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contrast, and in describing the true relation between the minds and the aspirations of these two poets; but it would be an uncalled-for deviation from the habit of my lectures. To any who are disposed to measure their worth by comparisons rather than independently, let me only suggest for reflection one significant forewarning of the abiding judgment of posterity,—the final award of fame :—the fact, indisputable by any one, that every succeeding year has worn away some crumbling portion of Lord Byron's splendid popularity, while the majestic splendour of Wordsworth's poetry has steadily been rising to a loftier stature amid the permanent edifices of the great poets of the English language.

It is with some reserve that I allude to the personal history of a living poet; but so truly has the course of Wordsworth’s life corresponded with the spirit of his poetry,–

, --so intimate the communion,—that I may avail myself of the autobiographical allusions in his works, and some other authentic materials. The earliest date attached to any of his pieces is the year 1786,--more than half a century ago ; and now, when he has passed the solemn limit of seventy years, his imaginationthat faculty which age so often quenches—is held in undiminished vigour. It has been a life devoted to the cultivation of the art for its best and most lasting uses, -a self-dedication as complete as any the world has ever witnessed. Among the great English poets, Edmund Spenser perhaps alone presented a career of as sedulous cultivation, equally the existence of one as entirely a poet. It is one of the causes which have given such perfect symmetry to the various periods of Wordsworth’s existence, ---a realization of one of his imaginative wishes,-that fine aspiration in the first words with which he meets the reader. It is the hope of a fulfilment of that grand law of our moral being which seeks to preserve the sympathy between the successive eras of life, ,-a law worthy of reflection; for it is a happiness to look back into past and distant years without the desolating sense of thoughts and feelings swept away by time. It is a happy thing for meditation, standing on the promontory of the present, to feel the air rising from the shadowy waters of the past and sweeping on to sink to rest upon the dim waves of the future. Injury is done to the health of our moral being when the principle of its continuity is broken. Feelings that were meant to be cherished are suffered to perish. This is worse than the work of time; for that which time should only ripen withers and runs to waste. It is the mischief of custom, and not of time; and thus one period of our life is alienated from another. The connection between them is broken, and former days are forgotten or despised. Childish things must, indeed, he put away with childhood; but too

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often worse than childish things are put in their stead. The uncalculating, unsuspicious fervour of youth, instead of being chastened into a manly fashion of the same feeling, is transformed into selfishness and distrust. Young enthusiasm does not grow into a mature and steadier spirit, but is changed into apathy, or the worse condition,—the habit of weak and morbid ridicule of all that is elevated and impassioned. To take an instance of two periods of life, standing in close connection, and yet often lamentably destitute of that natural piety which should bind them together for happy and salutary meditation and memory :-the ardent devotion of the lover evaporating in matrimony, when he settles down, as the phrase is, into the married man. From the cool region into which he has passed, he looks back upon his former self with something of contemptuous commiseration, disowning the chivalry, the deference, the adoration, as so much obsolete delusion. In Byron's fine poetic phrase, “a change comes o’er the spirit of his dream.” He is a different being ; his friends scarcely recognise him, and his wife hardly knows the man. I speak of this only as an example of this unnatural decomposition of the feelings of different periods of life, as one of the most striking and most dangerous. It was the poet's purpose to proclaim a law of our moral nature which gives harmony and consistency to life amid all its inevitable vicissitudes. But the lessons poetry teaches must be simple, strong, and touching : they must be imaginative. It was important, too, that the moral should be illustrated by some feeling at once pure and universal, --something all might sympathize with; and, accordingly, he has selected that phenomenon in the heavens which even the feeblest sense of the beauty of nature is touched with:

“ My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky !
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man ;
So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!
The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety."

The days of Wordsworth’s life have been thus bound together by a natural piety; and hence the matchless symmetry of his career, —at once a cause and an effect of his well-disciplined genius. His childhood was spent on the borders of that romantic region in the North of England where he was to find the happy home of his manhood and old age,

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the blue outline of the Cumberland Mountains present to his sight,-a lofty and shadowy region for his young imagination to travel to.

The emotions of the early years of his life have been rescued from oblivion with a power which manifests both the depth of his childhood's impressions and the strength of his imagination in reviving them. think that every one who has ever reflected on the movements of his own mind must have realized the difficulty of marking the boundary of his memory when it journeys back into past and early years, and at the same time be conscious of the flitting of dim recollections of childhood, -perhaps, after all, the most thoughtful period of our whole life. Feelings will often pass across the mind, coming you cannot tell whence, but only that they come from far away, from the dim distance of childhood. Which of its visionary realms could poetry more happily expatiate in ? When the effort is made by a juvenile writer of verses to clothe his impulses in language, it is a weak expression of feeling which yet may be in all respects fit for poetry. But that fitness becomes beautifully apparent when a mature imagination is able to redeem feelings which, in almost all cases, perish entirely, or vanish into the most mysterious chambers of the memory,—such shadowy things that you can scarce tell whether they are recollections, or fancies, or dreams. The more you reflect on these things, the more you will appreciate the imaginative energy necessary to reanimate the impressions received in early life and give them a poetic shape. There is one of Wordsworth’s small pieces which exemplifies this power of recalling some of the most evanescent feelings which could have flitted across a boy's mind. He remembers a distant day, bright both with its blue sky and with boyhood's buoyant happiness,

“One of those heavenly days that cannot die,”— on which he sallied forth upon a boyish enterprise of foraging upon the hazel-trees. The eagerness of his hope, the luxury of animal delight, are vividly remembered, but not more so than the rapid transition of feeling, --one of those sudden reactions common to the quick heart of childhood, which rises from its unexpected sense of pain to an exquisite sympathy, by which imagination spiritualizes the insensate world of nature :

“O'er the pathless rocks I forced my way
Until, at length, I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough
Droop'd with its wither'd leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation, but the hazels rose
Tall and erect, with milk-white clusters hung,-

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341

I rose,

A virgin scene! A little while I stood,
Breathing with such suppression of the heart
As joy delights in, and, with wise restraint
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed
The banquet ; or beneath the trees I sat
Among the flowers, and with the flowers I play'd :
A temper known to those, who, after long
And weary expectation, have been blest
With sudden happiness beyond all hope.
Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves
The violets of five seasons reappear
And fade unseen by any human eye:
Where fairy water breaks do murmur on
For ever ; and I saw the sparkling foam,
And with my cheek on one of those green stones
That, fleeced with moss, beneath the shady trees,
Lay round me, scatter'd like a flock of sheep,
I heard the murmur and the murmuring sound,
In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay
Tribute to ease, and, of its joy secure,
The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,
Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones
And on the vacant air. Then

up
And dragg’d to earth both branch and bough with crash
And merciless ravage, and the shady nook
Of hazels, and the green mossy bower,
Deform'd and sullied, patiently gave up
Their quiet being: and, unless I now
Confound my present feelings with the past,
Even then, when from the bower I turn'd away
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings,
I felt a sense of pain when I beheld
The silent trees and the intruding sky.
Then, dearest Maiden ! move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand

Touch ; for there is a spirit in the woods." The foundations of Wordsworth's mind were thus laid in communion with the grand and beautiful scenery of his native region :

“ He had felt the power
Of nature, and already was prepared
By his intense conceptions, to receive
Deeply the lesson deep of love which he
Whom Nature, by whatever means, has taught

To feel intensely, cannot but receive."
Conjoined with this,--the first virgin passion of a soul

“ Communing with the glorious universe,"—

was his studious, reverential communion with the pages of his great predecessors,—the masters of English poetry,—and chiefly of Milton. Another element of his genius began very early to display itself,-his ever-active sympathy with his fellow-men. Deep as his passion for nature has always been, the living nature of mankind has been dearer to nim ; and it is part of the history of his mind that he hoped greatly and enthusiastically for the cause of social and political regeneration, when for a short season, at the close of the last century, the whole earth

“ The beauty wore of promise,—that which sets

The budding rose above the rose full blown." His young spirit, which had fed upon its lonely musings in the moun. tains and its poetic sympathies with the souls of the dead poets, was prompt to change them for the more active fellow-feeling with mankind struggling for freedom :

“Farewell, farewell! the heart that lives alone,

Housed in a dream, at distance from the kind !
Such happiness, wherever it is known,

Is to be pitied, for 't is surely blind.” Full of hope, Wordsworth passed over into France in the early part of the French Revolution, and was an eye-witness of some of its terrific commotions. His heart was with the down-trodden people, and he was elated with the pure enthusiasm which trusted in the virtues of what proved a worthless cause. He witnessed the wretchedness that had been wrought by tyranny; and, young and ardent, he over-estimated the restraining influences on the people's vengeance. One of the darkest reproaches which rests on the Revolution of France is the wrong

done to the eternal cause of freedom; for, when at the present day we seek to appreciate the sufferings which first heaved that vast commotion, there rise up, intercepting the view, the blood-boltered spectres of the hideous agencies in that drama. The sympathies of Wordsworth were with only the pure elements of the cause, especially because of what he witnessed in the miseries of the peasantry. The incident is told, that, walking one day, in the neighbourhood of Orleans, in company with a citizen of France, fervid with republicanism, they came suddenly on the spectacle of a girl of seventeen or eighteen years old, hunger-bitten and wasted to a meagre shadow, knitting in a dejected drooping way, whilst to her arm was attached by a rope the horse, equally famished, that earned the miserable support of her family. The spectacle told, in one instant, the whole story of wretchedness; and seizing Wordsworth by the arm, his companion exclaimed, “Dear English friend, brother, from

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