[Who are the truly great?] Surely they are those who give great and enduring thoughts to the world; who enkindle our imagination, call forth our tenderest emotions, give us eyes and ears, enrich our nation not only with glorious language, but with new views of human life, reveal man unto himself…. All this Wordsworth did. He not only unfolded a new philosophy, but he made men desire it. (pp. 47-48)
For this Wordsworth, not only put men and nature on talking terms, but filled this common earth of ours with angel presences to haunt and help mankind. It is because of Wordsworth that “the earth and common face of nature speak to us rememberable things.” (p. 48)….
He made it possible for the poorest of the poor to be rich beyond words in power of communing with Nature. (p. 49)
And Wordsworth was the Orpheus who discovered the harmony that exists between men and all the background of his human life. He made the great reconciliation between man and the earth he walks on and the heaven to which his eyes are cast. (p. 49)….
Wordsworth’s genius lay in discovering that in Nature’s ever varying forms and phases, there was a something that had a message to the hearts of men, and that on the commonest everyday life of man there was a something that would respond to the call; and that something was absolute truth, absolute reality. (p. 50)….
He saw that the great passions that upbuild the soul, the great primal impulses of human affection, the great master powers of the mind to suffer or be glad, need no grander field for the unfolding of the drama of life and character, than is found in the life of the working men, the simple shepherds of our hills. (p. 51)
He was the Poet of common life; and he accepted it as his mission to open the eyes and widen the thoughts of his countrymen, and to teach them to discover in the humblest and most unexpected form, a presence that was kindred to what they had long recognised as the highest and the noblest. (p. 51)
Wordsworth’s chief characteristic is the noble intermingling of deep feeling with profound thought; but his gift to his time was that he opened the fountain whence this thought and feeling flow; he bade men realise that not a single ray of morning light upon a distant hill or cloud that lies cradled in the setting sun, nor a bird or creature that flashes past, not a sound of the “winds that will be wandering at all hours,” but may so touch the heart and set man thinking “on man and nature and on human life,” that even the labourer going forth into the fields may find them filled with glad companionship, and have angels at his side to bring him home at eventide. (pp. 51-52)….
The reason why some of us are such fighters to-day for the beauties of the hills and valleys that he loved, why we spend ourselves and are spent in endeavour to keep the natural features of our quiet country, unimproved, unvulgarised and unmarred, is because Wordsworth has taught us to find some of our springs for public action in that same unfailing fountain he has opened to rich and poor alike, love for “this Demi Eden other Paradise,” wherein men still may walk and talk with God. (p. 55)
(A Reminiscence of Wordsworth Day, Cockermouth, April 7th, 1896)