Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

mourned the good Mrs. Gillman once, in her kind, reverential and yet protective manner, handing him a very tolerable though belated cup. “It's better than I deserve !' snuffled he, in a low hoarse murmur, partly courteous, chiefly pious, the tone of which still abides with me: 'It's better than I deserve!'

The truth is, I now see, Coleridge's talk and speculation was the emblem of himself: in it as in him, a ray of heavenly inspiration struggled, in a tragically ineffectual degree, with the weakness of flesh and blood. He says once, he had skirted the howling deserts of Infidelity;' this was evident enough: but he had not had the courage, in defiance of pain and terror, to press resolutely across said deserts to the new firm lands of Faith beyond; he preferred to create logical fatamorganas for himself on this hither side, and laboriously solace himself with these.

“ To the man himself Nature had given, in high measure, the seeds of a noble endowment ; and to unfold it had been forbidden him. A subtle lynx-eyed intellect, tremulous pious sensibility to all good and all beautiful; truly a ray of empyrean light;—but imbedded in such weak laxity of character, in such indolences and esuriences as had made strange work with it. Once more, the tragic story of a high endowment with an insufficient will. An eye to discern the divineness of the Heaven's splendours and lightnings,

cii

MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.

the insatiable wish to revel in their godlike radiances and brilliances ; but no heart to front the scathing terrors of them, which is the first condition of your conquering an abiding-place there. The courage necessary for him, above all things, had been denied this man. His life, with such ray of the empyrean in it, was great and terrible to him; and he had not valiantly grappled with it, he had fled from it; sought refuge in vague daydreams, hollow compromises, in opium, in theosophic metaphysics. Harsh pain, danger, necessity, slavish harnessed toil, were of all things abhorrent to him. And so the empyrean element, lying smothered under the terrene, and yet inextinguishable there, made sad writhings. For pain, danger, difficulty, steady slaving toil, and other highly disagreeable behests of destiny, shall in no wise be shirked by any brightest mortal that will approve himself loyal to his mission in this world ; nay precisely the higher he is, the deeper will be the disagreeableness, and the detestability to flesh and blood, of the tasks laid on him; and the heavier, too, and more tragic, his penalties if he neglect them.”*

Such is the picture of Coleridge in his later years, as age was coming upon him. The sickness and infirmities of advanced life were ten

Carlyle's Life of Sterling, pp. 69–80.

derly ministered to, but their burden was not lightened by the pious offices of children or of wife. From them he had separated himself, never to be reunited with them in the same home on earth. His daughter was married from Southey's house, and her father was not present at her wedding. But though not supported by the common ties, the affection between them was not wholly broken, and till the close of her own sad life Sara Coleridge devoted herself to the filial task of defend. ing and illustrating her father's memory.

Of the last days of Coleridge little is known. He died on the 25th of July, 1834.

Ite hinc, Camenæ! vos quoque ite, suaves,
Dulces Camenæ! nam (fatebimur enim)
Dulces fuistis. Et tamen meas chartas
Revisitote, sed pudenter et raro.–VIRG. Catal. vii.

(From the Preface to the Sibylline Leaves.)

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »