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he intends to write from its common orbit, fixes it, like a new star, in his own higher firmament, and there contemplates it beneath the gleaming lights and mysterious shadows of its new sphere. It is in this respect that he differs so widely in habit of thought from Coleridge, who was also a muser in his way. All his thoughts in any one poem flow as surely from a distinct centre as the fragrance from a flower. With Coleridge they flit away down every new avenue of vague suggestion, till we are lost in the inextricable labyrinth of tangled associations. The same spiritual freedom which set Wordsworth's imagination in motion, also controlled and fixed it on a single focus. And this he himself noted in contrasting his own early mental life with his friend's abstract and vagrant habits of fancy :

“ I had forms distinct
To steady me ; each airy thought revolved
Round a substantial centre, which at once
Incited it to motion and controlled.
I did not pine like one in cities bred,
As was thy melancholy lot, dear friend,
Great spirit as thon art, in endless dreams
Of sickliness, disjoining, joining, things

Without the light of knowledge.” That this spiritual freedom, acting through the imagination, and drawing the objects of the poet's contemplation voluntarily and purposely into his own world of thought, is the most distinguishing characteristic of Wordsworth's poetry, no one can doubt who compares him with any other of our great poets. All other poets create their poetry, and even their meditative poetry, in the act of throwing themselves into the life of the scene or train of thought or feeling they are contemplating : Wordsworth deliberately withdraws his imagination from the heart of his picture to contemplate it in its spiritual relations. Thus, for instance, Tennyson and Wordsworth start from the same mood, the one in the song “Tears, idle tears," the other in the poem called the “Fountain." Tennyson's exquisite poem is well known :

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“ Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean ;

Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld ;
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge ;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

* Prelude, book viii. p. 224.

Ah, sad and strange, as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken’d birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square ;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.
Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;

O Death in Life, the days that are no more.”
Now turn to Wordsworth's treatment of the same theme:

“My eyes are dim with childish tears,

My heart is idly stirred;
For the same sound is in my ears

Which in those days I heard.
Thus fares it still our decay ;

And yet the wiser mind
Mourns less for what age takes away

Than what it leaves behind.
The blackbird amid leafy trees,

The lark above the hill,
Let loose their carols when they please,

Are quiet when they will.
With Nature never do they wage

A foolish strife; they see
A happy youth, and their old age

Is beautif and free.
But we are pressed by heavy laws;

And often, glad no more,
We wear a face of joy because

We have been glad of yore.” Tennyson continues in the same strain of emotion with which he begins, picturing the profound unspeakable sadness with which we survey the irrecoverable past; Wordsworth no sooner touches the same theme than he checks the current of emotion, and, to use his own words,“ instead of being restlessly propelled” by it, he makes it the object of contemplation, and," with no unconquerable sighs, yet with a melancholy in the soul, sinks inward into himself, from thought to thought, to a steady remonstrance and a high resolve.” And thus meditating, he wrings from the temporary sadness fresh conviction that the ebbing away, both in spirit and in appearance, of the brightest past, sad as it must ever be, is not so sad a thing as the weak yearning which, in departing, it often leaves stranded on the soul, to cling to the appearance when the spirit is irrecoverably lost. There is no other great poet who thus redeems new ground for spiritual meditation from beneath the very sweep of the tides of the most engrossing affections, and quietly maintains it in possession of the musing intellect. There is no other but Wordsworth who has led us “ to those sweet counsels between head and heartwhich flash upon the absorbing emotions of the moment the steady light of a calm infinite world. None but Wordsworth have ever so completely “transmuted,” by an imaginative spirit, unsatisfied yearnings into eternal truth. No other poet ever brought out as he has done

“ The soothing thoughts that spring

Out of human suffering;” or so tenderly preserved the

" wall-flower scents From out the crumbling ruins of fallen pride;" or taught us how,

“By pain of heart, now checked, and now impelled,

The intellectual power through words and things

Went sounding on a dim and perilous way.” He has himself described this self-determination of his genius to “preserve and enlarge the freedom in himselfin lines so beautiful, that, though we have already lingered long on this point, we cannot forbear quoting them :

“ Within the soul a faculty abides

That, with interpositions that would hide
And darken, so can deal that they become
Contingencies of pomp, and serve to exalt
Her native brightness. As the ample moon,
In the deep stillness of a summer even
Rising behind a thick and lofty grove,
Burns like an unconsuming fire of light
In the green trees; and, kindling on all sides
Their leafy umbrage, turns the dusky veil
Into a substance glorious as her own,
Yea with her own incorporated, by power
Capacious and serene. Like power abides
In man's celestial spirit; virtue thus
Sets forth and magnifies herself; thus feeds
A calm, a beautiful, and silent fire
From the incumbrances of mortal life,
From error, disappointment, nay, from guilt ;
And sometimes, so relenting justice wills,

From palpable oppressions of despair."* Of other poets, Tennyson alone may seem in some of his more thoughtful poems (the “ In Memoriam” and “The Two Voices”) to have approached Wordsworth's domain in employing the spiritual imagination to illuminate the moods of human emotion. In reality, however, even these poems are quite distinct in kind. They are more like glittering sparks flying upwards from the

Excursion, book iv. p. 152.

flames of self-consuming aspirations than the quiet, stedfast, and spiritual lights of Wordsworth's insight.

But it is by no means principally in treating these deeper themes that Wordsworth brings the most of this conscious, voluntary, imaginative force to bear upon his subjects. All his most characteristic poems bear vivid traces of the same mental process. In his poems on subjects of natural beauty it is perhaps even more remarkable than in his treatment of mental subjects where this contemplative withdrawal from the immediate tyranny of a present emotion, in order to gain a higher point of view, seems more natural. But in all his most characteristic poems on nature there is just the same method : first, a subjection of the mind to the scene or object or feeling studied; then a withdrawing into his deeper self to exhaust its meaning. Thus, in the fine poems on Yarrow, the point of departure is the craving of the mind to see an object long ago painted in the imagination; but instead of yielding to the current of that feeling, the poet checks himself, and meditates whether the imaginative anticipation may not in itself be a richer wealth than any reality which could take its place:

“ Let beeves and homebred kine partake

The sweets of Burn-mill meadow,
The swan on still St. Mary's Lake

Float double swan and shadow !
We will not see them, will not go

To-day, nor yet to-morrow :
Enough if in our hearts we know

There's such a place as Yarrow.
Be Yarrow stream unseen, unknown !

It must, or we shall rue it;
We have a vision of our own,-

Ah, why should we undo it?
The treasured dreams of time long past,

We'll keep them, winsome Marrow;
For when we're there, although 'tis fair,

'Twill be another Yarrow." And in the same way, in the poem on “Yarrow visited," after brooding over its beauties, he puts them at a distance from him, to distinguish the influence of the "waking dream,” “the image that hath perished," in helping him to see the reality : "I see; but not by sight alone, loved Yarrow, have I won thee.” And then finally, in revisiting the same spot in old age, we have first the picture of the present; and, as the memory of the past, with its regrets, naturally follows, again the poet shakes himself free from this—the natural mood of the natural man, so to speakin recognising the beauties of happier years, to win the higher spiritual insight that

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" the visions of the past Sustain the heart in feeling Life as she is-our changeful life,

With friends and kindred dealing." And he ends this most perfect triad of spiritual imaginations with the characteristic verse,

Flow on for ever, Yarrow stream,

Fulfil thy pensive duty,
Well pleased that future bards should chant

For simple hearts thy beauty;
To dream-light dear while yet unseen,

Dear to the common sunshine,
And dearer still, as now I feel,

To memory's shadowy moonshine.”
As more striking illustrations of the same poetic method —
more striking simply because the subjects are apparently so
purely descriptive that there would seem to be less room for
this "sinking inward into himself from thought to thought”-

» we may recall those daffodils transfigured before the "inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude;" the cuckoo, which, though

babbling only to the vale of sunshine and of flowers,” he spiritualises into a “wandering voice,” that “tellest unto me a tale of visionary hours ;" the mountain echo, which sends her“ unsolicited reply” to the same babbling wanderer; the nut-laden hazel-branches, whose luxuriant feast first threw him into “that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay tribute to ease,” and then so “patiently gave up their quict being,” that, haunted by remorse, he is compelled to exclaim, “with gentle hand touch, for there is a spirit in the woods;" the daisy, that recalls him from “stately passions” to “the homely sympathy that heeds the common life our nature breeds;" and the mists, which “magnify and spread the glories of the sun's bright head.” But there is no finer instance of Wordsworth's selfwithdrawing mood in gazing at external things than that of the lines on the Boy of Windermere who mocked the owls. For real lovers of Wordsworth, these lines have effected more in helping them adequately to imagine the full depth of the human imagination, and to feel the inexhaustible wealth of Nature's symbols

, than any magnificence of storm or shipwreck or Alpine solitude :

“ There was a boy : ye knew him well, ye cliffs

And islands of Winander ! many a time
At evening, when the earliest stars began
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone
Beneath the trees or by the glimmering lake ;
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm, and to his mouth

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