Imágenes de páginas

Dark is the region as with coming night;
Yet what a sudden burst of overpowering light!
Triumphant on the bosom of the storm,
Glances the fire-clad eagle's wheeling form ;
Eastward, in long perspective glittering, shine
The wood-crowned cliffs that o'er the lake recline ;
Those Eastern cliffs a hundred streams uofold,
At once to pillars turned that Aame with gold;
Behind his sail the peasant strives to shun
The west, that burns like one dilated sun,
Where in a mighty crucible expire
The mountains, glowing hot, like coals of fire.”10

The poetic Psyche, in its process to full development, under. goes as many changes as its Greek namesake, the butterfly.' And it is remarkable how soon genius clears and purifies itself from the faults and errors of its earliest products ; faults which, in its earliest compositions, are the more obtrusive and confluent, because as heterogeneous elements, which had only a temporary use, they constitute the very ferment, by which themselves are carried off. Or we may compare them to some diseases, which must work on the humors, and be thrown out on the surface, in order to secure the patient from their future recurrence. I was in my twenty-fourth year when I had the happiness of knowing Mr. Wordsworth personally, and while memory lasts I shall hardly forget the sudden effect produced on my mind by his reci. tation of a manuscript poem, which still remains unpublished, but of which the stanza and tone of style were the same as those of The Female Vagrant, as originally printed in the first volume of the Lyrical Ballads." There was here no mark of strained

10 [Poet. Works, I., p. 80. Ed.]

11 The Butterfly the ancient Grecians made

The soul's fair emblem, and its only name-
But of the soul, escaped the slavish trade
Of mortal lite! For in this earthly frame
Our's is the reptile's lot, much toil, much blame,
Manifold motions making little speed,

And to deform and kill the things whereon we feed. 13 [The poem to which reference is here made was intituled “ An Ad venture on Salisbury Plain.” Mr. Wordsworth afterwards broke it up, and “ The Female Vagrant" is composed out of it. Ed.]

thought, or forced diction, no crowd or turbulence of imagery ; and, as the poet hath himself well described in his Lines on re-visiting the Wye, manly reflection and human associations had given both variety, and an additional interest to natural objects, which, in the passion and appetite of the first love, they had seemed to him neither to need nor permit.' The occasional obscurities, which had risen from an imperfect control over the resources of his native language, had almost wholly disappeared, together with that worse defect of arbitrary and illogical phrases, at once hackneyed and fantastic, which hold so distinguished a

13 [For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all. I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colors and their forms, were then to me
An appetite, a feeling, and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ainple power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

II., pp. 164-5. Ed.)

place in the technique of ordinary poetry, and will, more or less, alloy the earlier poems of the truest genius, unless the attention has been specifically directed to their worthlessness and incongruity." I did not perceive anything particular in the mere style of the poem alluded to during its recitation, except, indeed, such difference as was not separable from the thought and man. ner; and the Spenserian stanza, which always, more or less, recalls to the reader's mind -Spenser's own style, would, doubtless, have authorized, in my then opinion, a more frequent descent to the phrases of ordinary life, than could, without an ill effect, have been hazarded in the heroic couplet. It was not, however, the freedom from false taste, whether as to common defects, or to those more properly his own, which made sc unusual an impression on my feelings immediately, and subse. quently on my judgment. It was the union of deep feeling with

14 Mr. Wordsworth, even in his two earliest poems, The Evening Walk and the Descriptive Sketches, is more free from this latter defect than most of the young poets his contemporaries. It may however be exemplified, together with the harsh and obscure construction, in which he inore often offended, in the following lines :

“'Mid stormy vapors ever driving by,
Where ospreys, cormorants, and herons cry;
Where hardly given the hopeless waste to cheer,
Denied the bread of life the foodful ear,
Dwindles the pear on autumn's latest spray,
And apple sickens pale in summer's ray;
Ev'n here content has fixed her smiling reign

With independence, child of high disdain.I hope, I need not say, that I have quoted these lines for no other purpose than to make my meaning fully understood. It is to be regretted that * Mr. Wordsworth has not republished these two poems entire.*


*( The passage stands thus in the last and corrected edition:

Where ospreys, cormorants, and herons cry,
'Mid storiny vapors ever driving by,
Or bovering over wastes too bleak to rear
That common growth of earth the foodful ear;
Where the green apple shrivels on the spray,
And pines the unripened pear in sumıner's kindliest ray;
Even here Content has fixed her smiling reign
With Independence, child of high Disdain.

I. p. 80. Ed.)

[ocr errors]

profound thought; the fine balance of truth in observing, with the imaginative faculty in modifying, the objects observed

; and, above all, the original gift of spreading the tone, the atmosphere, and with it the depth and height of the ideal world around forms, incidents, and situations, of which, for the common view, custom had bedimmed all the lustre, had dried up the sparkle and the dew-drops.

This excellence, which in all Mr. Wordsworth's writings is more or less predominant, and which constitutes the character of his mind, I no sooner felt, than I sought to understand. Re. peated meditations led me first to suspect and a more intimate analysis of the human faculties, their appropriate marks, functions, and effects, matured my conjecture into full conviction), that Fancy and Imagination were two distinct and widely different faculties, instead of being, according to the general belief, either two names with one meaning, or, at furthest, the lower and higher degree of one and the same power. It is not, I own, easy to conceive a more opposite translation of the Greek Davraria than the Latin imaginatio ; but it is equally true that in all soci. eties there exists an instinct of growth, a certain collective, un. conscious good sense working progressively to desynonymize

16 This is effected either by giving to the one word a general, and to the other an exclusive use; as “ to put on the back” and “to endorse;" or by an actual distinction of meanings, as “ naturalist,” and “physician;" OJ by difference of relation, as “I” and “ Me" (each of which the rustics of our different provinces still use in all the cases singular of the first personal pronoun). Even the mere difference, or corruption, in the pronunciation of the same word, if it have become general, will produce a new word with a distinct signification ; thus “property” and “ propriety;" the latter of which, even to the time of Charles II., was the written word for all the senses of both. There is a sort of minim immortal among the animalcula infusoria, which has not naturally either birth, or death, absolute beginning, or absolute end: for at a certain period a small point appears on its back, which deepens and lengthens till the creature divides into two, and the same process recommences in each of the halves now become integral. This may be a fanciful, but it is by no means a bad emblem of the formation of words, and may facilitate the conception, how iinmense a nomenclature may be organized from a few simple sounds by rational beings in a social state. For each new application, or excitement of the same sound will call forth a different sensation, which cannot but

those words originally of the same meaning, which the conflux of dialects supplied to the more homogeneous languages, as the Greek and German: and which the same cause, joined with ac. cidents of translation from original works of different countries, occasions in mixed languages like our own.

The first and most important point to be proved is, that two conceptions perfectly distinct are confused under one and the same word, and—this done—to appropriate that word exclusively to the one meaning, and the synonyme, should there be one, to the other. But if(as will be often the case in the arts and sciences),—no synonyme exists, we must either invent or borrow a word. In the present instance the appropriation has already begun, and been legitimated in the derivative adjective: Milton had a highly imagina. Y live, Cowley a very fanciful mind. If, therefore, I should suc

ceed in establishing the actual existence of two faculties gene. rally different, the nomenclature would be at once determined. To the faculty by which I had characterized Milton, we should confine the term “imagination ;" while the other would be contrá-distinguished as “ fancy.” Now were it once fully ascer. tained, that this division is no less grounded in nature than that of delirium from mania,'or Otway's

affect the pronunciation. The after recollection of the sound, without the same vivid sensation, will modify it still further; till at length all trace of the original likeness is worn away.

16 [“ You may conceive the difference in kind between the Fancy and the Imagination in this way ;-that, if the check of the senses and the reason were withdrawn, the first would become delirium and the last mania. The fancy brings together images which have no connexion natural or moral, but are yoked together by the poet by means of some accidental coincidence; as in the well known passage from Hudibras :

The Sun had long since in the lap
Of Thetis taken out his nap,
And like a lobster boil'd, the morn
From black to red began to turn.

The Imagination modifies images, and gives unity to variety: it sees all things in one, il più nell' uno. There is the epic imagination, the perfection of which is in Milton; and the dramatic, of which Shakspeare is the absolute master. The first gives unity by throwing back into the dis

« AnteriorContinuar »