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Royal Institution, in the spring of 1808; in one of which he astonished his auditory by thanking his Maker, in the most serious manner, for so ordering events, that he was totally ignorant of a single word of “that frightful jargon, the French language!” And yet, notwithstanding this public avowal of his entire ignorance of the language, Mr. C. is said to have been in the habit, while conversing with his friends, of expressing the utmost contempt for the literature of that country:
Whelmed in the wild mazes of metaphysics, and for ever mingling its speculations with all he does or says, Coleridge has of late produced nothing equal to the power of his pen. A few verses in an annual, or a sonnet in a magazine, are the utmost of his efforts. He resides at Hampstead, in the house of a friend having a good garden, where he walks for hours together enwrapped in visions of new theories of theology, or upon the most abstruse of meditations. He goes into the world at times, to the social dinner-party, where he gratifies his self. love by pouring out the stores of his mind in conversation to admiring listeners. Were he not apt to be too profound, he would make an excellent talker, or rather un grand causeur for a second Madame de Sévigné, if such an accomplished female is to be found in the nineteenth century, either in England or France. The fluency of Coleridge's language, the light he throws upon his subjects, and the pleasure he feels in communicating his ideas, and his knowledge, innate or acquired, are equally remarkable to the stranger. He has been accused of indolence, not perhaps with reason: the misdirection of his distinguished talents would be a better explanation of that for which he has been blamable. " He attempts to justify himself on the score of quantity, by asserting that some of his best things were published in newspapers. The world differs with him upon
this question, and always will do so, when it is recollected what he has had the power to effect. It will not forgive him for writing upon party, and in support of principles that even now are pretty nearly exploded, “what was meant for mankind.” Coleridge mistook his walk when he set up for a politician, and it is to be feared the public have a great deal to regret on account of it. He will not be known hereafter by his Morning Post articles, but by his verses. Whatever pains his political papers may have cost him, and from his own account they were laboriously composed, they will avail him nothing with posterity. The verses of Coleridge give him his claim to lasting celebrity, and it is in vain that he would have the world think otherwise. He says, “Would hat the criterion of a scholar's utility were the number and moral value of the truths which he has been the means of throwing into the general circulation, or the number and value of the minds whom, by his conversation or letters, he has excited into activity, and supplied with the germs of their after-growth : A distinguished rank might not indeed then be awarded to my exertions, but I should dare look forward to an honorable acquittal.” In temper and disposition Coleridge is kind and amiable. His person is bulky and his physiognomy is heavy, but his eye is remarkably fine; and neither envy nor uncharitableness have made any successful impression in attacking his
moral character. His family have long resided
with Mr. Southey's in the north of England; the narrow pecuniary circumstances of our poet are assigned as the reason. It is ardently desired by all lovers of the Muses, that the author of the “Ancient Mariner,” and of “Genevieve,” may see life protracted to a green old age, and yet produce works which may rival those of his de
parted years. 10
Compositions resembling those here collected are not unfrequently condemned for their querulous Egotism. But Egotism is to be condemned then only when it offends against time and place, as in a History or an Epic Poem. To censure it in a Monody or Sonnet is almost as absurd as to dislike a circle for being round. Why then write Sonnets or Monodies? Because they give me pleasure when perhaps nothing else could. After the more violent emotions of Sorrow, the mind demands amusement, and can find it in employment alone: but, full of its late suf. ferings, it can endure no employment not in some measure connected with them. Forcibly to turn away our attention to general subjects is a painful and most often an unavailing effort.
But O' how grateful to a wounded heart
The tale of Misery to impart—
From others' eyes bid artless sorrows flow,
And raise esteem upon the base of Woe!
- Shaw. The communicativeness of our Nature leads us to describe our own sorrows; in the endeavor to describe them, intellectual activity is exerted ; and from intellectual activity there results a pleasure, which is gradually associated, and mingles as a corrective, with the painful subject of the description. “True!” (it may be answered) “but how are the Public interested in your sorrows or your Description 1" We are for ever attributing personal Unities to imaginary Aggregates. What is the Public, but a term for a number of scattered individuals 2 of whom as many will be interested in these sorrows, as have experienced the same or similar. Holy be the lay Which mourning soothes the mourner on his way.
If I could judge of others by myself, I should not hesitate to affirm, that the most interesting passages are those in which the Author develops his own feelings? The sweet voice of Cona" never sounds so sweetly, as when it speaks of itself; and I should almost suspect that man of an unkindly heart, who could read the opening of the third book of the Paradise Lost without peculiar emotion. By a Law of our Nature, he, who labors under a strong feeling, is
impelled to seek for sympathy; but a Poet's feelings are all strong. Quicquid amet valde amat. Akenside therefore speaks with philosophical accuracy when he classes Love and Poetry, as producing the same effects:
“Love and the wish of Poets when their tongue
Would teach to others' bosoms, what so charms
Pleasures of Imagination. There is one species of Egotism which is truly disgusting; not that which leads us to communicate our feelings to others but that which would reduce the feelings of others to an identity with our own. The Atheist, who exclaims “pshaw!" when he glances his eye on the praises of Deity, is an Egotist: an old man, when he speaks contemptuously of Loveverses, is an Egotist: and the sleek Favorites of Fortune are Egotists, when they condemn all “melancholy, discontented” verses. Surely, it would be candid not merely to ask whether the poem pleases ourselves, but to consider whether or no there may not be others, to whom it is well calculated to give an innocent pleasure. I shall only add, that each of my readers will, I
hope, remember, that these Poems on various subjects, which he reads at one time and under the influence of one set of feelings, were written at different times and prompted by very different feelings; and therefore that the supposed inferiority of one Poem to another may sometimes be owing to the temper of mind in which he happens to peruse it.
My poems have been rightly charged with a profusion of double-epithets, and a general turgidness. I have pruned the double-epithets with no sparing hand; and used my best efforts to tame the swell and glitter both of thought and diction.* This latter
* Without any feeling of anger, I may yet be allowed to express some degree of surprise, that after having run the critical gauntlet for a certain class of faults, which I had, viz. a too ornate and elaborately poetic diction, and nothing having come before the judgment-seat of the Reviewers during the long interval, I should for at least seventeen years, quarter after quarter, have been placed by them in the foremost rank of the proscribed, and made to abide the brunt of abuse and ridicule for faults directly opposite, viz. bald and prosaic language, and an affected simplicity both of matter and manner —faults which assuredly did not enter into the character of my compositions.—Literary Life, i. 51. Published 1817.
sault however had insinuated itself into my Religious Musings with such intricacy of union, that sometimes I have omitted to disentangle the weed from the fear of snapping the flower. A third and heavier accusation has been brought against me, that of obscurity; but not, I think, with equal justice. An Author is obscure, when his conceptions are dim and imperfect, and his language incorrect, or unappropriate, or involved. A poem that abounds in allusions, like the Bard of Gray, or one that impersonates high and abstract truths, like Collins's Ode on the poetical character, claims not to be popular— but should be acquitted of obscurity. The deficiency is in the Reader. But this is a charge which every poet, whose imagination is warm and rapid, must expect from his contemporaries. Milton did not escape it; and it was adduced with virulence against Gray and Collins. We now hear no more of it: not that their poems are better understood at present, than they were at their first publication; but their fame is established; and a critic would accuse himself of frigidity or inattention, who should profess not to understand them. But a living writer is yet subjudice; and if we cannot follow his conceptions or enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride to consider him as lost beneath, than as soaring above us. If any man expect from my poems the same easiness of style which he admires in a drinking-song, for him I have not written. Intelligibilia, non intellectum adfero. I expect neither profit nor general fame by my writings ; and I consider myself as having been amply repaid without either. Poetry has been to me its own “exceeding great reward:” it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude: and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the Good and the Beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me.
And when thou lovest thy pale orb to shroud
TIME, REAL AND IMAGINARY. AN ALLEGORY.
ON the wide level of a mountain's head (I knew not where, but 't was some faery place) Their pinions, ostrich-like, for sails outspread, Two lovely children run an endless race, A sister and a brother This far outstript the other; Yet ever runs she with reverted face, And looks and listens for the boy behind: For he, alas ! is blind O'er rough and smooth with even step he pass'd, And knows not whether he be first or last.
MONODY ON TIIE DEATH OF CHATTERTON.
O what a wonder seems the fear of death,
Away, Grim Phantom" Scorpion King, away."
Thee, Chatterton! these unblest stones protect
Yet of, perforce ('tis suffering Nature's call.)
Sublime of thought, and confident of fame,
And now his cheeks with deeper ardors flame,
Sweet Flower of Hope' free Nature's genial child'
Such were the struggles of the gloomy hour, When Care, of wither'd brow, Prepar'd the poison's death-cold power: Already to thy lips was raised the bowl, When near thee stood Affection meek (Her bosom bare, and wildly pale her cheek.) Thy sullen gaze she bade thee roll On scenes that well might melt thy soul; Thy native cot she flash’d upon thy view, Thy native cot, where still, at close of day, Peace smiling sate, and listen'd to thy lay; Thy Sister's shrieks she bade thee hear, And mark thy Mother's thrilling tear; See, see her breast's convulsive throe, Her silent agony of woe! Ah! dash the poison'd chalice from thy hand : And thou hadst dash'd it, at her soft command,
"Avon, a river near Bristol; the birth place of Chatterton.
But that Despair and Indignation rose,
Ye woods ! that wave o'er Avon's rocky steep,
SONGS OF THE PIXIES.
The Pixies, in the superstition of Devonshire, are a race of beings invisibly small, and harmless or friendly to man. At a small distance from a village in that county, half-way up a wood-covered hill, is an excavation called the Pixies' Parlor. The roots of old trees form its ceiling ; and on its sides are innumerable ciphers, among which the author discovered his own cipher and those of his brothers, cut by the hand of their childhood. At the foot of the hill flows the river Otter.
To this place the Author conducted a party of young Ladies, during the Summer months of the year 1793; one of whom, of stature elegantly small, and of complexion colorless yet clear, was proclaimed the Faery Queen. On which occasion the following irregular Ode was written.
Whom the untaught Shepherds call
When fades the moon all shadowy-pale,
But not our filmy pinion We scorch amid the blaze of day, When Noontide's fiery-tressed minion Flashes the servid ray. Aye from the sultry heat We to the cave retreat O'ercanopied by huge roots intertwined With wildest texture, blacken'd o'er with age : Round them their mantle green the ivies bind, Beneath whose foliage pale, Fann'd by the unfrequent gale, We shield us from the Tyrant's mid-day rage.
Thither, while the murmuring throng Of wild-bees hum their drowsy song, By Indolence and Fancy brought, A youthful Bard, “unknown to Fame,” Wooes the Queen of Solemn Thought, And heaves the gentle misery of a sigh, Gazing with tearful eye, As round our sandy grot appear Many a rudely-sculptured name To pensive Memory dear! Weaving gay dreams of sunny-tinctured hue, We glance before his view:
O'er his hush'd soul our soothing witcheries shed, And twine our faery garlands round his head.
V. . When Evening's dusky car, Crown'd with her dewy star, Steals o'er the fading sky in shadowy flight, On leaves of aspen trees We tremble to the breeze, Weil'd from the grosser ken of mortal sight. Or, haply, at the visionary hour, Along our wildly-bower'd sequester'd walk, We listen to the enamour'd rustic's talk; Heave with the heavings of the maiden's breast, Where young-eyed Loves have built their turtle - nest; Or guide of soul-subduing power The electric flash, that from the melting eye Darts the fond question and the soft reply.
Or through the mystic ringlets of the vale We flash our faery feet in gamesome prank; Or, silent-sandall'd, pay our defter court Circling the Spirit of the Western Gale, Where wearied with his flower-caressing sport Supine he slumbers on a violet bank; Then with quaint music hymn the parting gleam By lonely Otter's sleep-persuading stream; § where his waves with loud unquiet song Dash'd o'er the rocky channel froth along; Or where, his silver waters smoothed to rest, The tall tree's shadow sleeps upon his breast.
Hence, thou lingerer, Light! Eve saddens into Night. Mother of wildly-working dreams! we view The sombre hours, that round thee stand With downcast eyes (a duteous band') Their dark robes dripping with the heavy dew. Sorceress of the ebon throne ! Thy power the Pixies own, When round thy raven brow Heaven's lucent roses glow, And clouds, in watery colors drest, Float in light drapery o'er thy sable vest: What time the pale moon sheds a softer day, Mellowing the woods beneath its pensive beam: For mid the quivering light 'tis ours to play, Aye dancing to the cadence of the stream.