« AnteriorContinua »
more effective idea of the work of the great Ger- thy of the reader, by a faithful adherence to man dramatist. This version was made from a the truth of nature, and the power of giving the copy which the author himself afterwards revised interest of novelty by the modifying colours of and altered, and tie translator subsequently re- imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents published his version in a more correct form, with of light and shade, which moon-light or sun-set the additional passages and alterations of Schiller. diffused over a known and familiar landscape, This translation will long remain as the most appeared to represent the practicability of coineffective which has been achieved of the works of bining both,» Further he observes on this the German dramatists in the British tongue. thought, « that a series of poems might be com
The censure which has been cast upon our posed of two sorts. In the one, the incidents and poet for not writing more which is worthy of his agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; reputation, has been met by his enumeration of and the excellence to be aimed at was to consist what he has done in all ways and times; and, in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic in truth, he has written a vast deal which has truth of such emotions as would naturally accompassed unnoticed, upon fleeting politics, and in pany such situations, supposing them real, etc. newspaper columns, literary as well as political. For the second class, subjects were to be chosen To the world these last go for nothing, though from ordinary life.» Thus, it appears, originated their author calculates the thought and labour the poems of the « Ancient Mariner,” and « Christhey cost him at full value. He concedes some- tabel,» by Coleridge, and the « Lyrical Ballads» thing, however, to this prevailing idea respecting of Wordsworth. him, when he says, « On my own account, I may Perhaps there is no English writer living who perhaps have had sufficient reason to lament my understood better than Coleridge the elements of deficiency in self-control, and the neglect of con- poetry, and the way in which they may be best centrating my powers to the realization of some combined to produce certain impressions. His permanent work. But to verse, rather than to definitions of the merits and differences in style prose, if to either, belongs the voice of mourn- and poetic genius, between the earliest and latest ing,' for
writers of his country, are superior to those which
any one else has it in his power to make; for, in Keen pangs of love awakening as a babe
truth, he long and deeply meditated upon them, Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart,
and no one can be dissatisfied by the reasons he And fears self-willid that shunnd the eve of hope, And hope that scarce could know itself from fear;
gives, and the examples he furnishes to bear out Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain,
his theories and opinions. These things he does And genius given and knowledge won in vain, as well or better in conversation than in writing. And all which I had culld in wood-walks wild, His conversational powers are indeed unrivalled, And all which patient toil had rear'd, and all
and it is to be feared that, to excel in these, he Commune with thee had opend out--but flowers Strew'd on my corpse, and borne upon my bier,
has sacrificed what are more durable; and that In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!
he has resigned, for the pleasure of gratifying an S. T. C. attentive listening circle, and pleasing thereby his
self-love by its applause, much that would have In another part of his works, Colerjdge says, delighted the world. His flow of words, delispeaking of what in poetry he had written, « as to very, and variety of information are so great, myself, I have published so little, and that little and he finds it so captivating to enchain his auof so little importance, as to make it almost ludi- ditors to the car of his triumphant eloquence, crous to mention my name at all. It is evident, that he has sacrificed to this gratification what therefore, that a sense of what he might have done might have sufficed to confer upon him a celebrity for fame, and of the little he has done, is felt by a thousand times more to be coveted by a spirit the poet; and yet, the little he has produced has akin to his own. among it genus of the purest lustre, the brilliancy It is equally creditable to the taste and judgof which time will not deaden until the universal ment of Coleridge, that he was one of the first to voice of nature be heard no longer, and poetry point out, with temper and sound reasoning, the perish beneath the dull load of life's hacknied fallacy of a great portion of Wordsworth's poetic realities.
theory, namely, that which relates to low life. The poem of a Christabel,» Coleridge says, Wordsworth contends that a proper poetic diction was composed in consequence of an agreement is a language laken from the mouths of men in with Mr Wordsworth, that they should mutu- general, in their natural conversation under the ally produce specimens of poetry which should influence of natural feelings. Coleridge wisely ascontain « the power of exciting the sympa-serts, that philosophers are the authors of the best
parts of language, not clowns; and that Milton's ing this public avowal of his entire ignorance of language is more that of real life than the language the language, Mr C. is said to have been in the of a cottager. This subject he has most ably treated habit, while conversing with his friends, of exin chapter 17 of his Biographia Literaria. pressing the utmost contempt for the literature
Two years after he had abandoned the Morning of that country! Post, he set off for Malta, where he most unexpect- Whelmed in the wild mazes of metaphysics, and edly arrived on a visit to his friend Dr Stodart, for ever mingling its speculations with all he then king's advocate in that island, and was intro- does or says, Coleridge bas of late produced noduced by him to the Governor, Sir Alexander Ball, thing equal to the power of his pen. A few verses who appointed him his secretary. He remained in in an annual, or a sonnet in a magazine, are the the island fulfilling the duties of his situation, for utmost of his efforts. He resides at Hampstead, which he seems to have been but indifferently in the house of a friend baving a good garqualified, a very short period. One advantage, den, where he walks for hours together enhowever, he derived from his official employ: that wrapped in visions of new theories of theology, of the pension granted by Government to those or upon the most abstruse of meditations. He who have served in similar situations. On his goes into the world at times, to the social dinnerway home he visited Italy; entered Rome, and party, where he gratifies his self-love by pouring examined its host of ancient and modern curi- out the stores of his mind in conversation to adosities, and added fresh matter for thought to miring listeners. Were he not apt to be too prohis rapidly accumulating store of ideas. Of this found, he would make an excellent talker, or rather visit he gives several anecdotes; among them one un grand causeur for a second Madame de Sévigné, respecting the horns of Moses on Michael Angelo's if such an accomplished female is to be found in celebrated statue of that lawgiver, intended to the nineteenth century, either in England or elucidate the character of Frenchmen. Coleridge France. The fluency of Coleridge's language, the has been all his life a hater of France and French- light he throws upon his subjects, and the pleasure men, arising from his belief in their being com- he feels in cominunicating his ideas, and his pletely destitute of moral or poetical feeling. A knowledge, inuate or acquired, are equally rePrussian, who was with him while looking upon markable to the stranger. He has been accused the statue, observed that a Frenchman was the of indolence, not perhaps with reason: the misonly animal, « in the human shape, that by no direction of his distinguished talents would be a possibility can lift itself up to religion or poetry.» better explanation of that for which he has been A foolish and untrue remark on the countrymen blameable. He attempts to justify bimself on the of Fenelon and Pascal, of Massillon and Cor- score of quantity, by asserting that some of his neille. Just then, however, two French officers of best things were published in newspapers.
The rank happened to enter the church, and the Goth world Jiffers with him upon this question, and from the Elbe remarked that, the first things always will do so, when it is recollected what he they would notice would be the « horns and has had the power to effect.
It will not forgive beard» (upon which the Prussian and Coleridge him for writing upon party, and in support of had just been rearing theories and quoting his- principles that even now are pretty nearly extory), and that the associations the Frenchmen ploded, « what was meant for mankind., Colewould connect with them would be those of ridge mistook his walk when he set up for a polia he-goat and a cuckold.» It happened that tician, and it is to be feared the public have a great the Prus-Goth was right : the officers did pass deal to regret on account of it. He will not be some such joke upon the figure. Hence, by in- known hereafter by his Morning Post articles, ference, would the poet have his readers deduce but by his verses. Whatever pains his political the character of a people, whose literature, sci- papers may have cost him, and from his own ence, and civilization are perhaps only not the account they were laboriously composed, they very first in the world
will avail him nothing with posterity. The Another instance of his fixed and absurd dis- verses of Coleridge give him his claim to lasting like of every thing French, occurred during the celebrity, and it is in vain that he would have the delivery of a course of Lectures on Poetry, at world think otherwise He says, « Would that the Royal Institution, in the spring of 1808 ; the criterion of a scholar's utility were the numin one of which he astonished his auditory by ber and moral value of the truths which he has thanking his Maker, in the most serious manner, been the means of throwing into the general cirfor so ordering events, that he was totally igno- culation, or the number and value of the minds rant of a single word of a that frightful jargon, whom, by his conversation or Jetters, he has exthe French language!» And yet, notwithstand- cited into activity, and supplied with the germs of
their after-growth! A distinguished rank might not his moral character. His family have long reindeed then be awarded to my exertions, but I sided with Mr Southey's in the north of England; should dare look forward to an honourable ac- the narrow pecuniary circumstances of our poet quittal. »
are assigned as the reason. It is arduously deIn temper and disposition Coleridge is kind and sired by all lovers of the Muses, that the author amiable. His person is bulky and his physio- of the « Ancient Mariner,» and of «Geneviève, » gnomy is heavy, but his eye is remarkably fine ; may see life protracted to a green old age, and and neither envy nor uncharitableness have yet produce works which may rival those of his made any successful impression in attacking departed years.
SAMUEL T. COLERIDGE.
labours under a strong feeling, is impelled to seek for sympathy; but a Poet's feelings are all strong. Quic
quid amet valde amat. Akenside therefore speaks with Compositions resembling those here collected are not philosophical accuracy when he classes Love and Poetry, unfrequently condemned for their querulous Egotism. as producing the same effects : But Exotism is to be condemned then only when it of
Love and the wish of Poets wben their tongue fends against time and place, as in a History or an Epic Would teach 10 others' bosoms, what so charms Poem. To censure it in a Monody or Sonnet is almost as absurd as to dislike a circle for being round. Why
Pleasures of Imagination. then write Sonnets or Monodies ? Because they give me There is one species of Egotism which is truly disgustpleasure when perhaps nothing else could. After the ing; not that which leads us to communicate our fcelmore violent emotions of Sorrow, the mind demands ings to others, but that which would reduce the feelings amusement, and can find it in employment alone : but, of others to an identity with our own. The Atheist, who full of its late sufferings, it can endure no ensployment exclaims « pshaw!, when he glances his eye on the not in some measure connected with them. Forcibly to
praises of Deity, is an Egotist: an old man, when he turn away our attention to general subjects is a painful speaks contemptuously of Love-verses, is an Egotist : and and most often an unavailing effort.
the sleek Favourites of Fortune are Egotists, when they But 0! how grateful to a wounded beart
condemn all • melancholy, discontented » verses. SureThe tale of Misery to impart
ly, it would be candid not merely to ask whether the From orburs' eyes bid arıless sorrows flow,
poem pleases ourselves, but to consider whether or no And raise esteem upon the base of Woo !
there may not be others, to whom it is well calculated
to give an innocent pleasure. The communicativeness of our Nature leads us to de- I shall only add, that each of my readers will, I hope, scribe our own sorrows; in the endeavour to describe remember, that these Poems on various subjects, which them, intellectual activity is exerted; and from intellec- he reads at one time and under the influence of one set tual activity there results a pleasure, which is gradually of feelings, were written at different times and prompted associated, and mingles as a corrective, with the painful by very different feelings; and therefore that the supsubject of the description. « True!» (it may be answer-posed inferiority of one Poem to another may sometimes ed) « but how are the Public interested in your Sorrows be owing to the temper of mind in wbich he happens or your Description ?» We are for ever attributing per
to peruse it. sonal Unities to imaginary Aggregates. What is the PUBLIC, but a term for a number of scattered individuals ?
My poems have been rightly charged with a profusion Of whom as many will be interested in these sorrows, as of double-epithets, and a general turgidness I llave have experienced the same or similar.
pruned the double-epithets with no sparing hand; and
used Holy be the lay
best efforts to tame the swell and glitter both Which mourning soothes the mourner on his way.
of thought and diction.' This latter fault however had If I could judge of others by myself, I should not hesi
I Without any feeling of anger, I may yet be allowed to expres tate to affirm, that the most interesting passages are some degree of surprise, that after having run the critical gauntlet those in which the Author develops his own feelings ? for a certain class of faults, which I bad, riz. a too ornate, and The sweet voice of Cona' never sounds so sweetly, as
elaborately poetic diction, and nothing baving come before the when it speaks of itself; and I should almost suspect for at least seventeen years, quarter after quarter, have been placed
judgment-seat of the Reviewers during the long interval, I should that man of an unkindly heart, who could read the by them in the foremost rank of the proscribed, and made to abide opening of the third book of the Paradise Lost without the brunt of abuse and ridicule for faults directly opposito, viz. peculiar emotion. By a Law of our Nature, he, who
bald and prosaic language, and an affected simplicity both of mat
ter and manner-faults which assuredly did not enter into the 1 Ossian.
character of my compositions. - Literary Life, 1, 51. Published 1817.