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“... For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence th disturbs me'with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime of
Something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains, and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear - both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being." Wordsworth was not a bookish man, although not unfamiliar with the classics and ready to acknowledge the reality of the world of books, but he sought his inspiration elsewhere and scorned the thought that poets are made by the study of the art of poetics.

"A Poet! – He hath put his heart to school.” He writes in scorn of those who teach that poetry is to be made by rule and precept. Early in life his poetic creed was declared

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife;

Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,

There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings !

He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,

Let Nature be your teacher.

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These passages just quoted express our poet's idea of the power of nature. How is man to come under the wholesome influence of this mighty power? By study, by strenuosity? No; grow in wisdom as the lilies of the field grow in loveliness. Be passive; place yourself, as it were, in the hypnotic state.

The eye - it cannot choose but see;

We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where'er they be,

Against or with our will.

“Nor less I deem that there are Powers

Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours

In a wise passiveness."

It has been asked whether Wordsworth recognized that nature has also a heartless aspect, that phase to which Tennyson refers in In Memoriam, “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” Has Wordsworth so puerile an optimism that he has shut his eyes to the tragedies of life? No; he saw the miseries of the poor, he heard the “still, sad music of humanity," and had sympathy for the suffering of the lower animals. Misery and death he recognized, but without attempting to justify the ways of God to man and beast he leaves them “unintelligible and awful.” Instead of trying to solve the unsolvable, he tried to enlarge man's conception of joy. Job and Æschylus, Dante and Shakspere, had painted in awful colors the dark background of human existence; Wordsworth's aim is to bring into clearer view the neglected background of joy. Writes Mr. Raleigh:

"A simple, irrepressible joy in things is the motive of many of Wordsworth's shorter poems. His heart leaps up when he beholds a rainbow in the sky. The daffodils, dancing in the breeze, fill him with the spirit of gaiety, and live in his mind and heart, a joyful memory. His poetry does not convert these things into food for reflection; it is the mark of all

mystics that they make the intellect feed the emotions, not the emotions the intellect. He tries to catch the experience, just as it was, and to preserve its brightness. And this made his poems the butt for ridicule; his joy in trivial things seemed a trivial joy, which it was not.”

Similarly writes Matthew Arnold:

“Wordsworth's poetry is great because of the extraordinary power with which Wordsworth feels the joy offered to us in nature, the joy offered to us in the simple primary affections and duties; and because of the extraordinary power with which, in case after case, he shows us this joy, and renders it so as to make us share it.”


Mr. Shairp, an intelligent and sympathetic critic of Wordsworth, makes a fourfold division of the poet's manner of dealing with nature: First, he does not place a landscape before the reader by the enumeration of details, but by presenting the essential features. Secondly, Wordsworth looked upon the world, not as a mass of dead matter, but as something full of life. He was an idealist, especially in his earlier years. Of that period he wrote, “ Many times while going to school have I grasped at a wall or tree to recall myself from the abyss of idealism to the reality.Thirdly, he had the double gift of highest idealty and literal realism. He saw nature with eyes that noted the minutest facts of the outward world. "No modern poet has recorded so large and so varied a number of natural facts and appearances, which had never before been set down in books.” Fourthly, he is familiar with all the moods of nature; every place yields him its secret.

Poetic Diction. In the preface to the Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth explains that

“The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure."

This is fortunately but a partial explanation of the genesis of the poems, for good poetry is not the result of an attempt to establish a thesis or theory; but the explanation raises an interesting

question in regard to poetic diction. Simplicity is the last word in art, but there is a simplicity of aristocracy, as well as of the “lower classes of society." There are many words, phrases, which by their association refuse to lend themselves to poetic expression. When Shakspere writes,

“ How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!”

he is both simple and poetic; so, too, is Walt Whitman when he sings,

" When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed.”

To strike the magic note of genuine poetic simplicity is a high achievement, and that Wordsworth sometimes failed is not conclusive proof that his theory was wrong. But just as Walt Whitman is best remembered by those poems which conform to conventional standards, so Wordsworth is at his best when he forgets his theory. Lines like,

“I wandered lonely as a cloud,”


“ The sea that bares her bosom to the moon,"

have the simplicity of greatness, but they do not suggest the diction of the lower classes. *There is another aspect of the subject that deserves consideration. Wordsworth is a realist; he wishes to keep his feet on the ground of actuality; to keep his eye fixed on the object. He chooses humble and rustic life because there the passions of the heart attain their maturity, and speak a more emphatic language, because our elementary feelings there have a greater simplicity; and lastly, “because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.” This might be true of an ideal rustic society of the lower classes, but where can such society be found save in the poet's dream of Arcadia ? The rustics whom Wordsworth found about the Lakes were a simple-minded, worthy people, but his greatest indebtedness was not to them. Mr. Raleigh writes:

“Another society, which uses a language greater, more passionate, and purer than the language of the shepherds of the Lakes, was, in his theory at least, overlooked by Wordsworth — the society of poets, living and dead. It is they who preserve language from pollution and enrich it with new powers. They redeem words from degradation by a single noble employment. And they were Wordsworth's masters, though he pays them scant acknowledgment. ... The dalesmen brought their humble speeches to the poet, who accepted or rejected them, setting himself as judge, with Shakspere, Milton, and Spenser as assessors."

He was exceedingly careful in his use of language, for no poet has revised his work more frequently. As an illustration of his solicitude in getting the proper word we may read in Dorothy's Journal how William spent the morning trying to think of an adjective to describe the cuckoo.

Two Long Poems.- The Excursion and The Prelude are the longest poems by Wordsworth. In the edition before me The Excursion occupies 347 pages, and The Prelude 329. The Preface to the 1814 edition of The Excursion explains that these poems are part of a work to be called The Recluse. This plan was never completed.

The Prelude is an exposition of the “origin and progress of his own powers." It is autobiographical, and, as the analysis of the growth of a poet's mind, is the most remarkable poem in the English language. There are fourteen books, or cantos, with headings such as Childhood and Schooltime, Residence at Cambridge, Summer Vacation, and Residence in France. The form and style of the poem can be seen by turning to the extract, already quoted, descriptive of the boy's joy in skating.

Wordsworth's productivity has been divided into three periods - the springtime, the full mid-summer, and the sober autumn. The Excursion, along with Laodamia, Dion, and the Duddon Sonnets, belongs to the mid-summer period. It is not surprising that Byron writes jestingly of The Excursion as written in a manner that is his aversion, for there is an impassable gulf between the satiric Don Juan and the meditative Wanderer and the Solitary, the two chief characters of The Excursion. This poem contains the poet's view of Man, Nature, and Society. The

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