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Wordsworth in this respect, receiving a bias from the philosophic spirit of the age, has not only influenced poets, both great and small, but also writers of every kind. The spiritual philosophy is no longer confined to rarely read poems; it ensouls much of current fiction, and has touched the heart of many an eloquent divine. The realities of things are no longer considered as residing in their visible, tangible forms, but in the underlying spirit.
This question of transcendentalism is a very difficult one to discuss. We may have a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused," it may be that every thing has its celestial side, yet the imagination colors the external world. It is perhaps impossible to determine to what degree feeling is awakened by the spirit of nature, and to what extent nature is clothed upon by feeling. The attentive reader of Hegel will not be likely to regard the subject as a light one. It is hard to decide whether we sympathize with an object in nature or not until it is invested with some attribute of our own being. Nature, as the oldest book of revelation, in which are written laws of Deity, has significance, but only for thinking souls. The precise relation between the cosm " and the " "microcosm" we know not how to determine. "Let him," says Herder, "to whom nature exhibits no plan, no unity of purpose, hold his peace, nor venture to give her expression in the language of poetry. Let him speak, for whom she has removed the veil, and displayed the true expression of her features. He will discover in all her works connection, order, benevolence, and purpose. His own poetical creation too, like that creation which inspires his imagination, will be a true xosuos, a regular work, with plan, outlines, meaning, and ultimate design, and commend itself to the understanding as a whole, as it does to the heart by its individual thoughts and interpretations of nature, and to the sense by the animation of its objects. In nature, all things are connected, and for the view of man are connected by their relation to what is human. The periods of time, as days and years, have their relation to the age of man. Countries and climates have a principle of unity in the one race of man; ages and worlds in the one eternal cause, one God, one Creator. He is the eye of the universe, giving expression to its otherwise boundless void,
and combining in a harmonious union the expression of all its multiplied and multiform features." This position we cannot deny, unless we adopt the totally subjective philosophy of Fichte. The following language of our poet then, surveyed from this point of view, has a divine meaning, as well as sublimity and beauty:
"But for the growing youth What soul was his, when, from the naked top
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun
On the other hand, the poet gives as well as receives. Vivid perception and deep feeling are necessarily transcendental. "The poets, in their elegies and songs, Lamenting the departed, call the groves, They call upon the hills and streams to mourn, And senseless rocks: nor idly; for they speak, In these their invocations, with a voice Obedient to the strong creative power of human passion. Sympathies there are More tranquil, yet perhaps of kindred birth, That steal upon the meditative mind, And grow with thought."
So when we look on nature, we feel that "Thoughts are not busier in the mind of man Than the mute Agents stirring there."
. In Wordsworth, passion was not so strong as sentiment. He was just the opposite of Byron in this respect. Iu Byron, nature is often colored with really lurid hues of passion. There were times in which
"His mind became,
For Wordsworth, nature never put on a look of hate, nor spoke in tones of anger. We see in the following exquisite passage,
"Humanity, in groves and fields,
Pipe solitary anguish;"
and even in the "silent city of the dead," says, we know
"That all beneath us by the wings are covered Of motherly Humanity, outspread
from "Vandracour and Julia," how the appears the humanity of Wordsworth. He passion of love is made to color external hears objects; yet it is not an unbridled passion; it is one controlled by moral sentiment:"Arabian fiction never filled the world With half the wonders that were wrought for him. Earth breathed in one great presence of the spring; Life turned the meanest of her implements Before his eyes to price above all gold; The house she dwelt in was a sainted shrine; Her chamber window did surpass in glory The portal of the dawn; all paradise Could, by the simple opening of a door, Let itself in upon him; pathways, walks, Swarmed with enchantment, till his spirit sank, Surcharged, within him, overblest to move Beneath a sun that walks a weary world To its dull round of ordinary cares; A man too happy for mortality."
Another passage, from the poem of "Ruth," will show that "noble sentiment" was active while imagination was investing nature with a gorgeous robe of voluptuousness. The poem is in a strain at once passionate and daring, but the incidents of a romantic story are related without a single impurity of expression. The oriental scenery awakens in a bold youth a wild desire, but the poet's moral nature demands that there should "intervene pure hopes of high intent." The following stanzas, besides illustrating the point in discussion, are of themselves a gem of beauty :
The wind, the tempest roaring high,
Might well be dangerous food
"Whatever in those climes he found
Did to his mind impart
"Nor less to feed voluptuous thought,
"Yet in his worst pursuits, I ween
For passions link'd to forms as fair
And gathering all within their tender shaue."
The study of nature is above all things calculated to awaken this feeling, "Poetry, which concerns itself with the deeds of men," says Herder, who can here speak with authority, "often in a high degree debasing and criminal, that labors, with lively and affecting apprehensions, in the impure recesses of the heart, and often for no very worthy purpose, may corrupt as well the author as the reader. The poetry of divine things can never do this. It enlarges the heart, while it expands the view, renders this serene and contemplative, that energetic, free and joyous. It awakens a love, an interest, and a sympathy for all that lives. It accustoms the understanding to reinark on all occasions the laws of nature, and guides our reason to the right path." What Herder thus says as a critic, Wordsworth says as a poet in the following passage:
"For the man,
Who in this spirit communes with the Forms
"That secret spirit of humanity
Most especially in this region of poetry Which, mid the calm oblivious tendencies
Of nature, mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers, sister spirit of music, giving a tone of huAnd silent overgrowings, still survives."
Of the "two faculties of eye and ear," which belong to the "soul sublime and pure," the sense of the latter is much more delicate and exquisite than that of the former. For him the universe is flooded with music, rather than adorned with beautiful forms. The language of his holy affections has a tone of touching melody as well as love. While all his sentiments are sanctified by an intense feeling of humanity, they are etherealized by the spirit of that "beauty"
"born of murmuring sound."
In the wild scenes of nature he listens to a music that is only suggested as an ideal by an overture of Beethoven or an opera of Mozart. Some of the very finest passages of Wordsworth's poetry will be lost upon one who cannot understand how
"the ear converses with the heart."
'many are the notes Which, in his tuneful course, the mind draws forth From rocks, woods, caverns, heaths and dashing shores;"
And with reference to two huge peaks that appear in the distance, peering from one vale into another, "lofty brethren," that "bear their part in the wild concert," he says:
"Nor have Nature's laws Left them ungifted with a power to yield Music of a finer tone; a harmony, So do I call it, though it be the hand Of silence, though there be no voice; the clouds, The mists, the shadows, light of golden suns, Motions of moonlight, all come thither--touch, And have an answer-thither come and shape A language not unwelcome to sick hearts And idle spirits."
The following passage, in which he is speaking of the "unenlightened swains of pagan Greece," reveals to us perhaps the very birth of Apollo:
"In that fair clime, the lonely herdsman, stretched
Even the spirit of love calls to its aid the
manity to the
Whose piercing sweetness can unloose
The "faculties of and ear eye "" are both exhibited together at times, but the latter in a superior degree, as in the following very remarkable passage:
"Hence, in a season of calm weather,
Though inland far we be,
Can in a moment travel thither;
While keeping in view the perplexing world, we have illustrated the finest characquestion of the soul's relation to the external teristics of Wordsworth's poetry. We are, however, no nearer determining the question than at the outset. Some will contend that nature receives all its significance from the human spirit, others that man is related to the spirit of the universe, as the shell to the sea:
Its polished lips to your attentive ear,
We would reject either extreme, yet are unable to determine the medium ground; we can only say with Novalis, "Nature is an Eolian harp, a musical instrument; those tones again are keys to higher strains in us." The greatness of the poet appears the same, whether in reality he transfers his feelings and thoughts to nature, or nature awakens feelings and thoughts in him with a power all her own. Neither nature is made for man nor man for nature. The
adaptation of one to the other is perfect. You might as well subject the violin and the bow to chemical analysis, in order to ascertain the elements of Paganini's music, as to put nature and the soul of man into a metaphysical crucible, in order to determine the ingredients of that poetry which is born of their union.
In close connection with this question is the subject of imagination. Every element of man's mental nature, with the exception of pure reason, may manifest itself in the region of imagination. Form and color, feeling and sentiment, music and beauty,
may, together or separately, as the image | The left distinguished, and to all the four has more or less characteristics of the crea- Belonged an eagle's visage. By itself tive soul, lend their charms and give the Distinct, their faces and their wings they each Extended upward, joining thus, it seemed, spirit of life. Fancy contents itself with Two wings for flight, while two their bodies describing in a delicate, lively, pleasing, or luxurious manner that which really exists. Imagination always creates. It stops only
at the elements of things, for of a new element the mind cannot conceive. The highest imagination has almost an infinite power of combination. We may, however, deduce two laws of its operation. It adds, in the first place, other elements to objects already existing, or combines parts of existing objects into new ones. Again, it creates objects out of the very elements of things, of which the world of form and life exhibits no real types. This distinction is somewhat arbitrary, and the point in the line which marks the extent of the first law, and the commencement of the second, it is perhaps impossible to locate; but for the sake of clearness of expression, it may be adopted. Illustrations of the first law abound in all genuine poets. One of the most beautiful manifestations of this kind of imagination is the investment of external objects with human feelings: some have even regarded this as the whole province of imagination. We have, therefore, "weeping willows," "sleeping moonbeams," "dancing terrors," &c. With reference to the nudity of Godiva, Tennyson says:
"The shameless noon
Was clashed and hammered from a hundred towers." Shakspeare's King Lear could beseech the elements to have mercy on an old man, because "ye yourselves are old." The conception of many fabulous beings- the cherubim and seraphim of Hebrew poetry, the phoenix, and those well known in classical poetry—is a result of the creative power of imagination, not combining the very elements of things, but combining parts of real objects in nature. The cherubim, for illustration, were compounded of several distinct animals. The Hebrews say, in a proverb, "There are four creatures of stateliness and pride in the world: the lion among the wild beasts; the ox among the tame; the eagle among birds; and man above all;" and these were united in the formation of the cherubim. Ezekiel says:
In all the four-fold visaged four was seen The face of man; the right a lion, and an ox
Egyptians, the griffin of the northern mytholIn the same manner the sphinx of the gy, and the dragon of the Greeks, may be decomposed. In the poetry of all nations, we find this peculiar manifestation of the imagination. Its operations are extended to inanimate as well as animate nature.
It is difficult to select examples exhibiting the purely creative power of imagination. We might find opponents if we should cite of the Parsi, the Elohim, the Achadim, and the demons of the Orphic hymns, the Izeds
Adonim of the Hebrews, the Lahi of the
Thibetians; but most will concede to us the superhuman creations of Shakspeare. We gods of Homer, Dante's "Inferno," and the find real manifesfations of this kind of imagination in "Paradise Lost," and in Goethe's "Faust."
faculty of mind, but a manifestation of variThe imagination, then, is not a single intense activity. The creations of imaginaous combinations of its elements, joined with tion may therefore be characterized by beauty or deformity, purity or depravity, love or hatred. The human soul creates in harmony or discord, sublimity or loveliness, its own image. It requires imagination to paint the Witch of Endor, as well as the Virgin. Let any one read that awful description in Dante, commencing with the lines,
"O quanto parve a me gran meraviglia,
Quando vidi tre facce alla sua testa!"
and he will be satisfied that imagination may busy itself with the lowest hell as well as with the highest heaven. It may produce
"Romance of giants, chronicle of fiends," and may "body forth"
"dire faces, figures dire, Sharp-kneed, sharp-elbowed, and lean-ankled too, With long and ghostly shanks-forms which, once Could never be forgotten!"
Goethe's Mephistopheles is the most unholy creation of powerful imagination in all literature. If Faust is a devilish saint, Mephistopheles is a saintly devil. The sin
of such a being is a yielding to the tempta- | worth's could invest her with such charms tions of virtue,-a violation of his absolutely as awaken only holy and pure affection ?—
fiendish nature; of which he is indeed rarely guilty. As an escape from the nether region of imagination, let us glance at those Olympian-descended forms of virtue-forms, yet no forms, like figures of beauty dissolving in the soft twilight-ensouled by the spirit of Sophocles' imaginative genius. In "Edipus Tyrannus," the chorus responds to Gocasta's scoffing profanity :
In consideration of these facts, we may say that Wordsworth is not equal in imagination to the greatest poets. He is inferior in this respect to Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, Milton and Goethe, if not to others. At the same time we may say that he is superior to all in purity of imagination. We find no splendid images that rouse the unholy passions of our nature. His imagination weaves a vestal garb around every object with which it deals, clothes with hallowed affection, and infuses a controlling moral life. He leaves to the lip its ruby color, inviting to sip the nectar joy of earthly life, but makes you feel in your own nature the working of a higher law than than that of impulse, in obedience to which you must act, or joy will turn to sorrow. The naphtha fire of earth is not extracted, but a new tempering fire is added from heaven. The beings of his imagination are ensouled with the spirit of humanity, and breathe an atmosphere of music and love. When, according to poetic fancy, nature takes it into her head to "make a lady of her own," whose imagination but Words
*The following imperfect translation, in which the half personification of the original is lost, is by Dr. Francklin, of Oxford:—
"Grant me, henceforth, ye powers divine,
In every word, in every deed,
May sanctity of manners ever shine;
Or, worn by time, decay and die,
But bloom eternal, like their native heaven!"
"Three years she grew in sun and shower;
Then Nature said, A lovelier flower
On earth was never sown;
"Myself will to the darling be
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
To kindle or restrain.
"She shall be sportive as the fawn,
"The floating clouds their state shall lend
Nor shall she fail to see,
"The stars of midnight shall be dear
In many a secret place,
The following passage will show, in proof and illustration of our position, that music and sublimity may be used as ingredients, thus to speak, in the composition of imagination:
"The towering headlands, crowned with mist,
Their feet among the billows, know That ocean is a mighty harmonist;
Thy pinions, everlasting air, Ever waving to and fro,
Are delegates of harmony, and bear Strains that support the seasons in their round."
We cannot resist the temptation to copy one more passage which shows the presence of form, color and beauty, as well as other mental qualities, in a picture of the imagination with which but few equals are found in all literature. Something perhaps must be allowed for the reality, but imagination alone could see in the mountain mist, through which the sunbeams were playing, a picture which is described as follows:
"A single step, that freed me from the skirts Of the blind vapor, opened to my view Glory beyond all glory ever seen
By waking sense or by the dreaming soul;