The English Mystics

By Gerald William Bullett | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
WORDSWORTH

§ I

No two men could have been more different, on a superficial view, than Blake and Wordsworth. And even at a deeper level a great difference persists. That in spite of it they were both mystics, in the sense defined in our first chapter, is as reassuring as the concord underlying all divergencies of expression between Taoist and Hindu, or between Quaker revolutionary and Catholic saint. In the letter of their works the dissimilarity is extreme, the one seemingly so wild, the other in general so tame; for if Blake's besetting sin is fantasticality, Wordsworth's is a tendency to lapse into prosiness and complacent moralizing while remaining sublimely unaware of the lapse. Yet they were at one in essentials; they both strongly repudiated the mechanistic conception of man and nature which prevailed in their day, seeking to replace it in the minds of men by a philosophy that differed from primitive animism (to which it was in some sense a return) in its subtlety of apprehension, its intellectual discipline, and above all its recognition of a unity in all things. For Wordsworth, as for Blake, the universe was alive in all its parts and alive with one life. Nature was naturans, not naturata: a living organism suffused with that which in its higher manifestations we call mind or consciousness. As a mere idea this was no novelty: Wordsthought but in his quality as a poet. It is true that didacticism too often breaks in, and the tone of the lecture-room makes an end of poetry; but in his greatest moments, moments that come and go with unpredictable and disconcerting suddenness,

-186-

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The English Mystics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gerald Bullett's - Other Books Include iv
  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 7
  • Contents 9
  • Illustrations 11
  • Chapter One - The Subject Defined 13
  • Chapter Two - The Mediaeval Background 37
  • Chapter Three - George Fox 65
  • Chapter Four - Some Seventeenth-Century Poets 94
  • Chapter Five - The Cambridge Platonists 113
  • Chapter Six - William Law 129
  • Chapter Seven - Blake 161
  • Chapter Eight - Wordsworth 186
  • Chapter Nine - Comments and Conclusions 214
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 235
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