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and to convict him of partial knowledge and, consequently, of prejudiced views. But on the whole, if we are not content with a cursory inspection of his prose writings, but examine with them the records just mentioned, and if we remember that he neither was, nor pretended to be, a regular man of letters, we shall probably learn to respect not only the sincerity of his judgement, which has never been called in question, but its breadth and essential soundness as well. He often provokes disagreement; but he always stimulates thought. He palms off on you no mere counters of compliment or generality, but coins from his own mint. From the pages of his prose, as from his poetry, breathes the fresh, keen air of a mind, like the mountains of his home, rugged, often more bleak than beautiful, lofty, but not perpetually drenched.in empyrean light,' rooted not only in quiet valleys, but also in deep waters, solid, unpretentious, free. Wordsworth had, as Coleridge and others have recorded, a. certain doggedness in his strong character : but any one who considers the amount of alterations which he made in his poems in consequence of the criticism of others, will allow that he had his obstinacy under effective control. Wordsworth's letters, further, show that he did not adopt his views of poetic diction out of pique, and that he had too proud a consciousness of his destiny as a poet to be inspired by this motive, which Professor Saintsbury attributes to him for no better reason than that he expressly disclaims it. It is possible to take too cynical a view of human nature. ’Among recent books, Professor Raleigh's examination of Wordsworth's theories is, to my mind, much more thorough and more just than Professor Saintsbury's.

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BALLADS (1798)

It is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves.

The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. It is desirable that such readers, for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification; but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favourable to the author's wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasures, our own pre-established codes of decision.

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Readers of superior judgement may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed; it must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind will he have to make.

An accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by severe thought, and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. This is mentioned not with so ridiculous a purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced reader from judging for himself; but merely to temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest that if poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed, the judgement may be erroneous, and that in many cases it necessarily will The tale of Goody Blake and Harry Gill is founded

a well-authenticated fact which happened in Warwickshire. Of the other poems in the collection, it may be proper to say that they are either absolute inventions of the author, or facts which took place within his personal observation or that of his friends. The poem of The Thorn, as the reader will soon discover, is not supposed to be spoken in the author's own person: the character of the loquacious narrator will sufficiently show itself in the course of the story. The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere was professedly

be so.


written in imitation of the style, as well as of the spirit of the elder poets; but with a few exceptions, the Author believes that the language adopted in it has been equally intelligible for these three last centuries. The lines entitled Expostulation and Reply, and those which follow, arose out of conversation with a friend who was somewhat unreasonably attached to modern books of moral philosophy.


(1800) MY DEAR SIR, Had it not been for a very amiable modesty you could not have imagined that your letter could give me any offence. It was on many accounts highly grateful to me. I was pleased to find that I had given so much pleasure to an ingenuous and able mind, and I further considered the enjoyment which you had had from my Poems as an earnest that others might be delighted with them in the same, or a like manner. It is plain from your letter that the pleasure which I have given you has not been blind or unthinking; you

have studied the poems, and prove that entered into the spirit of them. They have not given you a cheap or vulgar pleasure; therefore I feel that you are entitled to my kindest thanks for having done some violence to your natural diffidence in the communication which you have made to me.

There is scarcely any part of your letter that does not deserve particular notice; but partly from some constitutional infirmities, and partly from certain habits of mind, I do not write any letters unless

you have

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