1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Wordsworth

C., in "Modern Poets: Wordsworth" Scourge 10 (October-November 1815) 270-71.



Among the masters of the modern school, whatever may be thought of its merits and defects, Mr. Wordsworth must be admitted to posses an immeasurable preeminence. In the power of poetical abstraction; in that pure and sublime enthusiasm which soars beyond the realities of life, and contemplates, in ideal worlds, the loveliest forms of celestial innocence and beauty, he is perfectly unrivalled; and when he returns to the contemplation of terrestrial nature, the drooping of a flower, the glistening of a dew-drop, or the humming of a bee, gives rise to the most enchanting, yet simple associations, which all may feel, but none but a poet could express. Nor were the efforts of Mr. Wordsworth less successful than they actually are, to extend the empire of the fancy, and to appeal to the sympathies of our nature, rather than our judgment, should we be inclined to scrutinize his labours with fastidious severity. It has become too prevalent in the present age of cold calculation and metaphysical enquiry, to regard the effusions of a poet with the same kind of feeling as would attend the examination of a system of logic: nothing is admitted that is not proved; gratitude is no longer a virtue, because the individual who performs a kindness does so to gratify himself; marriage is a mere political institution; the female sex is only inferior to the male in political consideration, and this inferiority is a remnant of feudal barbarism. All the virtues, the sympathies, and the sensibilities of life, the evanescent and indescribable emotions which so powerfully contribute to the happiness of society, become the subjects of pretended analysis and illustration, to superficial philosophers, and itinerant lecturers on craniology. It is with pleasure, therefore, that we participate in the associations of a poet, who can sometimes forget the true in the contemplation of the fictitious, whose wildest dreams enchant the fancy, and whose most singular associations swell the soul with the raptures of enthusiasm.