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much on foot, and may be reckoned among the first of the many Englishmen who have traversed the higher ranges of the Swiss mountains (1790).
Meanwhile the Poet's inner life had passed through at least one great revolution, which he has himself painted in the "Prelude," "Tintern," and "Ode on Intimations of Immortality." He who was afterwards to describe Nature as she is with a singular force of realization, had looked on her, at first, with an ideal eye which unconsciously reproduced the view of things without" taken by the early philosophers of Greece. True Being he felt only within his mind: except here, nothing could be felt as veritably existing : all beyond was a mysterious vision, the reality of which lay in the depths of the human soul. "I was often unable," he writes, "to think of external things as having external existence, and I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature. Many times while going to school have I grasped at a wall or a tree to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality." Shadowy and transient as these strange influences of the childish imagination necessarily were, they lay at the root of that peculiarly spiritual tone with which Wordsworth always looked on the world; they inspired that noble and exquisitely poetic moderation which (even when he had travelled far from his younger opinions on many vital points) was ever ready to
soften and qualify the practical dogmatisms and narrower conclusions with which life encrusts the mind. When this "visionary gleam" passed from the yet unconscious poet's eyes, the same imaginative faculty, taking a new but analogous form, presented the world to him as itself actually interfused with living power:
He felt the sentiment of Being spread,
O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
The presences of Nature in the sky
And on the earth; the Visions of the hills,
And Souls of lonely places.
This mood of the mind, in which all who have any sense of poetry share, held sway over men like Wordsworth or Shelley with an intensity proportioned to their poetical gift, working in them with a force that reminds us again of the spirit in which sea and sky, earth and the "heavenly bodies," were regarded by the early inhabitants of Hellas. The human race seems born again with every child of genius: he exhibits in himself, if his life be prolonged through all its stages, a kind of miniature repetition of man's gradual development. The soul which, as a child, Wordsworth had vaguely transferred from himself to Nature, now appeared to lie also in Nature herself. A more sacred name is often, perhaps too often, and in a mechanical spirit, used in reference to "the sum of things," as Lucretius called Nature, and Wordsworth, especially in
his later years, has used that name with Christian reverence; yet throughout his life he was apparently faithful to the imaginative sentiment which led him to speak without hesitation of
The Being that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves :
Nor to his deeply, though liberally, religious mind was it possible for him to realize with less distinctness and fervour, that doctrine or instinct which seems a cold and abstract thing, when expressed as the Omnipresence of the Deity.
Wordsworth has thrown his heart so fully and freely into his writings, that it is impossible to pass over the peculiar tone of his religious philosophy in silence : although we need not linger here further than to observe, that he seems to share in that Pantheistic sentiment, (for such, however modified, it must be named), towards which a bias has always existed in the Teutonic or Northern imagination. And it may be a useful lesson to remark how this great thinker united such a sentiment with genuine Christianity.-Returning now to the Poet, let us note that this sense of a true life in Nature will influence a man's mind in two
conspicuous directions. It will cause him to go as it were out of himself, viewing the landscape, for example, as something which by itself alone deserves the most minute and faithful painting: he will become a de
scriber of nature for her own sake. On the other hand, the same sense will urge him to identify nature with the human heart more closely than the man who either, from inferior imaginative power, does not feel the inherent vitality in all things, or who regards them as simple subjects for scientific investigation. He will study man more (especially man, leading a simple and unsophisticated life) as the highest effort or manifestation of nature. This two-fold current of thought runs through Wordsworth's poetry, and explains at once its peculiar excellence and its limitations: limitations which must be distinctly recognized almost everywhere in Wordsworth. Only a Shakespeare can preserve throughout a golden moderation between such conflicting forces. It does not always happen that the identification of the lessons of nature and of the human heart is equal or entire, and when this is so, the poet is apt to become either too descriptive or too didactic, as the balance may incline. Why the didactic element marked itself most on the poetry of Wordsworth's later years, the sketch of his life may partly serve to explain.
A disposition such as his, and the turn of thought which he had nourished among the valleys of Cumberland, were not likely to render Wordsworth congenial as an undergraduate to Cambridge. Except in the "Prelude," that University is almost absent from the verse of one whose own experiences, as with Goethe,
almost exclusively form the groundwork of his poetry. Wordsworth's, however, was no nature for indolence; and, besides mastering Italian, he appears to have pursued that careful study of the English and the Latin poets (in the Greek he never went far), which had been one passion of his boyhood. But the routine of college life and the favourite studies of the place were alien from him, and to this alienation the politics of the time soon added a graver colour. Already (1790) he had visited France, then at that stage in revolution when it seemed possible to unite Royalty with Liberty. Returning next year, he found a nation distracted between civil war and foreign invasion,-between those ready to die to restore a rejected past, and those ready to die for the inauguration of an impossible future. The energy of passion thus raised, under the rapid pressure of many circumstances, internal and external, expanded itself into the frenzy of September, 1792. Happily for himself (for he had intimate friends among the moderate republicans), Wordsworth left Paris before the massacre: but some part of the passionate impulse of the time had passed into him, as it passed into all sensitive minds, and he returned home with a strong sympathy for what France had aimed at in 1790, and a strong dissatisfaction with the policy pursued towards her by England in 1792. Unable to reconcile himself to the church or the law for a career, and ill at ease even in the smaller