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universal regeneration, though by more ques- | Yet not in vain, it shall not be in vain.
... Feebly must They have felt
We must trespass upon our readers with the fragments of yet another story. It is that of a simple, seduced, and deserted girl, told with great sweetness, pathos, and indulgence, by the Vicar of the parish, by the side of her untimely grave. Looking down on the turf, he says―
"As, on a sunny bank, a tender Lamb,
Upon the pathway of her mournful tread;
Her virgin graces and gentleness are then very beautifully described, and her seduction and lonely anguish passed over very tenderly.
Through four months' space the Infant drew its
“A kindlier passion open'd on her soul
Here the parents of her new nursling soon
She saw it in that mortal malady:
You see the Infant's Grave!-and to this Spot,
"But the green stalk of Ellen's life was snapp'd, And the flower droop'd; as every eye might see."
"Her fond maternal Heart had built a Nest
-Meek Saint! through patience glorified on
In whom, as by her lonely hearth she sate,
pp. 296, 297.
Ah why,' said Ellen, sighing to herself,
These passages, we think, are among the most touching with which the volume presents us; though there are many in a more lofty
Their spring-time with one love, and that have need and impassioned style. The following com
Of mutual pity and forgiveness, sweet
memoration of a beautiful and glorious youth,
"The mountain Ash,
Tell in their idle songs of wand'ring Gods,
This is lofty and energetic;-but Mr. Wordsworth descends, we cannot think very gracefully, when he proceeds to describe how the quoit whizzed when his arm launched it -and how the football mounted as high as a lark, at the touch of his toe-neither is it a suitable catastrophe, for one so nobly endowed, to catch cold by standing too long in the river washing sheep, and die of spasms in consequence.
To Gain-the master Idol of the Realm,
The general reflections on the indiscriminating rapacity of death, though by no means original in themselves, and expressed with too bold a rivalry of the seven ages of Shakespeare, have yet a character of vigour and truth about them that entitles them to notice.
The effects on the ordinary life of the poor
lost." pp. 371, 372.
This file of Infants; some that never breathed, And the besprinki'd Nursing, unrequir'd Till he begins to smile upon the breast That feeds him; and the tott'ring Little-one Taken from air and sunshine, when the rose Of Infancy first blooms upon his cheek; The thinking, thoughtless Schoolboy; the bold Of soul impetuous; and the bashful Maid Smitten while all the promises of life Are op'ning round her; those of middle age, Cast down while confident in strength they stand, Like pillars fix'd more firmly, as might seem, And more secure, by very weight of all That, for support, rests on them; the decay'd And burthensome; and, lastly, that poor few Whose hight of reason is with age extinct; The hopeful and the hopeless, first and last, The earliest summon'd and the longest spar'd, Are here deposited; with tribute paid Various, but unto each some tribute paid; As if, amid these peaceful hills and groves, Society were touch'd with kind concern, And gentle "Nature griev'd that One should die!" pp. 244, 245. There is a lively and impressive appeal on and the injury done to the health, happiness, morality of the lower orders, by the unceasing and premature labours of our crowded manufactories. The description of night-working is picturesque. In lonely and romantic regions, he says, when silence and darkness incline all to repose—
The dissertation is closed with an ardent hope, that the farther improvement and the universal diffusion of these arts may take away the temptation for us to embark so largely in their cultivation; and that we may once more hold out inducements for the return of old manners and domestic charities.
Learning, though late, that all true glory rests,
And the Arts died by which they had been raised.
There is also a very animated exhortation to the more general diffusion of education among the lower orders; and a glowing and eloquent assertion of their capacity for all virtues and enjoyments.
Believe it not!
The primal Duties shine aloft-like stars;
The blessings and the necessities that now
- -"An unnatural light Prepar'd for never-resting Labour's eyes. Bresks from a many-window'd Fabric huge; And at the appointed hour a Bell is heardOt harsher import than the Curfew-knoll That spake the Norman Conqueror's stern behest. render this a peculiar duty in the rulers of this empire, are urged in a still loftier tone. A local summons to unceasing toil! D.sgorg'd are now the Ministers of day; And, as they issue from the illumin'd Pile, A fresh Band meets them, at the crowded door. And in the Courts;-and where the rumbling That turns the multitude of dizzy wheels, [Stream, fires like a troubl'd Spirit, in its bed Among the rocks below. Men, Maidens. Youths, Mother and little Children, Boys and Girls, Enter, and each the wonted task resumes Within this Temple-where is offer'd up
Look! and behold, from Calpe's sunburnt cliffs
Remains entire and indivisible;
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 peepWhere crouch the spotted deer; or raise our eyes To shaggy steeps 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, is 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 them 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
These examples, we perceive, are not very 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 of the sort of merit which we meant to illustrate by their citation. When we look back to them, indeed, and to the other passages which we have now extracted, we feel half inclined to rescind the severe sentence which we passed on the work at the beginning:-But when we look into the work itself, 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 perversion, 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 hastily 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 superannu- ? ated pedlar? What but the most wretched affectation, or provoking perversity of taste, could induce any one to place his chosen advocate of wisdom and virtue in so absurd and fantastic a condition? Did Mr. Wordsworth really imagine, that his favourite doctrines were likely to gain any thing in point of effect or authority by being put into the mouth of a person accustomed to higgle about tape, or brass sleeve-buttons? Or is it not plain that, independent of the ridicule and disgust which such a personification must excite in many of his readers, its adoption exposes his work throughout to the charge of revolting incon
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 savours 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, the diction, the sentiments, in any, the very smallest degree, accommodated to a person in that condition? 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 alí the heathen mythology, was once 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 WORDSWORTH. 4to. pp. 162. London: 1815.
THIS, we think, has the merit of being the | very 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 have devised, on purpose to make it ridiculous; and when we first took it up, we could not 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 our 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 curious at least, if not in some degree interesting; and, at all events, it must be instructive to be made aware of the excesses into which superior understandings may be betrayed, by long self-indulgence, and the strange extravagances into which they may run, when under the influence of that intoxication which is produced by unrestrained admiration of themselves. This poetical intoxication, 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 bottle-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 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 dashed 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 in the work before us, is indeed undeniable; but it unfortunately happens, that while the
hobbling versification, the mean diction, and flat 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, and 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, and 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 Westmoreland, by whom it was chiefly abetted. Among the victims of this rash enterprise was 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 graves, 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, might have made a lyrical one of considerable interLet us see, however, how he deals with it, since he has bethought him of publishing in quarto.
The First Canto merely contains the description 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 which Mr. Wordsworth marvels and moralises about her through ten quarto pages.
"What harmonious, pensive changes, Wait upon her as she ranges
Round and through this Pile of State,
"A Banner-one that did fulfil
Too perfectly his headstrong will:
To be by force of arms renew'd;