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early period, the love of solitude too,-here, as we have already said, the love of books if not a passion, as with boys of an inferior nature, yielded to him a harvest of delight; and Gil Blas, and Don Quixote, and Gulliver's Travels, and the Tale of a Tub, and the Works of Fielding were perused and re-perused. It could not but be the case that such a boy as William Wordsworth was, became very early watchful of his emotions, and his experiences. We see how at that early age all things reflected thought within him. He must have been a mystery to his companions. He has told us that the ode on the “Intimations of Immortality in Childhood” was the result of the working and movement of his own mind. And we know, from the same source, that daring feats and wild enterprises were to him something more than they were to others. The men and boys whom he met at school furnished him with many wide fields for thought and feeling in after life, when he renewed his old impressions and affections. He left Hawkshead at sixteen years of age, and the lines in which he apostrophised the lake, hills, and valleys, so beloved and endeared by memory and association, contain a tenderness derived from the memory of the past, and the anticipation of the future: a future all undefined to him, for he lost his father two years before, and the course of his life was wholly undetermined.
COCKERMOUTH, the birth-place of our poet, is not the most interesting locality of the Lake District, although it lies on the threshold, or perhaps we might say in the centre of a radius of great interest :-it is twelve miles from Keswick, twelve from Ennerdale, about six from the vale of Lorton, the Derwent babbles and prattles sweetly by its side, and the Castle, an old feudal structure, gives some character to the town. Nearly at the top of the one long common-place street still stands the house, a large square stone structure, where Wordsworth was born. One of his sons is rector of a little village not far from the town, the pretty little village of Brigham. But although the poet first saw the light here, the locality did not perhaps influence his character much; nor had he probably many associations with the place, although he has affectionately mentioned it in his Prelude, and celebrated the ceaseless music of the Derwent, then to him “the fairest of all rivers."
HAWKSHEAD exercised a much more abiding power. At that time from what we know of it we picture it to have been what Jean Paul would call a little mountain island, out of the way of all travellers; there were no pedestrians, or students with their sketch-books to visit it then, in 1769, the year before the birth of Wordsworth, Thomas Gray, the poet, very narrowly escaped paying it a visit. “All farther access” says he in his very interesting tour, addressed to Dr. Warton, “is here barred to ordinary mortals, only there is a little path winding over the fells, and for some weeks in the year passable to the dalesmen; but the mountains know well that these innocent people will not reveal the mysteries of their ancient kingdom, the reign of Chaos and old night,' only I learned that this dreadful road dividing again leads one branch to Ravenglass, and the other to
A MOUNTAIN REPUBLIC.
Hawkshead."* Some idea may be formed of the solitude and magnificence of the neighbourhood at this period, from the fact that the Eagle had not yet quite relinquished it as his abode. Gray stayed on the night of the day when he passed so near to the village, at the house of a brave young farmer, who had but just robbed an eagle's ærie, of an eaglet and egg. Indeed at that time the royal but destructive bird visited those mountains, and which was not so pleasant, those vallies, every year, to the annoyance of shepherd and flock. And what a place for a dreaming sensitive boy. There winter lingered late, and the frost and the snow came early; around the village the mountain streams tumbled and thundered, and gave refreshment to a race of people hardy and simple as their native hills. The tall black mountains guarded the beautiful waters of the lake. Few trades were followed, and those of the very simplest, the blacksmith's forge and the miller's water-wheel being perhaps the most prominent symbols of trade. The houses at that day would no doubt be simple rural habitations, but such as we love now to enter, when every object especially in the farm spoke of some effort at order and comfort, the rude pictures on the walls, the china in the corner cupboard behind the glass, the house surrounded by its little orchard and pretty flower garden, dear to the painters of rural scenery. The Maypole in the centre of the village, the scene of many a merry game. The people characterized by sturdy inde
Letter to Dr. Warton, October 18th, 1769. See Life of Gray, by
pendence, forming a little Mountain Republic, they had never seen cities, nor become familiar with the contami. nation of manufactures. Their dress at that time very plain, and party-coloured, and rarely boasting any ornament, the women clad much more after a Continental or German taste, than any dress we now see in England; their tables covered with bannocks of oaten cake and foaming milk. Such we fancy to ourselves to have been the character of the village life and scenery of that retired spot where Wordsworth passed some of the first and most important portions of his life.
In Education we must underrate nothing, and certainly not the influence of Scenery. It is true that neither scenery nor books, nor any course of training can put within the mind either faculties or sensations, any more than the light can create the eye, or fragrance the sense of smell, or music the perception of sound, But as without the ministers to the senses, they might as well be locked up and dead, so the faculties of the soul are awakened by the influences which flow around it. Circumstances cannot create a being, but they can colour it. Hawkshead forms an appropriate vignette to the frontispiece of the great volume of our poet's life, it was the place most calculated to affect such a boy as William Wordsworth must have been. The Excursion began here in this pretty little obscure market-town; that fluttering Heron from the bosom of the water, the majestic sail of that solitary Eagle rarely seen-those shadows chasing each other over the Mountains—that barren and exposed Heath, Hawkshead moor- those rugged Steeps and Fells, that
“kept to June December's snow”—those mysterious and significant Clouds, that would not “hear the loud winds when they call”—those lonely places among the Hills—those solitary Glens and Dingles, and gleaming Tarns—all these favoured that wondering sensibility awakened in that village.
But we must not hurry too rapidly over these interesting years. Looking now at the early period of Wordsworth's history, it is worthy of notice that he never had a period of life when he was not impressed by a visible and brooding presence of thought, his mind never lay unconscious, even in comparative childhood it was alive to vivid and precocious reflection, his school days not less than the later period of his life bear testimony to his sensibility to wonder, and to thought. We should hazard the remark that he was a boy of fine strong animal spirits, ready for all exploits :- for the climbing the crag or the tree, for the distant excursion or the homely game, capable of a fund of pleasure in all weather, undeterred by cold or rain from following the bent of his spirits, and turning all the accidents of the seasons into a glory and a joy, he says indeed
Even then I felt
His mind was prepared to feel and to indulge in the charm of its own sensations, to exult in the deliciousness
• Prelude, p. 22.