Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


gions “consecrate to eldest time ?" Is there nothing in man, considered abstractedly from the distinctions of this worldnothing in a being who is in the infancy of an immortal lifewho is lackeyed by "a thousand liveried angels"-who is even

splendid in ashes and pompous in the grave”--to awaken ideas of permanence, solemnity, and grandeur ? Are there no themes sufficiently exalted for poetry in the midst of death and of life in the desires and hopes which have their resting-place near the throne of the Eternal—in affections, strange and wondrous in their working, and unconquerable by time, or anguish, or destiny? How little comparatively of allusion is there even in Shakspeare, whose genius will not be regarded as rigid or austere, to other · venerablenesses than those of the creation, and to qualities less common than the human heart! The very luxuries which surround his lovers

-the pensive sweetnesses which steal away the sting from his saddest catastrophes—are drawn from man's universal immunities, and the eldest sympathies of the universe. The divinity which “ hedges his kings" is only humanity's finer

Even his Lear is great only in intellectual might and in the terrible strangeness of his afflictions. While invested with the pomp and circumstance of his station, he is froward, impatient, thankless less than a child in his liberality and in his resentments; but when he is cast abroad to seek a lodging with the owl and to endure the fury of the elements, and is only a poor and despised old man, the exterior crust which a life of prosperity had hardened over his soul is broken up by the violence of his sorrows, his powers expand within his worn and wasted frame, his spirit awakens in its long-forgotten strength, and even in the wanderings of distraction gives hints of the profoundest philosophy, and manifests a real kindliness of nature a sweet and most affecting courtesy-of which there was no vestige in the days of his pride. The regality of Richard lies not in a compliment extern”-the philosophy of Hamlet has a princeliness above that of his rankmand the beauties of Imogen are shed into her soul only by the selectest influences of creation.

The objects which have been usually regarded as the most poetical, derive from the soul itself the far larger share of their poetical qualities. All their power to elevate, to delight,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

or to awe us, which does not arise from mere form, colour,
and proportion, is manifestly drawn from the instincts com-
mon to the species. The affections have first consecrated
all that they revere. “ Cornice, frieze, jutting, or archi-
trave," are fit nestling-places for poetry, chiefly as they are
the symbols of feelings of grandeur and duration in the
hearts of the beholders. A poet then who seeks at once for
beauty and sublimity in their native home of the human soul
-who resolves “non sectari rivulos sed petere fontes
can hardly be accused with justice of rejecting the themes
most worthy of a bard. His office is, indeed, more arduous
than if he selected those subjects about which hallowing
associations have long clustered, and which other poets have
already rendered sacred. But if he can discover new depths
of affection in the soul—or throw new tinges of loveliness
on objects hitherto common, he ought not to be despised in
proportion to the severity of the work, and the absence of
extrinsic aid! Wordsworth's persons are not invested with
antique robes, nor clad in the symbols of worldly pomp, but
they are “apparelled in celestial light.” By his power “ the
bare earth and mountains bare” are covered with an ima.
ginative radiance more holy than that which old Greek poets
shed over Olympus. The world, as consecrated by his
poetic wisdom, is an enchanted scene-redolent with sweet
humanity, and vocal with “echoes from beyond the grave.”

We shall now attempt to express the reasons for our belief in Wordsworth's genius, by first giving a few illustrations of his chief faculties, and then considering them in their application to the uses of philosophical poetry.

We allude first to the descriptive faculty, because though not the least popular, it is the lowest which Wordsworth possesses. He shares it with many others, though few, we think, enjoy it in so eminent a degree. It is difficult, indeed, to select passages from his works which are merely descrip

but those which approach nearest to portraiture, and are least imbued with fantasy, are master-pieces in their kind. Take, for example, the following picture of masses of vapour receding among the steeps and summits of the mountains, after a storm, beneath an azure sky; the earlier part of which seem almost like another glimpse of Milton's heaven;

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


and the conclusion of which impresses us solemnly with the most awful visions of Hebrew prophecy:

6 A step,

A single step which freed me from the skirts
Of the blind vapour, opened to my view
Glory beyond all glory ever seen
By waking sense or by the dreaming soul-
The appearance instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty city--boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a wondrous depth
Far sinking into splendour-without end !
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes and silver spires;
And blazing terrace upon terrace high
Uplifted: here serene pavilions bright
In avenues disposed; there towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless fronts
Bore stars, illumination of all gems!
O'twas an unimaginable sight;
Clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks, and emerald turf,
Clouds of all tincture, rocks and sapphire sky,
Confused, commingled, mutually inflamed,
Molten together, and composing thus,
Each lost in each, that marvellous array
Of temple, palace, citadel, and huge
Fantastic pomp of structure without name,
In fleecy folds voluminous enwrapped.
Right in the midst, where interspace appeared
Of open court, an object like a throne
Beneath a shining canopy, of state
Stood fix'd; and fix'd resemblances were seen
To implements of ordinary use,
But vast in size, in substance glorified;
Such as by Hebrew prophets were beheld
In vision--forms uncouth of mightiest power,
For admiration and mysterious awe!”.

Excursion, B. II.

Contrast with this the delicate grace of the following picture, which represents the white doe of Rylstone that most beautiful of mysteries-on her Sabbath visit to the grave of her sainted lady:

“ Soft-the dusky trees between
And down the path through the open green

Where is no living thing to be seen;
And through yon gate-way where is found,
Beneath the arch with ivy bound,
Free entrance to the church.yard ground;
And right across the verdant sod
Towards the very house of God;
-Comes gliding in with lovely gleam,
Comes gliding in serene and slow,
Soft and silent as a dream,
A solitary Doe!
White is she as lily in June;
And beautious as the silver moon,
When out of sight the clouds are driven
And she is left alone in heaven;
Or like a ship some gentle day
In sunshine sailing far away,
A glittering ship, that hath the plain
Of ocean for her own domain.


What harmonious pensire changes
Wait upon her as she ranges
Round and through this pile of state,
Overthrown and desolate!
Now a step or two her way
Is through space of open day,
Where the enamour'd sunny light
Brightens her that was so bright;
Now doth a delicate shadow fall,
Falls upon her like a breath,
From some lofty arch or wall,
As she passes underneath:
Now some gloomy nook partakes
Of the glory which she makes,-
High ribbed vault of stone, or cell
With perfect cunning framed, as well
Of stone and ivy, and the spread
of the elder's bushy head;
Some jealous and forbidding cell,
That doth the living stars repel,
And where no flower hath leave to dwell.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Her's are eyes serenely bright, And on she moves—with pace how light! Nor spares to stoop her head, and taste The dewy turf, with flowers bestrown; And in this way she fares, till at last Beside the ridge of a grassy grave In quietness she lays her down; Gently as a weary wave

Sinks, when the summer brecze hath died,
Against an anchor'd vessel's side;
Even so, without distress, doth she
Lie down in peace, and lovingly.”

White Doe of Rylstone, Canto I.

What, as mere description, can be more masterly than the following picture of the mountain solitude, where a dog was found, after three months' watching by his master's bodythough the touches which send the feeling of deep loneliness into the soul, and the bold imagination which represents the huge recess as visited by elemental presences, are produced by higher than descriptive powers !

" It was a cove, a huge recess,

That keeps till June December's snow;
A lofty precipice in front,
A silent tarn below!
Far in the bosom of Helvellyn,
Remote from public road or dwelling,
Pathway, or cultivated land;
From trace of human foot or hand.


There sometimes does a leaping fish
Send through the Tarn a lonely cheer;
The crags repeat the raven's croak
In symphony austere;
Thither the rain-bow comes, the cloud;
And mists that spread the flying shroud,
And sun-beams; and the sounding blast,
That if it could, would hurry past,
But that enormous barrier binds it fast."


We must abstain from farther examples of the descriptive faculty, and allude to that far higher gift which Wordsworth enjoys in his profound acquaintance with the sanctities of the soul. He does not make us feel the strength of the passions, by their violent contests in a transient storm, but the measureless depth of the affections when they are stillest and most holy. We often meet in his works with little passages in which we seem almost to contemplate the well-springs of pure emotion and gentle pathos, and to see the old clefts in the rock of humanity whence they arise. In these we may not rarely perceive the true elements of tales of the purest

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »