is work in Italian.
Instead of endeavoring to manufacture a great poem out of what was foreign and artificial, he let the poem make itself out of him. The epic which he wished to write in the universal language of scholars, and which might have had its ten lines in the history of literature, would sing itself in provincial Tuscan, and turns out to be written in the universal dialect of mankind.
Thus all great poets have been in a certain sense provincial,—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Burns, Scott in the Heart of Midlothian and Bride of Lammermoor,—because the office of the poet is always vicarious, because nothing that has not been living experience can become living expression, because the collective thought, the faith, the desire of a nation or a race, is the cumulative result of many ages, is something organic, and is wiser and stronger than any single person, and will make a great statesman or a great poet out of any man who can entirely surrender himself to it.
o tell you when you cannot fully taste a book that it is because it is so thoroughly national, is to condemn the book.
To say it of a poem is even worse, for it is to say that what should be true of the whole compass of human nature is true only to some northand-by-east-half-east point of it. I can understand the nationality of Firdusi when, looking sadly back to the former glories of his country, he tells us that the nightingale still sings old Persian; I can understand the nationality of Burns when he turns his plough aside to spare the rough burr thistle, and hopes he may write a song or two for dear auld Scotia's sake.
That sort of nationality belongs to a country of which we are all citizens,— that country of the heart which has no boundaries laid down on the map. All great poetry must smack of the soil, for it must be rooted in it, must suck life and substance from it, but it must do so with the aspiring instinct of the pine that climbs forever toward diviner air, and not in
f Goldsmith, and later of Cowper, and it is, perhaps, some slight indication of its having already begun that his first volume of Descriptive Sketches (1793) was put forth by Johnson, who was Cowper's publisher.
By and by the powerful impress of Burns is seen both in the topics of his verse and the form of his expression.
But whatever their ultimate effect upon his style, certain it is that his juvenile poems were clothed in the conventional habit of the eighteenth century.
The first verses ion of five hundred copies, which supplied the demand for six years. Another edition of the same number of copies was published in 1827, and not exhausted till 1834.
In 1815 The White Doe of Rylstone appeared, and in 1816 A Letter to a Friend of Burns, in which Wordsworth gives his opinion upon the limits to be observed by the biographers of literary men. It contains many valuable suggestions, but allows hardly scope enough for personal details, to which he was constitutionally indifferent.