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onward, regenerating and imparting new energy as it clears the path of time. Experiencing fully these sentiments, there is no mind, however great, that does not feel its littleness, but yet comes forth more powerful, after bathing in the troubled waters of its spiritual existence.
The feelings to which we have alluded, as existing with the greatest minds, a consciousness that they would be able to effect now that which, if it brought no fame at the moment, would make them known hereafter, and the other, which seems the growth of this conviction, the determination to persevere till they feel satisfied within themselves, though in defiance of the opposition of the world, were both apparently strong principles of action with the poet who forms the subject of this notice. He retired from the world to fulfil what he felt to be a great purpose of his being—the improvement of the literature of his country, and to secure a permanent place among its immortal
It was a noble resolution, and showed a very noble reliance on his powers; for at the time his works were not only thrown by with neglect, but suffered the basest depreciation, and all the assaults of contempt and calumny. Yet he bore up, without concession to malignity and ignorance, and endured, with the firmness of a strong and elevated mind, that most withering of all the blows of fortune, unexpected and unmerited disappointment. He even gathered hope from this warm solicitude to ruin him, for he was aware that his poetical system differed from the one most in fashion ; that he was not writing in accordance with the taste or in deference to the opinions of the day, but entirely from himself; and he was also conscious, that the minds of men were under high excitement, and incapable of the correct discrimination and nice judgment required for the admiration and due appreciation of the more subdued beauties of a less attractive, because a less dazzling order of poetry.
“The love, the admiration, the indifference, the slight, the aversion, and even the contempt, with which these poems have been received, knowing, as I do, the source within my own mind froin which they have proceeded, and the labour and pains which, when labour and pains appeared needful, have been bestowed upon them, must all, if I think consistently, be received as pledges and tokens, bearing the same general impression, though widely different in value ;-they are all proofs that, for the present time, I have not laboured in vain; and afford assurances, more or less authentic, that the products of my industry will endure."
Thus throwing back on his age the contempt and ridicule with which they visited him, and drawing from them a still stronger certainty of his future fame ; finding in the follies and vicious disposition of his time a reason for his own neglect,
and the gratifying assurance that in the change of things he would be placed in a proper and proud position.
This confidence arose, not only from a just balancing of his own qualities, but from a still loftier sentiment, one, without which in literature little can be done—the attaching a high importance to his art. He looked on it as calling forth, and as worthy, of all the finest faculties of the human mind, and not as a temporary pastime, the idle occupation of indolent lei
It was with him a business, the aim of his life; a feeling that, no doubt, imparted a more intense zeal to his exertions, at the same time that it allowed him to look beyond the present, and encouraged the boldest and most cheering hopes. At the hour when he came forward, in the chivalry of gentle thought, to offer his productions, the world was storming with passion. Political strife was consuming and overwhelming every thing. An evil spirit was at every man's door. A portion of society was in despair, the rest under violent excitement, struggling with the fierce elements of destruction that were then let loose, or assisting them. At this seemingly disastrous period, our poet, as if from another state of being, and like a bird, singing above a field of battle, published verses with such unpropitious titles as “Goody Blake and Harry Gill;" "The Female Vagrant;"
;" “ The Thorn;" and other pieces, with equally unattractive, mean, and homely appellations. It is not surprising that men laughed with derision at such simplicity, bearing on its face, too, an apparent mockery of their feelings, and so entire an indifference to the condition and interests of the
А. result that might have been easily conjectured, took place. The poet was ridden over and trampled on, by not braver, for he had shown a high degree of courage in thus proposing himself for martyrdom in a great cause, but by more audacious spirits, men who were not willing to buffet with the flood, but seized its occasion to reach the object of their desires. Long after this, and even almost to the present time, the vibration of ridicule and contempt continued, and now, more especially in this country, it still exists, to a great extent; and this noble mind is only remembered or known, as having given interest or incident to an idiot, and a hue of sentiment to a jackass. Almost all would judge him to be the person he has pictured in the following sonnet:
“I am not one who much or oft delight
And, for my chance acquaintance, ladies bright,
Or kettle whispering its faint under-song." How could the world regard, but with disgust, a man who, while war was raging abroad, and revolutionary excitement at home, could nestle in the chimney corner and listen to the singing of a tea-kettle! Such torpor of temperament, such languor of mind, such inaction and dullness, they thought were only fitted for the cloister. The struggles and the contentions of active life, the rapid decision, the quick and animated energies they require, were all beyond him. His element was peacethe leisure and ease of philosophic retirement—to dream and muse, and moralize, involved the chief end of his being. It may
be and this is the usual condemnation the many pass upon all who are not busy in the same pursuits with themselves, who are not mingling in the toil and bustle of the world; and with what intent? to attain that they want not, and despise as their own, or as the possession of others. Time does not pass the same sentence. For those who are capable of thrusting from them the world and its mean ambition, and who can use their leisure—the opportunity for self-communion, the intercourse with their own nature—to create happiness for themselves and elevate their intellectual character, do the same for others, and are benefactors of mankind. They erect their monument on the affections and the thoughts of men. The human soul is the only marble they ask for their name—and they are willing that their glory should be submitted to the current that flows through the long channel of coming ages. Most men have no existence but that which is derived from without; there are others whose only life is the internal :
" Whose mind is but the mind of his own eyes,
He is a slave: the meanest we can meet." Under these two divisions all men may be classed-to which greatness belongs it is not difficult to decide. The first portion do not feel their true nature—the second have affixed to it the very highest and noblest objects. They rest on the mind and its powers; they renounce the pleasures of existence, and look for them within themselves, and, in the increase of their resources and intellectual improvements, multiply worlds. They can say
“Wings have we—and as far as we can go
e may find pleasure: wilderness and wood,
It is a mistake to suppose that it is the men of action who govern the world, for they are only the agents of the men of thought, and forward the views and carry out the impulses these superior spirits give to the course of things. It is the contemplative who brood over the fortunes and the fate of man-who feel and try to penetrate the mystery that invests and seems an element in all around them-to disclose that which is obscure, to discover that which is concealed. By their close scrutiny and deep examination of every thing that concerns mankind, they develope, though perhaps only in part, much that is important to its interests. The chief source and spring of their desire to increase the welfare of men, comes from the lofty destiny they have given to their nature; and there is no greater proof of eminent genius and elevation of mind than this disposition to raise man in the scale of being; to add to and strengthen those hopes which the mind in its dark humours depresses, and despair sometimes destroys. To effect these high purposes they devote themselves with all the ardour and energy of great powers ; night and day they toil at their task—they go through the agony of strong anxiety and all the risk of failure—they bear the waste of physical health, and endure the hazard of premature exhaustion and decay of mind. All they ask from the world is an audience, and the tranquil leisure and calmness of solitude, in which to pursue their designs-for it is only in solitude they are secure from the world and its contact, and can preserve and continue 'the great ends, and those majestic reflections, which the solitary communing with one's self cherishes if it does not create.
These remarks may seem to apply rather to the man of science, or to him generally called a philosopher, than to any one else; but it is not so. They apply with equal, perhaps greater truth, to him who is the greatest of philosophers, in the highest meaning of the word—the poet. For who communes so deeply with the souls of other men, who enters so far into their nature, mingles so thoroughly with their passions, and assumes and comprehends within himself so many of the forms of their various being? With a capacity so comprehensive, and a sensibility so exquisitely tender, how can he adapt himself to the harsh and hollow things of life, or engage with that intense interest with which he seizes every object, in the frivolity and frippery that form the whole pursuit of the mass of men. It is only as a spectator that he is in the world. Disinterested and unVOL. XX-NO. 39.
prejudiced, he throws his glance over the wide scene, without a passion excited in his own favour, and with no motive save a general one; he observes all the ruinous failings, all the redeeming qualities of men, and endeavours to obstruct and oppose the dangerous course of the former, by bringing out the moral strength and higher purposes that come with the latter. In this way he improves and elevates human feeling. The poet, by these means, interests himself with all that is near him, and multiplies himself, and forms a part of the multitude of affections that controul and break over the souls of men. He finds a universal sympathy within him, a power of imaging the whole moral nature of mankind, and binding himself to and reflecting the whole material world. He feels that there is a dignity and a beauty in his species that may be wrought into noble proportions, and that there is something in the external world calculated to increase this capacity. It is here he commences his labours, and hopes, through the existence of this condition, to produce the results for which he has engaged. But it is this ever-acting sensibility, however it may enlarge the intellectual sphere-this power of being one with all things, however it may add to the enjoyment of the individual, or give expression and interest to the thoughts and language of the poet, that creates what appears to the majority of men an unnecessary and puerile enthusiasm for trifles, or, as seems to them, for the trivial and mean. It was this over-sensitiveness, this unnatural excitability, that was objected to Wordsworth, and is even now, by those who are influenced by the prevailing feeling of the moment, and not by that which belongs to no particular class or season, but is of all inen and all time. But it should be remembered, that he had adopted a system which, though to a great extent perhaps erroneous, he thought it his duty to act upon and follow out. It showed, if we do not mistake, the elevation and benevolence of his nature, and it did not depreciate his genius. It only made all God's creatures and all God's works sources of pure feeling and lofty reflection, instead of portions that, from bearing more mystery and grandeur, strike the most common intellect. He chose humble life and humble things; "to follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature,” and thus to illustrate “ characters of which the elements are simple, belonging rather to nature than to manners—such as exist now and will probably always exist.” A plan of this kind, from the exceeding simplicity of its design, can only interest the true lovers of nature, who care not so much for the character of the objects, as for what they involve--their natures and real essence. founded on ideas and opinions easily gathered by one removed from the busy and agitated world, and with a mind and heart