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possible associations should pass by all these in order to fix his attention exclusively on the pin-papers, and stay-tapes, which might have been among the wares of his pack ; this critic in my opinion cannot be thought to possess a much higher or much healthier state of moral feeling, than the FRENCHMEN above recorded.
The characteristic defects of Wordsworth's poe
try, with the principles from which the judgement, that they are defects, is deduced–Their proportion to the beauties—For the greatest part characteristic of his theory only.
If Mr. Wordsworth have set forth principles of poetry which his arguments are insufficient to support, let him and those who have adopted his sentiments be set right by the confutation of those arguments, and by the substitution of more philosophical principles. And still let the due credit be given to the portion and importance of the truths, which are blended with his theory: truths, the too exclusive attention to which had occasioned its errors, by tempting him to carry those truths beyond their proper limits. If his mistaken theory have at all influenced his poetic compositions, let the effects be pointed out, and the instances given. But let it likewise be shewn, how far the influence has acted; whether diffusively, or only by starts; whether the number and importance of the poems and passages thus infected be great or trifling compared with the sound portion ; and lastly, whether they are inwoven into the texture of his works, or are
loose and separable. The result of such a trial would evince beyond a doubt, what it is high time to announce decisively and aloud, that the supposed characteristics of Mr. Wordsworth's poetry, whether admired or reprobated ; whether they are simplicity or simpleness ; faithful adherence to essential nature, or wilful selections from human nature of its meanest forms and under the least attractive associations; are as little the real characteristics of his poetry at large, as of his genius and the constitution of his mind.
In a comparatively small number of poems, he chose to try an experiment; and this experiment we will suppose to have failed. Yet even in these poems it is impossible not to perceive, that the natural tendency of the poet's mind is to great objects and elevated conceptions. The poem intitled “ Fidelity” is for the greater part written in language, as unraised and naked as any perhaps in the two volumes. Yet take the following stanza and compare it with the preceding stanzas of the same poem.
" There sometimes does a leaping fish
Send through the tarn a lonely cheer;
Or compare the four last lines of the concluding stanza with the former half:
“ Yet proof was plain that since the day
On which the traveller thus had died,
Can any candid and intelligent mind hesitate in determining, which of these best represents the tendency and native character of the poet's genius? Will he not decide that the one was written because the poet would so write, and the other because he could not so entirely re. press the force and grandeur of his mind, but that he must in some part or other of every composition write otherwise ? In short, that his only disease is the being out of his element ; like the swan, that having amused himself, for a while, with crushing the weeds on the river's bank, soon returns to his own majestic movements on its reflecting and sustaining surface. Let it be observed, that I am here supposing the imagined judge, to whom I appeal, to have already decided against the poet's theory, as far as it is different from the principles of the art, generally acknowledged.
I cannot here enter into a detailed examination of Mr. Wordsworth’s works; but I will attempt to give the main results of my own judgement, after an acquaintance of many years, and repeated perusals. And though, to appreciate the defects of a great mind it is necessary to understand previously its characteristic excellences, yet I have already expressed myself with sufficient fulness, to preclude most of the ill effects that might arise from my pursuing a contrary arrangement. I will therefore commence with what I deem the prominent defects of his poems hitherto published.
The first characteristic, though only occasional defect, which I appear to myself to find in these poems is the INCONSTANCY of the style. Under this name I refer to the sudden and
unprepared transitions from lines or sentences of peculiar felicity (at all events 'striking and original) to a style, not only unimpassioned but undistinguished. He sinks too often and too abruptly to that style, which I should place in the second division of language, dividing it into the three species ; first, that which is peculiar to poetry; second, that which is only proper in prose;
and third, the neutral or common to both. There have been works, such as Cowley's essay on Cromwell, in which prose and verse are intermixed (not as in the Consolation of Boetius,