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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, be put away with childhood; but too 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

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England where he was to find the happy home of his manhood and old age,--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. I 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

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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,”

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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


"O'er the pathless rocks, I forced my way
Until, at length, I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough

Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation, but the hazels rose,

Tall and erect, with milk-white clusters hung,

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 played :-
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:

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Where fairy water breaks do murmur on
Forever; 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, scattered 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 I rose,

And dragged to earth both branch and bough with crash

And merciless ravage, and the shady nook
Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower,
Deformed 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 turned 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,”—


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