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intended to recommend that system, and to bespeak favour for it by their individual merit ;—but this, we suspect, must be recommended by the system—and can only expect to succeed where it has been previously established. It is longer, weaker, and tamer, than any of Mr. Wordsworth's other productions; with less boldness of originality, and less even of that extreme simplicity and lowliness of tone which wavered so prettily, in the Lyrical Ballads, between silliness and pathos. We have imitations of Cowper, and even of Milton here; engrafted on the natural drawl of the Lakers—and al] diluted into harmony by that profuse and irrepressible wordiness which deluges all the blank verse of this school of poetry, and lubricates and weakens the whole structure of their style.
Though it fairly fills four hundred and twenty good quarto pages, without note, vignette, or any sort of extraneous assistance, it is stated in the title—with something of an imprudent candour—to be but "a portion" of a larger work : and in the preface, where an attempt is rather unsuccessfully made to explain the whole design, it is still more rashly disclosed, that it is but "a part of the second fart, of a long and laborious work"—which is to consist of three parts!
What Mr. Wordsworth's ideas of length are, we have no means of accurately judging: But we cannot help suspecting that they are liberal, to a degree that will alarm the weakness of most modern readers. As far as we can gather from the preface, the entire poem— or one of them, (for we really are not sure whether there is to be one or two,) is of a biographical nature; and is to contain the history of the author's mind, and of the origin and progress of his poetical powers, up to the period when they were sufficiently matured to qualify him for the great work on which he has been so long employed. Now, the quarto before us contains an account of one of his youthful rambles in the vales of Cumberland, and occupies precisely the period of three days! So that, by the use of a very powerful calculus, some estimate may be formed of the probable extent of the entire biography.
This small specimen, however, and the statements with which it is prefaced, have been sufficient to set our minds at rest in one particular. The case of Mr. Wordsworth,
Peter Bell the Waggoner, or ihe Lamentations of Manila Rae, or the Sonnets on the Punishment of Death, there can be no such ambiguity, or means of reconcilement. Now I have been assured not only that there are such persons, but that almost all those who seek to exalt Mr. Wordsworth as the founder of a new school of poetry, consider these as by far his best and most characteristic productions: and would at once reject from their communion any one who did not acknowledge in them the traces of a high inspiration. Now I wish it to he understood, that when I speak with genera] intolerance or impatience of the school of !\1r. Wordsworth, it is to the school holding these tenets, and applying these tests, that I refer: and I really do not see how I could better explain the grounds of my dissent from their doctrines, than by repulih.-lrng my remarks on this "White Doe."
we perceive, Ib now manifest!) nopelese; ami we give him up as altogether incurable, and beyond the power of criticism. We cannot indeed altogether omit taking precaution now and then against the spreading ul itmalady ;—but for himself, though we shaj watch the progress of his symptoms as a c.iiter of professional curiosity and instruct«;::, we really think it right not to harass him ai y longer with nauseous remedies,—but rail^: to throw in cordials and lenitives, and «ait m patience for the natural termination of the disorder. In order to justify this deseruui: of our patient, however, it is proper to eta'e why we despair of the success oí a mi« active practice.
A man who has been for twenty vean at work on such matter as is now before as. and who comes complacently forward withi whole quarto of it, after all the admonitjo:.* he has received, cannot reasonably be <-\pected to "change his hand, or check ha pride,'' upon the suggestion of far weisrbbt.monitors than we can pretend to be. Iinr'.erate habit must now have given a kind of sanctity to the errors of early taste; and ;h* very powers of which we lament the perversion, have probably become incapable o; ¿. ;. other application. The very quantity, too, that he has written, and is at this raomciil working up for publication upon the old paitern, makes it almost hopeless to look for a; v change of it. All this is so much capital already sunk in the concern; which must be sacrificed if that be abandoned ; and no u.¿:. likes to give up for lost the time and takst and labour which he has embodied in агт permanent production. We were tot jr • viously aware of these obstacles to Л1гЛ\ог^worth's conversion ; and, considering the r»-oi • liarities of his former writings merely z* :!••• result of certain wanton and capricious «• periments on public taste and induis*1!лconceived it to be our duty to discourage ib-.' repetition by all the means in onr power We now see clearly, however, how the Clstands;—and, making up our mind.s though with Ihe most sincere pain and reluctant*, to consider him as finally lost to the good cause of poetry, shall endeavour to be ihankful for the occasional gleams of tendenif* and beauty which the natural force of h* imagination and affections must rtffl sbrJ over all his productions—and to which «« shall ever turn with delight, in spite of the affectation and mysticism anil prolixity, with which they are so abundantly contrasted
Long Dibits of seclusion, and an eiwfM'f ambition of originality, can alone accoui.l::' the disproportion which seems to ensî Ntween this author's taste and his genius i•• for the devotion with which he has saontn so many precious gifts at the shrine ul ihr--1 paltry idols which he has ret np for himself among hi» lakes and his mountain?. S<).;!•:"' musings, amidst such scenes, might no doubt be expected to nurse up the mind to the majesty of poetical conception.—(though it * remarkable, that all the greater poet« liviii or had lived, in the full current of society ¡ — But the collision of equal minds,—the admonition of prevailing impressions—seems necessary to reduce its redundancies, and reprefs that tendency to extravagance or puerility, into which the self-indulgence and selfadmiration of genius is so apt to be betrayed, when it is allowed to wanton, without awe or restraint, in the triumph and delight of its own intoxication. That its flight should be graceful and glorious in the eyes of men, it seems almost to be necessary that they should iv made in the consciousness that men's eyes are to behold them,—and that the inward transport and vigour by which they are inspired, should be tempered by an occasional reference to what will be thought of them by those ultimate dispensers of glory. An habituni and general knowledge of the few settled aiv.1 permanent maxims, which form the canon of general taste in all large and polished societies—a certain tact, which informs us at Q:ice that many things, which we still love and are moved by in secret, must necessarily bs despised as childish, or derided as absurd, in all such societies—though it will not stand n the place of genius, seems necessary to the success of its exertions; and though it will never enable any one to produce the higher beauties of art, can alone secure the talent which does produce them from errors that must render it useless. Those who have most of the talent, however, commonly acquire this knowledge with the greatest facility ;—and if Mr. Wordsworth, instead of confining himself almost entirely to the society of the dalesmen and cottagers, and little children, who form the subjects of his book, had condescended to mingle a little more with the people that were to read and judge of it, we cannot help thinking that its texture might have been considerably improved: At least it appears to us to be absolutely impossible, that any one »'ho had lived or mixed familiarly with men of literature and ordinary judgment in poetry, (of course we exclude the coadjutors and disciples of his own school,) could ever have fallen into such gross faults, or so long mistaken them for beauties. • His first essays we looked upon in a good degree as poetical paradoxes,—maintained experimentally, in order to display talent, and court notoriety ;— and go maintained, with no more serious belief in their truth, than is usually generated by an ingenious and animated defence of other paradoxes. But when we find that he ha* been for twenty years exclusively employed upon articles of this very fabric, and that he has still enough of raw material on Irand to keep him so employed for twenty yean» to come, we cannot refuse him the just:ce of believing that he is a sincere convert :э his own system, and must ascribe the peculiarities of his composition, not to any transient affectation, or accidental caprice of imagination, but to a settled perversity of taste or understanding, which has been fostered, if not altogether created, by the circumstances to which we have alluded.
The volume before us. if we were to describe it very shortly, we should characterise
as a tissue of moral and devotional ravings, in which innumerable changes are rung upon a few very simple and familiar ideas:—But with such an accompaniment of long words, long sentences, and unwieldy phrases—and such a hubbub of strained raptures and fantastical sublimities, that it is often difficult for the most skilful and attentive student to obtain a glimpse of the author's meaning—and altogether impossible for an ordinary reader to conjecture what he is about. Moral and religious enthusiasm, though undoubtedly poetical emotions, are at the same time but dangerous inspirera of poetry; nothing being so apt to run into interminable dulness or mellifluous extravagance, without giving the unfortunate author the slightest intimation of hie danger. His laudable zeal for tho efficacy of his preachments, he very naturally mistakes for the ardour of poetical inspiration;—and, while dealing out the high words and glowing phrases which are so readily supplied by themes of this description, can scarcely avoid believing that he is eminently original and impressive :—All sorts of commonplace notions and expressions are sanctified in his eyes, by the sublime ends for which they are employed; and the mystical verbiage of the Methodist pulpit is repeated, till the speaker entertains no doubt that he is the chosen organ of divine truth and persuasion. But if such be the common hazards of seeking inspiration from those potent fountains, it may easily be conceived what chance Mr. Wordsworth had of escaping their enchantment,— with his natural propensities to wordiness, and his unlucky habit of debasing pathos with vulgarity. The fact accordingly is, that in this production he is more obscure than a Pindaric poet of the seventeenth century • and more verbose "than even himself of yore;" while the wilfulness with which he persists in choosing his examples of intellectual dignity and tenderness exclusively from the lowest ranks of society, will be sufficiently apparent, from the circumstance of his having thought fit to make his chief prolocutor in this poetical dialogue, and chief advocate of Providence and Virtue, an old. Scotch Pedlar—retired indeed from business—but still rambling about in his former haunts, and gossiping among his old customers, without his pack on his shoulders. The other persons of the drama are, a retired military chaplain, who has grown half an atheist and half a misanthrope—the wife of an unprosperous weaver —a servant girl with her natural child—a parish pauper, and one or two other personages of equal rank and dignity.
The character of the "work is decidedly didactic; and more than nine tenths of it are occupied with a species of dialogue, or rather a series of long sermons or harangues which pass between the pedlar, the author, the old chaplain, and a worthy vicar, who entertains the whole party at dinner on the last day of their excursion. The incidents which occur in the course of it are as few and trifling as can well be imagined ;—and those which the different speakers narrate in the course or their discourses, are introduced rather to illustrate their arguments or opinions, than for any interest they are srpposed to possess of iheir own.—The doctrine which the work is intended to enforce, we are by no means certain that we have discovered. In so far as we can collect, however, it seems to be neither more nor less than the old familiar one, that a firm belief in the providence of a wise and beneficent Being must be our great stay and support under all afflictions and perplexities upon earth—and that there are indications of his power and goodness in all the aspects of the visible universe, whether living or inanimate—every part of which should therefore be regarded with love and reverence, as exponents of those great attributes. We can testify, at least, that these salutary and important truths arc inculcated at far greater length, and with more repetitions, than in any ten volumes of sermons that we ever perused. It is also maintained, with equal conciseness and originality, that there is frequently much good senee, as well as much enjoyment, in the humbler conditions of life: and that, in epite of great vices and abuses, there is a reasonable allowance both of happiness and goodness in society at large. If there be any deeper or more recondite doctrines in Mr. Wordsworth's book, we must confess that they have escaped us ;—and, convinced as we are of the truth and soundness of those to which we have alluded, we cannot help thinking that they might have been better enforced with less parade and prolixity. His effusions on what may be called the physiognomy of external nature, or its moral and theological expression, are eminently fantastic, obscure, and affected.—It is quite time, however, that we should give the reader a more particular account of this singular performance.
It opens with a picture of the author toiling across a bare common in a hot summer day, and reaching at last a ruined hut surrounded with tall trees, where he meets by appointment with a hale old man, with an iron-pointed staff lying beside him. Then follows a retrospectivo account of their first acquaintance—formed, it seems, when the author was at a village school ; and his aged friend occupied "one room,—the fifth part of a house" m the neighbourhood. After this, we have the history of this reverend person at no small length. He was born, we are happy to find, in Scotland—among trie hills of Athol; and his mother, after his father's death, married the parish schoolmaster—so that he was taught his letters betimes: But then, as it is here set forth with much solemnity,
"From hie sixth year, the boy of и horn I speak, In summer, tended cattle on the hills!"
And again, a few pages after, that there may be no risk of mistake as to a point of such esnential importance—
"From enily childhood, even, as hath been said, From his tilth year, he had been sent abroad, In Htmwiei—to tend herds! Such was his task!"
In the course of this occupation it is next recorded, that he acquired such a taste for
rural scenery and open air, that when he wn sent to teach a school in a neighbouring Tillage, he found it "a miser)' to him;" and determined to embrace the more romantic occupation of a Pedlar—or, as Mr. Wordsworth more musically expresses it,
"A vagrant merchant, bent beneath lib lo*d;"
—and in the course of his peregrinations ba<: acquired a very large acquaintance, which. after he had given up dealing, he írequenth took a summer ramble to visit.
The author, on coming up to this intereeing personage, finds him sitting with his етгз half shut ',—and, not being quite sure whether he is asleep or awake, stands " some minóles space" in silence beside him*—"At length.'1 says he, with his u\ui delightful simplicity—
"At length I hail'd him—iteing that kir hat Wa» moist with water-drop», as il the brim Had newly scoop'd a running stream !—
''Tie,' said I, 'a burning day! My lips are parch'd with ihn at ;—-but you, I pie», Have somewhere found relief.'"
Upon this, the benevolent old man poina him out, not a running stream, but a well in a corner, to which the author repiire; and. after minutely describing its situation, beyond a broken wall, and between two alder« la: "grew in a cold damp nook," he thus faithfully chronicles the process of hie retara :—
"My thirst I slak'd ; and from the cheerless «poi Withdrawing, straightway to the shade return ri, Where sate the old man on the cottage beucb."
The Pedlar then gives an account of ti* last inhabitants of the deserted cottage be»*]? them. These were, a good industrious и си т and his wife and children. They were тяг happy for a while; till sickness and want o: work came upon them; and then the father enlisted as a soldier, and the wife pined ш that lonely cottage—growing every year mort careless and desponding, as her anxiety ani fears for her absent husband, of whom no tidings ever reached her, accumulated. Ho children died, and left her cheerless 11.alone ; and at last she died also: and the filage fell to decay. We must say. that there is very considerable pathos in th'e telling of this simple story; and that they who can g*t over the repugnance excited by the triiez* of its incidents, and the lowness of its ob;fc'' will not fail to be struck with the au'b knowledge of the human heart, and the row: he possesses of stirring up its deepest No,i gentlest sympathies. His prolixity, indeed i is not so easy to get over. Thie little story fills about twenty-five quarto pases: >rt^ abounds, of course, with mawkish senlimfn!. and details of preposterous minuteness V her the tale is told, the travellers take their ftslK and end their first day's journey, without mother adventure, at a little inn.
The Second Book sets them forward Mac« in the morning. They pass by a Vilbg* Wake4; and as they approach a more «oliun part of the mountains, the old man tell! ib author that he is taking him to see an oM friend of his, who had formerly been chap^ lo a Highland regiment—had lost a beloved wife—been roused from his dejection by the first enthusiasm of the French Revolution— had emigrated on its miscarriage, to America —and returned disgusted to hide himself in the retreat to which they were now ascending. That retreat is then most tediously described —a smooth green valley in the heart of the mountain, without trees, and with only one dwelling. Just as they get sight of it from ¡he ridge above, they see a funeral train proceeding from the solitary abode, and hurry on with some apprehension for the fate of the amiable misanthrope—whom they find, howетег. in very tolerable condition at the door. ami learn that the funeral was that of an aged pauper who had been boarded out by the parish in that cheap farm-house, and had died in consequence of long exposure to heavy rain. The old chaplain, or, as Mr. Wordsworth is
5leased to call him, the Solitary, tells this ull story at prodigious length; and after jiving an inflated description of an effect of mountain mists in the evening sun, treats his visitors with a rustic dinner—and they walk wit to the fields at the close of the second book.
The Third makes no progress in the excursion. It ie entirely filled with moral and religious conversation and debate, and with a more ample detail of the Solitary's past life than had been given in the sketch of his friend. The conversation is, in our judgment, exceedingly dull and mystical; and the Solitary's confessions insufferably diffuse. Yet there is occasionally very considerable force of writing and tenderness of sentiment in this part of the work.
The Fourth Book is also filled with dialogues, ethical, and theological ; and, with the exception of some brilliant and forcible expressions here and there, consists of an exposition of truisms, more cloudy, wordy, and inconceivably prolix, than any thing we ever met with.
la the beginning of the Fifth Book, they leave the solitary valley, taking its pensive inhabitant along with them, and »tray on to where the landscape sinks down into milder features, till they arrive at a church, which stands on a moderate elevation in the centre of a wide and fertile vale. Here they meditate for a while among the monuments, till the Vicar comes out and joins them;—and recognising the Pedlar for an old acquaintance, mixes graciously in the conversation, which proceeds in a very edifying manner till ihe close of the book.
The Sixth contains a choice obituary, or characteristic account of several of the persons who lie buried before this group of moralism;—an unsuccessful lover, who had found consolation in natural history—a miner, who worked on for twenty years, in despite of universal ridicule, and at last found the vein he had expected—two political enemies reconciled in old age to each other—an old female miser—a seduced damsel—and two widowers, one who had devoted himself to the education of his daughters, and one who had
preferred marrying a prudent middle-aged woman to lake care of them.
In the beginning of the Eighth Book, the worthy Vicar expresses, in the words of Mr. Wordsworth's own epitome, "his apprehensions that he had detained his auditors too long—invites them to his house—Solitary, disinclined to comply, rallies the Wanderer, and somewhat playfully draws a comparison between his itinerant profession and that of a knight-errant—which leads to the Wanderer giving an account of changes in the country, from the manufacturing spirit—Its favourable effects—The other side of the picture," &c. &c. After these very poetical themes are exhausted, they all go into the house, where they are introduced to the Vicar's wife and daughter; and while they sit chatting in the parlour over a family dinner, his son and one of his companions come in with a fine dish of trouts piled on a blue slate ; and after being caressed by the company, are sent to dinner in the nursery.—This ends the eighth book.
The Ninth and last is chiefly occupied with a mystical discourse of the Pedlar; who maintains, that the whole universe is animated by an active principle, the noblest seat of which is in the human soul; and moreover, that the final end of old age is to train and enable us
"To hear the miehty stream of Tendency
with other matters as luminous and emphatic. The hostess at length breaks off the harangue, by proposing that they should all make a little excursion on the lake,—and they embark accordingly ; and, after navigating for some time along its shores, and drinking tea on a little island, land at last on a remote promontory, from which they fee the sun go down,—and listen to a solemn and pious, but rather long prayer from the Vicar. They then walk back to the parsonage door, where the author and his friend propose to spend the evening ;—but the Solitary prefers walking back in the moonshine to his own valley, after promising to take another ramble with them—
"If time, with free consent, be yours lo gire, And season favours."
—And here the publication somewhat abruptly closes.
Our abstract of the story has been so extremely concise, that it is more than usually necessary for us to lay some specimens of the work itself before our readers. Its grand staple, as we have already said, consists of a kind of mystical morality : and the chief characteristics of the style are, that it is prolix, and very frequently unintelligible : and though we are sensible that no great gratification is to be expected from the exhibition of those qualities, yet it is necessary to give our readers a taste of them, both to justify the sentence we have pawed, and to satisfy them that it was really beyond our power to present them with any abstract or intelligible account of those long conversations which we have had so much occasion to notice in our brief sketch of its contents. We need give ourselves no trouble, however, to select passages for this purpose. Here is the first that presents itself to us on opening the volume; and if our readers can form the slightest guess at its meaning, we must give them credit for a sagacity to which we have no pretension.
"But, by the storms of circumstance unshaken.
"'Tie, by comparison, an easy task
This is a fair sample of that rapturous mysticism which eludes all comprehension, and fills the despairing reader with painful giddiness and terror. The following, which we meet with on the very next page, is in the same general strain :—though the first part of it affords a good specimen of the author's talent for enveloping a plain and trite observation in all the mock majesty of solemn verbosity. A reader of plain understanding, we suspect, could hardly recognise the familiar remark, that excessive grief for our departed friends is not very consistent with a firm belief in their immortal felicity, in the first twenty lines of the following passage :—In the succeeding lines we do not ourselves pretend to recognise any thing.
"From this infirmity of mortal kind
Ev'n to the dust ; apparently, through weight
Too. too contracted are these walls of flesh.
This vital warmth too cold, these visual orbs.
Though inconceivably endow'd, too dim
For any passion of the soul that leads
To ecstasy! and, all the crooked paths
Ot lime and change disdaining, takes ils courte
Along the line of limitless desire».
I. speaking now from such disorder free.
Nor sleep, nor craving, but in settled pear'4.
I cannot doubt thin They whom you deplort
Are glorified."—pp. 148, 149.
If any farther specimen be wanted of ib? learned author's propensity to deal ont tbf most familiar truths as the oracles of hie own inspired understanding, the followinc wer ¡\ paraphrase of the ordinary remark, thai tfc-' best consolation in distress is to be fou;<3 •• the exercises of piety, and the testimony oí i good conscience, maybe found on turning ti* leaf.
"What then remains Ï—To seek
Those helps, for his occasions ever near.
We have kept the book too 1опг open. far. ever, at one place, and shall now take a i' p in it nearer the beginning. The followim '-'• count of the Pedlar's early training, and lonely meditations among the mountains, is a good example of the forced and affected ecíti*.<» in which this author abounds.
"Nor did he fail.
While yet a Child, with a Child's eagen.c«
We should like extremely to know «ha! i* meant by tracing an ebbing and flowir.sm::4.! in the fixed lineaments of naked crag* '—t:: this is but the beirinning of the ravins 1;'
In these majestic solitudes, he used *!* '• read his Bible ;—and we are told that—
"There did he see Ike \rriiina !—All thing» tfctt
heart Lowly; for he wis meek in gratitude, "-pp. 14.1*
What follow« about nature, triangles, «tin,