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impression was, that in the general movement of the periods, in the form of the connections, and transitions, and in the sober majesty of lofty sense, it appeared to them to approach more nearly, than any other poetry they had heard, to the style of our bible in the prophetic books. The first strophe will suffice as a specimen : ; '
“ Ye harp-controuling hymns ! (or) ye hymns the sovereigns
of harps !
But are such rhetorical caprices condemnable only for their deviation from the language of real life? and are they by no other means to be precluded, but by the rejection of all distinctions between prose and verse, save that of metre? Surely good sense, and a moderate insight into the constitution of the human mind, would be amply sufficient to prove, that
such language and such combinations are the native produce neither of the fancy nor of the imagination; that their operation consists in the excitement of surprize by the juxta-position and apparent reconciliation of widely different or incompatible things. As when, for instance, the hills are made to reflect the image of a voice. Surely, no unusual taste is requisite to see clearly, that this compulsory juxta-position is not produced by the presentation of impressive or delightful forms to the inward vision, nor by any sympathy with the modifying powers with which the genius of the poet had united and inspirited all the objects of his thought; that it is therefore a species of wit, a pure work of the will, and implies a leisure and self-possession both of thought and of feeling, incompatible with the steady fervour of a mind possessed and filled with the grandeur of its subject. To sum up the whole in one sentence. When a poem, or a part of a poem, shall be adduced, which is evidently vicious in the figures and contexture of its style, yet for the condemnation of which no reason can be assigned, except that it differs from the style in which men actually converse, then, and not till then, can I hold this theory to be either plausible, or practicable, or capable of furnishing either rule, guidance, or precaution, that might not, more easily and more safely, as well as more natu
rally, have been deduced in the author's own mind from considerations of grammar, logic, and the truth and nature of things, confirmed by the authority of works, whose fame is not of ONE country, nor of one age.
Continuation-Concerning the real object which,
it is probable, Mr. Wordsworth had before him, in his critical preface- Elucidation and application of this.
It might appear from some passages in the former part of Mr. Wordsworth's preface, that he meant to confine his theory of style, and the necessity of a close accordance with the actual language of men, to those particular subjects from low and rustic life, which by way of experiment he had purposed to naturalize as a new species in our English poetry. But from the train of argument that follows ; from the reference to Milton; and from the spirit of his critique on Gray’s sonnet; those sentences appear to have been rather courtesies of modesty, than actual limitations of his system. Yet so groundless does this system appear on a close examination, and so strange and* over-whelm
*I had in my mind the striking but untranslatable epithet, which the celebrated Mendelssohn applied to the great founder of the Critical Philosophy “ Der alleszermalmende KANT,” i.,e. the all-becrushing, or rather the all-to-nothing
ing in its consequences, that I cannot, and I do not, believe that the poet did ever himself adopt it in the unqualified sense, in which his expressions have been understood by others, and which indeed according to all the common laws of interpretation they seem to bear. What then did he mean? I'apprehend, that in the clear perception, not' unaccompanied with dis- .! gust or contempt, of the gaudy affectations of a style which passed too current with too many for poetic diction, (though in truth it had as little pretensions to poetry, as to logic or common sense) he narrowed his view for the time; and feeling a justifiable preference for the language of nature, and of good-sense, eyen in its humblest and least ornamented forms, he suffered himself to express, in terms at once too large and too exclusive, his predilection for a style the most remote possible from the false and showy splendor which he wished to ex, plode. It is possible, that this predilection, at first merely comparative, deviated for a time into direct partiality. But the real object,
crushing Kant. In the facility and force of compound epithets, the German from the number of its cases and inflections approaches to the Greek : that language so
“ Bless'd in the happy marriage of swet words.",
It is in the woeful harshness of its sounds alone that the Germau need shrink from the comparison.