Слике страница
PDF
ePub

from outraging the moral feelings which are the best elements of our nature.

But by others who have brought no positive charge against him, Wordsworth has been blamed for not giving to the world specifically religious poetry, involving definite Christian doctrine. On this point I have frequently heard him express his views. With impressive earnestness and humility he used to declare that he had always felt himself unworthy to deal with matters so high and holy as the doctrines of the Christian faith. Having laid this down as the main reason of his own omission, he discussed the general question : he insisted upon the distinction, so often lost sight of, between religious poetry and versified religion; disclaiming then agreement with Dr. Johnson, he recognised such religious poetry as, being the expression of religious faith in vital movement, was also informed by the poetic imagination ; but he asserted that the poet who wrote for his age, who addressed himself to the task of affecting the general heart, was debarred, if he would be successful in this aim, from using an instrumentality of doctrine beyond what the condition of generally accepted truth determined :—this for one thing and in the next place, that he was entitled and bound to consider what were the truths which, from his own peculiar genius and opportunities, he was specially fitted to clothe in forms of art, and to commend to the minds and feelings of others. And he conceived that in limiting himself to this province he incurred no just reproach, as if he were

necessarily unappreciative of other, which might be even higher truths. I believe this is perfectly valid both as a general argument, and as a particular defence; and I may illustrate it in reference to Wordsworth by a fact which I distinctly remember. I found him one day at Rydal Mount, much moved by a letter just received from a lady who resided at a distance, and who was quite unknown to him. She described herself as having been prostrated in health and spirits by family afflictions and by anxious worldly cares; the consequence of which had been that she had lost all interest in life, and, what grieved her most of all, had fallen into a state of spiritual deadness upon which the religious truths she had previously loved and treasured could produce no effect, either cheering or alarming. In this state she had taken up Wordsworth's poems; they brought her into a new world of thoughts and sensations; they acted as a blessed alterative of wholesome and invigorating influence, and after a time she was again able to pray and to enjoy her Bible. She had felt constrained to tell this to her personally unknown benefactor. Wordsworth, who cared as little for praise of his poetry as for censure of it, was, as I have said, deeply moved by this proof of its beneficial effect, and he quoted, with modest satisfaction, the words in which Keble had qualified it in a Latin dedication—"ad sanctiora erigit.” He was willing to acknowledge that it was not sacred in the highest acceptation of the word, but he trusted that its influence would be ever such as would prepare the soul for truths holier than its own.

And we may receive it as the gift of a poet, who, if his style, from his over-care for accuracy, was sometimes over-weighted with the logical drapery of truth, has proved himself a great master of the English tongue, rich in felicities of expression, in those " jewels five-words-long,” which, like proverbs, being the wit of one become the wisdom of many, who has given us a greater number of new thoughts than any other poet since Shakespeare, who, to use Matthew Arnold's words, has “taught us how to feel,” both towards nature and towards man, by refreshing and deepening our primal sympathies with both, and has nourished within us habits of loving reverence and pure enjoyment.

You are many of you going soon to the country. His poems, if you study them aright, will help you, better than a novel, to receive all its best influences. Take your WORDSWORTH with you.

[graphic]

SPECIMEN

OF A

TRANSLATION OF VIRGIL.

BY

THE RT. REV. WILLIAM ALEXANDER, D.D.,

Lord Bishop of Derry and Raphoe.

« ПретходнаНастави »