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Gray-headed shepherd, thou hast spoken well ;
Small difference lies between thy creed and mine: This beast not unobserved by Nature fell;
His death was mourned by syn divine.
The Being, that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves, Maintains a deep and reverential care
For the unoffending creatures whom he loves.
The pleasure-house is dust, behind, before,
This is no common waste, no common gloom : But Nature, in due course of time, once more
Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.
She leaves these objects to a slow decay,
That what we are, and have been, may be known; But at the coming of the milder day, These monuments shall all be overgrown.
One lesson, shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals, – Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.
Mr. Wordsworth is at the head of that which has been denominated the · Lake school of poetry,' -a school which, with all my respect for it, I do not think sacred from criticism or exempt from faults, of some of which faults I shall speak with becoming frankness; for I do not see that the liberty of the Press ought to be shackled, or freedom of speech curtailed, to screen either its revolutionary or renegade extravagances. This school of poetry had its origin in the French Revolution, or rather in those sentiments and opinions which produced that revolution, and which sentiments and opinions were directly imported into this country in translations from the German about that period. Our poetical literature had, toward the close of the last century, degenerated into the most trite, insipid, and mechanical of all things in the hands of the followers of Pope and the old French school of poetry. It wanted something to stir it up, and it found that something in the principles and events of the French Revolution. From the impulse it thus received, it rose at once from the most servile imitation and tamest commonplace to the utmost pitch of singularity and paradox. The change in the belles-lettres was as complete, and to many persons as startling, as the change in politics, with which it went hand in hand. There was a mighty ferment in the heads of statesmen and poets, kings and people. According to the prevailing notions, all was to be natural and new. Nothing that was established was to be tolerated. All the commonplace figures of poetry, tropes, allegories, personifications, with the whole heathen mythology, were instantly discarded ; a classical allusion was considered as a piece of antiquated foppery; capital letters were no more allowed in print than letters-patent of nobility were permitted in real life ; kings and queens were dethroned from their rank and station in legitimate tragedy or epic poetry as they were decapitated elsewhere ; rhyme was looked upon as a relic of the feudal system, and regular metre was abolished along with regular government. Authority and fashion, elegance or arrangement, were hooted out of countenance as pedantry and prejudice. Every one did that which was good in his own eyes. The object was to reduce all things to an absolute level ; and a singularly affected and outrageous simplicity prevailed in dress and manners, in style and sentiment. A striking effect, produced where it was least expected; something new and original, no matter whether good, bad, or indifferent, whether mean or lofty, extravagant or
, childish, was all that was aimed at, or considered as compatible with sound philosophy and an age of reason. The licentiousness grew extreme ; Coryate's Crudities were nothing to
1 A singular book of travels in various countries printed in 1611. I do not know, however, that it is to be charged with any special licentiousness, unless it is where the author furnishes an account of his inter: it. The world was to be turned topsy-turvy; and poetry, by the good-will of Adam-wits, was to share its fate and begin de novo. It was a time of promise, a renewal of the world and of letters; and the Deucalions who were paid to perform this feat of regeneration, were the present poet-laureate and the two authors of the • Lyrical Ballads.'? The Germans, who made heroes of robbers, and honest women of castoff mistresses, had already exhausted the extravagant and marvellous in sentiment and situation; our native writers adopted a wonderful simplicity of style and matter. The paradox they set out with was, that all things are by nature equally fit subjects for poetry ; or that if there is any preference to be given, those that are the meanest and most unpromising are the best, as they leave the greatest scope for the unbounded stores of thought and fancy in the writer's own mind. Poetry had with them neither buttress nor coign of vantage to make its pendent bed and procreant cradle.' It was not born so high : ' its' aery buildeth in the cedar's top, and dallies with the wind and scorns the sun.' It grew like a mushroom out of the ground, or was hidden in it like a truffle, which it required a particular sagacity and industry to find out and dig up. They founded the new school on a principle of sheer humanity, on pure nature void of art, It could not be said of these sweeping reformers and dictators in the republic of letters that • in their train walked crowns and crownets ; that realms and islands, like plates, dropt from their pockets;' but they were surrounded, in company with the Muses, by a mixed rabble of idle apprentices and Botany Bay convicts, female vagrants, gypsies, meek daughters in the family of Christ, of idiot boys and mad mothers, and after them owls and night-ravens flew.' They scorned degree, priority and place, insisture, course, proportion, season, form, office, and custom, in all line of order; the distinctions of birth, the vicissitudes of fortune, did not enter into their abstracted, lofty, and levelling calculation of human nature. He who was more than man, with them was none. They claimed kindred only with the commonest of the people ; peasants, pedlers, and village barbers were their oracles and bosom friends. Their poetry, in the extreme to which it pro
view with a Venetian courtesan, accompanied by an illustration of the incident, both harmless enough, to be sure.- ED.
1 Southey, Wordsworth himself, and Coleridge. The 'Lyrical Ballads' were published in 1798. - ED.