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' Flowers laugh before thee on their beds,
And fragrance in thy footing treads ;

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
And the most ancient Heavens through Thee are fresh and strong.'

That last line leaves on your mind the consciousness that Duty—the poet's idea of Duty that is—owes quite as much to the · Most Ancient Heavens' as they owe to her.

The sonnets ‘On Westminster Bridge,' 'Two voices are there,' 'The world is too much with us,' all among the noblest examples of Wordsworth's exalted mood, are familiar even to many whose acquaintance with the poet is limited, from their presence in anthologies ; and such lines imprint themselves on the mind with comparative readiness. But passages of the same order are far from rare, amid the monotonous wastes which all candid persons who are not devotees own to finding in the long poems -the Excursion and the Prelude. But none perhaps, except, it may be, the lines quoted above from the Excursion---so fitly, so finely, sums up Wordsworth's attitude towards Nature, the sympathy which gives him such unrivalled power as her interpreter, as this from 'Tintern Abbey'

I have learned
To look on Nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth ; but hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity,
Not harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man :
A motion and a spirit that imbues
All thinking things, all objects of all thought
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth ; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear,—both what they half create
And what perceive.'

The influence of Nature in moulding those who love her is presented in perfection in the 'Three years she grew'; there is a touch of exaggeration no doubt, if one presses the sense unduly, for we all know that the mere fact of rearing a child among VOL. 85 (V.-NEW SERIES).


NO. 505.

beautiful scenery will not guarantee perfection of feature as a result; but we know and may very well recognise that the silent sympathy' can do a good deal towards developing a real beauty. Our souls do something towards making our bodies, and when Nature does say, 'Myself will to my darling be both law and impulse,' that goes a good way in the development of the soul. But I refer to this poem now, chiefly as an example of the way in which Wordsworth's love of Nature and sympathy with her penetrates through and through all his strongest feelings, and permeates them, instead of being more or less accidentally associated here or there with this or that particular thought.

We have seen how Wordsworth is affected-and we through him-by the majesty, the expanse of Nature, as bodying forth the ‘something far more deeply interfused'; how his very being is pervaded by the sense of it, so that his expression is so convincing that almost unconsciously we are raised in the reading to something like the same spiritual level. This is that kind of vivid emotional consciousness which turns formal belief into vital realisation ; whereby is marked the distinction between the poet who teaches by feeling primarily, and the logician who teaches through the intellect. It is on this larger aspect of Nature--the glory of the overarching sky, the grandeur of the everlasting hills, the charm of the outstretched valleys,


• The sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours'-


that Wordsworth chiefly loves to dwell; and for this we love him most.

No doubt there is too much inclination to distort this sympathy and its expression into a system. A system may be more or less involved or implied in a fancy, but it does not do to press a fanciful phrase to its logical conclusion, and we are not bound to any metaphysical doctrines by the remark that 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes.' If you must analyse a phrase of that kind, it means little more than that the poet enjoys seeing the flower breathing; it is on a par almost with one's belief in fairies. There are a good many people who don't believe in fairies and fairyland—and happily there are a good many who do. These things will not bear pressing. I believe devoutly in fairies, when the conditions are favourable ; and I take it that a good many of Wordsworth's beliefs about

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flowers were of the same order. Still, when Mr. Morley says that the statement :

'One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach us more of man,
Of moral evil and of good

Than all the sages can,'

is merely a playful sally, there seems to be something wrong. Wordsworth undoubtedly felt that emotions which are at the root of morality may be stirred, and are stirred, by 'one impulse from a vernal wood.' That seems to be the obvious meaning of his lines; they are not the exposition of a system, but they are the statement of a fact.

This direct inspiration from Nature, this habit not merely of feeling how she harmonises with his graver moods, but of finding in her the actual source of his higher emotions and richest thoughts, is what especially distinguishes Wordsworth from others, even from Matthew Arnold, who is of all poets most distinctly the product of Wordsworth, most evidently influenced and moulded by his study of the master. “Thyrsis' is the work of a man who loved the open air and knew the country side intimately

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WI if not I, for questing here hath power ?
I know the wood which hides the daffodil,

I know the Fyfield tree,
I know what white, what purple fritillaries

The grassy harvest of the river-fields

Above by Ensham, down by Sandford, yields,
And what sedged brooks are Thames's tributaries.'

But though he has the feel of the country, it is a secondary thing with him ; an accompaniment; the result less of instinct than of cultivated taste. And so his similes or illustrations derived from rural life appear with an air less of being the thing that was suggested to him by the circumstances than of being the sort of thing which he thought probably would have been suggested by similar circumstances to Homer or Virgil. I am not sure that this manner has not a charm of its own to the literary mind; but it is not the living charm of green turf and blue sky. Still less is it the ‘Presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts.' One has a suspicion that when Wordsworth went out on the hillside, Mr. Arnold may have done so too; but he went with Marcus Aurelius in his pocket. Now and then we have a delicately touched picture, as of

'The mowers, who as the tiny swell Of our boat passing heaved the river-grass,

Stood with suspended scythe to see us pass,' but the literary flavour has a habit of predominating.

The poet to whom 'the meanest flower that blows can bring thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears,' was not one who forgot the parts in the whole, or inclined to despise a blossom for not being a mountain. Daffodil and daisy and small celandine, he could sing their praises as well as those of the 'glory beyond all glory ever seen,' when the mist broke on the hills. But in this field he has been often equalled and sometimes excelled. His daisy has not the tenderness of Burns's; his lark falls short of the harmonious madness of Shelley's. Perhaps, he found the temptation to improve the occasion too strong, except when he was too much moved to remember about it. Anyhow, most people probably find that he moralises too much over these things, and is not sufficiently content with pure enjoyment. It is rather curious that instead of being satisfied with trying to reproduce the ‘impulse from the vernal wood,” he should set about trying to teach 'of moral evil and of good' after the comparatively unworthy manner of all the sages.' If the reputation of the primrose, at home on its own bank, were not beyond the reach of calumny, it is to be feared that it would have suffered seriously from Peter Bell.

Robert Browning is a poet to whom nothing is of the same account as the individual man, the development of this or that particular soul. And this so outweighs all else in his work, that we are apt to overlook the fact that he was a keen and delighted observer and recorder of the sights and sounds of Nature-of the world in which men live, the concomitants of human life. Certainly he never wrote an ode to a skylark or a daisy, but he was very much, and joyously, aware of them, as witness, let us say, 'Home thoughts from abroad.' His description of the thrush is almost the only really hackneyed thing he wrote-it does duty annually in the newspaper articles. His May morning when

• Though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew

The buttercups, the little children's dower,' is instinct with the very spirit of spring. Even in the Parleyings' there is a sunrise, characteristically different from

a Wordsworth's, but throbbing with the life of the new day's dawn.


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Boundingly up through night's wall dense and dark,
Embattled crags and clouds, out broke the Sun
Above the conscious earth, and one by one
Her heights and depths absorbed to the last spark
His fluid glory, from the far fine ridge
Of mountain-granite which, transformed to gold,
Laughed first the thanks back, to the vale's dusk fold
On fold of vapour-swathing, like a bridge

Shattered beneath some giant's stamp.' The sunset in Home thoughts from the sea' could only have been painted by one who felt a genuine delight in its glories. But what especially marks Browning, when he does begin to talk about natural objects, is the detailed variety of what he has noticed. Nothing escapes him on a mountain walk; the

"Dark rosemary ever a-dying that, spite the wind's wrath, So loves the salt rock's face to seaward,' or the

Fairy-cupped, elf-needled mat of moss' no more than

How sharp the silver spear-heads charge,

Where Alps meets heaven in snow.' The lover in the ‘Lost Mistress' remarks how

• The leaf-buds on the vine are woolly,

I noticed that to-day ;
One day more bursts them open fully-

You know, the red turns grey.' The triviality of the matter is hardly more pathetic than its accuracy, in the context. There is rather a curious difference between Wordsworth and Browning which is worth noting—the former has a vivid sense of what Mr. Morley calls an Animated

a Presence in the mountains and woods; but Browning has a way of speaking of them as individually alive

. The forests had done it; there they stood ;

We caught for a moment the powers at play,
They had mingled us so for once and good,

Their work was done—we might go or stay,

They relapsed to their ancient mood.' No doubt it is the outcome of the stress the poet always does lay on individuality, while Wordsworth dwells rather on the unity of the whole. It would be a rather curious study to try and trace whether Browning's delight in detail and Wordsworth's delight in expanse are attributable to the same sources.

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