Графични страници
PDF файл

Olympian alone for their parent—as not subject to be touched by the decays of man's mortal nature, or to be shaded by oblivion—for the divinity is mighty within them, and waxes not old :"* it is this which half gives to them a majestic personality, and dimly figures out their attributes. By the same process, the imaginative faculty, aiming at results less sublime but more definite and complete, gave individual shape to loves, graces, and affections, and endowed them with the breath of life. By this process, it shades over the sorrows which it describes by the beauties and the graces of nature, and tinges with gentle colouring the very language of affliction. In the second mode of its operation, on the other hand, it moves over the universe like the spirit of God on the face of the waters, and peoples it with glorious shapes, as in the Greek mythology, or sheds on it a consecrating radiance, and imparts to it an intense sympathy, as in the poems of these more reflective days. Although a harmonizing faculty, it can by the law of its essence only act on things which have an inherent likeness. It brings out the secret affinities of its objects; but it cannot combine things which nature has not prepared for union, because it does not add, but transfuses. Hence there can be no wild incongruity, no splendid confusion in its works. Those which are commonly regarded as its productions in the metaphorical speeches of " Irish eloquence," are their very reverse, and may serve by contrast to explain its realities. The highest and purest of its efforts are when the intensest elements of the human soul are mingled inseparably with the vastest majesties of the universe; as where Lear identifies his age with that of the heavens, and calls on them to avenge his wrongs by their community of lot; and where Timon "fixes his everlasting mansion upon the beached shore of the salt flood," that " once a day with its embossed froth the turbulent surge may cover him," scorning human tears, but desiring the vast ocean for his eternal mourner!

* This passage—one of the noblest instances of the moral sublime —is from the Theban CEdipus, where it is uttered by the Chorus on some of the profane scoffs of the fated Iocasta:

Tutvat9tr7if' ay 'oai/^ujtcc
n«7^5 ftivot, xii in 6r*lx
Qufftt txrtgar tritOn, aSi
Mil irflt >.u6t Kx]aK0if*xru.

Oafi yt^tfKii.

Of this transfusing and reconciling faculty—whether its office be to "cloath upon," or to spiritualize—Mr. Wordsworth is, in the highest degree, master. Of this, abundant proofs will be found in the latter portion of this article; at present we will only give a few examples. The first of these is one of the grandest instances of noble daring, completely successful, which poetry exhibits. After a magnificent picture of a single yew-tree, and a fine allusion to its readiness to furnish spears for old battles, the poet proceeds:

- " But worthier still of note

Are those fraternal four of Borrowdale,

Join'd in one solemn and capacious grove;

Huge trunks!—and each particular trunk a growth

Of intertwisted fibres serpentine,

Upcoiling, and inveterately convolved,—

Not uninformed by fantasy and looks

That threaten the profane;—a pillar'd shado

Upon whose grassless floor of red.brown hue,

By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged

Perennially—beneath whose sable roof

Of boughs, as if for festal purpose deck'd

By unrejoicing berries, ghostly shapes

May meet at noontide—Fear and trembling Hope,

Silence and ForesightDeath the Skeleton

And Time the Shadow—there to celebrate,

As in a natural templj scatter'd o'er

With altars undisturb'd of mossy stone.

United worship; or in mute repose

To lie, and listen to the mountain flood

Murmuring from Glainarara's inmost caves."

Let the reader, when that first glow of intuitive admiration which this passage cannot fail to inspire is past, look back on the exquisite gradations by which it naturally pro; ceeds from mere description to the sublime personification of the most awful abstractions, and the union of their fearful shapes in strange worship, or in listening to the deepest of nature's voices. The first lines—interspersed indeed with epithets drawn from the operations of mind, and therefore giving to them an imaginative tinge—are, for the most part, a mere picture of the august brotherhood of trees, though their very sound is in more august accordance with their theme than most of the examples usually produced of "echoes to the sense." Having completely set before us the image of the scene, the poet begins that enchantment by which it is to be converted into a fitting temple for the noontide spectres of Death and Time, by the general intimation that it is "not uninformed by fantasy and looks that threaten the profane"—then by the mere epithet pillared gives us the more particular feeling of a fane—then, by reference to the actual circumstances of the grassless floor of red-brown hue, preserves to us the peculiar features of the scene which thus he is hallowing—and at last gives to the roof and its berries a strange air of unrejoicing festivity—until we are prepared for the introduction of the phantasms, and feel that the scene could be fitted to no less tremendous a conclave. The place, without losing one of its individual features, is decked for the reception of these noon-tide shades, and we are prepared to muse on them with unshrinking eyes. How by a less adventurous but not less delightful process, does the poet impart to an evening scene on the Thames, at Richmond, the serenity of his own heart, and tinge it with softest and saddest hues of the fancy and the affections! The verses have all the richness of Collins, to whom they allude, and breathe a more profound and universal sentiment than is found in his sky-tinctured poetry.

"How richly glows the water's breast

Before us tinged with evening hues,
While, facing thus the crimson west,

The boat her silent course pursues!
And see how dark the backward stream!

A little moment past so smiling!
And still perchance, with faithless gleam,

Some other loiterer beguiling.

Such views the youthful bard allure;

But, heedless of the following gloom,
He deems their colours shall endure

Till peace go with him to the tomb.

And let him nurse his fond deceit,

And what if he must die in sorrow!
Who would not cherish dreams so sweet,

Though grief and pain may come to-morrow?

Glide gently thus for ever glide,

O Thames! that other bards may see
As lovely visions by thy side

As now, fair river! come to me.
O glide, fair stream! for ever so,

Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,
Till all our minds for over flow,

As thy deep waters now are flowing.

Vain thought!—Yet be as now thou art,

That in thy waters may be seen
The image of a poet's heart,

How bright, how solemn, how serene!

The following delicious sonnet, inspired by the same scene, is one of the latest effusions of its author. We do not here quote it on account of its allusion to one of the most delightful of poets—nor of the fine unbroken ligament by which the harmony listened to by the later bard is connected with that which the earlier drank in, by the lineage of the songsters who keep up the old ravishment—but of that imaginative power, by which a sacredness is imparted to the place and to the birds, as though they performed unresting worship in the most glorious of cathedrals.

"Fame tells of groves from England far away—*
Groves that inspire the nightingale to trill
And modulate, with subtle reach of skill
Elsewhere unmatch'd, her ever-varying lay;
Such bold report 1 venture to gainsay:
For I have heard the choir of Richmond-hill
Chaunting with indefatigable bill;
While I bethought me of a distant day;
When, haply under shade of that same wood,
And scarcely conscious of the dashing oars
Plied steadily between those willowy shores
The sweet-soul'd Poet of the Seasons stood—
Listening, and listening long, in rapturous mood,
Ye heavenly birds ! to your progenitors,"

The following " Thought of a Briton on the subjugation of

* Wallachia is the country alluded to.

Switzerland," has an elemental grandeur imbued with the intensest sentiment, which places it among the highest efforts of the imaginative faculty.

"Two voices arc there; one is one of the sea,
One of the mountains; each a mighty voice:
In both from age to age tliou didst rejoice,
They were thy chosen music, Liberty!
There came a tyrant, and with holy glee
Thou fought'st against him; but hast vainly striven,
Thou from thine Alpine holds at length are driven,
Where not a torrent murmurs heard by thee.
Of one deep bliss thine ear hath been bereft;
Then cleave, O cleave, to that which still is left;
For, high-soul'd maid, what sorrow would it be,
That mountain-floods shonld thunder as before,
And ocean bellow from his rocky shore,
And neither awful voice be heard by thee!"

We have thus feebly attempted to give some glimpse into the essence of Wordsworth's powers—of his skill in delineating the forms of creation—of his insight into the spirit of man—and of his imaginative faculty. How he has applied these gifts to philosophical poetry, and what are the results of his contemplation, by their aid, on the external universe— human life;—individual character—the vicissitudes of individual fortune—society at large—and the prospects of the species—we shall next proceed more particularly to examine.

The spirit of contemplation influences and directs all Wordsworth's poetical faculties. He does not create a variety of individual forms to vivify them With the Promethean fire of dramatic genius, and exhibit the living struggle of their passions and their affections in opposition to each other, or to destiny. "The moving accident is not his trade." He looks on humanity as from a more exalted sphere, though he feels his kindred with it while he gazes, and yearns over it with deepest sympathy. No poet of ancient or modern times has dared so entirely to repose on the mere strength of his own powers. Others, indeed, have given hints of the divinest truths, even amidst their wildest and most passionate effusions. The tragedies of Sophocles, for example, abound in moralities expressed with a grace and precision which often ally the sentiment to an image and almost define it to the senses. In Shakspeare the wisdom is as much

« ПредишнаНапред »