Page images
PDF
EPUB

Through want of better knowledge in the heads
That framed them; flattering self-conceit with words
That, while they most ambitiously set forth
Extrinsic differences, the outward marks
Whereby society has parted man
From man, neglect the universal heart.

Here, calling up to mind what then I saw,
A youthful traveller, and see daily now
In the familiar circuit of my home,
Here might I pause, and bend in reverence
To Nature, and the power of human minds,
To men as they are men within themselves.
How oft high service is perform'd within,
When all th' external man is rude in show,
Not like a temple rich with pomp and gold,
But a mere mountain chapel, that protects
Its simple worshippers from sun and snow.
Of these, said I, shall be my song; of these,
If future years mature me for the task,
Will I record the praises, making verse
Deal boldly with substantial things; in truth
And sanctity of passion, speak of these,
That justice may be done, obeisance paid
Where it is due: thus haply shall I teach,
Inspire, through unadulterated ears
Pour rapture, tenderness, and hope; my theme
No other than the very heart of man,
As found among the best of those who live,
Not unexalted by religious faith,
Nor uninform’d by books, good books, though few,
In Nature's presence: thence may I select
Sorrow, that is not sorrow, but delight;
And miserable love, that is not pain
To hear of, for the glory that redounds
Therefrom to human kind, and what we are.
Be’t mine to follow with no timid step
Where knowledge leads me: it shall be my pride
That I have dared to tread this holy ground,
Speaking no dream, but things oracular;
Matter not lightly to be heard by those
Who to the letter of the outward promise
Do read th’invisible soul; by men adroit
In speech, and for communion with the world
Accomplish'd; minds whose faculties are then
Most active when they are most eloquent,
And elevated most when most admired.

Men may be found of other mould than these,
Who are their own upholders, to themselves
Encouragement, and energy, and will,
Expressing liveliest thoughts in lively words
As native passion dictates. Others, too,
There are among the walks of homely life
Still higher, men for contemplation framed,
Shy, and unpractised in the strife of phrase;
Meek men, whose very souls perhaps would sink
Beneath them, summon'd to such intercourse:
Theirs is the language of the heavens, the power
The thought, the image, and the silent joy:
Words are but under-agents in their souls;
When they are grasping with their greatest strength,
They do not breathe among them: this I speak
In gratitude to God, who feeds our hearts
For His own service; knoweth, loveth us,
When we are unregarded by the world.

LOVE AND IMAGINATION.
(From the Prelude, Book xio.)

BY LOVE subsists
All lasting grandeur, by pervading love;
That gone, we are as dust. Behold the fields
In balmy spring-time full of rising flowers
And joyous creatures; see that pair, the lamb
And the lamb's mother, and their tender ways
Shall touch thee to the heart: thou call'st this love,
And not inaptly so, for love it is,
Far as it carries thee. In some green bower
Rest, and be not alone, but have thou there
The One who is thy choice of all the world:
There linger, listening, gazing, with delight
Impassion'd, but delight how pitiable!
Unless this love by a still higher love
Be hallow'd, love th breathes not without awe;
Love that adores, but on the knees of prayer,
By Heaven inspired; that frees from chains the soul,
Lifted, in union with the purest, best
Of earth-born passions, on the wings of praise
Bearing a tribute to th’ Almighty's

Throne.
This spiritual Love acts not nor can exist
Without Imagination, which, in truth,
Is but another name for absolute power

And clearest insight, amplitude of mind,
And Reason in her most exalted mood.
This faculty hath been the feeding source
Of our long labour: we have traced the stream
From the blind cavern whence is faintly heard
Its natal murmur; follow'd it to light
And open day; accompanied its course
Among the ways of Nature, for a time
Lost sight of it bewilder'd and ingulf’d;
Then given it greeting as it rose once more
In strength, reflecting from its placid breast
The works of man and face of human life;
And lastly, from its progress have we drawn
Faith in life endless, the sustaining thought
Of human Being, Eternity, and God.

Imagination having been our theme,
So also hath that intellectual Love,
For they are each in each, and cannot stand
Dividually. - Here must thou be, O Man!
Power to thyself; no Helper hast thou here;
Here keepest thou in singleness thy state:
No other can divide with thee this work:
No secondary hand can intervene
To fashion this ability; 'tis thine,
The prime and vital principle is thine
In the recesses of thy nature, far
From any reach of outward fellowship,
Else is not thine at all. But joy to him,
0, joy to him who here hath sown, hath laid
Here, the foundation of his future years!
For all that friendship, all that love can do,
All that a darling countenance can look
Or dear voice utter, to complete the man,
Perfect him, made imperfect in himself,
All shall be his: and he whose soul hath risen
Up to the height of feeling intellect
Shall want no humbler tenderness; his heart
Be tender as a nursing mother's heart;
Of female softness shall his life be full,
Of humble cares and delicate desires,
Mild interests and gentlest sympathies.

Child of my parents! Sister of my soul ! Thanks in sincerest verse have been elsewhere Pour'd out for all the early tenderness Which I from thee imbibed :8 and 'tis most true

8 See the short poem entitled The Sparrow's Nest, page 129.

That later seasons owed to thee no less;
For, spite of thy sweet influence and the touch
Of kindred hands that open’d out the springs
Of genial thought in childhood ; and in spite
Of all that unassisted I had mark'd
In life or nature of those charms minute
That win their way into the heart by stealth ;
Still, to the very going out of youth,
I too exclusively esteem'd that love,
And sought that beauty which, as Milton sings,
Hath terror in it. Thou didst soften down
This over-sternness; but for thee, dear Friend!
My soul, too reckless of mild grace, had stood
In her original self too confident,
Retain'd, too long, a countenance severe;
A rock with torrents roaring, with the clouds
Familiar, and a favourite of the stars :
But thou didst plant its crevices with flowers,
Hang it with shrubs that twinkle in the breeze,
And teach the little birds to build their nests
And warble in its chambers. At a time
When Nature, destined to remain so long
Foremost in my affections, had fallen back
Into a second place, pleased to become
A handmaid to a nobler than herself,
When every day brought with it some new sense
Of exquisite regard for common things,
And aïl the Earth was budding with these gifts
Of more refined humanity, thy breath,
Dear Sister! was a kind of gentler Spring
That went before my steps. Thereafter came
One whom with thee friendship had early pair’d;
She came, no more a phantom to adorn
A moment, but an inmate of the heart,
And yet a spirit, there for me enshrined
To penetrate the lofty and the low;
Even as one essence of pervading light
Shines in the brightest of ten thousand stars,
And the meek worm that feeds her lonely lamp

Couch'd in the dewy grass. 9 See the little piece, beginning, “She was a Phantom of delight," page 134.

THE EXCURSION.

PREFATORY NOTE.

THE EXCURSION, first published in 1814, was originally desigped as the second part of a larger work, to consist of three parts, and to be entitled The Recluse. The first and third parts of this work were never completed: in fact, only a small portion of the first -one book, I think — was written; and nothing at all was done towards the third; though the author tells us that much, if not most, of the matter intended for that use was worked up into various of his other poems. In the preface to the original edition, we have the following: “Several years ago, when the Author retired to his native mountains, with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary Work that might live, it wils i reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how lår Nature and Education had qualified him for such employment; and the result was a determination to compose a philosophical poeta, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society; and to be entitled The Recluse; as having for its principal subject the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement." The same Preface informs us, also, that the first and third parts of The Recluse were to “consist chiefly of medli. tations in the Author's own person;" while The Excursion, as will readily be seen, is cast into something of a dramatic form, with various interlocutors speaking in a man. ner suited to their respective characters.

It may not be amiss to add, that The Excursion, on its first appearance, was received with many howls of censure by the professional critics and reviewers of that day. Jeffrey, in particular, spouted against it in the Edinburgh Revicu, opening his article with the dictum, “ This will never do.” But the poem held its ground, notwithstanding, and slowly won its way, educating a “fit audience” for itself as time wore on; and it has been steadily growing in favour and influence ever since. On the other hand, many of the best contemporary judges, such as Coleridge, Southey, Lamb, Wilson, and others, were from the first most emphatic and outspoken in approval of

the work. Southey, on being told how Jeffrey was boasting that he had “CRUSHED The Excursion," uttered the famous saying, “He crush The Excursion! Tell him he might as well fancy that he could crush Skiddaw." Lamb, also, wrote, “It is the noblest conversational poem I ever_read, - a day in Heaven.” Again he speaks of it as follows: "The poet of The Excursion walk's through common forests as through some Dodona or enchanted wood; and every casual bird that fits upon the boughs, like that miraculous one in Tasso, but in language more piercing than any articulate sounds, reveals to him far lovelier lays."

To the original edition the author prefixed the following grand passage, from the first book of The Recluse, “as a kind of Prospectus of the design and scope of the whole Poem."

On Man, on Nature, and on Human Life,
Musing in solitude, I oft perceive
Fair trains of imagery before me rise,
Accompanied by feelings of delight
Pure, or with no unpleasing sadness mix'd;
And I am conscious of affecting thoughts
And dear remembrances, whose presence soothes
Or elevates the Mind, intent to weigh
The good and evil of our mortal state.
To these emotions, whencesoe'er they come,
Whether from breath of outward circumstance,
Or from the Soul,- an impulse to herself, -
I would give utterance in numerous verse.
Of Truth, of Grandeur, Beauty, Love, and Hope,
And melancholy Fear subdued by Faith;
Of blessèd consolations in distress;
Of moral strength, and intellectual Power;
Of joy in widest commonalty spread;
Of th' individual Mind that keeps her own
Inviolate retirement, subject there

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »