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worth it 'was even a frightful minus quantity. What a cramping limitation is that! Then the longer poems are structureless. He does not seem to have been capable of handling any but detached emotions, and these only in their simplest elements, and arising out of the simplest relationships of life; the affections of a man for friends, for wife or children, his feelings in the presence of the most universal sources of feeling, fear, joy, love and death. A subject that, in its poetic treatment demands scheme, proportional development, in a word, poetic architectonics, was beyond his strength, or rather did not lie within the verge of his own special demesne. While then the Excursion' and the 'Prelude' contain fine meditative passages, rich in noble and affecting thought, the transcripts of his own spiritual broodings, they are very far from being essential poetry. When it becomes possible to pick out passages or lines from a poem which suffer no loss from the absence of the context, or, as in the case of some of Wordsworth’s longer poems, with the positive gain to the reader of a feeling of relief, such a work may be set down at once among the mass of unsuccessful poetry, of poetry that has fallen short of the excellence at which it aimed. For, as has already been said, it is not in the massing of details that the poet's province lies, but in leaving upon his reader's mind one pure simple affecting outline, one undying image of perfect feature. The Muse is not easily won over to extend her favour so far as to preside over the production of an epic or philosophic poem of a dozen books. Once or twice in the history of the world to a highly honoured son she has permitted the successful achievement of such a task, but only once or twice. Many whom she has favoured with an occasional smile, have too hastily presumed upon her con
stancy of kindness, and have embarked upon enterprises for which they had neither native strength nor heavenly mandate. A philosophical teacher Wordsworth aspired to be, and a philosophical teacher he was, but his philosophical doctrines are not the source of his greatness.
When he introduces a definite moral or spiritual precept into his verse, the poetry loses, and we are little the better of the precept. But, fortunately, at times when he was unconscious of it, the lady of poesy, instead of her sister of philosophy, stood by his side, and at these times,
‘From worlds not quickened by the sun
Wordsworth's life was self-centred. He was far from perfect as a man as he was far from perfect as a poet. A solitary from his youth, living apart from men, communing with his own heart, and with the world of Nature as his chief companion, caring little to extend his horizon, the narrowness and egotism which forced him to an over-estimate of the worth of his own observations and reflections were inevitable; and these, too, were probably the reasons why he was no sure critic of his own poetry. But while not a sure critic of it, he often struck on the point of its chief excellence. As Emerson tells us, “He preferred such of his poems as touched the affections to any others; for whatever is didactic,—what theories of society, and so on, might perish quickly; but whatever combined a truth with an affection was good to-day and good for ever.' How admirable this is ! Dealing with the simple affections, with the hopes and fears that are common to all, with the duties that all have imposed upon them, dealing with these as they
appear among plain country folk, withdrawn from the feverish and hurried life of cities and their societies dominated by ephemeral fashions and empty displays, here Wordsworth shines, and will continue to shine. Whatever is in him of calculated didacticism, of theories of society, will, no doubt, as he anticipated, decay; but because he has so marvellously combined truths with affections, he is good to-day and good for ever. Wordsworth's mission seems to have been, above all, to find joys and consolations for the spirit of man where they had lain unsuspected. It was his good fortune to discover 'a joy in widest commonalty spread,' and to make known 'the soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering.' A poet who can do this, who can thus turn man's extremity to glorious gain, will remain humanity's noble and puissant friend. We have seen that he had weaknesses, personal faults as well as poetical, but we may pass lightly over the shortcomings of so great a benefactor. There is no genius so all-embracing as to be without limitations, and we do well in thinking of a great man's failure to reach perfection as a mere mark of his humanity. It has been said that his poetry lacks fire and passion. Fire and passion are not to be expected in the poetry of a man of meditative cast; its qualities are of another, and perhaps a rarer order. As Arnold wrote :
Time may restore us in his course
mind and Byron's force ;
And yet does not at times an unlooked-for flash reveal the presence of an inspiring force beneath the quiet surface of his mind?
' Armour rusting in his halls
Quell the Scot,” exclaims the Lance-
We must not too hastily conclude that so great a man and poet was lacking in any of the essentials of exalted manhood or of true poetry. And here surely is passion in a sonnet addressed to Toussant l'Ouverture-passion generous and splendid,
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Wordsworth's gift to his race lies in his awakening power, disclosing to us undreamt - of and inexhaustible sources of pure pleasures and unfailing consolations to which we are blinded by devotion to the things of the passing hour,-in this awakening power, and in his power of increasing our love and reverence for humanity in its humblest place or estate of fortune, by withdrawing our attention from the objects of every-day ambition, and fixing it upon the destiny and the feelings we share with all our fellows of like mortal lineage. Throughout his poetry, his unswerving loyalty to whatsoever things are just and lovely, and of good report, gives us fresh confidence in life. No poet has shown so triumphantly how strong in its barest simplicity may be that poetry, whose theme is
No other than the very heart of man.'
The human mind, in the effort to give artistic expression to its multiform life, has pursued two broadly differing methods, each having its root in a soil of moral, intellectual, spiritual and social conditions foreign to the other. The one method is governed by a determination to attempt artistic expression of that alone which is seen and grasped in its entirety; the other is mastered by the desire to suggest outlying truths not yet wholly brought into the region of clearly-defined knowledge. The characteristics of the first, precision of idea, singleness of emotional motive, simplicity of form, are best exhibited in the Greek drama. Those of the second, suggestiveness in thought, complexity in its presentment, are most easily accessible to the student in the Elizabethan or Shakesperian drama. The forms of the Greek faith, the conceptions of the gods and goddesses of Olympus, were the result of an endeavour, in answer to a pressing intellectual need, to reduce to harmony the visible and invisible powers at work in the universe. The Greek artists, while they clearly recognised that a valid and final explanation of Nature and man was