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CHAPTER XV.

FURTHER INFLUENCE.

DEFORE alluding to the affliction which for many

years darkened the later life of Miss Wordsworth, and gathering together some of the remaining threads of her history, it is fitting that something further should be said in relation to her sustained influence upon her brother and her devotion to him, although it is with a feeling of how impossible it is adequately to do this, or that the fruit of her dominant presence should ever be fully known.

Those who know Wordsworth, and who, recognizing his commanding place in literature, have had their sympathies enlarged, their eyes opened to discern in Nature and Providence their boundless sources of satisfaction and delight — whose hearts have been expanded by his high and holy teaching - will be ready to recognize all the spiritual aids by which he was himself inspired. It would be unjust to others, who held high sway over his heart, to say that everything was due to his sister. At the same time it is manifest that she bore no insignificant part, and during his early life the largely predominant part in that work, and thus was to a great extent instrumental in introducing the new evangel of song by which the century's literature has been uplifted. The elevating presence of such a woman, in the delightful and close relationship of sister, was to a man of Wordsworth's character, itself an inspiration. If it be good to learn to look on Nature with a reverential eye, seeing therein the Creation of God brought near, then to this poet, as Nature's high priest and interpreter is due the gratitude of generations.

As the close companion and stimulator of this great poet during the years of preparation and discipline, who “first couched his eye to the sense of beauty," we owe it indirectly to Miss Wordsworth that Nature has become to us so much more than she was to our forefathers, has been revealed in a clearer and brighter light; that she speaks to us in a new language, calling us away from the lower cares of life, and uplifting us to a higher soul-inbreathing and restoring atmosphere of repose ; thus begetting a dignity of soul and making us capable of higher good, of nobler endeavor, of capacities for enjoyment before unknown - keener, more satisfying, and enduring.

Probably few natures are capable of receiving the more subtle impressions of beauty in such a way as was that of Wordsworth, and fewer still meet with the responsive soul able to touch them to the finest issues. His boyhood's mind had been impregnated with thought, and his young heart bounded with delight amid the beauties of earth. His sister came, and together they seemed to possess the earth. His powers of perception were intensified and rarified. The solitudes of Nature became their home, their hearts grew still amidst its loveliness : the solemn night breathed a benediction. They loved

“The silence that is in the starry sky,

The sleep that is among the lonely hills."

Shall we not say that, viewed in this way, the earth becomes almost as an ante-chamber of Heaven, subduing, and awe-inspiring, leading us to

“Move along its shades,
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch — for there is a spirit in the woods.”

'“What a life there is in trees,” said Miss Wordsworth; and her own life was one not only helping to reveal the living speech of the mute world, not only finding life where it is by the duller eye unseen, and by the dull sense unfelt, but helping to show what a noble thing all life may be made.

It must not be supposed that in what may seem to have been a complete abandonment to the worship of her brother and of Nature Miss Wordsworth had no heart for others, no room for human sympathy. She was, on the contrary, during their early years at Grasmere especially, widely known and beloved; her ready ear was always open to the tale of sorrow, and her helping hand ready to aid. It was after the commencement of her long and tedious illness that Wordsworth said of her he did not believe her tenderness of heart was ever exceeded by any of God's creatures,

that her loving-kindness had no bounds. The following lines written by Mrs. Fletcher, when 82 years of age, after reading Miss Wordsworth's Grasınere journal, are very appropriate : —

“If in thine inmost soul there chance to dwell
Aught of the poetry of human life,
Take thou this book, and with a humble heart
Follow these pilgrims in their joyous walk;
And mark their high commission — not to domes
Of pomp baronial, or gay fashion's haunts,
Where worldlings gather; but to rural homes,
To cottages and hearths, where kindness dwelt,
They bent their way; and not a gentle breeze
Inhaled in all their wanderings, not a flower,
Blooming by hedge-wayside, or mountain rill,
But lent its inspiration, scent, and sound,
Deepening the inward music of their hearts.
She touched the chord, and he gave forth its tone;
Without her he had idly gazed and dreamed,
In fancy's region of celestial things;
But she — by sympathy disclosed the might,
That slumbered in his soul, and drew it thence,
In richest numbers of subduing power,
To soften, harmonize, and soothe mankind;
Nor less to elevate, and point the way
To truth Divine - not with polemic skill,
He sought from Nature and the human heart,
That sacred wisdom from the fount of God.”

It has been well said that with a masculine power of mind Miss Wordsworth “had every womanly virtue, and presented with those splendid gifts such a rare combination, that even the enthusiastic strains in which her brother sang her praises borrowed no aid from his

poetic imagination. It was she who in childhood moderated the sternness of his moody temper, and she carried on the work which she had begun. His chief delight had been in scenes which were distinguished by terror and grandeur, and she taught him the beauty of the simplest products and mildest graces of Nature ; while she was softening his mind she was elevating herself; and out of this interchange of gifts grew an absolute harmony of thought and feeling." What was originally harsh in Wordsworth was toned by the womanly sweetness of his sister, and his spirit softened by her habitual delicacy of thought and act. Not only so, but with a devotion (I will not say selfsacrifice, for it was none) as rare as it is noble, she simply dedicated to him her life and service, living in and for him. She read for him, saw for him, and heard for him ; found subjects for his reflection, and was always at hand — his willing scribe. Rejecting for herself all thoughts of love and marriage, she gave to him and his her mature life as willingly and cheerfully as when he was alone and unfriended, she had done her bright girlhood. With a mental capacity and literary skill, which would have enabled her to carve out for herself an independent reputation and position of no mean order, she preferred to sink herself, and her future, in that of her brother, with whom she has thus become, for all time, so indelibly associated. And he was grateful, and returned her devotedness with a love, tender, and almost reverential. One other allusion to her in his poems should be given. It may be thought that his praise of her is exagger

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