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in walks which, were I circumstantially to record them, might be thought by many to exceed the bounds of credibility. As time, however, progressed, though as yet sensible of no diminution of nervous activity, a growing inaptitude for vigorous exercise was discoverable, and I sought, in retirement, to profit by a long train of previous observation. In spite of a prejudice imbibed, on reaching manhood, against poetry, for reasons that involve some little reflection on lovely woman-a prejudice so strong that, for nearly twenty years, I would neither read, nor suffer to be read to me, any production of the Divine Art, I now began to meditate in verse. Progressively my evenings became more and more devoted to this amusement; and when those who feared that the pursuit might endanger my health enjoined rest, the only reply I could offer was that of the Roman Poet, verum nequeo dormire; and dreading a worse imputation, aut insanit homo, aut versus facit, I have occupied my leisure in the cultivation of elegant literature, with such intervals of relaxation as the kindred pursuit of gardening has required, throughout the last ten years. For a long time the fruit of my labour was distributed amongst personal friends, and entertaining not then the remotest idea of its publication, I cared not even to transcribe for my own use much that was so disposed of. At length my applicants became too numerous and pressing in their demands upon me, to admit of like respect being paid to all; and to avoid their importunities, I promised in due time to supply them, in a more convenient form, with a copy of such pieces as should be
ought worthy of preservation. My design was to defer this intention for two years longer, until, indeed, I should have written something more truly entitled to public notice : but disease occurring upon what had now become a severe study, and that, too, of a character from which danger was to be apprehended, I resolved thus prematurely to select from amongst my papers such poems as should, for the most part, contribute to the moral and intellectual benefit of my readers. To attempt an apology for their defects would be affectation : for though they are not all what I could have wished them to be, the chief of them have been written with much care; and they do but occasionally fall short of that standard which I have prescribed to myself, by reason of my inability at all times to attain to it.
An inquiry into the relative merit of our most esteemed modern Poets soon led to my conviction that, whilst in the legitimate exercise of the imagination, in strength and dignity of expression, and depth of feeling, Byron surpasses all others, so too is he the best artist. And since my predilection for subjects in which Nature exhibits her fairest aspect, will serve to protect me from the charge of having appropriated his ideas, I may with less hesitation declare that, in the general structure of my verse, I have taken him as affording the best model. Of this privilege I have sportively availed myself as well, occasionally, at the cost of both Shelley and Wordsworth, than whom, perhaps, no two authors can be found more unlike : the one luxuriating in a redundancy of imagination, — the other driven to all manner of pitiful expedients to identify himself with its possession. Let those who shall object to the boldness of this assertion, in respect of the late Poet Laureate, turn to some stanzas headed “Resolution and Independence," upon which he bestowed many careful revisions. And were it needed, I might further justify an allusion to this piece, by reference to the declaration of Wordsworth’s great expositor, Coleridge, that “ this fine poem is especially characteristic of the author.” Not to enter upon an elaborate critique, which would carry me beyond the limits necessarily assigned to this Introduction, I would remark that the Poet opens his subject by the somewhat startling assurance that “there was a roaring in the wind all night,” and “ the rain fell in floods : » « but now the sun is rising,"
" the birds are singing,” “ the sky rejoices,” “the grass is bright with rain-drops,” and “the hare is running races in her mirth." Then immediately changing his tense, he writes —
“I was a Traveller then
“ But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joy in minds that can no further go,
Now I appeal to the understanding of Wordsworth's admirers, whether this be a creditable performance ? What burlesque upon English versification could be seemingly more intentional ? And the first and second stanzas only, out of twenty of which the piece consists, are superior to the two I have quoted. Pardoning his violation of good taste, where he has attempted to be poetical, and taking the entire in the light of a simple narrative, it abounds with self-contradictions, absurdities, and silly iterations, conveyed in language that would do dishonour to an uneducated mechanic; and it more faithfully represents the rudeness of our literature in the time of Chaucer than the refinement to which it has attained in the nineteenth century. Though free to admit as are his enthusiastic friends, that the motive which directed Wordsworth in all his literary labours was such as to entitle him to public esteem, I nevertheless maintain that he lacked those qualities of the mind which are essential to the service in which he engaged. And as many, who have perhaps been less careful in reading him than I have, may be disposed to condemn the severity with which he is treated in a satire called “ Pastimes with the late Poet Laureate,” it is but right that I defend its publication, by argument based upon a familiarity with his works. In the absence of such necessity, however, no objection could be fairly offered to my strictures, whether directed in prose or verse : for, be it remembered, the Poet was himself free to criticise both the living and the dead. And I have the less delicacy to consult in the prosecution of my design, since his removal from the sphere in which he long laboured, has placed him alike beyond the reach of praise and censure. His writings, as are those of every man that survive their author, are to be regarded now as a public legacy: nor is it too much to say that he bequeathed them for the accomplishment of a great and good purpose. He believed them to be a profitable for instruction ;” and though made the sport of critics through a long life, he acquired a party which, if not large, had all the advantages that talent, wealth, and station could command. Under such auspices, he gained
elevation, to which his character as a poet by no means entitled him; and the few disciples he had already numbered, conceiving their great prototype to have earned his distinction, strove the more carefully to imitate his indefiniteness of expression, while the school to which they belonged boasted of increasing adherents. No judicious reader can look upon the inane metrical verbiage now palmed upon the fashionable world as poetry, without feeling painfully conscious that the patronage conferred upon Wordsworth was a national misfortune. None knew better than himself how greatly it tended to strengthen the confidence of his followers in the fancied purity of his style: hence, in a letter to a friend, he says “ Tennyson is decidedly the first of our living poets.” — “You will be pleased to hear that he expressed in the strongest terms his gratitude to my writings.” To have attained what would seem to imply preeminence in the republic of letters, notwithstanding the contempt with which his puerilities were treated, was, after all, no mean achievement for a man of his limited genius. He owed it mainly to patient, untiring industry: for having no susceptibility that allowed him either to be provoked to resentment, or to be crushed