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guard for all that he held dearest in man's nature: the home and all the affections which twine around it; the sense of brotherhood which binds neighbour to neighbour by a thousand associations of scenes familiar to them from childhood; the "natural piety" which nerves the will to endure the hardest blows of fate. And, as it is in the smaller communities that these bonds are felt most closely, so it is with them that his sympathies are keenest: with the peasants of Biscay and the Alps; with those who followed Hofer to defend the mountains and villages of the Tyrol. The patriotism of Wordsworth, if, on the one hand, an universal patriotism,—for it is not bounded by passions, still less by interests, peculiar to any one nation,—is, on the other hand, essentially local. It springs from the same roots as his passion for the country-side and the stern pathos which hangs around its homesteads. In the noblest of all these sonnets, the sonnet on Switzerland, it is interwoven with memories of the ocean and the mountain-floods which he had sung as the poet of nature.
After 1807 the inspiration of the poet flagged, though he continued to write till within a few years of his death, and as late as 1825 rose once at least to a level not immeasurably below his best. But, with a few such exceptions, it is true to say that what counts in his work was all crowded into the fifteen years following his return from France (1793 -1807); and that, if he had died at the same age as Byron, the world, except for the nobility of his life, would not have been sensibly the poorer. When, in 1843, he was made Laureate, it was with no expectation that he would fulfil the duties of the post; and he was mercifully spared the humiliation of New Year Odes, of Threnodies, of Royal Progresses, which his predecessor, Southey, had obediently turned out. The Crown honoured itself yet more than him by the appointment; and we are free to forget that he was ever anything but the poet of humanity and nature.
Reverting to the modest volume which first revealed his greatness and that of Coleridge to those who were capable of judging, we have now only to ask what was its bearing upon the literary movement of the time.
As to the place of Coleridge in that movement there can be no manner of doubt. He was, heart
,..-.* , and soul, the poet of romance. The first
AtUtude of 'r
the puttie page of the Ancient Mariner was enough ouridge ^ gg^lish that beyond all possibility of dispute. It is, however, tolerably clear that to romance of this order the public of 1798 was not only indifferent, but hostile. There seems to be some truth in Wordsworth's complaint, though he was perhaps the last man who could gracefully make it, that the "failure" of the Lyrical Ballads was, at least in part, due to the unpopularity of the Ancient Mariner. Even so friendly a judge as Lamb "disliked all the miraculous parts of it"; Southey, like the public, would have none of it. Strangely enough, it was Christabel, with its far subtler cadences and its far greater elaboration of romantic effect, that first won the suffrages, at least of the initiated. Here, as we have seen, Coleridge in some respects followed the beaten road of romance more nearly than in his earlier effort . And we can hardly be wrong in supposing that it was this rather than its more elusive qualities that caught the fancy of men like Byron and Scott. However that may be, it is certain that in its unpublished state Christabe l made a deep impression upon both these poets, and its influence on the Lay of the Last Minstrel, on a famous passage of Childe Harold, and, in spite of the author's disclaimer, on the opening lines of the Siege of Corinth, is apparent. Franked by such sponsors, Christabel, when at last published (1816), met with a far more cordial reception than its predecessor, though the Edinburgh and the Examiner, perhaps the critics in general, still retained their contemptuous frown. But the hour of Romance was now fully come, and the phantom ship of Coleridge was towed into harbour by the rougher craft of Byron and Scott.
Something of the same hesitation was shown by the public of the day in making up its mind about and words- Wordsworth. The cry of childishness and ""*• affected singularity seems to have been an afterthought, largely the invention of Jeffrey, who, however, did not deliver sentence until 1807. At the moment of publication the test-poems seem to have passed without serious challenge. The reviewers—and Fox, in his letter of 1801, was substantially at one with them — spoke with some benevolence of The Thorn, The Idiot Boy, and even of Goody Blake. On the other hand, the far greater poems, those which came from the writer's very heart, were left almost entirely without notice—" It is the first mild day of March" and the lines above Tintern; just as Fox, in the letter referred to, was forced to admit his indifference to Michael and The Brothers. After Jeffrey had spoken the tide turned heavily against Wordsworth, and for many years, though his influence must steadily have grown with the discerning few, his name to the general public was a byword. And in a certain sense that public deserves our sympathy. For even now the position of Wordsworth Wordsworth's is not altogether easy to determine. So ""''*"• many strands mingle in his genius that it is hard to disentangle them. The vein of realism which appears in the Ballads of 1798 has been sometimes taken for more than it is worth. The truth is that after that year it sinks beneath the surface, and in his later poetry hardly requires to be reckoned with. Moreover, alike in intention and in method, it is something very different from such realism as Crabbe's. The latter is so intent on the misery of life, that he has small attention left for the nobler qualities it calls out. His eye is fixed so rigidly on the sordid side of man's lot, that he fails to see the light which touches and irradiates it . Hence, in order to drive home the squalor of things, he tends to multiply details, till the imagination, so far from being roused, is fairly stunned by their importunity. He paints one corner of the wood rather than the whole, and he paints that one corner so minutely that the wood can hardly be seen for the trees. The fault of Wordsworth, on the other hand, is not over-miii uteness, but irrelevancy, of detail. His choice of subject, when most ill-judged, is prompted not by love of squalor but by a belief, mistaken enough in some cases, that he had found the secret of touching common things to the finer issues of imaginative interpretation. His "realism," in fact, needs to be fenced round with so many qualifications that, strictly speaking, it cannot be called realism at all.
Again, there is beyond dispute a strain of romance
in the genius of Wordsworth. But here, too, it is
necessary to distinguish. His romance is
His romance. ",
never that of the supernatural; nor, again, is it the romance of stirring incident or adventure. "The moving accident is not my trade" — the whole body of his poetry bears witness to the truth of this confession. And though he had a curious art in suggesting supernatural effects, he is punctilious in avoiding the use of supernatural machinery. Peter Bell and, to take less disputable instances, the opening scene of Guilt and Sorrow and more than one passage in the earlier books of the Prelude, are proof positive how easily he might have surrendered himself to supernatural influences, had not his will been firmly set against it. As it is, such passages stand by themselves in rendering the sense of supernatural awe which has none but purely natural causes to inspire it.
But if the romanticism of Wordsworth does not lie in adventure nor—save with the limitations just indicated—in the supernatural; if it does not lie in a