Giles Pickford, Honours Thesis

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Giles Pickford Honours Thesis, March 1963


A study of the differing modes and thoughts in Augustan and Romantic Literature, and a closer study of the resulting poetry in the period of the early Romantics

 

Submitted for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours at the University of Western Australia March 1963

 

A period of thought-direction can never really be separated chronologically from a period of thought in another direction. The difference is not a chronological one, but rather a difference of interest. Nevertheless there is a tide in interests; it can be followed through histories, and found to reach its peak and decadence during certain decades. Signs of what has been called the romantic way of thought can be found all through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

 

As early as 1735 Crousaz, an eminent Swiss professor, was criticizing Pope's Essay on Man, one of the most "Augustan" of the poems of the Augustan age. As Johnson puts it: "His incessant vigilance for the promotion of piety disposed him to look with distrust upon all metaphysical systems of Theology, and all schemes of virtue and happiness purely rational; and therefore it was not long before he was persuaded that the positions of Pope, as they terminated for the most part in natural religion, were intended to draw mankind away from revelation, and to represent the whole course of things as a necessary concatenation of indissoluble fatality; and it is undeniable, that in many passages a religious eye may easily discover expressions not very favourable to morals or to liberty."1

 

I would take the liberty to look at a couple of passages in the Essay on Man with a religious eye - and as the Romantics as a rule had a truer understanding of the religious mind - it will reveal some of the discontent that they felt with the previous age.

 

"Remember, Man, 'The Universal Cause
Acts not by partial, but by general laws.'
2

 

It was a characteristic of the Romantic Mind to think in the way that particulars and concrete images and things were of more value than general statements and abstract thoughts. Blake said, "He who generalizes is a fool"; and to show a modern attitude, Rilke says in his Ninth Duino Elegy -

 

"Praise this world to the Angel, not the untellable, you can't impress him with the splendour you've felt; in the cosmos

 

Where he more feelingly feels you're only a novice, So show him

 

Some simple things, refashioned by age after age,
till it lives in our hands and eyes as part of ourselves.


Tell him things. He'll stand more astonished: as you did beside the roper in Rome or the potter in Egypt.

 

Show him how happy a thing can be, how guideless and ours;"3

Contrasting with:

 

"Whatever is, is Right."4

 

The above example from Pope is another line that the religious or romantic mind could not absorb. It could be that Abraham on Mount Moria said the same thing. But I know that Kierkegaard's knight of faith meant something quite different. A religious mind would say - "Whatever is, is: and is the will of God. Praise him." The religious mind does not usually think of moral "right" or "wrong", as it is too immersed in things or eternals - which have no part in morality. Morality is more the concern of the humanitarian mind. Wordsworth, who was in his early years a religious poet, nevertheless was also interested in morality; but the approach was that of a religious humanitarian rather than a scientific humanitarian. This difference of approach was one of the great differences between the Romantic and Augustan ages.

 

Indeed, Dryden, who is usually regarded as an Augustan, put this doubt in the scientific approach into almost romantic poetry in the early half of the eighteenth century, long before the romantic age was fighting with Urizen - the God of the scientific approach. He says

 

"Dim as the borrowed beams of moon and stars
To lonely, weary, travellers,
Is reason to the soul; and as on high
Those rolling fires discover but the sky
Not light us here, so reason's glimmering ray
Was lent not to assure our doubtful way
But guide us upward to a better day.
And as those nightly tapers disappear
When day's bright lord ascends our hemisphere,
So pale grows reason at religion's sight
So dies and so dissolves in supernatural light."
(Religio Laici)

This extract, bordering on the symbol as the medium of creation (the symbol of the sun blinding, the stars) foreshadows the Romantic idea. And yet in - these decades it can be seen that the symbol which is a stated fact had not overcome the logical discussion of facts is a medium: as can be found in the Religio Laici - the self-same poem that showed such a foreshadowing of romantic thought.

 

"If on the Book itself we cast our view,
Concurrent heathens prove the story true,
The doctrine, miracles; which must convince,
For heav'n in them appeals to human sense.
And though they prove not, they confirm the cause,
When what is taught agrees with nature's laws."
(Religio Laici)

 

As succinctly put a piece of Augustan reasoning as can be found: very closely related to prose in thought, as was much of the philosophical works of Augustan poets. And whatever Wordsworth said in theory, Romantic poetry at its height was never farther from the thought of prose. It was a conscious revolt against the prosaic thought of Augustan poetry as can be seen from Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, when, speaking of the Augustans, he said - "Meantime the matter and diction seemed to me characterized not so much by poetic thoughts, as by thoughts translated into the language of poetry.5

 

Thomson, one of the later poets of the Augustan age, showed all the signs of the preciosity of style that flaunted its worn-out phrases over the face of nature, and yet Coleridge's complaint could not always be levelled against him as we shall see. However, as far as style is concerned, the failure of the imitation of Milton is present here -

 

"Hush'd in short suspense,
The plumy people streak their wings with oil
To throw the lucid moisture trickling off;
And wait th' approaching sign to strike, at once
Into the general choir."
(The Seasons, p.6)

 

and here -

 

"When with his lively ray the potent Sun
Has pierced the streams and rous'd the finny race,
Then, issuing cheerful, to thy sport repair."
(The Seasons, p.13)

 

Also we find the failure of Augustan thought, where prudence is the greatest virtue, found in the parable of Lavinia and Palemon. Palemon, a rich "Tory" landowner, sighs for Lavinia, a young common girl who gleans in his fields -

 

"That very moment love and chaste desire
Sprung in his bosom to himself unknown;
For still the world prevail'd and its dread laugh,
Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn,
Should his heart own a gleaner in the field:
And thus in secret to his soul he sigh'd:
`What a pity that so delicate a form
By beauty kindled; where enlivening sense
And more than vulgar goodness seem to dwell,
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown"
(The Seasons, p.99, my underlining)

 

Well might Lavinia answer Palemon in the words of Crabbe, when he tirades against the "Insanity of Ambitious Love" -

 

"What is this Sophy Fancy-deck'd?
A clumsy work of woven straw.
What are theses flowers, these hands collect,
But chips and sticks, like those ye Daw
Steals for a Nest? And Spiders draw
The Webby Work, that makes thee fine,
And patches many a Rent and flaw
In those disgusting Robes of thine."
(New Poems, p.44)

 

And yet, James Thomson, it seems, more than any other poet was conscious of the sicknesses of the Romantic mind that came with the decline of the era, and his insight at once condemns and praises the beauty of this sickness. Although his poetry exemplifies the failure of the old style, and the stodginess of the old thought systems, yet there is in it a profound healthiness that by itself can invigorate and warn. First we must hear his warning -

 

"Now the distempered mind
Has lost that concord of harmonious powers
Which forms the soul of Happiness; and all
Is off the poise within: the passions all
Have burst their bounds; and Reason half extinct,
Or impotent, or else approving, sees
The foul disorder . . . . . .
Even Love itself is bitterness of soul,
A pensive anguish pining at the heart;
Or, sunk to sordid interest, feels no more
That noble wish, that never cloy'd desire,
Which selfish joy disdaining, seeks alone
To less the dearer object of its flame."
(The Seasons, page.9)

 

And secondly I can think of no better introductory quotation to the Romantic poets than Thomson's section on "philosophic melancholy" in "Autumn"; perhaps the most magnificent piece of poetry in all his works.

 

"O'er all the soul his sacred influence breathes;
Inflames imagination, through the breast
Infuses every tenderness, and far
Beyond dim earth exalts the swelling thought.
Ten thousand thousands fleet ideas, such
As never mingled with the vulgar dream,
Crowd fast into the Mind's creative eye.
As fast the correspondent passions rise,
As varied and as high: Devotion raised
To rapture and divine astonishment;
The love of Nature unconfined, and, chief,
Of human race; the large ambitious wish
To make them blest; the sigh of suffering worth
Lost in obscurity; the noble scorn
Of tyrant-pride; the fearless great resolve;
The wonder which the dying patriot draws,
Inspiring glory through remotest time;
The awakened throb for virtue and for fame;
The sympathies of love and friendship dear;
With all the social off-spring of the heart.
Oh bear me then to vast embowering shades,
To twilight groves, and visionary vales,
To weeping grottoes and prophetic glooms
Where angel-forms athwart the solemn dusk
Tremendous sweep, or seem to sweep, along;
And voices more than human, through the void
Deep-sounding, seize the' enthusiastic ear!"
(The Seasons, p.122)

 

Here we have the spirit that inspired, in different ways, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Shelley, Chatterton, MacPherson and Keats. Poets whom Crousaz would not have criticized in the same way that he did Pope: although they may have disappointed him in other ways.

 

Romantic discontent with platitude led its poets to view nature as a wilder and more extravagant force than ever can be found in the tidy lands of Augustan Pastorals and Ecolgues -

 

"Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain,
Here earth and water seem to strive again;
Not chaos-like together crush'd and bruis'd,
But, as the world, harmoniously confus'd:
Where order in variety we see,
And where, tho' all things differ, all agree . . .

 

And later

 

Not thus the land appeared in ages past
A dreary desert, and a gloomy waste,
To savage beasts and savage laws a prey
And kings more furious and severe than they:"
(Windsor Forest: Pope)

 

Indeed it is the "ages past" that so appealed to the Romantics: Gothic and Celtic for the early Romantics, and Greece for the late Romantics. They were not happy with the Augustan complacency with having supposedly answered all the questions. Their "order" was superficial to minds that were searching for origins out of chaos, and an explanation of the troubling images that haunt the deepest of introspections. And it is true, the great Augustan poems do not deal very happily with death, passionate love, an impersonal God, and primitive instincts.

 

As Wordsworth wrote in the second paragraph of the "Recluse", -

 

"For I must read on shadowy ground, must sink
Deep - and, aloft ascending, breathe in worlds
To which the heaven of heavens is but a veil.
All strength - all terror, single or in bands,
That ever was put forth in personal form -
Jehovah - with his thunder, and the choir
Of shouting Angels, and the empyreal thrones -
I pass them unalarmed. Not chaos, not
The darkest pit of lowest Erebus
Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out
By help of dreams - can breed such fear and awe
As fall upon us often when we look
Into our minds, into the Mind of Man -
My haunt and the main region of my song."

 

Truly this is one of "the fearless great resolves" that Thomson foresaw but could not accomplish. These poets, almost with the presumption of gods, worked their images out of the "chaos of pre-ordination and the night of our forebeings". But first something fairly simple: I will compare an Augustan river by Thomson with a Romantic river by Chatterton. Before going into the inner landscape I must study the face of the earth as it appears to the two eyes. Both rivers are in Africa.

 

"From his two springs, in Gojan's sunny realm,
Pure-welling out, he through the lucid lake
Of fair Dambea rolls his infant stream.
There, by the Naiads nursed, he sports away
His playful youth, amid the fragrant isles,
That with unfading verdure smile around.
Ambitious thence the manly river breaks
And gathering many a flood, and copious fed
With all the mellow treasures of the sky
Winds in progressive majesty along'
Through splendid kingdoms now devolves his maze,
Now wanders wild o'er solitary tracts
Of life-deserted sand; till, glad to quit
The joyless desert, down the Nubian rocks
From thundering steep to steep, he pours his urn,
And Egypt joys beneath the spreading wave."
(Thomson, The Seasons, p.61)

 

"On Tiber's banks, Tiber, whose waters glide
In slow meanders down to Gaigra's side;
And circling all the horrid mountain round,
Rushes impetuous to the deep profound;
Roll o'er the ragged rocks with hideous yell
Collects its waves beneath the earth's vast shell:
There for a while in loud confusion hurled,
It crumbles mountains down and shakes the worked,
Till borne upon the pinions of the air
Through the rent earth the bursting waves appear;"
(Thomas Chatterton 1752-1770, The Death of Nicou-African Eclogue)

 

It is as once apparent that Thomson's river is a human being, while Chatterton's is an almost supernatural force; and it must be remembered here that Thomson, in the summer of his "Seasons", is describing, as a digression, some of the wilder aspects of nature before he returns to the mildness of the English scene. So it is a fair comparison: he is not trying to describe the ordered scene, although he comes near to doing so.

 

To start with Thomson's Nile begins in a "sunny realm". In another eclogue of Chatterton's we find

 

"Stretched on the sand, two panting warriors lay,
In all the burning torments of the day."
(Heccar and Gairs)

 

This seems to me to be a finer description of the African heat. There is a terrible lack of imagination in the Augustan. Every scene seems to be England and ordered. Anyway the Nile begins in the "sunny realm" of the Tanganyikan desert and thence in his infancy is nursed by some well-brought-up Naiads who let him play in a boyish way among the "fragrant isles". I suppose he means here the vast and reeking swamps of the Sud into which the Nile disappears before coming out again into the upper Sudan. As Thomson's river gets bigger it becomes "manly" and "winds in progressive majesty". It is also "ambitious", "gathering many a flood". One must presume at this stage that the river has gone through Eton and Oxford and is a thoroughly decent English gentleman of a river. Occasionally the river "wanders wild o'er solitary tracts of life-deserted sand". It is however "glad to quit the joyless desert", as any human being would be, and pours his "urn" down in to Egypt.

 

Now one must not violate art by asking a poet for geographical accuracy. But as I said, Thomson in this stage of his "Seasons" is trying to evoke a wild and unruly scene, so that he can return his reader to England with a sense of relief', and a thanksgiving for his position on the globe. The Augustan does not seem to be able to throw his imagination back out of his universities, coffee shops, polite manners and sinecures to the realities of elemental and almost supernatural nature. Chatterton's river is also, in a sense, not, a river. It is a symbol of the savagery, cruelty, and hideous strength of discordant nature. His river is not an English Gentleman, it is a demiurge, one of the oldest forces in the world that ruled in the "night of our forebeings. It is inhuman.

 

Another characteristic of Augustan verse that the romantics almost universally, and, it seems, instinctively, avoided was allegory. I think it can be said truthfully that metaphor is stronger than simile. A metaphor "is", a simile is "like". Now allegory usually compares man with some virtue or evil. But it is true in a roundabout way that Thomson's river is an allegory of an English gentleman: a sort of reverse allegory. This use of allegory should be a kind of joke. John Gay knew the true use of allegory, and so did Pope in his "Dunciad". It is strictly for light poetry, or a more serious fairy-tale, as in Spenser. It cannot be used for psychological thought. If allegory is used seriously it becomes too symbolical and too complicated to be allegory. Milton's Satan can be said to be an "allegory of evil". The name has become a symbol for all that he stands for, which is a lot more than just "evil". Satan is rebellion, despair, desire, discontent, hypocrisy, dark power, disappointed love and sometimes wistfulness. If he was an "allegory of evil" and not "Satan" he would be considerably weakened. He would become an abstraction of the Augustans and not the "first dark principle" of Boehme and the romantics - a force outside the power of men and also inside their hearts.

 

This constant allegorizing of the Augustans is very amusing and fanciful, yet it does not create a visible thing. Thomson's Nile can never be a river because it has been personified, or allegorised reversely into a gentleman. Chatterton's river can never be a real river because it has been transcendentalised into a symbol of a force that existed before rivers, and yet which a river can personify in its turbulent stages. Yet it is a visible thing for the river almost can be said to be the manifestation of this demiurge. Thomson's river is not a visible thing, because no river is a manifestation of a gentleman. Similarly in the fables of John Gay a fox allegorizes hypocrisy and gluttony, a butterfly allegorizes insolence of upstarts, and so on. But it is obvious that these are similes of a frivolous nature. A fox can mirror hypocrisy, but it can never manifest hypocrisy, for it is an animal. The Augustan allegories, semi-allegories and reverse allegories are a world of mirrors. This seems to have impressed itself universally on the romantic mind, simultaneously and instinctively they turned away from it to revelation, manifestation and symbol.

 

I shall now study the two greatest masters of symbol among the early romantics: Wordsworth and Blake, possible the two prophets out of whom all modern poetry came. They were not the absolute origins of romantic thought; for this we look back to Rousseau, Boehme and Shakespeare and Milton. Nor were they the absolute origins of romantic style; for this we look back to Gray, Collins and Cowper, and Crabbe in a minor degree. Nevertheless they synthesised the vague tendencies at the birth of an age into a system to change the thought of a civilisation. They both, however, worked in a different way to achieve the idea of symbol, and superficially did not agree as can be seen by Blake's annotations and marginalia on Wordsworth. Wordsworth began with the external world by observation, and worked the image or symbol up from the object. Blake began with the internal world of imagination and clothed his ideas with the external world. So it can be seen that they both worked for symbol and yet Wordsworth's symbol was external (i.e., the poem pointed away from the symbol, just as in Blake's drawings the aureole around the head of Los, the God of Imagination, points outwards and away; and the rays of the sun point out from the source of the creation). Thus it can be seen that Wordsworth was closer to his predecessors in that his use of symbol was closer to allegory and more acceptable to his time. The majority of poems in the English tradition point towards the moral or the aesthetic for which they were written: the last lines of a poem are sometimes called the envoi, which really means - to send forth. In Blake the sending-forth or envoi, is almost understood before the poem is started. Therefore the poem itself is the symbol and points away from itself so that it has no envoi at the end. So for the sake of convenience I shall call Blake a primary symbolist and Wordsworth a secondary symbolist. Now I shall illustrate this fact and show how the two poets created a new form of poetry - as far as any form of poetry can be new.

 

I have chosen two poems that are related in subject: they tell of the passing of the vividness of dream. Each is short and each is typical of the two poets at their best.

 

The Reverie of Poor Susan

At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears,
Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung there for years:
Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard
In the silence of morning the song of the Bird.

'Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees:
Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.

Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's,
The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.

She looks and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,
The mist and the river, the hill and the shade:
The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
And the colours have all passed away from her eyes.

 

The Crystal Cabinet

The Maiden caught me in the Wild
Where I was dancing merrily;
She put me into her Cabinet
And lock'd me up with a golden Key.

This Cabinet is form'd of Gold
And Pearl & Crystal shining bright,
And within it opens into a world
And a little lovely Moony Night.

Another England there I saw,
Another London with its Tower,
Another Thames & other Hills,
And another pleasant Surrey Bower,

Another Maiden like herself
Translucent, lovely, shining clear,
Threefold in the other closed -
O, what a pleasant trembling fear!

O, what a smile! A threefold Smile,
Fill'd me, that like a flame I burned;
I bent to kiss the lovely Maid
And found a threefold kiss return'd.

I strove to seize the inmost Form
With ardour fierce & hands of flame,
But burst the Crystal Cabinet,
And like a Weeping Babe became -

A weeping Babe upon the wild,
And Weeping woman pale reclin'd
And in the outward air again
I fill'd with woes the passing Wind.

 

There is a passage in Blake's volume of Wordsworth that says - "The powers requisite for the production of poetry are, first, those of observation and description . . . secondly sensibility." Beside this Blake has written, "One Power alone makes a Poet: Imagination, the Divine Vision," which is as typical an utterance that one could find from himself in his grand humility - Blake: proudly insolent, violent and ever extreme. Superficially therefore their different utterances may seem contradictory. Actually, when we look beyond their typical way of saying things to what they are actually saying, it is apparent that Wordsworth's observation (and this is backed up by his poetry) was of a strongly synthesizing kind. It is not therefore really just observation, but imaginative observation. His powers of description also do not run amok as description without imagination always does. No, the image is used in concentration to the extent that often there is hardly any of the poem that is not part of the central image; as in the "host of golden daffodils". This is not haphazard description.

 

The real difference lies in the approach of the two poets as shown in "The Reverie of Poor Susan" and "The Crystal Cabinet". The difference is immediate in the titles, to start with. Wordsworth has called his the "Reverie" because that is what the poem is about. The subject of the poem can be "observed" from the title. Blake has called his the "Crystal Cabinet" because that is the symbol of the poem. The subject of the poem can be "imagined" from the title.

 

Wordsworth goes on to describe the actual down-to-earth picture of the poor girl (and it is to be noticed that she has an actual name - this is also typical). She hears a thrush sing, and nostalgia overcoming her she is carried back to her childhood: the ugliness of London is lost in a vision only to come back again as the dream passes. The final image is the symbol of the poem. Typically it is not put down as an actual symbol. But it is so much a "thing" that it transcends itself to the state of symbol, with gentle ease. The lines -

 

"The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
And the colours have all passed away from her eyes"

 

evoke Poor Susan so utterly, and she is so agonisingly visible, that the picture lasts perpetually in the two-fold vision - outwardly and inwardly - and becomes symbol. The dream is lost, yes. But the vision of the passing of dream has become a reality, for it lives in the eyes from which the colours have all passed away. So from imaginative observation and description Wordsworth forges the organic symbol that has no morality about it, no abstractions, no lesson. It is at once a thing and an eternal.

 

Blake's vision of the Crystal Cabinet of dream is not nostalgic (as is often so in Wordsworth), but sexual (as is usual in Blake). Typically there are no names for the two people in the poem. Blake is far less concrete that Wordsworth, for he created the symbol before anything else. He is dancing merrily in the world when a maiden catches him and locks him in a Crystal Cabinet. The Crystal Cabinet is really the dream, and accordingly England is transformed, as Cheapside, was for Susan. However, it is not the substance of the poem; this is the invisible symbol - the Cabinet and Maid and England are the outward "mundane shell" of the soul of the poem. The maiden then becomes covered in threefold beauty one-fold because she is a maiden, one-fold because she is all maidens, and one-fold because she is both inextricably - making her a threefold beauty. Her kiss and smile are both threefold in power also. In Blake's poem, time is not the destroyer; it is the impatience of youth and of selfish youthful love -

"I strove to seize the inmost Form
With ardour fierce and hands of flame,
But burst the Crystal Cabinet,
And like a weeping Babe became - ".

 

The man destroys the beauty of dream by trying to comprehend it; its happiness is not possible to grasp. For how can a hand reach out grasp some object when it itself is that object? Similarly, how can the Cabinet contain the symbol of the dream, when it itself is the symbol of the "untellable" thing? Blake's symbols disappear infinitely into the outer world, as more and more world-things mirror them. I hope these two small poems have served their purpose in showing the two main channels that symbolism found, and also how new they were compared with the reasoned Augustan thought. The children of the two ways are still divisible in these days. Following Blake we have Yeats, Eliot, Pound, Francis Thompson, Walter de la Mare; and following Wordsworth we have Housman, Frost, Hardy, Whitman and Ralph Hodgson. All of these poets have written good and bad poems, but this is beside the point - I am referring to their method.

 

I will now show the new style that arose out of the Romantic discontent with the old style of heroic couplet, geometrically arranged, correspondences and antitheses, and as Keats said, "rocking-horse rhythms".

 

Firstly the tinkle of rhyme was discarded by Wordsworth in all his major undertakings. Wordsworth said that poetry was at its best when it was nearest to prose. He illustrates this from a sonnet (in the Shakespearean manner) by Thomas Gray, in which the second quatrain and the final couplet are true poetry, and in which the first and third quatrains are typical of what for so long had been called poetry, but were, in Wordsworth's opinion, not. However, a reading of the sonnet shows that the parts that Wordsworth appreciated, were rich in poetic feeling: whereas the other parts are rich in "poetic words", but not in feeling. The romantic wish was to put the sincerest of feelings into the simple words, whereby the feeling would come out with more power as it was not secondary to the words. This attitude was most prevalent among the early romantics, as they were most conscious of the need for change: the later romantics became more and more involved in ornament - though of a different kind from that of the Augustans.

 

I shall quote a passage of Coleridge that illustrates my meaning. There are no words in it that are not used every day - so in the Wordsworthian sense it is near to prose.

"Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to quiet Moon."

 

There is no rhyme, there are many run-on lines, the bird is a bird and not one of the "plumy people". Likewise, if there were a fish it would not be one of the "finny race". The summer is not "verdant", but green. And above all there is the typical Romantic notice of detail; thatch, tufts, drops of water on the eaves and apple-trees. How much more visible is this scene compared with any scene from "Windsor Forest", or any other Augustan scene! Concerned as it is with morality, the Augustan mind cannot usually see things as they simply appear. They are either ugly, and therefore evil, or beautiful and therefore good. Crabbe can express a mixture of life with such simple observation and arrive at the actuality of existence with a true romantic touch, as can be seen by this not really ravishing scene from "Peter Grimes"; and yet the scene is so real that it belongs to the world and therefore partakes of its sad beauty.

 

"There anchoring, Peter chose from man to hide,
There hang his head, and view the lazy tide
In its hot slimy channel slowly glide;
Where the small eels that left the deeper way
For the warm shore, within the shallows play;
Where gaping mussels, left upon the mud,
Slope their slow passage to the fallen flood:-
Here dull and hopeless he'd lie down and trace
How sidelong crabs had scrawl'd their crooked race;
Or sadly listen to the tuneless cry
Of fishing gull or clanging golden-eye;
What time the seabirds to the marsh would come
And the loud bittern from the bull-rush home,
Gave from the salt-ditch side the bellowing boom."

 

An Augustan would not even know what a golden-eye was; would probably never have heard a bittern; and if he had seen crabs or eels, would certainly not mention them in poetry unless, if possible, in a fable.

 

The whole change was summed up by Wordsworth when he complained in his letter to John Wilson

 

"What false notions have prevailed from generation to generation of the true character of the Nightingale . . . You will recollect a passage in Cowper, where, speaking of rural sounds, he says,

'And even the boding Owl
That hails the rising moon has charms for me'".

 

So to the Romantics the songs of "owl", "bittern", "fishing gull" and "clanging golden-eye" were as beautiful as the hackneyed cry of the nightingale cliché.

 

So far I have been mainly interested in the difference in HOW these two ages expressed themselves: allegory versus symbol, mirror versus manifestation, and simplicity and originality of style versus ornate formality of style. I shall now show the difference of WHAT the two ages thought of society, God, women and other fundamental things. Naturally, what they thought was mirrored in how they said it; but in the small poems that I have chosen I have not had enough scope to go or right down into the different minds.

 

Let Wordsworth start by showing the beginnings of the change in attitude towards society-

 

"People in our rank of life are perpetually falling into one sad mistake, namely, that of supposing, that human nature and the persons they associate with are one and the same thing. Whom do we generally associate with? Gentlemen, persons of fortune, professional men, ladies . . . These persons are, it is true, a part of human nature, but we err lamentably if we suppose them to be fair representatives of the vast mass of human existence. And yet few ever consider books but with reference to their power of pleasing these persons and men of higher rank; few descend lower among cottages and fields, and among children."

 

Now when the Augustans descended to the proletariat, it either took the form of gentlemen of leisure dressed up as shepherds and court-ladies dressed up as shepherdesses as in pastoral poems of that time; or, they appear as the proletariat in the odd poem here and there, an example of which is Swift's "Description of the Morning". It is apparent that neither of these two is satisfactory. The shepherds and shepherdesses are woeful creatures; and "Brickdust Moll", "Betty", "the apprentice" and the others in the "Description" of Swift are maybe true to life, but they are insufficient. One gets no more idea of their lives than one would from looking out of a window in the morning: which is probably all Swift wanted to see anyway. The rest of the Augustan scene seems to be filled up with equally woeful courtiers flapping their "tinsel wings".

 

It took three of the sincerest men of those times to break this isolation in theory; Gray, Crabbe and Wordsworth. It is doubtful whether any man of learning can enter into the working world completely as it is always slightly suspicious of him. Perhaps these three never broke the wall between themselves and the proletariat in practice; but, as I have said, they were the first to give a life-like picture and a certain dignity and humanity to this, as yet, unexplored continent of human nature.

 

Gray began it. In one poem he immortalized the thought, the idea, that the quiet, everyday life of the villagers was as important as, if not more than, all the great and noisy events of those days. The famous Elegy is well-known enough for me to take it for granted that my meaning is clear. Written in 1751 it is the first famous poem of its kind, and is another illustration of the fact that Romantic thought began long before it reached its momentous height in the early 19th century. It is at once apparent that the Elegy is a deeply sincere tribute to the most important type of person in the world. Even Johnson, that grand old Augustan, said with all the true fairness of his mind - "The 'Churchyard' abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo". This is indeed Wordsworth's idea of real poetry as he said in the 1800 edition of his "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads". "but Poets do not write for poets alone, but for men. Unless therefore we are advocates for that admiration which subsists upon ignorance, and that pleasure which arises from hearing what we do not understand, the Poet must descend from this supposed height; and in order to excite rational sympathy, he must express himself as other men express themselves." This wish is (as I have shown in the section on style) impossible to fulfil. But the wish is there, and is an indication.

 

Crabbe was perhaps the greatest of the explorers of common humanity for he seems to suffer with the characters that he reveals. Whereas Wordsworth watches them, and WE can only see them with a sudden flash of intuition when Wordsworth leaves the poem in our hands, pointing, as it usually does, towards the symbol. The fact that Wordsworth was too introspective to be a good commentator, or impersonal manipulator of dramatic characters as Crabbe was, is nowhere shown with more acute self realization than in the poem "Resolution and Independence". It is sure that Crabbe would never have talked to an old man on the moors in the following manner. Wordsworth meets an old man and asks him what he does for a living. The old man replies that he gathers leeches which is a hard but honest life-

 

XVI

"The old Man still stood talking by my side;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole body of the Man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;

Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.

XVII

My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;
And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
- Perplexed, and longing to be comforted,
My question eagerly did I renew
'How is it that you live, and what is it you do?'

 

XVIII

He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said that, gathering leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the pools where they abide.
'Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may.'

 

XIX

While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
The old Man's shape, and speech-all troubled me;

In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
He, having made a pause, the same discourse renewed.

 

Now what I am about to say may seem mystical and absurd but it is my true thought. An Indian Swami, when he is talking to a person, always looks over that person's shoulder and never into the eyes. He does this so that he can understand the principle of the other's soul; this principle is only disturbed and scattered if any attention is paid to any detail whatsoever. However absurd it may seem, the form of a man is comprehensible without speech. The image is a strong and powerful picture, and oddly enough, though Wordsworth says so little about the old man, he is once again terribly visible as is Wordsworth himself in this same poem. Wordsworth, troubled by an image of himself as futility, wanders the moors knowing that he will find it, the first example of the answer that comes his way is very soon comprehended as such by the poet.

 

"I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
'God', said I 'be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor.'"

 

Milton-the clear thinker with faith of steel, doubts. "When I consider how my light is spent." But straightway his God comforts him and the "noiseless tenor" of his life continues for he has the knowledge that Gray's villagers have, as well as his own great knowledge of light.

 

Wordsworth- the dark thinker, with a faith in humanity, doubts himself.

 

"We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness."

 

And straightway his humanity, which he reads as a mirror of the divine will, gives him an example to follow. The story is told darkly, but the imaginative reader makes not only sense, but glory, out of this poem. It is as great as Milton's sonnet for the same end is reached and the same image is evoked- the quietly thoughtful face of the poet as he accepts.

 

Unlike Crabbe, Wordsworth does not, show us the poor with such skill, but he learns from them as much as Crabbe does: and we ourselves learn with Wordsworth. There is no example in Augustan poetry that I know of to parallel these two poems of Milton's and Wordsworth's, so I cannot draw comparisons. But I would say that most of the Augustans would not even have provided themselves with the opportunity of having Wordsworth's experience. This was one of their narrownesses that the Romantics rebelled against.

 

I shall now quote a misguided opinion of Wordsworth, and a good one of Crabbe, to show why I have argued so strongly for Wordsworth.

 

"Mr. Crabbe exhibits the common people of England pretty much as they are, and as they must appear to every one who will take the trouble of examining into their condition, at the same time that he renders his sketches in a very high degree interesting and beautiful-by selecting what is most fit for description-by grouping them into such forms as must catch the attention or awake the memory-and by scattering over the whole such traits of moral sensibility, of sarcasm, and of deep reflection, as every one must feel to be natural, and own to be powerful."

 

This is a fair estimate. But he continues:

 

"The gentlemen of the new school, on the other hand, scarcely ever condescend to take their subjects from any description of persons at all known to common inhabitants of the world . . . Mr. Wordsworth and his associates introduce us to beings whose existence was not previously suspected by the acutest observers of nature; and excite an interest for them - where they do excite any interest - more by an elegant and refined analysis of their own capricious feelings, than by any obvious or intelligent ground of sympathy in their situation."
(Contemporary Reviews of Romantic Poetry)

 

I am well aware that my arguments would make no real difference to Jeffrey's attitude, but Wordsworth is a hard subject to defend, he does not help his admirers. But then again Jeffrey's arguments do not really alter my convictions. However, I have Coleridge to agree with me:

 

"The Elder languages were fitter for poetry because they expressed only prominent ideas with clearness, the others but darkly . . . Poetry gives most pleasure when only generally and not perfectly understood."
(Animae Poetae, p.5)

 

This is shaky ground on which to base an argument, but it was one that was prevalent among the romantics and leads to the next subject-the discontent that three of the early romantics felt for the capabilities of the scientific approach. They were in order of importance Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Indeed they have some weighty thought to put against this attitude of science - and this attitude of Jeffrey's, that almost seems to demand a documentary feature on the proletariat, a dissecting and minute account.

 

"Voulant etre plus savants que d'autres, ils étudiaient L'univers pour savoir comment il etait arrange, comme ils auraient étudié quelque machine qu'ils auraient apercu par pure curiosité. Ils étudiaient la nature humaine pour ens pouvoir parler savamment, mais non pas pour la connaitre;"
(Les Reveries - Rousseau)

 

Out of the order of the Augustan mind had come a scientific wish to investigate; it was encouraged by the scientific revolution. However, some poets began to feel uneasy about the presumption of these men who spare nothing in the wide sweep of their cynicism as in Hume or in their dissections, e.g. Locke. Coleridge was the only one who tried to fight them in their own language and with their own methods of argument. Wordsworth was unimpressed, but frankly left it to Coleridge to say-

 

"Who shall point as with a wand and say,
'This portion of the river of my mind
Came from that fountain?' Thou, my friend! art one
More deeply read in thy own thoughts; -to thee
Science appears but what in truth she is,
Not as our glory and our absolute boast,
But as a succedaneum, and a prop
For our infirmity."
(The Rinehart Wordsworth, p.228)

 

Blake was, as usual, wildly outspoken and in some cases obscenely rude about the new plaything of the Western World. His primary objection is that "everything that lives is holy" and therefore should not be meddled with. Also he says in his famous poem to Mr. Butts-

 

"Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me;
'Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulah's night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newton's sleep."

 

This is a serious accusation and I doubt if it could be applied to the scientific approach nowadays, or, if that, to Newton. However, unimaginative science is dangerous for it is a law unto itself, having no allegiance to humanity, and therefore it thinks like a criminal. It can destroy the oldest instincts and start ideas such as human life being lawfully sacrificed for its own benefit. Blake realised this and worked for the realisation of the importance of the imagination that humanises even the laws of physics. This he thought would stop that childish and naïve attitude of adulation for the works of scientific men when the works of God are so much more awe-ful and incomprehensible. Most religious minds have this insight. Blake's attitude resulted in much poetry on the subject, mainly spread out through the prophetic works.

 

Coleridge does not, however, write poetry from this thought; but a large part of the Biographia Literaria, was spent in refuting the systems of men like Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, MacIntosh and Hartley and all materialists: and in support of men like Kant. As none of this can be directly related to Coleridge's poetry I shall be content with merely mentioning this as an off-shoot of the early Romantic discontent.

 

The attitude that truth lies in spontaneity and sincerity did, however, have some results in Romantic Poetry that were not altogether desirable. It resulted in the worship of the child. Wordsworth, in his Immortality Ode, raises the child to the rank of "seer" and "Prophet", because life appears to the child as fresh as a new dream, and because the adult is a poor worn-out creature. Now there is a freshness in childhood, when all seems to have the vividness of divinity; but if the child is a prophet this vividness is not lost but redoubled, as can be seen by a study of the life of Blake, or Rilke, whose imagination increased with age. Wordsworth, however, seemed to stale with age, and the only poems of his maturity that are good are the ones which endeavour to recall the atmosphere of childhood about themselves. But it is doubtful whether children's thoughts are of any real value to adults because they are usually inexpressible. They are vivid but vague because they have no words: they are eternal but fleeting because they have no words. So thus, a description of a child's experience results in the most shadowy of symbols - felt but not comprehended by the reason or even the imagination. Instinct is the only faculty that can grasp this darkest of thoughts out of our origins. Witness this thought of Wordsworth's childhood when he is rowing across the lake towards a huge black mountain at night-

"I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark, -
And through the meadow homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts,
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams."

 

Childhood it seems to me is more superstitious than religious. The forms that move it, as are shown, are troubling but hardly comprehensible. And yet 'Wordsworth in his nostalgia calls it, "Wisdom and Spirit of the Universe". I do not think this attitude has arrived at any serious Romantic thought- although it has produced such beautiful poetry as the Immortality Ode, the first books of the Prelude and the Songs of Innocence. It is a pity that the songs of Wordsworth's experience do not give as clear a picture as Blake's. For in a comparison between Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience"- it is definitely the "Songs of Experience" that present the true, but sad picture of reality. The "Songs of Innocence are only a beautiful dream, as is any youthful thought. This does not nullify all that I have outlined as good in Wordsworth's thought; it is merely one aspect that does not seem to be one of the changes for the better in the Romantic beginnings. This emphasis on spontaneity and impulsive sensibility resulted in some appalling literature, an example of which is Mackenzie's "Man of Feeling". The hero of this work is one of the most lachrymose creations in the whole of the Romantic scene. The idea that genuine inspiration could be found in every idle, childish thought, led to a great volume of sentimental, horror and mystery novels that presumed to include whim and fancy in the faculty of imagination. Wordsworth blamed this outpouring upon the fact that there was a demand for this literature:-

 

"A multitude of forces, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and, unfitting it for all voluntary exertion, to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves. The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespeare, and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse."
(Preface to ''Lyrical Ballads", 1800 edition)

Now there are no better parodies of this stupid side of Romanticism than those written by the great romantics: the three sonnets of Coleridge are full of typical expressions like-"I gazed and sighed and sighed", "But alas, most of myself I thought", "Oh my poor heart's inexplicable swell", "My dreamy bosom's mystic woes", "tis simple all, all very simple meek Simplicity". There are also some poems by Chatterton, who, romantic though he was, had nevertheless a strong streak of satire in his nature. This is the end of a long extravagant lamentation-

 

"Ye snow-crowned mountains, lost to mortal eyes,
Down to the valleys bend your hoary head;
Ye livid comets, fire the peopled skies
For-Lady Betty's tabby cat is dead.
(Chatterton's Poetical Works, p.130)

 

Chatterton was well aware of the stupidities of his age, and therefore could only write his best poetry in the style of the ancients, and under the pseudonym of Thomas Rowley. Here is a true lamentation, expressing the deepest pathos. It is a strangely quiet and still poem. Aella's betrothed is mourning the death of her magnificent lover.

"Oh sing unto my roundelay,
Oh drop the briny tear with me,
Dance no more on holiday;
Like a running river be


My love is dead
Gone to his death-bed
All under the willow tree.

 

Black his hair as the winter night
White his skin as the summer snow
Red his face as the morning light
Cold he lies in the grave below


My love is dead
Gone to his bed
All under the willow tree.

 

Come, with acorn cup and thorn
Drain my heart's blood all away;
Life and all its good I scorn
Dance by night or feast by day


My love is dead
Gone to his bed
All under the willow tree.
(Chatterton's Poetical Works, Vol.2, p.71)

 

This could be a song by Shakespeare. Like all great poetry (and unlike the romantic extravaganzas) it is simple, quiet, unassuming and "too deep for tears".

 

What can have possessed Chatterton to write the occasional poem to a Miss Hoyland in the bad romantic style so heavily strewn with exclamation marks?-

 

"O Hoyland! Heavenly goddess! angel! saint!
Words are too weak thy mighty worth to paint;
Thou best, completest work that nature made,
Thou art my substance, and I my shade.
Possessed of thee I joyfully would go
Through the loud tempest and the depth of woe
From thee alone my being, I derive-
One beauteous smile from thee makes all my hopes alive."
(Chattterton's Works, Vol. p.16)

 

I can only say, if he was serious, that women make fools of us all; as he himself realized when, in his bitter last will and testament, he said that none of the young ladies to whom he had written should flatter themselves that they might be the cause of his suicide.

 

This leads me to the two last aspects of Romantic thought that (like Immortality Ode) led to some of the greatest poetry written in those times, but whose thought I consider to be slightly pernicious and must have given many people of those times false ideals. I shall study that beautiful but evil thing - the Romantic woman: and that awe-inspiring nothing - the God of romantics.

 

The vividness of the Romantic imagination led them to the most dangerous of tasks - that of creating woman. MacPherson began to show signs of it because his creations were not really women, they were just beautiful images.

 

"But thou art snow on the heath; thy hair is the mist of Cromla; when it curls on the hill; when it shines to the beam of the west! Thy breasts are two smooth rocks seen from the Branno of streams. Thy arms, like two white pillars, in the halls of the great Fingal.
(Poems of Ossian, Vol.1, p.10)

 

But the point of my argument is who could imagine such beauty and then be content with a mere woman! This fascination in the Romantics for the Liliths of the mind, these fancies of the moon-fever, these sweet sicknesses have given many people false ideals: slightly neurotic people, virgins, the idealistic youths and all types who are not naturally equipped to ward them off, fall desperately for these snares and will-o'-the wisps. The illness reached its height in Shelley, Blake and Emily Bronte, and had echoes in Coleridge.

Hear Shelley's Lilith:

 

"There was a Being whom my spirit oft
Met on its Visioned wanderings, far aloft,
In the clear golden prime of my youth's dawn,
Upon the fair isles of sunny lawn,
Amid the enchanted mountains, and the caves
Of divine sleep, and on the air-like waves
Of wonder-level dream, whose tremulous floor
Paved her light steps; on an imagined shore,
Under the grey beak of some promontory
She met me, robed in such exceeding glory,
That I beheld her not. In solitudes
Her voice came to me through the whispering woods,
And from the fountains, and the odours deep
of flowers, which, like lips murmuring in their sleep
Of the sweet kisses which had lulled them there,
Breathed but of her to the enamoured air;
And from the breezes whether low or loud
And from the rain of every passing cloud
And from the singing of the summer birds,
And from all sounds, all silence. In the words
Of antique verse and high romance, in form,
Sound, colour - in whatever checks that Storm
Which with the shattered present chokes the past;
And in that best philosophy, whose taste
Makes this cold common hell, our life, a doom
As glorious as a fiery martyrdom;
Her Spirit was the harmony of truth-"
(Epipshychidion)

 

The real truth lies in the second last line - and I remember Chatterton's final word on the subject of martyring himself for love - it is an illusion of truth while it lasts. When it ends there is nothing - and the "cold, common hell, our life" is made even more cold, and much commoner. And Blake sits "filling with woes the passing wind". Shelley's Witch of Atlas is another vision of Lilith and she herself creates an Image which she can love--

 

"Then by some strange art she kneaded fire and snow
Together, tempering the repugnant mass
With liquid love - all things together grow
Through which the harmony of love can pass;
And a fair Shape out of her hands did flow-
A living Image, which did far surpass
In beauty that bright shape of vital stone
Which drew the heart out of Pygmalion.

 

It is the actual supposedly heavenly beauty of these creations and because they seem to vie with the earthly beauty of the creations of God, that makes them dangerous, and a total surrender to them results in one of the romantic sicknesses. Coleridge and Bronte at least checked some of this sickness by making it obvious that their Liliths were evil - and the reader could indulge in them at his own risk. They do not, as Shelley did, say that they were as beautiful as truth. Coleridge's Geraldine is the true image of Lilith. She is found by moonlight, she is as beautiful as the night, and the young Christabel who finds her is doomed. As the witch Geraldine lies down by her side she speaks the warning that all Liliths should speak of force to the humans that they afflict-

 

"In the touch of this bosom there worked a spell
Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!
Thou knowest tonight, and wilt know tomorrow,
This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow;
But vainly thou warrest
For this is alone in
Thy power to declare,
That in the dim forest
Thou heard'st a low moaning,
And found'st a bright lady, surpassingly fair;
And didst bring her home with thee in love and in charity,
To shield her and shelter her from the damp air."
(Christabel, First Part)

 

So, haunted though he must have been by the Image of Geraldine, Coleridge knows her and wishes us also to know her. Emily Bronte also knew the true value of Heathcliff. His love for Catherine Linton is indeed a greater love than anything found in the stories of Augustan loves: yet it is deadly, and inhuman. The male Lilith, Heathcliff, would rather die than not have her-when she dies he opens her grave secretly, and sees her dead. He goes on loving this corpse until he dies from wilful starvation. This demon knows no human love and is truly driven by the moon frenzy.

 

And yet this extreme example of the sweet sickness can be excused if only as a violent reaction against the insipidity of the type of love that the Augustans and Edgar Linton typify: but it is an evil alternative and I think that no danger lies in the work from this point of view, as it is obviously evil-and the evil is not hidden as in Shelly.

 

I am not preaching that Wuthering Heights is inspired by the devil and should not be read. I am saying that there is no better book to read if one wants to find out to what extent a human and earthly mind can be ravaged and palsied by the divinity (devil or angel) and the inhumanity of its creations. The gift of vision is dangerous that is all I say - and its recipients can be looked on as gifted or blighted according to the aim of the reader. There must be some set idea of truth to which one can compare all other ideas, and necessarily this set idea will differ among different individuals. It is perhaps unfortunate that opinions should be so diverse - but from purely personal reasons I shall use the love-story of Yury Zhivago and Lara. It is the most rue and the most beautiful story I have read; unexaggerated, quiet, and an insight with depth. This is the yardstick by which I am judging Emily Bronte and the creators of Lilith in all her varying forms. And the Gondel Poems are enough testimony to show that Emily Bronte was herself in love with the creations of her mind-

 

"So with a ready heart, I swore
To seek their altar-stone no more;
And gave my spirit to adore
Thee, ever-present, phantom thing-
My slave, my comrade, and my king.

 

A slave, because I rule thee still,
Incline thee to my changeful will,
And make thy influence, good or ill:
A comrade, for by day and night
Thou art my intimate delight--

 

My darling pain that wounds and sears,
And wrings a blessing out from tears
By deadening me to earthly cares;
And yet, a king, though Prudence well
Have taught thy subject to rebel.

 

And am I wrong to worship where
Faith cannot doubt, nor Hope despair,
Since my own soul can grant my prayer?
Speak, God of visions, plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen thee!"
(Speak, God of Visions - E. Bronte)

 

Blake was another of the Lilith-haunted poets of the Romantic era:-

 

"Till I turn from Female Love
And root up the Infernal Grove
I shall never worthy be
To step into Eternity.

 

And, to end thy cruel mocks,
Annihilate thee on the rocks,
And another form create
To be subservient to my Fate."

 

Blake is partly right when he says that sexual love can be an "infernal grove". It is a threefold world where there is a woman, and the spirit of women, and the third sphere when it is co-mingled with the man and the spirit of men. But because it is not an entirely uncreated world, and the poet cannot, god-like, create it himself, he is dissatisfied and wishes to become like God. To achieve this last great act of Imagination, Blake realises that he must rely entirely on his mind, and on no earthly part of him. This he learnt from Michel Angelo's sonnets. This satanic rebellion is fairly typical of romantic love, but it is by definition a presumptuous act, dangerous, and always killing. Blake realized this, but said that the natural order was antipathetic to his method of Imagination; so that all he could do was to annihilate it. And yet he, in his wry way, sometimes regrets the abandonment of the natural order, saying--

 

"Grown old in Love from Seven till Seven times Seven,
I oft have wish'd for Hell for ease from Heaven."
(Complete Works of Blake, p.125)

 

Wordsworth was always firmly rooted in the natural order, as we have found from a comparison of the two in their methods of creation. His poem "She was a Phantom of Delight" gives a picture of true worth in women, as well as showing that he was award of the dangers of Lilith and that he Himself preferred to steer clear of her. Wordsworth's woman was a true woman.--

 

"She was a Phantom of Delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment's ornament;
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, and Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin-liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles."
(The Rinehart Wordsworth, p.142)

 

Now this type of woman is not very prevalent among the more romantic of the romantic poets, but she is closer to God because she was created by God, and is not an imitation of God, created by Man. It is hard to weigh the respective values of the two approaches for they are so utterly different, and it could only be done at the end of a complete book on Blake and Wordsworth, a comparison of their lives and works. This is not my purpose here, so I will content myself by saying that Blake was against nature and Wordsworth for it. This leads me to the last section of my thesis - the romantic God.

 

God to the Augustans appeared almost universally as a divine father: to the romantics as a divine creator, not necessarily manifested as a human being. This is another indication of their discontent with the Augustan personification-allegorising of everything.

 

To Wordsworth, God appeared mirrored in nature - his was, therefore, a God that was indifferent to mankind. And yet this sheer indifference seems to have been a comfort for Wordsworth.

 

"It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder-everlastingly."
(Sonnet V)

 

He acknowledges this power over his mind in the lines written above Tintern Abbey.--

 

"And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear- both what they half-create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being."
(The Rinehart Wordsworth, p.99)

 

It is quite clear that Wordsworth finds his God perceptible in the messages of the five senses as interpreted by the imaginative mind. Blake on the other hand finds these more of an impediment than a help: as he says in the "Marriage of Heaven & Hell":-

"How do you know but ev'ry Bid that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your Senses five?"

 

Also using the voice of the devil he says-

"Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call'd
Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age."
(Marriage of Heaven & Hell)

 

However, Blake prophesies that the new age will see the cleansing of the doors of perception-

"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern."
(Marriage of Heaven & Hell)

So Blake can only perceive his Gods with his mind's eye, his mind's ear, or in other words with a twofold sense, increasing to fourfold as his imagination redoubles and complicates itself.

But what is it that they both perceive? Wordsworth's God is a comforter but apart from that almost incomprehensible by Wordsworth himself, except that He manifests Himself through Man and Nature. Blake's God is a terror and a fearful joy, a ruthless, almost mindless, power, and is incomprehensible by man who is made up of his warring elements that have fallen from the highest heavens - a strange mixture of devils and angels all locked in the human mind.

 

As I used Zhivago as a yardstick for the insanities of Romantic lovers, so I would use the Indian Upanishads as the ideal of religious thought against which to measure the achievements of the Romantics. The Upanishads agree that God or Brahman is incomprehensible-they call him the "All-knowing, Unknowable". They also recognize him to be beyond nature-"The self is the ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of the speech. He is also breath of the breath, and eye of the eye. Having given up the false identification of the Self with the senses and the mind, and knowing the Self to be Brahman, the wise, on departing this life, become immortal. His the eye does not see, nor the tongue express, nor the mind grasp." So it is apparent that not even the divine faculty of the mind can grasp the idea of God. Now it is true that nowhere do Blake or Wordsworth imply that they know God. Blake frankly admits to knowing more about devils than angels, and Wordsworth always refers to some "mighty Being", inferring that it need not necessarily be God. Both were aware that they were treading on the borders of man's thought, and were suitably humble-even Blake. Yet I think it fair to say that neither of them attained any great height in understanding of God himself - or itself, as it should be: great as were their achievements elsewhere, the Romantics could not penetrate his inscrutability, even though they did advance further than the Augustans.

Usually it seems one starts off a thesis with a definition, but I hope that I have shown enough of the Romantic mind, in all its varying forms, to do without any definitions. Or, if it must be, then I would say that the whole work was a definition - for indeed it is a compressed account. No more that the bare idea of changes with a few illustrating poems has been offered: and yet this has the advantage of clearness, if not of scholarly detail. In some cases I had more detail than I could use, in others I could have found more detail, but the idea was to present a clear picture of the change from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century in all the different aspects of its effect on the poetry of the times. It was not my idea to pick one aspect and deal with it as it should be in detail.

 

The different aspects of which I have only given a brief outline were: the change from scientific humanitarianism to religious humanitarianism; the change from the study of the social mind to the study of the primitive or subconscious mind; the change from the reasonably ordered to the wildly imaginative (in scenery and epic); the change from the use of allegory to symbol, and a brief study of symbol; the change of style from the imitation of Milton and Pope, from ornate formality to simple originality; the change from the portrayal of polite society, to the portrayal of broad humanity; the revolt against science as a criminal force; a study of the romantic adulation of the child leading to a few words on the weaker side of Romantic thought and style; the change from the portrayal of the court lady, to the imagined ideal woman and a study of the romantic creators of Lilith; and finally, a study of the Gods of Blake and Wordsworth. To be able to elaborate on all these ideas would have been impossible in the space required.

EPILOGUE
I shall now make one last point. The Augustans, almost all, seemed to write for either patrons or fame or the society that surrounded them. In the Romantics we hear so frequently the voice in loneliness, talking to itself. How well these solitaries would have understood the motto of Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling ---

 

"Write."--"For whom?"--"Write for the dead whom thou didst love in the past."--"Will they read me?"--"Nay."

And how they would have understood Rilke when he wrote--

 

"No, my heart shall be a tower, and there,
beneath the topmost cornice, I'll remain:
still, where nothing else is, with a share
of world, ineffability, and pain.

Only in the Incommensurable,
one lone thing, now glooming, now a-glance,
only one last, longing countenance
thrust into the never-silenceable.

 

One extreme stone face, with steadfastness
mirroring some inward equipoise;
urged by that which silently destroys
on to ever-greater blissfulness."
(The Solitary, Rilke)

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

New Poems, George Crabbe (Liverpool University Press, 1960)
Man of Feeling, Henry MacKenzie (London Scholartis, 1928)
Les Revories, Rousseau (Garnier Freres, 1960)
Rousseau and Romanticism, Irving Babbit (Houghton Mifflin, 1935)
The Harp of Aeolus, G. Grigson (Routledge, 1947)
The Poetical Works of Burns, Robertson (Frowde, 1908)
Chatterton's Poetical Works, Skeat (Bell, 1905)
Wordsworth's Literary Criticism, ed. N. C. Smith (Frowde, 1905)
Wordsworth's Complete Works (Paterson, MDCCCLXXXII)
Thomson's Poetical Works, Gilfillan (Nichol, MDCCCLIII)
Poems of Ossian, MacPherson (London, 1822)
Anima Poetae, Coleridge (Heineman, MDCCCXCV)
Biographia Literaria, Coleridge (Everyman, 1939)
The Complete Works of Coleridge (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1912)
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (Collins, 1952)
Collected Poems of Cowper (Cumberlege, 1947)
Poems of Shelley (Oxford University Press, 1960)
Poems of Keats (Modern Library, 1951)
Complete Works of Blake (Nonesuch, 1961)
Romantic Image, Kermode (Routledge, 1961)
Upanishads (Mentor, 1957)
Either/Or, Kierkegaard (Doubleday, Anchor, 1959)
Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard (Doubleday, Anchor, 1954)
Dr. Zhivago, Pasternak (Collins, April 1959)
Complete Works of Pope (Gilbert & Rivington, 1847)
John Dryden (Penguin Poets, 1955)
Lives of the English Poets, Johnson (Everyman, 1958)
Charitable Malice (W. A. University Press, 1955)
Contemporary Reviews of Romantic Poetry (Harrap, 1953)
Collected Works of Rilke, Trans. Lehmann (Hogarth Press, 1960)
Signatura Rerum, Jacob Boehme (Everyman)
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (Folio Society, 1958)
Paradise Lost, Milton (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952)
Milton (Penguin Poets)
The Mind of Henry Fuseli, Mason (Routledge, 1951)
Wordsworth's Selected Poems (Rinehart, 1959)
The Poetical Works of Collins (Bell, 1904)
The Poetical Works of Gray (Bell)
Complete Poems of Emily Bronte (Hodder & Stoughton)

 

Acknowledgement

I am indebted to Karen Ciuffetelli of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University, for taking my manuscript from a previous age and turning into a digitised document suitable for publication on the World Wide Web.

GP 8 August 2007

1Lives of Poets, Vol.

2Ep. IV, Line 35

35th Stanza of the Ninth Elegy

4Essay on Man, Ep. IV, Line 145

5Biographia Literaria (Everyman P.9)

 



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