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persons who so complain will declare themselves amused by the characters, and edified by the dénouement, of a drama or metrical romance; but what instruction, warning, or delight (they ask) is furnished by a rhapsody about Daffodils, or an address to the Small Celandine? Yet the influences of these lyrical deliverances-charged as they are with a sentiment of gladness in natural beauty—is surely analogous to the less palpable influences of external life. Mental aliment may be compared to corporeal ; and, as no lover of health will scorn the inhaling of a genial mountain-air on the ground that it is “unsubstantial,” so let these demurrers be reminded that pastoral lyric poetry supplies an atmosphere to the mind, most fitly toning it to sensibility and taste, and preparing it for a delicate appreciation of the nobler truths of art.

It may further illustrate these remarks to quote our author's beautiful ode To the Cuckoo. O blithe new-comer! I have heard,

The same whom in my schoolboy days I hear thee, and rejoice;

I listen'd to; that cry O cuckoo ! shall I call thee bird,

Which made me look a thousand ways Or but a wandering voice ?

In bush and tree and sky. While I am lying on the grass,

To seek thee did I often rove Thy loud note smites my ear;

Through woods and on the green ; From hill to hill it seems to pass,

And thou wert still a hope, a love, At once far off and near,

Still long'd for, never seen! I hear thee babbling to the vale,

And I can listen to thee yet, Of sunshine and of flowers ;

Can lie upon the plain, And unto me thou bring 'st a tale

And listen till I do beget Of visionary hours.

That golden time again. Thrice welcome, darling of the spring!

O blessed bird ! the earth we pace Even yet thou art to me

Again appears to be No bird; but an invisible thing,

An unsubstantial faery place, A voice, a mystery :

That is fit home for thee ! Surely to listen to these verses is, in effect, to be transported to the poet's rest-place on the early summer-grass, surrounded by every genial and inspiring sight and sound ; and then to be borne back to our own dawning childhood, when nature was a dreamlike presence because we unreflectingly enjoyed it,—not less dreamlike now, when memory yields us but the shadow of that shade. The sensations appealed to by the poem are of a delicate and transient kind, of which many readers are hardly susceptible; but surely all may so far appreciate the sentiment as to hear of its cordial reception without signs of impatience or contempt. For its admirers we would willingly cull other and still sweeter posies, from this part of our poet's cultured and dew-fed garden; but the limits of our space forbid. We can only indicate a few of the most pleasing. She was a phantom of delight is a genuine and happy sketch ; and one of kindred excellence is that commencing, Three years she grew in sun and shower. A few masterly strokes (of each it may be said) from the pencil of our artistauthor; and, lo! how fine a creature stands before us! how suitable a back-ground waits upon the picture! Louisa is a creation of similar beauty ; and the ballad of Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle, thongh belonging to another class of compositions, is characterised by the same simplicity and freedom.

To many of our author's minor poems we cannot extend the same admiration, for reasons which we may hereafter specify. It is sufficient to remark, in passing, that, though written, like those mentioned, with a

literal truthfulness to nature, they fail to produce the same pleasurable feeling, either from the meanness of their subject, or the unconquerable vulgarity of their associations. And be it here remarked, that such a fault rests entirely at the author's door. Nature is ever lovely ; and it is almost an act of impiety to charge upon her the unsightly failure of our depicting powers. The true artist is no mechanical copyist : he shows the spiritual faculty within him, rather by the selection and disposition of important features, than by the laboured detail which vulgar painters bestow at random on those of least significance. The result he aims at is the communication of thoughts, whatever medium or subject he may employ ; and, if those thoughts be trivial or familiar, he knows well that the mind will be offended at the artistic elaboration of common-place ideas. What should we think of a painted conversation, and that of the most trifling kind ? Yet such is the absurdity too often met with in verses laying claim to the name of poetry ; and of this unpleasing description are too many of our author's earlier pieces. Iterations of natural phenomena they may be ; but expressions of the spirit of nature they certainly are not.

But the genius of Mr. Wordsworth is more true to itself, when exercised in more advanced species of composition. It is his besetting temptation, when dealing with familiar life, to mistake the literal and vulgar for those homely but universal truths which the æsthetic character of art admits in the humblest poetry, as it associates them with the highest. He is, therefore, least successful in that department of song on which his first claims to originality were founded. His lyrical ballads give him no title to a posthumous renown: many of them, indeed, that sustain their place in his collected works, are felt to be only so much carrion borne upwards between the wings of his later and more heaven-ward genius. Writers of less pretension and desert are here superior to our author. Gay's charming ballad of William and Susan (for example) is worth many such as Alice Fell and The Sailor's Mother. The latter two are fragmentary incidents, rather than pictures in brief ; and have no more claim to admiration in their present state than would an isolated tree of Turner's, or a peasant singled out from one of his consummate landscapes. Occurring in important compositions, where their excellence of truth would be auxiliary and incidental, they would have proved effective in a double manner, as at once testifying the affluence of the author's mind, and contributing in their place and measure to the unity and completeness of his work. But, in their isolation, these pieces seem to demand an admiration and regard which they do not intrinsically merit; and there is a contrast, painfully obvious, between the deliberate purpose of their production and its inadequate results.

Nor will their brevity sufficiently explain or excuse the fault. The ballad of William and Susan is equally brief; but at the same time its features are characteristic, not trivial; indicating, in few lines, the strength and mastery of a full-grown passion, and that passion swelling in a sailor's breast, and evidencing itself in the earnest simplicity of a sailor's manner. The whole life of this British tar may be easily imagined from the poet's little song. We repeat, therefore, that the strength of Mr. Wordsworth is most displayed when the shackles imposed by his theory are broken by the force of his genius: for then, no longer mistaking the vulgar for the true, or limited by a fear of swelling into affectation when soaring from the low, he is seen to expatiate with a truly catholic delight over the boundless heritage of nature. His reflections then are more natural and informed, and his language is more terse, expressive, and poetical. The severity of his style, which is apt to degenerate into baldness and froideur, becomes animated and fruitful, suggestive, picturesque, and harinonious. We will quote a few lines from The Old Cumberland Beggar, in illustration of our author's better manner, of which it is in a high degree characteristic.

Him from my childhood have I known; and then
He was so old he seems not older now.
He travels on, a solitary man,
So helpless in appearance, that for him
The sauntering horseman-traveller does not throw
With careless hand his alms upon the ground,
But stops, that he may safely lodge the coin
Within the old man's hat; nor quits him so,
But still, when he has given his horse the rein,
Towards the aged beggar turns a look
Side-long, and half-reverted. She who tends
The toll-gate, when in summer at her door
She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees
The aged beggar coming, quits her work,
And lifts the latch for him that he may pass.
The post-boy, when his rattling wheels o'ertake
The aged beggar in the woody lane,
Shouts to him from behind ; and if perchance
The old man does not change his course, the boy
Turns with less noisy wheels to the road-side,
And passes gently by, without a curse
Upon his lips, or anger at his heart.
He travels on, a solitary man ;
His age has no companion. On the ground
His eyes are turn'd, and, as he moves along,
They move along the ground; and, evermore,
Inscead of common and habitual sight
Of fields with rural works, of hill and dale,
And the blue sky, one little span of earth
Is all his prospect. Thus, from day to day,
Bow.bent, his eyes for ever on the ground,
He plies his weary journey ; seeing still,
And never knowing that he sees, some straw,
Some scatter'd leat, or marks which, in one track,
The nails of cart or chariot-wheel have left
Impress'd on the white road, in the same line
At distance still the same. Poor traveller !
His staff trails with him ; scarcely do his feet
Disturb the summer dust; he is so still
In look and motion, that the cottage curs,
Ere he have pass'd the door, will turn away,
Weary of barking at him. Boys and girls,
The vacant and the busy, pass him by ;
Him even the slow-paced waggon leaves behind.
Then let him pass, a blessing on his head !
And while in that vast solitude to which
The tide of things has led him, he appears
To breathe and live but for himself alone,
Unblamed, uninjured, let him bear about
The good which the benignant law of Heaven
Has hung around him; and, while life is his,
Still let him prompt the unletter'd villagers
To tender offices and pensive thoughts.
-Then let him pass, a blessing on his head !
And, long as he can wander, let him breathe
The freshness of the valleys; let his blood





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Struggle with frosty air and winter snows;
And let the charter'd wind that sweeps the heath
Beat his grey locks against his wither'd face.
Reverence the hope whose vital anxiousness
Gives the last human interest to his heart,
May never House (misnamed) of Industry
Make him a captive! For that pent-up din,
Those life-consuming sounds that clog the air,
Be his the natural silence of old age !
Let him be free of mountain solitudes;
And have around him, whether heard or not,
The pleasant melody of woodland birds.
Few are his pleasures : if his eyes have now
Been doom'd so long to settle on the earth
That not without some effort they behold
The countenance of the horizontal sun,
Rising or setting, let the light at least
Find a free entrance to their languid orbs.
And let him, where and when he will, sit down
Beneath the tree, or by the grassy bank
Of highway side, and with the little birds
Share his chance-gather'd meal; and, finally,
As in the eye of nature he has lived,

So in the eye of nature let him die.
This is a fine poetic study ; painted with uncommon breadth and vigour,
full of expressive detail, and wonderfully realising to the mind its grand
impersonation of old age. From this picture, as from the life, we see how
decay encroaches upon the most masculine of men, makes them half-
conscious recipients of natural blessings which they once inherited and
enjoyed, and causes them to approximate, by visible degrees, to the
oblivion and silence of that dust into which they must shortly be resolved.
The contemplation of an object so affecting is not less salutary than the
perusal of a death’s head in a hermitage ; and yet-here is the marvel of
consummate genius—we are even more attracted by its beauty than per-
suaded by its pregnant truth. Indeed, the sense of beauty is direct and
predominant; the impression of truth, collateral and indefinable. For-
be it observed—the mind of the poet is not disturbed by a painful or personal
sympathy with the beggar's actual condition, but dwells with complacency
on its picturesque and sensuous associations. What would be unpardon-
able, because misplaced, in a philanthropic essay, is an absolute merit
in this gem of art. The poet is confessedly indulging his own luxurious
sense of the relations existing between man and nature, and he finds great
delight in rehearsing them for the reader's admiration ; so that the very
blessings he invokes upon the hale old man have reference inore to his own
pleasure in contemplating them from without, than to the personal advan-
tage of their object. One word for the beggar is followed by two for the
poet himself. Thus when he prays-

Let him be free of mountain solitudes,
And have around hiin, whether heard or not,

The pleasant melory of woodland birds—
-for what purpose, it may naturally be asked, is this melody desired,
which cannot penetrate the errant old man's ear? Simply that it may
charm the ear of his fancy who indulges in the picture. It is, in short, a
betrayal, not unintended, of the fact that this venerable figure is summoned
into the poet's presence, not to receive alms and commiseration, but to
minister serene and high delight, by eliciting the sympathies of a fine-

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toned intellect, while grouping around his own unaided human majesty those accessories of nature which proclaim at once his headship and mortality.

We cannot but esteem the classical poems of Mr. Wordsworth highly successful. This was to be expected from the general purity of his taste, and the antique simplicity of his mind; and, although it has been said that he is pre-eminently the poet of the nineteenth century, an attentive perusal of his works has led us to a different opinion. Let the claim to such distinction, if it be worth asserting, be preferred by some popular genius, whose works more strikingly reflect the times. Wordsworth could not sustain it, and does not need it. He appeals to all reflective and emotional minds, and deals successfully with much of the conscious experience of mankind: but as he never, on the one hand, evinces that individualising power which makes the dramatist transcend the limited sphere of his own condition, and have sympathy with widely-varied characters in untried circumstances; so, on the other, he equally distinguished from the surface-painter of society, who is skilful in the delineation of a costume, or felicitous in the expression of a national humour. He occupies that serene and middle region which lies below the third heaven of poetry, consisting of the sublimated passion of the human heart, and above the grosser cloud-land of social phases, shifting and uncertain. He breathes an atmosphere of sensational intelligence : he is seldom rapt into prophecy, and never descends to satire or good-natured mirth. Hence the fabulous stories of Greece and Rome are admirably suited to his muse; and we cannot but regret that he who has written with so much truthful pathos in Laodamia, and transfused so grand a moral into the Ode of Dion, should not have more often selected such themes of classical significance and beauty.

The mental characteristics just remarked have largely contributed to the excellence of our author's sonnets. Of these we had intended to treat at some length, as being the noblest specimens of their class ever furnished to the world of literature by any single mind; but our limits, already exceeded, oblige us to defer their full consideration to some future opportunity. In the mean time we will simply indicate a few of the distinguishing merits of those before us. They have, then, first, all the beauties peculiar to that form of composition. Independently of the skill which overcomes with apparent ease the most difficult exercise of verse, the sonnet demands from its author a dignity of thought or sentiment which shall deserve the separate attention of the mind, and which-perfect in its unity as a whole--shall admit of a gradual advance to a gentle and consistent climax; being carefully distinguished from the epigram by the serious beauty of its measure, and the absence in its close of a witty, pointed, or abrupt surprise. These conditions are faithfully complied with in every series of Mr. Wordsworth's sonnets.

But while the rigid critic is satisfied by the application of these restrictive canons, the tasteful reader is delighted with nobility of sentiment, precision of language, access of affluent subsidiary thoughts, and culminating line in conclusion. They remind him, sometimes of a richly tessellated pavement, of which the diamond-figured parts are fashioned into one large star, and concentre to a point; and sometimes of a decorated arch, in which the union of stability and grace becomes perfect as the final keystone drops into its appropriate place. It is difficult to select from four hundred specimens that lie before us, each possessing some novel and attractive thought; but let the following serve.

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