A Remonstrance

— I have been wounded in the house of my friends. When Agnes Repplier, who in days past has so often put for me my subtlest, most elusive thoughts into words, so often expressed in one delicately turned phrase the very soul of my delight in something I have read, or just touched with sensitive pen-point the one blemish that annoyed me, — when she, I say, willfully (for how else than willfully can she do it, with her quick feeling, her fine perception ?) misinterprets Wordsworth, my heart’s love among poets, I cannot refrain from outcry.

That she should call Wordsworth’s Lucy “shadowy” I can forgive, for the sake of the accompanying adjective “ alluring ; ” but why shadowy ? Is there anywhere in poetry a more exquisite portrait, or one with more distinct individuality and definite charm, than that given us in the lines beginning

“ Three years she grew in sun and shower ” ?

To me, indeed, the comparisons in the little poem from which Miss Repplier afterward quotes convey a very clear picture.

“ A violet by a mossy stone.”

Mark the word “ mossy,” and recall the kind of violet that such moist verdure cherishes.

“Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.”

Do you not see the quiet maiden, softly radiant, serene, large -natured, gracious, in perfect harmony of mind and body ?

All this, however, is a mere matter of personal impression. What I cannot forgive Miss Repplier is her apparent inability to estimate aright the poet’s grief at Lucy’s death. “ We cannot endure,” she says, “to think of Lucy as he thinks of her, —

'Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course
With rocks, and stones, and trees.’

I admit that the idea is not a pleasant one, but is it not true that in the first horror of complete loss this deadness of the beloved body is, more than anything else, what presses upon us with crushing weight ?

“ No motion has she now, no force ;
She neither hears nor sees.”

Yesterday, alive at every pore ; to-day, a stock, a stone !

Miss Repplier speaks, too, of the poet as turning from Lucy’s “fair image back to a consideration of his own emotions.” Surely she fails to catch the true attitude of his mind. The failure seems to me sufficiently serious, for it makes a real appreciation of much of Wordsworth’s poetry quite impossible. Some emotions are too strong for words ; the very simplicity in which they find expression proves their force. I have always been of the opinion that Wordsworth has, preeminently among poets, the power to make us feel this force. He accomplishes his end sometimes by means of a homely exclamation,—

“Oh, mercy, to myself I said,
If Lucy should be dead! ’ ’

Again, by an absolutely unadorned recital of some action so commonplace as to be often almost unconsciously performed, and yet so full of meaning that its mere mention thrills our deepest being : —

“ On summer evenings I believe that there
A long half-hour together I have stood,
Mute, looking at the grave in which he lies.”

And still again, by the half-utterance of a thought that, pursued far enough, would lead one into regions vast and sad as life itself : —

“ I’ve heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning ;
Alas, the gratitude of men
Has oftener left me mourning !”

The lines Miss Repplier characterizes as written musingly, with a deliberate sadness which “ exasperates us by its dispassionate regret, its tranquil self-communing,”I should class among these half-utterances. Lucy, pure and fresh as a violet, restful as a star ; Lucy, living, loving, his, and his only, is before the poet. Suddenly there seizes him, with that bitter sense of hopelessness which a sorrow takes but at intervals, the knowledge, — ah, no, he knew it before, — the anguish of the knowledge, that this sweetness, this goodness, this tender brightness, all, all are gone, —

. . . and oh !
The difference to me.”

Is it not the cry of Sorrow’s self ?