1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Wordsworth

Lady Anne Hamilton, in Epics of the Ton (1807) 9-10 & n.



Or tell of Thalaba the wondrous matter,
Or with clown Wordsworth chatter, chatter, chatter....

Every one knows how meritoriously Wordsworth has laboured to bring back our poetry to the simplicity of nature. In his unsophisticated pages we discover no gaudy trappings, no blazing metaphors, no affected attempts at poetical diction. Every thing is pure from the hand of untutored nature; nor do we discover a single thought or phrase that might not have been uttered by a promising child of six years old. What an improvement is this on the laboured conceits of Pope! on the learned lumber of Milton! Yet I will aver, that there may be found, in Wordsworth, beauties which these poets never reached, nor ever dreamt of. Produce me from all their writings any thing to match the simply affecting tale of Goody Blake and Harry Gill; or a line in which the sound so well corresponds with the sense, as in the following description of Harry's doom—

His teeth went chatter, chatter, chatter,
Chatter, chatter, chatter, still.

What renders the beautiful simplicity of this mode of expression still more striking, is the facility with which it may be employed, with equal effect, on a thousand different occasions. For example, it might be said of Goody Blake, who now wanted the teeth:

Her gums went mumble, mumble,
Mumble, mumble, mumble, still.

Or of ladies on pattens—

Their feet went clatter, clatter,
Clatter, clatter, clatter, still.

Or of the persevering efforts of a dog at a furze-bush—

Here Lightfoot he made water, water,
Water, water, water, still.