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The following is from S. T. Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (ch. xxii., p. 229, edd. 1817.)
“To the ‘Ode on the Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,' the poet might have prefixed the lines which Dante addresses to one of his own Canzoni
'Canzone, i' credo, che saranno radi
Tanto lor sei faticoso ed alto.”
Thou art for them so arduous and so high!' But the Ode was intended for such readers only as had been accustomed to watch the flux and reflux of their inmost nature, to venture at times into the twilight realms of consciousness, and to feel a deep interest in modes of inmost being, to which they know that the attributes of time and space are inapplicable and alien, but which yet cannot be conveyed, save in symbols of time and space. For such readers the sense is sufficiently plain, and they will be as little disposed to charge Mr Wordsworth with believing the Platonic pre-existence in the ordinary interpretation of the words, as I am to believe, that Plato himself ever meant or taught it.
Πολλά οι υπ' αγκώ
-νος ωκέα βέλη
-PINDAR, OLYMP. II.' The following parallel passages from The Prelude and The Excursion, Ruskin's Modern Painters, Keble's Prælectiones, and Henry Vaughan, are quoted in an interesting note to the Ode on Immortality, in Professor Henry Reed's American edition of the Poems.
Ah ! why in age
Reverberations ; and a choral song,
The Excursion, Book IX.
Our childhood sits,
The Prelude, Book V. There was never yet the child of any promise (so far as the theoretic faculties are concerned) but awaked to the sense of beauty with the first gleam of reason; and I suppose there are few, those who love Nature otherwise than by profession and at second-hand, who look not back to their youngest and least learned days as those of the most intense, superstitious, insatiable, and beatific perception of her splendours. And the bitter decline of this glorious feeling, though many note it not, partly owing to the cares and weight of manhood, which leave them not the time nor the liberty to look for their lost treasure, and partly to the human and divine affections which are appointed to take its place, yet have formed the subject, not indeed of lamentation, but of holy thankfulness for the witness it bears to the immortal origin and end of our nature, to one whose authority is almost without appeal in all questions relating to the influence of external things upon
But for those obstinate questionings, &c., &c. And if it were possible for us to recollect all the unaccountable and happy instincts of the careless time, and to reason upon them with the maturer judgment, we might arrive at more right results than either the philosophy or the sophisticated practice of art has yet attained. But we love the perceptions before we are capable of methodizing or comparing them.”—(Ruskin's Modern Painters, Vol. II., p. 36, Part iii., ch. v., sec. i.)
. . Etenim qui velit acutius indagare causas propensæ in antiqua sæcula voluntatis, mirum ni conjectura incidat aliquando in commentum illud Pythagoræ, docentis, animarum nostrarum non tum fieri initium, cum in hoc mundo nascimur ; immo ex ignota quadam regione venire eas, in sua quamque corpora ; neque tam penitus Lethæo potu imbui, quin permanet quasi quidam anteactæ ætatis sapor ; hunc autem excitari identidem, et nescio, quo sensu percipi, tacito quidem illo et obscuro, sed percipi tamen. Atque hac ferme sententia extat summi
hac memoria Poetæ nobilissimum carmen; nempe non aliam ob causam tangi pueritiæ recordationem exquisita illa ac pervagata dulcedine, quam propter debilem quendam prioris ævi Deique proprioris sensum.
Quamvis autem hanc opinionem vix ferat divinæ philosophiæ ratio, fatemur tamen eam eatenus ad verum accedere, quo sanctum aliquod et grave tribuit memoriæ et caritati puerilium annorum. Nosmet certe infantes novimus quam prope tetigerit Divina benignitas ; quis porro scit, an omni illa temporis anteacti dulcedo habeat quandam significationem Illius Præsentiæ ?”—Keble, Prelectiones de Poeticæ vi Medica, p. 728, Præl xxxix.
Was not all stone and earth ;
Had some glimpse of his birth.
He came condemned hither,
Henry Vaughan, Silex Scintillans,
Happy those early dayes, when I
But felt through all this fleshly dresse
In few instances is it more evident that the dates which Wordsworth affixed to his poems in 1815, 1820, 1836, and 1845--and those assigned in the Fenwick notes—cannot be relied upon, than in the case of the poems referring to Coleorton. Trusting to these dates, when constructing the Chronological Table, in the absence of contrary evidence, I assigned the majority of the Coleorton poems to the year 1808. But I now find that while the sonnet to Lady Beaumont was written in 1806, the Inscription for the Seat, beginning
Beneath yon eastern ridge, the craggy bound, was written, not in 1808 (as stated by Wordsworth himself), but in 1811 ; and that designed for the Niche in the Winter-garden at Coleorton, probably in the same year; in which year he also wrote the sonnet on Sir George Beaumont's picture of Bredon Hill and Cloud Hill, beginning
Praised be the art whose subtle power could stay. There is a natural fitness in bringing all the poems referring to Coleorton together, so far as this can be done without seriously interfering with chronological order. The two “inscriptions" intended for these Coleorton grounds, which were written at Grasmere in 1811, are therefore printed along with the poems of 1807; the precise date of each being given—so far as it can be ascertained-along with the title.
Several political sonnets, and others, were written in 1807 ; also the Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle, and the first and larger parts of The White Doe of Rylstone, with a few minor fragments. But, for reasons stated in the notes to The White Doc (see p. 191), I have assigned that poem to the year 1808. The Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle forms as natural a preface to The White Doe, as The Force of Prayer a Tradition of Bolton Abbey, is its natural appendix. The latter was written, however, before The White Doe was finished.
It would be easier to fix the previous date of some of the poems written between the years 1806 and 1808, if we knew the exact month in which the two volumes of 1807 were published.
On November 10, 1806, Wordsworth wrote to Sir George Beaumunt from Coleorton, “In a day or two I mean to send a sheet or two of my intended volume to the press” (evidently referring to the poems of 1807). On the following day-11th November 1806—Dorothy Wordsworth wrote to Lady Beaumont, “William has written two other poems,
will see when they are printed. He composes frequently in the grove. .. We have not yet received a sheet from the printer."
On the 15th November 1806 she again wrote to Lady
Beaumont (from Coleorton), “My brother works very hard at his poems, preparing them for the press. Miss Hutchinson is the subscriber.” In a subsequent letter from Coleorton, undated, but bearing the post mark February 18, 1807, she is speaking of her brother's poetical labour, and says, “He must go on, when he begins : and any interruptions (such as attending to the progress of the workmen and planning the garden) is of the greatest use to him ; for, after a certain time, the progress is by no means proportioned to the labour in composition ; and if he is called from it by other thoughts, he returns to it with ten times the pleasure, and the work goes on proportionately the more rapidly.” From this we must infer that the years 1806-7 were productive ones.-Ed.
A PROPHECY. FEBRUARY, 1807.
True to itself
* Arminius, or Hermann, the liberator of Germany from the Roman power, A.D. 9-17. Tacitus says of him, “He was without doubt the deliverer of Germany; and, unlike other kings and generals, he attacked the Roman people, not at the commencement, but in the fulness of their power : in battles he was not always successful, but he was invincible in
He still lives in the songs of the barbarians."-ED.
new-born Kings" were the lesser German potentates, united in the Confederation of the Rhine. By a treaty signed at Paris (July 12th, 1806), by Talleyrand, and the ministers of twelve sovereign houses of the Empire, these princes declared themselves perpetually severed from Germany, and united together as the Confederate States of the Rhine, of which the Emperor of the French was declared Protector. -ED.
+ The “