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The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy; for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstacies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake.*
* In our admiration of the external forms of nature, the mind is redeemed from a sense of the transitory, which so often mixes perturbation with pleasure; and there is perhaps no feeling of the human heart which, being so intense, is at the same time so composed. It is for this reason, amongst others, that it is peculiarly favourable to the contemplations of a poetical philosopher, and eminently so to one like Mr Wordsworth, in whose scheme of thought there is no feature more prominent than the doctrine, that the intellect should be nourished by the feelings, and that the state of mind which bestows a gift of genuine insight, is one of profound emotion as well as profound composure; or, as Coleridge has somewhere expressed himselfDeep self-possession, an intense repose.
The power which lies in the beauty of nature to induce this union of the tranquil and the vivid is described, and to every disciple of Wordsworth has been, as much as is possible, imparted by the celebrated Lines written in 1798, a few miles above Tintern Abbey,' in which the poet, having attributed to his intermediate recollections of the landscape then revisited a benign influence over many acts of daily life, describes the particulars in which he is indebted to them. * * The impassioned love of nature is interfused through the whole of Mr Wordsworth's system of thought, filling up all interstices, penetrating all recesses, colouring all media, supporting, associating, and giving coherency and mutual relevancy to it in all its parts. Though man is his subject, yet is man never presented to us divested of his relations with external nature. Man is the text, but there is always a running commentary of natural phenomena.-Quarterly Review for 1834. In illustration of this remark, every episode in the Excursion' might be cited (particularly the affecting and beautiful tale of Margaret in the first book); and the poems of The Cumberland Beggar,' Michael,' and The Fountain' (the last unquestionably one of the finest of the ballads), are also striking instances.
Picture of Christmas Eve.
[Addressed to the Rev. Dr Wordsworth, with Sonnets to the River Duddon, &c.]
The minstrels played their Christmas tune
To-night beneath my cottage eaves:
While, smitten by a lofty moon,
The encircling laurels, thick with leaves,
Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen,
That overpowered their natural green.
Through hill and valley every breeze
Had sunk to rest with folded wings;
Keen was the air, but could not freeze,
Nor check the music of the strings;
So stout and hardy were the band
That scraped the chords with strenuous hand.
And who but listened? till was paid
Respect to every inmate's claim;
The greeting given, the music played
In honour of each household name,
Duly pronounced with lusty call,
And merry Christmas' wished to all!
O brother! I revere the choice
That took thee from thy native hills;
And it is given thee to rejoice:
Though public care full often tills
(Heaven only witness of the toil)
À barren and ungrateful soil.
Yet, would that thou, with me and mine,
Hadst heard this never-failing rite;
And seen on other faces shine
A true revival of the light;
Which nature, and these rustic powers,
In simple childhood spread through ours!
For pleasure hath not ceased to wait
On these expected annual rounds,
Whether the rich man's sumptuous gate
Call forth the unelaborate sounds,
Or they are offered at the door
That guards the lowliest of the poor.
How touching, when at midnight sweep
Snow-muffled winds, and all is dark,
To hear and sink again to sleep!
Or, at an earlier call, to mark,
By blazing fire, the still suspense
Of self-complacent innocence;
The mutual nod-the grave disguise
Of hearts with gladness brimming o'er;
And some unbidden tears that rise
For names once heard, and heard no more;
Tears brightened by the serenade
For infant in the cradle laid!
Ah! not for emerald fields alone,
With ambient streams more pure and bright
Than fabled Cytherea's zone
Glittering before the thunderer's sight,
Is to my heart of hearts endeared
The ground where we were born and reared!
Hail, ancient manners! sure defence,
Where they survive, of wholesome laws;
Remnants of love, whose modest sense
Thus into narrow room withdraws;
Hail, usages of pristine mould,
And ye that guard them, mountains old!
Bear with me, brother, quench the thought
That slights this passion or condemns ;
If thee fond fancy ever brought
From the proud margin of the Thames
And Lambeth's venerable towers
To humbler streams and greener bowers.
He spake of plants that hourly change
Their blossoms, through a boundless range
Of intermingling hues ;
With budding, fading, faded flowers,
They stand the wonder of the bowers
From morn to evening dews.
He told of the magnolia, spread
High as a cloud, high overhead!
The cypress and her spire;
Of flowers that with one scarlet gleam
Cover a hundred leagues, and seem
To set the hills on fire.
The youth of green savannahs spake,
And many an endless, endless lake,
With all its fairy crowds
Of islands, that together lie
As quietly as spots of sky
Among the evening clouds.
'How pleasant,' then he said, 'it were
A fisher or a hunter there,
In sunshine or through shade
To wander with an easy mind,
And build a household fire, and find
A home in every glade!
What days and what bright years! Ah me!
Our life were life indeed, with thee
So passed in quiet bliss,
And all the while,' said he, to know
That we were in a world of wo,
On such an earth as this!'
And then he sometimes interwove Fond thoughts about a father's love : 'For there,' said he, ' are spun Around the heart such tender ties, That our own children to our eyes Are dearer than the sun.
Sweet Ruth! and could you go with me
My helpmate in the woods to be,
Our shed at night to rear ;
Or run, my own adopted bride,
A sylvan huntress at my side,
And drive the flying deer!
Beloved Ruth -No more he said. The wakeful Ruth at midnight shed A solitary tear :
She thought again-and did agree With him to sail across the sea, And drive the flying deer.
And now, as fitting is and right, We in the church our faith wall plight, A husband and a wife.'
Even so they did; and I may say That to sweet Ruth that happy day Was more than human life.
Through dream and vision did she sink,
Delighted all the while to think
That on those lonesome floods,
And green savannahs, she should share
His board with lawful joy, and bear
His name in the wild woods.
But, as you have before been told,
This stripling, sportive, gay, and bold,
And, with his dancing crest,
So beautiful, through savage lands
Had roamed about, with vagrant bands
Of Indians in the west.
I, too, have passed her on the hills
Setting her little water-mills
By spouts and fountains wild-
Such small machinery as she turned
Ere she had wept, ere she had mourned,
A young and happy child!
Farewell! and when thy days are told,
Ill-fated Ruth, in hallowed mould
Thy corpse shall buried be;
For thee a funeral bell shall ring,
And all the congregation sing
A Christian psalm for thee.
To a Highland Girl.
[At Inversneyde, upon Loch Lomond.] Sweet Highland girl! a very shower Of beauty is thy earthly dower! Twice seven consenting years have shed Their utmost bounty on thy head: And those gray rocks; that household lawn ; Those trees, a veil just half withdrawn ; This fall of water, that doth make
A murmur near the silent lake;
This little bay, a quiet road
That holds in shelter thy abode-
In truth, unfolding thus, ye seem
Like something fashioned in a dream;
Such forms as from their covert peep
When earthly cares are laid asleep!
Yet, dream or vision as thou art,
I bless thee with a human heart:
God shield thee to thy latest years!
I neither know thee nor thy peers;
And yet my eyes are filled with tears.
With earnest feeling I shall pray
For thee when I am far away:
For never saw I mien or face,
In which more plainly I could trace
Benignity and home-bred sense
Ripening in perfect innocence.
Here scattered, like a random seed,
Remote from men, thou dost not need
The embarrassed look of shy distress
And maidenly shamefacedness:
Thou wear'st upon thy forehead clear
The freedom of a mountaineer:
A face with gladness overspread!
Soft smiles, by human kindness bred!
And seemliness complete, that sways
Thy courtesies, about thee plays;
With no restraint, but such as springs
From quick and eager visitings
Of thoughts that lie beyond the reach
Of thy few words of English speech:
A bondage sweetly brooked, a strife
That gives thy gestures grace and life!
So have I, not unmoved in mind,
Seen birds of tempest-loving kind,
Thus beating up against the wind.
What hand but would a garland cull For thee who art so beautiful? O happy pleasure! here to dwell Beside thee in some heathy dell; Adopt your homely ways, and dress A shepherd, thou a shepherdess! But I could frame a wish for thee More like a grave reality: Thou art to me but as a wave Of the wild sea; and I would have Some claim upon thee, if I could, Though but of common neighbourhood. What joy to hear thee, and to see! Thy elder brother I would beThy father-anything to thee !
Now thanks to Heaven! that of its grace Hath led me to this lonely place. Joy have I had; and going hence, I bear away my recompense. In spots like these it is we prize Our memory, feel that she hath eyes:
But thou, though capable of sternest deed,
Wert kind as resolute, and good as brave;
And he, whose power restores thee, hath decreed
That thou shouldst cheat the malice of the grave.
Redundant are thy locks, thy lips as fair
As when their breath enriched Thessalian air.
No spectre greets me-no vain shadow this;
Come, blooming hero, place thee by my side!
Give, on this well known couch, one nuptial kiss
To me, this day, a second time thy bride!'
Jove frowned in heaven; the conscious Parca threw
Upon those roseate lips a Stygian hue.
"This visage tells thee that my doom is past; Nor should the change be mourned, even if the joys Of sense were able to return as fast
And surely as they vanish. Earth destroys
Those raptures duly-Erebus disdains;
Calm pleasures there abide-majestic pains.
Be taught, O faithful consort, to control
Rebellious passion; for the gods approve
The depth, and not the tumult, of the soul;
A fervent, not ungovernable love.
Thy transports moderate; and meekly mourn
When I depart, for brief is my sojourn.'
'Ah, wherefore? Did not Hercules by force Wrest from the guardian monster of the tomb Alcestis, a reanimated corse,
Given back to dwell on earth in vernal bloom? Medea's spells dispersed the weight of years, And Æson stood a youth 'mid youthful peers.
The gods to us are merciful; and they
Yet further may relent; for mightier far
Than strength of nerve and sinew, or the sway
Of magic potent over sun and star,
Is love, though oft to agony distrest,
And though his favourite seat be feeble woman's breast.
But if thou goest, I follow.' 'Peace!' he said;
She looked upon him, and was calmed and cheered;
The ghastly colour from his lips had fled.
In his deportment, shape, and mien appeared
Elysian beauty, melancholy grace,
Brought from a pensive though a happy place.
He spake of love, such love as spirits feel
In worlds whose course is equable and pure;
No fears to beat away, no strife to heal,
The past unsighed for, and the future sure;
Spake of heroic arts in graver mood
Revived, with finer harmony pursued.
Of all that is most beauteous-imaged there
In happier beauty; more pellucid streams,
An ampler ether, a diviner air,
And fields invested with purpureal gleams;
Climes which the sun, who sheds the brightest day
Earth knows, is all unworthy to survey.
Yet there the soul shall enter which hath earned That privilege by virtue. 'Ill,' said he,
The end of man's existence I discerned, Who from ignoble games and revelry Could draw, when we had parted, vain delight, While tears were thy best pastime, day and night: And while my youthful peers before my eyes (Each hero following his peculiar bent) Prepared themselves for glorious enterprise By martial sports; or, seated in the tent, Chieftains and kings in council were detainedWhat time the fleet at Aulis lay enchained. The wished-for wind was given: I then revolved The oracle upon the silent sea; And, if no worthier led the That, of a thousand vessels, mine should be The foremost prow in pressing to the strandMine the first blood that tinged the Trojan sand.
Yet bitter, ofttimes bitter was the pang,
When of thy loss I thought, beloved wife!
On thee too fondly did my memory hang,
And on the joys we shared in mortal life;
The paths which we had trod-these fountains, flowers;
My new-planned cities, and unfinished towers.
But should suspense permit the foe to cry,
"Behold they tremble! haughty their array;
Yet of their number no one dares to die!"
In soul I swept the indignity away:
Old frailties then recurred; but lofty thought,
In act embodied, my deliverance wrought.
And thou, though strong in love, art all too weak
In reason, in self-government too slow;
I counsel thee by fortitude to seek
Our blest reunion in the shades below.
The invisible world with thee hath sympathised;
Be thy affections raised and solemnised.
Learn, by a mortal yearning, to ascend-
Seeking a higher object. Love was given,
Encouraged, sanctioned, chiefly for that end;
For this the passion to excess was driven,
That self might be annulled: her bondage prove
The fetters of a dream, opposed to love.'
Aloud she shrieked; for Hermes reappears!
Round the dear shade she would have clung; 'tis vain;
The hours are past-too brief had they been years;
And him no mortal effort can detain:
Swift toward the realms that know not earthly day,
He through the portal takes his silent way,
And on the palace-floor a lifeless corse she lay.
By no weak pity might the gods be moved:
She who thus perished, not without the crime
Of lovers that in reason's spite have loved,
Was doomed to wear out her appointed time
Apart from happy ghosts, that gather flowers
Of blissful quiet 'mid unfading bowers.
-Yet tears to human suffering are due;
And mortal hopes defeated and a'erthrown
Are mourned by man, and not by man alone,
As fondly he believes. Upon the side
Of Hellespont (such faith was entertained)
A knot of spiry trees for ages grew
From out the tomb of him for whom she died;
And ever, when such stature they had gained,
That Ilium's walls were subject to their view,
The tree's tall summits withered at the sight-
A constant interchange of growth and blight!
One of the most enthusiastic admirers of Wordsworth was Coleridge, so long his friend and associate, and who looked up to him with a sort of filial veneration and respect. He has drawn his poetical character at length in the Biographia Literaria, and if we consider it as applying to the higher characteristics of Wordsworth, without reference to the absurdity or puerility of some of his early fables, incidents, and language, it will be found equally just and felicitous. First, An austere purity of language, both grammatically and logically; in short, a perfect appropriateness of the words to the meaning. Secondly, A correspondent weight and sanity of the thoughts and sentiments won, not from books, but from the poet's own meditations. They are fresh, and have the dew upon them. Even throughout his smaller poems, there is not one which is not renIdered valuable by some just and original reflection. Thirdly, The sinewy strength and originality of single lines and paragraphs; the frequent curiosa felicitas of his diction. Fourthly, The perfect truth of nature in his images and descriptions, as taken immediately from nature, and proving a long and genial intimacy with the very spirit which gives