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ry devoted to the Art. His productions in prose best known are the Essays interspersed among his poems, beside which are the
Description of the Lake Country in the north of England," (restored in the Philadelphia edition to its connexion with the poems,) and the “tract on the Convention of Cintra," composed during the peninsular war. Our present purpose is with Wordsworth's poetry, and we allude to his writings in prose only as illustrative of it, and to remark that all is prompted by the same spirit. No matter what may be the subject, whether, in verse, some little trait of childhood -- an incident in rural life - the description of an old beggar--a classical traditiona burst of indignant patriotism to animate his countrymen in arms — a high strain of thanksgiving for a nation bowing down in gratitude for victories, which rescued Europe from military despotism - the history of the church in England - the mourning over some retired grave
sage remonstrance with skepticism-or some deep intimation of immortality springing from communings with his own inmost soul; or whether, in prose, it be the description of some landscape, or the fervid exposure of an ignominious negotiation — the same animating spirit may
be found in each. There is a symmetry in the productions of Wordsworth's youth, his manhood, and more advanced years. In the essential properties of bis writings at different periods, we perceive no fluctuations, no recantation or backward movement. From the few lines bearing the earlist date down to the latest of bis poems, the direction of his mind is the same-his imagination strengthening with his years. Let it not be thought that this implies a monotony in his poetry, or a uniformity in the modes in which it is conveyed. It is the unity of its spirit, and a consequent singleness of purpose, that we speak of- a zeal to call forth the divine part of man's nature, often slumbering or imbruted, and to guide the impulses of the heart, by teaching it " nobler loves and nobler cares." In the now rare tract on the convention of Cintra, amid many eloquent passages, whose impassioned strain needs only the garb of metre to transfigure them into poetry, we find the following philosophical estimate of human nature, which is admirably illustrative of the aims of the author's poetry:
" It is a belief propagated in books, and which passes currently among talking men as part of their familiar wisdom, that the hearts of the many are constitutionally weak; that they languish, and are slow to answer to the requisitions of things. I entreat those who are in this delusion, to look behind them and about them for the
NO. VII.VOL. IV.
evidence of experience. Now, this, rightly understood, not only gives no support to any such belief, but proves that the truth is in direct opposition to it. The history of all ages ; tumults after tumults; wars, foreign or civil, with short or no breathing-spaces, from generation to generation ; wars — why and wherefore ? Yet with courage, with perseverance, with self sacrifice, with enthusiasm — with cruelty driving forward the cruel man from its own terrible nakedness, and attracting the more benign by the accompaniment of some shadow which seems to sanctify it; the senseless weaving and interweaving of factions - vanishing and reviving and piercing each other like the northern lights; public commo-, tions, and those in the bosom of the individual; the long calenture to which the lover is subject; the blast, like the blast of the desert, which sweeps perenially through a frightful solitude of its own making in the mind of the gamester; the slowly quickening but ever quickening descent of appetite down which the miser is propelled; the agony and cleaving oppression of grief; the ghost-like hauntings of shame; the incubus of revenge; the life-distemper of ambition ; — these inward existences, and the visible and familiar occurrences of daily life in every town and village ; the patient curiosity and contagious acclamations of the multitude in the streets of the city and within the walls of the theatre; a procession, or a rural dance; a hunting, or a horse-race; a flood, or a fire ; rejoicing and ringing of bells for an unexpected gift of good fortune, or the coming of a foolish heir to his estate ; these demonstrate incontestihly that the passions of men (I mean the soul of sensibility in the heart of man,) - in all quarrels, in all contests, in all quests, in all delights, in all employments which are either sought by men or thrust
do immeasurably transcend their objects. The true sorrow of humanity consists in this : that the mind of man fails; but that the course and demands of action and life so rarely correspond with the dignity and intensity of human desires : and hence, that which is slow to languish, is too easily turned aside and abused."
It is the truth told in this last sentence, on which Wordsworth's poetry in all its varied forms is an imaginative commentary.
This contrariety of the course of life to the dignity of human desires is constantly changing in the progress of the world, and therefore the poet's efforts must be adapted to the form the antagonist power chances to assume. While the wisdom of a great author is in many respects mated to all time, there will still be a correspondence between his spirit and the age and country in which Providence has placed him. This is an important consideration in estimating the structure of a poet's mind. We hazard little in saying that Wordsworth's mission has been to an unimaginative age. In the same volume the character of the times is described in a passage, which reminds us of the statesmanly philosophy of Burke:
“Men have been pressing forward, for some time, in a path which has betrayed by its fruitfulness; furnishing them constant employment for picking up things about their feet, when thoughts were perishing in their minds. While mechanic arts, manufactures, agriculture, commerce, and all those products of knowledge which are confined to gross, definite, and tangible objects, have, with the aid of experimental philosophy, been every day putting on inore brilliant colors; the splendor of imagination has been fading. Sensibility, which was formerly a generous nursling of rude nature, has been chased from its ancient range in the wide domain of patriotism and religion, with the weapons of derision by a shadow calling itself good sense : calculations of presumptuous expediency-groping its way among partial and temporary consequences — have been substituted for the dictates of paramount and infallible conscience, the supreme embracer of consequences : lifeless and circumspect decencies have banished the graceful neg. ligence and unsuspicious dignity of virtue.”
But it may be asked whether, when poetry assumes to minister to this sorrow of humanity — the degeneracy of our desires to unworthy objects, it is not trespassing on the province of religion. O no! it is in meek attendance in the temple of faith. The highest poetry must be sacred, in the most comprehensive sense. It is in humble alliance for the rescue of exposed humanity. Poetry, for its own glory and the safety of its disciples, preserves at once its affinity and subordination to religion, and it is important, distinctly to appreciate this relation of poetry, to guard on the one hand against its fanatical rejection, and on the other, against its superstitious elevation.
“Faith," says Wordsworth, in the Supplement to the Preface,' "was given to man that his affections, detached from the treasures of time, might be inclined to settle upon those of eternity :
the elevation of his nature, which this habit produces on earth, being to him a presumptive evidence of a future state of existence ; and giving him a title to partake its holiness. The religious man values what he sees chiefly as an 'imperfect shadowing forth' of what he is incapable of seeing. The concerns of religion refer to indefinite objects, and are too weighty for the mind to support them without relieving itself by resting a great part of the burthen upon words and symbols. The commerce between Man and his Maker cannot be carried on but by a process where much is represented in little, and the Infinite Being
accommodates himself to a finite ca
pacity. In all this may be perceived the affinity between religion and poetry; between religion-making up the deficiencies of reason by faith ; and poetry - passionate for the instruction of reason; between religion whose element is infinitude, and whose ultimate trust is the supreme of things, submitting herself to circumscription, and reconciled to substitutions; and poetry - ethereal and transcendent, yet incapable to sustain her existence without sensuous incarnation.".
In illustrating this examination of Wordsworth's poetry by the usual process of disjoined quotation, the difficulty of selecting from so rich a collection of miscellaneous pieces, and from an elaborate poem like the Excursion, would be greatly increased, were it not for the harmony of purpose which pervades them. This is noticed in the preface of the Excursion, which, it will be recollected, is but part of an unpublished “philosophical poem, containing views of man, nature, and society, to be entitled "The Recluse ;'" we are also informed of the existence of another unpublished poem of an autobiographical character, on the growth of an individual mind. Of these it is remarked, “the two works have the same kind of relation to each other, if the author may so express himself, as the ante-chapel bas to the body of a gothic church, and that the minor pieces have such connexion with the main work as may give them claim to be likened to the little cells, oratories, and sepulchral recesses, ordinarily included in those edifices." The arrangement of the poems “apparently miscellaneous," is described in the general preface, as designed to serve as a commentary directing the attention of a reflective reader to the poet's purposes, both particular and general.” Thus divided into several classes, according to the powers of mind predominant in them to the forms given to them — or to their subjects and according to an order of time, commencing with childhood and closing with old age, death, and immortality, the smaller poems are to be "regarded under a twofold view; as composing an entire work in themselves, and as adjuncts to the philosophical poem, • The Recluse.' These considerations may aid us in our present illustrations.
The extract from The Recluse" introduced in the preface to “ The Excursion,” is, perhaps, the fullest exposition of the general argument of Wordsworth's poetry. Commending it entire to a thoughtsul perusal, we must content ourselves with but a fragment :
Beauty a Living Presence of the earth, Surpassing the most fair ideal Forms Which craft of delicate Spirits hath composed From earth's materials - waits upon my steps ; Pitches her tents before me as I move, An hourly neighbor. Paradise, and groves Elysian, Fortunate Fields — like those of old Sought in the Atlantic Main - why should they be A history only of departed things, Or a mere fiction of what never was ? For the discerning intellect of Man, When wedded to this goodly universe In love and holy passion, shall find these A simple produce of the common day. -I, long before the blissful hour arrives, Would chant, in lonely peace, the spousal verse Of this great consummation :- and, by words Which speak of nothing more than what we are, Would I arouse the sensual from their sleep Of Death, and win the vacant and the rain To noble raptures; while my voice proclaims How exquisitely the individual Mind (And the progressive powers perhaps no less Of the whole species) to the external World Is fitted :— and how exquisitely, too Theme this, but little heard of, among men The external World is fitted to the Mind; And the creation, (by no lower name Can it be called,) which they with blended might Accomplish : this is our high argument.
Such grateful haunts foregoing, if I oft Must turn elsewhere - to travel near the tribes And fellowships of men, and see ill sights Of madding passions mutually inflamed; Must hear Humanity in fields and groves Pipe solitary anguish ; or must hang Brooding above the fierce confederate storm Of sorrow, barricaded evermore Within the walls of cities
may these sounds Have their authentic comment; that even these Hearing, I be not downcast or forlorn ! Descend, prophetic Spirit! that inspir’st The human Soul of universal earth, Dreaming on things to come; and dost possess A metropolitan Temple in the hearts Of mighty Poets; upon me bestow A gift of genuine insight; that my Song