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For the distracted mother to assuage
O'er twilight fields the autumn gossamer?'
the cloudy stall of Time;' the precise import of which expressions we do not quite enter into. And then to the Poet's eye,
this metaphysical abstraction is embodied in a palpable form— Her
glistening tresses bound: this would seemn bold enough; yet the Author might thiok himself justified in venturing thus far by the exquisite line of Collins,
• And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair.' But Mr. Wordsworth wants just that one thing which Collins possessed in perfection-taste. The Author of the Ode on the Passions knew by instinct the precise boundary line between the sublime and the extravagant, between figure and nonsense. He never for a moment loses himself amid his own imagery, or confounds the figurative with the physical. But Mr. Wordsworth goes on to define the appearance of the glistening tresses of Memory, and to compare them to golden locks of birch ;' and then forgetting altogether, as it should seem, the imaginary being he bas conjured up, his mind fastens upon the new idea, one that relates to a simple object of perception :
- golden locks of birch that rise and fall
Aught of the fading year's inclemency.' If these last lines have any intelligible connexion with the idea of Memory as introduced in the foregoing part of the stanza, we confess that it eludes our dull apprehensions.
Vaudracour and Julia is a tale in blank verse, which was originally intended, we presume, to form av episode in some future portion of “The Excursion.” The incidents are stated to be facts, no invention having as to them been exercised. It is a touching and melancholy tale of unfortunate love, and told in Mr. Wordsworth's happiest manner. From the lyrical pieces which follow it in order, we cannot do otherwise than select the very beautiful stanzas entitled • LAMENT OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS,
ON THE EVE OF A NEW YEAR. «« Smile of the Moon for so I name That silent greeting from above;
A gentle flash of light that came
or law and holiest sympathy,
Repos'd upon the block !' pp. 92-95. The odes are the least pleasing compositions in the volume, being for the most part very affected and very enigmatical. There are, however, some exceptions. The one bearing date September, 1816, merits transcription as a varied specimen of the contents of the volume.
• The sylvan slopes with corn-clad fields
This, this is holy:-while I hear
• But list !-though winter storms be nigh,
These Choristers confide. pp. 187–188.
• Not seldom, clad in radiant vest,
171-172 We can make room for only two more specimens: they are in themselves sufficient to justify all the praise that has been bestowed on Mr. Wordsworth's sonnets.
The other sonpet is on the death of his late Majesty.
• Ward of the Law !_dread Shadow of a King !
An unexampled voice of awful memory!' “ The Prioress's Tale" from Chaucer, is a very ill-chosen subject for the experiment of exhibiting the Father of English Poetry in a modern form. The legend is so exquisitely absurd, that it must have been designed as a burlesque on the lying martyrological wonders of the Romish priesthood. It is that of a poor innocent child who had his throat cut by some wicked Jews, because he was too fond of singing Ave Maria, but who continued, by aid of the blessed Virgin, to reiterate the same articulate sounds which he had been wont to utter while living, till his corpse was found, and then, was able to give information against his murderers; but the spirit could not obtain its discharge till a grain was taken off of his tongue which the Virgin had placed there. When Chaucer wrote, such fables were not too gross for the vulgar credulity ; but we know not for what purpose they are transplanted into modern poetry. To Mr. Wordsworth, indeed, we can conceive that such tales would recommend themselves by their very puerility ; that he would be even melted into tears by the affected solemnity of a sly old humorist like Chaucer; and that what was meant by him for satire, might be mistaken by our Author for pathos.
We deem it quite unnecessary to repeat that our respect for Mr. Wordswortb's talents remains unaltered. The copious extracts we have given from the present volume, sufficiently evince that those talents are of a very high order. But we have so fully expressed our opinion on this point, in our reviews of the Excursion,* and of “ The White Doe of Rylstone," + as well as subsequently in noticing the unfortunate pair, Peter Bell and Benjamin the Waggoner, I that we will not run the hazard of wearying our readers by saying more upon the subject. It is certain, that while he has been as a poet ridiculously,
E. R. N.S. Vol. III.
+ Ibid. Vol. V.
$ Ibid. Vol. XII.