Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

of so little importance, as to make it almost ludi- It is equally creditable to the taste and judgment crous to mention my name at all.” It is evident, of Coleridge, that he was one of the first to point therefore, that a sense of what he might have done out, with temper and sound reasoning, the fallacy for fame, and of the little he had done, was felt of a great portion of Wordsworth's poetic theory by the poet; and yet, the little he did produce has namely, that which relates to low life. Wordsamong it gems of the purest lustre, the brilliancy worth contended that a proper poetic diction is a of which time will not deaden until the universal language taken from the mouths of men in genevoice of nature be heard no longer, and poetry ral, in their natural conversation under the influ. perish beneath the dull load of life's hackneyed ence of natural feelings. Coleridge wisely asserted, realities.

that philosophers are the authors of the best parts The poem of “Christabel,” Coleridge says, was of language, not clowns; and that Milton's lancomposed in consequence of an agreement with guage is more that of real life than the language Mr. Wordsworth, that they should mutually pro- of a cottager. This subject he has most ably duce specimens of poetry which should contain treated in chapter 17 of his Biographia Literaria. " the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader, Two years after he had abandoned the Morning by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and Post, he set off for Malta, where he most unex. the power of giving the interest of novelty by pectedly arrived on a visit to his friend Dr. Stodart, the modifying colors of imagination. The sudden then king's advocate in that island, and was in. charm, which accidents of light and shade, which troduced by him to the Governor, Sir Alexander moon-light or sun-set diffused over a known and Ball, who appointed him his secretary. He re. familiar landscape, appeared to represent the prac- mained in the island fulfilling the duties of his ticability of combining both.” Further he ob- situation, for which he seems to have been but serves on this thought, “that a series of poems indifferently qualified, a very short period. One might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the advantage, however, he derived from his official incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, employ: that of the pension granted by Governsupernatural; and the excellence to be aimed atment to those who have served in similar situawas to consist in the interesting of the affections tions. On his way home he visited Italy; entered by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would Rome, and examined its host of ancient and modnaturally accompany such situations, supposir ern curiosities, and added fresh matter for thought them real, etc. For the second class, subjects to his rapidly accumulating store of ideas. Of were to be chosen from ordinary life.” Thus, it this visit he gives several anecdotes; among them appears, originated the poems of the “ Ancient one respecting the horns of Moses on Michael Mariner,” and “Christabel,” by Coleridge, and Angelo's celebrated statue of that lawgiver, in the " Lyrical Ballads” of Wordsworth.

tended to elucidate the character of Frenchmen Perhaps there is no English writer living who Coleridge was all his life a hater of France and understood better than Coleridge the elements of Frenchmen, arising from his belief in their being poetry, and the way in which they may be best completely destitute of moral or poetical feeling. combined to produce certain impressions. His A Prussian, who was with him while looking upon definitions of the merits and differences in style the statue, observed that a Frenchman was the only and poetic genius, between the earliest and latest animal, “ in the human shape, that by no possi. writers of his country, are superior to those which bility can lift itself up to religion or poetry.” A any one else has it in his power to make; for, in foolish and untrue remark on the countrymen of truth, he long and deeply meditated upon them, Fenelon and Pascal, of Massillon and Corneille. and no one can be dissatisfied by the reasons he Just then, however, two French officers of rank gives, and the examples he furnishes, to bear out happened to enter the church, and the Goth from his theories and opinions. These things he did the Elbe remarked that, the first things they would as well or better in conversation than in writing. notice would be the horns and beard" (upon which His conversational powers were indeed unrivalled, the Prussian and Coleridge had just been rearing and it is to be feared that to excel in these, he theories and quoting history), and that the associ. sacrificed what was more durable; and that heations the Frenchmen would connect with them resigned, for the pleasure of gratifying an attentive" would be those of a he-goat and a cuckold.” It listening circle, and pleasing thereby his self-love happened that the Prus-Goth was right: the offi by its applause, much that would have delighted cers did pass some such joke upon the figure. the world. His flow of words, delivery, and va. Hence, by inference, would the poet have his riety of information were so great, and he found readers deduce the character of a people, whose it so captivating to enchain bis auditors to the car literature, science, and civilization are perhaps of his triumphant eloquence, that he sacrificed to only not the very first in the world. this gratification what might have sufficed to Another instance of his fixed and absurd dislike confer upon him a celebrity a thousand times of every thing French, occurred during the de. more to he coveted by a spirit akin to his own. | livery of a course of Lectures on Poetry, at the Royal Institution, in the spring of 1808; in one rality and Religion ; illustrated by select passages of which he astonished his auditory by thanking from our older Divines, especially from Arch. his Maker, in the most serious manner, for so or- bishop Leighton." This is for the most part a dering events, that he was totally ignorant of a compilation of extracts from the works of the single word of that frightful jargon, the French Archbishop. language.” And yet, notwithstanding this public To conelude the catalogue of Mr. Coleridge's avowal of his entire ignorance of the language, works, in 1830 was issued a small volume “On Mr. Coleridge is said to have been in the habit, the Constitution of the Church and State, accord. while conversing with his friends, of expressing ing to the idea of each, with Aids towards a right the utmost contempt for the literature of that Judgment on the late Catholic Bill.” country!

In the year 1828, the whole of liis poetical In the years 1809–10, Mr. Coleridge issued works, including the dramas of Wallenstein from Grasmere a weekly essay, stamped to be (which had been long out of print), Remorse, and sent by the general post, called “ The Friend." Zapolya, were collected in three elegant volumes This paper lasted for twenty-seven numbers, and by Mr. Pickering. was then abruptly discontinued; but the papers The latter years of Mr. Coleridge's life were have since been collected and enlarged in three made easy by a domestication with his friend Mr. small volumes.

Gillman, the surgeon of Highgate Grove, and for In the year 1812, Mr. Coleridge, being in Lon- some years, the poet deservedly received an an. don, edited, and contributed several very interest- nuity from his Majesty of £ 100 per annum, as ing articles to, Mr. Southey's “Omniana,” in two an Academician of the Royal Society of Literasmall volumes. In the year 1816, appeared the ture. But these few most honorable pensions to Biographical Sketches of his Literary Life and worn-out veterans in literature were discontinued Opinions, and his newspaper Poems re-collected by the late ministry. Mr. Coleridge contributed under the title of "Sibylline Leaves."

one or two erudite papers to the transactions of About this time he wrote the prospectus of this Society. In the summer of 1823, Mr. Cole. “ The Encyclopædia Metropolitana,” still in the ridge made the tour of Holland, Flanders, and up course of publication, and was intended to be its the Rhine as far as Bergen. For some years beeditor ; but this final mistake was early discovered fore his death, he was afflicted with great bodily and rectified.

pain; and was on one occasion heard to say, that In the year 1816 likewise was published by for thirteen months he had from this cause walked Mr. Murray, at the recommendation of Lord By- up and down his chamber seventeen hours each ron, who had generously befriended the brother day. He died on the 25th of July, 1834, having (or rather the father) poet, the wondrous ballad previously written the following epitaph for bim. tale of “Christabel." The author tells us in his self: preface that the first part of it was written in his

“Stop, Christian passer-by! stop, child of God! great poetic year, 1797, at Stowey; the second

And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod part, after his return from Germany, in 1800, at A poet lies, or that which once seem'd heKeswick : the conclusion yet remains to be writ- Oh, lift a thought in prayer for S. T. C.! ten! The poet says, indeed, in this preface, “ As

That he, who, many a year, with toil of breath,

Found death in life, may here find life in death! in my very first conception of the tale, I had the

Mercy for praise - to be forgiven for fame, whole present to my mind, I trust that I shall yet He ask'd and hoped through Christ. Do thou the be able to embody in verse the three parts yet to

same." come" We do not pretend to contradict a poet's This is perfection — worthy of the author of dreams; but we believe that Mr. Coleridge never the best essay on epitaphs in the English lancommunicated to mortal man, woman, or child, guage. He was buried in Highgate Church. He how this story of witchcraft was to end. The has left three children, namely, Hartley, Derwent, poem is, perhaps, more interesting as a fragment and Sara. The first has published a volume of For sixteen years we remember it used to be re- poems, of which it is enough to say that they are cited and transcribed by admiring disciples, till worthy of Mr. Wordsworth's verses addressed to at length it was printed, and at least half the him at “six years old.” The second son is in charm of the poet was broken by the counterspell holy orders, and is married and settled in the of that rival magician, Faust. In 1818 was pub-west of England ; and the poet's daughter is lished the drama of Zapolya. In 1825, “Aids united to her learned and lively cousin, Mr. Henry to Reflection, in the Formation of a Manly Char- Nelson Coleridge, the author of “Six Months in acter, on the several grounds of Prudence, Mo. the West Indies.” This young lady had the good fortune to be educated in the noble library on the and subjected for a few minutes to the ethereal banks of the Cumberland Greta, where she as- influence of that wonderful man's monologue, and sisted her accomplished uncle in translating from he will begin to believe himself a poet. The bar. the old French the history of the Chevalier Bay- ren wilderness may not blossom like the rose; but ard, and from the Latin the account of the Abi- it will seem, or rather feel to do so, under the luspones, or Equestrian Indians of South America, tre of an imagination exhaustless as the sun.' by the Jesuit Martin Dobrizhoffer ; both of which “At the house of the attached friend, under works were published by Mr. Murray.

whose roof this illustrious man spent the latter “But of his native speech, because well nigh years of his life, it was the custom to have a con. Disuse in him forgetfulness had wrought,

versazione every Thursday evening. Here Cole. In Latin he composed his history,

ridge was the centre and admiration of the circle A garrulous but a lively tale, and fraught With matter of delight and food for thought;

that gathered round him. He could not be other. And if he could, in Merlin's glass, have seen wise, than aware of the intellectual homage of By whom his tomes to speak our tongue were taught, which he was the object; yet there he sate, talkThe old man would have been as pleased (I ween) ing and looking all sweet and simple and divine As when he won the ear of that great empress things, the very personification of meekness and queen." SOUTHEY's Tale of Paraguay. humility. Now he spoke of passing occurrences,

or of surrounding objects,—the flowers on the ta.

ble, or the dog on the hearth; and enlarged in The following brief sketches of Coleridge's char. most familiar wise on the beauty of the one, the

acter are selected from among the numerous attachment, the almost moral nature of the other, notices which appeared in various reviews and and the wonders that were involved in each. And periodicals at the time of his decease. now, soaring upward with amazing majesty, into

“ As a great poet, and a still greater philoso- those sublimer regions in which his soul de. pher, the world has hardly yet done justice to the lighted, and abstracting himself from the things genius of Coleridge. It was in truth of an order of time and sense, the strength of his wing soon not to be appreciated in a brief space. A far carried him out of sight. And here, even in these longer life than that of Coleridge shall not suffice his eagle flights, although the eye in gazing after to bring to maturity the harvest of a renown like him was dazzled and blinded, yet ever and anon his. The ripening of his mind, with all its golden

a sunbeam would make its way through the loopfruitage, is but the seed-time of his glory. The holes of the mind, giving it to discern that beau. close and consummation of his labors (grievous

tiful amalgamation of heart and spirit, that could to those that knew him, and even to those that equally raise him above his fellow-men, or bring knew him not,) is the mere commencement of him down again to the softest level of humanity. his eternity of fame. As a poet, Coleridge was

• It is easy,' says the critic before alluded to, it unquestionably great ; as a moralist, a theologian, is easy to talk-not very difficult to speechifyand a philosopher, of the very highest class, be hard to speak; but to discourse' is a gift rarely was utterly unapproachable

. And here, gentle bestowed by Heaven on mortal man. Coleridge reader, let me be plainly understood as speaking has it in perfection. While he is discoursing, the not merely of the present, but the past. Nay, world loses all its common places, and you and more. Seeing that the earth herself is now past your wife imagine yourselves Adam and Eve, her prime, and gives various indications of her listening to the affable archangel Raphael in the beginning to'grow grey in years,' it would, per. garden of Eden. You would no more dream of haps, savour more of probability than presump- wishing him to be mute for awhile, than you :inn, if I were likewise to include the future. It would a river, that 'imposes silence with a stilly is thus that, looking both to what is, and to what sound.' Whether you understand two consecu. has been, we seem to feel it, like a truth intuitive, tive sentences, we shall not stop too curiously to that we shall never have another Shakspeare in enquire; but you do something better—you feel the drama, nor a second Milton in the regions of the whole, just like any other divine music. And sublimer song. As a poet, Coleridge has done 'tis your own fault if you do not "a wiser and a enough to show how much more he might and better man arise to-morrow's morn.""" could have done, if he had so thought fit. It was

The Metropolitan. truly said of him, by an excellent critic and ac- An elaborate and admirable critique on Cole. coinplished judge, 'Let the dullest clod that ever ridge's “ Poetical Works,” in “The Quarterly vegetated, provided only he be alive and hears, be Review, No. CIII.," written just before his death, shut up in a room with Coleridge, or in a wood, opens as follows:

“Idolized by many, and used without scruple visited Mr. Coleridge have left him with a feeling by more, the poet of Christabel and the An. akin to the judgment indicated in the above recient Mariner' is but little truly known in that mark. They admire the man more than his common literary world, which, without the pre-works, or they forget the works in the absorbing rogative of conferring fame hereafter, can most impression made by the living author. And no surely give or prevent popularity for the present. wonder. Those who remember him in his more In that circle he commonly passes for a man of vigorous days can bear witness to the peculiarity genius who has written some very beautiful and transcendent power of his conversational eloverses, but whose original powers, whatever they quence. It was unlike any thing that could be were, have been long since lost or confounded in heard elsewhere; the kind was different, the de. the pursuit of metaphysic dreams. We ourselves gree was different; the manner was different." venture to think very differently of Mr. Coleridge, The boundless range of scientific knowledge, the both as a poet and a philosopher, although we are brilliancy and exquisite nicety of illustration, the well enough aware that nothing which we can deep and ready reasoning, the strangeness and say will, as matters now stand, much advance his immensity of bookish lore, were not all; the dra. chance of becoming a fashionable author. In- matic story, the joke, the pun, the festivity, must deed, as we rather believe, we should earn small be added ; and with these the clerical-looking thanks from him for our happiest exertions in dress, the thick waving silver hair, the youthful. such a cause ; for certainly, of all the men of let. colored cheek, the indefinable mouth and lips, the ters whom it has been our fortune to know, we quick yet steady and penetrating greenish-grey never met any one who was so utterly regardless eye, the slow and continuous enunciation, and the of the reputation of the mere author as Mr. Cole. everlasting music of his tones, -all went to make ridge-one so lavish and indiscriminate in the up the image and to constitute the living presence exhibition of his own intellectual wealth before of the man." any and every person, no matter who—one so In a note at the conclusion of the number of reckless who might reap where he had most pro- “The Quarterly Review" from which the predigally sown and watered. "God knows,'

-as we ceding passage has been taken, Mr. Coleridge's once heard him exclaim upon the subject of his decease is thus mentioned : unpublished system of philosophy,—God knows, " It is with deep regret that we announce the I have no author's vanity about it. I should be death of Mr. Coleridge. When the foregoing arabsolutely glad if I could hear that the thing had ticle on his poetry was printed, he was weak in been done before me.' It is somewhere told of body, but exhibited no obvious symptoms of so Virgil, that he took more pleasure in the good near a dissolution. The fatal change was sudden verses of Varius and Horace than in his own.. and decisive; and six days before his death he We would not answer for that; but the story has knew, assuredly, that his hour was come. His always occurred to us, when we have seen Mr. few worldly affairs had been long settled; and, Coleridge criticising and amending the work of a after many tedious adieus, he expressed a wish contemporary author with much more zeal and that he might be as little interrupted as possible. hilarity than we ever perceived him to display His sufferings were severe and constant till within about any thing of his own. Perhaps our readers thirty-six hours of his end; but they had no may have heard repeated a saying of Mr. Words- power to affect the deep tranquillity of his mind, worth, that many men of this age had done won or the wonted sweetness of his address. His derful things, as Davy, Scott, Cuvier, &c.; but prayer from the beginning was, that God would that Coleridge was the only wonderful man he not withdraw his Spirit; and that by the way in ever knew. Something, of course, must be al- which he would bear the last struggle, he might lowed in this as in all other such cases of anti- be able to evince the sincerity of his faith in tnesis; but we believe the fact really to be, that Christ. If ever man did so, Coleridge did.” the greater part of those who have occasionally

12

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinua »