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The following analogy will, I am apprehensive, appear dim and fantastic, but in reading Bartram's Travels I could not help transcribing the following lines as a sort of allegory, or connected simile and metaphor of Wordsworth's intellect and genius.— "The soil is a deep, rich, dark mould, on a deep stratum of tenacious clay; and that on a foundation of rocks, which often break through both strata, lifting their backs above the surface.* The trees which chiefly grow here are the gigantic, black oak; magnolia grandi-flora; fraximus excelsior; platane; and a few stately tulip-trees." What Mr. Wordsworth will produce, it is not for me to prophesy: but I could pronounce with the liveliest convictions what he is capable of producing. It is the FIRST GENUINE PHILOSOPHIC POEM.†
* [Travels through North and South Carolina, &c., and the Cherokee country, &c., by W. Bartram, 1792, p. 36. At p. 397 of this book Mr. Wordsworth may have found his authority for the strawberry gathering of the Cherokee girls spoken of in Ruth. 'He told of girls—a happy rout!" &c.-S. C.]
[Mr. Coleridge has spoken of "the poem so completely Wordsworth's commencing
Three years she grew in sun and shower."
It is indeed exquisitely Wordsworthian, and there are many others of our great poet which, like this, some in an equal degree, are characterized by a most transparent diction which holds, as in a crystal shrine, a subtle strain of thought and feeling, that seems so intimately united with the peculiar words in which it is uttered as to be almost one with them. Such are the
The preceding criticism will not, I am aware, avail to overcome the prejudices of those, who have made it a business to attack and ridicule Mr. Wordsworth's compositions.
Truth and prudence might be imaged as concentric circles. The poet may perhaps have passed beyond the latter, but he has confined himself far within the bounds of the former, in designating these critics, as "too petulant to be passive to a genuine poet, Lines to H. C. six years old. The Highland Girl, She was a Phantom of delight, and others.
Due honor is done to Peter Bell, at this time, by students of poetry in general, but some, even of Mr. Wordsworth's greatest admirers, do not quite satisfy me in their admiration of the Wagoner, a poem which my dear uncle, Mr. Southey, preferred even to the former. Ich will meine Denkungsart hierin niemanden aufdringen, as Lessing says: I will force my way of thinking on nobody, but take the liberty, for my own gratification, to express it. The sketches of hill and valley in his poem have a lightness and spirit—an Allegro touch—distinguishing them from the grave and elevated splendor which characterizes Mr. Wordsworth's representations of Nature in general, and from the pensive tenderness of those in The White Doe, while it harmonizes well with the human interest of the piece: indeed it is the harmonious sweetness of the composition which is most dwelt upon by its special admirers. In its course it describes, with bold brief touches, the striking mountain tract from Grasmere to Keswick; it commences with an evening storm among the mountains, presents a lively interior of a country inn during midnight, and concludes after bringing us in sight of St. John's Vale and the Vale of Keswick seen by day break"Skiddaw touched with rosy light," and the prospect from Nathdale Fell "hoar with the frost-like dews of dawn:" thus giving a beautiful and wellcontrasted Panorama, produced by the most delicate and masterly strokes of the pencil. Well may Mr. Ruskin, a fine observer and eloquent describer of various classes of natural appearances, speak of Mr. Wordsworth as the great poetic landscape painter of the age. But Mr. Ruskin has found how seldom the great landscape painters are powerful in expressing human passions and affections on canvass, or even successful in the introduction of human figures into their foregrounds: whereas in the poetic paintings of Mr. Wordsworth the landscape is always subordinate to a higher interest; certainly, in the Wagoner, the little sketch of human nature which occupies, as it were, the front of that encircli back-ground, the picture of Benjamin and his temptations, his humble friends and the mute companions of his way, has a character of its own, combining with sportiveness a homely pathos, which must ever be delightful to some of those who are thoroughly conversant with the spirit of Mr. Wordsworth's poetry. It may be compared with the ale-house scene in Tam O'Shanter, parts of Voss's Luise or Ovid's Baucis and Philemon; though it differs from each of them as much as they differ from each other. The Epilogue carries on the feeling of the piece very beautifully.-S. C.]
and too feeble to grapple with him ;*** men of palsied imaginations, in whose minds all healthy action is languid ;*** who, therefore, feed as the many direct them, or with the many are greedy after vicious provocatives."*
So much for the detractors from Wordsworth's merits. On the other hand, much as I might wish for their fuller sympathy, I dare not flatter myself, that the freedom with which I have declared my opinions concerning both his theory and his defects, most of which are more or less connected with his theory, either as cause or effect, will be satisfactory or pleasing to all the poet's admirers and advocates. More indiscriminate than mine their admiration may be deeper and more sincere it can not be. But I have advanced no opinion either for praise or censure, other than as texts introductory to the reasons which compel me to form it. Above all, I was fully convinced that such a criticism was not only wanted; but that, if executed with adequate ability, it must conduce, in no mean degree, to Mr. Wordsworth's reputation. His fame belongs to another age, and can neither be accelerated nor retarded. How small the proportion of the defects are to the beauties, I have repeatedly declared; and that no one of them originates in deficiency of poetic genius. Had they been more and greater, I should still, as a friend to his literary character in the present age, consider an analytic display of them as pure gain; if only it removed, as surely to all reflecting minds even the foregoing analysis must have removed, the strange mistake, so slightly grounded yet so widely and industriously propagated, of Mr. Wordsworth's turn for simplicity! I am not half as much irritated by hearing his enemies abuse him for vulgarity of style, subject, and conception; as I am disgusted with the gilded side of the same meaning, as displayed by some affected admirers, with whom he is, forsooth, a "sweet, simple poet!" and so natural, that little master Charles and his younger sister are so charmed with them, that they play at "Goody Blake," or at" Johnny and Betty Foy!"
Were the collection of poems, published with these biographical sketches, important enough (which I am not vain enough to
* [Supplement to the Preface. P. W. iii. p. 322.
The next paragraph to this sentence, with a small foot-note, is with. drawn; respecting which see the Introduction.-S.C.]
believe), to deserve such a distinction; even as I have done, so would I be done unto.
For more than eighteen months have the volume of Poems, entitled SIBYLLINE LEAVES, and the present volumes, up to this page, been printed, and ready for publication. But, ere I speak of myself in the tones, which are alone natural to me under the circumstances of late years, I would fain present myself to the Reader as I was in the first dawn of my literary life :
When Hope grew round me, like the climbing vine,
For this purpose I have selected from the letters, which I wrote home from Germany, those which appeared likely to be most interesting, and at the same time most pertinent to the title of this work.
* [Coleridge's Poetical Works, p. 181.—S. C.
Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma. Georg. II. v. 82.—Ed]
ON Sunday morning, September 16, 1798, the Hamburg packet set sail from Yarmouth and I, for the first time in my life, beheld my native land retiring from me. At the moment of its disappearance-in all the kirks, churches, chapels, and meetinghouses, in which the greater number, I hope, of my countrymen were at that time assembled, I will dare question whether there was one more ardent prayer offered up to heaven, than that which I then preferred for my country. "Now then," (said I to a gentleman who was standing near me), we are out of our country." y." "Not yet, not yet!" he replied, and pointed to the sea; "This, too, is a Briton's country." This bon mot gave a fillip to my spirits, I rose and looked round on my fellow-passengers, who were all on the deck. We were eighteen in number, videlicet, five Englishmen, an English lady, a French gentleman and his servant, an Hanoverian and his servant, a Prussian, a Swede, two Danes, and a Mulatto boy, a German tailor and his wife (the smallest couple I ever beheld), and a Jew. We were all on the deck; but in a short time I observed marks of dismay. The lady retired to the cabin in some confusion, and many of the faces round me assumed a very doleful and frog-colored appearance; and within an hour the number of those on deck was lessened by one half. I was giddy, but not sick, and the giddiness soon went away, but left a feverishness and want of appetite, which I attributed, in great measure, to the sava Mephitis of the bilge-water; and it was certainly not decreased by the exportations from the cabin. However, I was well enough to join the able-bodied passengers, one of whom observed not inaptly, the