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To breathe an elevated mood, by form
Or image unprofaned ; and I would stand,
If the night blackened with a coming storm,
Beneath some rock, listening to notes that are
The ghostly language of the ancient earth,
Or make their dim abode in distant winds.
Thence did I drink the visionary power ;
And de not profitless those fleeting moods
Of shadowy exultation ; not for this,
That they are kindred to our purer mind
And intellectual life; but that the soul,
Remembering not, retains an obscure sense
Of possible sublimity, whereto
With growing faculties she doth aspire,
With faculties still growing, feeling still
That whatsoever point they gain, they yet

Have something to pursue."
And again :

'Twere long to tell
What spring and autumn, what the winter snows,
And what the summer shade, what day and night,
Evening and morning, sleep and waking, thought
From sources inexhaustible, poured forth
To feed the spirit of religious love
In which I walked with Nature. But let this
Be not forgetten, that I still retained
My first creative sensibility ;
That by the regular action of the world
My soul was unsubdued. A plastic power
Abode with me; a forming hand, at times
Rebellious, acting in a devious mood ;
A local spirit of his own, at war
With general tendency, but, for the most,
Subservient strictly to external things
With which it communed. An auxiliar light
Came from my mind, which on the setting sun
Bestowed new splendour ; the melodious birds,
The fluttering breezes, fountains that run on,
Murmuring so sweetly in themselves, obeyed
A like dominion, and the midnight storm
Grew darker in the presence of my eye :
Hence my obeisance, my devotion hence,
And hence my transport.

1

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NATURE'S INFLUENCE ON WORDSWORTH

169

Nor should this, perchance,
Pass unrecorded, that I still had loved
The exercise and produce of a toil,
Than analytic industry to me
More pleasing, and whose character I deem
Is more poetic as resembling more
Creative agency. The song would speak
Of that interminable building reared
By observation of affinities
In objects where no brotherhood exists
To passive minds. My seventeenth year was come !
And, whether from this habit rooted now
So deeply in my mind, or from excess
In the great social principle of life
Coercing all things into sympathy,
To inorganic natures were transferred
My own enjoyments; or the power of truth
Coming in revelation did converse
With things that really are, I, at this time,
Saw blessings spread around me like a sea.
Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on,
From Nature and her overflowing soul,
I had received so much that all my thoughts
Were steeped in feeling : I was only then
Contented, when with bliss ineffable
I felt the sentiment of Being spread
O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still ;
O’er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
And human knowledge, to the human eye
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart ;
O'er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings,
Or beats the gladsome air ; o'er all that glides
Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself,
And mighty depth of waters.”

At Cambridge he attended little to the studies of the place. “He began residence at seventeen,” says Mr. Myers, “ and his northern nature was late to flower. There

seems, in fact, to have been even less of visible promise about him than we should have expected ; but rather something untamed and insubordinate, something heady and self-confident ; an independence that seemed only rusticity, and an indolent ignorance which assumed too readily the tones of scorn.” But his mind was not idle :

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“Oft when the dazzling show no longer new

Had ceased to dazzle, ofttimes did I quit
My comrades, leave the crowd, buildings and groves,
And as I paced alone the level fields
Far from those lovely sights and sounds sublime
With which I had been conversant, the mind
Drooped not ; but there into herself returning,
With prompt rebound seemed fresh as heretofore.
At least I more distinctly recognised
Her native instincts: let me dare to speak
A higher language, say that now I felt
What independent solaces were mine,
To mitigate the injurious sway of place
Or circumstance, how far soever changed
In youth, or to be changed in after years.
As if awakened, summoned, roused, constrained,
I looked for universal things ; perused
The common countenance of earth and sky:
Earth, nowhere unembellished by some trace
Of that first Paradise whence man was driven ;
And sky, whose beauty and bounty are expressed
By the proud name she bears—the name of Heaven.
I called on both to teach me what they might ;
Or, turning the mind in upon herself,
Pored, watched, expected, listened, spread my thoughts
And spread them with a wider creeping ; felt
Incumbencies more awful, visitings
Of the Upholder of the tranquil soul,
That tolerates the indignities of Time,
And, from the centre of Eternity
All finite motions overruling, lives
In glory immutable. But peace ! enough
Here to record that I was mounting now
To such community with highest truth-
A track pursuing, not untrod before,
From strict analogies by thought supplied,
Or consciousnesses not to be subdued.
To every natural form, rock, fruit, or flower,
Even the loose stones that cover the highway,

HIS ABSORPTION IN NATURE

171

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I gave a moral life : I saw them feel,
Or linked them to some feeling : the great mass
Lay bedded in a quickening soul, and all
That I beheld respired with inward meaning.
Add that whate'er of Terror or of Love
Or Beauty, Nature's daily face put on
From transitory passion, unto this
I was as sensitive as waters are
To the sky's influence in a kindred mood
Of passion ; was obedient as a lute
That waits upon the touches of the wind.
Unknown, unthought of, yet was I most rich-
I had a world about me'twas my own;
I made it, for it only lived to me,

And to the God who sees into the heart." Now, how were the poet's sensibilities thus keenly awakened to the glories and the beauties of Nature ? What first made him alive to the joy of poring over every shade of color, every minute variation of form in natural things, and seeking in them, with never-ending satisfaction, images of human life in its manifold relations? And what influences governed his expression of what he saw and felt? The “ Prelude” is silent on these points. It merely chronicles the phases of his delight in looking and imagining. There was in Wordsworth to the last not a little of that untamed rustic egotism which Shakespeare caricatured in Holofernes and Sir Andrew Aguecheek ; the egotism which, owing to slight contact with other human beings, is never tired of contemplating the strangeness of its own moods. “I am a fellow of the strangest mind in the world," said Sir Andrew, and in these words expressed an undying characteristic of the isolated man who seldom makes comparison of his own mind with the minds of his fellow-creatures. Wordsworth’s distinction lay not in what he felt, but in the play of his imagination on what he felt. He magnifies the strangeness of his absorption in Nature by representing it as a mysterious, inexplicable feat, originating he knew not how, but

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present with him from his earliest years, and gaining no strength but from its own impetus. - The ‘Prelude' is a work of good augury for human nature," Mr. Myers says, in commenting on the poem. “ We felt in reading it as if the stock of mankind were sound. The soul seems going on from strength to strength by the mere development of her inborn power.” The “Prelude” is a noble poem, but this particular feature of it I should consider a weakness, and not a strength. No man can stand alone ; the aspiration to do so is as inhuman as the achievement is impossible. The soul that seeks to isolate itself from its fellows must infallibly harden and wither.

When, however, we turn to his early poems, and to his prosaic notes and illustrations of them, we can see clearly enough the continuity of his descent from the great poets who had written before him.

The “Evening Walk” and the “Descriptive Sketches” were published in 1793. Commenting many years afterward on the couplet :

“And fronting the bright west, yon oak entwines
Its darkening boughs and leaves in stronger lines,”

“ This is feebly and imperfectly expressed ; but I recollect distinctly the very spot where this first struck me.

It was on the way between Hawkshead and Ambleside, and gave me extreme pleasure. The moment was important in my poetical history; for I date from it my consciousness of the infinite variety of natural appearances which had been unnoticed by the poets of any age or country, so far as I was acquainted with them; and I made a resolution to supply in some degree the deficiency. I could not at that time have been above fourteen years of age.” There was more, then, than mere disinterested delight in the poet's contemplation of Nature ; mingled with that delight was a poet's ambition, and the joy of having found an untrodden

he says :

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