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THE LADY AND THE MERLIN.
A PICTURE BY NEWTON.
GRACEFUL “ Phantom of Delight!”
But she may not vie with thee!
Though an Angel's grace is thine;
Huntress fair, the sport is over,
A. A. W.
THE LIVING POETS OF ENGLAND. No. II.
WORDSWORTH may almost be termed par excellence the Poet of Nature; not merely from the number, but the perfect truth and beauty, of his descriptions of natural objects. There hangs,' says an accomplished cri. tic now no more,-one of the very few from whom the poet in question has received worthy treatment;- there hangs about the finest passages of some of the most able poets of our day, an air of force and artifice, which, however high our admiration of them in the closet may go, excludes them from our recollection when we are in the immediate presence of the sacred power from whence proceeds poetical inspiration : their lustre seems then to go out, like that of the most magnificent chandelier that ever was suspended from the roof of a palace, when exposed to the face of a starry sky. Wordsworth, however, never quits us on these solemn occasions : he is with us as one who has a right to be wherever there is a display of natural sublimity, grandeur, or beauty, He does not disturb the august silence, and secret influence of the spot one moment, by officious interference or overstrained invitations and excitements. His lines connect themselves more permanently and easily with the scenery of nature, and the workings of thought and passion, than those of his contemporaries and rivals. They strike on our minds at the moment of observation, like the light of day, to illustrate and embellish. The passage
Or, like a ship, some gentle day,
Of ocean for her vast domain,furnishes an instance :-how perfectly, how musically, how gracefully, does it accord with the actual image of the thing represented! and at the same time how true and suitable is the sentiment which it adapts to the image, to give it a moral life, and an influence over the feelings. The sails of the brigantine in the sun, the stateliness of her port, her gentle yet commanding motion, as if master of herself and all about her,--her superiority over the expanse in which she moves, her singleness in it, her fitness for it-all conspire to give to her the air and character of sovereignty.'
On the poet's habit of connecting the simplest and commonest images with the rarest, and often the most complicated thoughts and feelings, and on the folly of speaking of him as an author aiming at simplicity, the abovementioned writer has so well observed, that we cannot do better than make his remarks our own. Wordsworth,' continues he, 'is fearless in the familiarity of his expressions, because he is conscious of the depth, grandeur, and importance of his sentiments. A flower gives him thoughts too deep for tears :'-in the bright blue eggs of a sparrow's nest he sees ' a vision of delight,' and the colonade of the Louvre would not probably touch him so sensibly. That people in general do not thus see, we admit; but they do not now laugh at Newton for gazing on soap bubbles in their flight. The very simplicity and apparent triviality of an object, when it falls in the way of a mind full of the order of nature, and of the associated recollections of
* Concluded from page 22 of our last number.
life, will often cause it to excite the sensibility more quickly and powerfully than qualities of a high and rare cast. When nature hath linked to her fair works the human soul,' it will not fail to derive from even the daisy,' or the 'small celandine,'
Some apprehension ;
Or stray invention. The writer of the foregoing remarks might have gone even further; he might have pronounced Wordsworth, in spite of the seeming triviality of his subjects, and the generally humble stations of his characters, to be in fact highly aristocratical; but then it is in the aristocracy of natures, and not of names, that his Muse delights. With the latter his poems are but sparingly gilded, whilst every page of them is full of the former. He has not made princes of peasants, but he has shewn that even peasants may have a princely soul : he has never attempted to break down the barriers which divide the ranks of society, but he has laboured effectually to obliterate the vain and futile distinctions which too often are allowed to divide man from man. With more philosophy, and in statelier language, he has advocated the doctrines which poor Burns throws out in his random but heart-stirring manner, in ' For A' That and A' That.'
The king can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and a' that;
Gude faith he mauna fa' that!
Their dignities, and a' that,
Are higher ranks than a' that.
As come it will for a' that,
May bear the gree, and a' that.
Its comin yet for a' that,
Shall brothers be for a' that. Wordsworth regards man simply as man, distinct from the adventitious separations imposed by birth and fortune, and therefore he delights to point out how completely the principles, and powers, and passions, which sway the human mind in the highest ranks of life, influence it also in the lower. Exchange, says he
The Shepherd's frock of native gray
Shall find apt subject for her highest art.
Childe Harold' alternately, and observe, how systematically the two poets draw directly contrary inferences from the same position. The former never either describes or expresses his love for the various works of creation, without thence deriving a motive for peace and good will” towards his fellow-men. Lord Byron, on the contrary, never eulogises external Nature without taking, or rather making occasion, to deride and degrade humanity. His lordship’s Muse makes hating the world a necessary consequence of loving the green earth, with all its magnificent array of grandeur and beauty. It would occupy a very long paper to point out even a few of the passages in which the two poets have on this single subject brought forward their two leading principles-Love and Scorn. One, however, must suffice, and we would remind the reader that the writers are speaking in their own persons :
Is it not better then to be alone,
Is it not better thus our lives to wear,
And with the sky, the peak, the heaving plain
And thus I am absorbed, and this is life:
I cannot paint
WORDSWORTH. Admitting that the most valuable part of Wordsworth's poetry will not be that which will meet with the greatest number of admirers, there is a vast portion which, for strength, precision, and melody,-exquisite grace, whether of feeling or expression, must be admired by all that have ears to hear, and hearts to feel. Whatever difference of opinion may exist concerning · The Idiot Boy, - Peter Bell,'--' The Waggoner,' and others of the same cast, which after all make up but a small portion of the volumes, we could fill half a page with merely the names of poems, which require no argument to prove either their merić or their beauty. Much of Wordsworth's poetry is certainly peculiar, but how much more of it is general, calculated for general perusal and general admiration. His Sonnets, upwards of two hundred in number, would, for the most part, delight even inveterate anti-Wordsworthians if put forth by any other writer; and the Episodes in The Excursion;' . She was a Phantom ;' • The Highland Girl, ;' « The Solitary Reaper ;' • The Remembrance of Collins ;' · Lines written in a Boat;' • Hartleap Well;' the . Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle ;' Vaudracour and Julia;' would interest those who may be unable to appreciate his strains of a higher mood. Let us now make a few random selections;
What aspect bore the man who roved or fled,
Where lies the land to which yon ship must go ?
COMPOSED UPON WESTMINSTER BRIDGE.
The river glideth at his own sweet will :
Fair is the swan, whose majesty, prevailing