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tended the vivid expression of poetic thoughts, to annihilate it, is to annihilate poetry; but if it means certain ornamental phrases and forms of language not necessary to such expression, it is, at best, but a splendid error. Felicity of language can never be other than the distinct expression of felicitous thought . The only art of diction in poetry, as in prose, is the nice bodying forth of each delicate vibration of the feelings, and each soft shade of the images, in words which at once make us conscious of their most transient beauty. At all events, there was surely no offence in an individual's rejecting the aid of a style regarded as poetic, and relying for his fame on the naked majesty of his conceptions. The triumph is more signal when the Poet uses language as a mirror, clear, and itself invisible, to reflect his creations in their native hues,—than when he employs it as a stained and fallacious medium to exhibit its own varieties of tint, and to show the objects which it partially reveals in its own prismatic colouring.
But it is said that the subjects of Wordsworth's poetry are not in themselves so lofty as those which his noblest predecessors have chosen. If this be true, and he has yet succeeded in discovering within them poetical affinities, or in shedding on them a new consecration, he does not surely deserve ill of his species. He has left all our old objects of veneration uninjured, and has enabled us to recognise new ones in the peaceful and familiar courses of our being. The question is not whether there are more august themes than those which he has treated, but whether these last have any interest, as seen in the light which he has cast around them. If they have, the benefits which he has conferred on humanity are more signal, and the triumph of his own powers is more undivided and more pure, than if he had treated on subjects which we have been accustomed to revere. We are more indebted to one who opens to us a new and secluded pathway in the regions of fantasy with its own verdant inequalities and delicate overshadings of foliage, than if he had stepped majestically in the broad and beaten highway to swell the triumphant procession of laurelled bards. Is it matter of accusation that a poet has opened visions of glory about the ordinary walks of life—that he has linked holiest associations to things which hitherto have been regarded without emotion
—that he has made beauty " a simple product of the common day V Shall he be denied the poetic faculty who without the attractions of story—without the blandishments of diction —without even the aid of those associations which have encrusted themselves around the oldest themes of the poet, has for many years excited the animosities of the most popular critics, and mingled the love and admiration of his genius with the life-blood of hearts neither unreflecting nor ungentle?
But most of the subjects of Mr. Wordsworth, though not arrayed in any adventitious pomp, have a real and innate grandeur. True it is, that he moves not among the regalities, but among the humanities of his art. True it is, that his poetry does not " make its bed and procreant cradle" in the "jutting, frieze, cornice, or architrave" of the glorious edifices of human power. The universe, in its naked majesty, and man in the plain dignity of his nature, are his favourite themes. And is there no might, no glory, no sanctity in these 1 Earth has her own venerablenesses—her awful forests, which have darkened her hills for ages with tremendous gloom; her mysterious springs pouring out everlasting waters from unsearchable recesses; her wrecks of elemental contests; her jagged rocks, monumental of an earlier world. The lowliest of her beauties has an antiquity beyond that of the pyramids. The evening breeze has the old sweetness which it shed over the fields of Canaan, when Isaac went out to meditate. The Nile swells with its rich waters towards the bul-rushes of Egypt, as when the infant Moses nestled among them, watched by the sisterly love of Miriam. Zion's hill has not passed away with its temple, nor lost its sanctity amidst the tumultuous changes around it, nor even by the accomplishment of that awful religion of types and symbols which once was enthroned on its steeps. The sim to which the poet turns his eye is the same which shone over Thermopylae; and the wind to which he listens swept over Salamis, and scattered the armaments of Xerxes. Is a poet utterly deprived of fitting themes, to whom ocean, earth, and sky, are open—who has an eye for the most evanescent of nature's hues, and the most etherial of her graces <—who can "live-in the rainbow and play in the plighted clouds," or send into our hearts the awful loneliness of regions " consecrate to eldest time I" Is there nothing in man, considered abstractedly from the distinctions of this world— nothing in a being who is in the infancy of an immortal life— who is lackeyed by " a thousand liveried angels"—who is even "splendid in ashes and pompous in the grave"—to awaken ideas of permanence, solemnity, and grandeur 1 Are there no themes sufficiently exalted for poetry in the midst of death and of life—in the desires and hopes which have their resting-place near the throne of the Eternal—in affections, strange and wondrous in their working, and unconquerable by time, or anguish, or destiny 1 How little comparatively of allusion is there even in Shakspeare, whose genius will not be regarded as rigid or austere, to other - venerablenesses than those of the creation, and to qualities less common than the human heart! The very luxuries which surround his lovers —the pensive sweetnesses which steal away the sting from his saddest catastrophes—are drawn from man's universal immunities, and the eldest sympathies of the universe. The divinity which "hedges his kings" is only humanity's finer essence. Even his Lear is great only in intellectual might and in the terrible strangeness of his afflictions. While invested with the pomp and circumstance of his station, he is fro ward, impatient, thankless—less than a child in his liberality and in his resentments; but when he is cast abroad to seek a lodging with the owl and to endure the fury of the elements, and is only a poor and despised old man, the exterior crust which a life of prosperity had hardened over his soul is broken up by the violence of his sorrows, his powers expand within his worn and wasted frame, his spirit awakens in its long-forgotten strength, and even in the wanderings of distraction gives hints of the profoundest philosophy, and manifests a real kindliness of nature—a sweet and most affecting courtesy—of which there was no vestige in the days of his pride. The regality of Richard lies not in "compliment extern"—the philosophy of Hamlet has a princeliness above that of his rank—and the beauties of Imogen are shed into her soul only by the selectest influences of creation.
The objects which have been usually regarded as the most poetical, derive from the soul itself the far larger share of their poetical qualities. All their power to elevate, to delight,
or to awe us, which does not arise from mere form, colour, and proportion, is manifestly drawn from the instincts common to the species. The affections have first consecrated all that they revere. "Cornice, frieze, jutting, or architrave," are fit nestling-places for poetry, chiefly as they are the symbols of feelings of grandeur and duration in the hearts of the beholders. A poet then who seeks at once for beauty and sublimity in their native home of the human soul —who resolves " non sectari rivulos serf pelere fontes "— can hardly be accused with justice of rejecting the themes most worthy of a bard. His office is, indeed, more arduous than if he selected those subjects about which hallowing associations have long clustered, and which other poets have already rendered sacred. But if he can discover new depths of affection in the soul—or throw new tinges of loveliness on objects hitherto common, he ought not to be despised in proportion to the severity of the work, and the absence of extrinsic aid! Wordsworth's persons are not invested with antique robes, nor clad in the symbols of worldly pomp, but they are " apparelled in celestial light." By his power " the bare earth and mountains bare" are covered with an imaginative radiance more holy than that which old Greek poets shed over Olympus. The world, as consecrated by his poetic wisdom, is an enchanted scene—redolent with sweet humanity, and vocal with "echoes from beyond the grave."
We shall now attempt to express the reasons for our belief in Wordsworth's genius, by first giving a few illustrations of his chief faculties, and then considering them in their application to the uses of philosophical poetry.
We allude first to the descriptive faculty, because though not the least popular, it is the lowest which Wordsworth possesses. He shares it with many others, though few, we think, enjoy it in so eminent a degree. It is difficult, indeed, to select passages from his works which are merely descriptive; but those which approach nearest to portraiture, and are least imbued with fantasy, are master-pieces in their kind. Take, for example, the following picture of masses of vapour receding among the steeps and summits of the mountains, after a storm, beneath an azure sky; the earlier part of which seem almost like another glimpse of Milton's heaven; and the conclusion of which impresses us solemnly with the most awful visions of Hebrew prophecy:
A single step which freed me from the skirts
Of the blind vapour, opened to my view
Glory beyond all glory ever seen
By waking sense or by the dreaming soul—
The appearance instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty city—boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth
Far sinking into splendour—without end!
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes and silver spires;
And blazing terrace upon terrace high
Uplifted: here serene pavilions bright
In avenues disposed; there towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless fronts
Bore stars, illumination of all gems!
O 'twas an unimaginable sight;
Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks, and emerald turf,
Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,
Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,
Molten together, and composing thus,
Each lost in each, that marvellous array
Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge
Fantastic pomp of structure without name,
In fleecy folds voluminous enwrapped.
Right in the midst, where interspace appeared
Of open court, an object like a throne
Beneath a shining canopy of state
Stood fix'd; and fix'd resemblances were seen
To implements of ordinary use.
But vast in size, in substance glorified;
Such as by Hebrew prophets were beheld
In vision—forms uncouth of mightiest power,
For admiration and mysterious awe!"
Excursion, B. II.
Contrast with this the delicate grace of the following picture, which represents the white doe of Rylstone—that most beautiful of mysteries—on her Sabbath visit to the grave of her sainted lady:—
"Soft—the dusky trees between