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of making a selection implies the previous possession of the language selected. The dalesmen brought their humble speeches to the poet, who accepted or rejected them, sitting himself as judge, with Shakespeare, Milton, and Spenser as assessors. This procedure, though not consistently observed, was good enough; it renewed the warrant of experience for phrases which without that warrant might have sounded distant and languid. The experience, like all vivid experiences, seemed so unprecedented that it imparted a strange air to the words that set it forth, and Wordsworth was apt at times to forget that the language he spoke and wrote was indeed the English language, and that his handling of it, when he put forth all his strength, was guided by the same principles and the same tact that gave Chaucer a place among the masters.



WHAT then is the work of Poetry-the work for which words, the poet's instruments, seemed all too feeble? Man, in his passage through this world, is the plaything of great forces. Some startle his soul into passionate feeling, some lull it in Elysian pleasure, some tease it into fret and futility. Yet through all its adventures the soul is conscious that it is something other than a helpless pawn, that the forces which assail it draw some of their reality from its own creative energy, that the spectacle which it looks out upon is partly of its own arranging. Wordsworth wished to reproduce and communicate the highest raptures and the most exalted moods that result from this twofold agency-to show how the mind of man is affected by the external world, and in its turn reacts upon it, and how the heart of man may be so disposed as to be lifted on the wave of circumstance, not stupefied or overwhelmed by it.

For this task, language was a makeshift, because the great crises of feeling that he wished to reproduce, still more the settled moods of lofty peace that came to him among the mountains, existed altogether apart from language, and without any dependence on expression for their vitality. The drama that he tried to transfer to the poet's small stage was played from beginning to end in silence; it rested with him to translate it into words. And hence, in his view, poetry, the poetry of words and metre, was always a secondary thing, an imitation or reminiscence of something deeper in import than itself-a sort of chantry, so to say, where the souls of great moments that had perished on distant fields with never a word said might be commemorated by the voice of piety.

The attempt might well seem as vain as the attempt to paint a picture of a sunset. No sooner is the living experience repeated than the books all seem empty, and false, and superfluous. The silence of a damp evening in early autumn, when the clouds rest like a weight upon the horizon, and the cattle are ghosts in the twilight, and the trees and hills wear an appearance of gray expectant suffering, in a stillness so absolute that the whole scene seems laid for the sudden signal that never comes, to change it and end it; the talk of the summer wind among the trees, monotonous and ceaseless,

as the leaves are lifted and fall and are lifted again; the glow of a field of ripe corn, so poorly likened to gold; the sheen of wide waters in the evening, not really like silver or steel, daily observed and never the same, or, if the same, never remembered well enough to prevent another surprise-how should the actual impressions of these things be preserved in the speech of the market-place? They can never be described to those who have not known them, and those who have known them know also how little language avails to reanimate the pale memory.

This difficulty, no doubt, attends on all poetry; but the experiences that Wordsworth took for his poetic material are those which adapt themselves least readily to verbal expression. Poetry that deals with the social relationships of mankind, or with the truths of the discursive intellect-the poetry of human character, morality, and wit— finds the stuff of its building ready to its hand, in need of no such transmuting. The thing that happens, in these cases, involves the words-sometimes, indeed, the words themselves are the only thing that happens. There is no Platonic idea of a pun; it represents nothing but itself; and the like is true of many of the conceits, epigrams, and antitheses of the school of poetry from which Wordsworth recoiled. He would have nothing to do with these, nor with the gymnastic of the intellect,

as it catches at particular points in things observed, and uses them for the exhibition of its activities. Analytic industry, he says, was less pleasing to him than the observation of affinities, the "creative energy," he calls it, which strives to grasp an unbroken unity in what is presented to it. The intellect works by definition and distinction; it resolves the pageant of the senses into a multitude of single independent things, and invents classifications even of the faculties of the mind, ranged in scale and order; but to what purpose, Wordsworth asks,

If each most obvious and particular thought,
Not in a mystical and idle sense,

But in the words of Reason deeply weighed,
Hath no beginning.

The whole energy of his mind was spent to reunite what man had put asunder, to fuse, in a holy passion, the differences that are invented by the near-sighted activities of the discriminating human intellect. His own thought, as he truly says, was all "steeped in feeling":

I was only then
Contented, when with bliss ineffable

I felt the sentiment of Being spread

O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
O'er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
And human knowledge, to the human eye
Invisible, yet liveth to the heart;

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