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together with the nature of his subject, in some rare instance, succeed in conciliating the sympathy or the homage of all intelligent minds, it will be found that the pleasure derived by various individuals from the same production, relates to different qualities, proceeds from different causes, and is obtained by a different effort of the mind. In some, it will be a spontaneous act of sympathy giving birth to pleasurable emotion; hi others, the pleasure will be consequent upon the operation of the judgement, and of a more artificial nature. To whom will the perusal of Paradise Lost be a study and a task, which the reader forgets to repeat? Not to the man of cultivated fancy and poetical feeling; who, in his amusements, preserves the dignity of a thoughtful being. On the other hand, by what proportion of his readers can Milton be really understood? Not, surely, by the thousands in successive generations, who Jay out their first pocket-money on a half-crown edition of Paradise Lost, awed and captivated by the religious nature of the subject; and receiving as almost authentic, the history the poet gives of our first parents. Yet, there is a high degree of pleasure, perhaps a degree more powerful than that of which the critic partakes, and it is a salutary pleasure too, which may be derived from the perusal of our great poet's greatest work, even by those who very imperfectly understand it. This pleasure, since it springs from the imagination, must be called a poetical pleasure, although poetry is rather the exciting occasion of it, than its proper source. Words imperfectly understood, are often found to convey an indefinite meaning, quite as impressive as their simple import; and, in this way, a subject above the conceptions of the reader, will often furnish hints which the mind follows out into an episode framed of its own associations. But, it is not by minds of this description, nor by hundreds of his readers, nor by thousands of his admirers, still less by the bulk of the admirers of Mr. Scott, or by the ridiculers of Mr. Wordsworth, that Milton can be understood or appreciated.
Poetry consists of the external forms which the noblest thoughts and feelings of our nature have adopted as their appropriate expression. The materials upon which the imagination works, are composed of earthly elements, but its model is the ideal prototype of a fairer creation existing within the mind of the poet; a day dream of perfection cherished in the hope of realizing the vision. The cultivation of the imagination, provided it does not interfere with the development of the other faculties, must be deemed beneficial, inasmuch as it if* productive of a correspondent increase of sensibility, and is conducive to the exercise of the purest affections. By causing the past and the future to preponderate over the present, i* exalts man, according to Dr. Johnson's fine observation, in the scale of intellectual being. Its natural effect, however, will be to produce a degree of abstractedness from objects of customary interest, to introduce a fondness for speculation, and, in certain situations, to give a peculiarity to the mental character. Now, poetry, more than any other production of the intellect, is the expression of character, having been invented lor the purpose of communicating and transmitting those sentiments and feelings which constitute character; sentiments and feelings common indeed to all, but the consciousness of which is confined to those who have made the phenomena of their own minds the subject of habitual attention. The objects with which these feelings become in some respects arbitrarily associated, will be determined by the peculiar habits of the individual; and if these have abstracted him from the ordinary pursuits of life, the objects of his sensibility or taste, will be probably peculiar; and his character, which can be understood only by sympathy,— influencing the character of his productions, will render them unintelligible, and consequently uninteresting to the feelings of common readers.
The class of poets generally termed the metaphysical, were doubtless men of strong imagination and of real poetical feeling; but their habits led them to associate the indefinite ideas which are connected with the deepest emotions, with mere intellectual abstractions, thus substituting a sort of hieroglyphic language, instead of the vocal and living expression of the passions. The forms in which they imbodied their fancies, were artificial; but there is no question that, in many instances at least, a peculiar sensibility, tenderness, and refinement, were the sources of productions the most foreign to the sympathy of common readers. We can easily believe that an astronomical problem, though far enough from being itself a poetical production, may, by suggesting a train of sublime associations, become invested with a mysterious power of affecting the feelings in a way strictly analogous to poetry. In like manner, pure metaphysical abstractions may take the place of the common objects of human sympathy, in the minds of individuals who are more strongly under the influence of their own speculations, than of the impressions received through their external senses.
Mr. Wordsworth exhibits the singular combination of the metaphysical poet, and the enthusiastic lover and minute observer of external nature. He has a mind which grasps the whole compass of poetry; and where he comes in contact with the ordinary sympathies of human nature, no living poet leaves so strongly the impression of a master genius: at times, however, he retires into a regiou distant from all intellectual intercourse, and becomes shrouded in impervious mysticism. Recondite and obscure as his meanings often are, and perverse as his choice of objects and expressions may appear, he is never justly chargeable with want of meaning. What subject or what style soever he selects, he seems always more than equal to his task, while those of his faults which most nearly resemble failure, are evidently the result of design. His descent is as deliberate as his highest flight is easy: in both he discovers eccentricity, but eccentricity without weakness.
Faults, however, suoh as Mr. Wordsworth chooses to commit, are not easily overlooked by the intolerance of taste. His bold and determined non-conformity to the creeds and rules of established usages, marks him out as a poetical schismatic. For our own parts, we contend, even in the world of taste, for an enlarged toleration. If a poet like Mr. Wordsworth, chooses to narrow out for himself a path on the confines of mysticism, inaccessible to common minds, there let him play the Solitary: transformed into an insect, let him fondle flowers, and, like Ariel, lie sheltered in a cowslip's bell, or ' under the 'blossom that hangs on the bough':—then, half resuming humanity, let him delight to indue the nobler life of animal consciousness with reflex intelligence, and realize the fables of the Pythagorean; the same propensity which led the grosser imaginations of the old heathens to carry their uninformed sympathy with inferior and even inanimate nature, into idolatry. Through all these changes we may recognise the poet's power, but we cannot accompany him; and we would gladly, when the Proteus again becomes man, fix him in that shape for ever.
Strictly speaking, it will generally, perhaps always, be found, that a writer's peculiarities are his faults: in their excellencies men resemble each other. The latter are uniform though various, like all the productions of nature; for they spring from natural endowment; the former result from the eccentricity of growth, and originate in the character. From a character with which ordinary persons cannot sympathize, of the inner springs of which they can know little—and such a character, judging from his productions, we must conceive Mr. Wordsworth's to be—we may naturally expect a degree of singularity in its productions, which ill deserves to be submitted to the flippancy of opinion, but which must, nevertheless, interfere with the impression that their excellencies are adapted to produce.
We shall now very briefly acquaint our readers with the nature of the poem which has excited these rather lengthened remarks.
. * The Poem of the White Doe of Rylstone is founded on a local tradition, and on the Ballad in Perry's collection, entitled "The Rising of the North." The tradition is as follows; " About this time," not loag after the Dissolution, " a White Doe, say the aged people of the neighbourhood, long continued to make a weekly pilgrimage from Rylstone over the fells of Bolton, and was constantly found in the Abbey Church-yard during divine service; after the close of which she returned home as regularly as the rest of the congregation." Dr. Whitaker's History of the Deanery o> Craven. Rylstone was the property and residence of the Nortons, distinguished in that ill-advised and unfortunate Insurrection, which led me to connect with this tradition the principal circumstances of their fate."
The feeling in which we conceive the poem to have originated, and to which it is adapted to minister, is a contemplative melancholy, such as beautiful and romantic scenery, aided by associations of ancient grandeur, and by some wild tradition, is exquisitely calculated to inspire. In this frame of mind, the poem will not fail to please; it is the light by which the painting was coloured, and it seems flat in the glare of other feelings. Nothing can be less calculated to gratify the expectations raised by the title, of some busy narrative of lofty adventure, such as Walter Scott's Tales had led us to associate with the metre, than our Author's first canto, in which the reader is forced to stand in Rylstone Church-yard, and look all the while at a White Doe, and listen all the while to a rhapsody, the import of which he is not led to perceive, upoa its whiteness, and brightness, and famousness, and holiness. We must pronounce it to be a great error, that the Author should not have attended more to the circumstances necessary to engage a reader's sympathy: it is requisite that he be prepared for the feeling the Author designs to convey. The mysterious tie of instinctive fondness which attaches some animals to mankind, is a subject highly susceptible of poetical treatment; and the particular tradition referred to in the poem, when known to be a tradition, becomes highly pleasing. The circumstance itself, unconnected with the interest it receives from having been the subject of heliet ami credulous wonder informer days, strikes us as puerile, and as unworthy of the labour bestowed in drawing the reader's attention to it. Instead, therefore, of the mysterious interest which the mute heroine might have been made to awaken, we follow her without curiosity, and resent her after-intrusion, as that of an impertinent spectre. We are persuaded that this first canto will in many cases effectually prejudice persons against the whole poem: it nevertheless contains some exquisite painting. We transcribe the opening.
• From Bolton's old monastic tower
The hells ring loud with gladsome power;
The sun is bright ; the fields are gay
With people in their best array
Of stole and doublet, hood and scarf,
Along'the bankj of the crystal Wharf,
Through the Vale retired and lowly,
4 What would they there ?—Full fifty years
'Fast the church-yard fills;—anon
'A moment ends the fervent din, And all is hushed, without and within; For, though the priest more tranquilly Becites the holy liturgy, The only voice which you can hear Is the river murmuring near.' pp. 1--6. The entrance of the Doe is described rather too much in the style of " The Isle of Palms;" and the apology which tlie Author gives for tracking the steps of the ' bright creature' as a work meet 'for sabbath hours,' is in that peculiar dialect of feeling, to us unintelligible, to which we have before adverted, as endangering at least the popularity of the writer who employs it. The following lines describe the still and graceful pace of the animal.