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HIS REVOLUTIONARY SYMPATHIES.
a nation of freemen! That it is that is the curse of our people, in their widest division; and to cure this it is, as well as to maintain our work against the kings of the earth, that blood must be shed, and tears must flow, for many years to come."
The atmosphere of the Revolution grew more and more murky. France was stricken with the worst of Egypt's plagues: benighted in moral darkness, it was visited with the pestilence of blood throughout the land. Wordsworth sought the homeward road to England,-the innocent delusion of his enthusiasm scattered, but his heart unembittered by disappointment, and its pulse of genuine freedom beating as strongly as ever. Whilst travelling back to his native region, in crossing the sands of one of the great estuaries, he chanced to inquire of a horseman who overtook him, "Is there any news?" and to hear the tidings," Yes: Robespierre has perished." Forgetful of the returning tide coming in over the waste of sands, he stopped to utter a heartfelt thanksgiving for that vindication of justice and outraged liberty.
When Wordsworth retired to dwell in the mountain-district of the North of England, there was in the spirit of his seclusion nothing of a morbid solitariness. It was a retirement sought as favourable not only to the genial and studious culture of his endowments, but also to the most propitious intercourse with his fellow-men. There was nothing of that faint and false-hearted flight from society of which genius has sometimes been guilty; but retirement was chosen as the vantage-ground of imagination and meditative truth, and in his solitude he has nursed his heart in a quick sensibility to all healthy sympathies with his country and mankind. His plan of life has been kept inviolate : his home is still among the mountains; his heart is with humanity the wide world
"He murmurs near the running brooks
Or fountain in a noonday grove:
He will seem worthy of your love.
Of hill and valley, he has view'd,
Have come to him in solitude."
Wordsworth has been fortunate in the cordial communion with Coleridge, and Southey, and Lamb, and in the friendship of Sir Walter Scott and the patriarch of contemporary poets,-Rogers. He has been happy, too, in the intellectual female sympathy he has enjoyed in the
bosom of his own family. This appears not only in his delicate allusions to the members of his household, but from a passage in Mr. Southey's Life of Cowper, plainly alluding to Wordsworth. After speaking of the valuable influence on Cowper's mind of his intimacy with Mrs. Unwin and Lady Austin, Southey adds, “Were I to say that a poet finds his best advisers among his female friends, it would be speaking from my own experience, and the greatest poet of the age would confirm it by his."
The aim of all Wordsworth's endeavours in poetry, as he has stated it, has been that they should be fitted for filling permanently a station, however humble, in the literature of his country. It is remarkable that in not a line can be detected any lowering of that aim to the secondary objects of authorship: no trace of mercenary motive, no paltering with artificial tastes, no sacrifice of truth and nature for the gain of notoriety, no dallying with fashion, betray a faltering in the purpose to which he devoted himself. This demanded extraordinary self-possession-all the fortitude, the magnanimity of genius-to preserve its composure. He moved on fearlessly, following the call of his own imagination; and it is a grand thing now to behold the young and ingenuous, the older and thoughtful, vying with each other in rendering to him the tribute of a grateful admiration.
On the poet's return from the Continent, the love of nature, which had been coeval with his early consciousness, was undiminished. He carried it along with him in his inmost heart, amid all the uncongenial scenes he had been a witness to. There are some admirable lines of his, familiar to every student of Wordsworth's poetry, composed in the neighbourhood of Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the river Wye: they finely represent the change from the passionate to the meditative love of nature, the maturing of the emotion of sentient boyhood to that of thoughtful manhood. But I refer to them because they show how the beauteous forms of the external world revisited his memory and his feelings even in unpropitious circumstances,—doubtless amid the tumultuous agitations of the Parisian mobs, the frenzy of the factions, the waves of a ruthless multitude beating against the ancient palace of their kings, the convulsion of every resting-place of society, the unnatural ferocity of revolutionary women, and the boundless vengeance of the metropolis, with the sympathetic restlessness of the provinces. Amid all this, the poet's heart was gladdened by a return of a memory of the emotion which some placid scene had inspired him with:
"Oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
LOVE OF NATURE.
Of joyless daylight, when the fretful stir
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,
He came forth from amid the cloudy, stormy elements of society to render the unwearied service of a worshipper of nature :
"I know that nature never did betray
No poet has ever yet so devoted his imagination to the study of the face of nature as Wordsworth. He has communed with her in all her moods, and contemplated the ever-varying expression of her countenance. It would transcend even the expansive limits of these lectures to illustrate his descriptive poetry, and I can only endeavour to give some idea of the spirit of it. In the last lecture I had occasion to show how dangerous the love of nature may become if perverted into a sentimental and insidious materialism. In the heart of Wordsworth the passionate love of nature has not been so betrayed. It is coupled with the faith that infinite wisdom has so formed the earth, the elements, and the physical heavens, that the soul, during its abode in its mortal tenement, can gather, from all that meets the senses, food for its noble faculties :"The glorious habit by which sense is made Subservient still to moral purposes, Auxiliar to divine."
Deep and habitual as is Wordsworth's devotion to nature, it is no idolatry of what is material. The worlds of the eye and the ear, like the senses that observed them, are subject to decay; and it is not the character of his genius to pause upon what is perishable. He never fails to impress on us that the forms of nature, loved as they are, are fugitive, valueless, except when contemplated in their relation to man and to his Maker; that the earth-the dear, green earth-will darken in the
absence of imagination. Nay, more rising to the height of as lofty aspiration as ever was conceived, either in poetry or philosophy, he proclaims the awful truth that the universe itself—the material universe— is a hollow shell, from which the ear of faith alone can hear mysterious murmurings of eternity. This moral is expounded by means of one of the finest images that ever entered into the heart of poet to conceive, — beautiful in itself and sublime in its application:
"I have seen
A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
To his belief the monitor express'd
Mysterious union with its native sea.
There is another passage in the "Excursion," bearing on this subject, one of those sublime strains with which that poem abounds, and loftier than aught that English poetry has known since the age of Milton. It is an apostrophe to the Deity, and, while it tells that the universe shall perish, also tells the one great element of its glory :
"Thou who didst wrap the cloud
This universe shall pass away-a work
I cite these passages to show the principles of Wordsworth's descriptive poetry, his love of nature how spiritual; for, amid all his admiration of the world of sense, the undying incorporeal power, the soul, preserves its undaunted sovereignty. So far from suffering his profound sense of the beauty of the material world to entangle his genius in the meshes of
INFLUENCE OF WORDSWORTH'S POETRY.
materialism, his rapt imagination looks on all the glories of the universe as but a poor substitute for what the soul may know in the imperial palace of its home with God. In the mighty effort of his imagination, the greatest ode in the English language, the ode on the intimations of immortality, dwelling upon the heavenly innocence of childhood,-a feeling in harmony with the Saviour's words; and then, raising the human soul above its material life, he has cast a ray of poetry upon that the most impenetrable of all mysteries, the origin of the soul before its lodgment in the body. Thus, sublimely asserting our immortality, he heeds this earth as no more than ministering to the spirit that has wandered from some better home into this mortal life :
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows;
The youth who daily farther from the east
And by the vision splendid
At length the man perceives it die away
The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child-her inmate, man-
And that imperial palace whence he came."
The purpose which the poet proposes to himself, in his descriptive poetry, was to show how the mind and the external world are fitted to each other, and to accomplish this by rescuing from neglect the unheeded impressions perpetually made upon us, and giving us a distinct consciousness of them when shaped by poetic imagination. Wordsworth's poetry abounds with manifestations of the deep impressions he