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NEVER were the predictions of a prophet more fully verified than the anticipations of ultimate fame entertained by William Wordsworth. Through half a century he bravely and perseveringly contended against the bitter animadversions of the most highly esteemed critic of the age and the chilling neglect of the public; trusting to the genius which inspired him, and confiding in the certain triumph of the truthful and the beautiful;-never did the lamp even flicker, but burnt steadily, brightly, intensely on. Whilst living, he had little more than the gratification of seeing his works appreciated by the discerning few but with the never failing power of that which is really good, the eirele is now so far extended that he has a hundred readers where, five-and-twenty years ago, he had one.
In compliance with this vastly, increased demand; we put forth a cheap edition of his Poetry, availing ourselves of every piece which expired copyright places within our reach.
THE LIFE OF WORDSWORTH.
WHY should the life of a poet be written? May it not be said, as Atterbury asserted, when it was decided by the assembled wits to place the best epitaph upon a tomb that ever was chiselled,— 666 Dryden' is enough; they who know his works want no more. they who do not know them would not be enlightened by the most eloquent eulogy?" May it not be observed, I say, that in the poetry posterity will have all it will desire to know of the Poet? In a great measure it is so; but still there is a praiseworthy curiosity to learn how "he lived, and moved, and had his being," who has so greatly contributed to our pleasure and instruction. The battles of the Hero may be compared to the poems of the Poet; we are anxious to follow the former to his hearth-stone, and see how he looked in his robe de chambre, among the ties that bind common men; why then should we not have the same feeling towards the Poet? His poems may become as famous as the battles, and exercise as much influence over his race. Where would the memory of the heroes of the Iliad now be without the songs of Homer?
Lord Byron, in one of his letters to Moore, says, "I cannot get people to understand that poetry is the expression of excited passion; and that there is no such thing as a life of passion any more than of a continuous earthquake or an eternal fire;" which would imply, that a life could not be all poetry. To this opinion his lordship's own life was a partial contradiction, and that of Wordsworth a complete one. Poetry was the very "essence of his being;" in it he lived and breathed. Like the philosopher in "Rasselas," he thought that "nothing could be useless to the poet. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination: he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little." From the great and beautiful objects of nature, the mighty ocean, the glorious rising and setting sun, the imposing mountain, the cataract or gently-gliding stream, the sweet flower, even to the meanest utensil or tool, the pail or spade, nothing with him was void of poetry: he was "of imagination all compact;" and as Shakespeare's banished duke found "good in everything," so did
Wordsworth's poetic mind find that for which his spirit always thirsted, in objects which to others would seem prosaic and barren: he wrote as he lived, he lived as he wrote.
This life, then, was the "passion" which Byron falsely pronounced to be impossible to be continuous, as Wordsworth proves himself, when he says:
"The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
But, in addition to this, Wordsworth's was a metaphysical as well as an imaginative mind, and the two faculties worked constantly together. He says he "employed them upon the worthiest objects, the external universe, the moral and religious sentiments of man, the natural affections, and his acquired passions; which have the same ennobling tendency as the productions of men, in this kind, worthy to be holden in undying remembrance."
With most of us poetry is a luxury, to be indulged in occasionally only, for fear of being cloyed; but with Wordsworth it was common food, the very "daily bread" he prayed for. Throughout life he directed all his views, all his energies, to this one object, more persistently, more continuously, than even the most ambitious have pursued wealth and honours. He always contrived to reside in romantic spots, rich in the beauties of nature; he made tours in all directions to store his mind with imagery, travelling (as Rousseau tells us all should who wish to observe or learn) on foot; he formed friendships only with men of the same tone of mind, and was happy to meet in Coleridge, Lamb, and, in a degree, in Southey, with responding sympathies. But his sister was, undoubtedly, the star of his destiny. She was not only the blood relation, she was even more than a kindred spirit,—she was an inspiring influence. I will even venture to say that to her he owes most of the elevation and depth of his poetry: his own genius might have confined him to the metaphysical, to the poetry of the pretty, the little, the odd; it was hers that raised it to the deeply-feeling, the beautiful, and the sublime. His poems may be said to be the emanations of two minds more completely than any other union of the kind in the history of literature. Let the reader only peruse a few of Miss Wordsworth's letters, or portions of her diaries, and then judge if I am not right. For a man of Wordsworth's temperament, it is almost impossible to limit the influence of such an association. An object of respect and warm affection, always with him, talking with him, reading with him, making pedestrian tours with him, in