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inseparable friends, as to wish at their death to be laid in the same grave together.
Among the pathetic episodes, Ellen, the cottage in ruins, and the confessions of the hermit, are the most affecting.
The development of the author's principles, together with these episodes, give to the work rather a didactic than a dramatic character. It would, therefore, be surprising if some commonplaces did not slip in, feebly disguised under the pomp of verse. The reader may occasionally regret the absence of the impassioned energy of Byron, the spirit and the action of Sir Walter Scott; but it would be unjust to deny that this great poem forms, on the whole, an eloquent development of a system of philosophy worthy of a Christian Plato.
But, to return to the earlier productions of Wordsworth. If sublimity of expression and elevated views be the distinguishing features of The Excursion, his lyric ballads are sometimes written with a degree of simplicity almost bordering on affectation. Here Mr. Wordsworth's critics have found ample scope to accuse him of mawkish sentimentality. His admirers, however, maintain that, in spite of some inconsiderable defects, this series of little poems was the development of his principal object; the analysis of the real feelings of man,-of man considered independently of the conventional forms of society, from the first dawn of childhood to the hopes and recollections of old age. Inequality of style, that is to say, a mixture
of the solemn and the vulgar, long commentaries on trifling events, prolixity and idle repetitions, overcharged grandeur of imagery, and misplaced emphasis of expression, are the defects of Wordsworth's detached poems; but their redeeming qualities are numerous. The grace and beauty of a poetic diction, resembling that of primitive nations, the depth and originality of the thoughts and sentiments, the truth of the images borrowed from nature, lively sensibility, and an imagination which often elevates the most common-place subject :-—these are the qualities which make the reader forget all the defects which criticism has so eagerly discovered in the lake poet.
The great charm of Wordsworth's poems is that they in some degree regenerate the heart, restoring to it all the freshness of its primitive sensations, and the independence of that age, when the acquisition of each new idea was a conquest which made it beat with joy, and when we were yet free from the common-place restraints imposed by the world, in morality as well as poetry.
Wordsworth hiinself indicates, by the classification of his different poems, that his works are a poetic analysis of the feelings which external objects and an interchange of thoughts or affections awaken in the heart and the understanding of childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. He brings us back to our most trivial sensations ; but he gives at the same time a meaning and a voice to those sublime, though sometimes obscure, aspi
rations which the wonders of the creation awaken in the least poetic mind.
The poet himself informs us that in the composition of his ballads, his object was to select events and situations from common life, and to describe them with simplicity, at the same time heightening their colouring whenever the subject presented itself to his mind under an unusual form. But what he particularly proposed was to give to those events and situations a totally novel interest, by developing in them the primordial laws of our nature, and by that inexhaustible resource of the imagination which rhetoricians call the association of ideas.
The simplicity of rustic life was preferred for several reasons—first, because in common life the natural passions of the heart are less frequently perverted, are less constrained, and are expressed with greater freedom and unreservedness ;secondly, the elementary sensations, on account of their great simplicity, may be more clearly perceived ;-thirdly, the manners of common life spring from those elementary sensations, and are less easily modified or changed ;-and finally, the passions are there associated with the permanent forms of nature. The language of rural life, purified of its grossness, was therefore adopted by the poet, because the men by whom it is spoken are continually communicating with the objects whence the most poetic imagery is derived, and because their rank in society, as well as the narrow and unvaried circle of their intercourse with mankind,
removes them from the influence of social vanities, and they express their sentiments and ideas in a natural and unstudied manner. “Accordingly," says Mr. Wordsworth, “such a language, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language than that which is frequently substituted for it by poets, who think that they are conferring honour upon themselves and their art, in proportion as they separate themselves from the sympa. thies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression, in order to furnish food for fickle tastes, and fickle appetites, of their own creation.”
I have not space to enter into a detailed explanation of the philosophy of the new language which Wordsworth has undertaken to subject to the laws of rhythm. I shall not commence a philologi. cal discussion, which would not perhaps be altogether favourable to the lake poets, because, like all men of genius, who make themselves the slaves of a system, Wordsworth frequently excites the highest admiration when he departs from that system. I believe I have already made the same observation with regard to Mr. Crabbe. I am content to admire Wordsworth's talent for observing and delineating the various workings of the mind, when it is agitated, as he himself observes, by the noble and unsophisticated affections of our nature. In this manner he has analysed maternal affection in several of its most difficult shades; he has painted the last conflict of instinct with death, and has exhibited all the pure moral of fraternal love. But what above all distinguishes Wordsworth's poetry is, that the sentiment developed gives importance to the action and the situation,-while, as he himself very justly remarks, in the writings of other poets, the actions and situations confer importance on the sentiment. To afford you an idea of Wordsworth's talent in this style of composition, I transcribe the following stanzas, prefixing a few lines explanatory of their subject.
During the emigration of the tribes of North American Indians, if one of the party should happen to fall ill, or be unable to endure the fatigue of the journey, he is left behind with some deer skins, for covering, some provisions, water, and a supply of wood for kindling a fire. He is informed of the track which the tribe intend to follow, and if he do not overtake them, or fall in with some other wandering tribe, he must perish in the desert. Women are frequently abandoned in this manner; and the following lines are supposed to be the lamentations of one of these unhappy beings. On awaking from a sleep, which has been disturbed by dreams of death, she shudders at the melancholy solitude of her last hour. She at first invokes a speedy release to her misery; but the recollection of her child forces her to acknowledge that life would still be dear to her. I begin with the third stanza.
“ Alas ! ve might have dragg'd me on