an introduction to it.’
It is a pity that he could not have become an earlier convert to Coleridge
's pithy definition, that ‘prose was words in their best order, and poetry the best
words in the best order.’
But idealization was something that Wordsworth
was obliged to learn painfully.
It did not come to him naturally as to Spenser
and to Coleridge
in his higher moods.
Moreover, it was in the too frequent choice of subjects incapable of being idealized without a manifest jar between theme and treatment that Wordsworth
's great mistake lay. For example, in ‘The Blind Highland Boy’ he had originally the following stanzas:—
Strong is the current, but be mild,
Ye waves, and spare the helpless child!
If ye in anger fret or chafe,
A bee-hive would be ship as safe
As that in which he sails.
But say, what was it?
Thought of fear!
Well may ye tremble when ye hear!
—A household tub like one of those
Which women use to wash their clothes,
This carried the blind boy.
In endeavoring to get rid of the downright vulgarity of phrase in the last stanza, Wordsworth
invents an impossible tortoise-shell, and thus robs his story of the reality which alone gave it a living interest.
Any extemporized raft would have floated the boy down to immortality.
never quite learned the distinction between Fact, which suffocates the Muse, and Truth, which is the very breath of her nostrils.
Study and self-culture did much for him, but they never quite satisfied him that he was capable of making a mistake.
He yielded silently to friendly remonstrance on certain points, and gave up, for example, the ludicrous exactness of
I 've measured it from side to side,
'T is three feet long and two feet wide.