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The subjects of his own poetry, he through which the sovereign mind holds tells us, are Man, and Nature, and Hu- intercourse with man. man Life. What did he teach? what new When face to face with nature Wordslight did he shed on each of these ? He worth would sometimes seem too much had a gift of soul and eye with regard to of an optimist. At such times it was nature which enabled him in her pres. that he exclaimed ence to feel a vivid and sensitive delight
naught which it has been given to few to feel. Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb The outward world lay before him with Our cheerful faith that all which we behold the dew still fresh upon it, the splendor
Is full of blessings. of morning still undulled by custom or Nature had done so much to restore routine. The earliest poets of every bimself from his deepest mental dejecnation, Homer and Chaucer, had no tion, that he sometimes spoke as if she doubt delighted in rural sights and was able to do as much for all men. sounds in their own simple, unconscious But, when he so spoke, he forgot how way. It was Wordsworth's special many people there are whom, either from merit that, coming late in time, when inward disposition or from outward cirthe thick veil of custom and centuries of cumstances, nature never reaches. artificial civilization had come between But in the poems which deal with huus and this natural delight, and made man life and character there is none of the familiar things of earth seem trivial this optimistic tendency. It has been reand commonplace, he saw nature anew, cently said that “no poet of any day with a freshness as of the morning, with has sunk a sounding-line deeper than a sensibility of soul that was like a new Wordsworth into the fathomless secret inspiration; and not only saw, but so of suffering that is in no sense retribuexpressed it, as to remove the scales tive." His mind seemed fascinated by from the eyes of others, and make them the thought of the sorrow that is in the see something of the fresh beauty which world, and brooded o'er it as something nature wore for himself-feel some oc- infinite, unfathomable. casional touch of that rapture in her His deepest convictions on this are presence with which he himself was vis- expressed in these lines : ited. This power especially resides in Action is transitory—a step, a blow, his “ Lyrical Ballads," composed be
The motion of a muscle-this way or that, tween 1798 and 1808. Such a heap of 'Tis done ; and in the after vacancy of thought stuff has recently been written about We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed : Wordsworth's way of dealing with na
Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark,
And hath the nature of infinity. ture-and I have made my own contri- Yet through that darkness (infinite though it bution to that heap-that I should be ashamed to increase it now; the more And unremovable), gracious openings lie, that in this, as in other good things, our
By which the soul with patient steps of
thought, attempts to analyze the gift spoil our
Now toiling, wafted now on wings of prayer-enjoyment of it. Two remarks only I May pass in hope, and though from mortal shall make, and pass on. First, he did bonds not attempt to describe rural objects as Yet undelivered, rise with sure ascent they are in themselves, but rather as
Even to the fountain-head of peace divine. they affect human hearts. As it has been This is the keynote of his deepest well expressed, he stood at the meeting- human poetry.
human poetry. In theory and practice point where nature's inflowing and the alike he held that it is not exciting adsoul touch each other, showed how they venture, romantic incident, strange and fit in each to each, and what exquisite unusual mental experience, in which the joy comes from the contact. Secondly, depth of human nature is most seen, or he did not hold with Coleridge that from its dignity. Along the common high nature we “receive but what we give, road of life, in the elementary feelings but rather that we receive much we do of men and women, in the primary affecnot give. He held that nature is a “liv- tions, in the ordinary joys and sorrows, ing presence,” which exerts on us active there lay for him truest most permanent powers of her own-a bodily image sources of interest. His eye saw be
neath the outward surface that which So still an image of tranquillity,
So calm and still, and looked so beautiful, common eyes do not see, but which he
Amid the uneasy thoughts that filled my mind, was empowered to make them see. The
That what we feel of sorrow and despair secret pathos, the real dignity which lie From ruin and from change, and all the grief, hidden often under the most unpromis. The passing shows of being leave behind, ing exteriors, he has brought out in Appeared an idle dream, that could not live
Where meditation was.
I turned away many of those narrative poems in which
And walked along my road in happiness, he has described men and women, and expressed his views about life in the No poet but Wordsworth would have concrete, more vividly than in his concluded such a tale with these words. poems that are purely reflective and in this “meditative rapture" which philosophical. Take, for instance,
could so absorb into itself the most desoRuth, “ The Female Vagrant,
lating sorrow, there is, it must be owned, the “ Affliction of Margaret,
the something too high, too isolated, too re“ Story of Margaret'' in the "Excur- mote from ordinary human sympathy. sion,” the Story of Ellen” and others
Few minds are competent to such philoin the “Churchyard among the Moun- sophic hardihood. Even Wordsworth tains, “ The Brothers,
Michael''- himself, as he grew older and experiabove all, “ The White Doe of Ryls- enced home sorrows, came down from ton.” It is noticeable how predomi- this solitary height, and changed the nating in these is the note of suffering, passage into a humbler tone of Christian not of action, and in most of them how sentiment. it is women rather than men whom the
I have taken this one story as a good poet takes for his subject. This is per- sample of Wordsworth's general "attihaps because endurance seems to be es
tude, as seen in all his estimate of men. pecially the lot of women, and patience It is specially to be noted that their among them has its most perfect work. trappings and appendages and outward Human affection sorely tried, love that circumstances were nothing to him ; the has lost its earthly object, yet lives on,
inner man of the heart was everything. with nothing to support it :
What was a man's ancestry, what his so
cial position, what were even his intelSolitary anguish ! Sorrow that is not sorrow, but delight
lectual attaininents ?-to these things he To think of, for the glory that redounds was almost as indifferent as the writers
Therefrom to human kind, and what we are. of the Holy Scriptures are. There was These are the subjects over which his about his estimate of things. It was the
a quite biblical severity and inwardness spirit broods, as with a strange fascina, intrinsic man, the man within the man, tion. This might be well illustrated the permanent affections, the will, the could I have dwelled in detail on the story of “ Margaret” in the first book purpose of the life, on which alone his of the “ Excursion.” Those, however,
eye rested. He looked solely on men who are interested in the subject, should cared too, I gather, but little for that
as they are men within themselves. He that , which is specially seen Wordsworth's culture, literary, æsthetic, and scientific, characteristic way of sympathizing with, though the possession or the want of it
of which we now hear so much, as yet meditating upon, human suffering. The reflection which closes the narra
made all possible difference between
man and man. This kind of culture, I tive is peculiarly Wordsworthian. The fancy, he lightly esteemed, for he had “Wanderer," seeing the poet deeply found something worthier than all class moved by the tale, says :
culture, often among the lowliest and My friend ! enough to sorrow you have given, most despised. He tells us that he was The purposes of wisdom ask no more ;
Convinced at heart Be wise and cheerful ; and no longer read
How little those formalities, to which,
With overweening trust, alone we give
The name of education, have to do
With real feeling and just sense ; how vain wall,
A correspondence with the talking world
Proves to the most. By mist and silent rain-drops silvered o'er, As once I passed, did to my heart convey It has sometimes been said that Words
worth's estimate of men was essentially tance, viewing the stormy spectacle from democratic. Inasmuch as it looked only a place of meditative calm. This agrees at intrinsic worthiness, and made noth- with his saying, that poetry arises from ing of distinctions of rank, or of pol- emotion remembered in tranquillity. If ished manners, or even of intellect- his heart ever was hot, it was not then ual or æsthetic culture, it may be said that he ake, but when it had time to to have been democratic. Inasmuch, cool by after reflection. To many senhowever, as he valued only that which sitive and even imaginative natures this is intrinsic and essentially the best in attitude is provoking and repellent. men, he may be said to have upheld a Those things about Lucy, they say, are moral and spiritual aristocracy, but it is these all he had to give to the tenderest an aristocracy which knows no exclu- affection he ever knew? And they turn siveness, and freely welcomes all who from them impatiently away to such will to enter it. No one, indeed, could poems as Byron's on Thyrza, or to hisbe farther from flattering the average
When we two parted man by preaching to him equality, and
In silence in tears, telling him that he was as good as any
Half broken-hearted other man. Rather he taught him that
To sever for yearsthere are moral heights far above him, or to the passion of Shakespeare, or to to which some had attained, to which he the proud pathos of Mrs. Barrett too may attain, but that only by thinking Browning's sonnets-tingling through lowlily of himself, and by thinking every syllable with emotion. Compared highly of the things above him-only by with these, Wordsworth's most feeling upward looking and by reverence may poems seem to them cold and impassive, he rise higher.
not to say soporific.
But this is hardly One thing is noticeable. The ideas the true account of them. Byron and and sentiments which fill Wordsworth's such poets as he, when they express mind, and color all his delineations of emotion, are wholly absorbed in it, lose men and of nature, are not those which themselves entirely in the feeling of the pass current in society. You feel intu- moment. For the time it is the whole itively that they would sound strange world to them. Wordsworth and such and out of place there. They are too as he, however deeply they sympathize unworldly to breathe in that atmosphere. with any suffering, never wholly lose Hence you will never find your man of 'themselves in it, never forget that the the world, who takes his tone from so- quick and throbbing emotions are but ciety, really care for Wordsworth's moments in the being of the eternal poetry. The aspect of things he has to silence.” They make you feel that you reveal does not interest such men. But are, after all, encompassed by an everothers there are who are anything but lasting calm. The passionate kind of worldly - minded, whom nevertheless lyric is sure to be the most universally Wordsworth's poetry fails to reach ; popular. The meditative lyric is likely and this not from their fault, but from to commend itself to those natures which, his limitations. His sympathies were without being cold, try to balance feeldeep rather than keen or broad. There ing with reflection. Which of them is is a large part of human life which lies the higher style of poetry I shall not outside of his interest. He was, as all seek to determine. In one mood of know, entirely destitute of humor--a mind we relish the one ; in another great want, but one which he shared mood we turn to the other. Let us keep with Milton. This want, often seen in our hearts open to both. very earnest natures, shut him out from In a word, Wordsworth is the prophmuch of the play and movement that et of the spiritual aspects of the extermake up life. Again, he was not at nal world, the prophet, too, of the home in the stormy regions of the soul; moral depths of the soul. The intrinsic he stands aloof alike from the Titanic and permanent affections he contempassions and also from the more tender plated till he saw “joy that springs out and palpitating emotions. If he con- of human sufferings," a light beyond templates these at all, whether in others the deepest darkness. In the clearness or as felt by himself, it is from a dis- and strength with which he saw these NEW SERIES. – Vol. XXXIII., No. 3
things there is something almost super- I do not wish to discuss now poets human.
who are still living. Else one might It is a large subject on which I have have tried to show how the Laureate in been dwelling, and yet I feel that I have some of his works, specially in “In only touched the surface of it. Fully to Memoriam,” if he has not exactly imillustrate what contributions of new ported new truths into his
age, thought and sentiment Scott and Words- so expressed much of the highest truth worth made to their age would require that was dawning on men's consciousat least a separate treatise for each. But, ness, that he has become in some sort besides these, there were poets among the first unveiler of it : also how great their contemporaries who had something inroads he has made into the domains of the prophetic light in them, though it of science, bringing thence truths, was a more lurid light; pre-eminently hitherto unsung, and wedding them to the two poets of revolt, Byron and Shel- his own exquisite music. ley. It was with something of quite pro- One might have shown too how Mr. phetic fervor that each of these, in his Browning, disdaining the great highway own way, tore off the mask from the of the universal emotions, has, from the social compromises and hollownesses most hidden nooks of consciousness, which they believed they saw around fetched novel situations, and hard probthem, and denounced the hypocrisies. lems of thought, and in his own peculNeither of them perhaps had much posi- iar style uttered tive truth with which to replace the
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme. things they would destroy. Byron did not pretend to have. Yet in the far and In the younger poets of the day, as fierce delight of his sympathy with the far as I know them, I have not yet pertempests and the austere grandeurs of ceived much of that original prophetic nature, and in the strength with which power which has been so distinctive of he portrayed the turbid and Titanic many of “the dead kings of melody.” movements of the soul, there was an ele- If it exists, and I have failed to discern ment of power hitherto unknown in it, no one will welcome it more gladly English poetry:
than I. But what seems to me most to Shelley, on the other hand, had this distinguish the poetry of the time is, quite unique gift. He has caught and elaborately ornate diction and luscious fixed forever movements and hues both music expended on themes not weighty in nature and in the mind of man, which in themselves. Prophet souls, burning were too subtle, too delicate, too evanes- with great and new truth, can afford to cent for any eye but his. He may be be severe, plain, even bare in diction. said to be the prophet of many shades Charged with the utterarce of large subof emotion, which before him had no
stantive thoughts, they can seldom give language ; the poet, as he has been their strength to studied ornamentation. called, of unsatisfied desire, of insatiable We wait for the day of more substance longing. An antidote for all human ills in our poetry. Shall we have to wait he fancied that he had found in that till the ploughshare of revolution has universal love which he preached in been again driven through the field of such variety of tones. But one may European society, and has brought to doubt if the love that he dreamed of the surface some subsoil of original and was substantial, or moral, or self-sacrific- substantive truth which lies as yet uning enough to bring any healing. discerned ? -Fraser's Magazine.
THE UNITY OF NATURE.
BY THE DUKE OF ARGYLL,
our own in the order of the universe are
delusive imaginations. ON THE TRUTHFULNESS OF HUMAN
The denial of what is called “The KNOWLEDGE CONSIDERED IN THE
Supernatural” is the same doctrine in LIGHT OF THE UNITY OF NATURE.
another form. The connection may not But another nightmare meets us here be evident at first sight, but it arises --another suggestion of hopeless doubt from the fact that the human mind is respecting the very possibility of knowl- really the type of the supernatural. It edge touching questions such as these. would be well if this word were altoNay, it is the suggestion of a doubt even gether banished from our vocabulary. It more discouraging—for it is a suggestion assumes that we know all that that these questions may probably be in ture” contains, and that we can prothemselves absurd-assuming the exist- nounce with certainty on what can and ence of relations among things which do what cannot be found there. Or else it not exist at all-relations indeed of assumes that nature is limited to purely which we have some experience in our- physical agencies, and that our own selves, but which have no counterpart mind is a power and agency wholly sepain the system of nature. The sugges- rate and distinct from these. There tion, in short, is not merely that the an- might indeed be no harm in this limitaswer to these questions is inaccessible, tion of the word if it could be conbut that there is no answer at all. The sistently adhered to in all the terms of objection is a fundamental one, and is any argument involving its use. summed up in the epithet applied to all all quite accustomed to think of man as such inquiries—that they are anthropo- not belonging to nature at all--as the morphic. They assume authorship in a one thing or being which is contradispersonal sense, which is a purely human tinguished from nature. This is implied idea ; they assume causation, which is in the commonest use of language, as another human idea ; and they assume when we contrast the works of man with the use of means for the attainment of the works of nature. The same idea is ends, which also is purely human. It is almost unconsciously involved in lanassumed by some persons as a thing in guage which is intended to be strictly itself absurd that we should thus shape philosophical, and in the most careful our conceptions of the ruling power in utterances of our most distinguished scinature, or of a Divine Being, upon the entific men. Thus Professor Tyndall, conscious knowledge we have of in his Belfast address to the British Asown nature and attributes. Anthropo- sociation, uses these words : “ Our earmorphism is the phrase employed to con- liest historic ancestors fell back also demn this method of conception--an upon experience, but with this differopprobrious epithet, as it were, which is ence, that the particular experiences attached to every endeavor to bring the which furnished the weft and woof of higher attributes of the human mind their theories were drawn, not from the into any recognizable relation with the study of nature, but from what lay supreme agencies in nature. The cen- much closer to them the observation of tral idea of those who use it seems to be men.” Here man is especially contrathat there is nothing human there ; and distinguished from nature ; and accordthat when we think we see it there, we ingly we find in the next sentence that are like some foolish beast wondering at this idea is connected with the error of its own shadow. The proposition which seeing ourselves—that is, the supernatuis really involved when stated nakedly ral in nature. Their theories," the is this : that there is no mind in nature professor goes on to say, “ accordingly having any relation with, or similitude took an anthropomorphic form." Furto, our own, and that all our fancied rec- ther on, in the same address, the same ognitions of intellectual operations like antithesis is still more distinctly ex