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tional poets? He wrote in a dialect which the people of England little understood, and cared still less to understand; and had he confined himself to the style and models of the period, his reputation would probably have never travelled beyond the limits of his native country. But his impassioned lays were the truthful utterances of nature; they were the outpourings of a heart giving vent to its genuine emotions, untrammelled by rules, and undeterred by the fear of censure, and therefore they found an echo, and created a responsive vibration, in every bosom that could feel in like manner, without possessing the power or the hardihood to give those feelings a voice. Thus it was that even his Doric dialect, which had always grated so harshly in the ears of England, suddenly acquired in popular estimation a richness and melody hitherto unthought of; and it was cherished and revered, because it had conveyed to them, however partially, that voice of true poetry which had been so long unheard. What the English loved they naturally endeavoured to imitate, and therefore a school of poetry arose—a school, not indeed influential either from talent or numbers, but important as the indication of a change in poetical taste; in which not only the spirit, but even the dialect, of Burns was endeavoured to be imitated. Still, however, the influence of such minds as Cowper and Burns would have been insufficient to produce a general change, had it not been for that great political event by which the intellectual as well as political world was shaken to its centre. This was the French Revolution, which, like an earthquake, was destined to shake and throw down both tower and temple, and create a new surface, for the erection of new systems and principles. While Europe was looking on in fearful expectation upon events of such tremendous interest, with every feeling wound to the utmost stretch, who, at such a crisis, could have expressed his emotions coldly and calmly, and by a tame mechanical process ? Love and hatred, hope and fear, joy and sorrow, all and each alternately raised to a species of madness, required a correspondent utterance for such a mighty inspiration, and hence the poetry of Europe at large assumed a wildness, a fervour, and a strength, commensurate with the grandeur of those political events by which every community was agitated.
Of all those countries which were so influenced, Germany was the chief. It was fortunate, in this case, that she had no previous national literature, and therefore she had little to unlearn. When the naturally strong and fervent spirit of her people was aroused to thought and inquiry, she advanced in consequence, with all the freshness and buoyancy of a first existence, to the creation of a national poetry; and instead of taking their models from the writers of the eighteenth century, the German poets went to a more congenial source—to Shakspeare, and the great English poets of the early ages. These they studied, until they had caught their spirit and inspiration; and thus when they sang, it often seemed as if our illustrious dead of England had awoke to life, under the shock and stir of the mighty passing events, and had added, to their own native grandeur of intellect, the treasures of modern science and philosophy. And how natural it was that England, when she had become weary of the effete poetry which she had endured so patiently, should turn and listen to those rich echoes of tones that had been flung abroad from her own lyre? The new race of English poets, who were to enlighten and adorn the nineteenth century, betook themselves to those streams of inspiration that had flowed from the fountain-head of England; and while they imbued their own minds with the impassioned spirit of the new-born Teutonic Muse, they prepared their countrymen, in many instances, for the change, by translations from the most distinguished of their German contemporaries. In this manner, Germany, our mother-land, reciprocated the benefits which she had previously derived from her illustrious child. And no national jealousy could intervene between such endeared relationships, to mar the mutual harmony, and interrupt the projected renovation. German and English poets laboured with united hand and heart, as the children of one race, in the production of a common good.
the period of the literary revolution in England had arrived; a revolution as complete as that political change which had convulsed France, and agitated the whole of Europe. Like that of France, too, it was to be in the first instance a work of violence and havoc, in which the necessary task of destruction was to precede that of renovation. And with what fearful zeal the innovation commenced! The doors of the
poetical temple were burst open; the floor was desecrated by unholy feet; the gods of the popular idolatry were thrown down, and the carved work of the sanctuary was demolished with axe and hammer, and cast forth among the rubbish of by-gone ages. Such at least did the deed
eyes of the worshippers, who looked on and trembled. Even Pope was not spared, even Addison was not safe ; and as for the Pomfrets, the Akensides, and the Shenstones, of the former century, they were proclaimed to be little less than false prophets, who had taught delusion, and led the multitudes astray. And where was now the divinity of Phæbus and Jove; or who would have dared to invoke his Muse, or talk of the doves of Venus, and the darts of Cupid? The poetical crooks were broken; the sheep, that had bleated so tenderly in tuneful numbers, were sent to the shambles; the shepherdesses were confined to their milking-pails; and all the prettinesses of poetry, that had bedecked the woods, lawns, and meadows, vanished like a flimsy frost-work, in the hot blast that had passed over them. It was indeed a “Reign of Terror” that thus prepared the way for the coming of the new order of things; and, as in political revolutions, the recoil that was made was, at first, into the opposite extreme. Thus, instead of the tame, declamatory, moral drama, in which people made love, fought quarrels, and died according to the most perfect rules of etiquette, the overstrained horrors of the unreformed German stage were introduced in all their native grisliness. Roses and lilies, that had been the established flowers of the preceding poets, were abandoned for such humble things as pebbles and weeds—even a daisy was thought to savour too much of the exploded school, and a fragment of sea-weed was a poetical treasure. And now also, as it had been hitherto the fashion to introduce only the illustrious into poetry, while the commons were consigned to prose, the innovators, who had abased the proud, exalted the lowly in their room; and the philosophising of pedlars, or the woes of children, were thought worthy of long poems and sounding hexameters. A new language of poetry also, in which the principles of rhythm and accentuation seemed to have become as novel and extravagant as the ideas they embodied, was carefully cultivated, and new modes of illustration were created with a profusion that kept
the public gaze in a perpetual whirl of astonishment. Nothing less than such a thorough up-turning was necessary, to clear the whole surface of its accumulated rubbish; and, truly, there was no lack either of zeal or violence The tree that had grown so long under a perverted and unnatural bias, was now as strongly bent, and held down in the opposite direction, that it might recover its original straightness. Of this, indeed, the agents themselves were not fully aware; but careful on-lookers, who kept aloof from the excitement, could anticipate the result. A better season was to follow, in which confusion would cease, and the spirit of innovation would be compelled to pause for lack of something to overturn; and when a nobler creative spirit would emerge from this scene of havoc, to replenish the waste with the forms and beings of a higher and more attractive existence.
No name can be more fitly mentioned as first in the front rank of the poets of the new school, than that of Wordsworth ; for to him the high reputation is due, of having been the first of the poets of this century to emancipate himself from the bondage of the classical school. And never was act of resistance to an established despotism characterised by greater decision and self-devotedness. Perceptions of the pure, the beautiful, and the sublime, were stirring within his heart, with which the poetry of the day had no sympathy: the changing melodies of a thousand emotions were murmuring upon his ear, to which the scanty compass of the patent harp could give no utterance. He had seen and felt, that external nature was something more than mere form and colour—something more than the mere platform upon which actors were to be introduced, to recite a speech or enact a tale. The warm and living soul that stirred within it, and with which Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, had held such high and endearing communion-this he well knew was the real spirit of the poetry of external objects, but which had been suffered to slumber so long within its cold recesses, undisturbed and uninvoked. He was also aware that the poetry of inner nature, or the heart, had equally fallen into abeyance, because poets had merely looked abroad, instead of turning their view inwards; and thus their descriptions had delineated external action merely, without reference to the feelings and principles in which
it originates. When Wordsworth, therefore, listened to the voice of nature, which utters a whispered oracle from each of its works, and studied the heart that was lodged within his own bosom, he had mastered that knowledge both of the physical and moral world, without which there can be no poet. His principle was thus adopted, his lesson was studied, and nothing was wanting but the rehearsal. And what was the reward of his devotedness, and his labours ? He had merely gone back to the genuine Hippocrene of the great masters of antiquity, and their successors of modern ages in England; and his whole offence consisted in following the universally recognised rules of nature, instead of the conventional authorities that had so lately usurped their place. But his poetry was as startling as if he had announced some new and monstrous heresy, and the astonishment which it produced was mingled with no small portion of indignation. The deed was an act of rebellion against the whole tuneful tribe, as well as a general defiance to the kingdom of criticism and therefore the poet lampooned, while the critic condemned him. It is worthy of remark, too, that the radical defects of his poetry, and those from which he was subjected to deserved censure and ridicule, arose from that very quality which best fitted him to be a reformer. As it was the first principle of his creed, that all nature was pervaded with the spirit of poesy, from the moth to the mammoth, and from the mustard-seed to the cedar of Lebanon, no object therefore was too insignificant for a stanza, and, in the true spirit of a sturdy, uncompromising innovator, he selected for his first themes those that were the most humble and unpromising. The thread-like streamlet that scarcely glimmered to the sun as it wound, almost unnoticed, through the tall flags which it nourished—an exiled shell still echoing the sound of its native ocean—a pebble rounded and polished by the brook—a leaf dancing in the sunshine—a waggon, lumbering and creaking along the dusty highway-even a meek ass grazing upon the common, and shaking its passive ears at the oaths and blows of the tormentors—these, and such as these, were the subjects to which he gave the preference, and by which he attempted to illustrate his simple theory. Nor were even his heroes of a more ambitious character. Betty Foy and Peter Bell, the prattling of infants, and the stammering of idiots, usurped the