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in the poet's delicate allusions to the members of his household, but in a passage from Mr. Southey's life of Cowper, plainly alluding to Wordsworth: the facts are honorable to woman as well as to him who has recorded them, and should not be overlooked; after speaking of the valuable influence on Cowper's mind by his intimacy with Mrs. Unwin and Lady Austen, Southey adds — “ were I to say that a poet finds his best advisers among his female friends, it would be speaking from my own experience, and the greatest poet of the age would confirm it by his." — Wordsworth's plan of life has been kept inviolate : his home is still among the mountains — and the aim of “all his endeavors in poetry has been that they should be fitted for filling permanently, a station, however humble, in the literature of his country.” It is remarkable that in not a line can be detected any lowering of his aim to the secondary objects of authorship. No trace of mercenary motive — no paltering with artificial
no sacrifice of truth and nature for the gain of notoriety - no dallying with fashion, betray a faltering in the purpose to which he had devoted himself. Now, considering the state of public taste, this demanded extraordinary self-possession — all the fortitude of genius to preserve its equanimity. It is not forgotten that Wordsworth's successive publications were assaulted by a flippant, heartless, and, in its recklessness of truth, a licentious criticism. But the citadel on which it beat had its foundations deep in the rock of nature, and we have lived -- and what is more precious to think of — the poet bimself has lived to see the waters of that insolent tide gradually trickling down, and now all that is left- the froth and the foam, the dirt heaved up from the bottom, and the drifi-wood on the surface, are fast floating out of sight. The early attacks on Wordsworth's poetry are passing out of the thoughts of men, save when now and then the breath of resentful truth is kindled against them. They served their short-lived purpose of displaying the absolutism of the chief tribunal that issued them, and now need be exposed for no other end than as a terror lo critical malefactors. The seat of the judge was then the seat of the scornful, and his mandates were submitted to, partly because they were addressed to bad and little passions, and partly because there may always be found in the world (in the language of Jeremy Taylor) “ herds and flocks of people that follow any body that whistles to them or drives them to pasture.” Those criticisms may be preserved as curiosities of literature, and Lord Jeffrey has doubtless begun to have some misgivings about “ the case” which his fierce surgery professed to abandon as “ hopeless and incurable.” Nay, the time may come when his memory may be chiefly perpetuated in the sinister fame which “The Excursion” will conser on that memorable phrase of his: “This will never do." Those short-sighted judgments on Wordswortli's poetical character present nothing which demands examination, and we dismiss the subject with a pithy and pertinent anecdote from one of those delightful autobiographical prefaces with which Southey has enriched the recent edition of his poetical works. Soon after the publication of “Roderick," the author received a letter from the Ettrick Shepherd, giving an account of bis endeavors to obtain from Mr. Jeffrey a favorable notice for the poem in the Edinburgh Review : Hogg adds, “I suppose you have heard what a crushing review he has given Wordsworth.” We know no finer specimen of what might be called the scornful sublime, than Southey's answer to this passage: “ There can be no reason,” he remarks in the preface, " for withholding what was said in my reply, of the crushing review which had been given to Wordswortli's great poem: • He crush the Excursion!! Tell bim he might as easily crush Skiddaw !''
A few words must be given to the examination of an ambiguous phrase of not unfrequent occurrence -" the school of Wordsworth.” It is objectionable as suggesting the idea of mere mannerism. Now, mannerism is not a characteristic of true genius: it detracts from the ideal by including the personal. It is as if an oracle were to utter its voice with a dialect or a provincial accent. We have nothing to say respecting the term “ Lake Poets," which has become obsolete, because as soon as people began to disenthrall their minds of a spurious criticism, they saw the absurdity of going to the geography for such a designation, and still more of putting into the same category, the authors of Christabel, of Roderick, and of the Excursion. Setting that folly aside, we do not believe that creative genius so works, that its results may with any propriety be described as a school term which implies the predominance of the artificial. True, there may be individual traits - personal characteristics - but these are subordinate. In the noblest productions of poesy, in sculpture or painting, or in the winged and more imperishable form of measured words, the impression is, that the work is from the mould of nature. The more masterly the creation, the more plainly will it show the superscription of eternal truth. The artist's personal mark may be discovered in no prouder place than the hem of a garment, or some retired corner of the work.
When an inferior power is dealing with the task, the traces of “the 'prentice hand" are more boldly obtruded; and then we hear of this man's school and that man's school. But there may be periods when the love of the true and the natural has been set aside by artificial taste; and then, wherever artifice has grown into a second nature, the very attempt to break the bonds of custom will be looked on as artificial. Nature is not recognised when sophistication usurps her place, and then fidelity to the exiled sovereign encounters the odium of lawlessness. This, we doubt not, has encouraged the notion of some especial scheme of poetry, implied in the phrase “ the school of Wordsworth." In this sense we protest against it. It cannot be maintained, if it signify that his poetry has a character so peculiar as widely to separate it from other poetry of equal elevation. We should not fear to put this to a test : let there be selected passages that may
be taken as fairly characteristic of him, and we would engage to furnish selections parallel in the mode of thought and feeling from poems of long established fame. From the severe and chaste models of ancient imagination — from Pindar and Homer, (from the latter, especially, instances will suggest themselves to the classical student) and from English literature in its best days, enough could be cited to show the kindred of genius. In all its great essentials there is but one school of poetry, because “poetry is the image of man and nature," and the world of sense and the world of the human soul are forever the same; and moreover, because truth, which is the high aim of the muse, is eternal. It is the school of such as Pindar and Homer, as Dante and Tasso, and Spenser, and Shakspeare, and Milton and, as has been felt by the meditative spirits, who cherished the belief when it was a persecuted truth, it is the school of such as Wordsworth.
In rejecting all imputations of mannerism, it may be fancied that we are abandoning the claim to originality. When we speak of the unity of poetry, it will scarcely be supposed that we are advocating a doctrine, like the rule of the dramatic unities, calculated to bind invention down to the wearisome repetitions of imitation. Wordsworth has been styled by some of his enthusiastic adınirers “the regenerator of English poetry." This appears to us an exaggeration. The revolution which brought English poetry back to the vigor of its earlier days had previously begun. Its decline — probably a symptom of the decline of national character with which it was coeval in its commencement, after lasting from the time of Charles II., seemed to approach its natural limit towards the close of the last century. The artificial style of poetry, which culminating in the exquisite polish of the versification of Pope, was sustained by the authority of Dr. Johnson, had in weaker hands begun to betray that it contained the seeds of its own dissolution. Warton had ventured, though with a timidity illustrative of the state of public taste, to maintain that Pope was not one of the great English poets, and a better day was dawning. The work of regeneration was begun by poets earlier than Wordsworth, as he has himselt shown. Thomson, and Collins, and Cowper, and Goldsmith, were bringing the muse nearer, once more, to the path of truth and nature. But not only on account of such as these, is it unjust to appropriate to Wordsworth a title implying the sole championship in this revolution : it should not be forgotten that Coleridge and Southey took the field as early and as independently.
Disclaiming on the one hand this assumption for Wordsworth, and on the other denying the formation of any peculiar school of poetry by him, the question recurs, in what degree he is to be regarded as a poet of original powers. Now let it be borne in mind that mere novelty is not proof of originality: a whimsical fancy may produce combinations from which a sane imagination would recoil, and which arrogate the merit of invention for no other reason than that the heart can find nothing kindred to recognise. These spurious births — new indeed but uncouth -must not pass for legitimacy. The genuine creations of imagination bring with them none of this strangeness; we seem to have known them of old; lo! how familiarly do the fictions of Shakspeare come to us! The clay to be wrought by the plastic power of poets is nature, and when they seek any other materials than truth-truth of the imagination and the feelings as well as of the senses - they are no better than moon-struck madmen. It is the pride of a feeble imagination that spurns such materials. As the main principles of nature are ever the same, there is therefore an assimilative principle in all the high efforts of poetic genius, of which we may be made conscious by the reflection that we can pass from the one to the other without a thought of their being separated by the chasm of ages, or the barrier between living and dead languages. And what more than nature supplies, need be desired by the visionary faculty in its most ambitious moods? The
wedded to nature is rich in the dowry she brings. She sets before his enraptured sight the earth with all its sublimity and beauty, of mountain and vale- of ocean and lake the heavens and all the lights that are looking from them — the mute creation, the human form and countenance — and more boundless than the world of sight and sound, the world within each human bosom— the unseen elements of humanity-its passions, its fears and hopes - its joys and sorrows -- the first recollections of childhood - the blessed memory of the happy dead - and the undying aspirations that spring from a holy faith. Such as these are the poet's theme, and he is original, when he sussuses a spot of earth with the light of imagination —or when by the same creative power he reveals a single association between the outward world of sense and the inward world of the soul — when he unsensualizes what is bodily, or sends a ray into the depths of the heartwhen he breathes life and hope into any forsaken principle of our being - in a word, when he reclaims any desolate region of thought or feeling, and enlarges the sphere of enjoyment and sensibility for the honor of humanity. . In some form, this has been the tendency of the great poets of all ages, modified by individual character and the times in which they lived. It is one spirit in Pindar moralizing the strife of national games and kindJing heroic emotions - in Homer dealing with man in the larger theatre of hostile nations -in Spenser displaying human passions through his gorgeous allegory-in Shakspeare giving to the spirits of man's inner nature form and speech and action-in Milton elaborating the great tragedy of mankind--and in Wordsworth, his
“theme No other than the very heart of man,” restoring to the lowly conditions of society their native portion - arraying homely life and household affections with a glory more enduring than the pomp of chivalry-creating an affinity between the objects of nature and our moral being - disclosing the forms of beauty still left on earth, and spiritualizing the senses, the intellect, and the passions, by teaching that within the soul there is an instinct aspiring beyond what is fugitive into the region of
“ truths that wake To perish never !” The earliest date to any poem of Wordsworth is the year 1786 — a juvenile effusion of his sixteenth year; the late edition of his works was issued in 1837 ;- more than half a centu