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When they can know and feel that they have been,
Then, in the Excursion, there is the story of the Ruined Cottage, with its admirable gradations, more painful than the pathetic narratives of its author usually are, yet not without redeeming traits of sweetness, and a reconciling spirit which takes away its sting. There, too, is the intense history of the Solitary's sorrows—there the story of the Hanoverian and the Jacobite, who learned to snatch a sympathy from their bitter disputings, grew old in controversy and in friendship, and were buried side by side—there the picture of Oswald, the gifted and generous and graceful hero of the mountain solitude, who was cut off in the blossom of his youth—there the record of that pleasurable sage, whose house death, after forty years of forbearance, visited with thronging summonses, and took off his family one after the other, “with intervals of peace,” till he too, with cheerful thoughts about him, was “overcome by unexpected sleep in one blest moment,” and as he lay on the “warm lap of his mother-earth,” “gathered to his fathers.” There are those fine vestiges, and yet finer traditions and conjectures, of the good knight Sir Alfred Irthing, the “mild-hearted champion” who had retired in Elizabeth's days to a retreat among the hills, and had drawn around him a kindred and a family. Of him nothing remained but a gentle fame in the hearts of the villagers, an uncouth monumental stone grafted on the church-walls, which the sagest antiquarian might muse over in vain, and his name engraven in a wreath or posy around three bells with which he had endowed the spire. “So,” exclaims the poet, in strains as touching and majestic as ever were breathed over the transitory grandeur of earth—
“So fails, so languishes, grows dim and dies,
In the Excursion, too, is the exquisite tale of Poor Ellen– a seduced and forsaken girl—from which we will give one affecting incident, scarcely to be matched, for truth and beauty, through the many sentimental poems and tales which have been founded on a similar wo:
“—Beside the cottage in which Ellen dwelt
Such was the tender passage, not by me
With these tear-moving expressions of ill-fated love, we may contrast the following rich picture of the affection in its early bloom, from the tale of Vandracour and Julia, which will show how delightedly the poet might have lingered in the luxuries of amatory song, had he not chosen rather to brood over the whole world of sentiment and passion:—
“Arabian fiction never fill'd the world
Perhaps the highest instance of Wordsworth's imaginative faculty, exerted in a tale of human fortunes, is to be found in “The White Doe of Rylstone.” He has here succeeded in two distinct efforts, the results of which are yet in entire harmony. He has shown the gentle spirit of a high-born maiden gathering strength and purity from sorrow, and finally after the destruction of her family, and amidst the ruin of her paternal domains, consecrated by suffering. He has also here, by the introduction of that lovely wonder, the favourite doe of his heroine, at once linked the period of his narrative to that of its events, and softened down the saddest catastrophe and the most exquisite of mortal agonies. A gallant chieftain, one of the goodliest pillars of the olden time, falls, with eight of his sons, in a hopeless contest for the religion to which they were devoted—the ninth, who followed them unarmed, is slain while he strives to bear away, for their sake, the banner which he had abjured—the sole surviver, a helpless woman, is left to wander desolate about the silent halls and tangled glades, once witnesses of her joyous infancy—and yet all this variety of grief is rendered mild and soothing by the influences of the imagination of the poet.
The doe which first with its quiet sympathy excited relieving tears in its forsaken mistress, which followed her a gentle companion through all her mortal wanderings, and which years after made Sabbath visits to her grave, is like the spirit of nature personified to heal, to bless, and to elevate. All who have read the poem aright, will feel prepared for that apotheosis which the poet has reserved for this radiant being, and will recognise the imaginative truth of that bold figure, by which the decaying towers of Bolton are made to smile upon its form, and to attest its unearthly relations:
" There doth the gentle creature lie
With these adversities unmoved;
In their benignity approved!
Subdued by outrage and decay,
A gracious smile, that seems to say,
Although Wordsworth chiefly delights in these humanities of poetry, he has shown that he possesses feelings to appreciate and power to grasp the noblest of classic fictions. No one can read his Dion, his Loadamia, and the most majestic of his sonnets, without perceiving that he has power to endow the stateliest shapes of old mythology with new life, and to diffuse about them a new glory. Hear him, for example, breaking forth, with holy disdain of the worldly spirit of the time, into this sublime apostrophe :
“Great God! I'd rather be
Have glimpses which might make me less forlorn;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn!"
But he has chosen rather to survey the majesties of Greece, with the eye of a philosopher as well as of a poet. He reviews them with emotions equally remote from pedantry and from intolerance-regarding not only the grace and the loveliness of their forms, but their symbolical meaning
tracing them to their elements in the human soul, and bringing before us the eldest wisdom which was embodied in their shapes, and speedily forgotten by their worshippers. Thus, among “ the palpable array of sense,“ does he discover hints of immortal life—thus does he transport us back more than twenty centuries and enable us to enter into the most mysterious and far-reaching hopes of a Grecian votary :
A Spirit hung,
And doubtless, sometimes, when the hair was shed
of life continuous, Being unimpaird,
While man grows old, and dwindles, and decays;
Depart, and leave no vestige where they trod."
We must now bring this long article to a close and yet how small a portion of our author's beauties have we even hinted! We have passed over the clear majesty of the poem of “ Hart leap well”—the lyrical grandeur of the Feast of Brougham Castle—the masculine energy and delicate grace of the Sonnets which with the exception perhaps of one or two of Warton and of Milton far exceed all others in our language_“The Waggoner,” that fine and hearty conces