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a new sect or school in his own person. Now whoever is at all acquainted with the writings of the Lake Poets (I use the term at present for conciseness) must have perceived, that, so far from there existing any imitation of, or intimate communion with each other, with respect to the choice of subject matter, or the manner of treating it in their works, nothing can be more essentially different, in almost all points of importance, than they are; and as far as concerns the individual genius of each person, I will venture to say that there do not exist such opposite and strikingly various characters of intellect in any other given number of writers of the present day, whether English or Foreign. I shall not stay now to exemplify this position at length, because it is no more than what every one who reads these author's must acknowledge, and what to those who will turn a deaf ear to'a charmer, “charm he never so wisely,” is immaterial whether it be fact or not.
In the meantime it may be worth while to observe this first instance of that liberal and discriminating criticism, that abhorrence of misrepresentation and sneering, which has so honourably distinguished a certain Scotch (pace M Farlani dixerim) Review, and with which the Lake Poets have been for a long period of time so unceasingly and conspicuously favoured, to the no small detriment of the shares rightly appertaining to many a famous bard of the present time. But the motives, which prompted this imposition of a nickname are not very mysterious, at least to the initiated ;-having pocketed all that was to be extracted by conversation and repeated epistolary correspondence with these very men, those generous critics found it necessary, in order to avoid the suspicion of plagiarism, to turn sharp round upon their benefactors, to whom they owed the reputation by which they got their bread, quiz all their little peculiarities, and finally “ spit in their faces and call them asses!” Accordingly, after sporting whole sheets full of admired reasoning, and, as was generally supposed, original theory, (almost the whole of which, it is well known by many persons in this country, was actually stolen from the unreserved communications of one of the most distinguished of these writers,) they have the charity to fall most especially foul upon that very person; and, in consideration of his favours, pleasantly denominate him “ fool," " simpleton,” “ ingenious gentleman,” or “ old woman;" and, with a discrimination and significancy peculiarly their own, pronounce all his writings “ Lakish!” In short, they know the meaning of the proverb, “ Give a dog," &c., and acted upon its benevolent principles ; in lieu of all particulars, one formula was amply sufficient. Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey were “ Lake Poets,” and their works of course “ Lakish!” These Scotchmen were born with the malignity of Caligula, but purloined his wit as usual, and gave a collective name to destroy at once.
Since, however, this consummation so devoutly wished for has not taken place, and the reputation and pervading influence of these bespattered Poets, so far from decreasing to a nonentity under the “unceasing stowre," have on the contrary gone on slowly, but steadily widening and deepening, and still continue so to do, it becomes a matter of reasonable curiosity to inquire into the causes which have preserved and invigorated them under this tyranny of abuse, whilst not a few of their contemporäries, who, at their first appearance, were bepraised ad nauseam by these same learned Thebans, are now sinking fast, some into neglect, and others into contempt.
Now a Poet, in the highest and strictest sense of that word, is he who is a HOMTys, a Maker, an Indentor, whose Imagination, or Shaping Power, can and does embody the forms of things unknown, and can create realities out of airy nothings. This energy, which is the highest heaven of Invention in a Poet, is not however peculiar, in an exclusive manner, to a writer of verses ;-it may exist as vitally and essentially in prose;-rhythm and metre are to this Power, as two wings to a Soul, investing it with the robes and resemblances of a Seraphim. Therefore the Wise Man of Israel was a Poet, when he burst forth, “ Thou art beautiful, 0 my love, as Tirzah ; comely as Jerusalem; terrible as an army with banners." Therefore Demosthenes was a Poet, when by an instantaneous effort of his power hé evoked the canonized shades of his ancestors, and caused them, as it were, to flit over the spellbound mob around him,—"'Oů på TIÙS Èv Mapabūve negouiVdUVEUCAVTAS TĀv Topoyóvwv,” x.t.. Therefore Jeremy Taylor was a Poet when he prayed for humility,—" And yet I know thou resistest the proud, and didst cast the morning stars, the angels, from heaven, into chains of darkness, when they grew giddy and proud, walking upon the battlements of heaven, beholding the glorious regions that were above them." This power is the essence of all rightful Poetry; or, in other words, it is that without which Poetry is not.
The second accomplishment of an absolute poet, or, rather, of Poetry, is Imitation; by which term I mean all efforts of the mind, which are not in a genuine sense original and self-springing, but are modelled after prototypes existing somewhere in rerum naturâ; i.e. all descriptions of passive Nature and Art;-Dramatic representations of manners—and Satire, &c., because all these, in their external form and composition, merely aim at imitating objects set before them, and they become more or less really Poetical, as they are more or less powerfully impregnated with the living soul and breath of the Imagination. The last requisite for perfection is, as was hinted above, à copious and splendid command of language, and thorough acquaintance with the laws of metre, tempered by an ear tuned up, if it were possible, to the “noiseless music of the spheres.”
It may be fairly questioned whether this beau ideal has ever been realized amongst men in all its members;—the most glorious specimens of this, the most sublime exaltation of human intellect, are undoubtedly Homer and Shakspeare, even without the Margites. That many have been endowed more or less with detached emanations of the Poetical Power, and that more have possessed the auxiliar accomplishments, without that Power, is also as certain: but to enter upon that subject would be endless ;-it is more my immediate object to show that a large portion of the spirit, and an absolute empire over the dependencies, are in the present day centered in the person of William Wordsworth.
This object, I imagine, cannot be more effectually attained, and certainly not more expeditiously and delightfully to the reader and myself, than by extracting a few passages of different kinds, containing all the essentials, as before laid down, of genuine Poetry ; but which shall not be connected particularly with the Author's more private theory, as it is quite necessary, according to all good reasoning, to show that Wordsworth is generally a great Poet, before it can be proved even worth the while to investigate that theory at all. For I acknowledge that there is no intrinsic excellence in Singularity of itself, unless it be grounded on, and spring from, the immutable laws of reason and nature, and be therefore singular, simply because it is a straight line exposing the obliquities of a thousand crooked ones.
My first proof is the beginning of the “ Address to H. C. six years old :"
“ O Thou! whose fancies from afar are brought;
Thou fairy Voyager! that dost float
May rather seem
O blessed Vision! happy Child!
For what may be thy lot in future years." I make no comments upon this extract, or those which follow; because I really suppose that there can be no lover of poetry in any shape who will not confess this and them to be admirable, and such as neither Milton nor Shakspeare in their highest moments would have been ashamed of.
My second proof :
“She was a Phantom of Delight
When first she gleam'd upon my sight;
With something of an angel light.”
« The Youth of green savannahs spake,
With all its fairy crowds
Among the evening clouds.
• What days and what sweet years! Ah me!
So pass'd in quiet bliss !
On such an earth as this!'
Through dream and vision did she sink,
That on those lonesome floods,
His name in the wild woods.
Nor less, to feed voluptuous thought,
Fair trees and lovely flowers;
Into those gorgeous bowers."
I have written and quoted so much, that I must hasten to a conclusion, after having given to Eton two more exquisite stanzas from “ Peter Bell :"
“ At noon, when by the forest's edge,
He lay beneath the branches high,
On which they gaz'd themselves away." I have but a few words to say more, and I will then put an end to a very long, though I confidently hope not uninteresting letter. If the passages, which have been quoted, were the only ones known by experience to be of that degree of merit, whatever that be, which they may lay claim to, yet most assuredly all the laws of good reasoning would infer, that it was highly probable, at least, that he who could write a hundred such lines on different subjects, could also write other hundreds with more or less of the same power. Now I declare, and every one, who knows Wordsworth's poems well, will bear me out in the assertion, that almost every page contains similar passages ;-nay, there are many who will think I have not selected the finest specimens of his genius, which is indeed true, as I have not touched upon the Platonic Ode, the most magnificent of all his efforts, simply because I was anxious to show Wordsworth only in the character of a great poet, independent of what he may be thought to gain or lose by his own peculiar theory.
If I find that these remarks have not been distasteful to the generality, or even to a few of your readers, I will at some future period advance one step farther, and endeavour to explain and illustrate Wordsworth as a very singular and peculiar poet, quite set apart from the troop of every-day metrists, and living and breathing in a world of his own. This I think would not be without its amusement; at least I am sure the fault would be in the critic if it were so, and not in the Poet himself. I end all by leaving in the ears of all objectors and sneerers the eloquent words of Edmund Burke :
“I am sensible I have not disposed my materials to abide the test of a cap. tious controversy, but of a sober and even forgiving examination; that they are not armed at all points for battle, but dressed to visit those who are willing to give a peaceful entrance to-Truth.”