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A.D.

with no very heavy duties attached to it, made a considerable addition to his private means. He owed his appointment to the influence of Lord Lonsdale.

In the following year he published his noblest poem, The Excursion, which brought him little or no money, and drew down upon him the wrath of the critics, Jeffrey of the “Edinburgh" leading the hostile van. “This will never do," wrote the great Athenian lawyer; but alas for his prophecy! this (i.e., “The Excursion") has been doing ever since, making its way steadily ”,

1814 upwards, like a star that climbs into the clear sky above masses of cloud hung upon the horizon, and sheds its mild yet penetrating light with growing power as it climbs. When we examine the structure of this great work-only a fragment, let it be remembered, of a vast moral epic, to be called The Recluse, in which the poet intended to discuss the human soul in all its deepest workings and its loftiest relations--we find no dramatic life, and little human interest; and to this feature of the poem, as well as to the novelty of finding subtle metaphysical reasoning embodied in blank-verse, its original unpopularity must be ascribed. Even still, though yearly widening, the circle of those who read the “Excursion” is small; for it is a poem written only for the thinking few. Those who read poetry as some do, only for the story, will be hipped and desperately bored by the grave musical philosophy of the old Scotch pedler and his friends. Yet it is not all a web of subtle reasoning, for there are rich studies from nature and life scattered plentifully over its more thoughtful ground-work. Coleridge, who was his friend's truest and finest critic, describes the higher efforts of Wordsworth's pen as being characterized by "an austere purity of language, both grammatically and logically.” No English poet, who has dealt with lofty themes, is more thoroughly English in both his single words and his turns of expression.

The chief remaining works of this great writer are The White Doe of Rylstone (1815), a tragic tale founded on the ruin of a northern family in the Civil War; Peter Bell (1819), a remarkable specimen of the Lakist writings, which he dedicated to

456

WORDSWORTH SETTLES BY THE LAKES.

The need of earning a livelihood had turned the young poet's thoughts to the law and the career of a journalist, when, happily for the literature of the nineteenth century, the kindness of Calvert, a dying friend, who left him £900 and a pressing request that he would devote himself to poetry, marked out another future for the man of twenty-five.

Settling down in Somersetshire with his sister, he wrote Salisbury Plain and a tragedy called The Borderers, and soon afterwards made the acquaintance of Coleridge. When the latter took up house at Nether Stowey, his new friend, in order to be near him, removed to Alfoxden, three miles off; and they lived thus in constant association with each other. A volume called Lyrical Ballads appeared in 1798, containing twenty-three pieces, the first being the “Ancient Mariner,” and the rest poems by Wordsworth. It fell all but dead from the press.

After a tour in Germany, Wordsworth settled with his sister in a cottage at Grasmere, among those hills whose blue peaks had bounded the world of his childhood. There he resided for nine years, during which his marriage and the commencement of his great philosophical poem, of which we have but two instalments, were the chief occurrences. The payment of £8500 by the Earl of Lonsdale, in settlement of a debt due to his father, enabled him at the time of his marriage to look forward with composure to a life undisturbed by the cares of money-getting,—a circumstance of no small importance to the successful cultivation of that calm and thoughtful poetry towards which his native genius was inclined. In 1808 he removed to Allan Bank, and in 1813 to

Rydal Mount, both places lying in sight of those sweet 1813 lakes, and under the shadow of those old hills, which have A.D. become inseparably associated with his name and memory.

At Rydal Mount, “a cottage-like building, almost hidden by a profusion of roses and ivy,” from whose grassy

a silver gleam of Windermere could be caught to the south, the poet spent the greater half of his life. About the time of his removal to this charming residence, the office of Distributor of Stamps for the county of Westmoreland, the salary of which was £500 a year,

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A.D.

with no very heavy duties attached to it, made a considerable addition to his private means. He owed his appointment to the influence of Lord Lonsdale.

In the following year he published his noblest poem, The Excursion, which brought him little or no money, and drew down upon him the wrath of the critics, Jeffrey of the “Edinburgh" leading the hostile van. “This will never do," wrote the great Athenian lawyer; but alas for his prophecy! this (i.e., “The Excursion") has been doing ever since, making its way steadily 1814 upwards, like a star that climbs into the clear sky above masses of cloud hung upon the horizon, and sheds its mild yet penetrating light with growing power as it climbs. When we examine the structure of this great work—only. a fragment, let it be remembered, of a vast moral epic, to be called The Recluse, in which the poet intended to discuss the human soul in all its deepest workings and its loftiest relations--we find no dramatic life, and little human interest; and to this feature of the poem, as well as to the novelty of finding subtle metaphysical reasoning embodied in blank-verse, its original unpopularity must be ascribed. Even still, though yearly widening, the circle of those who read the “Excursion” is small; for it is a poem written only for the thinking few. Those who read poetry as some do, only for the story, will be hipped and desperately bored by the grave musical philosophy of the old Scotch pedler and his friends, Yet it is not all a web of subtle reasoning, for there are rich studies from nature and life scattered plentifully over its more thoughtful ground-work. Coleridge, who was his friend's truest and finest critic, describes the higher efforts of Wordsworth's pen as being characterized by "an austere purity of language, both grammatically and logically.” No English poet, who has dealt with lofty themes, is more thoroughly English in both his single words and his turns of expression.

The chief remaining works of this great writer are The White Doe of Rylstone (1815), a tragic tale founded on the ruin of a northern family in the Civil War; Peter Bell (1819), a remarkable specimen of the Lakist writings, which he dedicated to

• 458

WORDSWORTH'S MINOR WORKS.

*

Southey;* Sonnets on the River Duddon; The Waggoner, dedi cated to Charles Lamb; Memorials of a Tour on the Continent, Ecclesiastical Sonnets; Yarrow Revisited, and other Poems; and The Prelude, a fragment of autobiography, describing the growth of a poet's mind, which was not published until the author was dead. In the composition of Sonnets, a poetic form of which he was remarkably fond, he has not been excelled by the finest of the old masters. As he says of Milton, we may say of himself with regard to the sonnet,

“ In his hand
The thing became a trumpet, whence he blew
Soul-animating strains.”.

“Wordsworth's sonnet never goes off, as it were, with a clap or repercussion at the close; but is thrown up like a rocket, breaks into light, and falls in a soft shower of brightness."

Some of his minor poems, displaying his genius in its simple beauty and unaffected grace, are Ruth, a touching tale of Love and Madness; We are Seven, a glimpse of that higher wisdom which the lips of childhood often speak; the classic Laodamia, clear-lined and graceful as an antique cameo; and those Lines on Revisiting the Wye, of which we quote a part, rich in the calmly eloquent philosophy that formed the golden woof of all he wrote.

In 1842 the old man, then past seventy, resigning his public office to his son, received a pension of £300 a year; and in 1843, on the death of Southey, he became poet-laureate.

later, he sank into the grave, dying a few days after the April 23,

completion of his eightieth year. His remains were 1850

laid in the churchyard of Grasmere, by the side of his A.D.

Seven years ŠPECIMEN OF WORDSWORTH'S VERSE.

darling daughter, who had been taken from him three

years before.

* One of the finest examples of Wordsworth's direct simplicity of expression occurs in the description of Peter's utter want of sympathy with the beauty of Nature,

“* A primrose by a river's brim,
A yellow primrose was to him,

Aud it was nothing more."

459

THOUGHTS ON REVISITING THE WYE.

And now,

Oh ! how oft,
In darkness, and annid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight, when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft in spirit have I turned to thee,
O silvan Wye! thou wanderer through the woods-
How often has my spirit turned to thee !

with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again,
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when, like a roe,
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led ; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then-
The coarser pleasures of my boyish days
And their glad animal movements all gone by-
To me was all in all-I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures.

Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn, nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed,--for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt

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