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adventures and high hope, ending in disappointment and disgust. They all proceed to the house of the pastor, who—in the style of Crabbe's Parish Begister—recounts some of the deaths and mutations that had taken place in his sequestered valley; and with a description of a visit made by the three to a neighbouring lake, the poem concludes. The Excursion is an unfinished work, part of a larger
poem, The Recluse, “having for its principal object the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement. The narrative part of The Excursion is a mere framework, rude and unskilful, for a series of pictures of mountain scenery and philosophical dissertations, tending to shew how the external world is adapted to the mind of man, and good educed out of evil and suffering.
Within the soul a faculty abides,
In a still loftier style of moral observation on the changes of life, the “gray-haired wanderer' exclaims: So fails, so languishes, grows dim, and dies, All that this world is proud of. From their spheres The stars of human glory are cast down; Perish the roses and the flowers of kings,
Princes, and emperors, and the crowns and palms
The picturesque parts of The Excursion are full of a quiet and tender beauty characteristic of the author. We subjoin two passages, the first descriptive of a peasant youth, the hero of his native vale:
The mountain ash No eye can overlook, when 'mid a grove
Of yet unfaded trees she lifts her head
Decked with autumnal berries, that outshine Spring's richest blossoms; and ye may have marked By a brook side or solitary tarn, How she her station doth adorn. The pool Glows at her feet, and all the gloomy rocks Are brightened round her. In his native vale, Such and so glorious did this youth appear; A sight that kindled pleasure in all hearts By his ingenuous beauty, by the gleam Of his fair eyes, by his capacious brow, By all the graces with which nature's hand Had lavishly arrayed him. As old bards Tell in their idle songs of wandering gods, Pan or Apollo, veiled in human form; Yet, like the sweet-breathed violet of the shade, Discovered in their own despite to sense Of mortals—if such fables without blame May find chance mention on this sacred groundSo, through a simple rustic garb's disguise, And through the impediment of rural cares, In him revealed a scholar's genius shone; And so, not wholly hidden from men's sight, In him the spirit of a hero walked Our unpretending valley. How the quoit Whizzed from the stripling's arm ! If touched by him, The inglorious football mounted to the pitch Of the lark's flight, or shaped a rainbow curve Aloft in prospect of the shouting field! The indefatigable fox had learned To dread his perseverance in the chase. With admiration would he lift his eyes To the wide-ruling eagle, and his hand Was loath to assault the majesty he loved, Else had the strongest fastnesses proved weak To guard the royal brood. The sailing glede, The wheeling swallow, and the darting snipe, The sporting sea-gull dancing with the waves, And cautious waterfowl from distant climes, Fixed at their seat, the centre of the mere, Were subject to young Oswald's steady aim. Book VII,
The peasant youth, with others in the vale, roused by the cry to arms, studies the rudiments of war, but dies suddenly:
To him, thus snatched away, his comrades paid
A description of deafness in a peasant would seem to be a subject hardly susceptible of poetical ornament; yet, by contrasting it with the surrounding objects—the pleasant sounds and stir of natureand by his vein of pensive and graceful reflection, Wordsworth has made this one of his finest pictures: Almost at the root Of that tall pine, the shadow of whose bare And slender stem, while here I sit at eve, Oft stretches towards me, like a strong straight path T: faintly in the greensward, there, beneath
A plain blue stone, a gentle dalesman lies,
Among the jocund reapers.
By viewing man in connection with external nature, the poet blends his metaphysics with pictures of life and scenery. To build up and strengthen the powers of the mind, in contrast to the operations of sense, was ever his object. Like Bacon, Wordsworth would rather have believed all the fables in the Talmud and Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind–or that that mind does not, by its external symbols, speak to the human heart. He lived under the ‘habitual sway’ of nature.
To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
The removal of the poet to Rydal was marked by an incident of considerable importance in his personal history. Through the influence of the Earl of Lonsdale, he was appointed distributor of stamps in the county of Westmoreland, which added greatly to his income without engrossing all his time. fortune—if fortune can ever be said to have frowned on one so independent of her smiles. The subsequent works of the poet were numerous. The White Doe of Rylstone, a romantic narrative poem, yet coloured with his peculiar genius; Sonnets on the River Duddon; The Waggoner; Peter Bell; Ecclesiastical Sketches; Yarrow Revisited; &c. Having made repeated tours in Scotland and on the continent, the poet diversified his subjects with descriptions of particular scenes, local manners, legends, and associations. The whole of his works were
He was now placed beyond the frowns of
The latter years of Wordsworth's life were gladdened by his increasing fame, by academic honours conferred upon him by the universities of Durham and Oxford, by his appointment to the office of poet-laureate on the death of his friend Southey in 1843, and by a pension from the crown of £300 per annum. In 1847, he was shaken by a severe domestic calamity, the death of his only daughter, Dora, Mrs Quillinan. This lady was worthy of her sire. Shortly before her death she published anonymously a Journal of a Residence in Portugal, whither she had gone in pursuit of health.* Having attained to the great age of eighty, in the enjoyment of generally robust health (most of his poems were composed in the open air), Wordsworth died on the 23d of April 1850—the anniversary of St George, the patron saint of England—and was interred by the side of his daughter in the beautiful churchyard of Grasmere.
One of the most enthusiastic admirers of Wordsworth was Coleridge, so long his friend and associate, and who looked up to him with a sort offilial veneration and respect. He has drawn his poetical character at length in the Biographia Literaria, and if we consider it as applying to the higher characteristics of Wordsworth, without reference to the absurdity or puerility of some of his early fables, incidents, and language, it will be found equally just and felicitous. First, ‘An austere purity of language, both grammatically and logically; in short, a perfect appropriateness of the words to the meaning. Secondly, A correspondent weight and sanity of the thoughts and sentiments won, not from books, but from the poet's own meditations. They are fresh, and have the dew upon them. Even throughout his smaller poems, there is not one which is not rendered valuable by some just and original reflection. Thirdly, The sinewy strength and originality of single lines and paragraphs; the frequent curiosa Jelicitas of his diction. Fourthly, The perfect truth of nature in his images and descriptions, as taken immediately from nature, and proving a long and genial intimacy with the very spirit which gives a physiognomic expression to all the works of nature. Pifthly, A meditative pathos, a union of deep and subtle thought with sensibility: a sympathy with man as man; the sympathy, indeed, of a contemplator rather than a fellow-sufferer and co-mate (spectator, haud particeps), but of a contemplation from whose view no difference of rank conceals the sameness of the nature; no injuries of wind or weather, or toil, or even of ignorance, wholly disguise the human face divine. Last, and pre-eminently, I challenge for this poet the gift of imagination in the highest and strictest sense of the word. In the play of fancy, Wordsworth, to my feelings, is always graceful, and sometimes recondite. The likeness is
*Mr Edward Quillinan, son-in-law of Wordsworth, was a native of Oporto, but was educated in England. He was one of Wordsworth's most constant admirers, and was himself a poet of considerable talent, and an accomplished scholar. He was first married to a daughter of Sir Egerton Brydges, and having quitted the army, he settled in the Lake country. There Mrs Quillinan died by an unfortunate accident—her dress having caught fire—and left two daughters, in whom the Wordsworth family took great interest. In 1841, the intimacy between Dora Wordsworth and Mr Quillinan, which “first sprang out of the root of grief, was crowned by their marriage. She lived only about six years afterwards, and Mr Quillinan himself died suddenly in 1851. A volume of his Poems was published in 1853, and part of a translation of the Lusiad, which no man in England could have done so well. He was also engaged on a translation of the History of Portugal by Senor Herculano.
occasionally too strange, or demands too peculiar a point of view, or is such as appears the creature of predetermined research, rather than spontaneous presentation. Indeed, his fancy seldom displays itself as mere and unmodified fancy. But in imaginative power he stands nearest of all modern writers to Shakspeare and Milton, and yet in a mind perfectly unborrowed, and his own. To employ his own words, which are at once an instance and an illustration, he does indeed, to all thoughts and to all objectsAdd the gleam, The light that never was on sea or land, The consecration and the poet's dream.’
The fame of Wordsworth was daily extending, as we have said, before his death. The few ridiculous or puerile passages which excited so much sarcasm, parody, and derision, had been partly removed by himself, or were by his admirers either quietly overlooked, or considered as mere idiosyncrasies of the poet that provoked a smile, while his higher attributes commanded admiration, and he had secured a new generation of readers. A tribe of worshippers, in the young poets of the day, have arisen to do him homage, and in some instances have carried the feeling to a sectarian and bigoted excess. Many of his former depreciators have also joined the ranks of his admirers—partly because in his late works
he did himself more justice both in his style and .
subjects. He is too intellectual, and too little
sensuous, to use the phrase of Milton, ever to become generally popular, unless in some of his smaller pieces. His peculiar sensibilities cannot be relished by all. His poetry, however, is of various kinds. Forgetting his own theory as to the proper subjects of poetry, he ventured on the loftiest themes, and in calm sustained elevation of thought, appropriate imagery, and intense feeling, he often reminds the reader of the sublime strains of Milton. His Laodamia, the Vernal Ode, the Ode to Lycoris and Dion, are pure and richly classic poems in conception and diction. chaste and noble simplicity. In these short compositions, his elevation and power as a poet are perhaps more remarkably displayed than in any of his other productions. They possess a winning sweetness or simple grandeur, without the most distant approach to antithesis or straining for effect; while that tendency to prolixity and diffuseness which characterise his longer poems, is repressed by the necessity for brief and rapid thought and concise expression, imposed by the nature of the sonnet. It is no exaggeration to say that Milton alone has surpassed—if even he has surpassed—some of the noble sonnets of Wordsworth dedicated to liberty and inspired by patriotism.
Sonnets. London, 1802.
Milton thou shouldst be living at this hour;
The lowliest duties on herself didst lay. 283
Many of his sonnets have also a
The World is Too Much with Us.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1803.
Earth has not anything to shew more fair:
• On King's College Chapel, Cambridge.
Tax not the royal saint with vain expense,
His Intimations of Immortality, and Lines on Tintern Abbey, are the finest examples of his rapt imaginative style, blending metaphysical truth with diffuse gorgeous description and metaphor. His simpler effusions are pathetic and tender. He has little strong passion; but in one piece, Vaudracour and Julia, he has painted the passion of love with more warmth than might be anticipated from his abstract idealismHis present mind Was under fascination; he beheld A vision, and adored the thing he saw. Arabian fiction never filled the world With half the wonders that were wrought for him. Earth breathed in one great presence of the spring; Life turned the meanest of her implements Before his eyes, to price above all gold; The house she dwelt in was a sainted shrine; Her chamber window did surpass in glory The portals of the dawn; all paradise Could, by the simple opening of a door, Let itself in upon him; pathways, walks, Swarmed with enchantment, till his spirit sank, s:used within him—overblest to move
Beneath a sun that wakes a weary world
The lovers parted under circumstances of danger, but had a stolen interview at night:
Through all her courts The vacant city slept; the busy winds, That keep no certain intervals of rest, Moved not; meanwhile the galaxy displayed Her fires, that like mysterious pulses beat Aloft-momentous but uneasy bliss | To their full hearts the universe seemed hung On that brief meeting's slender filament :
This is of the style of Ford or Massinger. Living mostly apart from the world, and nursing with solitary complacency his poetical system, and all that could bear upon his works and pursuits as a poet, Wordsworth fell into those errors of taste and that want of discrimination to which we have already alluded. His most puerile ballads and attempts at humour were apparently as much prized by him, and classed with the same nicety and care, as the most majestic of his conceptions, or the most natural and beautiful of his descriptions. The art of condensation was also rarely practised by him. But if the poet's retirement or peculiar disposition was a cause of his weakness, it was also one of the sources of his strength. It left him untouched by the artificial or mechanical tastes of his age; it gave an originality to his conceptions and to the whole colour of his thoughts; and it completely imbued him with that purer antique life and knowledge of the phenomena of nature—the sky, lakes, and mountains of his native district, in all their tints and forms—which he has depicted with such power and enthusiasm. A less complacent poet would have been chilled by the long neglect and ridicule he experienced. His spirit was self-supported, and his genius, at once observant and meditative, was left to shape out its own creations, and extend its sympathies to that world which lay beyond his happy mountain solitude.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
Or let me die!
Lucy. She dwelt among the untrodden ways, Beside the springs of Dove, A maid whom there were none to praise, And very few to love.
A violet by a mossy stone Half hidden from the eye;
Fair as a star when only one Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
But she is in her grave, and oh,
She was a phantom of delight
I saw her upon nearer view,
And now I see with eye serene
[Lines Composed a few Miles above Tintern Abbey on -Revisiting the Banks of the Wye.]
Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Though absent long,
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
If this Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft, In darkness, and amid the many shapes Of joyless daylight, when the fretful stir Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, Have hung upon the beatings of my heart, How oft in spirit have I turned to thee, O sylvan Wye –thou wanderer through the woods— How often has my spirit turned to thee! And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought, With many recognitions dim and faint, And somewhat of a sad perplexity, The picture of the mind revives again: While here I stand, not only with the sense Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts That in this moment there is life and food For future years. And so I dare to hope, Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first I came among these hills; when, like a roe, I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, Wherever nature led: more like a man Flying from something that he dreads, than one who sought the thing he loved. For nature thenThe coarser pleasures of my boyish days And their glad animal movements all gone byTo me was all in all—I cannot paint What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock, 285