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the general merit of a first conception. When we compare his Cooper's Hill, or indeed any of the specifically descriptive poetry, either of the period to which Johnson has assigned its introduction, or of the period which followed, we mean that of Pope and Thomson, with the poetry of our own time in the: same department, it seems, to our judgments, that the present. æra may fairly claim the credit of having originated that sentimental manner of describing particular landscapes which carries the picturesque into the heart, and annexes an interior feeling to what was formerly in its most luxuriant dress the source only of a superficial ecstacy and transient delight. Among the writers who have purchased this distinction for the times in which we live, the author of the little book of poems now before us deserves, in our opinion, a very honourable place. He has entitled himself to this place by an intensity of natural expression, and a thoughtful original delineation of local scenery, which have exalted him to a dignified independence upon traditional imagery, hereditary similes, and the stores of superficial common-place. From these obvious resources he has turned himself to those treasures of contemplative wealth, which, by adding their value to rural objects, and all the possible combinations of scenery, general, local, and domestic, have philosophized, and spiritualized, and raised into commercewith the soul, those beauties and sublimities of nature which, in the dress of our old poetry, produced admiration without emotion; stimulating the fancy indeed, but leaving the ideas that slumber in the heart unawakened or unengaged. To Mr. Wordsworth we do really think the praise of this new style of local poetry eminently belongs. We hardly know where to look for a greater abundance of those vivid displays which exhibit the
points of contact between our own interior constitution and the objects of external nature which surround us, developing, in the habitudes and associations of the mind, the springs of a superadded delight in each prospect that presents itself.
As a cultivator of this local poetry, Mr.Wordsworth has with good judgment adopted a distinguishing simplicity of style. It is to the simple elemental passions, as they singly display themselves, that his descriptions and allusions are necessarily restricted : the scenes of unsophisticated nature with which his muse is occupied know nothing of the complications of sentiment or emotion to which the tumults and agitations of crowded life furnish constant occasion. The theme is simple, and calls for simplicity of dress and decoration. Where this simplicity is lost sight of, descriptive poetry may be brilliant and beautiful, but it can no longer communicate with the heart; its alliance with moral feeling is cut off: it has no longer any com
mon medium of expression with the impulses of genuine affection.
But while, in order to maintain this consonance and responsiveness of character between the scenes of external nature, and the operations of mind, Mr. Wordsworth, and others who have adopted his taste, have properly estimated the importance of a simple, and apparently artless manner, the excess and extravagance to which they have frequently carried the principle have been the means of bringing it under reproach and contempt, or of recommending a practice detrimental and degrading to our national muse. Poetry is, after all, an ornamental art, and pledged by its very undertaking to become the medium of embellishment: it must achieve something beyond prose, or it might as well be prose. Simplicity may, without the sacrifice of its proper character, assume both grace and elevation; and we speak it in discommendation of Mr. Wordsworth, and of a certain school to which he may be regarded as belonging, that in many instances they seem to have forgotten the distinction between a natural and unlaboured expression of feeling, and a language at the farthest remove from poetical elevation. To mistake a mean and prostrate diction for the dialect of the poet, is among the follies generated by the affectation of treating things in a new way. It is an inverted ambition ; and as there is no dignity in its endeavour, there is the greater disgrace in its fall; by a disappointment well deserved, its very eagerness for distinction precipitates it into common-place. We shall by and by illustrate these observations by a passage or two from some of the pieces now under review. We will first address ourselves to the more pleasurable task of doing justice to the many excellencies which are scattered through these poems, and which may be said almost uniformly to characterize the principal piece, called “ The River Duddon,” consisting of a series of sonnets accompanying the flow of that pleasing river with a succession of incidental reflections beautifully appropriate. For the purpose of interweaving the moral with the picturesque, a more ingenious thought could not have entered the mind of a poet than that of following the variegated course of a river, sometimes calm or slightly agitated, sometimes urged into torrents by its straitened banks, rocky barriers, and precipitous falls ; passing at one time through verdant meads, at another through dark defiles, till, widening into a broad and glittering expanse, it bares its bosom to the heavens, and finally sinks into its oblivious repose in the ultimate receptacle of waters,majestic emblem of eternity! It seems to us, that by following up these diversities of appearance with a series of sonnets, in which he has borrowed, from the changeful aspects of the river in its course, a succession of tender and pathetic allusions to human life, and its affecting vicissitudes, Mr. Wordsworth has with great art and effect contrived to harmonize into one general impression of accumulated interest an assemblage of little pieces distinct in their subjects, and which, without some point of union, might be apt to fatigue attention by a recurrence of the same structure without continuity of interest, or progression of sentiment.
Such, we think, is the character, and such are the advantages of the subject which this poet has chosen for a series of connected sonnets ; and though it seems that“ this series of sonnets was the growth of many years," and the product of “occasional visits to the stream, as recollections of the scenes upon its banks awakened a wish to describe them;" yet the effect produced by the order in which they are arranged, is that of a continuous effort of expanding thought produced by a single object pleasingly diversified by accident and combination.
It was with great delight that we read many years ago the loco-descriptive poem of Lewesdon Hill, by the present public orator of Oxford; nor can we recollect any production of a similar kind which has since afforded us equal gratification, unless it be the “ River Duddon” of the writer on whom we are now commenting. They proceed in the same tenor of illustrative description, drawing from nature without any
strain after similitudes, or analogies, an allusive morality that gives life to the landscape, and makes it converse with the heart. Of the meditative character of Mr. Wordsworth's muse, these sonnets on the River Duddon are a lively specimen, and we cannot but think that the more this style of poetry engages him, the more his reputation will be advanced. We may observe, too, that the demand which descriptive poetry makes upon the imagination for dress and colouring of language, has seemed to divert him from that unaccountable addiction to a frigid and creeping idiom, halting between prose and verse, in which the class of writers to which he belongs is so prone to indulge. Where his language maintains the level of his thoughts, the whole composition stands before us as a structure of suitable elevation and chaste magnificence.
All our readers may not know that the river Duddon rises upon Wrynose Tell, on the confines of Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Lancashire; and after dividing Lancashire from Cumberland for about twenty-five miles, discharges itself into the Irish Sea. But for the sake of enabling them to read the extracts, which we shall present to them, with the intelligence which is necessary to their due impression, we will further inform them, from “ Mr. Green's Guide to the Lakes,” that in the scenery
through which the Duddon winds its course to the sea, face of nature is displayed in a wonderful variety of hill and dale ; wooded grounds and buildings ; amongst the latter, Broughton Tower, seated on the crown of a hill, rising elegantly from the valley, is an object of extraordinary interest. Fertility on each side is gradually diminished, and lost in the superior heights of Blackcomb, in Cumberland, and the high lands between Kirkby and Ulverstone. The road from Broughton to Seathwaite is on the banks of the Duddon, and on its Lancashire side it is of various elevations. The river is an amusing companion, one while brawling and tumbling over rocky precipices, until the agitated water becomes calm again by arriving at a smoother and less precipitous bed; but its course is soon again ruffled, and the current thrown into every variety of form which the rocky channel of a river can give to water.” specimen of Mr. Wordsworth, take the fourteenth stanza.
“ O Mountain Stream! the Shepherd and his Cot
Are privileged Inmates of deep solitude ;
The Clouds and Fowls of the air thy way pursue !”—(P.16.) The tributary stream making its way to the Duddon with precipitate haste, sprinkling refreshment and invigorating the yerdure of the thirsty fields through which it hurries, is celebrated with a charming simplicity in the nineteenth sonnet.
“ My frame hath often trembled with delight
When hope presented some far-distant good,
yon pure waters, from their aëry height,
From among the seven or eight concluding sonnets, it is difficult to make a choice, each of them is so well worthy of being presented to our readers. Every character of the river is impressive, and not the least so in the softest and serenest part of its course. But the poet hàs, without dissipating the idea which belongs to the integrity of the single sonnet, beautifully pourtrayed the variations of the river's temper, within the compass of fourteen exquisite lines.
" The old inventive Poets, had they seen,
Or rather felt, the entrancement that detains
Tossing her frantic thyrsus wide and high!"-(P. 22.) The sheepwashing is very poetically described. It has all that picturesque exactness into which the writer of taste and feeling knows so well how to descend without degrading his
There is a transmutation in the poet's touch by which a value is given to the little and the low, while the strictest fidelity in the representation is preserved. Such, we think, is the character of the following sonnet.
“ Sad thoughts, avaunt!-the fervour of the year,
Pour'd on the fleece-encumbered flock, invites
Frank are the sports, the stains are fugitive."-(P. 25.) Take again the view here presented of the church of Ulpha, and the churchyard, with all the pensive features and moral quietude of the scene, as an example of what we hesitate not to say of Mr. Wordsworth, that, apart from his unfortunate propensity to mistake meanness for simplicity, and to discredit