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FROM THE SAME
TO THE SUPREME BEING.
And sound thy praises everlastingly. The following extract from a letter of Wordsworth's to Sir George Beaumont, dated October 17, 1805, will cast light on the three last sonnets. “I mentioned Michael Angelo's poetry some time ago; it is the most difficult to construe I ever met with, but just what you would expect from such a man, shewing abundantly how conversant his soul was with great things. There is a mistake in the world concerning the Italian language; the poetry of Dante and Michael Angelo proves, that if there be little majesty and strength in Italian verse, the fault is in the authors, and not in the tongue. I can translate, and have translated two books of Ariosto, at the rate, nearly, of one hundred lines a day; but so much meaning has been put by Michael Angelo into so little room, and that meaning sometimes so excellent in itself, that I found the difficulty of translating him insurmountable. I attempted, at least, fifteen of the sonnets, but could not anywhere succeed. I have sent you the only one I was able to finish ; it is far from being the best, or most characteristic, but the others were too much for me.”—ED.
TO THE MEMORY OF RAISLEY CALVERT.
[This young man, Raisley Calvert, to whom I was so much indebted, died at Penrith, 1795.]
CALVERT ! it must not be unheard by them
Raisley Calvert was the son of R. Calvert, steward to the Duke of Norfolk. Writing to Sir George Beaumont, on the 20th February 1805, Wordsworth said, “I should have been forced into one of the professions" (the church or law) "by necessity, had not a friend left me £900. This bequest was from a young man with whom, though I call him friend, I had but little connection; and the act was done entirely from a confidence on his part that I had powers and attainments which might be of use to mankind ... Upon the interest of the £900, and £100 legacy to my sister, and £100 more which the 'Lyrical Ballads' have brought me, my sister and I contrived to live seven years, nearly eight.” To his friend Matthews he wrote, November 7th, 1796, “My friend” (Calvert) “has every symptom of a confirmed consumption, and I cannot think of quitting him in his present debilitated state.” And in January 1795 he wrote to Matthews from Penrith (where Calvert was staying), “I have been here for some time. I am still much engaged with my sick friend ; and am sorry to add that he worsens daily ... he is barely alive." In a letter to Dr Joshua Stanger of Keswick, written in the year 1842, Wordsworth referred thus to
METHOUGHT I SAW THE FOOTSTEPS OF A THRONE
Raisley Calvert. Dr Calvert-a nephew of Raisley, and son of the W. Calvert whom the poet accompanied to the Isle of Wight and Salisbury Plain in 1793—had just died. “His removal (Dr Calvert's) has naturally thrown my mind back as far as Dr Calvert's grandfather, his father, and sister (the former of whom was, as you know, among my intimate friends), and his uncle Raisley, whom I have so much cause to remember with gratitude for his testamentary remembrance of me, when the greatest part of my patrimony was kept back from us by injustice. It may be satisfactory to your wife for me to declare” [Mrs Stanger-who still lives—is a daughter of William Calvert] “ that my friend's bequest enabled me to devote myself to literary pursuits, independent of any necessity to look at pecuniary emolument, so that my talents, such as they might be, were free to take their natural
Your brothers Raisley and William were both so well known to me, and I have so many reasons to respect them, that I cannot forbear saying, that my sympathy with this last bereavement is deepened by the remembrance that they both have been taken from you ..." On October 1, 1794, Wordsworth wrote from Keswick to Ensign William Calvert about his brother Raisley. (The year is not given in the letter, but it must have been 1794.) He tells him that Raisley was determined to set out for Lisbon ; but that he (Wordsworth) could not brook the idea of his going alone ; and that he wished to accompany his friend and stay with him, till his health was re-established. He adds, “Reflecting that his return is uncertain, your brother requests me to inform you that he has drawn out his will, which he means to get executed in London. The purport of his will is to leave you all his property, real and personal, chargeable with a legacy of £600 to me, in case that, on inquiry into the state of our affairs in London, he should think it advisable to do so. It is at my request that this information is communicated to you.” Calvert did not live to go south; and he changed the sum left to Wordsworth from £600 to £900. The relationship of the two men suggests the somewhat parallel one between Spinoza and Simon de Vries. For further details, see the Life of the Poet in the last volume.—ED.
Comp. 1806. Pub. 1807. [The latter part of this sonnet was a great favourite with my sister S. H. When I saw her lying in death, I could not resist the impulse to compose the Sonnet that follows it.] METHOUGHT I saw the footsteps of a throne Which mists and vapours from mine eyes did shroud
Nor view of who might sit thereon allowed ;)
"The sonnet that follows,” referred to in the Fenwick note, is one belonging to the year 1836, beginning
“Even so for me a Vision sanctified.” See the note to that sonnet.-ED.
Composed at Grasmere, during a walk one Evening, after a stormy day,
the Author having just read in a Newspaper that the dissolution of Mr Fox was hourly expected.
Loud is the Vale! the Voice is up
Nor view of him who sate thereon allowed ;
I seemed to mount those steps ;
the vapours gave
Loud is the Vale; this inland Depth
Sad was I, even to pain deprest;
thousands now are sad-
A Power is passing from the earth
That Man, who is from God sent forth,
Charles James Fox died September 13, 1806. He was Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time, having assumed office on the 5th February, shortly after the death of William Pitt. Wordsworth's sadness on this occasion, his recognition of Fox as great and good, and as “ a power” that was “passing from the earth,” may have been due partly to personal and political sympathy, but also probably to Fox's appreciation of the better side of the French Revolution, and to his
But when the Mighty pass away
* Note to edd. 1807 and onwards :-" Importuna e grave salma.”—