ページの画像
PDF
ePub

look back upon my intellectual life, I cannot estimate too highly. I owe him much also for his notes, not only for the information concerning other Italian romances which they imparted, but also for introducing me to Spenser ;-how early, an incident which I well remember may show. Going with a relation into Bull's circulating library at Bath, (an excellent one for those days), and asking whether they had the “Faery Queen," the person who managed the shop said, "yes, they had it, but it was in obsolete language, and the young gentleman would not understand it.” But I, who had learned all I then knew of the history of England from Shakespear, and who had moreover read Beaumont and Fletcher, found no difficulty in Spenser's English, and felt in the beauty of his versification a charm in poetry of which I had never been fully sensible before. From that time I took Spenser for my master. I drank also betimes of Chaucer's well. The taste which had been acquired in that school was confirmed by Percy’s “ Reliques” and Warton's “ History of English Poetry;" and a little later by Homer and the Bible. It was not likely to be corrupted afterwards.

My school-boy verses savoured of Gray, Mason, and my predecessor Warton; and in the best of my juvenile pieces it may be seen how much the writer's

mind had been imbued by Akenside. I am conscious also of having derived much benefit at one time from Cowper, and more from Bowles; for which, and for the delight which his poems gave me at an age when we are most susceptible of such delight, my good friend at Bremhill, to whom I was then and long afterwards personally unknown, will allow me to make this grateful and cordial acknowledgement,

My obligation to Dr. Sayers is of a different kind. Every one who has an ear for metre and a heart for poetry, must have felt how perfectly the metre of Collins's “ Ode to Evening” is in accordance with the imagery and the feeling. None of the experiments which were made of other unrhymed stanzas proved successful. They were either in strongly marked and well-known measures which unavoidably led the reader to expect rhyme, and consequently baulked him when he looked for it; or they were in stanzas as cumbrous as they were ill con structed. Dr. Sayers went upon a different principle and succeeded admirably. I read his “ Dramatic Sketches of Northern Mythology" when they were first published, and convinced myself when I had acquired some skill in versification, that the kind of verse in which his choruses were composed was not less applicable to narration than to lyrical poetry.

66

me

Soon after I had begun the Arabian romance, for vhich this measure seemed the most appropriate vehicle, “ Gebir” fell into my hands, and my verse was greatly improved by it, both in vividness and strength. Several years elapsed before I knew that Walter Landor was the author, and more before I had the good fortune to meet the person to whom I felt myself thus beholden. The days which I have passed with him in the Vale of Ewias, at Como, and lastly in the neighbourhood of Bristol, are some of those which have left with

a joy for memory."

I have thus acknowledged all the specific obligations to my elders or contemporaries in the art, of which I am distinctly conscious. The advantages arising from intimate intercourse with those who were engaged in similar pursuits cannot be in like manner specified, because in their nature they are imperceptible; but of such advantages no man has ever possessed more or greater, than at different times it has been my lot to enjoy. Personal attachment first, and family circumstances afterwards, connected me long and closely with Mr. Coleridge ; and three-and-thirty years have ratified a friendship with Mr. Wordsworth, which we believe will not terminate with this life, and which it is a pleasure for us to know will be continued and cherished as an heir-loom by those who are dearest to us both.

When I add what has been the greatest of all advantages, that I have passed more than half my life in retirement, conversing with books rather than men, constantly and unweariably engaged in literary pursuits, communing with my own heart, and taking that course

which upon mature consideration seemed best to myself, I have said every thing necessary to account for the characteristics of my poetry, whatever they may be.

It was in a mood resembling in no slight degree that wherewith a person in sound health, both of body and mind, makes his will and sets his worldly affairs in order, that I entered upon the serious task of arranging and revising the whole of my poetical works. What, indeed, was it but to bring in review before me the dreams and aspirations of my youth, and the feelings whereto I had given that free utterance which by the usages of this world is permitted to us in poetry, and in poetry alone ? Of the smaller pieces in this collection there is scarcely one concerning which I cannot vividly call to mind when and where it was composed. I have perfect recollection of the spots where many not of the scenes only, but of the images which I have described from nature, were observed and noted. And how would it be possible for me to forget the interest taken in these poems, especially the longer

and more ambitious works, by those persons nearest and dearest to me then, who witnessed their growth and completion? Well may it be called a serious task thus to resuscitate the past! But serious though it be, it is not painful to one who knows that the end of his journey cannot be far distant, and, by the blessing of God, looks on to its termination with sure and certain hope.

Keswick, 10th May, 1837.

« 前へ次へ »