a constituency of the past.
It is true that Keats
has the accent of the men from whom he learned to speak, but this is to make originality a mere question of externals, and in this sense the author of a dictionary might bring an action of trover against every author who used his words.
It is the man behind the words that gives them value, and if Shakespeare
help himself to a verse or a phrase, it is with ears that have learned of him to listen that we feel the harmony of the one, and it is the mass of his intellect that makes the other weighty with meaning.
Enough that we recognize in Keats
that indefinable newness and unexpectedness which we call genius.
The sunset is original every evening, though for thousands of years it has built out of the same light and vapor its visionary cities with domes and pinnacles, and its delectable mountains which night shall utterly abase and destroy.
Three men, almost contemporaneous with each other,— Wordsworth
, and Byron
,— were the great means of bringing back English poetry from the sandy deserts of rhetoric, and recovering for her her triple inheritance of simplicity, sensuousness, and passion.
Of these, Wordsworth
was the only conscious reformer, and his hostility to the existing formalism injured his earlier poems by tingeing them with something of iconoclastic extravagance.
He was the deepest thinker, Keats
the most essentially a poet, and Byron
the most keenly intellectual of the three.
had the broadest mind, or at least his mind was open on more sides, and he was able to understand Wordsworth
and judge Byron
, equally conscious, through his artistic sense, of the greatnesses of the one and the many littlenesses of the other, while Wordsworth
was isolated in a feeling of his prophetic character, and Byron
had only an uneasy and jealous instinct of contemporary merit.
The poems of Wordsworth