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ART. III.-WORDSWORTH'S POETRY.

The fashions of this world change; what our fathers bent before we hoot at, and him to whom we bow down, our sons will cast the clod upon and forget.

Fifteen years since, the world, following that poor school of critics of which Francis Jeffrey walked foremost, laughed at the baby-rhymes of William Wordsworth; now, that same world says that Milton trembles on his throne. In 1822 even, we find the later works of Wordsworth to be in the opinion of the Edinburgh reviewers, "a sort of prosy, solemn, obscure, feeble kind of mouthing, sadly garnished with words and phrases from Milton and the Bible,—but without nature, and without passion, and with a plentiful lack of meaning, compensated only by a large allowance of affectation and egotism.”_"The great characteristics of his sonnets is a sort of emphatic inanity; a singular barrenness and feebleness of thought, disguised under a sententious and assuming manner, and a style beyond example, verbose and obscure.” In 1835, the tones of this poor egotist swell from Ganges to Missouri, not in the tempest-tones that Byron breathed, but in the small, still voice which alike marks the God, and the servant of Truth. As Coleridge has said of Milton, he strode so far before the men of that day, as to dwarf himself by the distance; but his giant proportions are now seen.

We love and revere Wordsworth, however, not so much because a great poet, as because a great Christian Philosopher. His words to us compare with those of Milton and Southey, as the deep, human poetry of the

Gospels does, with the superhuman verse of Job and the Prophets;-we love them as poetry in the highest, divinest sense,—that which speaks of God in us. Seeking as we would to be filled with the beauty of the world without us, and seeing the marks of His hand everywhere; knowing as we do, that in man's passion and action God indeed is;-yet do we turn with joy to the Love, the Faith, the Humility of Christ, and find there a truer, a holier, and more poetic strain, than ever the muse of Greece, or the Prophets of Israel gave birth to. We know that He gave "the goodly wings unto the peacocks, and wings and feathers unto the ostrich:” that she hawk fieth by His wisdom, and stretcheth her wings toward the South: and that the eagle mounteth up at His command, and maketh her nest on high:” but we also know that He "tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb."

In like manner our heart leaps up as we glide with Thalaba over the desert, and now

“Oh joy! the signs of life appear,

The first and single fir
That on the limits of the living world

Strikes in the ice its roots.

Another and another now;
And now the Larch that spreads its arms
Down-curving like the falling wave;
And now the Aspin's scattered leaves
Grey glitter on the moveless twig;
The Poplar's varying verdure now,
And now the Birch so beautiful,

Light as a lady's plumes.-
Oh joy! the signs of life! the deer
Hath left his slot beside the way;
The little Ermine now is seen,
White wanderer of the snow;
And now from yonder pines they hear
The clatter of the Grouse's wings;
And now the snowy Owl pursues

The traveller's sledge, in hope of food;
And hark! the rosy-breasted bird,

The throstle of sweet song;
Joy, joy! the winter-wilds are left,
Green bushes now, and greener grass;
Red thickets here all berry bright,

And here the lovely flowers!”

And oft, with swimming eyes, have we sat by the Destroyer while

“Through pleasant banks the quiet brook

Went winding pleasantly;
By fragrant fir-groves now it passed;

And now through alder-shores;
Through green and fertile meadows now

It silently ran by.--
The flag-flower blossomed on its side,

The willow-tresses waved,
The flowing current furrowed round

The water-lily's floating leaf;
The fly of green and gauzy wing

Fell, sporting, down its course.
And grateful to the voyager
The freshness of the running stream,

The murmur round the prow.”

But beautiful as these word-paintings are, perfectly as they

picture nature, and through nature, God, they do not touch the heart as do the despised lines of Wordsworth,

“Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.
The budding twigs spread out their fan

To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.”

It is the spirit which whispered these simple, and, to many it may be unmeaning lines, that we bow to in the Poet of Rydal Mount; we see in that spirit a portion of the same greatness which marked Him who said that a sparrow “shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”

It is, in truth, the Christianity, the love, faith, and humility which fills all the better of Wordsworth's poems, that makes him great. His taste is often bad, and his work imperfect; but through the plaiņest and meanest robe shines the strong light of goodness, and we forget the garment.

Why have Wordsworth's poems been so unpopular? We believe mainly from two causes; one, their subdued, unworldly, and religious tone, which few can compass, and fewer look on as Poetry;— The other, their fulness of meaning, requiring them to be read with thought deep and continued. The poetry of Scott and Byron deals mainly with human passion in its unbridled, unchastened form; and needs but a little attention to be understood;—and those two men did more than all others to form the taste of the race of readers which till of late was the strong one. The tide is now turning; those that read poetry now, are becoming willing to think as they read; to read that they may learn; to dwell on other feelings than Human love, hatred, and revenge. It is no longer a mystery

"That pride,
Howe'er disguised in its own majesty,
le littleness: that he who feels contempt
For any living thing, bath faculties
Which he has never used: that thought with him

Is in its infancy." There are those now that can lead forth their children in spring, and teach them that

“One moment now may give us more

Than fifty years of reason;

Our minds shall drink at every pore

The spirit of the season.
Some silent laws our hearts will make,

Which they shall long obey;
We, for the year to come, may take

Our temper from to-day.

And from the blessed power that rolls

About, below, above,
We'll frame the measure of our souls;

They shall be tuned to love."

There are even those that believe

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God who is our home.
Heaven lies about is in our infancy!
Shades of our prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it

He sees it in his joy;
The youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is nature's priest,

And by the vision splendid

Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day."

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The sonnets, so noted for “barrenness and feebleness of meaning,” are now read and re-read by thousands; some of whom think there is more than “an emphatic inanity" in them:

- they see sense, point and truth, for instance, in that on Alfred,

“Behold a pupil of the monkish gown,
The pious Alfred, king to Justice dear;
Lord of the harp and liberating spear;
Mirror of princes! indigent renown
Might range the starry ether for a crown
Equal to his deserts; who, like the year,
Pours forth his bounty; like the day doth cheer;
And awes, like night, with mercy-tempered frown,
Ease, from this noble miser of his time,
No moment steals; pain narrows not his cares:

Though small his kingdom as a spark or gem,
Of Alfred boasts remote Jerusalem;
And Christian India, gifts with Alfred shares,
By sacred converse linked with India's clime.”

That on Papal dominion too, they think more striking for close thought, and strong language, than for “a style beyond example verbose and obscure."

“Unless to Peter's chair the viewless wind
Must come, and ask permission where to blow,
What further empire would it have? for now
A ghostly domination, unconfined
As that by dreaming bards to love assigned,
Sits there in sober truth,- to raise the low,-
Perplex the wise,-the strong to overthrow,-
Through heaven and earth to bind and to unbind!
Resist, the thunder quails thee! crouch, rebuff
Shall be thy recompense! from land to land
The ancient thrones of Christendom are stuff
For occupation of a magic wand,
And 'tis the Pope that wields it;-whether rough
Or smooth his front, our world is in his hand!”

But will Wordsworth's writings ever be popular? In the true sense of the term, never. The multitude will never read them from choice, and they never will be very fashionable. But they will be read and reaped by other writers, and their excellencies brought forward, and thrown into the arteries of literature. Many whose ideas do wonders with public taste, are themselves unknown to the public, magazines and newspaper writers serve as pipes to give their thoughts to the thirsty world, which feasts, on it knows not whose conceptions. Wordsworth will not be popular for the same reason that Milton, Spenser, and Shakspeare are not. The works of the two first few dwell upon, and of the latter the mass relish only the coarse and least poetic fibres; a thousand enjoy Bardolph and Falstaff to one that, in sober love, hangs over Hamlet and Lear.

But though to "the reading public," which Coleridge so derides in his Statesman's Manual, the calm oracles from Rydal Mount will be riddles, to the thinking public they will be full of sweetness and wisdom. Although without Dramatic power, unable to paint strong passion, or the quick and varied action of an epic, the quiet and truly Christian tone of Wordsworth's lyre, will bring to his feet many a devotee. It is useless to ridicule his language, his style, or his sentiments, for those that know him, look not at words, and lines, and phrases, but

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