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Soon after I had begun to read some lines of our horoscope, I found this poem in Wordsworth, which seemed to link into meaning many sounds that were vibrating round me.
A Fountain at my fond Heart's door,
And flow it did; not taking heed
What happy moments did I count,
Now, for this consecrated Fount
What have I ? shall I dare to tell ?
A Well of love, it may be deep,
What matter ? if the Waters sleep
Such change, and at the very door
Of my fond heart, hath made me poor. This, at the time, seemed unanswerable ; yet, afterwards I found among the writings of Coleridge what may serve as a suf. ficient answer.
Yet why at other's wanings shouldst thou fret ?
Hadst thou withheld thy love, or hid thy light
O wiselier, then, from feeble yearnings freed,
Whether the object by reflected light
And though thou notest from thy safe recess
Love them for what they are; nor love them less,
Because to thee they are not what they were. L. Do you expect to be able permanently to abide by such solace ?
A. I do not expect so Olympian a calmness, that at first, when the chain of intercourse is broken, when confidence is dismayed, and thought driven back upon its suurce, I shall not feel a transient pang, even a shame, as when
“The sacred secret hath flown out of us,
And the heart been broken open by deep care.” The wave receding, leaves the strand for the moment forlorn, and weed-bestrown.
L. And is there no help for this ? Is there not a pride, a prudence, identical with self-respect, that could preserve us from such mistakes ?
A. If you can show me one that is not selfish forethought of neglect or slight, I would wear it and recommend it as the de. sired amulet. As yet, I know no pride, no prudence except love of truth.
Would a prudence be desirable that should have hindered our intimacy ?
L. Ah, no! it was happy, it was rich.
A. Very well then, let us drink the bitter with as good a grace as the sweet, and for to-night talk no more of ourselves.
L. To talk then of those other, better selves, the poets. I can well understand that Coleridge should have drunk so deeply as he did of this bitter-sweet. His nature was ardent, intense, variable in its workings, one of tides, crises, fermentations. He was the flint from which the spark must be struck by violent collision. His life was a mass in the midst of which fire glowed, but needed time to transfuse it, as his heavenly eyes glowed amid such heavy features. The habit of taking opium was but an outward expression of the transports and depressions to which he was inly prone. In him glided up in the silence, equally vivid, the Christabel, the Geraldine. Through his various mind
“The meteor offspring of the brain
And fancy must be fed.”
“Came a restless state, 'twixt yea and nay,
His faith was fixed, his heart all ebb and flow;
Above its anchor driving to and fro.”
Thus we cannot wonder that he, with all his vast mental resources and roble aims, should have been the bard elect to sing of Dejection, and that the pages of his prose works should be blistered by more painful records of personal and social experiences, than we find in almost any from a mind able to invoke the aid of divine philosophy, a mind touched by humble piety. But Wordsworth, who so early knew, and sought, and found the life and the work he wanted, whose wide and equable thought flows on like a river through the plain, whose verse seemed to come daily like the dew to rest upon the flowers of home affections, we should think he might always have been with his friend, as he describes two who had grown up together,
“Each other's advocate, each other's stay,
And strangers to content, if long apart,
Of sea-fowl, conscious both that they are hovering
Or hidden only by the concave depth
Of neighbouring billows from each other's sight.” And that we should not find in him ces of the sort of wound, nor the tone of deep human melancholy that we find in this Complaint, and in the sonnet, “Why art thou silent.”
A. I do not remember that.
L. It is in the last published volume of his poems, though probably written many years before.
"Why art thou silent ? Is thy love a plant
Of such weak fibre that the treacherous air
Is there no debt to pay, no boon to grant ?
(As would my deeds have been) with hourly care,
For naught but what thy happiness could spare.
A thousand tender pleasures, thine and mine,
Than a forsaken bird's nest filled with snow,
Speak, that my torturing doubts their end may know." A. That is indeed the most pathetic description of the speech. less palsy that precedes the death of love.
"Is there no debt to pay, no boon to grant ?"
But Laurie, how could you ever fancy a mind of poetic sensibility would be a stranger to this sort of sadness ?
What signifies the security of a man's own position and choice? The peace and brightness of his own lot? If he has this intelligent sensibility can he fail to perceive the throb that agitates the bosom of all nature, or can his own fail to respond to it?
In the eye of man, or in the sunset clouds, from the sobs of literature, or those of the half-spent tempest, can he fail to read the secrets of fate and time, of an over-credulous hope, a too much bewailed disappointment ? Will not a very slight hint convey to the mind in which the nobler faculties are at all de. veloped, a sense of the earthquakes which may in a moment upheave his vineyard and whelm his cottage beneath rivers of fire. Can the poet at any time, like the stupid rich man, say to his soul, “ Eat, drink, and be merry.” No, he must ever say to his fellow man, as Menelaus to his kingly brother,
“Shall my affairs
Oh, never could Wordsworth fail, beside his peaceful lake, to know the tempests of the ocean. And to an equable temperament sorrow seems sadder than it really is, for such know less of the pleasures of resistance.
It needs not that one of deeply thoughtful mind be passionate, to divine all the secrets of passion. Thought is a bee that can. not miss those flowers.
Think you that if Hamlet had held exactly the position best fitted to his nature, had his thoughts become acts, without any violent willing of his own, had a great people paid life-long homage to his design, had he never detected the baseness of his mother, nor found cause to suspect the untimely fate of his father, had that “rose of May, the sweet Ophelia,” bloomed safely at his side, and Horatio always been near, with his understand. ing mind and spotless hands, do you think all this could have preserved Hamlet from the astounding discovery that
"A man may smile, and smile, and be a villain ?"
That line, once written on his tables, would have required the commentary of many years for its explanation.