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LINES ON A SKELETON.
Within this hollow cavern hung
But if the page of truth they sought,
Avails it, whether bare or shod,
WILLIAM WORDSWORTA whose claims to distinction, as a great poet, have been so often and so sharply contested, was born in the county of Cumberland, England, in the year 1770, and died in 1850. Poetry was almost the sole business of his life : circumstances conspiring, in a remarkable way, to afford him leisure to follow this object.
WILLIAM and ROBERT CHAMBERS are models of energy and perseverance. They are natives of Peebles, in Scotland. William was born in 1800; Robert in 1802. William learned the trade of a printer; Robert became a bookseller; and both became authors. Until 1832, these brothers pursued their fortunes, for the most part, separately. At that time they united their business establishments, and commenced the publication of the famous “Edinburgl Journal.” Two years later they started a series of treatises, in popular style, under the title,_“Information for the People.” Both of these reached an enormous circulation. Then followed (among other things) a “Cyclopædia of English Literature,” and “ Papers for the People;" from the former of which we have taken our sketch of “The Ettrick Shepherd,” (Exercise X.) and from the latter, the following, as it seems to us, fair estimate of the poet Wordsworth.
SKETCH OF WORDSWORTH.
1. His devotion to external nature had the power and per. vasiveness of a passion; his perception of its most minute beauties was exquisitely fine; and his portraitures, both of landscapes and figures, were so distinctly outlined as to impress them on the mind almost as vividly and deeply as the sight of them couid have done.
2. But he was defective in the stronger passions, and hence, in spite of the minuteness of his portraitures of character, he failed to produce real human beings capable of stirring the blood; and what was even more serious, he himself was incapacitated from feeling a genial and warm sympathy in the struggles of modern man, on whom he rather looked, as from a distant hight, with the commiseration of some loftier nature.
3. From the characteristics enumerated arose the great faults of his works. His landscape paintings are often much too minute. He dwells too tediously on every small object and detail, and from his over-intense appreciation of them, which magnifies their importance, rejects all extrinsic ornaments, and occasionally, though exceptionally, adopts a style bare and meager, and even phrases tainted with mean associations. Hence all his personages—being without reality-fail to attract; and even his strong domestic affections, and his love for everything pure and simple, do not give a sufficient human interest to his poems.
4. His prolixity and tediousness are aggravated by a want of artistic skill in construction; and it is owing to this that he is most perfect in the sonnet, which renders the development of these faults an impossibility, while it gives free play to his naturally pure, tasteful, and lofty diction. His imagination was majestic; his fancy lively and sparkling; and he had a refined and attic humor, which, however, he seldom called into exercise.
5. The influence of Wordsworth on the poetry of his age has, however, been as beneficial as extensive. He has turned the public taste from pompous inanity to the study of man and nature; he has banished the false and exaggerated style of character and emotion which even the genius of Byron stooped to imitate; and he has enlisted the sensibilities and sympathies of his intellectual brethren in favor of the most expansive and kindly philanthropy *
* This last paragraph is from a different work by the same author
INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
To me did seem
By night or day,
The Rainbow comes and goes,
The moon doth with delight
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
As to the tabor's sound,
And I again am strong:
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
And with the heart of May
Thou Child of Joy, Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, then happy
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live, That Nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive! The thought of our past years in me doth breed Perpetual benediction; not, indeed, For that which is most worthy to be blest; Delight and liberty, the simple creed Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest, With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast :
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those first affections
Those shadowy recollections,
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make