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To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.7 [1803 — 6.
OR GROWTH OF A POEl's HIND.
PREFATORY Note.—This poem was begun early in l7!l!l, and was finished in tno Summer of I805. During that time, the anthor, as he himself tolls us, was meditating a much larger work, of which The Excursion forms a part; and by way of preparation for this work, " he undertook to record, in verso, the origin and progress uf his own powers, so far as he was acquainted with them." And lis adds the following: " Tho preparatory poem is antobiographical, and conducts the history of the iinthor's mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his !'acuities wcro sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labour which he h:ul proposed to himself; and the two works have the same kind of relation t j ouch other, if he may so express himself, as the Ante-chapel has to the body of a Gothic Chuivh."— The Prcladc was addressed to Coleridge, who was residing in Malta fur the restoration of his health when the greater part of it was composed. On his return to England, Wordsworth read the poem to him; and the impression it mada upon him is set form in some very noble verses addressed to Wordsworth, which will bo found among the poems by Coleridge given in this volume. Wordsworth speaks of The Prelude as ueing "addressed to a dear friond, most distinguished for his knowledge and genins, and to Whom the anthor's intellect is deeply indebted." — The poem was not published till I600, soon alter the anthor's death. On its Urst appearance, it was, l think, rather disappointing to the lovers of Wordsworth; bnt it wears well, and, if my own experience be any test, never fails to improve on further acquaintance. — The whole poem consists of fourteen Books. Of these, I give the ilrst two Books entire, and portions of several others; which is all I can make room for, withont excluding other pieces that seem better suited to the purpose of this volume.
BOOK FIRST. .
INTRODUCTION — CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL-TIME.
O, There is blessing in this gentle breeze,
7 This great Ode is now commonly accepted as the erowning effort of modern Imaginative discourse; bnt I suspect that few have grown to a full comprehension of its meaning. So deep and strong, indeed, is the undercurrent of thought, anii 60 rich and varied the imagery and expression by which those depths are symbolized, thnt one may converse with it every day for a' lifetime, withont exhausting its sig. nincance. I must dismiss it with a briof comment from Coleridge: " To the Ods on the Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Earlii Childhood, the poot might have prefixed the Hues which Dante addressed to one of his own Cauzoui:
'() lyric song, there will be few, think I,
Who may thy import understand aright;
Thou art f'orV/tcm Eo arduous and so high!'
Bnt the Ode was intended for such readers only as had boon accustomed to wateh the flux and reflux of their inmost nature, to venture-at times into the twilight realms of consciousness, and to fool a deep interest in modes of inmost being, to which they know that the allriuuies of time and sp^co arc inapplicable and alien, bnt which yot cannot be conveyed save in symbols of time and space. For i"~u readers the sense is bnlh'ciently plain."