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Possessed with a just idea of the mission and office of a poet, Wordsworth is no unworthy successor of the ancients, who attached a saeredness of character to the calling of the bard: with Wordsworth, as with the Greek and Roman poets, this office is the sublime one of the priest, the Interpreter of the Oracles of God: the decypherer of those beautiful hieroglyphics in which Nalure, in every lovely sound, every beautiful tint in her vast and unexhausted realms, has written, in characters ineffacable, to the eye of the patient, the humble, and the wise, the attributes of her Creator; his wisdom, his majesty, and his benevolence.
« The Great Pan »- the universal All, dimly beheld by the Ancient Poets, and worshipped with imperfect rites, is seen, in the Poetry of Wordsworth « not as through a glass, darkly -—not obscured by those mists of materialism which dimmed the pure light of Plato's mind, which sullied that orb of living fire, the sunlike soul of Aristotle-but basking in the clear and tender day of Christianity: he there,
) «Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
Leads on the eternal year.» If ever poet deserved the classical epithet of «divine, it is the subject of these remarksnone has ever studied Nature so patiently, none has expounded her oracles so well : was ever more deeply imbued with that feeling,
(*) «Divini gloria ruris ; and we
owe it as much to the wisdom and depth of his mind, as to the circumslance of his living in an age blessed by the Gospel, that the deities which haunt his woodland glades are of a nobler strain than Oread or Dryad, iban
(3) Agresti Pani,
(") « He is in love," to use the exquisite words of Charles Lamb—« he is in love with this green earth, the face of town * and country, the unspeakable rural solitudes. » But this love, a reverent and thoughtful passion, differs immeasurably from that vain and eager admiration paid by inferior poets to the beauties of external nature : theirs indeed may burn, but his glows, theirs ceases with the effect, so vehement yet so transient, which is made upon their mind. The ordinary race of poets adore nature as a mistress; it is Wordsworth who loves her as a wife.
The admiration of the beauties of nature, and the profound sympathy with all that is fair and pure, is, in the writings of most other poets, a means and instrument for producing the effect they desire ; in Wordsworth, it appears to be the end and object of his writing.
Boldly, yet reverently, does he follow Nature into her deepest recesses ; with a calm and holy rapture does he pronounce her oracles, impressed with the conviction that they are the accents of God. He « speaks as one having authority,” and the grave and didactic tone which he frequently assumes,
(9) « The Dorian mood, Breathing united force and fixed thought,»
though it may disappoint the reader who, looking no deeper than the surface of things, desires the vehement and passionate melody of the Byron school of poetry, is the fit medium of his noble and Christian philosophly.
The life of Wordsworth, by a singular felicity, has been such, as was by its calm simplicity and innocence, the best fitted to cherish those elevated contemplations which form the characteristic of his poetry.
His soul is like a star, and dwells apart. »
From his mountain home, far retired among the solitudes of Cumberland, the most picturesque portion of England, he
() Essays of Elia.
has wandered, by liquid morning sun-light, and calm moonbeams, to drink inspiration from the majestic hill-solitudes and dark-blue lakes that surround him :-following the advice of Goethe (") « he has bathed his earthy breast in the redness of the morning : : » or to use his own words of scarce inferior beauty:
(9) «For I have learned
-Therefore am I still
and ear, both what they half create,
Nor is the actual and practical life of this great poet unworthy of the holiness and solemnity of his mission : the priest of Nature and the interpreter of her profoundest oracles, it is clothed in purity and Christian Philosophy. « And long it was not after, » to use the words of his great 5) master, « when I « was confirmed in this opinion, that he who should hope to « write well in laudable things ought himself to be a true poem-that is, a composition and pattern of the best and honourablest things. » We know no English Poet who so speedily attained and so easily preserves a calm and elevated flight; none who has soared into the pure regions of philosophy,
(") «Die Geisterwelt ist nie verschlossen ;
Dein Sinn ist zu, dein Herz ist todt;
Die ird'sche Brust im Morgenroth.» (Faust.)
(") «With plume so strong, so equal, and so soft. » (*) « Fronı his own mind, which was, to borrow a phrase of Ben Jonson's, the very 'sphere of humanity,'-he fetches those images of virtue and knowledge of which every one of us, recognizing a part, think we comprehend in our natures the whole; and oftentimes mistake the powers which he positively creates in us, for nothing more than indigenous faculties of our own minds, which only waited the application of corresponding virtues in him to return a full and clear echo of the same.»
Eminently thoughtful as is the poetry of Wordsworth; and rather suggestive of impressions than descriptive of emotion, no writer perhaps has ever succeeded in producing such powerful touches of pathos by the use of such simple and apparently inadequate means. Take for example the following verses, where a strain of exquisite joyance gradually harmonizes into tones of no common, and no unsalutary sadness and thoughtfulness : () « Down to the vale this water steers;
How merrily it goes !
And flow as now it flows.
I cannot choose but think,
Beside this fountain's brink.
My heart is idly stirred,
Which in those days I heard.
And yet the viser mind
Than what it leaves behind.
If there be one who need bemoan
His kindred laid in earth,
It is the man of mirth.
(") Andrew Marvel, Sonnet to Milton.
We dare not trust ourselves to examine Wordsworth's great Moral Epic the Excursion, --- with a view to give our readers, by extracts, even an imperfect idea of the beauty of this poetry : so numerous and so long would be the specimens that occur to our minds at this moment, that twenty times the space which we can devote to the present remarks, would be insufficient to present an intellectual portrait of Wordsworth.
We will pass then to his sonnets, which containing, each in its narrow limits, susficient indications of the same pure morality and elevated thought as his longer poems, have the advantage of not tempting our admiration too far.
The Sonnet, as a species of composition, was long, but erroneously, imagined to be the peculiar domain of the Italian Muse, that Muse which first (if we may so express it) discovered, colonized, and cultivated this narrow but fertile angle of Parnassus.
The origin of this species of writing has been traced to the Provençal and Catalan poets, so far back as that period when letters were disinterred from the neglect and oblivion which succeeded the destruction of the Byzantine Empire. It would not perhaps be difficult to show, that the essential character of the Sonnet-we do not mean the external and purely mechanical features, which were of course dependant upon the language in which it first appeared—may be found, and without any great or hypercritical acuteness, in many of the shorter poems which were the dying accents of the Classic Muse; in the exquisite gems of Catullus for instance, many of which contain the true elements of the Sonnet : that is, the development, in a rich but chastened strain of poetry, of some simple idea which, like a wave of the tropic sea, swells slowly and gracefully along,till it gently foams itself to sleep-rises gradually, and with a gentle motion, till it breaks and disperses in the last line.
In spite of the claim, founded certainly on very legal and authentic grounds, those of first colonization and long occupancy-and notwithstanding the great names which may be adduced as cultivators of this narrow strip of Parnassian ground, Petrarca, Lorenzo de' Medici, Sannazar, Pico di Mirandola,