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persuaded us to return with him to seek for permanent quarters on the hill. But I had set my heart on being close to the river, as I loved well to hear its waters tumbling over the rocks; and STANLEY, for another reason, acquiesced in my wishes, for he liked to be near the seaside, and to have the ocean on a level with his eye, instead of looking down on it from a lofty height. I am always for close contact with a thing of beauty, he said.
HARTLEY laughed at what he termed our eccentricity, and made some bantering allusion, which led STANLEY to propose that, while meeting each other daily in that English paradise, we should take up some of our favourite poets to read or criticise, as the humour might prompt us.
Better keep to Rural Poetry then, said HARTLEY; in summer-time I like those poets best who babble of green fields—whuse verse smacks of country life, and admits us into the secret haunts of nature.
There is no limit to such a subject, I said ; since, by way of illustration, you may cull bits from every poet that ever rhymed, seeing that nature's beauty is the true inspirer, the Queen of Muses and Hamadryades.
So much the better, replied HARTLEY; I like to take up any topic in which there is scope and verge enough for a variety of illustrations, feelings, and suggestions.
While thus talking I observed that the gathering darkness rendered the hills indistinct, and converted the foaming stream into a misty moving form of white, which resembled the tricksy uncle of Undine. I therefore proposed that we should defer our talk and call on Mrs. Hartley, who, her husband informed us, intended on the morrow to visit her sister at Bideford, where she proposed to stay for some weeks, until the said sister had done her part, towards increasing the population of the world and the capabilities of England. So up the hill we went, drinking in, as we ascended, as much of the beauty as was still visible to the eye, and feeling that undefined charm which the presence of lovely scenery, even when only faintlŷ visible, so certainly inspires.
A bright, lively, earnest, true-hearted woman was Mrs. Hartley. Beautiful in face and figure, with an almost girlish beauty, it was difficult to believe that so slight and youthful a form belonged to a wife and mother. Lightly and gracefully did she carry the burden of her honours.
After some pleasant general conversation, HARTLEY informed his wife that during her absence we proposed to devote some time every evening to the rural poets of England; or rather, that from any poet whose works we might choose to open we should extract, if the term may be permitted, the rural element.
Necessarily, said STANLEY, these readings or discussions, --for I imagine there will be more discussion than reading, —will be extremely discursive. If we were-to form any broad and definite plan, neither time nor inclination would allow us to adhere to it. The field of English rural poetry, including as it does the pastoral, idyllic, georgic, and descriptive, is almost boundless; and the greatest poets of Scotland have ever been poets of the country. But if, as will be most advisable, we exclude these latter poets altogether, we should soon weary of our task and convert a pleasure into a toil, did we undertake a comprehensive survey of the rural poetry of England. Better, then, that we pursue our scheme somewhat at random, suffering the plan, if any there be, to develope itself as we proceed with our task.
To this proposition we assented, since our aim was not methodically to pursue the study of our rural poetry, but rather to gain from it a certain amount of intellectual enjoyment. Our raid into this pleasant region of verse proved altogether so agreeable, that I have endeavoured since my return to London to record some reminiscences of our conversations. To succeed in such an attempt, and completely to revivify past enjoyment, is, I know, impossible; yet both HARTLEY and STANLEY consider that to some extent I have been successful.
You need not fear a surfeit; here is but little, and that light of digestion.
Friends and fellow-students of poetry, said Hartley, on the following evening-putting on a certain gravity and pompousness of manner, as he spoke-behold the face of one revered bard smiling at us through the vista of faroff centuries, before English literature had an existence, or English history its most spirit-stirring chapters. Do you wish that Chaucer had lived nearer the age of Shakspeare and had written in a more intelligible language; or are you not the rather grateful that from his " well of English undefiled," every student of our tongue has been able ever since to draw an unceasing supply of illustrations, and that from that well-call it rather an everflowing stream-Shakspeare and Spenser, Milton and Wordsworth have quaffed draughts, purer and more sparkling than any that could be drawn from Helicon?
STANLEY. Chaucer's poetry is so good, that it is assuredly worth while to study the language in which it is written, even though it be, which it is not, as difficult as Latin or Greek. Yet it needs no small painstaking, to become a complete master of Chaucer's English ; and, although well repaid for the toil, one cannot help wishing that the original cost had been less.
HARTLEY. So do not I. All earnest study brings its own reward, and the labour in this instance serves to deepen the love. Besides an acquaintance with some of the most humorous and the most pathetic poetry in the language, I have gained from reading Chaucer divers odd pieces of knowledge, and an insight into the condition of society in his age that I could not have derived from other
Thanks to Mr. Wright for his text, and more thanks still to Mr. Bell, for the most useful and readable edition we possess of the poet. Until the appearance of that edition, about eight or ten years ago, I had read and admired Chaucer, but I had never entered into the spirit of his poetry with that hearty, downright enjoyment of which I am conscious now. Those eight small volumes form a precious part of my poetical library.
STANLEY. To translate Chaucer into modern English is to destroy all his raciness. It is like eating a stale cucumber, or drinking wine that has been a long time decanted. “ Hermann und Dorothea,” that sweet German pastoral, would be scarcely more injured in an English dress.
TALBOT. I don't think Chaucer suffers more than every great poet inevitably must, by such a transmutation. Language is more important to the poet, than colour is to the artist. His whole conception is linked to certain words in which alone he can express it; his every thought is married to a special vocable; and a divorce between them threatens as much injury in its way, as any which can be inflicted in the court of Sir James Wilde.
HARTLEY. Yes, indeed; it is something like sacrilege to attempt to modernize such a poet as Chaucer. Rob