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examples are set so thick that it would be as easy to adduce five hundred as one, and, indeed, the very form of speech we have quoted, varied to 'They will say,' and 'You'd have said,' occurs again and again. The habit of reiterating the same phrase in two or three successive lines, which amounts in him to an offensive mannerism, was another resource to supply the comparative scantiness of his vocabulary. A solitary specimen will illustrate the usage, but it is its constant recurrence which renders it repulsive.
'For joy he cannot hold the bridle,
For joy his head and heels are idle,
Some of the minor pieces, as The Thorn, are half made up of the changes rung upon a surplusage of colloquial common-places. Though he termed the frequent inversions in the works of brother poets a want of respect for the reader, his own are incessant, and of the most barbarous kind. It seems as if their wanting the sanction of custom had led him to fancy that they were not inversions at all. That none of these blemishes proceeded from haste is the strongest evidence of his imperfect mastery over diction, and that they were not faults of impetuosity is also the cause that they are seldom accompanied by the vigour and animation which atone for so many slips of fiery composers.
Wordsworth professed that his chief ambition had been to write in pure, intelligible English. His sonnets seldom depart from this standard, and, though the language of the ballads is often far enough from classic, it is abundantly clear. In his blank-verse, however, he often indulged in the oppressive magniloquence of his worst prose, and he is then among the least perspicuous of poets. His obscurity arises in part from the vagueness of his doctrines, but more from the darkness of the lantern in which he buries his light.
It is constantly asserted that he effected a reform in the language of poetry, that he found the public bigoted to a vicious and flowery diction which seemed to mean a great deal and really meant nothing, and that he led them back to sense and simplicity. The claim appears to us to be a fanciful assumption, refuted by the facts of literary history. Feebler poetasters were no doubt read when Wordsworth began to write than would now command an audience, however small, but they had no real hold upon the public, and Cowper was the only popular bard of the day. His masculine and unadorned English was relished in every cultivated circle in the land, and Wordsworth was the child, and not the father of a reaction, which, after all, has been greatly exaggerated. Goldsmith was the most celebrated of Cowper's immediate
immediate predecessors, and it will not be pretended that The Deserted Village and The Traveller are among the specimens of inane phraseology. Burns had died before Wordsworth attracted notice; the wonderful Peasant's performances were admired by none more than by Wordsworth himself: were they not already far more popular than the Lake-poet's have ever been -or ever will be? and were they, in any respect or degree, tinged with the absurdities of the Hayley school? When we come forward we find that the men of the generation were Scott, Byron, Moore, Campbell, Crabbe, and one or two others. Wordsworth himself was little read in comparison, and, if he had anything to do with weaning the public from their vitiated predilections, it must have been through his influence on these more popular poets, whose works represented the reigning taste of the time. But nothing is more certain than that not a single one of them had formed his style upon that of the Lyrical Ballads or The Excursion. Lord Byron, during his residence in Switzerland, was imbued through Shelley with some of Wordsworth's characteristic feeling for Nature, which may be palpably traced in the third canto of Childe Harold composed at the period. The style of the noble poet, however, had been fixed long before, and displayed in more than one immortal production. Wordsworth, in fact, always spoke of Byron's language with unmeasured reprehension, and said that a critical review of it ought to be written to guard others from imitating it. He was equally emphatic in his censure of Scott-and between the diction of Moore and that of the Lake bard, there was no more resemblance than between water and perfume. Campbell, far from condescending to glean from the effusions of Grasmere and Rydal, was among their uncompromising opponents.
Whatever influence Wordsworth may have exercised on poetic style, be it great or small, was by deviating in practice from the principles of composition for which he contended. Both his theory, and the poems which illustrate it, continue to this hour to be all but universally condemned. He resolved to write as the lower orders talked; and though where the poor are the speakers it would be in accordance with strict dramatic propriety, the system would not be tolerated in serious poetry. The example of Shakspeare dispenses with argument. His characters are acknowledged to be nature itself, but their language in his Tragedies is not that which is spoken by ordinary men. It is the richly metaphorical style of Shakspeare himself, which could never have been general unless in a world of transcendent poets. Yet the discrepancy pleases instead of offending, because all the characters display the passions which are proper to their situa
tion, and with just so much greater power and effect as Shakspeare's poetry was above common prose. Wordsworth's rule, however, did not stop at the wording of dialogues. He maintained that the colloquial language of rustics was the most philosophical and enduring which the Dictionary affords, and the fittest for verse of every description. Any one who mixes with the common people can decide for himself whether their conversation is wont to exhibit more propriety of language than the sayings of a Johnson or the speeches of a Burke. If it were really the case, it would follow that literary cultivation is an evil, and that we ought to learn English of our ploughboys, and not of our Shakspeares and Miltons. But there can be no risk in asserting that the vocabulary of rustics is rude and meagre, and their discourse negligent, diffuse, and weak. The vulgarisms, which are the most racy, vigorous, and characteristic part of their speech, Wordsworth admitted must be dropped, and either he must have substituted equivalent expressions, when the language ceases to be that of the poor, or he must have put up with a stock of words which, after all these deductions, would have been scarcely more copious than that of a South Sea savage. When his finest verse is brought to the test of his principle, they agree no better than light and darkness. Here is his way of describing the effects of the pealing organ in King's College Chapel, with its 'selfpoised roof, scooped into ten thousand cells
But from the arms of silence-list! O list!
The music bursteth into second life;
The notes luxuriate, every stone is kissed
With sound, or ghost of sound, in mazy strife.'
This is to write like a splendid poet, but it is not to write as rustics talk.
A second canon laid down by Wordsworth was, that poetic diction is, or ought to be, in all respects the same with the language of prose; and as prose has a wide range and numbers among its triumphs such luxuriant eloquence as that of Jeremy Taylor, the principle, if just, would be no less available for the advocates of ornamented verse than for the defence of the homely style of the Lyrical Ballads. But the proposition is certainly too broadly stated, and, though the argument holds good for the adversary, because the phraseology which is not too rich for prose can never be considered too tawdry for poetry, yet it will not warrant the conclusions of Wordsworth that poetry should never rise above prose, or disdain to descend to its lowest level. The great mass of the English tongue is common ground, but there are images which would sound affected out of poetry, and, still
more frequently, there are combinations of words which would appear mean in verse. Wordsworth's works, notwithstanding his horror of poetic phraseology, present examples in the first kind as well as the second.
'Evening now unbinds the fetters
Fashioned by the glowing light,'
would be a fantastic mode of saying, in any description of prose, that the coolness of evening restored the activity suspended by the sultriness of the day-and we question whether the person exists who honestly believes that the stanza which follows is sufficiently dignified for what is, in design at least, a sentimental poem :
'And Susan's growing worse and worse,
If she must go, or she must stay!
Such was the nature of the innovation for which Wordsworth struggled. In the species of diction where he had no precursor he is never likely to have any successor, and the compositions of his that promise to live exhibit a style of which the antiquity is the best security that it will never grow obsolete. No generation has been so prolific in distinguished poets as his own, and, dissenting from the prediction that posterity will allot him the highest place in the brotherhood, we yet cannot question that he will keep the sufficiently eminent station which the world has long since assigned him amidst that illustrious group.
ART. IX.-The Financial Statements of the Right Honourable Benjamin Disraeli, M.P., delivered in the House of Commons on Friday, 3rd December, 1852. Piper & Co.
HIS Number of our Journal was nearly due before the late
ment.' However therefore we might dissent from a very large proportion of the views therein indicated as to a variety of subjects, we at once perceived that it would be impossible for us to go immediately into the general detail of our objections without an inconvenient delay of our publication: and we might the more readily submit to what we felt to be beyond our choice, as the more properly financial topics were discussed with
ability both in the long debate that followed the ministerial exposition and simultaneously by the most influential of the daily newspapers. It so happens, however, that neither speakers in the House nor writers out of doors enlarged on one particular class of subjects-and that in our own opinion the most important-which the 'Statement' had embraced; and under these circumstances, it seemed to us that we could not, without an absolute dereliction of our own recorded principles, and a neglect of what we consider the best interests of the country, allow it to be supposed even for a moment that we acquiesced in either the propositions or the reasoning of Mr. Disraeli as to several points of our Maritime administration and policy. Accordingly, we hastened to prepare a review of that portion of his speech, on the chance of its being published in time to suggest some modification, or at least a reconsideration, of matters which we thought had been dealt with too hastily, and on very imperfect information. With that view, the greater part of the following pages was already in type before the fall of the Government. The more striking political consequences of the wholesale defeat of the Budget have, indeed, thrown into the background all its details, and will have deprived our criticisms of any immediate interest they might otherwise have had; but they do not, as it appears to us, and as we hope our readers will think, render less necessary some protest against its being hereafter assumed that the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer was on those subjects expressing the matured and deliberate sentiments of the Conservative party. On the contrary, we believe that his statements were heard by the majority of the independent members of that party in the House of Commons with as much surprise and dissent as we, and every Conservative out of doors that we have happened to meet, felt at reading them. We therefore adhere to our original design, with the addition only of a very few general observations on the new crisis in public affairs which the Budget has, if not produced, at least accelerated.
If any of our readers might have forgotten, the Peelite journalists have, since the Cabinet catastrophe, taken pains enough to refresh their memories as to the earnestness with which, in the closing article of our September number, we deprecated the premature, and, as we thought, unnecessary and impolitic experiment, of a budget before Christmas. With a flourishing exchequer, an actual surplus, and the prospect of a still better one at the close of the financial year, we did not conceive it at all probable that the graver and more experienced members of the Îate Cabinet would sanction so great a departure, not only from parliamentary