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· Whoever has read of Calypso, of the Sirens, and the Lestry

gones, must be aware of the old gentleman's propensity to fiction. Now our MS. does decidedly in this point bear marks of Homeric manufacture, for we have little doubt that it is, like the Odyssey,-All a Hum !

ON WORDSWORTH'S POETRY.

To Richard Hodgson, Knave of Clubs, &c. &c. MY DEAR SEC.-I now come to the latter department of my humble vindication of William Wordsworth's Poems, in which I proposed to myself to take notice of those other ingredients of matter or style, which are, or are supposed to be, peculiarly characteristic of those productions. But before I proceed any farther, I must here remark, that the distinction which I have apparently created between Wordsworth as a poet generally, and the same as a poet in a sense peculiar to himself, is in reality little better than imaginary; the whole of his Poems, from the shortest to the longest, from the most humble to the most impassioned, being composed strictly upon the principles of one grand comprehensive system ; and consequently the extracts in my first letter being just as thoroughly and genuinely the offsprings of that system as any thing which I may think it right to quote hereafter in this my second. The real foundation of the distinction, if any, is this, that the class of Poetry from which those quotations were made is one, with the external dress of which the world is commonly entertained in the writings of others,; whereas a few specie mens, which I shall take the liberty of presenting to your readers in this essay, will be either the living impressions produced on the heart and the mind by common incidents and natural objects, or they will be the emanations of impassioned feelings, deep thought, and high imagination, and which imperiously demand from the Reader a corresponding sensibility, and an associated temper of the affections, without which much of the most exalted poetry in the world must of necessity appear dead and meaningless phraseology, from the simple cause that the Reader is himself not sufficiently alive to perceive or be animated by the life that is before him. The motto and defence of all original thinkers must be, and ever has been, Intelligibilia, non Intellectum fero." ;

Having premised thus much, to guard against misapprehension, I now enter upon the particular subject of this letter, namely, the principles which are the foundation as well as the pervading spirit of Wordsworth's Poems.. And here I have to lament the

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utter impossibility of doing any thing like justice to my cause within the narrow limits which necessity imposes on me; though certainly it is some consolation to remember that even Wordsworth himself, with all the eagerness of an advocate, and all his own nervous and fervid eloquence, has finished an exposition of his system with confessing that he found a full and satisfying development of his principles impracticable within the space allowed him in a Preface. What the Poet himself has left undone, I will not presume to fulfil, but will rather content myself by mentioning one or two of the grand creative articles of his faith, upon which every thing he has written is built up, and which, if duly attended to, will lead us, without fear of wandering, into the hidden and wonderful abysses of his Thoughts, and the treasurehouse of his Imagination.

This Poet, then, in the first place, is a lover of Nature; not a blind confounder of the Creator with his own creation—not a souless grovelling worshipper of the earth without even the supposition of a Providence;-—none of these,—but a genuine, pure, religious lover of the Universe, from an ardent belief that it is the symbol and visible exponent of the immeasurable wisdom, and goodness, and majesty of that Almighty God, who is, and was, and is to come. Penetrated, as he himself says, “ to his heart of hearts," with this living idea, he can pass by in neglect or contempt no component part of this mysterious whole; he denies not to any being, animate or inanimate, its due share of his love; he recognizes in all and singular of the infinite germs of the Universe, the finger and the impress of a superior Being; in winter or summer, in storm or sunshine, in solitudes or in crowds, in joy or affliction, he is still one and the same; ever extracting from human contingencies their universal essence; ever inspiring, in return, his own passionate and blended sympathies, whilst he chastens, subdues, and purifies every thought and every wish by a spirit of unutterable and boundless love. It follows intimately, from the foregoing convictions, that no natural object or incident (with obvious and manifest exceptions) can be too low or insignificant for poetry; nay, to carry the principle to its legitimate length, that not seldom in rustic life the passions are more vigorous and decisive, the moving springs of thought and action more simple and unelaborate, and the whole system of society more genuine and unadulterated, than when encumbered and concealed by forms of city ceremonial, and deadened by the depraving habitude of perpetual though unconscious deceit. Low life, therefore, is not destitute of admirable materials for poetry; and this particularly, when it is, as is usually the case, associated with the beautiful and sublime of Nature; but these are only the rude materials of poetry; they cannot become poetry itself, unless they are arranged, and modified, and combined by the Fancy; and, above all, impregnated and shaped by the Imagination of the Poet. To express what I mean more clearly by examples, I would entreat my readers to recall to their minds for a few moments the “ Tam o'Shanter” of Burns, and any of Bloomfield's or Clare's verses, and they will instantly understand and feel the mighty difference with which similar or even humbler subjects may be treated by a Poet and a Verse-maker. Here then it is, that Wordsworth lives and breathes in the full enjoyment of creative observation ; and, elevated as that observation must be by the vicinity, and, as it were, relationship, of the most noble scenery in England, much of his most interesting poetry is concerned at bottom with the ordinary incidents of humanity. Of Westmoreland, as well as of Valchiusa, may it be said

« Qui non palazzi, non teatro o loggia,
Ma 'n lor vece un abete, un faggio, un pino
Tra l'erba verde, e 'l bel monte vicino,

Onde si scende poetando, e poggea,

Levan di terra al ciel nostrintelletto."Wordsworth is not a poetical man, but always and exclusively a Poet; or, to give you his own words

«. Thanks to the human heart by which we live;

Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears;
To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” It would be unfair, however, both to Wordsworth's fame and to my readers also, if I compelled them to take what I have said simply upon credit ; and I am sure it is delightful to me when I can claim a proper opportunity of committing the cause to the Poet's own maintaining, by quoting his own words. The three following passages are an eminent proof, in different manners, of his wondrous power of creating and colouring common objects by the intenseness of his Imagination :

“ He scans the Ass from limb to limb

And Peter now uplifts his eyes:-
Steady the Moon doth look and clear,
And like themselves the rocks appear,

And quiet are the skies.
Whereat, in resolute mood, once more

He stoops the Ass's neck to seize-
Foul purpose, quickly put to flight!
For in the pool a startling sight,

Meets him, beneath the shadowy trees.
Is it the Moon's distorted face?

The ghost-like image of a cloud ?
Is it a gallows there portrayed ?
Is Peter of himself afraid?

Is it a coffin,-or a shroud ?

A grisly idol hewn in stone ?

Or imp from witch’s lap let fall?
Or a gay ring of shining fairies,
Such as pursue their brisk vagaries

In sylvan bower, or haunted hall?

Is it a fiend that to a stake

Of fire his desperate self is tethering ?
Or stubborn spirit doomed to yell
In solitary ward or cell,

Ten thousand miles from all his brethren?

A throbbing pulse the Gazer hath

Puzzled he was, and now is daunted :
He looks, he cannot choose but look,
Like one intent upon a book-

A book that is enchanted.

Ah, well-a-day for Peter Bell!

He will be turned to iron soon,
Meet Statue for the court of Fear!
His hat is up-and every hair

Bristles and whitens in the Moon !

He looks--he ponders—looks again;

He sees a motion-hears a groan;
His eyes will burst his heart will break-
He gives a loud and frightful shriek,

And drops, a senseless weight, as if his life were flown!”

Can any thing, especially if read in connexion with the original Poem, be more intensely terrific than this passage?-and yet what is the real cause of the terror ? • Again :

6 And the smoke and respiration

Rising like an exhalation,
Blends with the mist,-a moving shroud
To form-an undissolving cloud;
Which, with slant ray, the merry Sun '
Takes delight to play upon.
Never, surely, old Apollo,

He, or other God as old,

Of whom in story we are told,
Who had a favourite to follow
Through a battle or elsewhere,
Round the object of his care,
In a time of peril, threw i
Veil of such celestial hue;
Interposed so bright a screen
Him and his enemies between!”

Can any thing, I repeat, be more natural and exquisitely beautiful than this ?--and yet what is the object which has become the cause of this beauty ? . .

Now mark, lastly, the miraculous, and almost sylphish fineness of melody and imagination displayed in these lines following:

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“ Withered leaves-one-two-and three

From the lofty Elder-tree!
Through the calm and frosty air.r.
Of this morning bright and fair,
Eddying round and round they sink
Softly, slowly: one might think,
From the motions that are made,
Every little leaf conveyed
Sylph or Faery hither tending,
To this lower world descending,
Each invisible and mute,

In his wavering parachute.”
But it is a pernicious, though a common mistake, to suppose
that the largest, or the most important share of Wordsworth's
Poems is composed of pieces of the character of those quoted
above. Inimitably beautiful as are these workings upon natural
incidents, and quite, as I believe, beyond the example of former
ages, yet they are as dust in the balance, when brought in contact
with those mighty, those painfully mighty, energies and travaillings
of the Soul, of which many of his longer odes and blank verse
poems are composed. And here it may be a good opportunity to
point out one eternal master feeling, which more or less may be
traced as either forming the foundation of, or giving a colouring
to, almost all his writings. It is an earnest faith in the intrinsic
godliness and immortality of the Soul, raised upon the Platonic
theory of pre-existence; differing from the sordid system of me-
tempsychosis, in that he believes that Spark within us hath never
been sullied or dimmed by mortal incarnation before, but comes,
as it were, fresh and original from some unimaginable vision and
enjoyment of the Deity. Hence those passionate addresses to
infancy; those melancholy retrospects upon what is never to
return again ; for in our downward course of life we go daily
farther from the fountain of our existence, and become more and
more “ earthy," and forgetful of " that imperial palace whence
we came." But why do I hesitate to give you his own intense
and exalted creed in his own matchless numbers?

« Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close ..

Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily further from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,

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