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its swiftness spends itself and dies proudly in the lines :
“Happy day, and mighty hour,
-to be followed, after a pause, by the meditative, subduing lento of the final elegiac stanzas. No more decisive test of the superiority of the Poems in Two Volumes to all other original issues of Wordsworth's verse can be employed than to compare the various amounts of representation severally accorded to each in Matthew Arnold's little book of Chosen Poems, incomparably the best Wordsworthian anthology, be it said, that has appeared up to the present time. Matthew Arnold's selections number sixty sonnets and one hundred and ten pieces of various length,
character, and importance. Of the sixty sonnets no fewer than thirty are taken from the Poems, etc., of 1807; while of the one hundred and ten miscellaneous pieces forty-two (i.e., more than one-third) are obtained in the same quarter. Again, the Poems in Two Volumes comprise but sixty-two miscellaneous poems and fifty-six sonnets; so that Matthew Arnold has actually included in his florilegium more than twice as many as he has rejected of the former, and more than half of the latter. Indeed, no matter what the side of Wordsworth's poetry that most attracts us, we shall find ample store of matter to our liking in these two slender volumes. If we admire most the passion-steeped thought and noble patriotism of the sonnets, we have here over two score of the earliest and weightiest of these pieces ; if, with Mr. John Morley and Mr. R. H. Hutton, we seem to discern Wordsworth’s true greatness in “his direct appeal to will and conduct,” we have the Ode to Duty (pronounced by the late Prof. T. H. Green “the high-water mark of modern poetry'), “Nuns fret not at their Convent's narrow room” and Yarrow Unvisited; or if, lastly, we hold with Mr. A. C. Swinburne-not the least judicious, as he indisputably is one of the kindest and most generous, of the poet's critics—that “the especial and distinctive quality of Wordsworth's genius is rather its pathetic than its introspective, its tragic than its philosophic note,” we have that poignant atterance of blended passion and imagination, the sublime Affliction of Margaret; we have the loftily tender lines in memory of the dog Music, and the solemn meditative pathos of the Stanzas on a Picture of Peele Castle.
With the reception accorded to the volumes of 1807 we have here no further concern than as it helped to determine the direction in which the text was subsequently modified. Francis Jeffrey, who, in
his review of Southey's Thalaba two years before, had opened fire on the fraternity of poetical dissenters in the West of England,” now devoted a i special article (Edinburgh Review, Oct., 1807) to the demolition of the heresiarch Wordsworth and his works, showering indiscriminate abuse, with the impartiality of a scolding magpie, alike on good, bad, and indifferent in the new poems. Presently, from the shades of the Poetical Register,
“The jay made answer as the magpie chattered;"
while in January, 1809, the solemn owl of the Eclectic Review took up the theme, and hooted an original variation thereupon through half-a-dozen pages. Shortly before the appearance of the Eclectic
1 The Eclectic critic writes : “A more rash and injudicious speculation on the weakness or the depravity of the public tasto bas seldom been made; and we trust that its inevitable failure will bring back Mr. Wordsworth himself to a sense of his own dignity, as well as of the respect due to his readers. The public may often be wrong in its first judgments, but it is always right
article there issued from the house of Stockdale, the London publisher, an anonymous satire in verse-text aided by prose-comment entitled : The Simpliciad; a Satirico-didactic Poem, containing Hints for the Scholars of the New School, and addressed to “ Messrs. W-ll-m W-rdsw-th, R-b-rt S-th-y, and S. T. C-l-r-dg-.” In the text of this brochure the alleged rules of " the New or Anti-Classical School” are set forth with derisive formality, and are illustrated in the footnotes by a florilegium of apt quotations from the poems of the triumvirate. Poets are prover
at last; and Mr. W. can have no hope in its final decision concerning the greater part of the pieces before us.” The editor of the Poetical Register observes : “ Than the volumes before us we never saw anything better calculated to excite anger and disgust in a lover of poetry. The drivelling nonsense of some of the author's poems is insufferable. . . . Mr. Wordsworth is a system-maker. He has formed an out-of-the-way, incomprehensible system of poetry; and on the altar of that system he sacrifices melody, elegance, spirit, and even common sense.”
? Can the Simpliciad be “Mr. French's squib upon Wordsworth” mentioned by Southey in a letter to Anna Seward,