ePub 版
[ocr errors]

insight into its constituent properties and powers. This was his theoretical opinion, but we cannot conceal from ourselves that his dominant temper of mind was rather unscientific. Coleridge showed him through a magnifying glass "the mysteries that cups of flowers enfold"; but as a rule such minutiæ did not appeal to him.

We cannot help thinking that Wordsworth held a mistaken attitude towards science. With Tennyson's example before us, we are forced to the conclusion that Wordsworth was grievously wrong when he affirmed that Nature revealed her secrets unsought. The fact is that many of her most charming riddles are solved only after much seeking and close persistent labour. A merely meditative gaze, however sympathetic and however reverent, will not, from a distance, discover all that is to be Yet Wordsworth affirmed, and he was un


doubtedly sincere in his belief, that

One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man,

Of moral evil and of good

Than all the sages can.

He also said in The Excursion:

How bountiful is Nature, he shall find
Who seeks not; and to him who hath not asked,
Large measure shall be dealt.

It follows that we cannot expect to find in him the same kind of illustrative passages, showing the transfiguring of unfamiliar scientific facts into poetry. The truth is that Wordsworth came, for that purpose, a generation or so too soon; he was an old man before the scientific revival began to gain strength, and by that time his poetic fervour had burned itself out. Yet, although he is less scientific than Tennyson, no account of Nature in poetry, however superficial, can omit Wordsworth, because in his point of view he was unique; his originality and individuality changed the whole current of English verse. What gave distinction to Wordsworth was the new way in which he viewed Nature at her work and the new way in which she moved his inner being. Nature to him was an all-pervading spirit, and in her presence he felt himself overawed, as an ordinary man may be when he enters a great cathedral, in which the artistic grandeur of the building is supported and harmonised with the splendour of the ritual, and he is prompted to uncover his head and bow his knees in an attitude of humble reverence and sincere devotion. That was how Wordsworth felt as he wandered on the lone hillside and looked up at the gleaming silent stars, or at the gorgeous glories of

At such

the clouds that enwrap the sinking sun. moments he caught glimpses of "the light that never was on sea or land," and felt himself to be a great high priest of Nature-a human spirit dedicated to raise his voice in adoration of this august and beneficent power that rules the world. Hence in Nutting he asks his sister to

move along these shades

In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch,--for there is a spirit in the woods.

And in Tintern Abbey he tells us :

I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

Peter Bell was untouched by Nature's terrors or

her charms.

To this soulless man the outside

world had no appeal.

A primrose by a river's brim

A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.

How different was Lucy!

She shall lean her ear

In many a secret place

Where rivulets dance their wayward round,

And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.

Wordsworth could go farther, and was able with all sincerity to say :

To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Such, briefly, was Wordsworth's attitude towards Nature, displaying the spirit, not of the mere lover, but of the religious devotee, and it remains unmatched elsewhere in literature. However interesting this Wordsworthian Nature-worship may be, it does not concern us directly at present, our purpose being to illustrate only that closeness of observation which may deserve to be called scientific.

Wordsworth loved all flowers, but it was not with a botanist's knowledge that he cast his eye upon them. Thus he is often very general in his flower-pictures. Take this :

Through primrose tufts in that green bower

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths

And 'tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes,


Tennyson would not have been satisfied with this description of vinca minor; he would certainly have brought in the blue star-like flower; he might even have called attention to the axillary position of the single blossoms, one at each node, but such minuteness is too punctilious for Wordsworth. Again,

Bees that soar for bloom

High as the highest peaks of Furness fells
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells.

The bare allusion suffices him; Tennyson sees the purple colour and the dappled throat of the corolla. So, when Wordsworth is describing a beggar boy with hat in hand, he tells us that the hat was

Wreathed round with yellow flowers, the gayest of the land. Tennyson here would have given us the distinct species, but this is not Wordsworth's way. Much more so was this his method in connection with birds, where he is often quite unconcerned to particularise the species.

The birds around me hopped and played.

He heard the birds their morning carols sing.

The birds are singing in the distant woods.

Fortunately for us, he did occasionally dwell with loving idolatry on single flowers and on individual

« 上一頁繼續 »