Page images
PDF
EPUB

mer.

and ear

are both

Of nature, mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers, 1 sister spirit of music, giving a tone of huAnd silent overgrowings, still survives."

manity to the Of the “two faculties of eye and ear,"

“warbled air, which belong to the "soul sublime and

Whose piercing sweetness can unloose

The chains of frenzy, or entice a smile pure," the sense of the latter is much more

Into the ambush of despair.delicate and exquisite than that of the forFor him the universe is flooded with The “faculties of

eye music, rather than adorned with beautiful exhibited together at times, but the latter forms. The language of his holy affections in a superior degree, as in the following very has a tone of touching melody as well as remarkable passage: love. While all his sentiments are sanctified by an intense feeling of humanity, they are

“Hence, in a season of calm weather,

Though inland far we be, etherealized by the spirit of that “beauty” Our souls have a sight of that immortal sea that is

Which brought us hither, " born of murmuring sound.”

Can in a moment travel thither ;

And see the children sport upon the shore, In the wild scenes of nature he listens to And Hear the mighty waters rolling evermore." a music that is only suggested as an ideal by an overture of Beethoven or an opera of

While keeping in view the perplexing Mozart. Some of the

question of the soul's relation to the external finest passages

very of Wordsworth's poetry will be lost upon teristics of Wordsworth's poetry. We are,

world, we have illustrated the finest characone who cannot understand how

however, no nearer determining the question “the ear converses with the heart."

than at the outset. Some will contend that For him

nature receives all its significance from the

human spirit, others that man is related to many are the notes Which, in his tuneful course, the mind draws forth the spirit of the universe, as the shell to the From rocks, woods, caverns, heaths and dashing sea : shores;"

"Apply

Its polished lips to your attentive car, And with reference to two huge peaks that And it remembers its august abodes, appear in the distance, peering from one vale And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there." into another, "lofty brethren,” that “ bear their part in the wild concert,” he says : unable to determine the medium ground;

We would reject either extreme, yet are “Nor have Nature's laws

we can only say with Novalis, “ Nature is Left them ungifted with a power to yield Music of a finer tone; a harmony,

an Eolian harp, a musical instrument; those So do I call it, though it be the hand

tones again are keys to higher strains in Of silence, though there be no voice; the clouds, us.” The greatness of the poet appears the The mists, the shadows, light of golden suns, same, whether in reality he transfers his Motions of moonlight, all come thither--touch, feelings and thoughts to nature, or nature And have an answer-thither come and shape

awakens feelings and thoughts in him with A language not unwelcome to sick hearts And idle spirits."

a power all her own. Neither nature is

made for man nor man for nature. The The following passage, in which he is adaptation of one to the other is perfect. speaking of the "unenlightened swains of You might as well subject the violin and the pagan Greece,” reveals to us perhaps the bow to chemical analysis, in order to ascervery birth of Apollo :

tain the elements of Paganini's music, as to “In that fair clime, the lonely herdsman, stretched put nature and the soul of man into a metaOn the soft grass through half a summer's day, physical crucible, in order to determine the With music lulled his indolent repose;

ingredients of that poetry which is born of And in some fit of weariness, if he,

their union. When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear A distant strain, far sweeter than the sounds

In close connection with this question is Which his poor skill could make, bis fancy fetched, the subject of imagination. Every element Even from the blazing Chariot of the Sun, of man's mental nature, with the exception A beardless youth, who touched a golden lute, of And filled the illumined groves with ravishment."

pure reason, may manifest itself in the

region of imagination. Form and color, Even the spirit of love calls to its aid the feeling and sentiment, music and beauty,

[ocr errors]

a

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 fight, while two their bodies describing in a delicate, lively, pleasing, or veiled," luxurious manner that whic

really exists. Imagination always creates. It stops only Egyptians, the griftin of the northern mythol

In the same manner the sphinx of the at the elements of things, for of a new element the mind cannot conceive. The ogy, and the dragon of the Greeks, may be highest imagination has almost an infinite decomposed. In the poetry of all nations, power of combination. We

we find this peculiar manifestation of the however,

, deduce two laws of its operation. It adds, imagination. Its operations are extended to in the first place, other elements to objects

It is difficult to select examples exhibiting already existing, or combines parts of ex: the purely creative power of imagination. isting objects into new ones. Again, it

We might find opponents if we should cite creates objects out of the very

elements of things, of which the world of form and life of the Parsi, the Elohim, the Achadim, and

the demons of the Orphic hymns, the Izeds exhibits no real types. This distinction is Adonim of the Hebrews, the Lahi of the somewhat arbitrary, and the point in the line Thibetians; but most will concede to us the which marks the extent of the first law, and the commencement of the second, it is per- superhuman creations of Shakspeare.

gods of Homer, Dante's Inferno," and the

We haps impossible to locate ; but for the sake find real manifesfations of this kind of imagiof clearness of expression, it may be adopted. nation in “ Paradise Lost,” and in Goethe's Illustrations of the first law abound in all

“Faust." genuine poets. One of the most beautiful manifestations of this kind of imagination faculty of mind, but a manifestation of vari

The imagination, then, is not a single is the investment of external objects with human feelings : some have even regarded intense activity. The creations of imagina

ous combinations of its elements, joined with this as the whole province of imaginationtion may therefore be characterized by We have, therefore, weeping willows, beauty or deformity, purity or depravity,

sleeping moonbeams," "dancing terrors," harmony or discord, sublimity or loveliness, &c. With reference to the nudity of Godiva, love or hatred. The human soul creates in Tennyson says:

its own image. It requires imagination to “ The shameless noon paint the Witch of Endor, as well as the Was clashed and hammered from a hundred towers.” Virgin. Let any one read that awful de

Shakspeare's King Lear could beseech the scription in Dante, commencing with the elements to have mercy on an old man, be- lines, cause "ye yourselves are old.” The con

"O quanto parve a me gran meraviglia, ception of many fabulous beings - the Quando vidi tre facce alla sua testa !" cherubim and seraphim of Hebrew poetry, the phænix, and those well known in classical and he will be satisfied that imagination may poetry—is a result of the creative power of busy itself with the lowest hell as well as

It may produce imagination, not combining the very elements with the highest heaven. of things, but combining parts of real objects “Romance of giants, chronicle of fiends," in nature. The cherubim, for illustration, were compounded of several distinct animals and may“ body forth " The Hebrews say, in a proverb, “ There are

“ dire faces, figures dire, four creatures of stateliness and pride in the Sharp-kneed, sharp-elbowed, and lean-ankled too, world: the lion among the wild beasts; the With long and ghostly shanks-forms which, once ox among the tame; the eagle among

birds ; and man above all ;” and these were

Could never be forgotten !"

united in the formation of the cherubim. Ezekiel Goethe's Mephistopheles is the most unsays:

holy creation of powerful imagination in all * In all the four-fold visaged four was seen

literature. If Faust is a devilish saint, The face of man ; the right a lion, and an ox Mephistopheles is a saintly devil. The sin

6

seen,

[ocr errors]

of such a being is a yielding to the tempta- / worth's could inrest her with such charms tions of' virtue, –a violation of his absolutely as awaken only holy and pure affection ?tiendish nature; of which he is indeed rarely

“ Three years she grew in sun and shower; guilty. As an escape from the nether region

Then Nature sail, A lovelier flower of imagination, let us glance at those Olym

On earth was never sown; pian-descended forms of virtue—forms, yet This child I to myself will take; no forms, like figures of beauty dissolving in

She shall be mine, and I will make

A lady of my own!
the soft twilight-ensouled by the spirit of
Sophocles' imaginative genius.' In “Edipus "Myself will to the darling be
Tyrannus,” the chorus responds to Gocasta's

Buth law and impulse; and with me

The girl, in rock and plain, scoffing profanity

In earth and heaven, in glade and bowcr, Nouoc

Shail feel an overseeing power,
«Υψιποδες γ' ουρανιαν δ' αιθερ

To kindle or restrain.
Τεανω θεντες, ων’ Ολυμπος

“She shall be sportive as the fawn,
Πατηρ μονος, ουδε νιν θνατα

That wild with glee across the lawn
Φυσις ανερων ετιατεν, ουδε

Or up the mountain springs;
Μηε ποτε λαθα καταχοιμασει.

And hers shall be the breathing balm,
Mɛ · SEV TOVTOL Oxos,

And hers the silence and the calm
Ουδε γηρασκει.

Of mute insensate things.
In consideration of these facts, we may

“The floating clouds their state shall lend

To her; fur ber the willow bend; say that Wordsworth is not equal in ima- Nor shall she fail to see, gination to the greatest poets. lle is in- Even in the motions of the stormi, ferior in this respect to Ilomer, Daute, Grace tiat sball mould the maiden's form Shakspeare, Milton and Goethe, if not to

By silent sympathy. others. At the same time we may say that “The stars of midnight shall be dear he is superior to all in purity of imagina- To her; and she shall lean on air tion. We find no splendid images that

In many a secret place,

Where rivulets dance their wayward round, rovse the unholy passions of our nature.

And beauty, born.of murmuring sound, His imagination weaves a vestal garb around

Shall pass into her face.” every object with which it deals, clothes with hallowed affection, and infuses a con- The following passage will show, in proof trolling moral life. He leaves to the lip its and illustration of our position, that music ruby color, inviting to sip the nectar joy of and sublimity may be used as ingredients, earthly life, but makes you feel in your own thus to speak, in the composition of imaginature the working of a higher law than nation :than that of impulse, in obedience to which “The towering headlands, crowned with mist, you must act, or joy will turn to sorrow. Their feet among the billows, know The naplıtha fire of earth is not extracted, That ocean is a mighty harmonist ; but a new tempering fire is added from Thy pinions, everlasting air,

Ever waving to and fro, heaven. The beings of his imagination are ensouled with the spirit of humanity, and Strains that support the seasons in their round.”

Are delegates of harmony, and bear breathe an atmosphere of music and love. When, according to poetic fancy, nature

We cannot resist the temptation to copy takes it into her head to “ make a lady of one more passage which shows the presence her own," whose imagination but Words- of form, color and beauty, as well as other

mental qualities, in a picture of the imagi

nation with which but few equals are found * The following imperfect translation, in which the half personification of the original is lost, is in all literature. Something perhaps must by Dr. Francklin, of Oxford:

be allowed for the reality, but imagination

alone could see in the mountain mist, through “Grant me, henceforth, ye powers divine, In virtue's purest paths to tread;

which the sunbeams were playing, a picture In every word, in every deed,

which is described as follows: May sanctity of manners ever sline;

Obedient to the laws of Juve,
The laws descended from above,

“A single step, that freed me from the skirts Which, not like those hy feeble mortals givon, Of the blind vapor, opened to my view

Buried in dark oblivion lie,
Or, worn by time, decay and die,

Glory beyond all glory ever seen
But bloom eternal, like thuir native heuven!" By waking sense or by the dreaming soul;

sees,

*

*

*

*

*

The appearance, instantaneously disclosed, be allowed the expression, he rather feels than
Was of a mighty city-boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking for

The heart of the poet tells truths, as And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth,

well as the understanding of the philosoFar sinking into splendor-without end ! pher. The latter may be more real to specl'abric it seemed of diamond and gold,

ulation, yet the former are more real to liie. With alabaster domes, and silver spires, Wordsworth, therefore, saw the real propAnd blazing terrace upon terrace, high plifted; bere, serene pavilions bright,

erty that man has in the affections, and made In avenues disposed; there, towers begirt

himself the champion of man's right to the With battlements that on their restless fronts immunities of feeling and the treasures of Bore starsıllumination of all gems!

the heart. IIence, when we study him Oh, 'twas an unimaginable sight!

thoroughly, we come to regard him as a Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald ' controversialist

, and can understand why he turf,

was unshaken by the scotfs of criticism, Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky, when we learn that great principles of life Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed, were dearer to him than his own fame. He Molten together, and composing thus,

had faith in the laws of man's nature, reEach lost in each, that marvellous array of temple, palace, citadel, and huge

vealed to him by feeling and meditation, and Pantastic pomp of structure without name, was therefore heroic and firm. As the great In fleecy folds voluminous enwrapped.

metaphysician of the feelings, he has not Right in the midst, where interspace appeared

preserved consistency, for the feelings change Of open court, an object like a throne Beneath a shining canopy of state

with advancing experience and under the Stood fixed; and fixed resemblances were seen

influence of different circumstances. We To implements of ordinary use,

find in his poetry declarations of the existBut vast in size, in substance glorified ;

ence of a creating and sustaining Deity. Such as by Hebrew prophets were bebeld In vision forms uncuuth of mightiest power,

We find, also, clear statements of the docFor admiration and mysterious awe.

trine of Pantheism. Again he states the Below me was the earth; this little vale Platonic notion of the soul's pre-existence. Lay low beneath my feet; 'twas visible

In the ode entitled " Intimations of ImmorI saw not, but I felt that it was there,

tality,” the sublimest one to be found in any That which I saw was the revealed abode Of spirits in beatitude."

language, we have the following statement

of this pre-existence :We have said that Wordsworth has been

“ Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting : called the greatest of metaphysical poets. The soul that rises with us, our life's etar, lle is not in the right sense of the terin a Hath elsewhere its setting, great philosophic poet. We find in his And cometh from afar, poems but little direct reasoning. He has Not in entire forgetfulness, constructed no philosophic system. Every

And not iu utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come real poet, however, is necessarily metaphys

From God, who is our home." ical." When Keats says, “the golden tongue of music fattered the old man to tears," he Each of these statements was no doubt reveals to us a fact of man's nature, at which real to him at the moment of utterance. the philosopher arrives only by a painful in- | Hence inconsistencies may be strung on a terrogation of consciousness. Poets, for the thread of truth, while falsehood may be most part unconsciously, have given tongue woven into the even web of consistency. to the most recondite feelings and the most Plato would not have defended in earnest evanescent thoughts. If Wordsworth is his doctrine of pre-existence. In regard to really the most metaphysical

, it is because it

, Wordsworth was in earnest only in a poethe is the most meditative of poets. He was ical sense. It is well known that Dante repa disciple and a teacher of the spiritual resents the soul as a little girl “weeping and philosophy, but that does not determine the laughing in its childish sport,” knowing question of his reasoning power. Readers nothing save moved by its Creator, “ willingly and critics have mistaken perhaps his severe it turns to that which gives it pleasure." introspection, bis intense meditation, for pro- Turning away from the scare-crow of Panfound argumentation. He announces, but theism, which our poet never meant to addoes not prove; he combines, but does not an- vocate, let us be contented with the followalyze. In the region of philosophy, if we mayling beautiful and highly meditative sonnet:

а

66

“ It is a beauteous evening, calm and free; every thing but the shadows or the realities The holy time is quiet as a nun

of a court. It would be no difficult thing Breathless with adoration; the broad sun Is sinking down in tranquillity;

to show glaring inconsistencies in his politiThe gentleness of heaven is on the sea.

cal views, yet they may be harmonized, Listen! the mighty Being is awake,

perhaps, by shifting the application of his And doth with his eternal motion make ideal. Now we hear the tone of eulogy, A sound like thunder-everlastingly. Dear child! dear girl! that walkest with me here, now the tone of denunciation; this is an If thou appearst untouched by solemn thought, echo of the past, that a prophecy of the

Thy nature is not therefore less divine: future. We might also refer to many pasThou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year; sages which show a redundancy of language,

And worshipp’st at the temple's inner shrine, and to some which show that he at God being with thee when we know it not."

times invested commonplace thoughts with We are not sorry that no space is left to a drapery of expression altogether too gordwell upon positive faults. A want of a geous. From his poems we could pick quick perception of the ridiculous has ex- some that might be placed among the finest posed Wordsworth to the poisoned arrows specimens of art that have ever been written, of wit and the playful sallies of humor; an yet we could wish that upon certain passages advantage of which the Edinburgh critics more care might have been bestowed. °A were not slow to avail themselves. There theory, vicious in some respects, has led him, was no affinity between the subtlety of Jef- in many places, to use unpoetic language frey's intellect and the subtlety of Words- and imagery. worth's heart. We are thankful for the

We desist. Who can bear to expose wounds inflicted by Jeffrey, for we have, on the foibles of a wise and venerable friend ? account of them, á loftier example of heroic Wordsworth occupies a sacred place in our patience and unflinching purpose in Words-heart. His spirit, that hovers in the mysteworth. Again we may say that our poet is rious drapery of words a living presence on deficient in constructive power. None of the earth, shall remain to greet and bless his

poems have a pleasingly entangled plot. millions that shall come hither in future None of his narratives have a winding thread ages from the unknown, and to pronounce, that begets expectation and awakens inter- as one of the sacred ministers of the Word, est. Also, while dwelling upon sentiments benediction on them at their departure. he loses sight of individual life ; hence his From him may all devout poets take enpoetry is deficient in dramatic effect. Again, couragement, and all profane ones take while he has

warning, for the Eternal will permit the " sympathies

stamp of immortality to be put only upon Aloft, ascending and sinking down,

that which accords with his atributes of Even to inferior kinds,"

justice and mercy, wisdom and love. He

has revealed to us new powers and susceptiwe must believe that he has wasted the bilities of the heart, and the heart responds treasures of affection and the sweets of love to his gentle touch with a deep feeling of upon many an unworthy object; that, in a sympathy and blessing. As long as English holy endeavor to shield every living thing literature has a place for the wise Spenser, from contempt, he has gone into the oppo- it will have one for the good Wordsworth. site extreme from those poets who exclude

0. W. w.

a

« PreviousContinue »