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Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills ; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led : more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all ;-I cannot paint
What then I was, The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion ; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite ; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.-- That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed ; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth ; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Not harsh, nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man ;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth ; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,-both what they half create,
And what perceive ; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

LINES WRITTEN ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY”

179

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

Nor perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay :
For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river ; thou my dearest friend,
My dear, dear friend ; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister ! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her : 'tis her privilege
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy; for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee : and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure ; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies ; oh ! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations ! Nor, perchance,
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence-wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together ; and that I, so long
A worshipper of nature, hither came

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Unwearied in that service : rather say
With warmer love-oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake !"

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This poem is characteristic of the loftiest side of Wordsworth's genius. In it he struck for the first time the sublime note that has drawn men after him as the prophet of a new delight, a full-voiced speaker of things that all feel dimly and vaguely, but which no poet before him had expressed with such force. But mark, as confirming what I have said about the gradual character of transitions in poetry, that both the rhythm of Wordsworth's lines and the feeling expressed are developments from Cowper. The level Ouse flowed through a flatter landscape than the Derwent, and there was a fire and majesty in Wordsworth's stronger spirit that we look for in vain in the gentle Cowper. But the direction of their feelings was the same ; the rhythm of their verse had much in common; Wordsworth's torch was kindled at Cowper's. A great poet creates the taste by which he is enjoyed,” Wordsworth said, and the saying is often repeated. But it is isolating him too much to say that he created the taste that enjoyed his Nature poetry. We can believe this only when we ignore all that happened in the half century between Pope's death and the appearance of the "Lyrical Ballads."

No: the current formula that Wordsworth created the taste by which he is enjoyed is only a half or a quarter truth. The currency that the saying has obtained is due chiefly to a vague impression, such as often arises when the facts of history are mingled together and fancifully rearranged in the popular memory--a vague impression that all Wordsworth's

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HOSTILE RECEPTION OF

LYRICAL BALLADS”

181

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poetry was received with a howl of derision and ridi-
cule when first submitted to the public. There were
three veins in one volume—“Tintern Abbey Lines,"
"Guilt and Sorrow," and the “ Lyrical Ballads.” Now,
it was not against what is commonly understood by his
Nature poetry,—such poetry as I have quoted,—that the
storm was directed, but against some of his lyrical
ballads, strictly so called : “The Idiot Boy,” “Goody
Blake,” and “The Thorn.” And the storm did not
become loud and long till Wordsworth not only
defended these poems in his famous Preface, but with
aggressive obstinacy maintained that all true poetry
must be composed on the same principles. Further,
though the storm against these poems has long since
subsided into a calm, the taste for them has not yet
been created. Even Mr. Myers admits that “The
Thorn," "The Idiot Boy,” and “Goody Blake and
Harry Gill” have been “justly blamed for triviality.”
As I am one of the few who do not agree with this ver-
dict, having a natural taste for such grotesque mix.
tures of pathos and rough humor,-a taste not created
by Wordsworth, but more probably by a bucolic up-
bringing -I am all the less likely to be biassed in the
admission that the taste is not general.

These lyrical ballads, which owed their origin to an accident, are certainly strange and original, fully colored by the poet's individuality. The idea of writing them probably occurred to Wordsworth when he was conversing with Coleridge over the German imitations of Percy's old English ballads. The idea of writing the “ Ancient Mariner” occurred in the course of the same companionship, and the difference between them and the “Mariner” represents the difference in individual character between Wordsworth and Cole. ridge. The two friends began writing the “Mariner" together, but their conceptions were so different that Wordsworth left Coleridge to finish it.

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CHAPTER XIII

WORDSWORTH-continued

the 1 Tate

1 writ well

THE IDIOT BOY"- PROSE V. POETRY-COLERIDGE ON WORDS

WORTH

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IF you

have read some of the lyrical ballads to which I directed you, you will not, I think, be surprised that they appeared trivial, absurd, and even repulsive to the generality of readers of poetry when first they made their appearance. The wonder, rather, is that they found as many readers as they did, for though many mocked, a considerable number read them, as appears from the fact that a second edition was called for in 1800. This could hardly have been the case if the vein of sentiment had been altogether new in literature. Sensibility to the joys and sorrows of humble folk, a disposition never entirely absent from civilized communities, we may well believe, had been deliberately cultivated during the latter part of the eighteenth century as an artistic motive. A whole school of prose fiction ministered to this sentiment, the most prominent examples of which are Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" and “Sentimental Journey," where the sentiment appears casually, and Mackenzie's "Man of Feeling," where it is the dominant feeling. Universal sympathy, tender interest in every-thing that lives and moves, was the note of this school. Burns wore out two copies of the “Man of Feeling" carrying it about in his pocket; and it doubtless helped to awaken and foster in him the tenderness of heart that inspired his “ Address to the Mouse.” Sensibility, in fact, pervaded literature during the last forty years of the century, and the tender

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