-From Poetical Sketches.' Whether on Ida's shady brow,
Or in the chambers of the East, The chambers of the Sun, that now
From ancient melody have ceased ; Whether in heaven ye wander fair,
Or the green corners of the earth, Or the blue regions of the air,
Where the melodious winds have birth; Whether on crystal rocks ye rove
Beneath the bosom of the sea, Wandering in many a coral grove,
Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry; How have you left the ancient love
That bards of old enjoyed in you ! The languid strings do scarcely move,
The sound is forced, the notes are few !
Little lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little lamb, God bless thee,
Song.–From the same. I love the jocund dance,
The sostly breathing song, Where innocent eyes do glance
And where lisps the maiden's tongue. I love the laughing vale,
I love the echoing hill, Where mirth does never fail,
And the jolly swain laughs his fill. I love the pleasant cot,
I love the innocent bower, Where white and brown is our lot,
Or fruit in the mid-day hour.
Beneath the oaken tree,
And laugh our sports to see.
But, Kitty, I better love thee ; And love them I ever shall,
But thou art all to me.
The Tiger.- From Songs of Experience' (1794).
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
Introduction to 'Songs of Innocence' (1789). Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee, On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me : 'Pipe a song about a lamb;'
So I piped with merry cheer.
So I piped; he wept to hear.
Sing thy songs of happy cheer :' So I sang the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear. ‘Piper, sit thee down and write,
In a book that all may read
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, the most original of modern poets, was a native of Cockermouth, in the county of Cumberland, where he was born on the 7th of April 1770. His father was law-agent to Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of Lonsdale, but died when the poet was in his seventh year. William and his brother-Dr Christopher Wordsworth, long master of Trinity College-after being some years at Hawkshead School, in Lancashire, were sent by their uncles to the university of
Cambridge. William was entered of St John's injected. In 1798, appeared the Lyrical Ballads, to 1787. Having finished his academical course, which Coleridge contributed his Ancient Mariner. and taken his degree, he travelled for a short time. A generous provincial bookseller, Joseph Cottle of In the autumn of 1790, he accomplished a tour on Bristol, gave thirty guineas for the copyright of this the continent in company with a fellow-student, volume; he ventured on an impression of five Mr Robert Jones. “We went staff in hand,' he hundred copies, but was soon glad to dispose of said, 'without knapsacks, and carrying each his the largest proportion of the five hundred at a loss, needments tied up in a pocket handkerchief, with to a London bookseller. The ballads were deabout £20 a piece in our pockets.' With this signed by their author as an experiment how far a friend, Wordsworth made a tour in North Wales simpler kind of poetry than that in use would the following year, after taking his degree in afford permanent interest to readers. The humcollege. He was again in France towards the blest subjects, he contended, were fit for poetry, close of the year 1791, and remained in that and the language should be that really used by country about a twelvemonth. He had hailed the men.' The fine fabric of poetic diction which French Revolution with feelings of enthusiastic generations of the tuneful tribe had been laboriadmiration.
ously rearing, he proposed to destroy altogether. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
The language of humble and rustic life, arising But to be young was very heaven.
out of repeated experience and regular feelings, he Few poets escaped the contagion. Burns, Cole considered to be a more permanent and far more ridge, Southey, and Campbell all felt the flame, quently substituted for it by poets. The attempt
philosophical language than that which is freand looked for a new era of liberty and happiness of Wordsworth was either totally neglected or It was long ere Wordsworth abandoned his politi- assailed with ridicule. The transition from the cal theory. His friends were desirous he should refined and sentimental school of verse, with enter the church, but his republican sentiments select and polished diction, to such themes as The and the unsettled state of his mind rendered him Idiot Boy, and a style of composition disfigured averse to such a step. To the profession of the law he was equally opposed. Poetry was to be by, colloquial plainness, and by the mixture of the sole business of his life. A young friend, of tenderness and pathos, was too violent to
ludicrous images and associations with passages Raisley Calvert, dying in 1795, left him a sum of
escape ridicule or insure general success.
It was £900. Upon the interest of the £900," he says, often impossible to tell whether the poet meant to 2400 being laid out in annuity, with £200 de- be comic or tender, serious or ludicrous ; while the ducted from the principal, and £100, a legacy to choice of his subjects and illustrations, instead of my sister, and £100 more which the Lyrical being regarded as genuine simplicity, had an Ballads brought me, my sister and I contrived to live seven years, nearly eight.' A further sum of appearance of silliness or affectation. The faults about £1000 came to him as part of the estate of of his worst ballads were so glaring, that they his father, who had died intestate ; and with this overpowered, at least for a time, the simple
natural beauties, the spirit of gentleness and small competence, Wordsworth devoted himself to study and seclusion. He first appeared as a poet was a first experiment, and it was made without
humanity, with which they were accompanied. It in his twenty-third year, 1793. The title of his work was Descriptive Sketches, which was followed any regard for existing prejudices or feelings, or the same year by the Evening Walk. The walk any wish to conciliate.
In 1798, Wordsworth, his sister, and Coleridge is among the mountains of Westmoreland ; the sketches refer to a tour made in Switzerland by Hamburg, and going to Ratzeburg, where he re
went to Germany, the latter parting from them at the style of Goldsmith; but description
predomin- sided four months ; while the Wordsworths proates over reflection. The enthusiastic dreams of ceeded to Goslar, and remained there about half a liberty which then buoyed up the young poet, | Grasmere, in Westmoreland, where they lived for,
year. On their return to England, they settled at appear in such lines as the following:
eight years. In 1800 he reprinted his Lyrical O give, great God, to freedom's waves to ride Ballads, with the addition of many new pieces, the Sublime o'er conquest, avarice, and pride ;
work now forming two volumes. In October To sweep where pleasure decks her guilty bowers,
1802, the poet was married to Mary Hutchinson, And dark oppression builds her thick-ribbed towers ; a lady with whom he had been early intimate, and Give them, beneath their breast, while gladness springs, on whom he wrote, in the third year of his married To brood the nations o'er with Nile-like wings;
life, the exquisite lines, She was a Phantom of And grant that every sceptred child of clay
She came, no more a Phantom to adorn
A moment, but an inmate of the heart,
And yet a spirit there for me enshrined In the autumn of 1795, Wordsworth and his
To penetrate the lofty and the low : sister were settled at Racedown Lodge, near
Even as one essence of pervading light Crewkerne in Somersetshire, where they were Shines in the brightest of ten thousand stars, visited in the summer of 1797 by Coleridge. The And the meek worm that feeds her lonely lamp poets were charmed with each other's society, and Couched in the dewy grass.* became friends for life. Wordsworth and his sister next moved to a residence near Coleridge's, In 1803, accompanied by Coleridge and his sister, at Alfoxden, near Nether Stowey. At this place many of his smaller poems were written, and also a * This respected lady died at Rydal Mount, January 17. 1859. tragedy, the Borderers, which he attempted to get For some years her powers of sight had entirely failed her, but she
continued cheerful and bright," and full of conversational power acted at Covent Garden Theatre, but it was re- as in former days.
Wordsworth made a tour in Scotland, which age has thus been as beneficial as extensive. He forms an epoch in his literary history, as it led to turned the public taste from pompous inanity to the production of some of his most popular minor the study of man and nature; he banished the poems. He had been for some years engaged on false and exaggerated style of character and emoa poem in blank verse, The Prelude, or Growth of tion which even the genius of Byron stooped to my own Mind, which he brought to a close in imitate ; and he enlisted the sensibilities and 1805, but it was not published till after his death. sympathies of his intellectual brethren in favour In 1805, also, he wrote his Waggoner, not published of the most expansive and kindly philanthropy. till 1819. Since Pope, no poet has been more The pleasures and graces of his muse are all careful of his fame than Wordsworth, and he was simple, pure, and lasting. In working out the enabled to practise this abstinence in publication, plan of his Excursion, the poet has not, however, because, like Pope, he was content with moderate escaped from the errors of his early poems. The means and limited desires. His circumstances, incongruity or want of keeping in most of Wordshowever, were at this time so favourable, that he worth’s productions is observable in this work. purchased, for £1000, a small cottage and estate The principal character is a poor Scotch pedlar, at the head of Úlleswater. Lord Lonsdale gener- who traverses the mountains in company with the ously offered £800 to complete this purchase, but poet, and is made to discourse, with clerk-like the poet accepted only of a fourth of the sum. Auency, In 1807 appeared two volumes of Poems from his pen. They were assailed with all the severity of
Of truth, of grandeur, beauty, love, and hope. criticism, but it was seen that, whatever might be It is thus that the poet violates the conventional the theory of the poet, he possessed a vein of pure rules of poetry and the realities of life ; for surely and exalted description and meditation which it it is inconsistent with truth and probability that a was impossible not to feel and admire. The profound moralist and dialectician should be found influence of nature upon man was his favourite in such a situation. In his travels with the ‘Wantheme; and though sometimes unintelligible from derer,' the poet is introduced to a 'Solitary, who his idealism, he was also, on other occasions, just lives secluded from the world, after a life of busy and profound. His worship of nature was ennob-adventures and high hope, ending in disappointling and impressive. In 1809 the poet struck out ment and disgust. They all proceed to the house into a new path. He came forward as a political of the pastor, who—in the style of Crabbe's Parish writer, with an Essay on the Convention of Cintra, Register-recounts some of the deaths and mutaan event to which he was strongly opposed. His tions that had taken place in his sequestered prose was as unsuccessful as his poetry, so far as valley ; and with a description of a visit made by sale was concerned; but there are fine vigorous the three to a neighbouring lake, the poem conpassages in this pamphlet, and Canning is said to cludes. The Excursion is an unfinished work, have pronounced it the most eloquent production part of a larger poem, The Recluse, 'having for its since the days of Burke. Wordsworth had now principal object the sensations and opinions of a abandoned his republican dreams, and was hence-poet living in retirement. The narrative part of forward conservative of all time-honoured institu- | The Excursion is a mere framework, rude and tions in church and state. His views were never unskilful, for a series of pictures of mountain servile--they were those of a recluse politician, scenery and philosophical dissertations, tending to honest but impracticable. In the spring of 1813 shew how the external world is adapted to the occurred Wordsworth's removal from Grasmere to mind of man, and good educed out of evil and Rydal Mount, one of the grand events of his life ; suffering. and there he resided for the long period of thirtyseven years-a period of cheerful and dignified Within the soul a faculty abides, poetical retirement
That with interpositions, which would hide
And darken, so can deal, that they become
Contingencies of pomp, and serve to exalt
Her native brightness. As the ample moon
In the deep stillness of a summer even
Rising behind a thick and lofty grove,
Burns like an unconsuming fire of light
In the green trees ; and, kindling on all sides,
Their leafy umbrage turns the dusky veil
Into a substance glorious as her own,
Yea, with her own incorporated, by power
Capacious and serene ; like power abides
In man's celestial spirit ; virtue thus
Sets forth and magnifies herself—thus seeds
A calm, a beautiful, and silent fire, ing, and he continued to supply it with fresh mate
From the encumbrances of mortal life ; rials of a higher order. In 1814 appeared The
From error, disappointment—nay, from guilt ; Excursion, a philosophical poem in blank verse,
And sometimes-so relenting justice wills
From palpable oppressions of despair. by far the noblest production of the author, and
Book IV. containing passages of sentiment, description, and pure eloquence, not excelled by any living poet, In a still loftier style of moral observation on the while its spirit of enlightened humanity and changes of life, the “gray-haired wanderer'exChristian benevolence-extending over all ranks claims : of sentient and animated being_imparts to the So fails, so languishes, grows dim, and dies, poem a peculiarly sacred and elevated character. All that this world is proud of. From their spheres The influence of Wordsworth on the poetry of his The stars of human glory are cast down ;
Perish the roses and the flowers of kings,
by the cry to arms, studies the rudiments of war, Princes, and emperors, and the crowns and palms but dies suddenly : Of all the mighty, withered and consumed ! Nor is power given to lowliest innocence
To him, thus snatched away, his comrades paid Long to protect her own. The man himself
A soldier's honours. At his funeral hour Departs; and soon is spent the line of those
Bright was the sun, the sky a cloudless blueWho, in the bodily image, in the mind,
A golden lustre slept upon the hills; In heart or soul, in station or pursuit,
And if by chance a stranger, wandering there, Did most resemble him. Degrees and ranks,
From some commanding eminence had looked Fraternities and orders—heaping high
Down on this spot, well pleased would he have seen New wealth upon the burthen of the old,
A glittering spectacle ; but every face And placing trust in privilege confirmed
Was pallid-seldom hath that eye been moist And re-confirmed-are scoffed at with a smile
With tears that wept not then ; nor were the few Of greedy foretaste, from the secret stand
Who from their dwellings came not forth to join Of desolation aimed ; to slow decline
In this sad service, less disturbed than we. These yield, and these to sudden overthrow ;
They started at the tributary peal Their virtue, service, happiness, and state
Of instantaneous thunder which announced Expire ; and Nature's pleasant robe of green,
Through the still air the closing of the grave; Humanity's appointed shroud, enwraps
And distant mountains echoed with a sound
Of lamentation never heard before.
A description of deafness in a peasant would seem The picturesque parts of The Excursion are to be a subject hardly susceptible of poetical ornafull of a quiet and tender beauty characteristic of ment; yet, by contrasting it with the surrounding the author. We subjoin two passages, the first objects—the pleasant sounds and stir of naturedescriptive of a peasant youth, the hero of his and by his vein of pensive and graceful reflection, native vale :
Wordsworth has made this one of his finest
The Deaf Dalesman.
Almost at the root Of yet unfaded trees she lifts her head
Of that tall pine, the shadow of whose bare Decked with autumnal berries, that outshine
And slender stem, while here I sit at eve, Spring's richest blossoms; and ye may have marked Oft stretches towards me, like a long straight path By a brook side or solitary tarn,
Traced faintly in the greensward; there, beneath How she her station doth adorn. The pool
A plain blue stone, a gentle dalesman lies, Glows at her feet, and all the gloomy rocks
From whom in early childhood was withdrawn Are brightened round her. In his native vale,
The precious gift of hearing. He grew up Such and so glorious did this youth appear;
From year to year in loneliness of soul ; A sight that kindled pleasure in all hearts
And this deep mountain valley was to him By his ingenuous beauty, by the gleam
Soundless, with all its streams. The bird of dawn Of his fair eyes, by his capacious brow,
Did never rouse this cottager from sleep By all the graces with which nature's hand
With startling summons; not for his delight Had lavishly arrayed him. As old bards
The vernal cuckoo shouted ; not for him Tell in their idle songs of wandering gods,
Murmured the labouring bee. When stormy winds Pan or Apollo, veiled in human form;
Were working the broad bosom of the lake Yet, like the sweet-breathed violet of the shade,
Into a thousand thousand sparkling waves, Discovered in their own despite to sense
Rocking the trees, or driving cloud on cloud
Along the sharp edge of yon lofty crags,
Was silent as a picture : evermore
Were all things silent, wheresoe'er he moved. In him revealed a scholar's genius shone ;
Yet, by the solace of his own pure thoughts And so, not wholly hidden from men's sight,
Upheld, he duteously pursued the round In him the spirit of a hero walked
of rural labours ; the steep mountain side Our unpretending valley. How the quoit
Ascended with his staff and faithful dog ; Whizzed from the stripling's arm ! If touched by The plough he guided, and the scythe he swayed ; him,
And the ripe corn before his sickle fell The inglorious football mounted to the pitch
Among the jocund reapers. Of the lark's flight, or shaped a rainbow curve
Book VII. Aloft, in prospect of the shouting field ! The indefatigable fox had learned
By viewing man in connection with external To dread his perseverance in the chase.
nature, the poet blends his metaphysics with With admiration would he lift his eyes
pictures of life and scenery. To build up and To the wide-ruling eagle, and his hand Was loath to assault the majesty he loved,
strengthen the powers of the mind, in contrast to
the operations of sense, was ever his object. Like Else had the strongest fastnesses proved weak To guard the royal brood. The sailing glede,
Bacon, Wordsworth would rather have believed The wheeling swallow, and the darting snipe,
all the fables in the Talmud and Alcoran, than The sporting sea-gull dancing with the waves,
that this universal frame is without a mind-or And cautious waterfowl from distant climes,
that that mind does not, by its external symbols, Fixed at their seat, the centre of the mere,
speak to the human heart. He lived under the Were subject to young Oswald's steady aim. habitual'sway' of nature :
To me the meanest flower that blows can give The peasant youth, with others in the vale, roused Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.