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had wilfully remained ignorant of it for many cendent genius, we do not fear to say the most years; and we have instructed as many open to the most serious charges-on the score more, whose hearts were free, how to look of its religion. From the first line of the 'Lyon it with those eyes of love which alone is avowedly one system of thought and feeling,
rical Ballads' to the last of the “Excursion,' it can discover the beautiful. Communica- embracing his experiences of human life, and his tions have been made to us from across the meditations on the moral government of this Atlantic and from the heart of India—from world. The human heart--the human mind-the the occident and orient—thanking us for human soul- to use his own fine words—is the baving vindicated and extended the fame of haunt and main r-gion of his song. There are the best of our living bards, till the name of few, perhaps none of our affections using that Wordsworth has become a household word either slightly touched upon, or fully treated, by
term in its largest sense—which have not been on the Mississippi and the Ganges. It Wordsworth. In his poetry, therefore, we behold would have been so had we never been an image of what, to his eye, appears to be huborn, but not so soon." But as it was the man life. Is there, or is there not, some great labor of his earlier years to teach the pub- and lanuentable defect in that image, marring lic to understand and admire this great
both the truth and beauty of the representation ? poet, so it becomes the duty of his maturer We think there is—and that it lies in his Reli
gion. age to take care that the admiration which he has thus been the main cause of instil. his · Excursion,' is there any allusion made ex
“In none of Wordsworth's poetry, previous to ling into the public mind, shall prove not a cept of the most trivial and transient kind, to blind idolatry, but a discriminating devo- Revealed Religion. He certainly cannot be tion. Accordingly, with the respect due called a Christian poet. The hopes that lie beto great ability employed in the cause of yond the grave and the many holy and awful virtue for upwards of half a century, yet shrined and fed-are rarely if ever part of the
feelings in which on earth these hopes are enwith the candor and dignified sincerity with character of any of the persons-male or female which one man of genius ought to deal with old or young-brought before us in his beautianother, he points out, in the course of ful Pastorals. Yet all the most interesting and these volumes, not a few defects of omis- affecting ongoings of this life are exquisitively sion and commission in the works of this delineated-and innumerable of course are the great artist :-Sometimes, indeed, as in the occasions on which, had the thoughts and feelinstance we are about to quote, where he ings of revealed religion been in Wordsworth's ventures to bring into question Words often has written like a man inspired-they must
heart during the hours of inspiration--and he worth's claim to the character of af religious have found expression in his strains; and the poet in the Christian sense, and censures, personages, humble or high, that figure in his in the “Excursion,” the absence of any representations, would have been, in their joys thing beyong a kind of natural-religious or their sorrows, their temptations and their trials, creed-such as might have been entertain. Christians. But most assuredly this is not the ed under a system of refined mythologies poetry publiehed previous to the Excursion
case; the religion of this great Poet-in all his tham) a species of poetical Church-of-Ens In the Excursion, his religion is brought glandism ;-in a manner so plain and un- forward -- prominently and conspicuously-in compromising as may not unlikely appear many elaborate dialogues between Priest, Pedler, startling, as it certainly will be new to the Poet, and Solitary. And a very high religion it students of Wordsworth; the religious There are glimpses given of some of the Chris
often is ; but is it Christianity? No-it is not. character of his inspiration having been tian doctrines ; just as if the various philosophialways taken for granted as one of those cal disquisitions, in which the Poem abounds, bases upon which all argument as to his would be imperfect without some allusion to the merits must proceed. We are not pre- Christian creed. The interlocutors-cloquent as pared to say that we as yet fully acquiesce they all are--say but little on that theme; nor do in the remarks we are about to quote; but they show-if we except the priest-much inbelieving that they must have proceeded terest in it.many solicitude; they may all
, for from deep consideration of the subject—any thing that appears to the contrary, be deists.
Now, perhaps, it may be said that Wordsand coming, as they do, from a mind cer- worth was deterred from entering on such a tainly not disposed to regard the poetry of theme by the awe of his spirit. But there is no Wordsworth, or its influences, in an unfav- appearance of this having been the case in any orable spirit, we extract the passage as one one single passage in the whole poem. Nor well
worthy of mature study on the part of could it have been the case with such a man-a his warmest admirers :
man privileged, by the power God has bestowed
upon him, to speak unto all the nations of the “ Among the great living poets, Wordsworth earth, on all themes, however high and holy, is the one whose poetry is to us the most which the children of men can feel and underinexplicable-with all our reverence for his trans- stand. Christianity, during almost all their dis
quisitions, lay in the way of all the speakers, as poor in which he takesus—is the religion preachthey kept journeying among the hills.
ed in those cathedrals and minsters, and chanted “On man, on nature, and on human life,
in prayer to the pealing organ, represented as Musing in solitude !"
the power that in peace supports the roof-tree, But they, one and all, either did
not perceive it
, telary spirit of the lowly dwelling. Can this be
lightens the hearth, and is the guardian, the tuor perceiving it, looked upon it with a cold and right? Impossible.
And when we
find the Christian indifferent regard, and passed by into the poetry religion thus excluded from Poetry, otherwise as breathing from the dewy woods, or lowering good as ever was produced by human genius from the cloudy skies. Their talk is of 'Palmyra | what are we to think of the Poet, and of the world central
, in the desert,' rather than of Jerusalem, lof thought and feeling, fancy and imagination, On the mythology of the Heathen much beautiful in which he breathes, nor fears to declare to all poetry is bestowed, but none on the theology of
men that he believes himself to be one of the the Christian.
"This omission is felt the more deeply-the order of the High Priests of nature ?" more sadly—from such introduction as there is of Christianity; for one of the books of the
So far, indeed, from being of too vague and 'Excursion' begins with a very long, and a very generalizing a kind, we should rather say noble eulogy on the Church Establishment in that the character of the criticism contain. England. How happened it that he who pro- ed in these volumes and similar essays, is nounced such eloquent panegyric-that they mainly distinguished from the greater part who so devoutly inclined their ear to imbibe it of the popular criticism of the day, by its should have been all contented with
combination of analyses of parts, often “ That basis laid, these principles of faith very detailed, with general views as to the Announced,"
plan and spirit of the work reviewed. Inand yet throughout the whole course of their dis- deed its minute dissection of particular cussions, before and after, have forgotten apparently that there was either Christianity, or a passages, both as to thought and diction, Christian Church in the world ?
carries us back to the school of Johnson “We do not hesitate to say, that the thought- and Addison, rather than to our own time. In ful and sincere student of this great poet's works, criticism, as in political opinion, and in many must regard such omission-such inconsistency other speculative questions, there seems to or contradiction-with more than the pain of re- be a pediodical oscillation ; and in proporgret; for there is no relief afforded to our defraud- tion to the height to which the pendulum ed hearts from any quarter to which we can look. A pledge has been given, that all the bad been carried on the one side, is the force powers and privileges of a Christian poet shall of its recoiling impulse towards the other. be put forth and exercised for our behoof-for our
The grasp and comprehension of Dr. John. delight and instruction; all other poetry is to son's mind, no doubt, prevented him from sink away before the heavenly splendor ; Urania, yielding too much to the current which had or a greater muse, is invoked ; and after all this lihen set in favor of mere verbal criticism; solemn, and more than solemn preparation made and though we may often think that his for our initiation into the mysteries, we are put off with a well-merited encomium on the Church principles of criticism were too purely ra. of England, from Bishop to Curate inclusive ; tionalizing, and his spmpathies with the and and though we have much fine poetry, and higher efforts of the imagination cold and some high philosophy, it would puzzle the most unimpassioned, yet he certainly combines, in ingenious to detect much, or any, Christian a manner which, we think, would at the prereligion. “This utter absence of Revealed Religion criticism of generals with particulars. But
sent day be well worthy of imitation, the when it ought to have been all-in-all-for in such trials in real life it is all-in-all, or we regard
with Johnson the manly and philosophic the existence of sin or sorrow with repugnance criticism of the last century may be said to shocks far deeper feelings within us than those of close. Afterhim it took the direction of mere taste ; and throws over the whole poem to which judgments of detail-examinations of frag. the tale of Margaret belongs, an unhappy sus-mentary passages-censures of broken mepicion of hollowness and insincerity in that po- taphors-eulogies of mere polish and coretical religion which at the best is a sorry substitute indeed for the light that is from heaven with a happy daring either in design or ex.
rectness of expression-till all sympathy an air of absurdity over the orthodox Church-ecution, disappeared. The evil having thus of-Englandism--for once to quote a not inexpres- reached an extreme, it was natural that the sive barbarism of Bentham-which every now tendency towards an opposite system should and then breaks out either in passing compliment be carried too far. It has been usual to as-amounting to but a bow-or in eloquent lau- cribe that greater latitude of view and dation, during which the poet appears to be pros- warmth of tone which characterizes the crititrate on his knees. He speaks nobly of cathedrals, and ministers, and so forth, reverendly cism of the nineteenth century, to the inadorning all the land; but in none—no, not one fluence of Germany; but although the spirit of the houses of the humble, the hovels of the of our criticism was unquestionably mate
rially influenced, at a later period, by the on a great scale, and to dash objects off sweepstudy of German literature, we are convincingly by bold strokes-such, indeed, as have aled that, in its origin, it owed little or no- most always distinguished the mighty masters thing to that source. In truth, in both coun- before your eyes, Thomson before your imagin
of the lyre and the rainbow. Cowper sets nature tries the change took place about the same ation. Which do you prefer? Both. Be assurtime, and was owing to the same canse, viz. ed that both poets had pored night and day upon the natural reaction which followed against her-in all her aspects—and that she had rean effete and worn-out system. In the com- vealed herself fully to both. But they, in their mencement, the change was certainly most religion, elected different modes of worship-and beneficial to literature. The point of view both were worthy of their mighty mother. In from which we were taught to regard the one mood of mind we love Cowper best
, in an
other Thomson. Sometimes the Seasons are production of poetry and art was raised ; almost a Task-and sometimes the Task is out while, at the same time, it was not sublimat- of Season. There is delightful distinctness in ed to such an extent as to render every thing all the pictures of the Bard of Olney-glorious misty and indistinct, or to substitute for a gloom or glimmer in most of those of the Bard criticism dealing with the common feelings of Ednam. Cowper paints trees—Thomson that interest humanity, the
Thomson paints, in a few wondrous dowy system of metaphysics. But by delines, rivers from source to sea, like the mighty
Burrampooter--Cowper, in many no very wongrees it was found to be much easier to drous lines, brightens up one bend of a stream, deal with these generalities and abstractions, or awakens our fancy to the murmur of some than to descend to particulars ;--to frame a single waterfall. But a truce to antithesis-a theory, or write a philosophical essay hav. deceptive style of criticism-and see how Thoming the slenderest application to the case in son sings of Snow. Why, in the following lines, hand, than to direct the criticism to the real as well as Christopher North in his Winter appreciation of the work to be reviewed.
• The cherish'd fields entirely from the scene ; leaving nothing | 'Tis brighiness all; save where the new snow mells behind but a cloudy background, on which Along the mazy current.' might be traced a magnified image of the reviewer . At best, our criticism became Nothing can be more vivid. 'Tis of the nature
of an ocular spectrum. in a great measure limited to some sketch
“Here is a touch like one of Cowper's. Note of the general design of the work, and its the beauty of the epithet. brown,' where all that relation to the particular theory patronized is motionless is whitefor the time by the critic; often praising or
• The foodless wilds blaming empirically, and without statement Pour fourth their brown inhabitants.” of reasons at all; and generally without any That one word proves the poet. Does it not? due thought bestowed upon this inquiry
“ The entire description from which these two whether upon any theory or upon any plan sentences are selected by memory-a critic you whatever, the execution of the work was may always trust to-is admirable ; except in careful, classical, and compact; or, on the one or two places where Thomson seems to contrary, slovenly, disjointed,' in harmoni- have striven to be strongly pathetic, and where
he seems to us to have overshot his mark, and to ous, or even ungrammatical.
have ceased to be perfectly natural. ThusWe do not here mean to say that our Periodical Criticism has not been distin.
' Drooping, the ox guished by many admirable exceptions from The fruit of all bis toil.'.
Stands cover'd o'er with snow, and then demands this general censure, -we shall not at present indicate particularly where they are to We see him, and could paint him in oils. But,
“The image of the ox is as good as possible. be found, -but we are satisfied that, as ap to our mind, the notion of his demanding the plied to much of the criticism of our last fruit of all his toils—to which we freely acdecennium, the remark is just. Now, to this knowledge the worthy animal was well entitled system of general blame and praise, unac
--sounds, as it is here expressed, rather fantasticompanied by a due application of critical cal. Call it doubtful—for Jemmy was never utparticulars, the practice of the writer of terly in the wrong in any sentiment. Againthese Recreations stands completely op
'The bleating kind posed. Witness the following observations, with looks of dumb despair.'
Eye the bleak heaven, and next the glistening earth, which form the commencement of a very beautiful paper, entitled, “A Few Words on The second line is perfect; but the Ettrick Shep. Thomson :"
herd agreed with us one night at Ambrose's
that the third was not quite right. Sheep, he « Thomson's genius does not so often delight agreed with us, do not deliver themselves up to us by exquisite minute touches in the description despair under any circumstances; and here of nature as that of Cowper. It loves to paint | Thomson transferred what would have been his
VOL. II. No. I. 6
own feeling in a corresponding condition, to ani- | times stand shilly-shallying in our presence, in mals who dreadlessly followed their instincts.- an awkward but alarming attitude, of hunger Thomson redeems himself in what immediately mixed with fear. A single wolf seldom or never succeeds
attacks a man. He cannot stand the face. But Then, sad dispersed,
a person would need to have a godlike face inDig for the wither'd herb through heaps of snow.' deed to terrily therewith an army of wolves some For, as they disperse, they do look very sad thousand strong. It would be the height of preand no doubt are so ; but had they been in des- sumption in any man, though beautiful as Moore pair, they would not so readily, and constantly, thought Byron, to attempt it. If so, then and uniformly, and successfully have taken to • The godlike face of man avails him nought,' the digging, but whole flocks had perished.
is, under the circumstances, ludicrous. Still
more so is the trash about beauty, force divine “ Did you ever see water beginning to change it is too much to expect of an army of wolves itself into ice? Yes. Then try to describe the some thousand strong, and hungry as the grave,' sight. Success in that trial will prove you a that they should all fall down on iheir knees bepoet. People do not prove themselves poets only fore a sweet morsel of Aesh and blood, merely by writing long poems. A line-two words
because the young lady was so beautiful that she may show that they are the Muse's sons. How might have sat to Sir Thomas Lawrence for a exquisitely does Burns picture to our eyes moon- frontispiece to Mr. Watts's Souvenir. 'Tis all light water undergoing an ice-change?
stuff, ioo, about the generous lion standing in • The ehilly frost beneath the silver beam, softened gaze at beauty's bright glance. True, Crept gently crusting o'er the glittering stream!' he has been known to look with a certain sort of Thomson does it with an almost finer spirit of walk past without eating her—but simply be
soft surliness upon a pretty Caffre girl, and to perception - or conception or memory whatever else you choose to call it; for our part, Hottentot Venus. The secret lay not in bis
cause, an hour or two before, he had dined on a we call it genius
heart, but in his stomach. Suill the notion is a ' An icy gale, oft shifting, o'er the poo) popular one, and how exquisitely has Spenser Breathes a blue film, and in its mid career changed it into the divinest poetry in the characArresis the bickering stream.'
ter of the attendant lion of And afterwards, having frozen the entire stream 'Heavenly Una, with her milk while lamb!' into a crystal pavement,' how strongly doth he But Thomson, so far from making poetry of it in conclude thus
this passage, has vulgarized and blurred by it • The whole imprison'd river growls below.' the natural and inevitable emotion of terror and Here, again, 'tis pleasant to see the peculiar pity. Famished wolves howking up the dead is genius of Cowper contrasted with that of a dreadful image—but • inhuman to relate,” is not Thomson. The gentle Cowper delighting, for an expression heavily laden with meaning; and the most part, in tranquil images—for his life the sudden, abrupt, violent, and, as we feel, un. was past amidst tranquil nature; the enthusias- natural introduction of ideas purely superstitious, tic Thomson, more pleased with images of pow- at the close, is revolting, and miserably mars the er. Cowper says
terrible truth." On the flood,
The homeliness of some of the illustraIndurated and fixed, the snowy weight tions and expressions in the preceding pasLies undissolved, while silently beneath,
sage, will enable the reader to form some And unperceived, the current sleals away.' « All those children of the Pensive Public who Recreations-illustrating the grandest ob
idea of the very singular style of these have been much at school, know Thomson's description of the wolves among the Alps, A pen-jects
by the most
familiar, and, by its homenines, and Pyrenees,
This imbroglio Cruel as death, and hungby as the grave !
appears of course still more conspicuous Burning for blood, bony and gaunt and grim,' &c.
and even startling, in those papers where
the writer abandons himself with less reThe first fifteen lines are equal to any thing in straint to the comic vein. the whole range of English descriptive poetry; with the most fanciful illustrations, or fol
Side by side but the last ten are positively bad. Here they lowing close on some passage of poetic are'The godlike face of man avails him nought!
and musical diction, comes some picture Even beauty, force divine! at whose bright glance most prosaically ludicrous—some slang The generous lion stands in soften'd gaze,
phrase of the day-some quotation, how Now bleeds, a hapless undistinguish'd prey. But if, apprised of the severe attack,
changed from its original application !-or The couniry be shut up, lured by the scent, some Scotch expression, tempting to the On churchyard drear (inhuman to relate !) writer by its graphic force and the comic The disappointed prowlers fall, and dig
associations with which it is connected. The shrouded body from the grave; o'er which, Mix'd with foul shades and frighted ghosts, they
The result is a strange composite, blending howl.'
all orders of architecture, and employing Wild beasts do not like the look of the human all materials, from porphyry and lapis lazuli eye-they think us ugly customers, and some-l down to the commonest brick and mortar. It reminds us of St. Mark's at Venice, in by the author's knowledge of the minute dewhich Saracenic domes are strangely im. tails of nature, as well as by that power of posed upon Gothic naves, and blocks of suggestion and imitation which can make Egyptian granite are fantastically mingled the meanest thing that feels, the means of with Italian marble and mosaic : yet all unlocking the deepest sources of the pablended into a marvellous arabesque, and thetic or sublime. It has the grandeur, possessing a strange unity and originality without the quaininess and pedantry, of of character.
Sir Thomas Brown's sepulchral strains: With all this, however, we must own that we would not regret if the contrasts Thrush make us think of the songless Starling?
“Why do the songs of the Blackbird and were somewhat less violent, and if here It matters not. We do think of him, and see him and there an obtrusive epithet or image too-a lovely bird, and his abode is majestic. were eliminated. We do not know that to What an object of wonder and awe is an old any of them the term coarseness can be just. Castle to a boyish imagination! Its height how ly applied. But if the line of division be- dreadful! up to whose mouldering edges his fear tween the sublime and the ridiculous be carries him, and hangs him over the battlements! slender, still more so is that which sepa
What beauty in those unapproachable wall-flowrates the familiar from the vulgar: anders, that cast a brightness on the old brown were there no other reason for erring on ing! That sound so far below, is the sound of a the side of caution, it should be sufficient stream the eye cannot reach-of a waterfall that the style, seductive as it always must echoing for ever among the black rocks and pools. be from its variety and apparent ease, The school-boy knows but little of the history of would soon become intolerable in imita- the old Castle-but that little is of war, and tion. The transitions from the most elevat. witchcraft, and imprisonment, and bloodshed. ed views to the most ludicrous—and from he visits the ruin only with a companion, and at
The ghostly glimmer of antiquity appals himthe most select and ornate expression to mid-day. There and then it was that we first the most homely vernacular, may be har. saw a Starling. We heard something wild and monized ; and are, no doubt, to a great ex- wonderful in their harsh scream, as they sat upon tent harmonized in this case by the dex: the edge of the battlements, or flew out of the terous workmanship of genius. But the chinks and crannies. There were Martens, too, enforced sentimentalism, or still more en. Swallows-Jack-daws clamoring afresh at every
so different in their looks from the pretty Houseforced humor, of those who have attempt time we waved our caps, or vainly slung a pebed this school of writing,—the absolute ble towards their nests—and one grove of elms, want of all fashion of the opposite elements to whose top, much lower than the castle, came, in their elaborate impromptus—their choice ever and anon, some noiseless Heron from the of coarse expression or imagery for its Muirs. own sake, and not as in the original, where
“Ruins! Among all the external objects of it serves the purpose only of occasional imagination, surely they are most affecting! discords in music, -oblige us to say, that standing in its undecayed strength, has undoubt
Some sumptuous edifice of a former age, still unless it were redeemed by the highest tal-edly a great command over us, from the ages ent, this style of writing is one of the most that have flowed over it; but the mouldering dangerous and offensive that can be at- edifice which Nature has begun to win to herself, tempted : and that, highly as we appreciate and to dissolve into her own bosom, is far more the generous spirit which the author of touching to the heart, and more 'awakening to these volumes has carried into criticism, ly because green leaves, and wild flowers, and
spirit. It is beautiful in its decay-not mere. and the benefits which may be derived from creeping mosses soften its rugged frowns, but bethe application of humor as well as ima- cause they have sown themselves on the decay gination and judgment to the estimate of of greatness; they are monitors to our fancy, literature, we almost doubt whether the like the flowers on a grave, of the untroubled benefit has not been practically balanced rest of the dead. Battlements riven by the hand by the injury arising from the prevalence of time, and cloistered arches reft and rent, speak of a system of criticisin, founded, as is gen. cestors, of the pride of their might, and the conerally the case, rather on an imitation of sulations of their sorrow: they revive dim shahis manner than his spirit; and which has dows of departed life, evoked from the land of preserved and exaggerated his faults, with. forgetfulness; but they touch us more deeply out approaching his excellencies.
when the brightness which the sun flings on the We shall now select, almost at random, broken arches, and the warbling of birds that are a few passages as characteristic of these nestled in the chambers of princes, and the moan
ing of winds through the crevices of towers, volumes; beginning with one which occurs
round which the surges of war were shattered in the paper entitled Christopher in his and driven back, lay those phantoms again to Aviary—a paper eminently distinguished | rest in their silent bed, and show us, in the mon