1852 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Wordsworth

Mary Russell Mitford, in "Authors Associated with Places. Thomas Chatterton — Robert Southey — Samuel Taylor Coleridge — William Wordsworth" Recollections of a Literary Life; or Books, Places, and People (1852) 397-98.



One can not look too often upon Mr. Wordsworth's charming female portrait:

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight:
A lovely apparition sent
To be a moment's ornament;
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair;
Like twilight, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful dawn;
A dancing shape, an image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

I saw her upon nearer view
A spirit, yet a woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright and good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath;
A traveler betwixt life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength and skill,
A perfect woman nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a spirit still and bright,
With something of an angel light.

I would add "Laodamia," if it were not too long, and the "Yew-trees," if I had not a misgiving that I have somewhere planted those deathless trunks before. In how many ways is a great poet glorious! I met with a few lines taken from that noble poem the other day in the "Modern Painters," cited for the landscape:

Huge trunks, and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibers serpentine,
Upcoiling and inveterately convolved!
Beneath whose shade
With sheddings from the pinal umbrage tinged
Perennially—

and so forth. Mr. Ruskin cited this fine passage for the picture, I for the personifications

Ghostly shapes
May meet at noontide, Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight, Death the skeleton,
And Time the shadow!

Both quoted the lines for different excellences, and both were right.