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thinks of agony and shipwreck. The next time he is there he can look upon the scene with calmness and think upon it all ; he comes at length to love the spot, and can talk of it'.
Mrs. Gordon adds in conclusion,ʻI one summer day went along with him and heard the melancholy tale. Then whoever goes to that sublime solitude must, with holy feelings and with the wildness of nature, join human sympathies’.
Sorely as he was tried by this, the first great affliction of his life, yet the well-balanced mind of the poet did not allow him to remain long a prey to despondency, and the tranquil happiness of his home seconding his own efforts, enabled him, after a brief period, to resume his wonted labours, and the year 1805 is memorable in his life, for the completion of his first long poem, entitled, “The Prelude, or the growth of a Poet's mind'. It had been in progress for upwards of six years. By most readers it will be considered as the best biography of that portion of his life of which it treats ; and by many it is believed to contain some of his best poetry. There is all the freshness and vigour of youth about it, and a hearty expression of feeling and opinion which engages the reader's sympathy. Very touching is the allusion to the calamity which weighed upon him as he drew towards the clo of his task, -'under pressure of a private grief', 'keen and enduring':
He dedicated this poem to Coleridge, whose high estimation of it is recorded in his ‘Table Talk', and by some lines he wrote on receiving it, for he could not but be gratified by this proof of the regard of one whom he considered as possessed of more of the genius of a great philosophic poet than any man he ever knew, or, as he believed, to have existed in England since Milton.
Coleridge always expressed regret that his friend did not at once publish the ‘Prelude', which he considered as superior to the 'Excursion'. It was written, as the reader is probably aware, to test his own powers, and if successful to justify the devotion of his life to poetry. In a letter to Sir J. Beaumont, he says, 'the “Prelude” consists of not much less than 9000 lines not hundred, but thousand, lines long, an alarming length, and a thing unprecedented in literary history that a man should talk so much about himself. It is not self-conceit as you will know well, that has induced me to do this, but real humility. I began the work because I was unprepared to treat any more arduous subject, and diffident of my own powers.
Here at least, I hoped that to a certain degree I should be sure of succeeding, as I had nothing to do but to describe what I had felt and thought, and therefore could not easily be bewildered. This might have been done in narrower compass by a man of more address; but I have done my best'. He elsewhere describes this poem as 'a sort of portico to “The Recluse”, part of the same building, which I hope ere long to begin with in earnest; and if I am permitted to bring it to a conclusion, and to write further, a narrative-poem of the epic kind, I shall consider the task of my life as over'.
The 'Prelude' remained in M.S. for a period of 45 years, not having been published till the summer of 1850, after the poet's death.
An eminent critic, alluding to this great philosophic poem, says, 'at the opening of one of the books, the author describes a dream, which reaches the very ne plus ultra of sublimity, expressly framed to illustrate the eternity and the independence of all social modes or fashions of existence, conceded to these two hemispheres, as it were, that compose the total world of human power
mathematics on the one hand, poetry on the other. The form of the dream, with exquisite skill in the art of composition, is made to arise out of the situation in which the poet had previously found himself, and is faintly prefigured in the elements of that situation. He had been reading ' Don Quixote' by the seaside ; and had fallen asleep, whilst gazing on the barren sands before hiin'.
He then dreams that, walking in some sandy wilderness of Africa, some endless Zahara, he sees approach an uncouth shape, mounted upon a dromedary.
'He seemed an Arab of the Bedouin tribes;
I did so;
The one that held acquaintance with the stars,
Among the various poems written by Wordsworth and not published till long after their composition, may be mentioned the Waggoner, which belongs to this
period, 1805-6. It claims attention from the liveliness and ease of its style, as if thrown off at a heat. It is moreover interesting as recalling many scenes familiar to those who have visited the poet's residence, and as presenting a lively description of an institution now superseded,- the slow majestic wain, drawn by eight horses. The proprietor of this team and poor Benjamin’s master, was named Jackson, and was Southey's landlord. How felicitous is the description of the drowsy cheer, and far-off tinklings of the horses' bells,
• Mixed with a faint and grating sound,
In a moment lost and found' ; and again, old Benjamin's boast, spite of all obstacles of wind, and weather, and precipitous roads,
Yet here we are by night and day,
Grinding through rough and smooth our way'. Not till 12 years later did it appear with a dedication to Charles Lamb.
About this time Sir Humphrey Davy and Sir Walter Scott visited Wordsworth, and they ascended Helvellyn in company, and during their walk heard of the fate of young Charles Gough, who it will be remembered fell from a cliff near Red Tarn, and perished, as many thought by the lingering death of famine.
His dog, almost reduced to a skeleton, was found there months after the catastrophe, still watching over the remains of his master. The two poets, unknown to each other, recorded in verse this instance of fidelity.
In Scott's poem occurs the beautiful stanza ‘How long did'st thou think that his silence was slumber? When the wind waved his garment, how oft did'st thou start '? which Landor praised highly when in conversation