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Complete Works of RWE XII - Natural History of the Intellect

V Europe and European Books

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IT was a brighter day than we have often known in our literary calendar, when within a twelvemonth a single London advertisement announced a new volume of poems by Wordsworth, poems by Tennyson, and a play by Henry Taylor. Wordsworth’s nature or character has had all the time it needed in order to make its mark and supply the want of talent. We have learned how to read him. We have ceased to expect that which he cannot give. He has the merit of just moral perception, but not that of deft poetic execution. Nothing of Milton, nothing of Marvell, of Herbert, of Dryden, could be. These are such verses as in a just state of culture should be vers de societe, such as every gentleman could write but none would think of printing, or of claiming the poet’s laurel on their merit. How would Milton curl his lip at such slipshod newspaper style. Many of his poems, as for example the Rylstone Doe, might be all improvised.  The Pindar, the Shakspeare, the Dante whilst they have the just and open soul, have also the eye to see the dimmest star that glimmers in the Milky Way, the serratures of every leaf, the test objects of the microscope, and then the tongue to utter the same , things in words that engrave them on all the ears of mankind. The poet demands all gifts, and not one or two only.

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