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Remains entire and indivisible;
And, if that ignorance were remov'd, which acts
Within the compass of their sev'ral shores
To breed commotion and disquietude,
Each might preserve the beautiful repose
Of heav'nly bodies shining in their spheres.
—The discipline of slavery is unknown
Amongst us,—hence the more do we require
The discipline of virtue; order else
Cannot subsist, nor confidence, nor peace."
pp. 402, 403.
There is a good deal of fine description in the course of this work; but we have left ourselves no room for any specimen. The following few lines, however, are a fine epitome of a lake voyage :—
"Right across the Lake
Our pinnace moves: then, coasting creek and bay, Glades we behold—and into thickets peep— Where crouch the spotted deer; or raise our eyes To shaggy sleeps on which the careless goat Browsed by the side of dashing waterfalls."—p. 412.
We add, also, the following more elaborate and fantastic picture—which, however, ie not without its beauty :—
"Then having reach'd a bridge, that overarch'd
Besides those more extended passages of interest or beauty, which we have quoted, and omitted to quote, there are scattered up and down the book, and in the midst of its most repulsive portions, a very great number of single lines and images, that sparkle like gems in the desert, and startle us with an intimation of the great poetic powers that lie buried in the rubbish that has been heaped around them. It is difficult to pick up these, after we have once passed tliem by; but we shall endeavour to light upon one or two. The beneficial effect of intervals of relaxation and pastime on youthful minds, is finely expressed, we think, in a single line, when it is said to be—
"Like vernal fround to Sabbath sunshine left."
The following image of the bursting forth of a mountain-spring, seems to us also to be conceived with great elegance and beauty.
"And a few steps mav bring us to the spot, Where haply crown'd with flow'rets and green
The Mountain Infant to the Sun comes forth,
The ameliorating? effects of song and music on the minds which most delight in them, are likewise very poetically expressed.
"And when the stream
Which overflow'd the soul was pass'd away,
Deposited upon the silent shore
Of Memory, images and precious though's.
That shall not die, and cannot be destroy'd."
Nor is any thing more elegant than the representation of the graceful tranquillity occasionally put on by one of the author'« favourites; who, though gay and airy, in general—
"Was graceful, when it pleas'd him, smooth ana
As the mute Swan that floats adown the stream.
Nor are there wanting morsels of a »temer and more majestic beauty ; as when, assuming the weightier diction of Cowper, he says, ¡a language which the hearts of all readers of modern history must have responded—
"Earth is sick.
And Heav'n is weary of the hollow words
These examples, we perceive, are not тегу well chosen—but we have not leisure to improve the selection; and, such as they are, they may serve to give the reader a notion oí the sort of merit which we meant to illuArale by their citation. When we look back to them, indeed, and to the other passages which we have now extracted, we feel half inclu:•:•: to rescind the severe sentence which we passed on the work at the beginning :—B-: when we look into the work itseff; we perceive that it cannot be rescinded. Nobody can be more disposed to do justice to the great powers of Mr. Wordsworth than we are; and, from the first time that he came before us, down to the present moment, we have uniformly testified in their favour, and assigned indeed our high sense of their value as the chief ground of the bitterness with which we resented their perversion. That perversen, however, is now far more visible than their original dignity; and while we collect the fragments, it is impossible not to mourn over the ruins from which we are condemned to pick them. If any one should doubt of the existence of such a perversion, or be disposed to dispute about the instances we have has:..) brought forward, we would just beg leave to refer him to the general plan and character of the poem now before us. Why should Mr Wordsworth have made his hero a superannuated pedlar t What but the most wretched affectation, or provoking perversity of taste, could induce any one to place his choeen ad vocale of wisdom and virtue in so absurd and fantastic a condition? Did Mr. Wordnrorth really imagine, that his favourite doctrines were likely to gain any thing in point of efiVri or authority by being put into the mouth of» person accustomed to higgle about tape, o: brass sleeve-buttons? Or is it not plain thst. independent of the ridicule and disgust which such a personification must excite in manyot his readers, its adoption exposes his work throughout to the charge of revolting incoo
gruity, and utter disregard of probability or nature? For, after he has thus wilfully debased his moral teacher by a low occupation, is there one word that he puts into his mouth, or one sentiment of which he makes him the organ, that has the most remote reference to that occupation? Is there any thing in his learned, abstract, and logical harangues, that favours of the calling that is ascribed to him? Are any of their materials such as a pedlar could possibly have dealt in? Are the manners, me diction, the sentiments, in any, the very smallest degree, accommodated to a perfon in that condition I or are they not eminently and conspicuously such as could not by possibility belong to it? A man who went about selling flannel and pocket-handkerchiefs in this lofty diction, would soon frighten away all his customers; and would infallibly pass either for a madman, or for some learned and affected gentleman, who, in a frolic, had taken up a character which he was peculiarly ill qualified for supporting.
The absurdity in this case, we think, is palpable and glaring: but it is exactly of the same nature with that which infects the whole substance of the work—a puerile ambition of singularity engrafted on an unlucky predilection for truisms; and an affected passion for simplicity and humble life, most awkwardly combined with a taste for mystical refinements, and all the gorgeousness of obscure phraseology. His taste for simplicity is evinced by sprinkling up and down his interminable declamations a few descriptions of baby-houses, and of old hats with wet brims; and his amiable partiality for humble life, by assuring us that a wordy rhetorician. who talks about Thebes, and allegorizes all the heathen mythology, was opee a pedlar— and making him break in upon his magnificent orations with two or three awkward notices of something that he had seen when selling winter raiment about the country—or of the changes in the state of society, which had almost annihilated his former calling.
The White Doe of Rylstone; or the Fate of the Nortons: a Poem. By William WohdsWobth. 4to. pp. 162. London: 1815.
This, we think, has the merit of being the тегу worst poem we ever saw imprinted in a quarto volume ; and though it was scarcely to be expected, we confess, that Mr. Wordsworth, with all his ambition, should so soon have attained to that distinction, the wonder may perhaps be diminished when we state, that it seems to us to consist of a happy union of all the faults, without any of the beauties, which belong to his school of poetry. It is just such a work, in short, as some wicked enemy of that school might be supposed to Ьате devised, on purpose to make it ridiculous: and when we first took it up, we could W! help suspecting that some ill-natured critic had actually taken this harsh method of instructing Mr. Wordsworth, by example, in the nature of those errors, against which ":ir precepts had been so often directed in vain. We had not gone far, however, till we felt intimately that nothing in the nature of a joke could be so insupportably dull ;—and that this must be the work of one who earnestly believed it to be a pattern of pathetic simplicity, and gave it out as such to the admiration of all intelligent readers. In this point of view, the work may be regarded as rurious at least, ¡f not in some degree interîsîing; and, at all events, it must be instruc'.ive to be made aware of the excesses into whch superior understandings may be betrayed, by long self-indulgence, and the ftrange extravagances into which they may nm; when under the influence of that intoxication which is produced bv unrestrained aJmiration of themselves. This poetical into.tication, indeed, to pursue the figure a little
farther, seems capable of assuming as many forms as the vulgar one which arises from wine; and it appears to require as delicate a management to make a man a good poet by the help of the one, as to make him a good companion by means of the other. In both cases, a little mistake as to the dose or the quality of the inspiring fluid may make him absolutely outrageous, or lull him over into the most profound stupidity, instead of brightening up the hidden stores of his genius: and truly we are concerned to say, that Mr. Wordsworth seems hitherto to have been unlucky in the choice of his liquor—or of his boltle-holder. In some of his odes and ethic exhortations, he was exposed to the public in a state of incoherent rapture and glorious delirium, to which we think we have seen a parallel among the humbler lovers of jollity. In the Lyrical Ballads, he was exhibited, on the whole, in a vein of very pretty deliration; but in the poem before us, he appears in a state of low and maudlin imbecility, which would not have misbecome Master Silence himself, in the close of a social day. Whether this unhappy result is to be ascribed to any adulteration of his Castalian cups, or to the unlucky choice of his company over them, we cannot presume to say. It may be that he has dasned his Hippocrene with too large an infusion of lake water, or assisted its operation too exclusively by the study of the ancient historical ballads of "the north countrie." That there are palpable imitations of the style and manner of those venerable compositions
i in the work before us, is indeed undeniable;
I but it unfortunately happens, that while the h'>bbliii2 versification, the mean diction, and fiat stupidity of these models are very exactly copied, and even improved upon, in this imitation, their rude energy, manly simplicity, and occasional felicity of expression, have totally disappeared; and, instead of them, a large allowance of the author's own metaphysical sensibility, atid mystical wordiness, is forced into an unnatural combination with the borrowed beauties which have just been mentioned.
The story of the poem, though not capable of furnishing out matter for a quarto volume, might yet have made an interesting ballad; and, in the hands of Mr. Scott or Lord Byron, would probably have supplied many images to be loved, arid descriptions to be remembered. The incidents arise out of the shortlived Catholic insurrection of the Northern counties, in the reign of Elizabeth, which was supposed to be connected with the project of marrying the Queen of Scots to the Duke of Norfolk; and terminated in the ruin of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoieland, by whom it was chiefly abetted. Among the victims of this rash enterprise ivas Richard Norton of Rylstone, who comes to the array with a splendid banner, at the head of eight tall sons, but against the will and advice of a ninth, who, though he refused to join the host, yet follows unarmed in its rear, out of anxiety for the fate of his family; and, when the father and his gallant progeny are made prisoners, and led to execution at York, recovers the fatal banner, and is slain by a party of the Queen's horse near Bolton Priory, in which place he had been ordered to deposit it by the dying voice of his father. The stately halls and pleasant bowers of Rylstone are then wasted, and fall into desolation; while the heroic daughter, and only survivor of the house, is sheltered among its faithful retainers, and wanders about for many years in its neighbourhood, accompanied by a beautiful white doe. which had formerly been a pet in the family; and continues, long after the death of this sad survivor, to repair every Sunday to the churchyard of Bolton Priory, and there to feed and wander among the craves, to the wonder and delight of the rustic congregation that came there to worship.
This, we think, is a pretty subject for a ballad ; and, in the author's better day, m:ght have made a lyrical one of considerable interest. Let us see, however, how he deals with it. since he has bethought him of publishing in quarto.
The First Canto merely contains the desrription of the Doe coming into the churchyard on Sunday, and of the congregation wondering at her. She is described as being as white as a lily—or the moon—or a ship in the sunshine; and this is the style in wh'ch Mr. Wordsworth marvels and moralises about her through ten quarto pages.
"What hnrmonious, pensive changes,
"The presence of this wand'ring Doe
The mothers point out this pretty creature to their children ; and tell them in sweet nor sery phrases—
"Now you have seen the famous Doe!
The poet knows why she comes there, and thinks the people may know it too: But some of them think she is a new incarnation of some of the illustrious dead that lie buried around them; and one, who it seems i.- ar. Oxford scholar, conjectures that she may be the fairy who instructed Lord Clirloru" astrology! an ingenious fancy, which the poet thus gently reproveth—
"Ah, pensive scholar ! think not so! But look again at the radiant Doe!"
And then closes the Canto with this natcn: and luminous apostrophe to his harp.
"But, harp! thy murmurs may not cease.—
The Second Canto is more full of buanw; and affords us more insight;into the antbi-s manner of conducting a story. The openiis. however, which goes back to the bright 0:: original conception of the harp, is not mate so intelligible as might have been deeireo.
"The Harp in lowliness obey'd:
This solitary maid, we are then told, Ы wrought, at the request of her father, "и unblessed work"—
"A Bonnei—one lhat did fulfil
The song then proceeds to describe ib* rising of Northumberland and Westmoreli.' j. in the following lofty and spirited strains '•—
"Two earls fast leagu'd in discontent.
The poet, however, puts out all his strength in the dehortation which he makes Francis Norton address to his father, when the preparations are completed, and the household is ready to take the field.
"Francis Norton said,
'О Father! rise not in this fray-»
The hairs are white upon your head;
Dear Father, hear me when I say
It is for you too late a day!
Bethink you of your own good name;
A just and gracious queen have we,
A pure religion, and the claim
ОГ peace on our humanity.
'Tis meet that I endure your scorn,—
I am your son, your eldest born;
The Banner touch not, stay your hand,—
This multitude of men disband,
And live at home in blissful ease.'"
The warlike father makes no answer to this exquisite address, but turns in silent scorn to the banner,
"And hia wet eyes are glorified;"
and forthwith he marches out, at the head of his sons and retainers.
Francis is very sad when thus left alone in the mansion—and still worse when he sees his sister sitting under a tree near the door. However, though "he cannot choose but shrink and sigh," he goes up to her and says,
"' Gone arc they,—they have their desire;
He paused, her silence to partake,
'Gone are they, bravely, though misled,
After a great deal more, as touching and sensible, he applies himself more directly to the unhappy case of his hearer—whom he thu? judiciously comforts and flatters:
"Hope nothing, if I thus may speak
It is impossible, however, to go regularly on with this goodly matter.—The Third Canto brings the Nortons and their banner to the
head quarters of the insurgent Earls; and describes the first exploits of those conscientious warriors; who took possession of the Cathedral of Durham,
"Sang Mass,—and lore the book of Prayer,— And! trod the Bible beneath their feet."
Elated by this triumph, they turn to the south.
"To London were the Chieftains bent:
So they agree to march back again; at which, old Norton is sorely afflicted—and Francis takes the opporlnity to renew his dehortations —but is again repulsed with scorn, and falls back to his station in the rear.
The Fourth Canto shows Emily walking by the fish ponds and arbours of Rylstone, in a fine moonshiny night, with her favourite white Doe not far off.
"Yet the meek Creature was not free,
However, they are tolerably reconciled that evening; and by and by, just a few minutes after nine, an old retainer of the house comes to comfort her, and is sent to follow the host and bring back tidings of their success.—The worthy yeoman sets out with great alacrity; but not having much hope, it would appear, of the cause, says to himself as he goes,
"' Grant that the moon which shines this night, May guide them in a prudent flight !' "—p. 75.
Things however had already come to a still worse issue—as the poet very briefly and ingeniously intimates in the following fine lines:
"Their flight the fair moon may not see; For, from mid-heaven, already ehe Hath witness'd their captivity !"—p. 75.
They had made a rash assault, it seems, on Barnard Castle, and had been all made prisoners, and forwarded to York for trial.
The Fifth Canto shows us Emily watching on a commanding height for the return of her faithful messenger; who accordingly arrives forthwith, and tells, 'as gently as could be,1 the unhappy catastrophe which he had come soon enough to witness. The only comfort he can offer is, that Francis is still alive.
"To take his life they have not dar'd.
He then tells how the father and his eight sons were led out to execution; and how Francis, at his father's request, took their banner, and prom'sed to bring it back to Bolton Priory.
The Sixth Canto opens with the homeward pilgrimage of this unhappy youth; and there is something so truly forlorn and tragical in his situation, that we should really have thought it difficult to have given an account of it without exciting some degree of interest or emotion. Mr. Wordsworth, however, reserves all his pathos for describing the whiteness of the pet doe, and disserting about her perplexities, and her high communion, and participation of Heaven's grace;—and deals m this sort with the .orphan son, turning from the bloody scaffold of all his line, with their luckless banner in his hand.
"Hp look'd about like one betray'd;
What hath he done 1 what promise made?
Oh weak, weak moment! 10 what end
Can -inn a vain oblation lend,
And he the Bearer ?—Can he go
Carrying this instrument of woe.
And find, find any where, a rieht
To excuse him in his Country's sight 1
No, will not all Men deem the change
Л downward course? perverse and strange?
Here is it.—but how, when Î must she,
The unoffending Emily
Atrnin this piteous object see 1
Such conflict long did he maintain
His death is not much less pathetic. A troop of the Queen's horse surround him, and reproach him. we must confess with some plausibility, with having kept his hands unarmed, only from dread of death and forfeiture, while he was all the while a traitor in his heart. The sage Francis answers the insolent troopers as follows:—
"'I am no traitor,' Francis said,
'Though this unhappy freight I bear;
This virtuous and reasonable person, however, has ill luck in all his dissuasories; for one of the horsemen puts a pike into him without more ado—and
"There did he lie of breath forsaken!"
And after some time the neighbouring peasants take him up, and bury him in the churchyard of Bolton Priory.
The Sevenih and last Cinto contains the history of the desolated Emily and her faith
ful doe; but so very discreetly
"Oh, moment ever bleet! О Pair!
"That day, the first of a reunion
pp. 117, 118.
What follows is not quite so intelligible.
"When Emily by morning light
It certainly is not easy to guess what «•nil be in the mind of the author, when he pem.eJ these four last inconceivable lines; but we are willing to infer that the lady's lonelm«1« was cheered by this mute associate : ami thai the doe, in return, found a certain comfort in the lady's company —
'* Communication, like the ray
In due time the poor lady die?. anJ :s buried beside her mother; and the doc о ."tinues to haunt the placts which thtv h-i frequented together, and especially lo c< :ro and pasture every Sunday upon the finegrasJ in Bolton churchyard, the gate of which i> never opened but on occasion of the weekly service. — In consequence of all which, we ire assured by Mr. Wordsworth, that she •!*?;•• proved by Earth and Sky, in their benignity/ and moreover, that the old Priory itself taie» her for a daughter of the Eternal Prime— which we have no doubt is a very gri-at cv>cpliment, though we have not the good luck t" understand what it means.
"And aye, methinks, this hoary Pile,