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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 40

Some characteristics of Wordsworth's poetry and their lessons for us; an essay read before the Otago University Debating Society, July 22, 1881. Also, some poems, by Fleta

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Some Characteristics of Wordsworth's Poetry and Their Lessons for Us.

An Essay, Read before the Otago University Debating Society, July 22, 1681.

Jolly, Connor & Co., Atmospheric Printing Works Dunedin Octagon.

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The Following Essay—published by request—was written for the Otago University Debating Society, and is purposely short, sketchy—and suggestive, rather than complete. Had it been intended for the public it would have been cast in a different and a larger mould. The Poems by "Fleta" are published with the full consent of their author.

E. S. H.

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Part I.

Some Characteristics of Wordsworth's Poetry, and their Lessons for us.

Part II.

Some Poems by "Fleta."
A Reverie. The Poet. Sonnet. In a Garden. Sonnet. A Remonstrance. Sonnet. In Memoriam.—T.B. Half-hearted.
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Some Characteristics of Wordsworth's Poetry and Their Lessons for US.

NO sooner had I undertaken to contribute to this Society an essay upon Wordsworth than the question arose in my mind, "How should the subject be treated?" In addressing an audience of students, there was the danger that I might needlessly occupy your time on parts of my subject already well known; and, on the other hand, I had to consider those whose studies in other directions may have prevented them from getting even a partial glimpse of the most original poetic genius of our century. After much consideration, and not a little misgiving, I resolved that my paper should assume the form indicated by its title, viz. :—Some characteristics of Wordsworth's poetry, and their lessons for us." That title had a delightful vagueness about it that pleased me, justifying, as it seemed to do, a discursive essay; and, besides, it looked long and learned enough for even the Otago Institute. There was, however, another reason which most influenced mo in the choice, and the feelings I am about to describe I doubt not have been shared by many here. In the colonies we have dinned in our ears so incessantly the word "Progress," whether applied to us individually or as a community, that we are apt to regard activity and energy as the embodiment of all that is best in human nature, and qualities of aggressiveness, not to say of selfishness, are held in too much esteem. But any view which excludes the contemplative side of our nature is distorted and misleading. The men who really cause society to progress are not those who are active, but reflective. It is imagination moves the world. And because contemplative and imaginative men are a finer and maturer fruit of humanity, so we must seek for them in older communities than ours. But in the colonies, through force of circumstances, we are constantly ignoring or forgetting this, and as a baleful consequence that unlovely and featureless idol—commonplace—find votaries in us all. Now, when thoughts like these occur to me—and they do often—I turn with all the, ardour of my soul to Wordsworth, and contemplate with feelings of the deepest awe a life so majestic, so simple, so complete. I need not recall to you the neglect, the obloquy, the ridicule which were Wordsworth's, during the best years of his life, and the patience, more God-like than human, with which he endured them. There is to my mind something awfully sublime in the thought that he could, under such circumstances, not only possess his soul in patience, but write comforting letters to his desponding friends assuring them of his ultimate success. To one who condoled him on the severity of the Edinburgh Review in criticising his poems, he replied, "Trouble not yourself upon their present reception; of what moment is that compared to what I trust page 5 is their destiny?—to console the afflicted, to add sunshine to daylight, by making the happy happier, to teach the young and gracious of every ago to see, to think, and feel, and therefore to become more actively and securely virtuous—this is their office, which I trust they will faithfully perform, long after we (that is, all that is mortal of us) are mouldered in our graves." I confess to being excited every time I read these lines, they are so lofty in spirit, so patient, and as it proved, so prophetic. Now Wordsworth living in retirement among his native lakes, effected a revolution in English literature, and in the manner of an African potentate, after enduring every species of insult and abuse, he ascended the literary throne amid universal huzzas. So complete was the change of dynasty, our great living poets, Tennyson, Browning and Arnold, claim lineal descent from him, and their writings both in style and subject-matter betray their original stock. Having these things in mind, it occurred to me that I might best fulfil the engagement I had entered into by reviewing the chief characteristics of Wordsworth's poetry, and especially those which have for us—as colonials—a special interest and value. In the first place, then, I would say that no poet has so well depicted the hollowness of mere worldliness. Amid the sordid and debasing influences of colonial life—especially in cities—it is simply priceless to be able, by a mere act of volition, to transport ourselves into the region of poetry. To exchange for a season

The fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,


The light that never was on sea or land,
The consecration and the poet's dream.

This is something more than wealth, or social distinction—it is something even which those who covet these things are incapable of enjoying. To the student of Wordsworth this will seem a self-evident truism, but to the vast majority of men and women, it is a proposition very difficult to grasp, and still more difficult to believe. "It is an awful truth," says Wordsworth, "that there neither is, nor can be, any genuine enjoyment of poetry among nineteen out of twenty of those persons who live, or wish to live, in the broad light of the world—among those who either are, or are striving to make themselves, people of consideration in society. This is a truth, and an awful one; because to be incapable of a feeling of poetry, in my sense of the word, is to be without love of human nature and reverence for God." Again in one of his noblest sonnets he gives voice to his indignation :—

The world is too much with us—late and soon,
Getting and spending we lay waste our powers,
Little we see in Nature that is ours.
We have given our hearts away—a sordid boon,
The sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers.
For this—for everything we are out of tune.
It moves us not—Great God I'd rather be
A pagan suck'led in some creed outworn,
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

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However just the rebuke may have been to the people of England, who will say that we deserve it less? Does he not seem to speak of us too, in the following—

O Friend! I know not which way I must look
For comfort, being as I am oppressed,
To think that now our life is only drest
For show—mean handy-work of craftsman, cook,
Or groom. We must run glittering like a brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest,
The wealthiest man among us is the best.

Passages like these help to make us think meanly of ourselves, and they explain what was truly democratic in the poet, namely, his belief that it is not in wealth or social comforts that our highest happiness or most permanent joys are to be found, but in the yielding up of ourselves to the benign influences of Nature, and trusting to those divine aspirations which such communion always evokes. From this source of happiness the meanest in point of wealth is not debarred—rather, thought Wordsworth, it is nearer to him than to the rich.

One impulse from the vernal wood
May teach us more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

I come now to another characteristic of Wordsworth's poetry, and it is one which I am not aware has been dwelt upon before. I do not say that it is a new discovery of my own, but I am not conscious of having met with it in any criticism of Wordsworth. I mention this to invite discussion, because I am well aware that in such a case whatever is new is more than likely to be untrue. When we are delighted or charmed with a poem, or whatever it is proper to say of a poem we enjoy, we recur to it again to renew the pleasure; but a peculiar characteristic of Wordsworth's poetry is that it imparts to us principles which make us independent of the poet himself, and enables us to see and possess in the world around us never-ending sources of beauty and inspiration. With this Prospero's wand, the reader, learned or unlearned, can conjure up at will, scenes of unfading beauty, and for him as well as for the poet,

The meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

It is this characteristic which makes all lovers of Wordsworth eager to apply to him the beautiful lines he addressed to his sister—

She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,
And humble cares, and delicate fears,
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears,
And love, and thought, and joy.

And it is this characteristic which has secured for him amongst his students a love, a veneration—approaching almost to worship—which no poet, not even excepting Burns, has ever been able to inspire. Wordsworth claimed to be a teacher as well as a poet, and would, I feel sure, have condemned a doctrine advocated with such reiteration of emphasis, by the recent artistic school of poetry of which Rossetti and Swinburne are the leading lights. That doctrine teaches that "the content" of a poem is of no moment, the only thing of value being "the manner" or the medium by which page 7 it is conveyed. Now, if we apply this test to Wordsworth its absurdity, I think, becomes apparent. Take his "Lines on Tintern Abbey." I am not aware that there is anything specially artistic in the execution of this poem, unless it be the subtle skill with which the poet expresses these shadowy emotions, common to us all in our exalted moods; but surely what is priceless in it is the profound and tender lesson, that in Nature is the anchor of our purest thoughts, the nurse, the guide, the guardian of our heart, and soul of all our moral being. Rossetti's "Blessed Damozel" is at least as flawless a work of art as "Tintern Abbey," but while human hearts remain as they are we could better spare it than the latter. The poet has returned to the banks of the Wye after a long absence, and he contrasts his present feelings with the past. I cannot resist the pleasure of reciting some of the lines, although conscious that to many of you they must be already more familiar than a thrice-told tale. And here in passing I may mention that every one who has to speak of Wordsworth is met with a difficulty much more real than apparent. His audience, for reasons I have already hinted at, may consist of those who hold the poet in the highest reverence, and who know as well as the speaker the unalloyed charm and deep philosophy of his poetry. On the other hand, many of them may regard Wordsworth as a poet who wrote a very innocent kind of poetry, and who was laughed at by the critics and lampooned by Byron, and to such, the reading of selections—all meditative in character—is hardly likely to be so effectual as Mrs. Partington's marine resistance. Matthew Arnold, in a recent magazine, happily described Wordsworth by saying, that when at his best, Nature seemed to take the pen from him and write herself. I have no doubt that "Tintern Abbey" was in Arnold's mind when he wrote that. What I am about to read is where the poet describes recollections of scenery, and the effects they produced on his mind.

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye;
But oft in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness., sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart.
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery.
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lightened, that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on
Until the breath of this corporeal frame,
And even the motion of our human blood,
Almost suspended we are laid asleep—
In body, and become a living soul,
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

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Who that has reached manhood or womanhood has not felt emotions such as these? Who that has felt them has not sighed for their articulate expression? The poet then describes the effect Nature had upon his youth, and goes on to contrast it with her influence now.

That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not fur this
Faint I, nor mourn, nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss I would believe
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on Nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh, nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains, and of all that we behold,
From the green earth, of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

But I must pass on to notice some other distinguishing features of his poetry. In his own preface he mentions one. Another circumstance (he says) must be mentioned which distinguishes these poems from the popular poetry of the day. It is this, that the feeling therein described gives importance to the action and situation, and not the action or situation to the feeling. Byron, we know, found scope for his glowing genius in discriptions of Southern Europe and its social life; Moore revelled in the splendours of the East and its strange mythology; Scott refought the border feuds; Campbell roamed the virgin forests of Susquehannah; Shelley and Keats gave an English dress to ancient classics; but Wordsworth found his scenery in his native lakes and mountains, and his heroes in the pedlars, wagoners, luchgatherers and rustics around him. With him poetry is not a goddess disdaining to appear except under romantic circumstances, and to a favoured few; no, it is a halo of beauty hovering over the humblest lot, and investing scenes the most familiar "with purpureal gleams." "Human" is a word he is very fond of using, and it seems to indicate the prevailing spirit of his muse, which is to humanise by making us sensitive to the play of the emotions, and by raising us above the sway, not only of sensual things, but even of engrossing intellectual pursuits. By a true philosophy he regards the moral feelings as the very efflorescence of humanity, and the hard thinker who would reject other poets by the score page 9 finds on his pages the solace and stimulus he needs. Opening his pages he breathes at once "an ampler ether, a diviner air." In this connection one naturally recalls the experience of the late John Stuart Mill. When that philosopher's mind was overtaxed, and a cloud of melancholy hung over him, threatening his reason, it was only in Wordsworth that he found returning light and hope. Wordsworth reminds the student that besides being a huge task for the analyst, Nature is a synthetic teacher :—

Enough of science and of art,
Close up their barren leaves,
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

One moment now may give us more
Than years of toiling reason,
Our minds shall drink at ever pore
The spirit of the season.

How instinct with life seems the very earth we tread when we have realised the beauties of Wordsworth. The companionship of hills, and brooks, and flowers is then to us neither & literary fiction nor a transient phase of immature manhood; but an abiding fact that sweetens existence and persists in keeping us young. Have we not all felt an accession of personal dignity when, leaving the petty rut of our daily round, we have climbed some hill, and, yielding ourselves to every impulse of sense, "have felt a presence that disturbs" us "with the joy of elevated thought." What a tremor of delight stirred him when, reclining in a grove, he heard a thousand blended notes, and eyed the birds and flowers sharing with him the pleasures of the scene.

Through primrose tufts in that green bower
The periwinkle hailed its wreathes,
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure;
But the least motion that they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan
To catch the breezy air,
And I must think—do all I can—
That there was pleasure there.

His delineation of natural scenery is worth stopping to admire. Like a true artist, and not a mere imitator who omits nothing but the only thing worth having—the spirit of the scene—he with a few touches of his pen calls up a picture that haunts the memory ever after. In his Sonnet on Evening, composed in early youth, how exquisite the picture of the meadow when it is becoming dusk,—

Calm is all nature, as a resting wheel,
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass;
The horse alone—seen dimly as I pass—
Is cropping audibly his later meal.

How the words echo the sense! Again, the opening lines of his poem, Resolution and Independence, paint a charming scene,—

There was a roaring in the wind all night,
The rain came heavily, and fell in floods,
page 10 Bat now the sun is rising calm and bright—
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the stockdove broods,
The jay makes answer as the magpie chatters,
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.
All things that love the sun are out of doors,
The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops—on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth,
While with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist which, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.

Or take the sonnet composed on the top of an omnibus crossing Westminster Bridge early in the morning. All London is hushed, and the beauty and stillness of the scene call forth one his finest sonnets,—

Earth has not anything to show more fair;
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty.
The city now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning—silent, bare
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill—
Ne'er saw I—never felt a calm more deep.
The river glideth at his own sweet will;
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep,
And all that mighty heart is lying still.

There is another feature in his description of scenery still more characteristic. It is the linking of emotional feelings to natural objects. For instance, in his famous Ode on Immortality,—

The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare.

Of course, in one sense the idea of the moon looking round her with delight or any other feeling is arrant nonsense, but what so accurately describes the big white moon and the free sky. Again—

Loud is the vale—the inland depth
In peace is roaring like the sea,
Yon star upon the mountain top
Is listening quietly

I cannot say how it is that the noisy vale and the star listening quietly describes the scene, but there it is and nothing could be finer. Again, in Memory, the three last stanzas of which are so exquisite I cannot forego the pleasure of quoting them—

O! that our lives which flee so fast,
In purity were such
That not an image of the past
Should fear the pencil's touch!

Retirement then might hourly look
Upon a soothing scene,
Age steal to his allotted nook,
Contented and serene.

With heart as calm as lakes that sleep
In frosty moonlight glistening;
Or mountain rivers, where they creep
Along a channel smooth and deep
To their own far-off murmur listening.

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It is in the last line that this particular beauty is conspicuous. The present Professor of Poetry at Oxford, from whose "Studies in Poetry and Philosophy" I have taken many of these illustrations, has described at great length this feature in Wordsworth. Some time ago he published another volume on the "Poetic Interpretation of Nature," in which his views are developed more fully. Those who read it should also peruse a review of it by Alfred Austin, in, I think, Macmillan, wherein the reviewer disputes, it seems to me successfully, the conclusions drawn by Professor Shairp.

There is another charm in many of Wordsworth's poems which I am at a loss to describe. It is present in such poems as the Solitary Reaper and the Daffodils. The beauty of some of the lines break in upon us like a sudden flash of sweet surprise. We have often experienced the emotion described, but never supposed it susceptible to poetic expression. For instance, The Solitary Reaper—

Whate'er the theme the maiden sang.
As if her song would have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er her sickle bending.
I listened motionless and still,
And as I mounted up the hill
The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more.

The two last lines contain the charm I speak of. Or take the Daffodils. The poet has observed a host of daffodils on the banks of a lake. The two last stanzas are as follows :—

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee,
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company.
I gazed, and gazed, but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

The peculiar beauty is in the lines—

They flash upon that inward eye,
Which is the bliss of solitude.

And it does not detract from their merit that they were composed by the poet's wife. In speaking of Tintern Abbey, I have already referred to Wordsworth's skill in describing in words

* * those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us—vanishings.
* * those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the master light of all our seeing,
Uphold us, cherish us, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal silencer! truths that wake
To perish never.
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor man nor boy.
Nor all that is at enmity with joy
Can utterly abolish or destroy.

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The ode from which these lines are taken is a splendid instance of this power of verbal expression. It is besides a perfect magazine of delightful thoughts, and whether we agree with the philosophy contained in it or no, we must rank it as one of the highest flights of inspiration in the language. It is a vindication of the belief in immortality founded upon recollection of childhood.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,
The soul that rises with us—our life's star—
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar,
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy,
Shades of the prison house begin to close,
Upon the growing boy,
But he beholds the light and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy,
The youth who daily further from the east
Must travel still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended.
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

By this pre-existence the poet seeks to account for those longings and aspirations all cultured minds feel, and which the experience philosophy has not yet adequately accounted for. That he was, however, thoroughly alive to the teachings of experience his beautiful poem Lucy, familiar to us all from childhood, bears ample witness—

Three years she grew in sun and shower.

There are many other poems I might mention which should be treasured in the memory—Resolution and Independence, Nutting (which has an indescribable charm of purity and freshness), She was a Phantom of Delight, Daodamia, which cost Wordsworth more trouble to compose than any other poem, but the labour is well bestowed. One well qualified to express an opinion says : It breathes the pure spirit of the finest fragments of antiquity—the sweetness, the gravity, the strength, the beauty and the langour of death,

Calm contemplation and majestic pains.

Its glossy brilliancy arises from the perfection of the finishing—like that of careful sculpture—not from gaudy colouring, the texture of the thoughts has the smoothness and solidity of marble. It is a poem that might be read aloud in Elysium, and the spirits of departed heroes and sages would gather round to listen to it."

The Happy Warrior is an ideal character—rare anywhere, but specially so in the colonies. He is one

Who, if he rise to station of command,
Rises by open means; and there will stand
On honourable terms or else retire,
And in himself possess his own desire.
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim,
And therefore does not stoop or lie in wait
For wealth or honours or for worldly state,
Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall
Like showers of manna—if they come at all.

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The lines to A Highland Girl are conspicuous for their accurate description of nature, their strong emotional quality, and for a certain ethereal beauty seldom absent from his poems.

I might cite many more, but I have given enough to serve as an introduction to others. I should be sorry if anyone should commence a study of Wordsworth with Peter Bell or The White Doe of Rylston, although even these have found warm admirers. The Prelude and Excursion contain some of the best poety Wordsworth ever wrote—poetry that will live

Till the stars sicken at the day of doom.

But although no just conception can be formed of Wordsworth's genius without their careful study, they are undoubtedly, to a beginner, tedious and uninviting.

But I must draw to a conclusion.

There is one other characteristic of Wordsworth, and it is one of his greatest, which I have purposely kept to the end for two reasons—first, because I felt it would be better understood after what had been said; and, secondly, I wished that there should be lingering in your ears, after I had finished, the perfect lines of perhaps Wordsworth's greatest living exponent. The characteristic I speak of must indeed be a great one, for it has attractions for men of the profoundest intellect and most divergent views. The chivalrous and poetic Robertson of Brighton—one of the brightest ornaments of the English Church—made a life-study of Wordsworth's poetry, because he found in it a perennial source of solace and joy; and John Stuart Mill, as we have seen, owed much to it in early life. Shortly before his death, in a conversation with his friend Mr. Morley, he remarked that the more their views (utilitarianism) prospered, there would be the more need of Wordsworth. Poetry that blossoms in fields so widely apart must strike its roots deep in the human affections,

In this iron time
Of doubts, disputes, distractions, fears,

when a deadly warfare is raging between science and religion, there are those who, confident in the result, can lose themselves in Wordsworth and forget it; others, again, to whom that conflict means the burial of their early beliefs, and the destruction of the ark that gave shelter to them and their fathers before them, where shall they go it not to Wordsworth, whose reassuring voice is heard speaking words of sympathy, of comfort, and of hope—

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind—
In the primal sympathy,
Which, having been, must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering.
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

In the poem I have already referred to, Matthew Arnold contrasts Wordsworth with Goethe and Byron in lines which I have ventured to call perfect. They have all the clearness and tenderness of Wordsworth, with a definiteness of outline—as of sculpture—which page 14 is Arnold's alone. I regret that the poem is too long to quote at length, but I must give that portion of it which describes with marvellous felicity that aspect of Wordsworth's genius I have been striving to speak of, and which is full of the deepest interest for

And Wordsworth! ah! pale ghosts rejoice!
For never has suck soothing voice
Been to your shadowy world convey'd
Since erst, at morn, some wandering shade
Heard the clear song of Orpheus come
Through Hades, and the mournful gloom.

Wordsworth has gone from us—and ye,
Ah! may ye feel his voice as we!
He too upon a wintry clime
Had fallen—in this iron time
Of doubts, disputes, distractions, fears,
He found us when the age had bound
Our souls in its benumbing round :
He spoke and loosed our hearts in tears,
He laid us, as we lay at birth,
In the cool flowery lap of earth;
Smiles broke from us, and we had ease;
The hills were round us, and the breeze
Went o'er the sun—lit fields again,
Our foreheads felt the wind and rain,
Our youth return'd I for there was shed
O'er spirits that had long been dead,
Spirits dried up and closely furled
The freshness of the early world.

Ah! since dark days still bring to light
Man's prudence, and man's fiery might,
Time may restore us, in his course,
Goethe's sage mind and Byron's force;
But where will Europe's latter hour
Again find Wordsworth's healing power?
Others will teach us how to dare,
And against fear our breasts to steel!
Others will strengthen us to bear,
But who, ah! who will make us feel.
The cloud of mortal destiny
Others will front it fearlessly.
But who like him will put it by?


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Part II.

A Reverie.

Ah, tranquilly sleeping in nature's soft keeping,
The hot sun above,
This seed of our sowing is evermore growing
A pledge to our love.

Will the plentiful showers, and long summer hours
Bring burdens of fruit?
Or will winter winds chill, and bitter frosts kill
This stem at its root?

Will buds and bright blossoms be hopes in our bosoms,
And light to our life?
Or will sin with its morrow of anger and sorrow,
Darken with strife?

The hours of light laughter and thought that comes after,
Shall surely be thine,
But deeds of thy doings, and loves of thy wooing,
Oh, who shall divine?

Ah, infantine beauty, quite dreamless of duty,
And free of all care,
No vows or entreating—thy little heart beating
Unconciously there!

Still! peacefully slumber, for soon shalt thou number
The days of unrest,
When joy shall seem sadness, and mirth be but madness,
And sleep shall seem best.

Oh, seed-time and reaping, oh, bright hopes and weeping—
Twin comrades alway,
The joy that gives warning, the night chasing morning,
The dark-seeking day.

I felt that she listened, and looking, saw glistened
Her eyes with big tears.
I drew myself nearer, spoke softly to cheer her,
And scatter her fears;

Though grief come unbidden, and years are still hidden,
We act as we can;
Our veriest blunders, the sorrow that sunders,
Are part of the Plan.

We have loved, we are loving, and time is but proving
The strength of our tie;
If sorrow comes nearer love's eyes see the clearer—
Ah, love cannot die.

Yes, love is still stronger than all things that wrong her,
And evermore sways,
Her steps are the ages, her footprints the sages,
That blazen her ways.

The air is all trembling, dark clouds are assembling,
The torrents will come;
Ah, dearest and nearest, through tears we see clearest,
Come quick, let us home.

page 16

The Poet.

O! I thank you for your kindness,
But your pains are tittle worth;
I must grope along in blindness
Till the light has sadden birth.

Yes, the subject has its beauty,
And a poet could reveal it;
But a thousand calls of duty
Call for silence till I feel it.

O! I may not choose the season,
I am called and I obey,
And with brighter lamp than reason
I can tread a trackless way.

Not in action, but in being,
Are my golden moments won;
When the eye too rapt for seeing,
Dreams in music self-begun;

And the soul, to all the forces
Yields in concert all her power!—
To the planets in their courses,
To the sea, the growing flower.

And in truest recreation
All my pulses beat anew,
And with sweet and strange elation
Comes the beautiful and true.

Then life's mystery seems lightened,
And more freely I respire,
And my faith and love are heightened—
I have passed through cleansing fire.

Oh, I know you but suggested
With a heart that overflows;
That the scene in language vested
Might give pleasure or repose.

But I must be thrilled with pleasure,
Or be moved by bitter wrong.
Ere my thoughts can run in measure,
Or blossom into song.


On Keats.
Now while the air is sweet with breath of spring
And loud with liquid melody and mirth,
When budding flowers burst into early birth.
And orchard trees are white with blossoming,
And on their snowy twigs the sweet birds sing;
When beauty is new-born o'er all the earth,
And with the last chill wind, the fear of dearth
And other piercing fears have taken wing :
This is the season I would think of One,
The dear Endymion, the star-eyed youth
Who loved the quickened earth as doth the sun,
Whose heart was full of courage and of ruth,
Whose voice in sweetest melodies would run—
And lo! how Beauty war with him the Truth!

page 17

In a Garden.

I saw my fair one plucking fruit,
The velvet peach and dusky plum;
And, as she stooped to gather some
That hid themselves in scarlet plots
And blue beds of forget-me-nots,
I stood as though I'd taken root,
And durst not lift intruding foot—
So, leaning on a neighbouring gum,
(I knew she had not seen me come),
I watched her stand, and upward reach
And shame the pink of tinted peach
In stretching where some ripe one lies
Behind its screen of leafy green,
With just a speck of crimson seen—
The burning kiss of summer skies—

Then turn, some laurel leaves to cull
Wherewith to trim her basketful,
And as she eat with careless grace,
And set each beauty in its place,
I drank the scene with open eyes,
And like half-wakened memories,
Came tender thoughts in quiet mood
That made me wish for solitude.
I could not choose to linger there
Where all was grace and debonair,
Where every movement seemed to be
Some preconcerted melody,
Where but to speak was to destroy
The blissful calm, the tender joy.

So turning from the magic spell,
And from the form I loved so well,
I mused how pleasure often springs
From far-off-half-remembered things,
And how the vision I had met
Might yield a richer harvest yet;
Then stole away—and in my mind
I carry still that garden scene,
The motions of my graceful queen,
And all the beauty left behind,
The charm of flowers, the wealth of fruit,
The dusky plum and velvet peach,
And the bright lesson that they teach,
How grace and beauty more than preach,
And to the soul are never mute.


Beloved Shakespeare, when I scan the sky
And think of worlds illimitably far,
And how this earth is smaller than yon star,
My thoughts are lost in drear immensity;
So when I pass before my mental eye
Thy sov'ran types of human character,
And feel how real, how wonderful they are,
Like starry worlds above, they mystify.
I cannot think what aptitude was thine
To grasp all human life as in thy hand,
To pour with sweetest note the song divine,
And deal out wisdom like the countless sand—
In vain I brood, as on the stars that shine,
I can but feel—I cannot understand,

page 18

A Remonstrance.

O! pity not nor blame
The poet's wayward ways;
Through ecstasy and shame
He wins the crown of bays.

Why pity him who climbs
To heights to us unknown?
Who weds the fickle rhymes
To music of his own.

Whose steps by sea and brook
To art are consecrate;
And in each secret nook,
Who feels but to create.

Who brings to us the sweep
Of languid summer seas,
And o'er their sapphire deep
The seaweed-scented breeze.

Who burns with costly glow
His own life's fiery flame,
A beacon light to show
The loneliness of fame.

Why blame his strange descent?
From giddy heights he reels—
Is it not punishment
To feel the pang he feels?

O! pity not nor blame
The poet's wayward ways;
Dear is his tear-bought fame—
But sweet the voice of praise.


Dim through the shadow land of long ago
Comes like the flooding dawn each newborn thought;
But whence—we may not know—or how begot :
The liquid gold the sinking sun can throw
On ocean's waste, to other scenes we owe
The stars, the flowers, the grassy fields are fraught
With beauty not their own—a gleam is brought
From travelled realms where mem'ry cannot go;
Feast then, my senses, on a day like this—
Garner—in pleasure 'gainst a chilling gloom;
Share with the bush its melody, nor miss
The clematis and rata's crimson bloom;
Drink in ye eyes and care, each moment's bliss
Shall swell in ceaseless surges to the tomb.

page 19

In Memoriam.

T. B.

Oh, garden of my heart how soon
Thy beauties pine away and die,
One hour, in pride of noon,
They kiss the kindling sky;
But ere the bud is bloom
There comes a chilling gloom,
And on the dull, cold earth they withered lie.

Another rose is gone that made
My life to me more sweet:
Another heart is still'd that beat
Responsive to mine own.
And now I walk alone
With dull and desolate feet;
And bare and bleak the prospect seems.
And mellow moons and sunny gleams
Mock with untimely mirth a heart dismayed.

Oh, garden of my heart, each leaf
Dies not alone, but takes
A something it forsakes—
So life ebbs slowly out with grief;
And so each stroke, we know,
Falls with more muffled blow.
Until at last we breathe relief,
And rest, where pure and meek the daisies grow.

Oh, garden of my heart, how scant
Thy leaves and perfumed bloom—
Can all thy sunny days but grant
This solitary gloom;
And must we be content,
Glad life and beauty spent,
A deep forgetfulness to seek?
A peace, our withered loves bespeak—
A silence, sweet and seeling, in the tomb.

Oh, garden of my heart, though dead
The rose, its fragance still will cling,
And tender recollections bring
To deify the splendour fled;
And when the vagrant air
Shall waft it everywhere.
And it has faded from our sense,
Yet still we know its influence
Still steals abroad, imperishably fair.

Oh, garden of my heart, not vain
His gentle bloom, his sudden chill,
Though to our sight the gain
Seem loss ineffable.
But who shall fight with Might,
Or curse the Hands that smite,
Sure that in great and small
One purpose works in all—
One goal to reach, one blinding veil of light.

page 20


When next you come, O love!
Come in a tumult strong.
Come with a strength above
The reach of song

Fill me with vague alarms,
Smite me with softest fears,
Weak as a babe in arms
Bring me to tears.

Come not, and then go by.
Leaving only unrest;
Come not a passer-by,
Come as a guest.

What could I do? she grew
Fond without fault of mine,
Every day fonder, too,
Foolish Adine!

Had I but loved her more.
Her fettered soul were free
On wings of love to soar
And comfort me.

Had I but loved her less,
I had not mourned her, wed—
Her eyes would not confess
A love not dead.

When next you come, O love!
Come like a welt'ring sea,
Flooding its shores above,
Come so—or flee.


Printed by Jolly, Connor & Co., Octagon, Dunedin.