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honor to our own times, and to those of our immediate predecessors."
Anna* mia, Anna dolce, oh sempre nuovo
Hor che'l prato, e la selva si scolora,
Risi e piansi d’Amor; nè però mai
7 [The union of “high finish and perfusive grace with pathos and manly reflection”-pathos recalling the peculiar tone of Southey with a Wordsworthian strength of thought and stateliness of sentiment—is exemplified, as it seems to me, in the poetry of Mr. H. Taylor (not to speak of its other merits of a different kind) especially his later poetry, and very exquisitely in his printed but unpublished Lines written in remembrance of E. E. Villiers. A friend pointed out to me, what I had before been feeling, the fine interwoven harmony of the stanza in this poem, which, though long and varied, forms a whole to the ear as truly as the more formal Spenserian stanza, but has a soft, flowing movement remarkably well fitted for the expression of thoughtful tenderness, and well illustrates Mr. Wordsworth's remark, recorded in this work, on the musical “sweep of whole paragraphs.” It is easy enough to invent new metres, but some new metres
* Filli in Strozzi's Madrigal. S. C.)
which the world has lately been presented with will never live, I fear, to be old. They are as unmusical and not so spirited as a Chicasaw warsong. There is a witch in Mr. Tennyson's poetry, but I do not imagine that any great part of her witching power resides in newness of metrethough perhaps it is rash even to hazard a conjecture on the properties of such a subtle enchantress, or to say how such a mysterious siren does or does not bewitch. S. C.]
Examination of the tenets peculiar to Mr. Wordsworth-Rustic life (above
all, low and rustic life) especially unfavorable to the formation of a human diction—The best parts of language the product of philosophers, not of clowns or shepherds—Poetry essentially ideal and generic—The language of Milton as much the language of real life, yea, incomparably more so than that of the cottager.
As far then as Mr. Wordsworth in his preface contended, and most ably contended, for a reformation in our poetic diction, as far as he has evinced the truth of passion, and the dramatic propriety of those figures and metaphors in the original poets, which, stripped of their justifying reasons, and converted into mere artifices of connexion or ornament, constitute the characteristic falsity in the poetic style of the moderns; and as far as he has, with equal acuteness and clearness, pointed out the process by which this change was effected, and the resemblances between that state into which the reader's mind is thrown by the pleasurable confusion of thought from an unaccustomed train of words and images, and that state which is induced by the natural language of impassioned feeling ; he undertook a useful task, and deserves all praise, both for the attempt and for the execution. The provocations to this remonstrance in behalf of truth and nature were still of perpetual recurrence before and after the publication of this preface. I cannot likewise but add, that the comparison of such poems of merit, as have been given to the public within the last ten or twelve years, with the majority of those produced previously to the appearance of that preface, leave no doubt on my mind, that Mr. Wordsworth is fully justified in believing his efforts to have been by no means ineffectual. Not only in the verses of those who have professed their admiration of his genius, but even of those who have distinguished themselves by hostility to his theory, and depreciation
of his writings, are the impressions of his principles plainly visible. It is possible, that with these principles others may have been blended, which are not equally evident; and some which are unsteady and subvertible from the narrowness or imperfection of their basis.
But it is more than possible, that these errors of defect or exaggeration, by kindling and feeding the controversy, may have conduced not only to the wider
propagation of the accompanying truths, but that, by their frequent presentation to the mind in an excited state, they may have won for them a more permanent and practical result. A man will borrow a part from his opponent the more easily, if he feels himself justified in continuing to reject a part. While there remain important points in which he can still feel himself in the right, in which he still finds firm footing for continued resistance, he will gradually adopt those opinions, which were the least remote from his own convictions, as not less congruous with his own theory than with that which he reprobates. In like manner, with a kind of instinctive prudence, he will abandon by little and little his weakest posts, till at length he seems to forget that they had ever belonged to him, or affects to consider them at most as accidental and “ petty annexments,” the removal of which leaves the citadel unhurt and unendangered.
My own differences from certain supposed parts of Mr. Wordsworth’s theory ground themselves on the assumption, that his words had been rightfully interpreted, as purporting that the proper diction for poetry in general consists altogether in a language taken, with due exceptions, from the mouths of men in real life, a language which actually constitutes the natural conversation of men under the influence of natural feelings. My objection is, first, that in any sense this rule is applicable only to certain classes of poetry ; secondly, that even to these classes it is not applicable, except in such a sense, as hath never by any one (as far as I know or have read) been denied or doubted; and lastly, that as far as, and in that degree in which it is practicable, it is yet as a rule useless, if not injurious, and therefore either need not, or ought not to be practised. The poet informs his reader that he had generally chosen low and rustic life ;' but
[In the last edition of this preface the word “humble" is substituted for “low.” See P. W., ii., p. 303. Ed.]
not as low and rustic, or in order to repeat that pleasure of doubtful moral effect, which persons of elevated rank and of superior refinement oftentimes derive from a happy imitation of the rude unpolished manners and discourse of their inferiors. For the pleasure so derived may be traced to three exciting
The first is the naturalness, in fact, of the things represented. The second is the apparent naturalness of the representation, as raised and qualified by an imperceptible infusion of the author's own knowledge and talent, which infusion does, indeed, constitute it an imitation as distinguished from a mere copy. The third cause may be found in the reader's conscious feeling of his superiority awakened by the contrast presented to him; even as for the same purpose the kings and great barons of yore retained, sometimes actual clowns and fools, but more frequently shrewd and witty fellows in that character. These, however, were not Mr. Wordsworth’s objects. He chose low and rustic life, “ because in that condition the essential passions of the heart find a better soil, in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language ; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity, and consequently may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated ; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and from the necessary character of rural occupations are more easily comprehended, and are more durable ; and lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature."
Now it is clear to me, that in the most interesting of the poems, in which the author is more or less dramatic, as THE BROTHERS, MICHAEL, RUTH, THE MAD MOTHER, and others, the persons introduced are by no means taken from low or rustic life in the common acceptation of those words; and it is not less
2 [The Brothers : P. W., i., p. 109. Michael, ib., p. 222. The Mad Mother, now simply entitled “Her eyes are wild :" il., p. 256 and Ruth, ü., p. 106. Ed. The Edition of Mr. Wordsworth's Poems, referred to by Mr. Coleridge in this critique, is that of 1815, in two large vols., large 8vo. S. C.]