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From this hubbub of words pass to the original
Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise : which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, 0 Sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. So shall thy poverty come as one that travaileth, and thy want as
an armed man.' Proverbs, chap. vi.
One more quotation, and I have done. It is from Cowper's Verses, supposed to be written by Alexander
' Religion ! what treasure untold
' But the sound of the church-going bell
Though a friend I am never to see.' I have quoted this passage as an instance of three different styles of composition. The first four lines are poorly expressed; some Critics would call the language prosaic ; the fact is, it would be bad prose, so bad, that it is scarcely worse in metre. The epithet "church-going” applied to a bell, and that by so chaste a writer as Cowper, is an instance of the strange abuses which Poets have introduced into their language till they and their readers take them as matters of course, if they do not single them out expressly as objects
of admiration. The two lines, “ Ne'er sighed at the sound," &c., are, in my opinion, an instance of the language of passion wrested from its proper use, and, from the mere circumstance of the composition being in metre, applied upon an occasion that does not justify such violent expressions; and I should condemn the passage, though perhaps few readers will agree with me, as vicious poetic diction. The last stanza is throughout admirably expressed; it would be equally good whether in prose or verse, except that the reader has an exquisite pleasure in seeing such natural language so naturally connected with metre. The beauty of this stanza tempts me to conclude with a principle which ought never to be lost sight of, and which has been my chief guide in all I have said,—namely, that in works of imagination and sentiment, for of these only have I been treating, in proportion as ideas and feelings are valuable, whether the composition be in prose or in verse, they require and exact one and the same language. Metre is but adventitious to composition, and the phraseology for which that passport is necessary, even where it may be graceful at all, will be little valued by the judicious.
DEDICATION TO THE EDITION OF 1815.
To Sir GEORGE HOWLAND BEAUMONT, BART. MY DEAR SIR GEORGE,—Accept my thanks for the permission given me to dedicate these Volumes to you. In addition to a lively pleasure derived from general considerations, I feel a particular satisfaction; for, by inscribing these Poems with your Name, I seem to myself in some degree to repay, by an appropriate honour, the great obligation which I owe to one part of the Collection—as having been the means of first making us personally known to each other. Upon much of the remainder, also, you have a peculiar claim,—for some of the best pieces were composed under the shade of your
own groves, upon the classic ground of Coleorton; where I was animated by the recollection of those illustrious Poets of your name and family, who were born in that neighbourhood; and, we may be assured, did not wander with indifference, by the dashing stream of Grace Dieu, and among the rocks that diversify the forest of Charnwood.—Nor is there any one to whom such parts of this Collection as have been inspired or coloured by the beautiful Country from which I now address you, could be presented with more propriety than to yourself—to whom it has suggested so many admirable pictures. Early in life, the sublimity and beauty of this region excited your admiration; and I know that you are bound to it in mind by a still-strengthening attachment.
Wishing and hoping that this work, with the embellishments it has received from your pencil,* may survive as a lasting memorial of a friendship, which I reckon among the blessings of my life,
I have the honour to be,
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH. RYDAL MOUNT, WESTMORELAND,
February 1, 1815.
PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1815.
The observations prefixed to that portion of these Volumes which was published many years ago, under the title of “ Lyrical Ballads," have so little of a special application to the greater part of the present enlarged and diversified collection, that they could not with propriety stand as an Introduction to it. Not deeming it, however, expedient to
*“ The state of the plates has, for some time, not allowed them to be repeated " (in edd. 1832 to 1845). -ED,
suppress that exposition, slight and imperfect as it is, of the feelings which had determined the choice of the subjects, and the principles which had regulated the composition of those Pieces, I have placed it so as to form an Essay supplementary to the Preface, to be attended to, or not, at the pleasure of the reader.
In the preface to that part of “The Recluse," lately published under the title of “The Excursion,” I have alluded to a meditated arrangement of my minor Poems, which should assist the attentive reader in perceiving their connection with each other, and also their subordination to that work.
I shall here say a few words explanatory of this arrangement, as carried into effect in the present Volumes.
The powers requisite for the production of poetry are, first, those of Observation and Description; i.e., the ability to observe with accuracy things as they are in themselves, and with fidelity to describe them, unmodified by any passion or feeling existing in the mind of the describer; whether the things depicted be actually present to the senses, or have a place only in the memory. This power, although indispensable to a Poet, is one which he employs only in submission to necessity, and never for a continuance of time: as its exercise supposes all the higher qualities of the mind to be passive, and in a state of subjection to external objects, much in the same way as a translator or engraver ought to be to his original. 2dly, Sensibility, which, the more exquisite it is, the wider will be the range of a Poet's perceptions; and the more will he be incited to observe objects, both as they exist in themselves and as re-acted upon by his own mind. (The distinction between poetic and human sensibility has been marked in the character of the Poet delineated in the original preface before mentioned.) 3dly, Reflection,—which makes the Poet acquainted with the value of actions, images, thoughts, and feelings; and assists the sensibility in perceiving their connection with each
other. 4thly, Imagination and Fancy,—to modify, to create, and to associate. 5thly, Invention, by which characters are composed out of materials supplied by observation ; whether of the Poet's own heart and mind, or of external life and nature ; and such incidents and situations produced as are most impressive to the imagination, and most fitted to do justice to the characters, sentiments, and passions, which the Poet undertakes to illustrate. And, lastly, Judgment,—to decide how and where, and in what degree, each of these faculties ought to be exerted; so that the less shall not be sacrificed to the greater, nor the greater, slighting the less, arrogate, to its own injury, more than its due. By judgment, also, is determined what are the laws and appropriate graces of every species of composition.*
The materials of Poetry, by these powers collected and produced, are cast, by means of various moulds, into divers forms. The moulds may be enumerated, and the forms specified, in the following order. 1st, the Narrative, including the Epopeia, the Historic Poem, the Tale, the Romance, the Mock heroic, and, if the spirit of Homer will tolerate such neighbourhood, that dear production of our days, the metrical Novel. Of this class, the distinguishing mark is, that the Narrator, however liberally his speaking agents be introduced, is himself the source from which everything primarily flows. Epic poets, in order that their mode of composition may accord with the elevation of their subject, represent themselves as singing from the inspiration of the Muse, 'Arma virumque cano;' but this is a fiction, in modern times, of slight value: the Iliad or the Paradise Lost would gain little in our estimation by being chanted. The other poets who belong to this class are commonly content to tell their tale ;-so that of the whole it may be
* As sensibility to harmony of numbers, and the power of producing it, are invariably attendants upon the faculties above specified, nothing has been said upon these requisites (in edd. 1836 to 1845).- ED.