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Wordsworth, Dorothy / Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland A.D. 1803
This ebook was transcribed by Les Bowler.





RECOLLECTIONS
OF A
TOUR MADE IN SCOTLAND
A.D. 1803


* * * * *

BY DOROTHY WORDSWORTH

* * * * *

Edited by J. C. Shairp




CONTENTS.

DAY PAGE

PREFACE ix

First Week.

1. Left Keswick—Grisdale—Mosedale—Hesket 1
Newmarket—Caldbeck Falls

2. Ross Castle—Carlisle—Hatfield—Longtown 2

3. Solway Moss—Enter Scotland—Springfield—Gretna 3
Green—Annan—Dumfries

4. Burns’s Grave 5

Ellisland—Vale of Nith 7

Brownhill 8

Poem to Burns’s Sons 10

5. Thornhill—Drumlanrig—River Nith 11

Turnpike House 12

Sportsman 13

Vale of Menock 14

Wanlockhead 15

Leadhills 18

Miners 19

Hopetoun mansion 20

Hostess 20

6. Road to Crawfordjohn 22

Douglas Mill 28

Clyde—Lanerk 31

Boniton Linn 33

Second Week.

7. Falls of the Clyde 35

Cartland Crags 40

Fall of Stonebyres—Trough of the Clyde 43

Hamilton 44

8. Hamilton House 45

Baroncleuch—Bothwell Castle 48

Glasgow 52

9. Bleaching ground (Glasgow Green) 53

Road to Dumbarton 55

10. Rocks and Castle of Dumbarton 58

Vale of Leven 62

Smollett’s Monument 63

Loch Achray 64

Luss 67

11. Islands of Loch Lomond 71

Road to Tarbet 75

The Cobbler 78

Tarbet 79

12. Left Tarbet for the Trossachs 81

Rob Roy’s Caves 82

Inversneyde Ferryhouse and Waterfall 83

Singular building 84

Loch Ketterine 86

Glengyle 88

Mr. Macfarlane’s 89

13. Breakfast at Glengyle 91

Lairds of Glengyle—Rob Roy 92

Burying ground 94

Ferryman’s Hut 95

Trossachs 96

Loch Achray 101

Return to Ferryman’s Hut 102

Third Week.

14. Left Loch Ketterine 106

Garrison House—Highland Girls 107

Ferryhouse at Inversneyde 108

Poem to the Highland Girl 113

Return to Tarbet 115

15. Coleridge resolves to go home 117

Arrochar—Loch Long 118

Parted with Coleridge 119

Glen Croe—The Cobbler 121

Glen Kinglas—Cairndow 123

16. Road to Inverary 124

Inverary 126

17. Vale of Arey 129

Loch Awe 134

Kilchurn Castle 138

Dalmally 139

18. Loch Awe 141

Taynuilt 143

Bunawe—Loch Etive 144

Tinkers 149

19. Road by Loch Etive downwards 152

Dunstaffnage Castle 153

Loch Crerar 156

Strath of Appin—Portnacroish 158

Islands of Loch Linnhe 159

Morven 160

Lord Tweeddale 161

Strath of Duror 163

Ballachulish 164

20. Road to Glen Coe up Loch Leven 165

Blacksmith’s house 166

Glen Coe 172

Whisky hovel 174

King’s House 175

Fourth Week.

21. Road to Inveroran 180

Inveroran—Public-house 182

Road to Tyndrum 183

Tyndrum 184

Loch Dochart 185

22. Killin 186

Loch Tay 188

Kenmore 189

23. Lord Breadalbane’s grounds 193

Vale of Tay—Aberfeldy—Falls of Moness 194

River Tummel—Vale of Tummel 196

Fascally—Blair 197

24. Duke of Athol’s gardens 198

Falls of Bruar—Mountain-road to Loch Tummel 201

Loch Tummel 203

Rivers Tummel and Garry 204

Fascally 205

25. Pass of Killicrankie—Sonnet 207

Fall of Tummel 208

Dunkeld 209

Fall of the Bran 210

26. Duke of Athol’s gardens 211

Glen of the Bran—Rumbling Brig 212

Narrow Glen—Poem 213

Crieff 215

27. Strath Erne 215

Lord Melville’s house—Loch Erne 216

Strath Eyer—Loch Lubnaig 217

Bruce the Traveller—Pass of Leny—Callander 218

Fifth Week.

28. Road to the Trossachs—Loch Vennachar 219

Loch Achray—Trossachs—Road up Loch Ketterine 220

Poem: ‘Stepping Westward’ 221

Boatman’s hut 222

29. Road to Loch Lomond 223

Ferryhouse at Inversneyde 223

Walk up Loch Lomond 224

Glenfalloch 226

Glengyle 228

Rob Roy’s Grave—Poem 229

Boatman’s Hut 233

30. Mountain-Road to Loch Voil 235

Poem, ‘The Solitary Reaper’ 237

Strath Eyer 239

31. Loch Lubnaig 240

Callander—Stirling—Falkirk 241

32. Linlithgow—Road to Edinburgh 242

33. Edinburgh 243

Roslin 245

34. Roslin—Hawthornden 246

Road to Peebles 247

Sixth Week.

35. Peebles—Neidpath Castle—Sonnet 248

Tweed 249

Clovenford 251

Poem on Yarrow 252

36. Melrose—Melrose Abbey 255

37. Dryburgh 257

Jedburgh—Old Woman 260

Poem 262

38. Vale of Jed—Ferniehurst 265

39. Jedburgh—The Assizes 267

Vale of Teviot 268

Hawick 270

40. Vale of Teviot—Branxholm 270

Moss Paul 271

Langholm 272

41. Road to Longtown 272

River Esk—Carlisle 273

42. Arrival at home 274

APPENDIX 277

NOTES 309

ITINERARY 317

POEMS ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE JOURNAL




1803.

PAGE

To the Sons of Burns, after visiting the Grave of their 277
Father

At the Grave of Burns, 1803 278

Thoughts suggested the day following, on the Banks of 281
Nith, near the Poet’s Residence

To a Highland Girl 113

Address to Kilchurn Castle, upon Loch Awe 285

Sonnet in the Pass of Killicrankie 207

Glen Almain; or the Narrow Glen 213

The Solitary Reaper 237

Stepping Westward 221

Rob Roy’s Grave 229

Sonnet composed at Neidpath Castle 248

Yarrow Unvisited 252

The Matron of Jedborough and her Husband 262

Fly, some kind Spirit, fly to Grasmere Vale! 274

The Blind Highland Boy 286

1814.

The Brownie’s Cell 298

Cora Linn, in sight of Wallace’s Tower 283

Effusion, in the Pleasure-ground on the banks of the Bran, 294
near Dunkeld

Yarrow Visited 301

1831.

Yarrow Re-visited 304

On the Departure of Sir Walter Scott from Abbotsford, for 307
Naples

The Trossachs 308

PREFACE.


Those who have long known the poetry of Wordsworth will be no strangers
to the existence of this Journal of his sister, which is now for the
first time published entire. They will have by heart those few wonderful
sentences from it which here and there stand at the head of the Poet’s
‘Memorials of a Tour in Scotland in 1803.’ Especially they will remember
that ‘Extract from the Journal of my Companion’ which preludes the
‘Address to Kilchurn Castle upon Loch Awe,’ and they may sometimes have
asked themselves whether the prose of the sister is not as truly poetic
and as memorable as her brother’s verse. If they have read the Memoirs
of the Poet published by his nephew the Bishop of Lincoln, they will have
found there fuller extracts from the Journal, which quite maintain the
impression made by the first brief sentences. All true Wordsworthians
then will welcome, I believe, the present publication. They will find in
it not only new and illustrative light on those Scottish poems which they
have so long known, but a faithful commentary on the character of the
poet, his mode of life, and the manner of his poetry. Those who from
close study of Wordsworth’s poetry know both the poet and his sister, and
what they were to each other, will need nothing more than the Journal
itself. If it were likely to fall only into their hands, it might be
left without one word of comment or illustration. But as it may reach
some who have never read Wordsworth, and others who having read do not
relish him, for the information of these something more must be said.
The Journal now published does not borrow all its worth from its bearing
on the great poet. It has merit and value of its own, which may commend
it to some who have no heart for Wordsworth’s poetry. For the writer of
it was in herself no common woman, and might have secured for herself an
independent reputation, had she not chosen rather that other part, to
forget and merge herself entirely in the work and reputation of her
brother.

* * * * *

DOROTHY WORDSWORTH was the only sister of the poet, a year and a half
younger, having been born on Christmas Day 1771. The five children who
composed the family, four sons and one daughter, lost their mother in
1778, when William was eight, and Dorothy six years old. The father died
five years afterwards, at the close of 1783, and the family home at
Cockermouth was broken up and the children scattered. Before his
father’s death, William, in his ninth year, had gone with his elder
brother to school at Hawkshead, by the lake of Esthwaite, and after the
father died Dorothy was brought up by a cousin on her mother’s side, Miss
Threlkeld, afterwards Mrs. Rawson, who lived in Halifax. During the
eight years which Wordsworth spent at school, or, at any rate, from the
time of his father’s death, he and his sister seem seldom, if ever, to
have met.

The first college vacation in the summer of 1788 brought him back to his
old school in the vale of Esthwaite, and either this or the next of his
undergraduate summers restored him to the society of his sister at
Penrith. This meeting is thus described in the ‘Prelude:’—

‘In summer, making quest for works of art,
Or scenes renowned for beauty, I explored
That streamlet whose blue current works its way
Between romantic Dovedale’s spiry rocks;
Pried into Yorkshire dales, or hidden tracts
Of my own native region, and was blest
Between these sundry wanderings with a joy
Above all joys, that seemed another morn
Risen on mid-noon; blest with the presence, Friend!
Of that sole sister, her who hath been long
Dear to thee also, thy true friend and mine,
Now, after separation desolate
Restored to me—such absence that she seemed
A gift then first bestowed.’

They then together wandered by the banks of Emont, among the woods of
Lowther, and ‘climbing the Border Beacon looked wistfully towards the dim
regions of Scotland.’ Then and there too Wordsworth first met that young
kinswoman who was his wife to be.

During the following summers the Poet was busy with walking tours in
Switzerland and North Italy, his residence in France, his absorption in
the French Revolution, which kept him some years longer apart from his
sister. During those years Miss Wordsworth lived much with her uncle Dr.
Cookson, who was a canon of Windsor and a favourite with the Court, and
there met with people of more learning and refinement, but not of greater
worth, than those she had left in her northern home.

In the beginning of 1794 Wordsworth, returned from his wanderings, came
to visit his sister at Halifax, his head still in a whirl with
revolutionary fervours. He was wandering about among his friends with no
certain dwelling-place, no fixed plan of life, his practical purposes and
his opinions, political, philosophical, and religious, all alike at sea.
But whatever else might remain unsettled, the bread-and-butter question,
as Coleridge calls it, could not. The thought of orders, for which his
friends intended him, had been abandoned; law he abominated; writing for
the newspaper press seemed the only resource. In this seething state of
mind he sought once more his sister’s calming society, and the two
travelled together on foot from Kendal to Grasmere, from Grasmere to
Keswick, ‘through the most delightful country that was ever seen.’

Towards the close of this year (1794) Wordsworth would probably have gone
to London to take up the trade of a writer for the newspapers. From this
however he was held back for a time by the duty of nursing his friend
Raisley Calvert, who lay dying at Penrith. Early in 1795 the young man
died, leaving to his friend, the young Poet, a legacy of £900. The world
did not then hold Wordsworth for a poet, and had received with coldness
his first attempt, ‘Descriptive Sketches and an Evening Walk,’ published
two years before. But the dying youth had seen further than the world,
and felt convinced that his friend, if he had leisure given him to put
forth his powers, would do something which would make the world his
debtor. With this view he bequeathed him the small sum above named. And
seldom has such a bequest borne ampler fruit. ‘Upon the interest of the
£900, £400 being laid out in annuity, with £200 deducted from the
principal, and £100 a legacy to my sister, and £100 more which “The
Lyrical Ballads” have brought me, my sister and I have contrived to live
seven years, nearly eight.’ So wrote Wordsworth in 1805 to his friend
Sir George Beaumont. Thus at this juncture of the Poet’s fate, when to
onlookers he must have seemed both outwardly and inwardly well-nigh
bankrupt, Raisley Calvert’s bequest came to supply his material needs,
and to his inward needs his sister became the best earthly minister. For
his mind was ill at ease. The high hopes awakened in him by the French
Revolution had been dashed, and his spirit, darkened and depressed, was
on the verge of despair. He might have become such a man as he has
pictured in the character of ‘The Solitary.’ But a good Providence
brought his sister to his side and saved him. She discerned his real
need and divined the remedy. By her cheerful society, fine tact, and
vivid love for nature she turned him, depressed and bewildered, alike
from the abstract speculations and the contemporary politics in which he
had got immersed, and directed his thoughts towards truth of poetry, and
the face of nature, and the healing that for him lay in these.

‘Then it was
That the beloved sister in whose sight
Those days were passed—
Maintained for me a saving intercourse
With my true self; for though bedimmed and changed
Much, as it seemed, I was no further changed
Than as a clouded or a waning moon:
She whispered still that brightness would return,
She, in the midst of all, preserved me still
A Poet, made me seek beneath that name,
And that alone, my office upon earth.

By intercourse with her and wanderings together in delightful places of
his native country, he was gradually led back

‘To those sweet counsels between head and heart
Whence genuine knowledge grew.’

The brother and sister, having thus cast in their lots together, settled
at Racedown Lodge in Dorsetshire in the autumn of 1795. They had there a
pleasant house, with a good garden, and around them charming walks and a
delightful country looking out on the distant sea. The place was very
retired, with little or no society, and the post only once a week. But
of employment there was no lack. The brother now settled steadily to
poetic work; the sister engaged in household duties and reading, and then
when work was over, there were endless walks and wanderings. Long years
afterwards Miss Wordsworth spoke of Racedown as the place she looked back
to with most affection. ‘It was,’ she said, ‘the first home I had.’

The poems which Wordsworth there composed were not among his best,—‘The
Borderers,’ ‘Guilt or Sorrow,’ and others. He was yet only groping to
find his true subjects and his own proper manner. But there was one
piece there composed which will stand comparison with any tale he ever
wrote. It was ‘The Ruined Cottage,’ which, under the title of the ‘Story
of Margaret,’ he afterwards incorporated in the first Book of ‘The
Excursion.’ It was when they had been nearly two years at Racedown that
they received a guest who was destined to exercise more influence on the
self-contained Wordsworth than any other man ever did. This was S. T.
Coleridge. One can imagine how he would talk, interrupted only by their
mutually reading aloud their respective Tragedies, both of which are now
well-nigh forgotten, and by Wordsworth reading his ‘Ruined Cottage,’
which is not forgotten. Miss Wordsworth describes S. T. C., as he then
was, in words that are well known. And he describes her thus, in words
less known,—‘She is a woman indeed, in mind I mean, and in heart; for her
person is such that if you expected to see a pretty woman, you would
think her ordinary; if you expected to see an ordinary woman, you would
think her pretty, but her manners are simple, ardent, impressive. In
every motion her innocent soul out-beams so brightly, that who saw her
would say, “Guilt was a thing impossible with her.” Her information
various, her eye watchful in minutest observation of nature, and her
taste a perfect electrometer.’

The result of this meeting of the two poets was that the Wordsworths
shifted their abode from Racedown to Alfoxden, near Nether Stowey, in
Somersetshire, to be near Coleridge. Alfoxden was a large furnished
mansion, which the brother and sister had to themselves. ‘We are three
miles from Stowey, the then abode of Coleridge,’ writes the sister, ‘and
two miles from the sea. Wherever we turn we have woods, smooth downs,
and valleys, with small brooks running down them, through green meadows,
hardly ever intersected with hedgerows, but scattered over with trees.
The hills that cradle these valleys are either covered with fern and
bilberries, or oak woods, which are cut for charcoal. Walks extend for
miles over the hill-tops, the great beauty of which is their wild
simplicity—they are perfectly smooth, without rocks.’ It was in this
neighbourhood, as the two poets loitered in the silvan combs or walked
along the smooth Quantock hill-tops, looking seaward, with the ‘sole
sister,’ the companion of their walks, that they struck each from the
other his finest tones. It was with both of them the heyday of poetic
creation. In these walks it was that Coleridge, with slight hints from
Wordsworth, first chaunted the vision of the Ancient Mariner, and then
alone, ‘The rueful woes of Lady Christabel.’ This, too, was the birthday
of some of the finest of the Lyrical Ballads, of ‘We are seven,’ ‘Simon
Lee,’ ‘Expostulation and Reply,’ and ‘The Tables Turned,’ ‘It is the
first mild day in March,’ and ‘I heard a thousand blended notes.’
Coleridge never knew again such a season of poetic creation, and
Wordsworth’s tardier, if stronger, nature, received from contact with
Coleridge that quickening impulse which it needed, and which it retained
during all its most creative years.

But if Coleridge, with his occasional intercourse and wonderful talk, did
much for Wordsworth, his sister, by her continual companionship, did far
more. After the great revulsion from the excesses of the French
Revolution, she was with him a continually sanative influence. That
whole period, which ranged from 1795 till his settling at Grasmere at the
opening of the next century, and of which the residence at Racedown and
Alfoxden formed a large part, was the healing time of his spirit. And in
that healing time she was the chief human minister. Somewhere in the
‘Prelude’ he tells that in early youth there was a too great sternness of
spirit about him, a high but too severe moral ideal by which he judged
men and things, insensible to gentler and humbler influences. He
compares his soul to a high, bare craig, without any crannies in which
flowers may lurk, untouched by the mellowing influences of sun and
shower. His sister came with her softening influence, and sowed in it
the needed flowers, and touched it with mellowing colours:

‘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.’

Elsewhere in the ‘Prelude’ he describes how at one time his soul had got
too much under the dominion of the eye, so that he kept comparing scene
with scene, instead of enjoying each for itself—craving new forms,
novelties of colour or proportion, and insensible to the spirit of each
place and the affections which each awakens. In contrast with this
temporary mood of his own he turns to one of another temper:—

‘I knew a maid,
A young enthusiast who escaped these bonds,
Her eye was not the mistress of her heart,
She welcomed what was given, and craved no more;
Whate’er the scene presented to her view,
That was the best, to that she was attuned
By her benign simplicity of life.
Birds in the bower, and lambs in the green field,
Could they have known her, would have loved; methought
Her very presence such a sweetness breathed,
That flowers, and trees, and even the silent hills,
And everything she looked on, should have had
An intimation how she bore herself
Towards them and to all creatures. God delights
In such a being; for her common thoughts
Are piety, her life is gratitude.’

But it was not his sister the Poet speaks of here, but of his first
meeting with her who afterwards became his wife.

The results of the residence at Racedown, but especially at Alfoxden,
appeared in the shape of the first volume of the ‘Lyrical Ballads,’ which
were published in the autumn of 1798 by Mr. Cottle at Bristol. This
small volume opens with Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancyent Marinere,’ and
is followed by Wordsworth’s short but exquisite poems of the Alfoxden
time, and is closed by the well-known lines on Tintern Abbey. Wordsworth
reaches about the highest pitch of his inspiration in this latter poem,
which contains more rememberable lines than any other of his, of equal
length, save perhaps the Immortality Ode. It was the result of a ramble
of four or five days made by him and his sister from Alfoxden in July
1798, and was composed under circumstances ‘most pleasant,’ he says, ‘for
me to remember.’ He began it upon leaving Tintern, after crossing the
Wye, and concluded it as he was entering Bristol in the evening.

Every one will recollect how, after its high reflections he turns at the
close to her, ‘his dearest Friend,’ ‘his dear, dear Friend,’ and speaks
of his delight to have her by his side, and of the former pleasures which
he read in ‘the shooting lights of her wild eyes,’ and then the almost
prophetic words with which he forebodes, too surely, that time when
‘solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief should be her portion.’

That September (1798) saw the break-up of the brief, bright companionship
near Nether Stowey. Coleridge went with Wordsworth and his sister to
Germany, but soon parted from them and passed on alone to Göttingen,
there to study German, and lose himself in the labyrinth of German
metaphysics. Wordsworth and Dorothy remained at Goslar, and, making no
acquaintances, spent the winter—said to have been the coldest of the
century—by the German stoves, Wordsworth writing more lyrical poems in
the same vein which had been opened so happily at Alfoxden. There is in
these poems no tincture of their German surroundings; they deal entirely
with those which they had left on English ground. Early in spring they
returned to England, to spend the summer with their friends the
Hutchinsons at Sockburn-upon-Tees. There Dorothy remained, while in
September Wordsworth made with Coleridge the walking tour through the
lakes of Westmoreland and Cumberland, which issued in his choice of a
home at Grasmere for himself and his sister.

At the close of the year Wordsworth and his sister set off and walked,
driven forward by the cold, frosty winds blowing from behind, from
Wensleydale over Sedbergh’s naked heights and the high range that divides
the Yorkshire dales from the lake country. On the shortest day of the
year (St. Thomas’s Day) they reached the small two-story cottage at the
Townend of Grasmere, which, for the next eight years, was to be the
poet’s home, immortalised by the work he did in it. That cottage has
behind it a small orchard-plot or garden ground shelving upwards toward
the woody mountains above, and in front it looks across the peaceful lake
with its one green island, to the steeps of Silver-how on the farther
side. Westward it looks on Helm Craig, and up the long folds of Easedale
towards the range that divides Easedale from Borrowdale. In this cottage
they two lived on their income of a hundred pounds a year, Dorothy doing
all the household work, for they had then, it has been said, no servant.
Besides this, she had time to write out all his poems—for Wordsworth
himself could never bear the strain of transcribing—to read aloud to him
of an afternoon or evening—at one such reading by her of Milton’s Sonnets
it was that his soul took fire and rolled off his first sonnets—and to
accompany him on his endless walks. Nor these alone—her eye and
imagination fed him, not only with subjects for his poetry, but even with
images and thoughts. What we are told of the poem of the ‘Beggars’ might
be said of I know not how many more. ‘The sister’s eye was ever on the
watch to provide for the poet’s pen.’ He had a most observant eye, and
she also for him; and his poems are sometimes little more than poetic
versions of her descriptions of the objects which she had seen; and which
he treated as seen by himself. Look at the poem on the ‘Daffodils’ and
compare with it these words taken from the sister’s Journal. ‘When we
were in the woods below Gowbarrow Park, we saw a few daffodils close by
the water-side. As we went along there were more and yet more; and at
last, under the boughs of the trees, we saw there were a long belt of
them along the shore. I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew
among the mossy stones about them. Some rested their heads on the
stones, as on a pillow; the rest tossed, and reeled, and danced, and
seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, they looked so gay and
glancing.’ It may also be noted that the Poet’s future wife contributed
to this poem these two best lines—

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

Or take another description from Miss Wordsworth’s Journal of a
birch-tree, ‘the lady of the woods,’ which her brother has not
versified:—‘As we were going along we were stopped at once, at the
distance, perhaps, of fifty yards from our favourite birch-tree: it was
yielding to the gust of the wind, with all its tender twigs; the sun
shone upon it, and it glanced in the wind like a flying sunshiny shower.
It was a tree in shape, with stem and branches, but it was like a spirit
of water.’

The life which the Poet and his sister lived during the eight years at
the Townend of Grasmere stands out with a marked individuality which it
is delightful ever so often to recur to. It was as unlike the lives of
most literary or other men, as the most original of his poems are unlike
the ordinary run of even good poetry. Their outward life was exactly
like that of the dalesmen or ‘statesmen’—for so the native yeomen
proprietors are called—with whom they lived on the most friendly footing,
and among whom they found their chief society. Outwardly their life was
so, but inwardly it was cheered by imaginative visitings to which these
were strangers. Sheltered as they then were from the agitations of the
world, the severe frugality of the life they led ministered in more than
one way to feed that poetry which introduced a new element into English
thought. It kept the mind cool, and the eye clear, to feel once more
that kinship between the outward world and the soul of man, to perceive
that impassioned expression in the countenance of all nature, which, if
felt by primeval men, ages of cultivation have long forgotten. It also
made them wise to practise the same frugality in emotional enjoyment
which they exercised in household economy. It has been well noted {0a}
that this is one of Wordsworth’s chief characteristics. It is the
temptation of the poetic temperament to be prodigal of passion, to demand
a life always strung to the highest pitch of emotional excitement, to be
never content unless when passing from fervour to fervour. No life can
long endure this strain. This is specially seen in such poets as Byron
and Shelley, who speedily fell from the heights of passion to the depths
of languor and despondency. The same quick using up of the power of
enjoyment produces the too common product of the _blasé_ man and the
cynic. Wordsworth early perceived that all, even the richest, natures
have but a very limited capacity of uninterrupted enjoyment, and that
nothing is easier than to exhaust this capacity. Hence he set himself to
husband it, to draw upon it sparingly, to employ it only on the purest,
most natural, and most enduring objects, and not to speedily dismiss or
throw them by and demand more, but to detain them till they had yielded
him their utmost. From this in part it came that the commonest sights of
earth and sky—a fine spring day, a sunset, even a chance traveller met on
a moor, any ordinary sorrow of man’s life—yielded to him an amount of
imaginative interest inconceivable to more mundane spirits. The simple
healthiness and strict frugality of his household life suited well, and
must have greatly assisted, that wholesome frugality of emotion which he
exercised.

During those seven or eight Grasmere years, the spring of poetry which
burst forth at Alfoxden, and produced the first volume of ‘Lyrical
Ballads,’ flowed steadily on and found expression in other poems of like
quality and spirit,—‘Hartleap Well,’ ‘The Brothers,’ ‘Michael,’ which,
with others of the same order, written in Germany, appeared in the second
volume of ‘Lyrical Ballads.’ And after these two volumes had gone forth,
Grasmere still gave more of the same high order,—‘The Daffodils,’ ‘The
Leech-Gatherer,’ and above all the ‘Ode on Immortality.’ It was too the
conclusion of the ‘Prelude,’ and the beginning of the ‘Excursion.’ So
that it may be said that those Grasmere years, from 1800 to 1807, mark
the period when Wordsworth’s genius was in its zenith. During all this
time, sister Dorothy was by his side, ministering to him, equally in body
and in mind—doing the part of household servant, and not less that of
prompter and inspirer of his highest songs.

But this life of theirs, retired and uneventful as it seems, was not
without its own incidents. Such was the homecoming of their younger
sailor-brother John, who, in the first year of their residence at
Grasmere—

‘Under their cottage roof, had gladly come
From the wild sea a cherished visitant.’

He was, what his brother calls him, ‘a silent poet,’ and had the heart
and sense to feel the sterling quality of his brother’s poems, and to
foretell with perfect confidence their ultimate acceptance, at the time
when the critic wits who ruled the hour treated them with contempt. The
two brothers were congenial spirits, and William’s poetry has many
affecting allusions to his brother John, whose intention it was, when his
last voyage was over, to settle in ‘Grasmere’s happy vale,’ and to devote
the surplus of his fortune to his brother’s use. On his last voyage he
sailed as captain of the ‘Earl of Abergavenny’ East-Indiaman, at the
opening of February 1805; and on the 5th of that month, the ill-fated
ship struck on the Shambles of the Bill of Portland, and the captain and
most of the crew went down with her. To the brother and sister this
became a permanent household sorrow. But in time they found comfort in
that thought with which the Poet closes a remarkable letter on his
brother’s loss,—‘So good must be better; so high must be destined to be
higher.’

Another lesser incident was a short tour to the Continent, in which, as
the brother and sister crossed Westminster Bridge, outside the Dover
coach, both witnessed that sunrise which remains fixed for ever in the
famous sonnet.



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