« AnteriorContinuar »
tentional, as the result of choice after full deliberation. Thus the poems, admitted by all as excellent, joined with those which had pleased the far greater number, though they formed two. thirds of the whole work, instead of being deemed (as in all right they should have been, even if we take for granted that the reader judged aright) an atonement for the few exceptions, gave wind and fuel to the animosity against both the poems and the poet. In all perplexity there is a portion of fear, which predisposes the mind to anger. Not able to deny that the author possessed both genius and a powerful intellect, they felt very positive,—but yet were not quite certain that he might not be in the right, and they themselves in the wrong; an unquiet state of mind, which seeks alleviation by quarrelling with the occasion of it, and by wonder. ing at the perverseness of the man, who had written a long and argumentative essay to persuade them, that
Fair is foul, and foul is fair;
in other words, that they bad been all their lives admiring without judgment, and were now about to censure without reason.
• In opinions of long continuance, and in which we have never before been molested by a single doubt, to be suddenly convinced of an error, is almost like being convicted of a fault. There is a state of mind, which is the direct antithesis of that, which takes place when we make a bull. The bull namely consists in the bringing together two incompatible thoughts, with the sensation, but without the sense, of their connexion. The psychological condition, or that which constitutes the possibility, of this state, being such disproportionate vividness of two distant thoughts, as extinguishes or obscures the consciousness of the intermediate images or conceptions, or wholly abstracts the attention from them. Thus in the well known bull, “ I was a fine child, but they changed me;" the first conception expressed in the word “ 1,” is that of personal identity-Ego contemplans : the second expressed in the word " me,” is the visual image or object by which the mind represents to itself its past condition, or rather, its personal identity under the form in which it imagined itself previously to have existed,-Ego contemplatus. Now the change of one visual image for another involves in itself no absurdity, and becomes absurd only by its immediate juxta-position with the first thought, which is rendered possible by the whole attention being successively absorbed in each singly, so as not to notice the interjacent notion, changed, which by its incongruity with the first thought, I, constitutes the bull. Add only, that this process is That this conjecture is not wide from the mark, I am induced to believe from the noticeable fact, which I can state on my own knowledge, that the same general censure has been grounded by i almost every different person on some different poem. Among those, whose candor and judgment I estimate highly, I distinctly remember six who expressed their objections to the Lyrical Bal. lads almost in the same words, and altogether to the same pur. port, at the same time admitting, that several of the poems had given them great pleasure; and, strange as it might seem, the composition which one cited as execrable, another quoted as his favorite. I am indeed convinced in my own mind, that could the same experiment have been tried with these volumes, as was made in the well known story of the picture, the result would have been the same; the parts which had been covered by black spots on the one day, would be found equally albo lapide notata on the succeeding.
However this may be, it was assuredly hard and unjust to fix the attention on a few separate and insulated poems with as much aversion as if they had been so many plague-spots on the whole work, instead of passing them over in silence, as so much blank paper, or leaves of a bookseller's catalogue; especially as no one pretended to bave found in them any immorality or inde. licacy; and the poems, therefore, at the worst, could only be regarded as so many light or inferior coins in a rouleau of gold, not as so much alloy in a weight of bullion. A friend, whose talents I hold in the highest respect, but whose judgment and strong sound sense I have had almost continued occasion to
facilitated by the circumstance of the words I, and me, being sometimes equivalent, and sometimes having a distinct meaning ; sometimes, namely, signifying the act of self-consciousness, sometimes the external image in and by which the mind represents that act to itself, the result and symbol of its individuality. Now suppose the direct contrary state, and you will have a distinct sense of the connexion between two conceptions, wit!out that sensation of such connexion which is supplied by habit. The man feels as if he were standing on his head, though he cannot but see that he is truly standing on his feet. This, as a painful sensation, will of course have a tendency to associate itself with him who occasions it; even as per. sons, who have been by painful means restored from derangement, are kan yn to feel an involuntary dislike towards their physician.
revére, making the usual complaints to me concerning both the style and subjects of Mr. Wordsworth's minor poems, I admitted that there were some few of the tales and incidents in which I could not myself find a sufficient cause for their having been recorded in metre. I mentioned Alice Fell' as an instance. "Nay,” replied my friend, with more than usual quickness of manner, “l•cannot agree with you there!-that, I own, does seem to me a remarkably pleasing poem.” In the Lyrical Bal. lads (for my experience does not enable me to extend the remark equally unqualified to the two subsequent volumes), I have heard at different times, and from different individuals, every single poem extolled and reprobated, with the exception of those of loftier kind, which, as was before observed, seem to have won untversal praise. This fact of itself would have made me diffident in my censures, had not a still stronger ground been furnished by the strange contrast of the heat and long continuance of the opposition, with the nature of the faults stated as justifying it. The seductive faults, the dulcia vitia of Cowley, Marini, or Darwin, might reasonably be thought capable of corrupting the public judgment for half a century, and require a twenty years' war, campaign after campaign, in order to dethrone the usurper, and re-establish the legitimate taste. But that a downright simpleness, under the affectation of simplicity, prosaic words in feeble metre, silly thoughts in childish phrases, and a preference of mean, degrading, or, at best, trivial associations and characters, should succeed in forming a school of imitators, a company of almost religious admirers, and this, too, among young men of ardent minds, liberal education, and not
-with academic laurels unbestowed; and that this bare and bald counterfeit of poetry, which is charac.
5 [Poet. Works, I., 13. Ed.]
6 [John Baptist Marini, or Marino, a celebrated poet, known by the name of Il Cavalier Marino, was born at Naples, Oct. 18, 1569, died in the same city, March 21, 1625. He wrote a poem called Adonice, which was dedicated to Louis XIII., and first published at Paris, in folio, 1651. He left many other poems, among them, La Strage de gl'Innocenti, Ven., 1633, 4to., and La Lira, Rime Amorose, Maratime, Boscherecce, &c., 16mo, Ven., 1629. S. C.]
terized as below criticism, should for nearly twenty years have well-nigh engrossed criticism, as the main, if not the only, butt of review, magazine, pamphlet, poem, and paragraph ;—this is, indeed, matter of wonder. Of yet greater is it, that the contest should still continue as' undecided as that between Bacchus and the frogs in Aristophanes; when the former descended to the realms of the departed to bring back the spirit of old and genuine poesy :
Χ. βρεκεκεκεξ, κοάξ, κοάξ.
ουδέν γάρ ες' άλλ', ή κοάξ.
? Without, however, the apprehensions attributed to the Pagan reformer of the poetic republic. If we may judge from the preface to the recent collection of poems, Mr. W. would
ve answered with Xanthias
συ δ' οίκ εδεισας τον ψόφον των ρημάτων,
και τις απειλάς; ΞΑΝ. ού μα Δί', οίδ' εφρόντισα.* And here let me hint to the authors of the numerous parodies and pretended imitations of Mr. Wordsworth's style, that at once to conceal and convey wit and wisdom in the semblance of folly and dulness, as is done in the Clowns and Fools, nay, even in the Dogberry, of our Shakspeare, is doubt. less a proof of genius, or, at all events, of satiric talent; but that the attempt to ridicule a silly and childish poem, by writing another still sillier and still more childish, can only prove (if it prove anything at all) that the parodist is a still greater blockhead than the original writer, and, what is far worse, a malignant coxcomb to boot. The talent for mimicry seems strongest where the human race are most degraded. The poor, naked, half-human savages of New Holland were found excellent mimics; and, in civilized society, minds of the very lowest stamp alone satirize by copying. At least, the difference which must blend with and balance the likeness, in order to constitute a just imitation, existing here merely in caricature, detracts from the libeller's heart, without adding an iota to the credit of his understanding.
Rane, 492-3. 1" And if, bearing in mind the many Poets distinguished by this prime quality, who30 names I omit to mention ; yet, justified by recollection of the insults which the ignorini, the incapable, and the presuinptuous, have heaped upon these and my other writing, I may be permitted to anticipate the judgment of posterity upon myself, I shall declaro (censurable, I grant, if the notoriety of the fact above stated does not justify me) that I have given in these unfavorable times, evidence of exertions of this faculty upon its worthiest objects, the external universe, the moral and religious sentiments of Man, his natural affections, and his acquired passions; which have the same ennobling tendency as the prodnctions of men, in this kind, worthy to be holden in undying remembranco." . Preface to Wordsworth's Poems, 1815. Ed.)
οιμώζετ' ου γάρ μοι μελει.
γ', οπόσον ή φάρυγξ αν ημών
βρεκεκεκεξ, κουαξ, κοάξ!
οίδέποτε, κεκράξομαι γάρ,
έως αν υμων επικρατήσω του κοάξ !
During the last year of my residence at Cambridge, 1794, 1 became acquainted with Mr. Wordsworth's first publication, entitled Descriptive Sketches ;' and seldom, if ever, was the emergence of an original poetic genius above the literary horizon more evidently announced. In the form, style, and manner of the whole poem, and in the structure of the particular lines and periods, there is a harshness and acerbity connected and combined with words and images all a-glow, which inight recall those products of the vegetable world, where gorgeous blossoms rise out of a hard and thorny rind and shell, within which the rich fruit is elaborating. Th language is not only peculiar and strong, but at times knotty and contorted, as by its own impatient strength; while the novelty and struggling crowd of images, acting in conjunction with the difficulties of the style, demands always a greater closeness of attention than poetry,—at all events, than descriptive poetry—has a right to claim. It not seldom, therefore, justified the complaint of obscurity. In the following extract, I have sometimes fancied that I saw an emblern of the poem itself, and of the author's genius as it was then dis. played :
“ 'Tis storm; and hid in mist from hour to hour,
All day the floods a deepening murmur pour;
• [Rane, 225-7, 257-66. Ed.] , TPublished in 1793. Ed.]