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before observed, seem to have won universal praise. This fact of itself would have made me diffident in my censures, had not a still stronger ground been furnished by the strange contrast of the heat and long continuance of the opposition, with the nature of the faults stated as justifying it. The seductive faults, the dulcia vitia of Cowley, Marini,* or Darwin might reasonably be thought capable of corrupting the public judgment for half a century, and require a twenty years' war, campaign after campaign, in order to dethrone the usurper and re-establish the legitimate taste. But that a downright simpleness, under the affectation of simplicity, prosaic words in feeble metre, silly thoughts in childish phrases, and a preference of mean, degrading, or at best trivial associations and characters, should succeed in forming a school of imitators, a company of almost religious admirers, and this too among young men of ardent minds, liberal education, and not
with academic laurels unbestowed;
and that this bare and bald counterfeit of poetry, which is characterized as below criticism, should for nearly twenty years have well-nigh engrossed criticism, as the main, if not the only, butt of review, magazine, pamphlet, poem, and paragraph;-this is indeed matter of wonder. Of yet greater is it, that the contest should still continue as† undecided as that between Bacchus and
* [John Baptist Marini or Marino, a celebrated poet, known by the name of Il Cavalier Marino, was born at Naples, Oct. 18, 1569, died in the same city, March 21, 1625. He wrote a poem called Adonice, which was dedicated to Louis XIII. and first published at Paris in folio, 1651. He left many other poems, among them, La Strange de gl'Innocenti, Ven. 1633, 4to. and La Lira, Rime Amorose, Maritime, Boscherecce, &c. 16to. Ven. 1629.S. C.]
Without however the apprehensions attributed to the Pagan reformer of the poetic republic. If we may judge from the preface to the recent collection of his poems, Mr. W. would have answered with Xanthias
σὺ δ' ἐκ ἔδεισας τὸν ψόφον τῶν ῥημάτων,
καὶ τὰς ἀπειλάς ; ΞΑΝ. ὦ μὰ Δί, ἐδ' ἐφρόντισα.
1 Ranæ, 492-3.
["And if, bearing in mind the many Poets distinguished by this prime quality, whose names I omit to mention; yet justified by recollection of the insults which the ignorant, the incapable, and the presumptuous, have heaped upon these and my other writings, I may be permitted to anticipate the judgment of posterity upon myself, I shall declare (censurable, I grant, if
the frogs in Aristophanes; when the former descended to the realms of the departed to bring back the spirit of old and genuine poesy ;
Χ. βρεκεκεκὲξ, κοὰξ, κοάξ.
Δ. ἀλλ' ἐξόλοισθ' ἀυτῶ κοάξ.
Δ. τότῳ γὰρ ὁ νικήσετε,
οὐδέποτε. κεκράξομαι γὰρ,
ἕως ἂν ὑμῶν ἐπικρατήσω τοῦ κοάξ !
During the last year of my residence at Cambridge, 1794, I
And here let me hint to the authors of the numerous parodies, and pretended imitations of Mr. Wordsworth's style, that at once to conceal and convey wit and wisdom in the semblance of folly and dulness, as is done in the Clowns and Fools, nay even in the Dogberry, of our Shakspeare, is doubtless a proof of genius, or at all events of satiric talent; but that the attempt to ridicule a silly and childish poem, by writing another still sillier and still more childish, can only prove (if it prove any thing at all) that the parodist is a still greater blockhead than the original writer, and, what is far worse, a malignant coxcomb to boot. The talent for mimicry seems strongest where the human race are most degraded. The poor, naked halfhuman savages of New Holland were found excellent mimics: and, in civilized society, minds of the very lowest stamp alone satirize by copying. At least the difference which must blend with and balance the likeness, in order to constitute a just imitation, existing here merely in caricature, detracts from the libeller's heart, without adding an iota to the credit of his understanding.
* [Rana, 225-7, 257-66.-Ed.]
the notoriety of the fact above stated does not justify me) that I have given in these unfavorable times, evidence of exertions of this faculty upon its worthiest objects, the external universe, the moral and religious sentiments of Man, his natural affections, and his acquired passions; which have the same ennobling tendency as the productions of men, in this kind, worthy to be holden in undying remembrance."-Preface to Wordsworth's Poems, 1815.-Ed.]
became acquainted with Mr. Wordsworth's first publication, entitled Descriptive Sketches ;* and seldom, if ever, was the emergence of an original poetic genius above the literary horizon more evidently announced. In the form, style, and manner of the whole poem, and in the structure of the particular lines and periods, there is a harshness and acerbity connected and combined with words and images all a-glow, which might recall those products of the vegetable world, where gorgeous blossoms rise out of a hard and thorny rind and shell, within which the rich fruit is elaborating. The language is not only peculiar and strong, but at times knotty and contorted, as by its own impatient strength; while the novelty and struggling crowd of images, acting in conjunction with the difficulties of the style, demands always a greater closeness of attention, than poetry-at all events, than descriptive poetry-has a right to claim. It not seldom therefore justified the complaint of obscurity. In the following extract I have sometimes fancied, that I saw an emblem of the poem itself, and of the author's genius as it was then displayed.—
"Tis storm; and hid in mist from hour to hour,
The mountains, glowing hot, like coals of fire."
The poetic Psyche, in its process to full development, undergoes as many changes as its Greek namesake, the butterfly.
* [Published in 1793.-Ed.]
The Butterfly the ancient Grecians made
And to deform and kill the things whereon we feed.
And it is remarkable how soon genius clears and purifies itself from the faults and errors of its earliest products; faults which, in its earliest compositions, are the more obtrusive and confluent, because as heterogeneous elements, which had only a temporary use, they constitute the very ferment, by which themselves are carried off. Or we may compare them to some diseases, which must work on the humors, and be thrown out on the surface, in order to secure the patient from their future recurrence. I was in my twenty-fourth year, when I had the happiness of knowing Mr. Wordsworth personally, and while memory lasts, I shall hardly forget the sudden effect produced on my mind, by his recitation of a manuscript poem, which still remains unpublished, but of which the stanza and tone of style were the same as those of The Female Vagrant, as originally printed in the first volume of the Lyrical Ballads.* There was here no mark of strained thought, or forced diction, no crowd or turbulence of imagery; and, as the poet hath himself well described in his Lines on revisiting the Wye, manly reflection and human associations had given both variety, and an additional interest to natural objects, which, in the passion and appetite of the first love, they had seemed to him neither to need nor permit.† The occasional ob
[The poem to which reference is here made was intituled "An Adventure on Salisbury Plain." Mr. Wordsworth afterwards broke it up, and "The Female Vagrant" is composed out of it.—Ed]
[For nature then
That had no need of a remoter charm,
scurities, which had risen from an imperfect control over the resources of his native language, had almost wholly disappeared, together with that worse defect of arbitrary and illogical phrases, at once hackneyed and fantastic, which hold so distinguished a place in the technique of ordinary poetry, and will, more or less, alloy the earlier poems of the truest genius, unless the attention has been specifically directed to their worthlessness and incongruity.* I did not perceive any thing particular in the mere
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
II. pp. 164-5.-Ed.]
Mr. Wordsworth, even in his two earliest poems, The Evening Walk and the Descriptive Sketches, is more free from this latter defect than most of the young poets his contemporaries. It may, however, be exemplified, together with the harsh and obscure construction, in which he more often offended, in the following lines:
"Mid stormy vapors ever driving by,
Where ospreys, cormorants, and herons cry;
I hope, I need not say, that I have quoted these lines for no other purpose than to make my meaning fully understood. It is to be regretted that Mr. Wordsworth has not republished these two poems entire.1
[The passage stands thus in the last and corrected edition:
Where ospreys, cormorants, and herons cry,
Or hovering over wastes too bleak to rear