poets are but earth

On their leaving the room to get ready for their journey, my friend told me the strangers were the poet Wordsworth, his wife and sister. Who could have divined this? I could see no trace, in the hard features and weather-stained brow of the outer man, of the divinity within him. In a few minutes the travellers reappeared….Now that I knew that I was talking to one of the gentle craft, as there was no time to waste, I asked him abruptly what he thought of Shelley as a poet?
   “Nothing,” he replied, as abruptly.
   Seeing my surprise, he added, “A man who has not produced a good poem before he is twenty-five, we may conclude cannot and never will do so.”
   “The Cenci!” I said eagerly.
   “Won’t do,” he replied, shaking his head, as he got into the carriage: a rough-coated Scotch terrier following him.
   “This hairy fellow is our flea-trap,” he shouted out, as they started off.
When I recovered from the shock of having heard the harsh sentence passed by an elder bard on a younger brother of the Muses, I exclaimed, After all, poets are but earth.

—E. J. Trelawny, Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron (1858), quoted in The Minor Pleasures of Life (Victor Gollancz LTD, 1934), selected and arranged by Rose Macaulay.

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