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language is the master-secret; and by this charm he transfuses into frigid imaginations his warmer feelings, and into dull minds his brighter views, on subjects and of things which might otherwise only indifferently affect them in nature and reality.
Mr. Wordsworth himself, though not a popular writer nor one who ever can be, in the popular sense of the phrase, till the boasted march of intellect has made much more way than it is likely to do for half a century to come ;
· Mr. Wordsworth himself has established a reputation of the proudest rank upon the surest basis - the admiration of the most intellectual class of readers, who can distinguish what is exquisite from what is puerile, what is grand from what is obscure, and what is imaginative from what is merely fanciful, in his own multifarious productions. But how has he accomplished this ? Certainly not by limiting his practice within his theory. He
possesses as much as any nan living the power of awakening unknown and ineffable emotions in the bosoms of his fellow-creatures ; and he has exercised this power much oftener than that smaller craft of fashioning “ Lyrical Ballads” and Tales, of which mean men are the actors, and their peculiarities the themes of verse, in phraseology such as they might be supposed to employ, if, instead of being taught to speak in rude prose from their infancy, they had
lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.” His “ Cumberland Beggar,” “ Tintern Abbey," and “ Lines on the Naming of Places,” unpromising as the subjects might appear at first sight, with many
other of his profound and curious speculations, have taught us new sympathies, the existence of which in human nature had scarcely been intimated by any poet before him. In these his most successful efforts he has attired, in diction of the most transcendent beauty, thoughts the most recondite, and imaginations the most subtle. Thus:
" I have learn'd
a sense sublime
- and in the mind of man;
And rolls through all things."
66 Therefore let the moon
This is no more the language than these are the thoughts of men in general “ in a state of excitement:" language more exquisitely elaborate, and thoughts more patiently worked out of the very marble of the mind, are rarely, indeed, to be met with either in prose or rhyme. For such tales as " Andrew Jones,” “ The Last of the Flock," “ Goody Blake and Harry Gill," &c., the real language of men may be employed with pleasing effect; but when our poet would “present ordinary things in an unusual way,” he is compelled to resort to gorgeous, figurative, and amplifying terms, and avail himself of the most daring licences of poetic diction. Thus :
“ The winds, that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gather'd now, like sleeping flowers." “ It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a nun,
Breathless with adoration !” “ Flowers laugh before thee in their beds,
And fragrance in thy footing treads." " The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep,
The winds come o'er us from the fields of sleep."
I need not insist more on the necessity of using, in poetry, a language different from, and superior to, “ the real language of men,” even under the strongest excitement, since our author himself is so often compelled, nay, rather chooses voluntarily, to employ it for the expression of ideas which without it would be incommunicable. One instance of the happy use of the simplest language by Mr. Wordsworth must
be given, in justice to him. The poem of the “Old Cumberland Beggar” is, perhaps, the master-piece of his early volumes. In this we have the description of an ancient parish pensioner, not receiving pay, but collecting doles from the friendly cottagers as well as the wealthier inhabitants in his daily rounds; welcomed every where, and every where relieved, a harmless, helpless, quiet-paced, and quiet-tongued old man, whose presence is a blessing to the neighbourhood, by making the humblest, as well as the highest, feel how good it is to do good.
do good. For
.66 Man is dear to man; the poorest poor
« Such pleasure is to one kind being known,
Dr. Darwin's Theory of Poetic Style.
The late Dr. Darwin, a poet of very different cast from Mr. Wordsworth, tells us, that the essential difference between prose and poetry consists, not solely in the melody or measure of language, because
some prose has melody and even measure ; nor in the sublimity, beauty, or novelty of the sentiments, because, as he asserts, sublime sentiments are sometinies better expressed in prose.
Of this he gives an example from one of Shakspeare's historical plays :
66 When Warwick is left wounded on the field after the loss of the battle, and his friend says to him, “Oh! could you but fly!' what can be more sublime than his answer, "Why then I would not fly!' No measure of verse could add dignity to this sentiment.” — Without disputing his position, I answer that the words are verse already. I know not how they stand in the original ; but placing the interjection “Oh!” as the closing syllable of a line, and laying the natural emphasis on the verb negative, and not merely on the sign of negation, we have a perfect heroic verse.
Could you but fly!
Why then I would not fly!"
The Doctor continues : 5 In what, then, consists the essential difference between poetry and prose ? Next to the measure of the language, the principal distinction appears to be this : that poetry admits of but few words expressive of very abstracted ideas; whereas prose abounds with them. And as our ideas derived from visible objects are more distinct than those derived from the objects of our other senses, the words expressive of these ideas belonging to vision make up the principal part of poetic language; that is, the poet writes principally to the eye, the