Imágenes de páginas

for people of weak or dim conception, feel no inclination to become either poets or painters. They are your prosers.

But without intensity of emotion accompanying the perception of the objects of external nature, no very popular picture in poetry can be painted. It will not do merely to feel a certain calm, equable pleasure, in looking upon them, and to transfuse a portion of that spirit into your descriptions; for the transfused spirit will be necessarily fainter than the faint original emotion. You must either feel, or have felt, transportedly; and under the power of feeling, all objects will be in glitter or gloom. Even in the calmest and most subdued tone of the true poet there is passion. However near the earth, he is still on the wing. This is remarkably the case with Wordsworth. In his very simplest poems—and some of them are too simple perhapsthere are always touches, traits, glimpses of genuine feeling-a feeling of fondness, or affection, or joy, or beauty. If you do not enjoy his descriptions, depend upon it, that nine times out of ten the fault is your own, and that your power of emotion is inadequate. In most cases familiarity breeds contempt, but not if the creation be the subject. Wordsworth cannot bring himself to dislike a nettle-or a dock—or a mushroom; and we bet you a set, that he will make a better poem on a gooseberry-bush, than you will do on the great Persian sycamore, which is about seventy feet in circumference.

Now the delight-the emotion of which we have been prosing away, presupposes knowledge. Knowledge of what ? Knowledge of this beautiful round green earth. Do you suppose that Wordsworth is not a good naturalist, entomologist, botanist, agriculturist, and shepherd ? That he is, to a dead certainty. Now that keeps him from talking nonsense. There is not one mistake-one blunder, about any natural object, in all his poetry. What could have given him power to gather up all that rich and deep knowledge of insensate things? The love of beautywonder-and admiration—and the adoring soul of poetry. His thoughts are “never unstable nor desert him quite," because the objects to which they cleave are lasting as the laws of external nature-immortal as the soul of man.

When the Lyrical Ballads are obsolete, it will be about time for this world to shut up shop.

Look sharply into the writings of clever men, who have failed to delight, although they may have given pleasure. They were in general ignoramuses, at least on the subjects in which they had but this partial success. How many thousands and tens of thousands have written pastorals? Humble life, in Britain, has been written about, within these fifty years, in one form or another, by as many persons as are now in Edinburgh, Leith, and suburbsabout 150,000. Now, perhaps not above a dozen of all these have written any thing that will live. Goldsmith, Cowper, Crabbe, Wordsworth, Scott, Burns, Ramsay, Hogg, Cunninghame, Bloomfield, Clare, and the author of Lights and Shadows of Scottish Lise, -all these writers, either by their birth or habits of life, knew intimately their subject, from “ turret to foundation-stone.” Hence one and all of them, according to the measure of his power, has turned his knowledge to 'account, and enlarged, it may be said, the nation's knowledge of its own character. We shall write a leading article on each of them, considered solely as painters of the poor.

Without trenching on the subject of these future leading articles, we may here observe, that it is curious to remark the difference between the effect on a mind of genius, of absolute personal experience, and of that kind of experi. ence which is merely intimate, constant and extended observation, under favourable circumstances. Burns, Hogg, Cunninghame, and Clare, were absolute peasants, or shepherds, or masons—and in all their works there is, inde. pendently of their higher or lower genius, of which we do not now speak, a something, that he who does not feel it as perpetually as one hears an accent, must be a blockhead. Only by men so born such works could have been so conceived and executed. Most of the others were sin a manner born” among the same objects; but only “ in a manner;" and the consequence is, that there is an ideal spirit in all their creations, often very beautiful, but some. times leading away from truth ; and we desiderate that intense reality which we behold with our own eyes in life.

Accordingly, whatever rank such writings may hold in the literature of a country, we doubt if they ever will be domesticated by the firesides of that peasantry, whose character and occupation it is their ambition to describe.

If this article be getting tedious, (and if it had not been doing so, we should not have shoved it away to the other side of the table for these last two hours, while we dis. cussed twin-tumblers,) any reader of common sense knows how to make it short enough. Shut the magazine, stretch out your pretty little feet, my dear,-lean back your head, -don't mind though the comb fall out, and let your auburn tresses salute the floor behind the sofa,-shut your eyes, and your mouth also, and may you dream of your lover! Mayhap he is not far off, but come gliding into the room, and breathes a faint fond kiss' over thy forehead. He blesses this long, sleepy leading article ; and, at every unawakening kiss, means to become a subscriber,-yea, a contributor.

Meanwhile, we are off to Westmoreland to speak of cottages. Often and often have we determined to accept Mr. Blackwood's very gentlemanly offer of five hundred for a Guide to the Lakes. Gray the poet touched some of the scenes there with a pencil of light; but his are but sketches, and few in number. Old West was not a little of an enthusiast, and something niore of an antiquary. But we suspect he was shortsighted, and wore spectacles. He had a fancy too that there were only a few points, or stations, from which a country could be satisfactorily looked at; and during all the intervening distances, the worthy priest whistled as he went for want of thought. His style, like a beetle, wheels its drowsy flight, and each paragraph reads like a bit of a sermon. Besides, the whole character of the country is greatly changed,--and that for the better, --since his time, notwithstanding the disappearance of some old familiar faces. The captain who 6 rambled for a fortnight,” was a half-pay coxcomb, and ought never to have had his name printed any where but in the army list. He would fain be thought too a man of gallantry, and confabulates with every shepherdess he meets, as if she had been a Manchester spinning-jenny. It was lucky for him

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

that some Rowland Long did not kick him out of the county. Then came poor Green,-a man of taste, feeling, and genius,—but as ignorant of the art of bookmaking, as if he had lived before the invention of printing. But his work is a mine, and out of it a Grub Street journeyman might manufacture a guide without leaving the sound of Bow-bell. He was followed by Mr. Wordsworth, who, instead of a guide, presented the world with a treatise on the picturesque, the sublime, and the beautiful. It is needless to say, that his treatise overflows with fine and true thoughts and observations ; nor does any man living better understand, or more deeply feel, the characteristic qualities of the scenery of Westmoreland. Yet it is somewhat heavy, even as a philosophical essay. For a guide, Mr. Wordsworth takes up a formidable position,-namely, on a cloud floating midway between the Great Gable and Scawfell. As maps are not uncommon, bird's-eye views of this kind are unnecessary; and when we write our guide, we shall stick to terra firma.

We have qualifications for such a task, which neither Green nor Wordsworth possessed. We are non-residents -absentees. Had we lived twenty long years on the banks of Windermere, or Grassmere, or Keswick, or Ullswater, an impartial and reasonable work could no more have been expected from us, than it has been produced by either of the aforesaid gentlemen. Stationary inbabitants get insensibly embued with all manner of prejudices, and forget entirely the general sympathies of the circulating population. They are apt to think that nobody can understand their scenery but themselves; and laugh in your face should you happen to deliver a heterodox opinion about a crag or a coppice, a flood or a sell. You must walk the valleys in leading-strings- lift up your eyes only when ordered—and not venture even an exclamation till privileged by your guide's ejaculatory “glorious !” Birds of passage, like us, wish to enjoy unfettered the few months we can pass in that climate ; and absurd as it may seem to these very imperative ornithologists, we wing our way at our own sweet will, over hill and dale, and perch at night wherever we find a pleasant shelter, in

grove or single tree. This we have done for many sum. mers, and frequently following, and as frequently deviating from, the sage advice of Messrs. Wordsworth and Southey, Professor Wilson, Mr. De Quincey the celebrated opiumeater, Mr. Hartley Coleridge, the gifted son of a gifted father, mild and mineralogical, Mr. Maltby, and our hospitable and intelligent friend, Robert Partridge, Esq., of Covey Cottage,—why, we have made ourselves as thoroughly acquainted with that county as any mother's son of them all; while, having no private pique, prejudice, or partiality whatever to gratify in regard to any moun. tain, lake, tarn, force, gill, or bowder-stone, we hold ourselves as the whole world must do, far better qualified than any one of those gentlemen to be the Historian of the Lakes.

A Westmoreland cottage has scarcely any resemblance to a Scotch one. A Scotch cottage (in the Lowlands) has rarely any picturesque beauty in itself-a narrow oblong, with steep thatched-roof, and an ear-like chimney at each of the two gable-ends. Many of the Westmoreland cottages would seem, to an ignorant observer, to have been originally built on a model conceived by the finest poetical genius. In the first place, they are almost always built precisely where they ought to be, had the builder's prime object been to beautify the dale ; at least, so we have often felt in moods, when perhaps our emotions were unconsciously soothed into complacency by the spirit of the scene. Where the sedgy brink of the lake or tarn circles into a lone bay, with a low hill of coppice-wood on one side, and a few tall pines on the other, no-it is a grove of sycamores,-there, about a hundred yards from the water, and about ten above its ordinary level, peeps out from its cheerful seclusion, that prettiest of all hamlets-Braithwaite.Fold. The hill behind is scarcely sylvan-yet it has many hazels--a few bushes—here and there a holly

—and why or wherefore, who can now tell, a grove of enormous yews. There is sweet pasturage among the rocks, and as you may suppose it a spring-day, mild without much sunshine, there is a bleating of lambs, a twitter of small birds, and the deep coo of the stock-dove. A

« AnteriorContinuar »