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Compare this with the repetition of the same image, in the next stanza but two.

“ And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,

Beside the little pond or moorish flood
Motionless as a Cloud the Old Man stood,
That heareth not the loud winds when they call;
And moveth altogether, if it move at all ”

Or lastly, the second of the three following stanzas, compared both with the first and the third.

“My former thoughts returned; the fear that kills;
And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labor, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
But now, perplex'd by what the Old Man had said,
My question eagerly did I renew,
• How is it that you live, and what is it you do?

He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said, that, gathering Leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the Ponds where they abide.
Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may.'

While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
The Old Man's shape, and speech, all troubled me :
In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently."

Indeed this fine poem is especially characteristic of the author. There is scarce a defect or excellence in his writings of which it would not present a specimen. But it would be unjust not to repeat that this defect is only occasional. From a careful reperusal of the two volumes of poems, I doubt whether the objectionable passages would amount in the whole to one hundred lines; not the eighth part of the number of pages.

In THE EXCURSION the feeling of incongruity is seldom excited by the diction of any passage considered in itself, but by the sudden superiority of some other passage forming the context.


The second defect I can generalize with tolerable accuracy, if the reader will pardon an uncouth and new coined word. There is, I should say, not seldom a matter-of-factness in certain poems. This may be divided into, first, a laborious minuteness and fidelity in the representation of objects, and their positions, as they appeared to the poet himself; secondly, the insertion of accidental circumstances, in order to the full explanation of his living characters, their dispositions and actions; which circumstances might be necessary to establish the probability of a statement in real life, where nothing is taken for granted by the hearer; but appear superfluous in poetry, where the reader is willing to believe for his own sake. To this accidentality I object, as contravening the essence of poetry, which Aristotle pronounces to be σπουδαιότατον και φιλοσοφώτατον γένος, 12 the most intense, weighty, and philosophical product of human art; adding, as the reason, that it is the most catholic and abstract. The following passage from Davenant's prefatory letter to Hobbes well expresses this truth. “ When I considered the actions which I meant to describe (those inferring the persons), I was again persuaded rather to choose those of a former age, than the present; and in • a century so far removed, as might preserve me from their improper examinations, who know not the requisites of a poem, nor how much pleasure they lose (and even the pleasures of heroic poesy are not unprofitable), who take away the liberty of a poet, and fetter his feet in the shackles of an historian. For why should a poet doubt in story to mend the intrigues of fortune by more delightful conveyances of probable fictions, because austere historians have entered into bond to truth?

An obligation, which were in poets as foolish and unnecessary, as is the bondage of false martyrs, who lie in chains for a mistaken opi. nion. But by this I would imply, that truth, narrative and past, is the idol of historians (who worship a dead thing), and truth operative, and by effects continually alive, is the mistress of poets, who hath not her existence in matter, but in reason.

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12 [Διό και φιλοσοφώτερον και σπουδαιότερον ποίησις ιστορίας εστίν. ΠΕΡΙ JOIHTIKHE. See the quotation, chap. iv., note 4. S. C.]

13 [From the Preface before Gondibert. To his much honored friend Mr. Hobbes, dated Louvre in Paris, Jan. 2, 1650. S. C.]

For this minute accuracy in the painting of local imagery, the lines in The Excursiòn, pp. 96, 97, and 98, may be taken, if not as a striking instance, yet as an illustration of my mean. ing."! It must be some strong motive—(as, for instance, that the description was necessary to the intelligibility of the tale)which could induce me to describe in a number of verses what a draughtsman could present to the eye with incomparably greater satisfaction by half a dozen strokes of his pencil, or the painter with as many touches of his brush. Such descriptions too often occasion in the mind of a reader, who is determined to understand his author, a feeling of labor, not very dissimilar to that, with which he would construct a diagram, line by line, for a long geometrical proposition. It seems to be like taking the pieces of a dissected map out of its box. We first look at one part, and then at another, then join and dove-tail them; and when the successive acts of attention have been completed, there is a retrogressive effort of mind to behold it as a whole. The poet should paint to the imagination, not to the fancy; and I know no happier case to exemplify the distinction between these two faculties. Master-pieces of the former mode of poetic paint. ing abound in the writings of Milton, for example:


s« The fig-tree; not that kind for fruit renown'd,

But such as at this day, to Indians known,
In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms
Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree, a pillar'd shade
High over-arched, and ECHOING WALKS BETWEEN:
There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,
Shelters in cool, ani tends his pasturing herds
Al loop-holes cut through thickest shade:"_15

This is creation rather than painting, or if painting, yet such, and with such co-presence of the whole picture fashed at once upon

the eye, as the sun paints in a camera obscura. But the poet must likewise understand and command what Bacon calls the vestigia communia of the senses, the latency of all in each,

14 [Book iii , P. W., vi., pp. 78-9. S. C.] 16 [Par. Lost, Book ix., 1. 1101.]


and more especially as by a magicat penna dupler; the excite ment of vision by sound and the exponents of sound. Thus, “ The echoing walks between,” may be almost said to reverse the fable in tradition of the head of Memnon, in the Egyptian statue. Such may be deservedly entitled the creative words in the world of imagination.

The second division respects an apparent minute adherence to matter of fact in character and incidents; a biographical attention to probability, and an anxiety of explanation and retrospect. Under this head I shall deliver, with no feigned diffidence, the results of my best reflection on the great point of controversy between Mr. Wordsworth and his objectors; namely, on the choice of his characters. I have already declared, and, I trust, justified my utter dissent from the mode of argument which his critics have hitherto employed. To their question,—“Why did you chogse such a character, or a character from such a rank of life ?”—the poet might in my opinion fairly retort; why with the conception of my character did you make wilful choice of mean or ludicrous associations not furnished by me, but supplied from your own sickly and fastidious feelings? How was it, indeed, probable, that such arguments could have any weight with an author, whose plan, whose guiding principle, and main object it was to attack and subdue that state of association, which leads us to place the chief value on those things on which man differs from man, and to forget or disregard the high dignities which belong to Human Nature, the sense and the feeling, which may be, and ought to be, found in all ranks? The feelings with which, as Christians, we contemplate a mixed congregation rising or kneeling before their common Maker, Mr. Wordsworth would

16 [The Statue of Memnon, one of two statues called Shamy and Damy, which stand at a little distance from Medinet Abou, towards the Nile, looking eastward, directly opposite to the Temple of Luxor, was said to utter a sound like the snapping of a musical string, when it was struck by the first beams of the sun. There is no doubt, that before Cambyses broke this colossus, it uttered sounds when the sun shone on it: the statue is composed of a quartzy sandstone, highly crystallized, containing a consi. derable portion of iron, and this material, when struck, gives a metallic ring. The excitement of vision by the suggestion of sound is the con: versc of the excitement of sound by the impulse of light. S. C.]

have us entertain at all times, as men, and as readers; and by the excitement of this lofty, yet prideless impartiality in poetry, he might hope to have encouraged its continuance in real life The praise of good men be his! In real life, and, I trust, even, in my imagination, I honor a virtuous and wise man, without reference to the presence or absence of artificial advantages. Whether in the person of an armed baron, a laurelled bard, or of an old Pedlar, or still older Leech-gatheret, the same qualities of head and heart must claim the same reverence. And even in poetry I am not conscious that I have ever suffered my feelings to be disturbed or offended by any thoughts or images, which the poet himself has not presented.

But yet I object, nevertheless, and for the following reasons. First, because the object in view, as an immediate object, belongs to the moral philosopher, and would be pursued, not only more appropriately, but in my opinion with far greater probability of success, in sermons or moral essays, than in an elevated poem. It seems, indeed, to destroy the main fundamental distinction, not only between a poem and prose, but even between philosophy and works of fiction, inasmuch as it proposes truth for its immediate object, instead of pleasure. Now, till the blessed time shall come, when truth itself shall be pleasure, and both shall be so united as to be distinguishable in words only, not in feel. ing, it will remain the poet's office to proceed upon that state of association, which actually exists as general ; instead of attempting first to make it what it ought to be, and then to let the pleasure follow. But here is unfortunately a small hysteron-proteron. For the communication of pleasure is the introductory means by whieh alone the poet must expect to moralize his readers. Secondly : though I were to admit, for a moment, this argument to be groundless : yet how is the moral effect to be produced, by inerely attaching the name of some low profession to powers which are least likely, and to qualities which are assuredly not more likely, to be found in it? The Poet, speaking in his own person, may at once delight and improve us by sentiments, which teach us the independence of goodness, of wisdom, and even of genius, on the favors of fortune. And having made a due re

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