Page images

sprung into existence at his own magic be applied the pregnant words of Novalis : touch. While tottering with age he is a “Man exists in truth. If he exposes truth, wandering child in a freshly-created world. he exposes himself. If he betrays truth, he “To carry on the feelings of childhood into betrays himself." He spoke as the unsophisthe powers of manhood,” says Coleridge, ticated child always speaks—from the heart. “to combine the child's sense of wonder and Serpent-critics might hiss, but his time was novelty with the appearance which every too precious to waste with them. He who day for perhaps forty years had rendered is conversing with angels, feels not the bite familiar,

of vipers. He has other than carnal wea* With sun and moon and stars throughout the year, |

pons with which to bruise their heads. Born And man and woman;"

among the hills, the favorite of nature, what

did Wordsworth care for Jeffrey's ridicule, this is the character and privi ege of genius, or the neglect of contemporaries! More and one of the marks which distinguish than half a century he wrote and lived genius from talents.” Goethe says: “Old poetry. Hills and mountains put on for him age does not make childish, as men say; it looks of benediction; Nature smiled upon only finds us still as true children.”

him in flowers, and sung to him her love One of these true world-children, whose with warbling tongues. He could afford to home is everywhere in the heart of humanity, be laughed at by the foolish, to be hooted is Wordsworth. The mere verse-maker- at by literary owls.. What had he to do the artisan, working with imitative skill-is with the world's approbation? He was a a kind of gipsey wanderer, homeless, friend-born poet, and could not listen to the less, and, to Apollo's household, worthless; cry of critic or multitude. Like a benign while the true poet, the artist-is at length spirit, he brooded over the world of affection housed in the affections, warmed in the and sentiment, and in being true to these, bosom of love, and at the feast of the gods he was true to himself. His voice has been is commanded by Jove himself to come up borne on the bosom of the mountain wind, hither. Wordsworth, as a true poet, existed and already the ear of humanity is ravished in unity. His life was not a widening arc, with its kindly tone. An age of imitation but a circle with continually lengthening never recognizes the inspired teacher who is radius. Many exist as a multitude of small true to man in being true to his own nature. arcs, with different radii, lacking unity, har- Just so far as the spiait of the times is false mony, rotundity. There is no connection will the true poet be neglected. The one between their past and their future. They who tacks to catch the popular breeze, may have no sympathy with what they have run with great rapidity-alas, not often heavbeen. All the keys of their being are flats enwards. When the multitude are repentand sharps. The delicate fingers of Nature ing, woe to those who have received their are answered by discordant tones. The poet | greatest favors, and joy to those who have alone, with his unity and harmony of being, raised heroic and prophetic voices of warnunderstands the past, alone can prophesy of ing and true guidance! Happy the age in the future ; for the continually full circum- which a strong, devout soul converses with ference of his life expands through the arcs the Spirit of the universe in the hearing of of all fragmentary existences. Tenderly and men! Words of bitterness and of jest may beautifully, and out of his own heart, has be thoughtlessly uttered, but many shall Wordsworth expressed this fact:

learn to worship; seeing the light of con

secrated genius that shines in truth and sin“My heart leaps up when I behold

cerity, they shall learn to glorify Him whose A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life hegan;

most perfect image is the divinest poet. So is it now I am a man;

It is well for us to ascertain, as clearly as So let it be when I grow old,

may be, Wordsworth's relation to his times. . Or let me die.

His name is associated with great changes
The child is father of the man,
And I would wish my days to be

in poetry and philosophy. He seems to be Bound cach to each by natural piety.

one of the connecting links between two

very different periods. He saw the mockWordsworth was sincere from the neces- ing-birds that sung around the grave of sity of his poetic constitution. To him may | Pope, pierced with the poisoned arrows of

Gifford, and witnessed many symptoms of gods and goddesses were used in rain, for returning faith in nature. He beheld the neither of them comprehended the real close of an unbelieving age in the earthquake- meaning of Grecian mythology. We may shock and volcano-blaze of the French safely say that Landor is the only English Revolution, and over the ruins heard the poet who has caught the genuine spirit of tone of violence softening into regret, or ancient Greece. Prior, Akenside, and many trembling with remorse-tirst indications of others have shown a familiarity with mythoawakening spiritual life. Wordsworth in logic history, but that which is unexpressed, England, surrounded by Coleridge, Southey, that indefinable something, that poetic air Lloyd, Shelley, Scott, Keats, and Byron, we which the Grecian breathed, has rarely been may dare to say, occupies a position somewhat felt. It cannot be trapped by a historical analogous to that of Goethe, surrounded by name. You might as well try to shut the Schiller and others, in Germany. Upon sunlight in a room by closing the blinds. these two points, then, we must dwell, but | The external lifo of the Grecian was a kind briefly as their importance will permit. T of language which he unconsciously used in

In regard to changes in poetry, we may uttering his poetic thoughts. Grecian mysay that they are only new manifestations thology, history, and philosophy must be of the same thing modified by time and understood and felt in order to get a clear place. Poetry is poetry, in the vale of insight into Grecian poetry. But let one Cashmere or in Wyoming. As a part of study the subject until he carries all Greece history, it comes from within humanity. Its in his bosom, yet what business has a Greek elements are every where the same, but in modern England? Who will listen to these elements are combined in different one who speaks a dead language? English proportions in different places. The ma- words may be used, but more than half the terial is every where the same, but it is language may still be Grecian. Landor is shaped by external nature, or by existing a real ancient, a true genius, but there is institutions. With its elements there is little sympathy between him and the one often mixed a foreign element, at the dicta- who uses the language of the nineteenth tion of a perverted or half-formed taste. century. If these things are true, then, in Sometimes one or more of its elements is regard to one who has caught the spirit of rejected. Criticism therefore often clips the classic antiquity, how much more are they wings of the poet, and then demands a true in regard to those who have merely flight against the storm ; it lays a weight remembered words without understanding upon the spirit, and then demands a soaring their latent meaning. I would not say of aloft with joy. Poetry has its roots in the Dryden and Pope, that they were only soul. Those faculties that create it will shadows of ancient poetry, and mirrors of emancipate it from the bondage of narrow French poetry. It is certain, however, that criticism, and will reanimate it when starved their poetry was an exotic on Saxon soil. on imitation.

The so-called correct school was certainly For more than half a century after the an artificial one. The bee-sting of Pope's death of Pope, there was a poetical drought satire, the diamond-flash of his wit, his in the land of England. One should study power of pointed condensation, the elvish that period well, if he would awaken in frolic of his fancy, indicated superior genius, himself any feeling of regard for mosquito- although many elements that characterize Killing Gifford. Dryden and Pope were the highest poetry were wanting. The not without a manly vigor of mind, and an period of Queen Anne was a lamentable one earnest purpose. With the best helps of in English literature, when viewed in relatheir times they studied the poetry of Greece tion to the preceding age, and as containing and Rome. They learned to admire the in itself the causes of future decay. English beauties of ancient poetry, but did not catch poets were irreverently saying sharp things the spirit of antiquity. The delicately think-over the graves of Shakspeare and Spenser, ing, the sensitive, the profoundly intellectual Johnson and Fletcher, Raleigh and Bacon. Greek, best represented by Plato, they did Strange that they should look for other than not understand. They listened to a far-off Teutonic gods. Woe to the age that reravishing melody, and attempted to imitate garded as barbarian, those early ballads that it with a harmonic jingle. The names of bear the burden of sturdy young England's


hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, expressed | teacher of Lamb, Southey, Wilson, Lloyd, in strong melodious Saxon phrase, fresh and and Coleridge; he has been affectionately wholesome as the fields in early summer, regarded by Cornwall, Rogers, and Montuttered from the depths of stoutly-beating, gomery ; Byron, with thievish skill, kept off earnest, valiant hearts ! Degeneracy must attention by ridicule while he plundered ; follow such an age. Pope was imitated by Scott loved him even to reverence; and a those who could not see beyond his artificial multitude of inferior poets have imbibed style. Pope's gepius enabled him to write their inspiration from fountains which he vigorously in spite of an enervating manner. opened. Whatever defects there may be in Those that meditated on the smoothness of the poetry of our times, its freshness and his lines, the harmony of his couplets, the vigor contrast greatly with the staleness and balancing position of cæsural pauses, were enervation of the old rhymes. The ear, sick a spectacle to laughing gods and weeping of the jingle and tinkling of the last cenmen. Heroic England for once became tury, turns with delight to the more than sentimental, sipped delicate love potions earthly harmony of Coleridge, the Mozartfrom beautiful cups bearing unmentionable music of Tennyson, and the organ-melody ornamental figures, played the courtier at of Wordsworth. Poetry is once more true, St. Cupid's, waxed sickly and pale, and because it is born from the union of the soul daubed a face once glowing with the hue of with nature. health thicker and thicker with French Wordsworth has been called the greatest rouge. If there were some morsels of of metaphysical poets, hence it is necessary genuine poetry during this period, they were to ascertain his connection with changes in oases in Sahara, or gentle memories of early philosophy. We must begin back of the affection that wring a tear of sincerity from spiritual philosophy, in order to determine the withered soul of a roué. The greatest any thing in regard to its real influence, amount of that stuff called poetry was but Only of general laws and most important the shadow of a shadow.

results can we speak here. Change at length came, for the spirit of Modern philosophy, although the daughhumanity, with Rhadamanthine severity, ter of scholasticism, is nevertheless its anseizes upon an age of imitation. The hero tagonist. It was not the authority, of reaof St. Crispin inust fulfil his mission by son to which the philosophy of the middle crimping apish poets. The good-natured ages submitted. Reason is the ruling aupublic, lashed to indignation, looked on ap- thority in all modern philosophy. The jorovingly. Readers were tired of scalding great Reformation, says Guizot, was an literary souj), and demanded a new course. "insurrection of the human mind against They could relish better a paté-de-foie-gras authority." Descartes has given his name literary dish, fresh from France, or the bot- to the philosophy that was established on tled moonshine of transcendental Germany. the ruins of scholasticism. Cartescanism reThe popular heart demanded some degree of cognizes the psychological method, by which sincerity, and approved it even in sentiment- the mind attempts to render an account to ality. It was apparent, both from what was itself of what passes within itself, by which rejected and what received, that earnestness we take cognizance through consciousness was demanded. The reading public began of the scenes mirrored from the soul. It is to listen right reverently to the heart-tones not necessary for our present purpose to of beer-gauging and beer-drinking Burns : show how Cartescanism was developed unalas for the age that had no other work for til it embraced the first thinkers of Europe. such a Nature's son to do! Memory of that It enlisted the services of the meditative age in English literature, inore illustrious than Malebranch, of the mathematical Leibnitz, the age of Augustus, Leo, or Pericles, was of the solitary and rigorous Spinoza, and revived. A Cleopatra-muse was paid up to found its professor in the learned and peparting; nature and humanity were studied dantic Wolf, who clothed it in a severe and anew. In the reaction against the artificial orderly dress. As the result of awakened school, Wordsworth has perhaps done more attention in speculation, appeared the “Critthan any other one poct. He has done it, ical History of Philosophy," by Brucker. not by antagonism, but by exploring a new Locke was an offspring of the Cortesian tract of nature and life. He has been the l philosophy. He followed the method of


Descartes, and sought to analyze conscious- | linked lightnings of hate flash through the

His error was that he took part for murky atmosphere. The muttered thunthe whole. He found certain elements of ders of antagonism fall heavily on the ear, mind, built up his system on those, and re- and the earth trembles beneath the heavy jected the rest. He saw nothing beyond tread of approaching revolution. Mortals perception and reflection. In England his with quaking hearts attempt to hide themphilosophy was not carried to its last practi- selves in vain. Floods of fire are poured cal results. It was demonstrated by Con- from the bursting bosom of the clouds; dillac in France, that reflection, according to Phlegethon-rivers with awful gleaming roar the system of Locke, was nothing but a around; and over that sea of passion, instead moditied sensation. In his “ Traité des Sen- of darkness, there is now lurid light. Beausations,” he regarded sensation as the only tiful gospel of Pleasure! Its leaven is poinstrument of consciousness. Reason, atten- tent; its unholy spirit illumines the world. tion, comparison, all come from sensation. The voices of its disciples are heard from The soul is nothing but intelligence; all the charnel-house of drunkenness and lust, intelligence is the result of sensation; hence crying with hollow, sepulchral accents, “ Eat the soul itself is sensation. The metaphy- and drink, for to-morrow ye die.” Beautisician must be followed by the moralist. ful gospel of Pleasure! Its baptism is that Helvetius came to prove that morality con- of blood, its worship is that of self, the most sists in shunning disagreeable sensations, saintly distributors of its holy charities were and seeking pleasing ones. Duty shall Danton and Robespierre, Mirabeau and St. henceforth be agreeable and easy. A new Just. Its Pentecostal days were those of code, in which pleasure is the foundation July. principle, and self-interest the highest law, England and Germany were saved from was the production of St. Lambert. A sys: the last results of such a philosophy by tem so neat and beautiful must be carried almost opposite causes. The English mind to its practical application in every institu- is too sober to act upon an untried theory. tion. Physiology was regarded as only a common sense prevails, and preserves from combination of functions, as the soul was those eccentricities of action to which the regarded as only a collection of sensations. French with their ardent feelings are subWhat is government but a collection of in-ject. The English were sufficiently prone to dividuals, the law of whose being is pleasure? | sensualism, but they were not ready for the What supreme law could there be then but sake of an idea to try an experiment which the desire of the multitude? It is melan- would put at hazard their boasted civil and choly to think that a devout English soul political institutions. Immobility has been should be the author, indirect indeed, of the characteristic of England, while mobility such a spreading, all-embracing system of has been that of France. On the other sensualism. The malady spread until all hand Germany is not the soil for a rank France was infected. Every French heart growth of sensualism. The German mind leaps in the belief that pleasure evermore was somewhat infected, but only for a short shall be the true philosophy of life. Alas, time. The German spirit by no means infacilis descensus Averni! It is sorrowful clines to materialism. The erudite German to trace the effects of the new gospel of sen. could find even in Aristotle, and most espesualism among an intelligent, joyous-hearted cially in Plato, something more than a senpeople. The acts of its apostles are counted sual philosophy. The gospel of Pleasure, by tons of written and printed sheets. Vol- however, was not without its influence in taire scoffings, Diderot love-letters, and Germany. There was a general feeling, not works which lips that would remain unsoiled only that happiness is our being's end and may not name, were the results of such a aim, but also that we are entitled to happicomprehensive system. From Paris there ness. Pleasure is a Proteus that is never flowed a stream of fiction, compared with caught by direct seeking. He that would which the Styx itself were drinkable. The save his own soul shall lose it. Happiness A-Theos, brooding over a sea of human pas- did not come for the bidding; a belief in sion, said, “ Let there be darkness, and there the right to it was nevertheless entertained. was darkness.” Anon the sea is disturbed When mortals receive not what they conby the breath of coming storm. Zig-zag, Iceive to be their due, they indulge in self

even so,


pity, flatter themselves to tears, and give the preaching to his Yankee friends this sublime highest seat in their hearts to the angel of nonsense. This spiritualism, modified in sorrow. Such for a season was the condi- various ways, has deeply tinged all the litertion of the popular German mind. This ature of Germany. The eclectics have imfeeling found a tongue in the Werther of ported an element of it into France. It Goethe, which was followed by innumerable colors the best poetry of England and Amerhoots, howls, and sentimental brays. There ica to-day. The leaders in this direction is still another phase of the same feeling. were Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Shelley; When the heart receives not the happiness Tennyson, Keats, and others followed ; and to which it conceives itself entitled, instead no one who has read Manfred will require of sorrow, anger is apt to follow. Hence the to be told that Byron at least knew the way. loud and bitter complaining of Byron. With Goethe, after telling the tale of sorrow that his fierce, strong, passionate nature, he could rested on the heart of Germany, led off scream the loudest of all Europe's crying with manly strength in the new course, and children. With Mephistopheles-shriek he could then say : could pierce the ears of the Muses, and at

“ What shapest thou here at the world ? 'Tis intervals smile defiance at the gods. He shapen long ago; roic soul, and worthy of a better mission! | The Maker shaped it, and thought it were best Some strains of diviner music are continually bursting forth from a spirit that knows Thy lot is appointed, go follow its hest;

Thy journey's begun, thou must move and not rest; the good while pursuing the wrong.

For sorrow and care cannot alter thy case, Against sensualism a reaction at length and running, not raging, will win tħee the race.” It first appeared in Scotland, and

Although Coleridge studied German phiwas but little more than a mere protesta- losophy more thoroughly than Wordsworth, tion of common sense against the extrava- the latter nevertheless must be regarded as gances of empiricism.

Reid was by no the leader in the new school of poetry. In means prcfound, but was healthy: He is proof of this position, we need to quote only regarded as one of the founders of rational

a single passage, composed as early as 1798, psychology, but he was rather the denier of the on the banks of the Wye, while he was visitold system than the constructer of the new. ing the ruins of Tintern Abbey :Germany was the place for the development

“Nature then of the spiritual philosophy. Kant with

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days, great vigor described, classified, and enu. And their glad animal movements, all gone by) merated the laws of reason. He regarded To me was all in all. I cannot paint the laws by which we gain a knowledge of what then I was. The sounding cataract external things, of Deity, and of what Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, passes within our own minds, as properties. Their colors and their furms, were then to me of the thinking subject. He considered An appetite: a feeling and a love, thought the only real world. Upon all ex- That had no need of a remoter charm ternal things he would impose the subjective By thought supplied, or any inter st laws of thought . Fichte went farther

than And all its aching joys are now no more,

Ưnborrowed from the eye. That time is past, Kant, not only regarding all outward things And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this as subjected to the laws of reason, but also Faint I, nor mourn, nor murmur; other gifts as inductions of the thinking principle. Have followed, for such loss I would believe Kant taught that a conception of God is an

Abundant recompense. For I have learned irresistible thought of the soul. Fichte re- Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes

To look on nature, not as in the hour garded Deity as thought itself, conceived in The still, sad music of humanity, an absolute sense—as the me. In fairness, Nor barsh, nor grating, though of ample power however, it should be stated that Fichte dis- To chasten and subdue. And I have feli' tinguishes two mes: the one, that of which 4 presence which disturbs me with the joy we are conscious; the other, the absolute, of something far more deeply interfused,

Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime or Deity. When one speaks of God as an Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, absolute me, he has arrived at the highest and the round ocean, and the living air, beaven of transcendentalism. Fichte has and the blue sky, and in the mind of man; found an honest, sharp-sighted representa- All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

A motion, and a spirit, that impels tive on this side of the ocean, who is now | And rolls through all things."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »