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whole round world come voices to the soul of man, because it is in reality spirit that is in communion with spirit, the spirit of man with the spirit of God.
'It seems the eternal soul is clothed in thee,
With purer robes than those of flesh and blood,
Unwearied joy, and life without its cares.'
If this be Pantheism, it is not a Pantheism of the schools. Not at the moment only which is enriched by their presence, are the sights and sounds of Nature precious to him. The gathered experiences are stored in the mind, and ever and anon the treasures of memory are brought forth.
If the note of the cuckoo, that wandering voice, has once fallen upon his ear, it is with him for ever,—
And I can listen to thee yet,
Can lie upon the plain
That golden time again.'
The song of the Highland maiden, as she reaps or binds the grain, is an unforgettable melody,—
'The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.'
If a host of golden daffodils, tossing and twinkling along the margin of the bay, has gladdened his eyes, it is a vision of joy that no winter time can take away,—
These 'treasured dreams of times long past,' are dwelt upon in the poetry of Wordsworth with unfeigned pleasure, no less real than that which accompanied the magic of the first impression.
A supreme value of such a poet lies in the help he renders towards the acquisition of a habit of thoughtfulness. The bustle of constant occupation makes it difficult for us to snatch a day or an hour for undisturbed meditation, for quiet contemplation either of the eternal things around us, or of our own hearts and minds.
'The world is too much with us; late and soon,
We are strangers to ourselves as well as strangers to Nature, and our spiritual life is impoverished. Could we spare, as Wordsworth would have us see to it that we should spare, a part of our lives to the formation of a habit of thoughtfulness, we might be awakened out of the traditional life we lead, or rather acquiesce in, for it is not really ours, but the life imposed upon us by the world of social custom. Such a habit implanted would bear abundant fruit in saner action and juster emotion. Wordsworth, in his great ode on the 'Intimations of Immortality,' in a way that to some minds appears a little fantastic, ascribes to the child's view of the world a deeper significance than to that of the man. He believed that the child, new come from his divine home, was the best guide to truth, that he
looked out upon Nature with eyes undimmed by 'the film of familiarity,' and saw further than the sagest of thinkers
'Into the eternal deep
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind.'
In this poem, magnificent as it is, we have an approach to that definiteness of schematic thought which always proved fatal to Wordsworth's poetry as poetry. The phrase, 'at his best' has often to be used concerning him; and it has a special force, because the poet and the philosopher were not fused in him, because he is often merely philosophising when he believed himself to be writing poetry, and, having at any time set himself a poetic task, he carries it through doggedly, without previous enquiry at the oracle whether the gods were favourable or not. We seem, as Russell Lowell wittily said, to 'recognise two voices in him, as Stephano did in Caliban. There are Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch. If the prophet cease from dictating, the amanuensis, rather than be idle, employs his pen in jotting down some anecdotes of his master-how he one day went out and saw an old woman, and the next day did not, and so came home and dictated some verses on this ominous phenomenon, and how another day he saw a cow! These marginal annotations have been carelessly taken up into the text, have been religiously held by the pious to be orthodox scripture, and by dexterous exegesis have been made to yield deeply oracular meanings. Presently the real prophet takes up the word again, and speaks as one divinely inspired, the voice of a higher and invisible power.' It is unnecessary to illustrate the work of these two Wordsworths. They are so unlike that one has difficulty in recognising any relationship between them at all. Take this as a state
ment of facts, which might serve as an introduction in prose to a poem to follow :
'Once in a lonely hamlet I sojourned,
In which a lady driven from France did dwell;
In friendship she to me would often tell.'
This is Wordsworth the scribe, who has left many such samples of his hand. Who could believe that he is related to the author of this, for instance :
· She shall be sportive as the fawn
Of mute insensate things.
The floating clouds their state shall lend
To her; for her the willow bend;
Nor shall she fail to see,
E'en in the motions of the storm,
Grace that shall mould the maiden's form
By silent sympathy.
The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place,
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.'
'It is becoming and decorous,' to quote again from Landor, 'that due honours be paid to Wordsworth; undue have injured him. Discriminating praise, mingled with calm censure, is more beneficial than lavish praise without it.' Those who have at heart a capacity for true reverence will shrink from its bestowal where it is not truly merited. It is because undue honours are injurious, not less to him
who gives than to him who receives, that we must be careful of our praise as well as of our blame.
Unlike Milton or Goethe or Tennyson, Wordsworth was not a conscious artist, or more truly, perhaps, he was greatest when he was least conscious of how his effects were attained. He would have treated with impatience any suggestion that tended to set execution in poetry in higher place than its matter, any criticism whic'i spoke of it as primarily an art. Every great poet is a teacher,' he said; 'I wish to be considered as a teacher or as nothing.' A dangerous doctrine when so strenuously urged by a poet himself! In his anxiety to teach, just as in his anxiety to be true to Nature, he forgot at times his allegiance to his Muse. He forgot that a point cannot be pressed or returned upon as in oratory, that poetry is not concerned with the statement of facts, and that the effect must be immediate or it is not obtained at all. The business of prose is to expand, to detail, to analyse, to press home by repetition. 'Poetry,' as Bagehot said, 'must be memorable and emphatic, intense, and soon over.' It is indeed permissible, in a long poem, to relax at times the strain; the wave of thought and feeling may rise and fall, but throughout the motion must be apparent; a motionless surface argues stagnation. Wordsworth had no power of dealing with action, no faculty for the rapid development of scene and incident. His figures are statuesque and solitary, like the leech-gatherer,—
'Motionless as a cloud the old man stood.'
When we come to read the longer poems, we find yet other limitations of his genius. It would be impossible for any man to have less sense of humour, and with Words