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When the Spirit of Fragrance is up with the day,
The character of Nourmahal's beauty is much in the same taste: though the diction is rather more loose and careless.
"There's a beauty, for ever unchangingly bright, Like the long sunny lapse of a summers day's light,
Shining on, shining on, by no shadow made tender,
Now melting in mist and now breaking in gleams, Like the glimpses a saint has of Heav'n in his dreams!
We can give but a little morsel of the enchanting Song of the Spirit of Music.
"For mine is the lay that lightly floats,
The warrior's heart, when touch'd by me,
Then come! thy Arab maid will be
When pensive, it seem'd as if that very grace,
From the heart with a burst, like the wild-bird in
All poets, who really love poetry, and live in a poetical age, are great imitators; and the character of their writings may often be as correctly ascertained by observing whom they imitate and whom they abstain from Mr. imitating, as from any thing else. Moore, in the volume before us, reminds us oftener of Mr. Southey and Lord Byron, than of any other of his contemporaries. The resemblance is sometimes to the Roderick of the first-mentioned author, but most frequently to his Kehama. This may be partly owing to the nature of the subject; but, in many passages, the coincidence seems to be more radical-and to indicate a considerable conformity, in taste and habits of conception. Mr. Southey's tone, indeed, is more assum
Nourmahal herself, however, in her Arabian disguise, sings a still more prevailing ditty-ing, his manner more solemn, and his diction of which we can only insert a few stanzas. "Fly to the desert, fly with me!
Our Arab tents are rude for thee;
weaker. Mr. Moore is more
'Our sands are bare; but down their slope The silv'ry-footed antelope
As gracefully and gaily springs
As o'er the marble courts of Kings.
"The mask is off-the charm is wrought!—
strong emotion, Mr. Moore seems to us rather to have imitated the tone of his Lordship's smaller pieces-but imitated them as only an original genius could imitate-as Lord Byron himself may be said, in his later pieces, to have imitated those of an earlier date. There is less to remind us of Scott than we can very well account for, when we consider the great range and variety of that most fascinating and powerful writer; and we must say, that if Mr. Moore could bring the resemblance a little closer, and exchange a portion of his superfluous images and ecstasies for an equivalent share of Mr. Scott's gift of interesting and delighting us with pictures of familiar nature, and of the spirit and energy which never rises to extravagance, we think he would be a gainer by the exchange. To Mr. Crabbe there is no resemblance at all; and we only mention his name to observe, that he and Mr. Moore seem to be the antipodies of our present poetical sphere; and to occupy the extreme points of refinement and homeliness that can be said to fall within the legitimate dominion of poetry. They could not meet in the middle, we are aware, without changing their nature, and losing their specific character; but each might approach a few degrees, we think, with great mutual advantage. The outposts of all empires are posts of peril:-though we do not dispute that there is great honour in maintaining them with success.
There is one other topic upon which we are not quite sure we should say any thing. On a former occasion, we reproved Mr. Moore, perhaps with unnecessary severity, for what appeared to us the licentiousness of some of his youthful productions. We think it a duty to say, that he has long ago redeemed that error; and that in all his latter works that have come under our observation, he appears as the eloquent champion of purity, fidelity, and delicacy, not less than of justice, liberty, and honour. Like most other poets, indeed, he speaks much of beauty and love; and we doubt not that many mature virgins and careful matrons may think his lucubrations on those themes too rapturous and glowing to be safely admitted among the private studies of youth. We really think, however, that there is not much need for such apprehensions: And, at all events, if we look to the moral design and scope of the works themselves, we can see no reason to censure the author. All his favourites, without exception, are dutiful, faithful, and self-denying; and no other example is ever set up for imitation. There is nothing approaching to indelicacy even in his description of the seductions by which they are tried; and they who object to his enchanting pictures of the beauty and pure attachment of the more prominent characters would find fault, we suppose, with the loveliness and the embraces of angels.
The Excursion; being a Portion of the Recluse, a Poem. 4to. pp. 447. London: 1814.*
THIS will never do! It bears no doubt the stamp of the author's heart and fancy: But
I have spoken in many places rather too bitterly and confidently of the faults of Mr. Words worth's poetry: And forgetting that, even on my own view of them, they were but faults of taste, or venial self-partiality, have sometimes visited them, I fear, with an asperity which should be reserved for objects of Moral reprobation. If I were now to deal with the whole question of his poetical merits, though my judgment might not be substantially different, I hope I should repress the greater parte of these vivacités of expression: And indeed so strong has been my feeling in this way, that, considering how much I have always loved many of the attributes of his Genius, and how entirely I respect his Character, it did at first occur to me whether it was quite fitting that, in my old age and his. I should include in this publication any of those critiques which may have formerly given pain or offence, to him or his admirers. But, when I reflected that the mischief, if there really ever was any, was long ago done, and that I still retain, in substance, the opinions which I should now like to have seen more gently expressed, I felt that to omit all notice of them on the present occasion, might be held to import a retractation which I am as far as possible from intending; or even be represented as a very shabby way of backing out of sentiments which should either be manfully per sisted in, or openly renounced, and abandoned as
By WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.
unfortunately not half so visibly as that of his peculiar system. His former poems were
I finally resolved, therefore, to reprint my review of "The Excursion ;" which contains a pretty full view of my griefs and charges against Mr. Wordsworth; set forth too, I believe, in a more temperate strain than most of my other inculpations, and of which I think I may now venture to say farther, that if the faults are unsparingly noted, the beauties are not penuriously or grudgingly allowed; but commended to the admiration of the reader with at least as much heartiness and good-will.
But I have also reprinted a short paper on the same author's "White Doe of Rylstone,"—in which there certainly is no praise, or notice of beauties, to set against the very unqualified censures of which it is wholly made up. I have done this, however, not merely because I adhere to these censures, but chiefly because it seemed necessary to bring me fairly to issue with those who may not concur in them. I can easily understand that many whose admiration of the Excursion, or the Lyrical Ballads, rests substantially on the passages which I too should join in admiring, may view with greater indulgence than I can do, the tedious and flat passages with which they are interspersed, and may consequently think my censure of these works a great deal too harsh and uncharitable. Between such persons and me, therefore, there may be no radical difference of opinion, or contrariety as to principles of judgment. But if there be any who actually admire this White Doe of Rylstone, or
we perceive, is now manifestly hopeless; and we give him up as altogether incurable, and beyond the power of criticism. We cannot indeed altogether omit taking precautions now and then against the spreading of the malady;-but for himself, though we shall watch the progress of his symptoms as a matter of professional curiosity and instruction, we really think it right not to harass him any longer with nauseous remedies,-but rather to throw in cordials and lenitives, and wait in patience for the natural termination of the disorder. In order to justify this desertion of our patient, however, it is proper to state why we despair of the success of a more active practice.
A man who has been for twenty years at work on such matter as is now before us, Though it fairly fills four hundred and and who comes complacently forward with a twenty good quarto pages, without note, vig- whole quarto of it, after all the admonitions nette, or any sort of extraneous assistance, it he has received, cannot reasonably be exis stated in the title-with something of an pected to "change his hand, or check his imprudent candour-to be but "a portion" of pride," upon the suggestion of far weightier a larger work; and in the preface, where an monitors than we can pretend to be. Inveteattempt is rather unsuccessfully made to ex-rate habit must now have given a kind of plain the whole design, it is still more rashly sanctity to the errors of early taste; and the disclosed, that it is but "a part of the second very powers of which we lament the perverpart, of a long and laborious work"-which sion, have probably become incapable of any is to consist of three parts! other application. The very quantity, too, What Mr. Wordsworth's ideas of length are, that he has written, and is at this moment we have no means of accurately judging: But working up for publication upon the old patwe cannot help suspecting that they are libe- tern, makes it almost hopeless to look for any ral, to a degree that will alarm the weakness change of it. All this is so much capital of most modern readers. As far as we can already sunk in the concern; which must be gather from the preface, the entire poem-sacrificed if that be abandoned; and no man or one of them, (for we really are not sure likes to give up for lost the time and talent whether there is to be one or two,) is of a and labour which he has embodied in any biographical nature; and is to contain the permanent production. We were not prehistory of the author's mind, and of the origin viously aware of these obstacles to Mr. Wordsand progress of his poetical powers, up to the worth's conversion; and, considering the pecuperiod when they were sufficiently matured liarities of his former writings merely as the to qualify him for the great work on which result of certain wanton and capricious exhe has been so long employed. Now, the periments on public taste and indulgence, quarto before us contains an account of one conceived it to be our duty to discourage their of his youthful rambles in the vales of Cum- repetition by all the means in our power. berland, and occupies precisely the period of We now see clearly, however, how the case three days! So that, by the use of a very stands;-and, making up our minds, though powerful calculus, some estimate may be with the most sincere pain and reluctance, formed of the probable extent of the entire to consider him as finally lost to the good biography. cause of poetry, shall endeavour to be thankful for the occasional gleams of tenderness and beauty which the natural force of his imagination and affections must still shed over all his productions, and to which we affectation and mysticism and prolixity, shall ever turn with delight, in spite of the with which they are so abundantly contrasted.
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 the Lamentations of Martha 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 be understood, that when I speak with general intolerance or impatience of the school of Mr. 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 republishing my remarks on this "White Doe."
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 all 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.
Long habits of seclusion, and an excessive ambition of originality, can alone account for the disproportion which seems to exist be tween this author's taste and his genius; or for the devotion with which he has sacrificed so many precious gifts at the shrine of those paltry idols which he has set up for himself among his lakes and his mountains. Solitary musings, amidst such scenes, might no doubt be expected to nurse up the mind to the majesty of poetical conception,-(though it is remarkable, that all the greater poets lived, or had lived, in the full current of society):
But the collision of equal minds, the ad- as a tissue of moral and devotional ravings, in \ monition of prevailing impressions-seems which innumerable changes are rung upon a necessary to reduce its redundancies, and re- few very simple and familiar ideas:-But press that tendency to extravagance or pueril- with such an accompaniment of long words, ity, into which the self-indulgence and self-long sentences, and unwieldy phrases-and admiration of genius is so apt to be betrayed, such a hubbub of strained raptures and fanwhen it is allowed to wanton, without awe or tastical sublimities, that it is often difficult for restraint, in the triumph and delight of its the most skilful and attentive student to obown intoxication. That its flight should be tain a glimpse of the author's meaning-and graceful and glorious in the eyes of men, it altogether impossible for an ordinary reader seems almost to be necessary that they should to conjecture what he is about. Moral and rebe made in the consciousness that men's eyes ligious enthusiasm, though undoubtedly poetare to behold them, and that the inward ical emotions, are at the same time but dantransport and vigour by which they are in- gerous inspirers of poetry; nothing being so spired, should be tempered by an occasional apt to run into interminable dulness or mellireference to what will be thought of them by fluous extravagance, without giving the unforthose ultimate dispensers of glory. An habit-tunate author the slightest intimation of his danger. His laudable zeal for the 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.
ual and general knowledge of the few settled and permanent maxims, which form the canon of general taste in all large and polished societies a certain tact, which informs us at once that many things, whic we still love and are moved by in secret, must necessarily be despised as childish, or derided as absurd, in all such societies-though it will not stand in 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 who 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 so 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 has been for twenty years exclusively employed upon articles of this very fabric, and that he has still enough of raw material on hand to keep him so employed for twenty years to come, we cannot refuse him the justice of believing that he is a sincere convert to 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
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 of
their discourses, are introduced rather to il- rural scenery and open air, that when he was lustrate their arguments or opinions, than for sent to teach a school in a neighbouring vilany interest they are supposed to possess of lage, he found it "a misery to him;" and their own. The doctrine which the work is determined to embrace the more romantic ocintended to enforce, we are by no means cer-cupation of a Pedlar-or, as Mr. Wordsworth tain that we have discovered. In so far as more musically expresses it, 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 are 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 sense, as well as much enjoyment, in the humbler conditions of life; and that, in spite 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 retrospective 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" in 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 the 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 his sixth year, the boy of whom 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 essential importance
"From early childhood, even, as hath been said,
In the course of this occupation it is next recorded, that he acquired such a taste for
"A vagrant merchant, bent beneath his load;" -and in the course of his peregrinations had acquired a very large acquaintance, which, after he had given up dealing, he frequently took a summer ramble to visit.
The author, on coming up to this interesting personage, finds him sitting with his eyes half shut ;-and, not being quite sure whether he is asleep or awake, stands "some minutes' space" in silence beside him." At length," says he, with his own delightful simplicityAt length I hail'd him—seeing that his hat Was moist with water-drops, as if the brim Had newly scoop'd a running stream!''Tis,' said I, a burning day!
My lips are parch'd with thirst ;-but you, I guess,
Upon this, the benevolent old man points him out, not a running stream, but a well in a corner, to which the author repairs; and, after minutely describing its situation, beyond a broken wall, and between two alders that "grew in a cold damp nook," he thus faithfully chronicles the process of his return:—
"My thirst I slak'd; and from the cheerless spot
Withdrawing, straightway to the shade return'd,
The Pedlar then gives an account of the last inhabitants of the deserted cottage beside them. These were, a good industrious weaver and his wife and children. They were very happy for a while; till sickness and want of work came upon them; and then the father enlisted as a soldier, and the wife pined in that lonely cottage-growing every year more careless and desponding, as her anxiety and fears for her absent husband, of whom no ti dings ever reached her, accumulated. Her children died, and left her cheerless and alone; and at last she died also; and the cottage fell to decay. We must say, that there is very considerable pathos in the telling of this simple story; and that they who can get over the repugnance excited by the triteness of its incidents, and the lowness of its objects, will not fail to be struck with the author's knowledge of the human heart, and the power he possesses of stirring up its deepest and gentlest sympathies. His prolixity, indeed, it is not so easy to get over. This little story fills about twenty-five quarto pages; and abounds, of course, with mawkish sentiment, and details of preposterous minuteness. When the tale is told, the travellers take their staffs, and end their first day's journey, without further adventure, at a little inn.
The Second Book sets them forward betimes in the morning. They pass by a Village Wake; and as they approach a more solitary part of the mountains, the old man tells the author that he is taking him to see an old friend of his, who had formerly been chaplain