1824 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alaric Alexander Watts

Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Alaric Alexander Watts, 1824 ca.; in Alaric Alfred Watts, Alaric Watts, a Narrative of his Life, by his Son (1884) 1:152-54.



Highgate.

MY DEAR SIR,

As some slight proof that you have been in my thoughts, I send you some observations and criticunculae suggested by your volume of poems.

"The Broken Heart" is a poem of great and powerful interest. The specks in it are therefore only not too trifling for notice that they are specks in a diamond.

"I Think of Thee," is impassioned and eloquent with the eloquence of lyric poetry.

"A Sketch from Real Life" reminds me of the best verses of the first James's and Charles's reigns. It is between Chapman and Cartwright, and partakes of both.

"Ten Years Ago" cannot but be a favourite at every fireside where love and piety are seated.

The poem "To Octavia" is a very sweet composition; but, oh, by the immortal Nine, the jealous guardians of the purity of language, let not the English ear be demoralized by hybrid participles equivocally generated of noun-substantives. Southey is a sad offender in this way — mirror'd — "fountain'd," etc.

"Remember the Past." Some critic of the year 2828 will affix an asterisk to the fourth line of the second stanza of this poem, and swear by all the gods that Alaric Watts never wrote such a line. Like all your poems, these lines are full of glow and spirit; but this metre has always impressed me unpleasantly, and I believe I should be more pleased, at least less dissatisfied, with this poem, if the thoughts and imagery had been less interesting, because they overbalance the tintinnabulation of the verse.

"A Waking Dream" is a noble poem! A genial half-hour employed on page 62, after you had been reading the second Psalm, and the first, eighth, and tenth chapters of Ezekiel, and had thus put the Apollo Belvidere, and the Arts, and all the complacencies that arise from the contemplation of the distinct and beautiful in figure wholly out of the imagination, would leave nothing to be wished in this grand "skyscape."

I have no objection, be assured, to your spiritual cranium containing both the taste exquisite, and the faculty divine, — this in one hemisphere, and that in another; — or like Light and Darkness in Milton's apotheosis of a Dutch weather-glass; but let the poet keep at a distance from the connoisseur. Music and imagery he must have; but imagery acting more as music than as painting.

Altogether I have received great pleasure from the volume; and I thank you for it sincerely. Remember me respectfully and affectionately to Mrs. Watts. She will be pleased to hear that my ramble on the Continent has benefited my health.

Blessings on the little ones.

Believe me very truly yours,

S. T. COLERIDGE.