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imitation of such actions proves how little the contest against him was understood at the time, either in its moral or political point of view, or rather in its only proper point of view, which comprises both; but the world appears to have learnt better since. The above parenthesis is used in speaking of the general acceptation of Mr. Coleridge's meaning, because he himself, it
appears, has astounded some people by deprecating such a construction.
(19) And t' other some lines he had made on a straw,
Showing how he had found it, and what it was for,
I am told, on very good authority, that this parody upon Mr. Wordsworth's worst style of writing has been taken for a serious extract from him, and panegyrized accordingly with much grave wonderment how I could find it ridiculous !
See the next note.
(20) The bard, like a second Æneas, went home in't,
And lives underneath it, it seems, at this moment.
If Mr. Wordsworth is at present under a cloud, it is one, we see, of a divinity's wearing; and he may emerge from it, whenever he pleases, with a proportionate lustre. May he speedily do so! There is nobody who would be prouder to hail that new morning than myself. Apollo should have another Feast on purpose to welcome it. It certainly appears to me, that we have had no poet since
the days of Spenser and Milton, so allied in the better part of his genius to those favoured men, not excepting even Collins, who saw farther into the sacred places of poetry than any man of the
Mr. Wordsworth speaks less of the vulgar tongue of the profession than any writer since that period; he always thinks when he speaks,-has always words at command,-feels deeply,-fancies richly, and never descends from that pure and elevated morality which is the native region of the first order of poetical spirits.
To those who doubt the justice of this character, and who have hitherto seen in Mr. Wordsworth nothing but trifling and childishness, and who at the same time speak with rapture of Spenser and Milton, I would only recommend the perusal of such poems as the Female Vagrant in Lyrical Ballads, the Nightingale, the three little exquisite pieces from p. 50 to 53. of the 2d vol. (4th edition) another at p. 136.—the Old Cumberland Beggar, (a piece of perfect description philosophized,) and in the two subsequent volumes of poems-Louisa, the Happy Warrior, to H. C., the Sonnets entitled London and Westminster Bridges, another beginning 66 The World is too much with us,” and the majestic simplicity of the Ode to Duty, a noble subject most nobly treated. If after this they can still see nothing beautiful or great in Mr. Wordsworth's writings, we must conclude that their insight into the beauties of Spenser and Milton is imaginary ; and that they speak in praise of those writers, as they do in dispraise of Mr. Wordsworth, merely by rote.
It may be asked me, then, why with such opinions as I entertain of the greatness of Mr. Wordsworth's genius, he is treated as he is in the verses before us.
I answer, because he abuses that genius so as Milton or Spenser never abused it, and so as to destroy those great ends of poetry, by which it should assist the uses and refresh the spirits of life. From him to whom much is given much shall be required. Mr. Wordsworth is capable of being at the head of a new and great age of poetry; and in point of fact, I do not deny that he is so already, as the greatest poet of the present; but in point of effect, in point of delight and utility, he appears to me to have made a mistake unworthy of him, and to have sought by eccentricity, and by a turning away from society, what he might have obtained by keeping to his proper and more neighbourly sphere. Had he written always in the spirit of the pieces above mentioned, his readers would have felt nothing but delight and gratitude; but another spirit interferes, calculated to do good neither to their taste nor reflections; and after having been elevated and depressed, refreshed and sickened, pained, pleased, and tortured, we close his volumes, as we finish a melancholy day, with feelings that would go to sleep in forgetfulness, and fullwaking faculties too busy to suffer it.
The theory of Mr. Wordsworth-If I may venture to give in a few words my construction of the curious, and, in many respects, very masterly preface to the Lyrical Ballads, is this; that owing to a variety of existing causes, among which are the accumulation of men in cities, and the necessary uniformity of their occupations-and the consequent craving for extraordinary incident, which the present state of the world is quick to gratify, the taste of society has become so vitiated and so accustomed to gross stimulants, such
“ frantic novels, sickly and stupid German tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse," as to require the counteraction of some simpler and more primitive food, which should restore to readers their true tone of enjoyment, and enable them to relish once more the beauties of simplicity and nature ;-that, to this purpose, a poet in the present age, who looked upon men with his proper eye, as an entertainer and instructor, should choose subjects as far removed as possible from artificial excitements, and appealing to the great and primary affections of our nature ; thirdly, and lastly, that these subjects, to be worthily and effectively treated, should be clothed in language equally artless. I pass over the contingent parts of the Preface, though touching out, as they go, some beautiful ideas respecting poets and poetry in general, both
because I have neither time nor room to consider them, and because they are not so immediate to my purpose. I shall merely observe, by the way, that Mr. Wordsworth does not seem to have exercised his feelings much on the subject of versification, and must protest against that attempt of his to consider perfect poetry as not essentially connected with metre-an innovation, which would detract from the poet's properties, and shut up one of the finest inlets of his enjoyment and nourishers of his power—the sense of the harmonious.
* Now, the object of the theory here mentioned has clearly nothing in the abstract that can offend the soundest good sense, or the best poetical ambition. In fact, it is only saying, in other words, that it is high time for poetry in general to return to nature and to a natural style, and that he will perform a great and useful work to society, who shall assist it to do so. I am not falling, by this interpretation, into the error which Mr. Wordsworth very justly deprecates, when he warns his readers against affecting to agree with him in terms, when they really differ with him in taste. The truth which he tells, however obvious, is necessary to be told, and to be told loudly; and he should enjoy the praise which he deserves, of having been the first, in these times, to proclaim it. But the question is, (and he himself puts it at