The poet is important, present, manifest to the poet. His poetry is an addition to his state, which yet is complete without it. The state of poetry, the state of the poet, has superfluity escaping into song. It is this superfluity that makes, not the poet, but the poetry-book. If Thompson had only written of his experiences as a poet, he would have written fine poetry; when he wrote of the poet's songs he made songs, when he wrote of the poet's communings with God and Nature he made more songs, and, to make songs, need never have written directly of God and Nature. In one sense his descriptions of the poet's throes are out of all proportion to their product. He tells you so often of his Song, that it might be complained he had no time for singing. He will compose a poem to show he is Muse-forsaken, or to establish the fact that his lady is immortal only in his verse; it hardly matters whether he wrote otherwise of her or not. He will tell you, with supremest diction, that his poppy and he lie safe in leaved rhyme. The great bulk of his poetry is about his poetry-that is, you might read his three volumes and think they were but prefaces to thirty-three. Really they are the index not to forty-eight other volumes, but to the forty-eight years of the poet's existence-to the Poet, that is.
" The more a man gives his life to poetry, the less poetry he writes, " was Thompson's own experience.
This harping upon himself is notable. His preoccupation is poetry-and the poet. It is not a matter of selfishness but of difference. New Poems meets with many objections on this score, for sharp distinctions within the species are always resented. The presence of the man is resented, and the presence of the poet, or prophet, is resented. But that he has his own place in creation he knows well enough. Isaiah knew it; and when one of his kind says-
This dread Theology alone Is mine,
Most native and my own;
And ever with victorious toil
When I have made
Of the deific peaks dim escalade,
My soul with anguish and recoil
Doth like a city in an earthquake rock,
With deeper menace than for other men, he is proclaiming a family egoism that can no more be " pooh-poohed" than a racial pigment or tribal distinction, the stature of the pygmies or the stripe of the zebra. The tribal segregation of the spirit is distrusted, however, because it defies scientific classification. It is known as madness, saintliness, obscurity, affectation, " nerves," mania, fanaticism, conceit, according to its symptoms in a Blake, or a Jacopone da Todi; all its kinds are labelled, but it is never brought to exact order. The variousness of degree in the poetic character is a necessity of the case. The poet makes the difference because he makes his own world, his own scope, his own experience. If he is one of a tribe, he is always the head of it-a chief, like every other, with a tent as large as the sky, as large as the horizon which his own intellectual stature may command.
The poet is conscious of his status as the "maker"- the maker who presumes upon the common advantage of being made in the likeness of God, and gives point to the likeness. It is plainly stated by F. T. in " Carmen
Genesis " and in an unpublished note written in support of the poem :-
Poet! still, still thou dost rehearse, In the great fiat of thy Verse,
Creation's primal plot; And what thy Maker in the whole Worked, little maker, in thy soul
Thou work'st, and men know not.
Thine intellect, a luminous voice, Compulsive moved above the noise
Of thy still fluctuous sense ; And Song, a water-child like Earth, Stands with feet sea-washed, a wild birth
Amid their subsidence.
And in prose repetition of the " Poet or Maker" :-
" In the beginning, at the great mandate of light, the sea suddenly disglutted the earth: and still in the microcosm of the poetic, the making mind, Creation imitates her august and remembered origins. Still, at the luminous compulsion of the poet's intellect, from the subsidence of his fluctuant senses emerges the express and founded consistence of the poem; confessing, by manifold tokens, its twofold parentage, quickened with intellectual light, and freshened with the humidities of feeling. Of generations it shall endure the spiritual treading and to generations afford its fruits, a terra firma which may scarce wear out before the prototypal earth itself. This is the function of the maker since God first imagined : though poetry's Book of Genesis is yet unwritten which might be written, and its Moses is desired and is late. An art not unworthy the Seraphic Order and the handling of Saints. For the poet is an Elias, that when he comes makes all things new. It is a converse, alas, and lamentable truth, that the false poet makes even new things old."
Of the Poet's powers of Creation or Transfiguration Wordsworth held an advanced estimate :-
" The objects of the poet's thoughts are everywhere ; though the eyes and senses of men are, it is true, his favourite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge-it is immortal as the heart of man. If the labours of the men of science should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive, the poet will sleep then no more than at present. ... If the time should ever come when what is now called science, thus familiarised to men, shall be ready to put on, as it were, a form of flesh and blood, the poet will lend his divine spirit to aid the transfiguration, and will welcome the Being thus produced, as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man."
"The Testament of an Empire Builder " :-
" We still lament that here, as in the preceding poems of the series, there is far too much metrical dialectic, argument in verse, which is a thing anti-poetic. Poetry should proclaim, poetry is dogmatic; when it stoops to argue, it loses its august privilege and becomes, at the best, a K.C in cloth of gold."