« 上一页继续 »
image set up in the stateliest region of poesy, had not value to outweigh all the truths of criticism, or to atone for all its errors? Not only have Wordsworth's merits been improperly rested on his system, but that system itself has been misrepresented with no common baseness. From some of the attacks directed against it, a reader might infer that it recommended the choice of the meanest subjects, and their treatment in the meanest way; and that it not only represented poetry as fitly employed on things in themselves low and trivial, but that it forbade the clustering and delicate fancies about them, or the shedding on them any reconciling and softening lustre. Multitudes, indeed, have wondered as they read, not only that any persons should be deluded by its perverse insipidities, but that critics should waste their ridicule on an author who resigned at once all pretensions to the poetic art. In reality, this calumniated system has only reference to the diction, and to the subjects of poetry. It has merely taught, that the diction of poetry is not different from that of prose, and suggested that themes hitherto little dwelt on, were not unsuited to the bard's divinest uses. Let us briefly examine what ground of offence there is in the assertion or application of these positions. Some have supposed that by rejecting a diction as peculiar to poetry, Wordsworth denied to it those qualities which are its essence, and those “harmonious numbers” which its thoughts “voluntarily move.” Were his language equivocal, which it is not, the slightest glance at his works would show that he could have no design to exclude from it the stateliest imaginings, the most felicitous allpsions, or the choicest and most varied music. He objected only to a peculiar phraseology— a certain hacknied strain of inversion—which had been set up as distinguishing poetry from prose, and which, he contended, was equally false in either. What is there of pernicious heresy in this, unless we make the crasty politician's doctrine, that speech was given to man to conceal his thoughts, the great principle of poetry? If words are fitly combined only to convey ideas to the mind, each word having a fixed meaning in itself, no dif. ferent mode of collocation can be requisite when the noblest sentiment is to be imbodied, from that which is proper when the dryest fact is to be asserted. Each term employed by a poet has as determinate an office—as clearly means one thing as distinguished from all others—as a mathematician's scientific phrases. If a poet wishes lucidly to convey a grand picture to the mind, there can be no reason why he should resort to another mode of speech than that which he would employ in delivering the plainest narrative. He will, of course, use other and probably more beautiful words, because they properly belong to his subject; but he will not use any different order in their arrangement, because in both cases his immediate object is the same—the clear communication of his own idea to the mind of his reader. And this is true not only of the chief object of the passage, but of every
hinted allusion, or nice shade of feeling, which may adorn it. If by “poetic diction" is intended the vivid expression of poetic thoughts, to annihilate it, is to annihilate poetry; but if it means certain ornamental phrases and forms of language not necessary to such exression, it is, at best, but a splendid error. elicity of language can never be other than the distinct expression of felicitous thought. The only art of diction in poetry, as in prose, is the nice bodying forth of each delicate vibration of the feelings, and each soft shade of the images, in words which at once make us conscious of their most transient beauty. At all events, there was surely no offence in an individual's rejecting the aid of a style regarded as poetic, and relying for his fame on the naked majesty of his conceptions. The triumph is more signal when the Poet uses language as a mirror, clear, and itself invisible, to reflect his creations in their native hues, than when he employs it as a stained and fallacious medium to exhibit its own varieties of tint, and to show the objects which it partially reveals in its own prismatic colouring. But it is said that the subjects of Wordsworth's poetry are not in themselves so lofty as those which his noblest predecessors have chosen. If this be true, and he has yet succeeded in discovering within them poetical affinities, or in shedding on them a new consecration, he does not surely deserve ill of his species. He has left all our old objects of veneration uninjured, and has enabled us to recognise new ones in the peaceful and familiar courses of our being. The question is not whether there are more august themes than those which he has treated, but whether these last have any interest, as seen in the light which he has cast around them. If they have, the benefits which he has conferred on humanity are more signal, and the triumph of his own powers is more undivided and more pure, than if he had treated on subjects which we have been accustomed to revere. We are more indebted to one who opens to us a new and secluded pathway in the regions of fantasy with its own verdant inequalities and delicate overshadings of foliage, than if he had stepped majestically in the broad and beaten highway to swell the triumphant procession of laurelled bards. Is it matter of accusation that a poet has opened visions of glory about the ordinary walks of life—that he has linked holiest associations to things which hitherto have been regarded without emotion—that he has made beauty “a simple product of the common day !” Shall he be denied the poetic faculty, who, without the attractions of story—without the blandishments of diction—without even the aid of those associations which have encrusted themselves around the oldest themes of the poet, has for many years excited the animosities of the most popular critics, and mingled the love and admiration of his genius with the lifeblood of hearts neither unreflecting nor ungentle? But most of the subjects of Mr. Wordsworth, though not arrayed in any adventitious pomp, have a real and innate grandeur. True it is, that he moves not among the regalities, but among the humanities of his art. True it is, that his poetry does not “make its bed and procreant cradle” in the “jutting, frieze, cornice, or architrave” of the glorious edifices of human power. The universe, in its naked majesty, and man in the plain dignity of his nature, are his favourite themes. And is there no might, no glory, no sanctity in these? Earth has her own venerablenesses—her awful forests, which have darkened her hills for ages with tremendous gloom; her mysterious springs pouring out everlasting waters from unsearchable recesses; her wrecks of elemental contests; her jagged rocks, monumental of an earlier world. The lowliest of her beauties has an antiquity beyond that of the pyramids. The evening breeze has the old sweetness which it shed over the fields of Canaan, when Isaac went out to meditate. The Nile swells with its rich waters towards the bulrushes of Egypt, as when the infant Moses nestled among them, watched by the sisterly love of Miriam. Zion's hill has not passed away with its temple, nor lost its sanctity amidst the tumultuous changes around it, nor even by the accomplishment of that awful religion of types and symbols which once was enthroned on its steeps. The sun to which the poet turns his eye is the same which shone over Thermopylae; and the wind to which he listens swept over Salamis, and scattered the armaments of Xerxes. Is a poet utterly deprived of fitting themes, to whom ocean, earth, and sky, are open—who has an eye for the most evanescent of nature's hues, and the most ethereal of her graces—who can “live in the rainbow and play in the plighted clouds,” or send into our hearts the awful loneliness of regions “consecrate to eldest time!” Is there nothing in man, considered abstractedly from the distinctions of this world—nothing in a being who is in the infancy of an immortal life—who is lackeyed by “a thousand liveried angels”—who is even “splendid in ashes and pompous in the grave"—to awaken ideas of permanence, solemnity, and grandeur? Are there no themes sufficiently exalted for poetry in the midst of death and of life—in the desires and hopes which have their resting-place near the throne of the Eternal—in affections, strange and wondrous in their working, and unconquerable by time, or anguish, or destiny 1 How little, comparatively, of allusion is there even in Shakspeare, whose genius will not be regarded as rigid or austere, to other venerablenesses than those of the creation, and to qualities less common than the human heart! The very luxuries which surround his lovers —the pensive sweetnesses which steal away the sting from his saddest catastrophies—are drawn from man's universal immunities, and the eldest sympathies of the universe. The divinity which “hedges his kings” is only humanity's finer essence. Even his Lear is great only in intellectual might and in the terrible strangeness of his afflictions. While invested with the pomp and circumstance of his station, he is froward, impatient, thankless— less than a child in his liberality and in his 7
resentments; but when he is cast abroad to seek a lodging with the owl, and to endure the fury of the elements, and is only a poor and despised old man, the exterior crust which a life of prosperity had hardened over his soul is broken up by the violence of his sorrows, his powers expand within his worn and wasted frame, his spirit awakens in its long-forgotten strength, and even in the wanderings of distraction gives hints of the profoundest philosophy, and manifests a real kindliness of nature —a sweet and most affecting courtesy—of which there was no vestige in the days of his pride. The regality of Richard lies not in “compliment extern”—the philosophy of Hamlet has a princeliness above that of his rank —and the beauties of Imogen are shed into her soul only by the selectest influences of creation. The objects which have been usually regarded as the most poetical, derive from the soul itself the far larger share of their poetical qualities. All their power to elevate, to delight, or to awe us, which does not arise from mere form, colour, and proportion, is manifestly drawn from the instincts common to the species. The affections have first consecrated all that they revere. “Cornice, frieze, jutting, or architrave,” are fit nestling-places for poetry, chiefly as they are the symbols of feelings of grandeur and duration in the hearts of the beholders. A poet, then, who seeks at once for beauty and sublimity in their native home of the human soul—who resolves “non sectari rivulossed petere fontes”—can hardly be accused with justice of rejecting the themes most worthy of a bard. His office is, indeed, more arduous than if he selected those subjects about which hallowing associations have long clustered, and which other poets have already rendered sacred. But if he can discover new depths of affection in the soul—or throw new tinges of loveliness on objects hitherto common, he ought not to be despised in proportion to the severity of the work, and the absence of extrinsic aid Wordsworth's persons are not invested with antique robes, nor clad in the symbols of worldly pomp, but they are “apparelled in celestial light.” By his power “the bare earth and mountains bare” are covered with an imaginative radiance more holy than that which old Greek poets shed over Olympus. The world, as consecrated by his poetic wisdom, is an enchanted scene— redolent with sweet humanity, and vocal with “echoes from beyond the grave.” We shall now attempt to express the reasons for our belief in Wordsworth's genius, by first giving a few illustrations of his chief faculties, and then considering them in their application to the uses of philosophical poetry. We allude first to the descriptive faculty, because, though not the least popular, it is the lowest which Wordsworth possesses. He shares it with many others, though few, we think, enjoy it in so eminent a degree. It is difficult, indeed, to select passages from his works which are merely descriptive; but those which approach nearest to portraiture, and are least imbued with fantasy, are masterpieces in their kind. ** for example, the
following picture of masses of vapour reced Where the enamour'd sunny light ing among the steeps and summits of the Brightens her that was so bright; mountains, after a storm, beneath an azure
Now doth a delicate shadow fall, sky; the earlier part of which seem almost
Falls upon her like a breath,
From some lofty arch or wall, like another glimpse of Milton's heaven; and
As she passes underneath : the conclusion of which impresses us solemnly Now some gloomy nook partakes with the most awful visions of Hebrew pro of the glory which she makes, phecy :
High-ribb'd vault of stone, or cell
With perfect cunning framed, as well
or stone and ivy, and the spread A single step which freed me from the skirts
of the elder's bushy head; of the blind vapour, open'd to my view
Some jealous and forbidding cell, Glory beyond all glory ever seen
That doth the living stars repel,
And where no flower hath leave to dwell.
- Her's are eyes serenely bright, And self-withdrawn iuto a wondrous depth
And on she moves-with pace how light! Far sinking into splendour-without end !
Nor spares to stoop her head, and taste Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
The dewy turf, with flowers bestrown; With alabaster domes and silver spires ;
And in this way she fares, till at last And blazing terrace upon terrace high
Beside the ridge of a grassy grave Uplifted: here serene pavilions bright
In quietness she lays her down; In avenues disposed; there towers begirt
Gently as a weary wave With battlements that on their restless fronts
Sinks, when the summer breeze hath died, Bore stars, illumination of all gems!
Against an anchor'd vessel's side ; O'twas an unimaginable sight;
Even so, without distress, doth she Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks, and emerald turf, Lie down in peace, and lovingly." Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,
White Doe of Rylstone, Canto I. Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,
What, as mere description, can be more Molten together, and composing thus, Each lost in each, that marvellous array
masterly than the following picture of the of temple, palace, citadel, and huge
mountain solitude, where a dog was found, Fantastic pomp of structure without name,
after three months' watching by his master's In fleecy folds voluminous enwrapp'd.
body-though the touches which send the feelRight in the midst, where interspace appear'd ing of deep loneliness into the soul, and the Of open court, an object like a throne
bold imagination which represents the huge Beneath a shining canopy of state
recess as visited by elemental presences, are Stood fix'd, and fix'd resemblances were seen lu implements of ordinary use,
produced by higher than descriptive powers ! But vast in size, in substance glorified;
"It was a cove, a huge recess, Such as by Hebrew prophets were beheld
That keeps till June December's snow; In vision-forms uncouth of mightiest power,
A lofty precipice in front,
A silent tarn below!
Remote from public road or dwelling,
Pathway, or cultivated land;
From trace of human foot or hand. following picture, which represents the White Doe of Rylstone—that most beautiful of mys There sometimes does a leaping fish teries-on her Sabbath visit to the grave of her Send through the Tarn a lonely cheer; sainted lady :
The crags repeat the raven's croak
In symphony austere ; "Soft-the dunky trees between
Thither the rainbow comes, the cloud ; And down the path through the open green
And mists that spread the flying shroud, Where is no living thing to be seen;
And sunbeams; and the sounding blast, And through yon gateway where is found,
That if it could, would hurry past,
But that enormous barrier binds it fast."
We must abstain from farther examples of Towards the very house of God;
the descriptive faculty, and allude to that far ---Comes gliding in with lovely gleam,
higher gift which Wordsworth enjoys in his Comes gliding in serene and slow, Soft and silent as a dream,
profound acquaintance with the sanctities of A solitary Doe!
the soul. He does not make us feel the White is she as lily in June;
strength of the passions, by their violent conAnd beauteous as the silver moon,
tests in a transient storm, but the measureless When out of sight the clouds are driven depth of the affections when they are stillest And she is left alone in heaven;
and most holy. We often meet in his works Or like a ship some gentle day
with little passages in which we seem almost In sunshine sailing far away,
to contemplate the well-springs of pure emoA glittering ship, that hath the plain of ocean for her own domain.
tion and gentle pathos, and to see the old clefts in the rock of humanity whence they arise. In
these we may not rarely perceive the true eleWhat harmonious pensive changes
ments of tales of the purest sentiment and Wait upon her as she ranges
most genuine tragedies. No poet has done Round and through this pile of state, Overthrown and desolate!
such justice to the depth and the fulness of Now a step or two her way
maternal love. What, for instance, can be Is through space of open day,
more tear-moving than these exclamations of
a mother, who for seven years has heard no that of a mother is spread equally over exist tidings of an only child, abandoning the false ence, and when cut down, at once the blossom stay of a pride which ever does unholy violence ing expectations of a whole life are withered to the sufferer!
Can any thing be more true or intense than "Neglect me! no, I suffered long
the following description of remorse, rejecting From that ill thought; and, being blind, Said, 'Pride shall help me in my wrong;
the phantoms of superstitious horror as powerKind mother have I been, as kind
less, and representing lovely and uncomplainAs ever breathed :' and that is true;
ing forms of those whose memories the sufferer I've wet my path with tears like dew,
had dishonoured by his errors, casting their Weeping for him when no one knew.
silent looks perpetually upon him: My son,
if thou be humbled, poor, Hopeless of honour, or of gain,
_" Feebly must they have felt Oh! do not dread thy mother's door ; Think not of me with grief or pain :
Who, in old time, attired with snakes and whips I now can see with better eyes;
The vengeful Furies. Beautiful regards And worldly grandeur I despise,
Were turned on me--the face of her I loved ;
The wife and mother pitifully fixing And fortune with her gifts and lies."
Tender reproaches, insupportable !" How grand and fearful are the following
We will give but one short passage more to conjectures of her agony !
show the depth of Wordsworth's insight into * Perhaps some dungeon hears thee groan, our nature—but it is a passage which we Maim'd, mangled by inhuman men;
think unequalled in its kind in the compass of Or thou upon a desert thrown
poetry. Never surely was such a glimpse of Inheritest the lion's den; Or hast been summon'd to the deep
beatific vision opened amidst mortal affliction ; Thou, thou and all thy mates, to keep,
such an elevation given to seeming weakness; Aa incommunicable sleep."
such consolation ascribed to bereaved love by
the very heightening of its own intensities. And how triumphant does the great instinct The poet contends, that those whom we regard appear in its vanquishing even the dread of as dying broken-hearted for the loss of friends, mortal chilliness-asking and looking for spec- do not really perish through despair; but have tres—and concluding that their appearance is such vivid prospects of heaven, and such a not possible, because they come not to its in- present sense that those who have been taken tense cravings :
from them are waiting for them there, that “I look for ghosts; but none will force
they wear themselves away in longings after Their way to me; 'tis falsely said
the reality, and so hasten to enjoy it :That ever there was intercourse Between the living and the dead;
L" Full of the innocent sufferer sees For surely then I should have sight
Too clearly; feels too vividly; and longs of him I wait for day and night,
To realize the vision with intense
And over-constant yearning-there-there lies
The excess by which the balance is destroy'd. of the same class is the poem on the death Too, too contracted are these walls of flesh, of a noble youth, who fell in attempting to This vital warmth too cold, these visual orbs, bound over a chasm of the Wharf, and left his Though inconceivably endow'd, too dim mother childless.-What a volume of thought
For any passion of the soul that leads
To ecstasy; and, all the crooked paths is there in the little stanzas which follows:
of time and change disdaining, takes its course "If for a lover the lady wept,
Along the line of limitless desires."
which Wordsworth is most eminently gifted. She weeps not for the wedding-day,
As the term IMAGINATION is often very loosely Which was to be to-morrow;
employed, it will be necessary for us here to Her hope was a farther-looking hope,
state as clearly as possible our idea of its And her's is a mother's sorrow !"
meaning. In our sense, it is that power by
which the spiritualities of our nature and the senHere we are made to feel not only the vast- sible images derived from the material universe are ness of maternal affection, but its difference commingled at the will of the possessor. It has from that of lovers. The last being a passion, thus a twofold operation-the bodying forth has a tendency to grasp and cling to objects of feelings, sentiments, and ideas, in beautiful which may sustain it, and thus fixes even on and majestic forms, and giving to them local those things which have swallowed its hopes, habitations; and the informing the colours and draws them into its likeness. Death itself and the shapes of matter with the properties thus becomes a passion to one whom it bas of the soul. The first of these workings of the bereaved; or the waters which flowed over faculty supplies the highest excellencies of the the object of once happy love, become a solace orator, and the philosophic bard. When to the mourner, who nurses holy visions by Sophocles represents the eternal laws of their side. But an instinct which has none of morality as " produced in the pure regions of that tendency to go beyond itself, when its only celestial air-having the Olympian alone for object is lost, has no earthly relief, but is lent their parent-as not subject to be touched by utterly desolate. The hope of a lover looks the decays of man's mortal nature, or to be chiefly to a single point of time as its goal ;- shaded by oblivion--for the divinity is mighty
within them, and waxes not old;"* it is this Not uninformed by fantasy and look which half gives to them a majestic person
That threaten the profane ;-a pillar'd shade ality, and dimly figures out their attributes.
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue, By the same process, the imaginative faculty,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially-beneath whose sable roof aiming at results less sublime but more definite
of boughs, as if for festal purpose deck'd and complete, gave individual shape to loves,
By unrejoicing berries, ghostly shapes graces, and affections, and endowed them with
May meet at noon-tide--Fear and trembling Hope, the bread of life. By this process, it shades Silence and Foresight-Death the Skeleton over the sorrows which it describes by the
And Time the Shadow--there to celebrate, beauties and the graces of nature, and tinges
As in a natural temple scatter'd o'er
With altars undisturb'd of mossy stone, with gentle colouring the very language of
United worship; or in mute repose affliction. In the second mode of its operation, To lie, and listen to the mountain flood on the other hand, it moves over the universe Murmuring from Glamarara's inmost caves." like the spirit of God on the face of the waters, and peoples it with glorious shapes, as in the
Let the reader, when that first glow of intuiGreek mythology, or sheds on it a consecrating tive admiration which this passage cannot fail radiance, and imparts to it an intense sym- to inspire is past, look back on the exquisite pathy, as in the poems of these more reflective gradations by which it naturally proceeds from days. Although a harmonizing faculty, it can mere description to the sublime personification by the law of its essence only act on things of the most awful abstractions, and the union which have an inherent likeness. It brings of their fearful shapes in strange worship, or out the secret affinities of its objects; but it in listening 10 the deepest of nature's voices. cannot combine things which nature has not The first lines—interspersed indeed with epiprepared for union, because it does not add, thets drawn from the operations of mind, and but transfuses. Hence there can be no wild therefore giving to them an imaginative tinge incongruity, no splendid confusion in its works. -are, for the most part, a mere picture of the Those which are commonly regarded as its august brotherhood of trees, though their very productions in the metaphorical speeches of sound is in more august accordance with their * Irish eloquence,” are their very reverse, and theme than most of the examples usually promay serve by contrast to explain its realities. duced of " echoes to the sense.” Having comThe highest and purest of its efforts are when pletely set before us the image of the scene, the intensest elements of the human soul are the poet begins that enchantment by which it mingled inseparably with the vastest majesties is to be converted into a fitting temple for the of the universe; as where Lear identifies his noontide spectres of Death and Time, by the age with that of the heavens, and calls on general intimation that it is not uninformed them to avenge bis wrongs by their com- by fantasy and looks that threaten the promunity of lot; and where Timon “ fixes his fane"—then, by the mere epithet
pillared, gives everlasting mansion upon the beached shore us the more particular feeling of a fane-then, of the salt flood,” that " once a day with its by reference to the actual circumstances of the embossed froth the turbulent surge may cover grassless floor of red-brown hue, preserves to him,” scorning human lears, but desiring the us the peculiar features of the scene which vast ocean for his eternal mourner !
thus he is hallowing—and at last gives to the of this transfusing and reconciling faculty- roof and its berries a strange air of unrejoicwhether its office be to "clothe upon," or to ing festivity-until we are prepared for the spiritualize-Mr. Wordsworth is, in the highest introduction of the phantasms, and feel that degree, master. Or this, abundant proofs will the scene could be fitted to no less tremendons be found in the latter portion of this article ; at a conclave. The place, without losing one of present we will only give a few examples. its individual features, is decked for the recep"The first of these is one of the grandest in- tion of these noon-tide shades, and we are prestances of noble daring, completely successful, pared to muse on them with unshrinking eyes. which poetry exhibits. After a magnificent How by a less adventurous but not less depicture of a single yew-tree, and a fine allusion lightful process, does the poet impart to an 'to its readiness to furnish spears for old battles, evening scene on the Thames, at Richmond, the poet proceeds:
the serenity of his own heart, and tinge it with
softest and saddest hues of the fancy and the "But worthier still of note
affections! The verses have all the richness Are those fraternal four of Borrowdale,
of Collins, to whom they allude, and breathe a Join'd in one solemn and capacious grove ;
more profound and universal sentiment than Huge trunks !-and each particular trunk a growth
is found in his sky-tinctured poetry. of intertwisted fibres serpentine, Upcoiling, and inveterately convolved,
"How richly glows the water's breast
Before us tinged with evening huer, This passage-one of the noblest instances of the
While, facing thus the crimson west, moral sublime-is from the Theban (Edipus, where it is
The boat her silent course pursues ! uttered by the Chorus on some of the profane scoffs of And see how dark the backward stream! the fated locasta:
A little moment past so smiling!
And still perchance, with faithless gleam,
Some other loiterer beguiling.
"Such views the youthful bard allure;
But, heedless of the following gloom,
He deems their colours shall endure
Till peace go with him to the tomb