Слике страница

or sister, or daughter. And accordingly an authentic interest attaches to another portrait by Miss Gillies, which represents the poet dictating, and his wife recording the newly-completed verses. I may express my conviction that this mode of composition which he practised has a great advantage over that which is carried on with the pen or pencil in hand, both in regard to the flow and rhythm of the work, and the willingness of the composer to go on remoulding and correcting until his ideal be attained, or at least more nearly approximated to.

No one could enjoy anything beyond the most cursory admission into the home of Wordsworth, without feeling that he was breathing there a moral atmosphere singularly pure and healthful. The stamp of truth and genuineness was on everything. Persons and events, theories and projects, were estimated by a standard which was intended to determine, not their conventional and temporary, but their real and permanent value. One would have said that to wear any mask would have been impossible in the presence of a family so truthful and so sensitive, so quick to recognise every genuine emotion, so sure to give instinctive yet not ungentle indication of their sense of what was false or exaggerated. But all this was the action of no polemically critical spirit : kindness and human-heartedness reigned in full concord with truth, the sacred recesses of feeling were carefully respected, and holy things touched with reverence. All around corresponded: an exquisite nature looked in at the windows or was looked out upon-flowers and books, prints, paintings, and sculptured figures, all loved with something of a personal love, adorned the rooms, which were pervaded by a homely elegance, and one saw that everything was for use or for enjoyment, nothing for ostentation. I need not say that all these things indicated essential characteristics of the poet himself. I am more anxious to go on and say that when one came into contact with himself it was his strength above all things which impressed one. Here was no merely amiable, no merely simple, or reverential, or imaginative man, but one eminently masculine and strong: a man of strong intellect, of strong feelings, of sturdy, massive individuality. If I do not apply to him the epithet “intense,” it is because I conceive it to belong more properly to a weaker type of man in a state of strain ; but I never met with a mind which to me seemed to work constantly with so much vigour, or with feelings so constantly in a state of fervour : the strong intellect was, to use his own expression, “ steeped inthe strong feeling, but the man was always master of both: so broad was the basis of his mental constitution, so powerful the original will which guided and controlled his emotions. I believe the recognition of this fact of the strength of his intellectual and passionate nature to be of high importance as conducing to a right conception of his poetry. I am persuaded that many have come to its perusal with a prepossession founded onthat Pickersgill portrait, for one thing—and on a few poems, which became the subject of ridicule and

parody, and which were indeed simple to baldness, but were at the same time proof of a strength, which, conscious of having done and being able to do nobler work, was willing to defy the criticism of the day in assertion by extreme instances of the truth of his poetic theory of expression, and of the value of the germs of thought and feeling which those poems contained. Persons who come with such a prepossession to the study of Wordsworth, are like those who contravene the rule which he lays down for seeing to advantage a noble lake. They approach it in such a manner that they look away from the grandeur and beauty of mountain and wood which encircle its head, and spend their regards upon the narrower waters and tamer shores which lie at the foot. Coming thus to the study of Wordsworth, they meet with a fervour and exaltation of expression which they cannot account for, partly because they did not expect it, partly because the objects with which it is connected are viewed by the poet through a different medium from that through which they have beheld them. Fully to enjoy, nay even rightly to understand, Wordsworth's poetry it is necessary, I am convinced, to bring to its study, something not only of similar experience, but of the same energy of intellect and feeling with which it was conceived : in nothing lower than a mood of meditative passion, can either the total impression of the poem be received, or the extraordinary beauty and appropriateness of his epithets, (which, are for the most part, epithets of life and action, not of colour only,)

be appreciated. What I have desired to convey, may perhaps be better apprehended, if you think of such an expression as this

“the songs, the bloom,
And all the mighty ravishment of spring.

What breadth, what force are here ! Or, again, take that line in a description of evening :

“The silent hills and more than silent sky."

How deeply, like the infinite starry sky itself, does that expression sink into the spirit of the sympathetic reader! But in both instances even a passion of sympathy is required from him.

Another circumstance, which intercourse with Wordsworth was calculated to impress upon one, was his general ability. No one in the habit of conversing with him, but must have been struck with the power, the strength and effectiveness, with which he could argue upon any subject, small or great, provided it was not scientific : he could handle every side of a question, and enforce his own opinion with the energy and tenacity, but with more than the indications of conviction of a lawyer. In the same way, his faculty of observation was capable of employing itself successfully upon objects quite different from those to which he especially consecrated it—upon objects of which his successful treatment would have been widely appreciated, and might have rendered him widely popular. For proofs of this, I may refer

you to the description of his London life in “The Prelude,” some passages in which develop even a power of satire—the portrait of the fashionable preacher for instance; and it may be mentioned by the way, that he once in conjunction with his friend, afterwards Archdeacon, Wrangham, composed imitations, referring to the vices of his day, of some Satires of Juvenal : but feeling that these were not the authentic manifestations of the spirit he was of, he committed them to the flames. The following lines describing his school-fellows, at Hawkshead, contain, indeed, some peculiarly Wordsworthian touches, but they manifest a power of looking at his subject with the eye of a Crabbe or a Mulready. Speaking of the village church, he says

“May she long
Behold a race of young ones like to those
With whom I herded! ......
A race of real children, not too wise,
Too learned, or too good; but wanton, fresh,
And bandied up and down by love and hate ;
Not unresentful where self-justified;
Fierce, moody, patient, venturous, modest, shy;
Mad at their sports like withered leaves in winds;
Though doing wrong and suffering, and full oft
Bending beneath our life's mysterious weight
Of pain and doubt and fear, yet yielding not
In happiness to the happiest upon earth.”

His Character of the Happy Warrior, prompted by Nelson's death, and containing also traits taken from Sir John Moore, and the poet's brother, John

« ПретходнаНастави »