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tinction and rank entered the church! “Mark you,” whispered the Prussian, “the first thing which those scoundrels will notice—(for they will begin by instantly noticing the statue in parts, without one moment's pause of admiration impressed by the whole)—will be the horns and the beard. And the associations which they will immediately connect with them will be those of a he-goat and a cuckold.” Never did man guess more luckily. Had he inherited a portion of the great legislator's prophetic powers, whose statue we had been contemplating, he could scarcely have uttered words more coincident with the result; for even as he had said, so it came to pass.
In The Excursion, the poet has introduced an old man, born in humble but not abject circumstances, who had enjoyed more than usual advantages of education, both from books and from the more awful discipline of nature. This person
represents as having been driven by the restlessness of fervid feelings, and from a craving intellect, to an itinerant life; and as having, in consequence, passed the larger portion of his time, from earliest manhood, in villages and hamlets, from door to door,
“A vagrant Merchant bent beneath his load."'5
Now, whether this be a character appropriate to a lofty didactic poem, is, perhaps, questionable. It presents a fair subject for controversy ; and the question is to be determined by the congruity or incongruity of such a character with what shall be proved to be the essential constituents of poetry. But surely the critic who, passing by all the opportunities which such a mode of life would present to such a man; all the advantages of the liberty of nature, of solitude, and of solitary thought; all the varieties of places and seasons through which his track had lain, with all the varying imagery they bring with them; and, lastly, all the observations of men,
“ Their manners, their enjoyments, and pursuits,
Their passions, and their feelings”-
Book i., P. W., Vol. vi., p. 15, edit. of 1840. S. C.)
which the memory of these yearly journeys must have given and
wares of his
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 poetry, with the principles
from which the judgment, 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 shown, how far the influ. ence 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 inseparable. The result of such a trial would evince beyond a doubt, what it is high time to announce deci. sively 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 na. ture, 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 ele. vated conceptions. The poem entitled FIDELITY' is for the greater part written in language as un raised 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 doth a leaping fish
Send through the tarn a lonely cheer;
Or compare the four last lines of the concluding stanza with the former half:
“ Yes, 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 writ. ten because the poet would so write, and the other because he could not so entirely repress 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
*[P. W., V., p. 43. S. C.]
“When this ill-fated Traveller died.” S. C.)
surface. Let it be observed that I am here supposing the ima. . gined 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. Words. worth's works; but I will attempt to give the main results of my own judgment, 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 there. fore 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 lan. guage, dividing it into the three species ; first, that which is peculiar to poetry ; second, that which is only proper and third, the neutral or common to both. There have been works, such as Cowley's Essay on Cromwell, in which prose
3 This is an eloquent declamation against Cromwell, in the guise of an argument, the defence of “ the late man, who made himself to be called Protector,” being put into. the mouth of one whose appearance was
strange and terrible," and whose figure was taller than that of a giant or “ the shadow of any giant in the evening.” This personage turns out to be the Wicked One himself, and the discourse which he utters is, indeed, most dramatically appropriate to him, however unserviceable to the cause of Cromwell. After despatching the Protector's religion and morals, disparaging his powers, reducing his parts to diligence and dissimulation, and making away with his achievements at home and abroad, or bringing them very nearly to nothing, the Evil One's opponent proceeds to demolish his intellectual pretensions; and here he attacks him on the side of his speeches, which Mr. Carlyle has lately brought forth from the shadows in which they have so long been lying.
According to this essay, all the war and bloodshed at the time of the
in prose ;