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Wordsworth, proves in a remarkable degree his power of appreciating the genius for action : it is too long to give in full, too perfect to bear mutilation. Another example I cite with an ulterior object; his illustration of The Power of Music, founded on his observation of a group of listeners surrounding a blind fiddler in Oxford-street. Of this I will read a part :
“His station is there ; and he works on the crowd,
He sways them with harmony merry and loud;
Oh! blest are the bearers, and proud be the hand
With what force are all the figures in this group drawn and animated! It would make an admirable subject for the pencil of a genre-painter. The additional comment I make on this poem is, that Wordsworth had himself no musical sense, no more than any sense of smell. His sense of hearing, indeed, as well as of sight, was peculiarly keen, but like his friend Elia, he could not distinguish one tune from another. And yet, besides discriminating exquisitely the sounds of nature - witness these lines
“The fir-grove murmurs with a sea-like sound—”
“The stationary blast of waterfalls”.
he had the deepest enjoyment of the various harmonies of versification; he has himself composed some of the most nobly modulated stanzas in the language, and nothing could be more beautiful than his own recitation of his poetry : coming from him, it was far more than well pronounced : it breathed, or murmured, or flowed, or sounded forth, with all the natural variety, the rise and fall, the finely graduated modulation, of a mountain breeze, or a stream issuing from some deep recess, and wending onward with a living current. Here, then, was a full sense of beauty in the sounds of words, and a delicate feeling not only of rhythm, or the shorter markings of time in verse, but of its grander sweeps of harmony, and yet no discriminating sense of music properly so called. Such a case, and there are many such, seems to prove the latter to be a gift mysteriously distinct, which, perhaps, from its distinctness, it may be impossible to define.
But, to return : the possession for which I have given Wordsworth credit, and of which he could not but be conscious, of practical ability, and faculties adapted to gain success in other fields of life, and in more popular and lucrative departments of literature, enhances, I think, in a high degree, the nobility of his early-formed resolution to dedicate his life to the poetic interpretation of elemental nature, to the elevation of universal humanity. To carry into effect this resolve, and fulfil the functions of this poetic priesthood, he had to suppress his own prudential misgivings, and to resist the natural solicitude and displeasure of his relations; he had to withdraw from the career of ambition upon which his college companions had entered, to forego all prospect of immediate gain and reputation, and deliberately to settle in a remote valley, where a cottage, for which he paid eight pounds a year, was to be his home. All this was done by him heroically. Nor let his credit be the less on the plea that to do otherwise would have been a moral impossibility: they will not do him this injustice who know how often the nobler gifts and callings of men have been sacrificed to motives such as he overcame. In that cottage he spent what I think may be called the heroic period of his life. There he realised his noble motto of 'plain living and high thinking :' even a guest beneath his roof saw no beverage on his dinnertable but pure water ; and some of you will remember how Walter Scott confesses that when sojourning with him he made daily a surreptitious walk to. the public,' a mile off, to get a draught of beer. There, cheered, indeed, by the companionship, first, of his admirable sister, and then, also, of his no less admirable, though differently constituted, wife, he worked on assiduously and magnanimously; he added some of his most considerable works to the firstlings of his genius, which had been composed in the South of England; and while receiving no pecuniary reward for his labour, he silently endured a persecution of critical obloquy equally unrelenting and unjust. His profound conviction of the truth of his principles and the genuineness of his work sustained him, and gave him assurance that his time would come to be adequately recognized and appreciated. Slowly, dered it impossible for him quickly to turn from one object of thought to another : never was a man of less versatility or mobility: yet just for this very reason the friend might be perfectly assured that if he gave the poet time to pass out from the train of reflection which had engaged him, the habitual feeling of friendship would gradually more and more brighten his countenance, and the old cordiality warm the tones of his voice.
I believe that this peculiarity, together with the high moral standard which he used in judging the events of life, and the impossibility, derived from the truthfulness of his nature, of his concealing it from you, if he were at all displeased with you, did in point of fact operate with a chilling influence upon the sensitiveness of some friends. How far this was the history of the coolness which arose between him and Professor Wilson, who had been his early admirer and champion, I know not. Possibly Wordsworth, relying on the self-justifying virtue of his poetry, may not have manifested a satisfying amount of gratitude for that championship: possibly he may have shown more than was necessary of disapprobation in regard to some of the wild freaks of the Professor : I had, however, the pleasure of knowing that the regard and admiration felt all along at bottom by each for the other had in the end full recognition and expression. In the autumn of 1844 Wilson called on Wordsworth, who was then sojourning with his daughter in the Island-House on Windermere, and on his return he told me, with much emotion, that