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to make these alterations on the simple authority of a few individuals, or even of certain classes of men ; for where the understanding of an author is not convinced, or his feelings altered, this cannot be done without great injury to himself; for his own feelings are his stay and support, and if he sets them aside in one instance, he may be induced to repeat this act till his mind loses all contidence in itself, and becomes utterly debilitated. To this it may be added, that the reader ought never to forget that he is himself exposed to the same errors as the poet, and perhaps in a much greater degree ; for there can be no presumption in saying, that it is not probable he will be so well acquainted with the various stages of meaning through which words have passed, or with the fickleness or stability of the relations of particular ideas to each other ; and above all, since he is so much less interested in the subject, he may decide lightly and carelessly.'
In answer to the latter part of this quotation it is sufficient to say, that words are the property of the public, and not of an individual poet; and though the poet may exercise a certain degree of authority over expressions, which are still fluctuating in some of their relations, he has no power over those whose uses are definitely settled. Mr Wordsworth has himself furnished us with another answer, by avoiding in his later poems those words and terms, which we have taken the liberty to condemn.
Another defect of our poet is, that he talks too much. He follows out his trains of thought through all their branches, and to their remotest points. He appears to be either deficient in the power of discrimination, or unwilling to exercise it. We are presented with all his cogitations, whatever may be their character and value, and are left to make our own selections. Thus it often happens, that his beauties are to be dug up from the midst of worthlessness ; like fair statues, and bright gems, and rare medals, from heaps of rubbish and beds of ashes. There is no man, who, if he were to utter all the notions and fancies which come into his head, would not utter a great deal of absurdity, or at least a great deal not worth the utterance. And so it is with him. In the simplicity of his heart he pours out all its meditations, and of course they will not all be of equal moment. It is to be questioned, however, whether we are not gainers at last by this unrestricted freedom of expression ; whether many of his highest imaginations are not struck out in the course of
this profuse and careless creation; whether we should not miss his bounty, if we could check bis prodigality. If so, we say for ourselves, let us have both; we desire no change, and should deplore an economy attended with so great a deprivation.
But here we will conclude our notices of Mr Wordsworth's defects, for we feel it to be an ungrateful task. Neither will we produce any instances of his faults, because that has already been amply done by the Edinburgh Reviewers. And now we come to speak of the third cause of his unpopularity, the treatment which he has received from that wise and witty, though often ungenerous brotherhood of critics.
We remember perfectly well the blighting influence, which their reviews exerted in this country on his poetical name, It shrunk away like an early flower from a relentless wind, till none knew that it had a being, except the few who were not to be shaken from their admiration of it by heartless ridicule, and who did not prize it the less because the sun of public favor shone not on it, and it was a shaded and slighted thing. Nineteen out of twenty of those, who were asked what they thought of Wordsworth, would answer you with a laugh and a sneer. Think of Wordsworth! What should they think of him, but that he was a puling nursery rhymester, a rival of Mother Goose, a manufacturer of some scores of foolish verses about Betty Foy, and Peter Bell, and a boat shaped like a crescent moon ! Did not the Edinburgh Review say so? And did it not quote line after line to establish its assertions? Such was the general sentiment produced by a few biting sarcasms, and partial, mangled, and unfair quotations. The reviewers confessed, to be sure, that Mr Wordsworth's poems evinced genius, originality, and pathos ; and they made one or two extracts from them, which they granted were fine ; but they took care that their ridicule should obliterate the impressions of their extorted praise, and that the whole effect of their criticisms should be to raise a laugh against the poet, and prevent his works from being read or sought after.
They notice the Address to the Sons of Burns, after visiting their Father's Grave.' • Never was anything more miserable,' say they ; and they quote one of the four verses of which it then consisted, and which is certainly rather
poor. But we will quote the last verse, and ask our readers whether it be so very miserable.
Let no mean hope your souls enslave;
And such revere !
And think, and fear! The verse quoted by the reviewers was afterwards expunged by the author, and is not contained in the edition of Miscellaneous Poems, which stands at the head of our article. This omission may have been made in consequence of the sneer of the reviewers; but how much more generous would it have been in them, to have copied the good as well as the bad verse, and then advised the poet to separate them?
They also held up to ridicule an ode, which, in our edition, ends the fourth volume. We cannot refrain from copying a considerable part of the conclusion of this ode, so cavalierly condemned, in which the poet consoles himself for the loss of youthful imagination, by reflecting on the gifts of maturity.
What though the radiance, which was once so bright,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
We will grieve not, rather find
In the faith that looks through death ;
The innocent brightness of a new born day
Is lovely yet;
Thoughts, that do often lie too deep for tears. If this is not good poetry, we confess we do not know what good poetry is. But the Edinburgh Reviewers could not quote it. Was it because they could not understand and feel it, or because they were afraid that their readers might do both ? At the close of the review, three sonnets, and some portions of the Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle, on the Restoration of Lord Clifford,' are quoted with approbation. But, notwithstanding this lagging and ineffectual praise, their main purpose was evidently to jeer, misrepresent, and destroy. We might exhibit further proofs of this purpose from other articles ; but we have dwelt on the subject long enough. We could not, however, say less than we have done, because we believe that the undeserved neglect into which the poetry of Wordsworth has fallen in this country, is in a great measure owing to the criticisms of the Edinburgh Reviewers; and because we believe those criticisms were penned with illiberality and unfairness.
- We will now endeavor to point out some of the excellences and beauties, both of the poetical system and the poetry of Mr Wordsworth.
One of his great principles is, that nothing is beneath a poet's regard, which has to do with the mind and heart of We have one common nature.
The external differences of life may induce various habits, may present objects of thought in various lights, and give birth to various degrees of refinement; but they cannot destroy the original passions, feelings, and capacities, which are common to all men. The man of highest rank and most finished education must love, and hate, and pity, and be sorrowful or joyful, like the humblest peasant ; and we must all be affected by true and lively descriptions of these immutable passions and sensations
whether the subject of them be the peasant or the lord. Certain of this kindly interest, feeling its most gentle influences on his own soul, and desirous of cultivating it in others, as a bond of human fellowship and brotherhood, Mr Wordsworth has generally preferred selecting his descriptions from the lowly walks of life; both because our sympathies are more usefully exerted in that direction, and because passion is there more simple and unsophisticated, more the thing itself,' than in the cultivated classes of society. These sentiments are expressed in many parts of his poems, as for instance in the three following verses from Peter Bell.
Long have I loved what I behold,
May find, or there create ? He does not give us complete pictures, however, of rural life and manners, but exquisite sketches, or rather what the brethren of the pencil technically term bits, which delineate some pathetic incident, or tell the story of a single affection, together with the feelings and reflections excited by the subject within his own breast. Writing in this way, he is of course free to choose his materials; and these are of a kind to call forth pleasant associations, or such sad and melancholy ones as are not unpleasant. He seems unwilling to dwell on the scenes of squalid poverty and brutal ignorance, which are so often presented among the poor ; and who will blame him for opening his heart, and our own hearts, toward what is innocent and good in that condition of society? His poetry sheds its light of love over their manners and pursuits, as a