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bined a similar naturalistic conception of the subject matter of
a poetry. One of Wordsworth's favourite assertions and one of the most bitter reproaches he levelled at the prevailing literary taste was, that hardly one original image or new description of nature had been introduced into English verse in the age between Milton and Thomson. Himself endowed with an extraordinary receptivity for all the phenomena of external nature, he took the cry:“Nature ! nature !” for his watch word-and by nature he meant the country as opposed to the town. In town life men forgot the earth on which they lived. They no longer really knew it; they remembered the general appearance of fields and woods, but not the details of the life of nature, not its varying play of smiling, sober, glorious, and terrible scenes. Who nowadays could tell the names of the various forest trees and meadow flowers ? who knew the signs of the weather—what the clouds say when they hurry so, what those motions of the cattle mean, and why the mists roll down the hill ? Wordsworth had known all these signs from the time when he played as a child among the Cumberland hills. He had a familiar acquaintance with all the varieties of English nature, at all seasons of the year ; he was constituted to reproduce what he saw and felt, and to meditate profoundly over it before he reproduced it was fitted to carry out, with full consciousness of what he was undertaking, the reformation of poetry which had been begun by poor Chatterton, “ the sleepless soul,” and by the peasant Burns, a much more gifted poet than himself. Though he was but one of the numerous exponents of that love of nature which at the beginning of the century spread like a wave over Europe, he had a stronger, more profound consciousness than any man in the United Kingdom of the fact that a new poetic spirit was abroad in England.
The friends agreed that there were three distinct periods of English poetry—the period of poetic youth and strength, from Chaucer to Dryden ; the period of poetic barrenness, from (and including) Dryden to the end of the eighteenth century; and the period of regeneration, which was now beginning with themselves, after being heralded by their predecessors. Like the men of the new era in Germany and Denmark, these young Englishmen sought for imposing terms to express the difference between themselves and those whom they attacked ; and the terms they found were exactly the same as those adopted by their Continental contemporaries. They credited themselves with imagination-in other words, with the true creative gift, and wrote page upon page of vague eulogy of it as opposed to fancy; exactly as Oehlenschläger and his school eulogised imagination and allowed Baggesen at best only humour. They themselves were distinguished by reason, their predecessors had only had understanding; they had genius, their predecessors had only had talent; they were creators, their predecessors had only been critics. Even an Aristotle, not being a poet, could lay claim to no more than talent. In England, too, Noureddin' was belittled; the new men were conscious of the infinite superiority of their methods to his “un-natural” procedure.
1 A character in the Danish poet Oehlenschläger's play, Aladdin, who represents talent as opposed to genius, which is embodied in Aladdin.
STRENGTH AND SINCERITY OF THE LOVE OF
WORDSWORTH's real point of departure, then, was the conviction that in town life and its distractions men had forgotten nature, and that they had been punished for it; constant social intercourse had dissipated their energy and talents and impaired the susceptibility of their hearts to simple and pure impressions. Amongst his hundreds of sonnets there is one which is peculiarly eloquent of this fundamental idea. It is the well-known :
“The World is too much with us; late and soon,
These are remarkable words to have come from Wordsworth's pen—remarkable, because they show what all sincere naturalism really is, let it be decked with as many theistic · trappings as it will. In its inmost essence it is akin to the old Greek conception of nature, and antagonistic to all the official creeds of modern days; it is vitally impregnated with the pantheism which reappears in this century as the dominating element in the feeling for nature in every literature.
In the preceding volume of this work (The Romantic School in Germany) we made acquaintance with the pantheism which lay concealed under Tieck's Romantic view of nature. Now we come upon it in the form of the human being's selfforgetful and half unconscious amalgamation with nature, as a single tone in the great harmony of the universe. This idea has found expression in a curious little poem :
If we transport ourselves into the mood which gave birth to such a poem as this, we are conscious that it is the outcome of purely pantheistic ideas ; unconscious life is regarded as the basis and source of conscious life, and every earthly being is conceived of as having lain in nature's womb, an inseparable part of her until the moment when consciousness began. One of the germs of the poetry of the new century lies in this little poem ; for here, in place of the cultivated human being as developed and extolled by the eighteenth century, we have the human being as seen by the new era in the circle of his kin-birds and wild beasts, plants and stones. Christianity commanded men to love their fellow-men ; pantheism bade them love the meanest animal. Harl-Leap Well, undoubtedly one of Wordsworth's finest poems, a simple little romance in two parts, is a movingly eloquent plea for a poor, ill-used animal, a hunted stagthat is to say, a creature in whom the classical poets would have been interested only in the shape of venison, and belonging to the species which the admirers of the age of chivalry, including Scott himself, would have allowed their heroes to kill by the hundred. Deeply affecting, in spite of the comparative insignificance of its subject, grandly simple in its style, the little poem is a noble evidence of the heartfelt piety towards nature which is Wordsworth's patent of nobility.
This piety in his case consists mainly in reverence for the childlike, and for the child. And this same reverence for the human being who in his unconsciousness is nearest to nature, is another of the characteristic features of the new century. In a little poem with which Wordsworth himself introduces all the rest, he writes :
“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky :
Or let me die!
Bound each to each by natural piety." Here we have reverence for the child developed to such an extent that it supplants reverence for age.
But this conferring of his natural poetic rights on the child is, as the history of every country shows us, only one of the many signs of the reaction against the eighteenth century's worship of the enlightened, social human being, and its banishment of the child to the nursery. Wordsworth carries the reaction inaugurated by the nineteenth century to its logical conclusion. In one of his sonnets he describes a walk which he takes on a beautiful evening with a little girl. After describing the tranquil evening mood—
“ The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration ;" he turns to the child beside him, and says:
“Dear child ! dear girl I that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouch'd by solemn thought
God being with thee when we know it not.” The pious ending is inevitable with Wordsworth ; but, as any intelligent reader may see for himself, it is only