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[213] he says: ‘This is feebly and imperfectly expressed, but I recollect distinctly the very spot where this first struck me. . . . . The moment was important in my poetical history; for I date from it my consciousness of the infinite variety of natural appearances which had been unnoticed by the poets of any age or country, so far as I was acquainted with them, and I made a resolution to supply in some degree the deficiency.’

It is plain that Wordsworth's memory was playing him a trick here, misled by that instinct (it may almost be called) of consistency which leads men first to desire that their lives should have been without break or seam, and then to believe that they have been such. The more distant ranges of perspective are apt to run together in retrospection. How far could Wordsworth at fourteen have been acquainted with the poets of all ages and countries,— he who to his dying day could not endure to read Goethe and knew nothing of Calderon? It seems to me rather that the earliest influence traceable in him is that of 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 from which he remembered to have received great pleasure were Miss Carter's “Poem on spring,” a poem in the six-line stanza which he was particularly fond of and had composed much in,— for example, “Ruth.” ’ This is noteworthy, for Wordsworth's lyric range, especially so far as tune is concerned, was always narrow. His sense of melody was

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