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We have been anxious to prove that Wordsworth's contemplations of nature involve no dependence of the mind upon accidents of the outward world, and so to vindicate his poetic faith from suspicion of any pantheistic tendencies to an absolute nature-worship, disparaging man's immortal endowment, and excluding a distinct recognition of the Supreme Being. The danger of the heart, in this respect, has not been overlooked by him :
“ Trembling, I look upon the secret springs
Of that licentious craving in the mind
Processions. The kindly influences of nature are shown by Wordsworth, not only in scenes of extraordinary splendor and sublimity, inspiring lofty raptures, but, as he exults :
" Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys and fears,
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” From that favorite of the elder poets — the Daisy - he draws instruction copiously :
“ A hundred times, by rock or bower,
Or stray invention.
If stately passions in me burn,
A lowlier pleasure ;
Of hearts at leisure.”
More than this, to nature is ascribed a power of softening the feelings hardened by a reckless sensuality-of reclaiming from vicious habit the heart of such a being as “ Peter Bell." By
“is Peter taught to feel
More searching than the breath of spring." It is Wordsworth's aim to show not only the influences of nature on our moral being, but the reciprocal action of our feelings, by the agency of imagination, on the outward world, which the senses are said to “ half perceive and half create.” The mere personification of any of the forms of nature is but a rude poetic process, but the higher purpose is to endow them with attributes of sentient and intellectual being, and by such interchange, to create a moral sympathy between the heart of man and all that meets his senses. It is one of the principles of Wordsworth's poetry to develop this harmony of the sensuous and the spiritual, by giving not only life to breathless nature, but impulses and feelings kindred to those in the human breast. It is the philosophical moral of the poem of “Hart-leap Well,” that the face of nature puts on an expression correspondent with any impressive incident she has witnessed. It is there beautifully illustrated, but we must content ourselves with an instance in a fragment of the lines “ written during an evening walk, after a stormy day, on the expected death of Mr. Fox:"
“Loud is the Vale! the Voice is up
With which she speaks when storms are gone,
Loud is the Vale; - this inland Depth
Is listening quietly." The poet's communion with nature is not confined to its inanimate forms- it is comprehensive of sympathies with the beings below the scale of humanity. An eloquent exhortation to the cultivation of an affectionate knowledge of the inferior kinds, as members of “the mighty commonwealth of things, up from the creeping plant to sovereign Man,” – is one of the sublime
passages of the fourth book of the Excursion. The sympathy descending to the mute creation is also especially shown in the “ White Doe of Rylstone" and the “Hart-leap. Well.” The stanzas —“September, 1819," finely illustrate Wordsworth's spirit, expressing not only the communion of the human heart with other forms of being to which life and sense are given but that both receive an impulse from the outward shows of sky and earth” — and that all,- the lifeless masses - the unthinking birds — and the human spirit, are looked on by the eye of their common God:
“The sylvan slopes with corn-clad fields
Are hung, as if with golden shields,
And, sooth to say, yon
For that from turbulence and heat
This, this is holy; while I hear
of another year,
But list! -though winter storms be nigh,
These choristers confide."
summate pictorial power of the language is not the chief beauty :
the vase becomes a “type of a sunny human breast,” and its inmates, with forms so unessential, are instinct with meanings of their own, not uninstructive to the passions of thinking man. Who, remembering these lines, can ever look on such creatures without a deeper and better emotion than blank admiration?
“How beautiful! – Yet none knows why
This ever-graceful change,
Within your quiet range.
For mutual pleasure glide ;
Are dwarfed, or magnified ?
Whate'er your forms express,
All leads to gentleness."
At the very time that his fancy is thus luxuriating, Wordsworth's faithfulness to truth is still apparent, for while he is adding by his imagery brightness to their "golden flash and silver gleam," there are signs of a deeper emotion in his heart, because the rays come from a “glassy prison.” Bright and beautiful as the creatures are to the poet's eye, he is true to nature, which he feels is violated, and in the sequel, “ Liberty,” when they are removed “ to the fresh waters of a living well,”
“On whose smooth breast, with dimples light and small
The fly may settle, or the blossom fall," his heart beats with a freer motion. The little beings are invested with man's dread of slavery-a childlike fearfulness in their unnatural durance — and the human passion for freedom is made an endowment of all sentient life:
“ Who can divine what impulses from God
Reach the caged lark, within a town abode,
inch or two of daisied sod ? O, yield him back his privilege !- No sea Swells like the bosom of a man set free; A wilderness is rich with liberty. Roll on, ye spouting whales, who die or keep Your independence in the fathomless Deep! Spread, tiny nautilus, the living sail; Dive, at thy choice, or brave the freshening gale!
If unreproved the ambitious eagle mount
Till the world perishes, a field for thee !" Wordsworth's strong affection for the inferior kinds never tempts him into extravagances from the ways of truth. It is not indulged at the expense of the dignity of human nature: it is bis care at once to cultivate feelings of benignity towards all visible beings, and to preserve the natural station of each in the scale of creation. A delicate proof of this occurs in the first part of the “ Tribute to the memory of a favorite Dog." This is a subject, which, in the hands of a poet of lighter feelings or of morbid temperament, tends invariably to exaggeration. The lifeless creature is raised to the level of humanity-or above it. The epitaph is made the vehicle of a cynical irritability, and the mourner over the dead dog begins himself to snarl at his fellow
The reader will have no difficulty in recalling such instances. Now, if the remains of the old animal, who had his share in a thousand household thoughts, are cast out to be devoured by birds, nature is violated -and feeling is violated — but they are also violated by the sacred honors of human sepulture. There is therefore a beauty in the simple rectitude of feeling in these lines:
“ Lie here, without a record of thy worth,
Beneath a covering of the common earth!
Will gladly stand a monument of thee.” Before passing from the poems especially devoted to external nature, we must allude to one, among the poet's later productions, which, when perused with the thought that is due to it, will be ranked among the most illustrious effusions in English poetry. The Stanzas "on the power of Sound,” present the most sublime single illustration of the genius of Wordsworth in spiritualizing the world of sense. The gigantic scope of his imagination in gathering the vast variety of audible impulses on the air, is not more wonderful than the sagacity with wbich they are
NO. VII-VOL. IV.