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[221] ‘Lyrical Ballads’ was reckoned at zero, and it was at last given up to the authors. A few persons were not wanting, however, who discovered the dawn-streaks of a new day in that light which the critical fire-brigade thought to extinguish with a few contemptuous spurts of cold water.1

Lord Byron describes himself as waking one morning and finding himself famous, and it is quite an ordinary fact, that a blaze may be made with a little saltpetre that will be stared at by thousands who would have thought the sunrise tedious. If we may believe his biographer, Wordsworth might have said that he awoke and found himself in-famous, for the publication of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’ undoubtedly raised him to the distinction of being the least popular poet in England. Parnassus has two peaks; the one where improvising poets cluster; the other where the singer of deep secrets sits alone,— a peak veiled sometimes from the whole morning of a generation by earth-born mists and smoke of kitchen fires, only to glow the more consciously at sunset, and after nightfall to crown itself with imperishable stars. Wordsworth had that self-trust which in the man of genius is sublime, and in the man of talent insufferable. It mattered not to him though all the reviewers had been in a chorus of laughter or conspiracy of silence

1 Cottle says, ‘The sale was so slow and the severity of most of the reviews so great that its progress to oblivion seemed to be certain.’ But the notices in the Monthly and Critical Reviews (then the most influential) were fair, and indeed favorable, especially to Wordsworth's share in the volume. The Monthly says, ‘So much genius and originality are discovered in this publication that we wish to see another from the same hand.’ The Critical, after saying that ‘in the whole range of English poetry we scarcely recollect anything superior to a passage in Lines written near Tintern Abbey,’ sums up thus: ‘Yet every piece discovers genius; and ill as the author has frequently employed his talents, they certainly rank him with the best of living poets.’ Such treatment cannot surely be called discouraging.

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