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the most turbid and opaque.

Yet in another sense Shelley's was one of the least simple; for we also mean by simplicity that which is most deeply rooted in common human nature, which is fullest of the natural average material of every-day men. But in both senses, that of transparence and that of common universality, we say that Goldsmith has all the national simplicity of the Irish charaoter; in both senses we can also say that Wordsworth has all the national simplicity of the English character. Give a homely English peasant that brooding and meditative spirit, that deep musing joy in watching his own life and the life of nature around, and you might almost have another Wordsworth. The only reason why this is ever denied is, that he had meditative gifts which altogether altered the form of his thoughts, causing, as it were, an infinitude to stream in upon them, which very much disconcerts "plain men;" but not the less is it eminently true, that Wordsworth's mind was in substance that of a “plain” Englishman, though steeped in the dim lights of constant medi. tation, and gifted with a piercing, though narrow, imaginative force. In this kind of simplicity, or community of mind with every-day man, Wordsworth has a real afinity with three of the greatest poets of any age—Homer, Chaucer, and Shakespeare ; for though he has no gleam of dramatic power, he has the same delight in common people, common things, common situations. But in the other kind of simplicity--transparency, he is, from his narrowness of practical sympathy and active power, necessarily far beyond them; for Wordsworth's is a mind almost of one attitude, that of contemplation; and, of course, to limited understandings at least, this conduces very much to transparency. It is no doubt true that, to an infinite intelligence, the whole of Shakespeare would be as distinctly pictured in any one of his myriad attitudes of spirit as the whole of Wordsworth in his single mood ; indeed all men have a dim feeling that this must be so,—that every free and genial nature, if really single-minded in the moral sense, must be completely expressed in all the acts into which its spirit is poured, -- nay, that of all beings, the highest is the most transparent, if we had but eyes to see; but as transparency depends on our seeing power, as well as on the fullness of expression in what we see, it is very clear that the least various-minded will soonest and most completely leave upon our vision that impression of singleness of nature which we call simplicity. In this respect Shelley and Wordsworth are curiously like each other, and curiously unlike. Shelley's poetic mind was of one attitude; but that attitude was active,-one of suffering emotion, unsatisfied aspiration, yearning love,-and hence springs the clear simplicity of passion in his style. This mood wholly occupied him; he could feel, think,

understand nothing else; and consequently, in the range of its life and interests, his poetry is the least generally popular of all English poetry that can claim to be on any level with it in fire and beauty. Wordsworth too is a poet of one attitude; but that attitude, being one of contemplation, did not shut out, but naturally included, at least as objects of poetic thought, all that came within the scope of his own simple experience; and therefore, though quite as narrow as Shelley in the manner of his poctry, there is in his poems a far wider and more substantial human ground.

Mr. Emerson has recorded a remark of Wordsworth's, made after criticising some writer's style: “To be sure it was the manner; but then, you know, the matter always comes out of the manner. .” The remark was evidently a hasty generalisation from his own experience, and in that light is very characteristic. To suppose that Wordsworth merely meant that the poet chooses only such themes as his own nature enables him to enter into and to illuminate, is to rob the remark of all weight and value. He no doubt meant a great deal more than this, and no doubt he was thinking mainly of his own works. He meant not merely that the choice of the (nominal) matter depends on the manner of the poet, but that, in his own case at least, the real matter always came more from the manner of the poet than from the object itself to which at the time his mind was turned. There are poets who steep and lose themselves in their theme, whose poetic power lies in their capacity for perfect absorption in their subject. Their manner does not create their matter; but, on the contrary, the matter has the power of bringing their manner into harmony with itself, as was the case with Shakespeare. There are other poets who have no manner, no mode of treatment apart from their matter; their own personal feelings are at once manner and matter; they describe their own emotions in various ways, and that is all they can do: of this school, in great measure at least, is Byron. Wordsworth belongs to neither of these schools; he almost always has a distinct object of thought, and a characteristic manner of treating that object. The manner is not lost in the apparent matter, nor the apparent matter in the manner : but the significance of the latter so much overbalances that of the former, that he is quite right in saying the characteristic element -the poetry-in short, the true matter of his poems—springs a great deal less from the apparent matter than it does from his mode of treatment. For example, it is to some extent, no doubt, the daffodils of Ulleswater, but far more the dancing flowers and waves that instantly took possession of the valley of his own mind, which remain pictured for ever in the most popular of his minor poems. The real centre of poetic interest always lies some

"*

where between the poet and his nominal theme; but in Wordsworth's case very much nearer to the poet than to the object he contemplates. To understand Wordsworth’s matter, it is absolutely necessary to understand fully his manner first.

There is no poet who gives to his theme so perfectlynew a birth as Wordsworth. Not, indeed, that he discerns and revivifies the natural life which is in it; but he creates a new thing altogether, namely the life of thought which it has the power to generate in his own brooding imagination. Thus he uses human sorrow, for example, as an influence to stir up his own meditative spirit, till it loses its own nature and becomes

“Sorrow that is not sorrow, but delight;

And miserable love, that is not pain
To hear of, for the glory that redounds

Therefrom to human kind and what we are. It is this strange transmuting power, which his meditative spirit exercises over all earthly and human themes, that gives to Wordsworth's poems the intense air of solitude which every where pervades them. He is the most solitary of poets. Of him, with far more point than of Milton, may it be said, in his own words, that “his soul was like a star, and dwelt apart.” Of , all English poems, his works are the most completely removed even from the range of Shakespeare's universal genius. In sclitude only could they have originated, and in solitude only can they be perfectly enjoyed. Nor does this arise merely from the distinct intellectual new-birth which every scene, every thought, and every passion undergoes, when it comes within the spell of Wordsworth's musing mind. It is mainly that he makes you feel his isolation of spirit, by never surrendering himself to the natural and obvious currents of thought or feeling in the theme he takes; but changes their direction by cool side-winds from his own spiritual nature. Natural rays of feeling are refracted the moment they enter Wordsworth's imagination. It is not the theme acting on the man that you see, but the man acting on the theme. He himself consciously brings to it the spiritual forces which determine the lines of meditation; he evades, or even resists, the inherent tendencies of emotion belonging to his subject; catches it up into that dim spiritual imagination, and makes it yield a totally different fruit of contemplation to any which it seemed naturally likely to bear. It is in this that he differs so completely in manner from other self-conscious poets-Goethe, for instance, who in like manner always left the shadow of himself on the field of his vision. But with Goethe it is a shadow of self in quite a different sense. Goethe es him.

* Prelude, book xiii. p. 345.

self drifting along the tide of feeling, and keeps an eye open outside his heart. But though he overhears himself, he does not interfere with himself; he listens breathlessly, and notes it down. Wordsworth, on the other hand, refuses to listen to this natural self at all. He knows another world of pure and buoyant meditation; and he knows that all which is transplanted into it bears there a new and nobler fruit. With fixed visionary purpose, he snatches away his subject from the influence of the lower currents it is beginning to obey, and compels it to breathe its life into that silent sky of conscious freedom and immortal hope in which his own spirit lives. Wordsworth has himself explained this fixed purpose of his imagination to stay the drift of common thoughts and common trains of feeling, and lift them up into the light of a higher meditative mood, in a passage of a remarkable letter to The Friend. It illustrates so curiously the deeper methods of his genius, that we must quote it:

“A familiar incident may render plain the manner in which a process of intellectual improvement, the reverse of that which nature pursues, is by reason introduced. There never perhaps existed a school-boy who, having, when he retired to rest, carelessly blown out his candle, and having chanced to notice, as he lay upon his bed in the ensuing darkness, the sullen light which had survived the extinguished flame, did not, at some time or other, watch that light as if his mind were bound to it by a spell. It fades and revives-gathers to a pointseems as if it would go out in a moment-again recovers its strength, nay becomes brighter than before: it continues to shine with an endurance, which in its apparent weakness is a mystery—it protracts its existence so long, clinging to the power which supports it, that the observer, who had lain down in his bed so easy-minded, becomes sad and melancholy: his sympathies are touched-it is to him an intimation and an image of departing human life; the thought comes nearer to him—it is the life of a venerated parent, of a beloved brother or sister, or of an aged domestic; who are gone to the grave, or whose destiny it soon may be thus to linger, thus to hang upon the last point of mortal existence, thus finally to depart and be seen no more. This is nature teaching seriously and sweetly through the affections; melting the heart, and through that instinct of tenderness, developing the understanding. In this instance the object of solicitude is the bodily life of another. Let us accompany this same boy to that period between youth and manhood, when a solicitude may be awakened for the moral life of himself. Are there any powers by which, beginning with a sense of inward decay, that affects not, however, the natural life, he could call to mind the same image, and hang over it with an equal interest as a visible type of his own perishing spirit ? O, surely, if the being of the individual be under his own care; if it be his first care; if duty begin from the point of accountableness to our conscience, and through that, to God and human nature; if without such primary sense

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of duty, all secondary care of teacher, of friend or parent, must be baseless and fruitless; if, lastly, the motions of the soul transcend in worth those of the animal functions, nay give to them their sole value,—then truly are there such powers : and the image of the dying taper may be recalled and contemplated, though with no sadness in the nerves, no disposition to tears, no unconquerable sighs, yet with a melancholy in the soul, a sinking inward into ourselves from thought to thought, a steady remonstrance, and a high resolve. Let, then, the youth go back, as occasion will permit, to nature and to solitude, thus admonished by reason, and relying upon this newly-acquired support. A world of fresh

A sensations will gradually open upon him as his mind puts off its infirmities, and as, instead of being propelled restlessly towards others in admiration, or too hasty love, he makes it his prime business to understand himself. New sensations, I affirm, will be opened out-pure, and sanctioned by that reason which is their original author; and precious feelings of disinterested, that is, self-disregarding joy and love may be regenerated and restored : and, in this sense, he may be said to measure back the track of life he has trod.”

Now it is clearly this mood (a mood which gave birth to all his finest poetry) that throws so deep an air of solitude around Wordsworth's poems. We feel that the poet must live alone in order thus consciously to bathe all that he touches with a new atmosphere not its We are most alone when we most distinctly feel the boundary-line between ourselves and the world beyond us. In acts of free-will the sense of human solitude is always at its height; for in them we distinguish ourselves from all things else. And in the world of imagination this spiritual freedom is especially remarkable. There we have always heard that freedom is not, that genius is undisputed master of the will. Wordsworth's poetry is the living refutation of this assertion. He is so solitary, because we feel that his spirit consciously directs his imagination, and imposes on it from within influences stronger than any it receives from without.

“ The outward shows of sky and earth,

Of hill and valley, he has viewed;" but

“impulses of deeper birth

Have come to him in solitude." * Reverie is not solitary, and Wordsworth is not the poet of reverie. In reverie the mind wholly loses the boundaries of its own life, and wanders away unconsciously to the world's end. Wordsworth's musings are never reveries. He never loses either himself or the centre of his thought. He carries his own spiritual world with him, draws the thing or thought or feeling on which

* A Poet's Epitaph, vol. v. of Wordsworth's Poems, p. 24. (The seven-volume edition.)

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