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Thy memory be as a dwelling place • • •. •
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me!'
Lyrical Ballads/pp. 196. and 198, 9.
This is no more the language, than these are the thoughts, of men in general in a state of excitement: language more exquisitely elaborate, and thoughts more patiently worked out of the very marble of the mind, we rarely meet with in any writer either of verse or prose. For such tales as Andrew Jones, The last of the Flock, Goody Blake and Harry Gill, &c. " the real language of men" may be employed with pleasing effect; but when Mr. Wordsworth would "■ present ordinary things in an unusual way, by casting over them a certain colouring of imagination," he is compelled very frequently to resort to splendid, figurative, and amplifying language. The following, among innumerable examples from the volumes* before us, to which we are compelled reluctantly to turn, will prove that he sometimes succeeds admirably, and sometimes indifferently, in using this poetical language.
'This tiresome night, O Sleep! thou art to me
A flu, that up and down himself doth shove
Upon a fretful rivulet, now above,
Now on the -water vex'd with mockery.' Vol. I. p. 109.
« The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up gather''d now, like sleeping flowers.' Vol. I. p. 122.
'It is a beauteous evening, calm and free;
The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration.' Vol. I. p. 123.
'Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thoa appear'st untouch'd by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore le6S divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year,
And worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.' Vol. I. p. 123
• Flowers laugh before thee in their beds,
And Fragrance in thy footing treads. Vol. I. p. 73.
• The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
The winds come to me from thefitlds ofsltep.' Vol. II. p. 148.
We need insist no more on the necessity of using, in poetry, a language different from and superior to " the real language of men," since Mr. Wordsworth himself is so frequently compelled to employ it, for the expression of thoughts which without it would be incommttnicable.
These volumes are distinguished by the same blemishes and beauties as were found in their predecessors, but in an inverse proportion : the defects of the poet, in this performance, being as much greater than his merits, as they were less in his former publication. It is remarkable that we have not, among all the piebald miscellanies before us, a single example of that species of poetry, for which the author's theory of diction and his habits of thinking peculiarly qualify him. The blank verse was the glory of his former vplumes; in these there is not a trace of it. But songs instead we have, aad sonnets, and stories, of every length and form of versification, and of every style and character from sublimity to silliness. Most of these are mere reveries in rhyme, in which the Poet's mind seems to be delightfully dreaming, while his thoughts are romping at random, and playing all manner of mischievous pranks about him; assuming at pleasure the most antic shapes, tricking themselves with the gaudiest colours, sporting at large in every field of fancy, and spurning with gallant independence every rule of art and every sanction of precedent for the government of licentious genius. It would be in vain to attempt to characterize all the contents of these incomparable, and almost incomprehensible volumes. A more rash and injudicious speculation on the weakness or the depravity of the public taste has seldom been made; and we trust that its inevitable failure will bring back Mr. Wordsworth himself to a sense of his own dignity, as well as of the respect due to his readers. The public may often be wrong in its first judgements, but it is always right at last; and Mr. W. can have no hope in its final decision concerning the greater part of the pieces before us.
To do little things gracefully, is sometimes more difficult than to do great things well; but when done, what are they? Trifles, that only please by surprize, and only surprize for a moment. Mr. Wordsworth has attempted many little things in these volumes, and few indeed have rewarded hinj for his trouble. The following is perhaps the best of these.
* There is a change,—and I am poor;
A fountain at my fond heart's door,
• What happy moments did I count!
Of murmuring, sparkling, living love,
'A well of lore—it may be deep—
I trust it is, and never dry ; .
What matter? if the waters sleep
In silence and obscurity.
—Such change, and at the very door
Of my fond heart, hath made me poor.' Vol. II. p. 117.
It would not be easy to quote the worst, as a contrast to the best of these trifles; the following is probably as bad as any, and almost as bad as can be written by a man of superior talents.
* From" Moods of my own Mind."
1 The sun has long been set:
The stars are out by twos and threes;
The little birds are piping yet
Among the bushes and the trees;
There's a cuckoo, and One or two thrushes; ,
And a noUe of wind that rushes,
With a noise of water that gushes;
And the cuckoo's sovereign cry
Fills all the hollow of the sky.
•' Who would go " parading"
The stories in these volumes are generally inferior, both in subject and in handling, to those which Mr. Wordsworth formerly gave the public. Alice Fell only shews that it is possible to tell in verse what is scarcely worth relating in prose. . The Blind Boy is younger brother to Mr. W.'s own inimitable Ideot Boy, but very fur behind him in merits and accomplishments. The tale, intifcled Fidelity, is on the same sub« ject as Walter Scott's Helvellj/n, (on the fate of a traveller who perished on that wild mountain, and whose body was found three months afterwards, with his Dog alive and watching beside his dead master ;) and it proves that Mr. Wordsworth, when he pleases, can be as much inferior to another as to himself. - . .
The Sonnets, in point of imagery and sentiment, are perhaps the most poetical of all these motley productions; but they are exceedingly unequal, often obscure, and generally heavy in the motion of the verse: % the lines too are frequently so intertwisted, that if they were not printed in lengths of ten syllables, it would be difficult to break them into metre at all. The following contains a noble thought, which is carried through to the jast word, and is a rare example of excellence either in Mr. Wordsworth or any other English Sonnetteer.
ON THE EXTINCTION OF THE VENETIAN REPUBLIC.
'Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee:
And was the safeguard of the West: the worth
Of Venice did not fall below her birth,
Venice the eldest child of Liberty.
She was a maiden city, bright and free;
No guile seduced, no force could violate;
And when she took unto herself a mate,
She must espouse the everlasting Sea. . 2
And what if s!:e had seen those glories fade,
Those titles vanish, and that strength decay,
Yet shall some tribute of regret be paid
When her long life hath reach'd its final day:
Men are we, and must grieve when even the shade
Of that which once was great is pass'd away.'
In Mr. Wordsworth's poetry, more perhaps tHan in that of any other man, we frequently find images and sentiments, which we have seen and felt a thousand times, without particularly reflecting on them, and which, when presented by him, flash upon us with all the delighf and surprize of novelty.
'The Cattle are grazing,
* The Swan on stili St. Mary's lake
Floats double, Swan and Shadow!" Vol. II. p. 34.
'O Cuckoo! shall I call thee bird,
* Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
No Bird; but an invisible thing,
'The same whom in my school-boy days
I listen'd to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways;
In bush and tree and sky.' Vol. i i. pp. 57—8.
* The grass is bright with rain-drops; on the moors
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist; which, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.'
Who, that after long absence has visited the scenes where he spent the days of childhood, and from which he was separated in youth, has not experienced both the expectation and the disappointment described in the following slovenly lines?
"Beloved Vale!" I said," when I shall con
Remembrance of myself and of my peers
Will press me down : to think of what is gone
Will be an awful thought, if life have one,"
But when into the vale I came, no fears
Distress'd me; I look'd round, I shed no tears;
Deep thought, or awful vision, had I none.
By thousand petty fancies J was cross'd,
To see the trees, which I had thought so tall,
Mere dwarfs; the brooks so narrow,jields so small.' Vol. I. p. 119.
A specimen of Mr- Wordsworth's finest talent—that of personal description—may be found in a Poem, which we have not room to quote, though we consider it the best in the volume, intitled " Resolution and Independence."
The last piece in this Collection is simply styled " An Ode" and the reader is turned loose into a wilderness of sublimity, tenderness, bombast, and absurdity, to find out the subject as well as he can. The Poet assumes the doctrine of pre-existence, (a doctrine which religion knows not, and the philosophy of the mind abjures) and intimates that the happiness of childhood is the reminiscence of blessedness in a former state.
* 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 we do come
From God, who is our home." Vol. II. p. 150.
In allusion to these romantic and unwarranted speculations, he says, in the same Ode, that there are ——— — * Truths that wake To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
After our preliminary remarks on Mr. Wordsworth's theory of poetical language, and the quotations which we have given from these and his earlier compositions, it will be unnecessary to offer any further estimate or character of his genius. We shall only add one remark, which truth compels us to make, in spite of a partiality which we feel almost for the faults of such a