Wordsworth's Anti-Climax

Wordsworth's Anti-Climax

Wordsworth's Anti-Climax

Wordsworth's Anti-Climax

Excerpt

Professor Garrod says that the last forty years of Wordsworth's life are "the most dismal anti-climax of which the history of literature holds record."

When we have made due allowance for overstatement, these words serve for substance of doctrine. Coleridge, Crabb Robinson, and other wise friends were aware that the verse of the poet's latter years was not as good as that which had preceded it. Meanwhile it had taken Wordsworth thirty years to create the taste by which he could be appreciated, and when recognition came in the 1830's his converts were so undiscriminating that they imputed to the poetry he was then writing the virtues which they had discovered in the work of the first and greatest period of his literary history.

At this distance, however, there are few persons who habitually reread any considerable passages written later than The Excursion. We no longer assume that a poem must be good because Wordsworth wrote it. Indeed, our assumption is that, unless it antedates 1806-08, it is likely to be poor. Attempts have been made to rehabilitate "the later Wordsworth," but they tax the ingenuity of their authors and the credulity of their public.

The work of the poet's last thirty or forty years can be praised only at the expense of that of the eight or ten years after 1797. We cannot have it both ways. We do best therefore to trust the instinct which inclines us to the earlier work. It is a pity that the anti-climax came so soon and lasted so long, just as it is a pity that the southern end of the Lake District is not as lovely as the northern. Read-

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