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accompanies and enters into the lower degrees of impersonation. If the impression resulting from the whole, is that which I have endeavoured to render by the expression, a LIVING CALM, this belongs to the same mode of imagination. It is as if the vast and deep tranquillity, the very rest and peace, were self-conscious.
Tickler. You 're a clever lad, Kit, Perge Puer.
North. It may be proper here to repeat, that in this particular act or mode of imagination, the analysis of imagination gives this form, which always appears to me to be the essential and proper form of imagination, viz., that an object being given to the understanding, by a new and further intellectual act, a feeling not proper to the object (that is, not proper to it in its truth, as conceived by the understanding) is superinduced upon it. Try this in one or two instances. “Silence was pleased.” What is given to the understanding ? The noiselessness and hush of night—and song delighting the ear, and not disturbing to the heart, but rather quickening and deepening the affection, produced by the general hush and repose. But herein moved imagination perceives a listening spirit of silence—and that pleasure which is felt by the bodily imagined witness, the poet, or any other, and that non-disturbance and rather vivifying and intensifying of his affection of stillness and peace, is, by a turn of imagination, transferred to that spirit which is conceived to be pleased with, and, instead of being annihilated, to exist in more animation by virtue of those sounds. There is here both a production and a variation of thought, beyond or after, or from what is given, proper to the understanding. Is there, by means of these further intellectual acts, any new different feeling induced towards the object of the understanding ? Undoubtedly there is, though the difference may be difficult to define. For it is quite impossible that we should look with the same affection of feeling on objects materially different, though it is often difficult to ascertain what our feeling is, especially towards objects which do not affect us with strong emotion; as indeed very many of the feelings of imagination are of so slight, delicate, fine a kind, that we hardly know how to speak of them, or to call them feeling, they are so infinitely remote from the vehement and possessing power of ordinary passion. Our feeling, or the affection of our mind, the disposition to feel, cannot be the same towards objects so different as the actual silence of nature, and that vivified Silence having a soul into which song is instilled. The affection with which we consider silence itself, including in it the idea of tranquillity, is that of tranquillity mixed with something of solemnity, and from its vacancy of fear. But if Silence is considered as “LIVING,” the sense of solemnity is taken off in some degree, that of fear altogether.
Shepherd. Weel, thank Heaven, this metafvesical inquiry, for it was nae less, into the natur o'imagination, is owre, and that I hae survived
it, though rather a wee fentish-sae let's drap in a thummlefu'o'
The other Shape,
Shepherd, (looking round.) What said ye? Sawtan at haun'!
North. Speak of the Devil and he'll appear, is a general rule, my dear James, subject to an occasional exception. Regain your composure.
Shepherd. It's a fearsome passage.
Tickler, (taking North's crutch under his arm and imitating the voice, gesture and manner of the “old man eloquent.”) In this sublime passage, the power of imagination is at its height. This being, who, at the gates of hell, offers combat to Satan, has not even yet been named, as if the poet were so lost in the emotion accompanying the sight of the phantom he had himself conjured up, that even a very name had not risen yet for what was so unsubstantial. He scarcely dares to call it by the vague term “Shape;" but as soon as he does so, qualifies even that approach to substantiality, by saying, “if Shape it might be called, which shape had none distinguishable,” or “substance might be called that shadow seemed.” Then he adds that still farther feeling of unreality —"each seemed either," that is, substance seemed shadow, shadow seemed substance. Thus uncertain in its horror to his eyes, “ black it seemed as night;" not utter darkness, but something black and grim, “darkness visible”-fierce-not as a Fury--for that would be something too definite, since the image of a Fury is of something conceived to exist-but fierce as ten furies, an expression in which all individuality is lost, and nothing conveyed to the mind but an idea of aggregated and accumulated fierceness. “ Terrible as hell” is still more vague, and purposely so, or rather so under the power of the emotion; yet in all this obscurity, unsubstantiality and shadowiness, it shook a dreadful dart, (observe how much effect is in that word, it,) something not described by any quality, as of size or shape, but merely “ dreadful”-how, why, or in what dread. ful, we know not; while this motion of its weapon directs the mind to look on the Shape that brandishes it, and lo! that which seemed
its head-not its head, but that which in that fury-haunted and infernal darkness seemed its head—the likeness—not the reality-but the likeness of a kingly crown had on! Poetry alone could give such an imagination as this—for painting would at once of necessity give outlines, features, realities, which, however enveloped in obscurity, would be fatal to the fearful effect, and embody too sensibly the here almost unembodied attributes of this seeming, shadowy, threatening, scarcelyexisting, yet most terrific Impersonation!
Shepherd. Had ma twa een been shut the noo, like them o'a Methodist minister sayin' grace, I could hae sworn that you was Mr. Nortlı, Mr. Tickler. His verra vice! And then, as to the matter, the same licht o' truth fitfully brichtening through the glimmer or gloom o' a mair or less perfeck incomprehensibility. An' that's what you twa chiels ca' pheelosophical creetyschism ?
Tickler. Pray recite, James, a passage from the Excursion, that I may make it undergo a similar process of investigation into the principles of composition.
Shepherd. Me receet a passage frae the Excursion ?
Tickler. The Excursion is full of fine poetry, but it is not what the author intended it to be, and believes that it is--a Great Poem. Mr. Wordsworth cannot conceive a mighty plan. His imagination is of the first order; but his intellect does not seem to me, who belong, you know, North, to the old school, commanding and comprehensive. His mind has many noble visions, but they come and go, each in its own glory; a phantasmagorical procession, beautiful, splendid, sublime, but not anywhere forming a whole, on which the spectator can gaze, entranced by the power of unity!
Shepherd. Entranced by the power o' Unity! Havers—clavers !
Tickler. Considered as a work that is to hand down his name tu future ages, among those of our great English poets, our Spensers, and our Miltons, I must think it a failure, and that it will for ever exclude him from that band of immortals. But you have taught me, sir, to see that it contains passages of such surpassing excellence, in the description of external nature, and in the delineation of feeling, passion and thought, that I think they may be set by the side of the best passages of a similar kind to be found within the whole range of poetry.
Shepherd. That's praise aneuch to satisfy ony reasonable man.
North. We are not now speaking for the satisfaction of Mr. Wordsworth, but of ourselves
Shepherd. And the warld.
North. My admiration of Mr. Wordsworth's genius is well known to the universe, and has often been expressed with more enthusiasm than had been accompanied by the sympathies even of the wisest. I
hope it is nevertheless judicious; and I have always given reasons for m y delight in his works. But the admiration of some of his critics has, of late years, been anything but judicious; and the language in which it has been expressed, so outrageous, as to do greater injury to his just and fair fame, than all the attacks of his mightiest or meanest enemies. The Excursion has been often compared by the Cockneys with Paradise Lost; and that portion of the Reading Public who know something of Mr. Wordsworth's poetry, but not much, have become indignant and disgusted at sucho foolery, and transferred unconsciously, to the bard himself, some of those ungenial feelings with which it was inevitable and right that they should regard the idiots who had set him up as their idol. His genius is indeed worthy of far other worship.
Tickler. With Milton! Shakspeare! forsooth! Why, Paradise Lost is, by the consent of all the civilized world, declared to be the grandest and most sublime poem that ever emanated from the mind of man, equally so in conception and in execution. It embraces all that human beings can feel or comprehend of themselves, their origin and their destiny. The Excursion is an eloquent and poetical journal of a few days' walk among the mountains of the north of England, kept by one of the party, in which every syllable, good, bad and indifferent, that was uttered by the three friends, was carefully recorded, and many connecting descriptions introduced by the journalist himself, who was the only one of the trio who had “the accomplishment of verse." I have said enough already to expose the frantic folly of those who speak in the same breath of Paradise Lost and the Excursion.
Shepherd. Quite aneuch.
North. Although the Plan of the Excursion is altogether inartificial, and far from felicitous in any respect, yet it affords room for the display of Mr. Wordsworth's very original genius, which delights in description of all that is grand and beautiful on the earth, and in the heavens above the earth, and which is, on all such occasions, truly creative. The Three Friends wander wherever the wind wafts them, poetizing and philosophizing in the solitudes. Sometimes the objects before them awaken their spirits—the rocks, or the houses, or the clouds and not unfrequently they forget “the visible diurnal sphere," and, in fine flights of imagination, visit the uttermost parts of the earth. The “impulses of deeper kind that come to them in solitude,” they delightedly obey; and soon as these impulses cease, they are all equally willing, according to the finest feelings of humanity, to cross the thresholds of “huts where poor men lie," and to converse of, or with them, cheerfully and benignantly; or when more solemn thoughts again arise, to walk into the Churchyard among the Mountains, and
muse and meditate among the stoneless turfs above the humble dead, or among the pillars of the sacred pile, on which hang the escutcheons, or are painted the armorial bearings of the high-born ancestry of hall and castle.
Shephe d. Ay, sir, these Books are delichtfu’-divine.
North. I love to hear you say so, my dear James. They are divine.
Tickler. Would that all those exquisite pictures had been by themselves, without the cumbrous machinery of the clumsy plan-if plan. it may be called.
North. It is obvious that a parallel might be drawn, though I have no intention now of doing so, between the Excursion and the Task. Wordsworth, it not by nature, certainly by the influences of this life, has far higher enthusiasm of soul than Cowper. He has seen far more of the glories of creation than it was given that other great poet to see; and hence, when he speaks of external nature, his strains are generally of a loftier mood. But Cowper was not ambitious and Wordsworth's chief fault is ambition. The author of The Task loved nature for her own sake—the author of The Excursion loves her chiefly for the sake of the power which she inspires within him--for the sake of the poetry that his gifted spirit flings over all her cliffs, and infuses into all her torrents. It often requires great effort to follow Wordsworth in his hymns—nor can any reader do so who has not enjoyed some of the same privileges in youth that have all his life long been open to that poet-above all, the privileges of freedom from this world's carking cares, enjoyed to the uttermost among the steadfast spectacles, or sudden apparitions of nature. But almost all persons alike, who have ever lived in the country at all, can go along with Cowper. Fields, hedgerows, groves, gardens, all common rural sights and sounds, and those too of all the seasons, are realized in The Task so easily and naturally, that we see and hear as we read, with minds seldom, perhaps, greatly elevated above the every-day mood, but touched with gentle and purest pleasure, and filled with a thousand delightful memories. Wordsworth's finest strains can be felt or understood only when our imagination is ready to ascend to its highest sphere-and to the uninitiated they must be unintelligible, and that is indeed their very highest praise. But the finest things in The Task may be enjoyed at all times, and almost by every cultivated mind. That too is their highest praise. To which of the two kinds of poetry the palm should be given, it would be hard to say; but it is easy to know which of the two must be the more popular. Were it for nothing else than its rural descriptions, The Task would still be a favourite poem with almost all classes of readers. Noble as they are, and, in our opinion, frequently equal, if not superior to any thing of the kind in poetry, the rural descriptions of Wordsworth (rural is but a poor word here) can never be sympathized with by