We lately reviewed the life, and mean hereafter to review the works, of our departed Crabbe. Let us be indulged, in the mean time, in this opportunity of making a few remarks on the genius of the extraordinary man whose poems, now for the first time completely collected, are named at the head of this article. The larger part of this publication is, of course, of old date, and the author still lives; yet, besides the considerable amount of new matter in this edition, which might of itself, in the present dearth of anything eminently original in verse, justify our notice, we think the great, and yet somewhat hazy, celebrity of Coleridge, and the ill-understood character of his poetry, will be, in the opinion of a majority of our readers, more than an excuse for a few elucidatory remarks upon the subject. Idolized by many, and used without scruple by more, the poet of "Christabel" and the "Ancient Mariner" is but little truly known in that common literary world, which, without the prerogative of conferring fame hereafter, can most surely give or prevent popularity for the present. In that circle lie commonly passes for a man of genius, who has written some very beautiful verses, but whose original powers, whatever they were, have been long since lost or confounded in the pursuit of metaphysic dreams. We ourselves venture to think very differently of Mr. Coleridge, both as a poet and a philosopher, although we are well enough aware that nothing which we can say will, as matters now stand, much advance his chance of becoming a fashionable author. Indeed, as we rather believe, we should earn small thanks from him for our happiest exertions in such a cause; for certainly, of all the men of letters whom it has been our fortune to know, we never met any one who was so utterly regardless of the reputation of the mere author as Mr. Coleridge — one so lavish and indiscriminate in the exhibition of his own intellectual wealth before any and every person, no matter who — one so reckless who might reap where he had most prodigally sown and watered. "God knows," — as we once heard him exclaim upon the subject of his unpublished system of philosophy, — "God knows, I have no author's vanity about it. I should be absolutely glad if I could hear that the thing had been done before me." It is somewhere told of Virgil, that he took more pleasure in the good verses of Varius and Horace than in his own. We would not answer for that; but the story has always occurred to us, when we have seen Mr. Coleridge criticising and amending the work of a contemporary author with much more zeal and hilarity than we ever perceived him to display about anything of his own.
Perhaps our readers may have heard repeated a saying of Mr. Wordsworth, that many men of this age had done wonderful things, as Davy, Scott, Cuvier, &c.; but that Coleridge was the only wonderful man he ever knew. Something, of course, must be allowed in this as in all other such cases for the antithesis; but we believe the fact really to be, that the greater part of those who have occasionally visited Mr. Coleridge have left him with a feeling akin to the judgment indicated in the above remark. They admire the man more than his works, or they forget the works in the absorbing impression made by the living author. And no wonder. Those who remember him in his more vigorous days can bear witness to the peculiarity and transcendant power of his conversational eloquence, it was unlike anything that could be heard elsewhere; the kind was different, the degree was different, the manner was different. The boundless range of scientific knowledge, the brilliancy and exquisite nicety of illustration, the deep and ready reasoning, the strangeness and immensity of bookish lore — were not all; the dramatic story, the joke, the pun, the festivity, must be added — and with these the clerical-looking dress, the thick waving silver hair, the youthful-coloured cheek, the indefinable mouth and lips, the quick yet steady and penetrating greenish grey eye, the slow and continuous enunciation, and the everlasting music of his tones, — all went to make up the image and to constitute the living presence of the man. He is now no longer young, and bodily infirmities, we regret to know, have pressed heavily upon him. His natural force is indeed abated; but his eye is not dim, neither is his mind yet enfeebled. "O youth!" he says in one of the most exquisitely finished of his later poems—
O youth! for years so many and sweet,
'Tis known that thou and I were one,
I'll think it but a fond conceit—
It cannot be that thou art gone!
Thy vesper bell bath not yet tolled:—
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe that thou art gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size;—
But springtide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.
Mr. Coleridge's conversation, it is true, has not now all the brilliant versatility of his former years; yet we know not whether the contrast between his bodily weakness and his mental power does not leave a deeper and a more solemnly affecting impression, than his most triumphant displays in youth could ever have done. To see the pain-stricken countenance relax, and the contracted frame dilate under the kindling of intellectual fire alone — to watch the infirmities of the flesh shrinking out of sight, or glorified and transfigured in the brightness of the awakening spirit — is an awful object of contemplation; and in no other person did we ever witness such a distinction, — nay, alienation of mind from body, — such a mastery of the purely intellectual over the purely corporeal, as in the instance of this remarkable man. Even now his conversation is characterized by all the essentials of its former excellence; there is the same individuality, the same unexpectedness, the same universal grasp; nothing is too high, nothing too low for it: it glances from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, with a speed and a splendour, an ease and a power, which almost seem inspired: yet its universality is not of the same kind with the superficial ranging of the clever talkers whose criticism and whose information are called forth by, and spent upon, the particular topics in hand. No; in this more, perhaps, than in anything else is Mr. Coleridge's discourse distinguished: that it springs from an inner centre, and illustrates by light from the soul. His thoughts are, if we may so say, as the radii of a circle, the centre of which may be in the petals of a rose, and the circumference as wide as the boundary of things visible and invisible. In this it was that we always thought another eminent light of our time, recently lost to us, an exact contrast to Mr. Coleridge as to quality and style of conversation. You could not in all London or England hear a more fluent, a more brilliant, a more exquisitely elegant converser than Sir James Mackintosh; nor could you ever find him unprovided. But, somehow or other, it always seemed as if all the sharp and brilliant things he said were poured out of so many vials filled and labelled for the particular occasion; it struck us, to use a figure, as if his mind were an ample and well-arranged "hortus siccus," from which you might have specimens of every kind of plant, but all of them cut and dried for store. You rarely saw nature working at the very moment in him. With Coleridge it was and still is otherwise. He may be slower, more rambling, less pertinent; he may not strike at the instant as so eloquent; but then, what he brings forth is fresh coined; his flowers are newly gathered, they are wet with dew, and, if you please, you may almost see them growing in the rich garden of his mind. The projection is visible; the enchantment is done before your eyes. To listen to Mackintosh was to inhale perfume; it pleased, but did not satisfy. The effect of an hour with Coleridge is to set you thinking; his words haunt you for a week afterwards; they are spells, brightenings, revelations. In short, it is, if we may venture to draw so bold a line, the whole difference between talent and genius.
A very experienced short-hand writer was employed to take down Mr. Coleridge's lectures on Shakspeare, but the manuscript was almost entirely unintelligible. Yet the lecturer was, as he always is, slow and measured. The writer — we have some notion it was no worse an artist than Mr. Gurney himself — gave this account of the difficulty: that with regard to every other speaker whom he had ever heard, however rapid or involved, he could almost always, by long experience in his art, guess the form of the latter part, or apodosis, of the sentence by the form of the beginning; but that the conclusion of every one of Coleridge's sentences was a surprise upon him. He was obliged to listen to the last word. Yet this unexpectedness, as we termed it before, is not the effect of quaintness or confusion of construction; so far from it, that we believe foreigners of different nations, especially Germans and Italians, have often borne very remarkable testimony to the grammatical purity and simplicity of his language, and have declared that they generally understood what he said much better than the sustained conversation of any other Englishman whom they had met. It is the uncommonness of the thoughts or the image which prevents your anticipating the end.
We owe, perhaps, an apology to our readers for the length of the preceding remarks; but the fact is, so very much of the intellectual life and influence of Mr. Coleridge has consisted in the oral communication of his opinions, that no sketch could be reasonably complete without a distinct notice of the peculiar character of his powers in this particular. We believe it has not been the lot of any other literary man in England, since Dr. Johnson, to command the devoted admiration and steady zeal of so many and such widely-differing disciples — some of them having become, and others being likely to become, fresh and independent sources of light and moral action in themselves upon the principles of their common master. One half of these affectionate disciples have learned their lessons of philosophy from the teacher's mouth. He has been to them as an old oracle of the Academy or Lyceum. The fulness, the inwardness, the ultimate scope of his doctrines has never yet been published in print, and if disclosed, it has been from time to time in the higher moments of conversation, when occasion, and mood, and person begot an exalted crisis. More than once has Mr. Coleridge said, that with pen in hand he felt a thousand checks and difficulties in the expression of his meaning; but that — authorship aside — he never found the smallest hitch or impediment in the fullest utterance of his most subtle fancies by word of mouth. His abstrusest thoughts became rhythmical and clear when chaunted to their own music. But let us proceed now to the publication before us.
This is the first complete collection of the poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The addition to the last edition is not less than a fourth of the whole, and the greatest part of this matter has never been printed before. It consists of many juvenile pieces, a few of the productions of the poet's middle life, and more of his later years. With regard to the additions of the first class, we should not be surprised to hear friendly doubts expressed as to the judgment shown in their publication. We ourselves think otherwise; and we are very glad to have had an opportunity of perusing them. There may be nothing in these earlier pieces upon which a poet's reputation could be built; yet they are interesting now as measuring the boyish powers of a great author. We never read any juvenile poems that so distinctly foretokened the character of all that the poet has since done; in particular, the very earliest and loosest of these little pieces indicate that unintermitting thoughtfulness, and that fine ear for verbal harmony in which we must venture to think that not one of our modern poets approaches to Coleridge. Upon these points we shall venture a few remarks by and by; but as an instance of the sort of sweetness of versification which seems to have been inborn in our poet, although elaborately cultivated and improved in his after years, take these six lines on the "First Advent of Love." They were written at fifteen.
O fair is love's first hope to gentle mind,
As Eve's first star thro' fleecy cloudlet peeping;
And sweeter than the gentle south-west wind
O'er willowy meads and shadow'd waters creeping,
And Ceres' golden fields! the sultry hind
Meets it with brow uplift, and stays his reaping.
In the following verses, some of which were lately quoted in this Journal for another purpose, and which were written only a year or two later than those preceding, we may distinguish a progress in the art, and yet the natural melody of words still obviously cultivated to the postponement of the harmony resulting from rhythmical construction—
Spirits of love, ye heard her name! Obey
The powerful spell, and to my haunt repair,
Whether on clustering pinions ye are there,
Where rich snows blossom on the myrtle trees,
Or with fond languishment around my fair
Sigh in the loose luxuriance of her hair;
O heed the spell, and hither wing your way
Like far-off music, voyaging the breeze.
Spirits! to you the infant maid was given,
Form'd by the wond'rous alchemy of heaven.
No fairer maid does love's wide empire know,
No fairer maid e'er heaved the bosom's snow.
A thousand loves around her forehead fly,
A thousand loves sit melting in her eye;
Love lights her smile — in joy's red nectar dips
His myrtle flower, and plants it on her lips.
She speaks — and, hark, that passion-warbled song;
Still fancy, still that voice, those notes prolong,—
As sweet as when that voice with rapturous falls
Shall wake the soften'd echoes of heaven's halls!
O (have I sigh'd) were mine the wizard's rod,
Or mine the power of Proteus, changeful god,
A flower-entangled arbour would I seem,
To shield my love from noontide's sultry beam:
Or bloom a myrtle, from whose odorous boughs
My love might weave gay garlands for her brows.
When twilight stole across the fading vale,
To fan my love I'd be the evening gale,
Mourn in the soft folds of her swelling vest,
And flutter my faint pinions on her breast.
On seraph wings I'd float a dream by night,
To soothe my love with shadows of delight;
Or soar aloft to be the spangled skies,
And gaze upon her with a thousand eyes! — vol. i. p. 39.
We, of course, cite these hues for little besides their luxurious smoothness; and it is very observable, that although the indications of the more strictly intellectual qualities of a great poet are very often extremely faint, as in Byron's case, in early youth, — it is universally otherwise with regard to high excellence in versification considered apart and by itself. Like the ear for music, the sense of metrical melody is always a natural gift; both indeed are evidently connected with the physical arrangement of the organs, and never to be acquired by any effort of art. When possessed, they by no means necessarily lead on to the achievement of consummate harmony in music or in verse; and yet consummate harmony in either has never been found where the natural gift has not made itself conspicuous long before. Spenser's Hymns, and Shakspeare's "Venus and Adonis," and "Rape of Lucrece," are striking instances of the overbalance of mere sweetness of sound. Even "Comus" is what we should, in this sense, call luxurious; and all four gratify the outward ear much more than that inner and severer sense which is associated with the reason, and requires a meaning even in the very music for its full satisfaction. Compare the versification of the youthful pieces mentioned above with that of the maturer works of those great poets, and you will recognize how possible it is for verses to be exquisitely melodious, and yet to fall far short of that exalted excellence of numbers of which language is in itself capable. You will feel the simple truth, that melody is a part only of harmony. Those early flashes were indeed auspicious tokens of the coming glory, and involved some of the conditions and elements of its existence; but the rhythm of the "Faerie Queene" and of "Paradise Lost" was also the fruit of a distinct effort of uncommon care and skill. The endless variety of the pauses in the versification of these poems could not have been the work of chance, and the adaptation of words with reference to their asperity, or smoothness, or strength, is equally refined and scientific. Unless we make a partial exception of the "Castle of Indolence," we do not remember a single instance of the reproduction of the exact rhythm of the Spenserian stanza, especially of the concluding line. The precise Miltonic movement in blank verse has never, to our knowledge, been caught by any later poet. It is Mr. Coleridge's own strong remark, that you might as well think of pushing a brick out of a wall with your forefinger, as attempt to remove a word out of the finished passages in Shakspeare or Milton. The amotion or transposition will alter the thought, or the feeling, or at least the tone. They are as pieces of Mosaic work, from which you cannot strike the smallest block without making a hole in the picture.
And so it is — in due proportion — with Coleridge's best poems. They are distinguished in a remarkable degree by the perfection of their rhythm and metrical arrangement. The labour bestowed upon this point must have been very great; the tone and quantity of words seem weighed in scales of gold. It will, no doubt, be considered ridiculous by the Fannii and Fanniae of our day to talk of varying the trochee with the iambus, or of resolving either into the tribrach. Yet it is evident to us that these, and even minuter points of accentual scansion, have been regarded by Mr. Coleridge as worthy of study and observation. We do not, of course, mean that rules of this kind were always in his mind while composing, ally more than that an expert disputant is always thinking of the distinctions of mood and figure, whilst arguing; but we certainly believe that Mr. Coleridge has almost from the commencement of his poetic life looked upon versification as constituting in and by itself a much more important branch of the art poetic than most of his eminent contemporaries appear to have done. And this more careful study shows itself in him in no technical peculiarities or fantastic whims, against which the genius of our language revolts; but in a more exact adaptation of the movement to the feeling, and in a finer selection of particular words with reference to their local fitness for sense and sound. Some of his poems are complete models of versification, exquisitely easy to all appearance, and subservient to the meaning, and yet so subtle in the links and transitions of the parts as to make it impossible to produce the same effect merely by imitating the syllabic metre as it stands on the surface. The secret of the sweetness lies within, and is involved in the feeling. It is this remarkable power of making his verse musical that gives a peculiar character to Mr. Coleridge's lyric poems. In some of the smaller pieces, as the conclusion of the "Kubla Khan," for example, not only the lines by themselves are musical, but the whole passage sounds all at once as an outburst or crash of harps in the still air of autumn. The verses seem as if played to the ear upon some unseen instrument. And the poet's manner of reciting verse is similar. It is not rhetorical, but musical so very near recitative, that for any one else to attempt it would be ridiculous; and yet it is perfectly miraculous with what exquisite searching he elicits and makes sensible every particle of the meaning, not leaving a shadow of a shade of the feeling, the mood, the degree, untouched. We doubt if a finer rhapsode ever recited at the Panathenaic festival; and the yet unforgotten Doric of his native Devon is not altogether without a mellowing effect in his utterance of Greek. He would repeat the [Greek characters] with such an interpreting accompaniment of look, and tone, and gesture, that we believe any commonly-educated person might understand the import of the passage without knowing alpha from omega. A chapter of Isaiah from his mouth involves the listener in an act of exalted devotion. We have mentioned this, to show how the whole man is made up of music; and yet Mr. Coleridge has no ear for music, as it is technically called. Master as he is of the intellectual recitative, he could not sing an air to save his life. But his delight in music is intense and unweariable, and he can detect good from bad with unerring discrimination. Poor Naldi, whom most of us remember, and all who remember must respect, said to our poet once at a concert — "That he did not seem much interested with a piece of Rossini's which had just been performed." Coleridge answered, "It sounded to me exactly like nonsense verses. But this thing of Beethoven's that they have begun — stop, let us listen to this, I beg!"
There are some lines entitled "Hendecasyllables," published for the first time in the second volume of this collection, which struck us a good deal by the skill with which an equivalent for the well-known Catullian measure has been introduced into our language. We think the metrical construction of these few verses very ingenious, and do not remember at this moment anything in English exactly like it. These lines are, in fact, of twelve syllables; but it is in the rhythm that they are essentially different from our common dramatic line—
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Our readers will please to observe that a dactyl is substituted for the spondee, trochee or iambus of the Latin models at the commencement of the verse—
Hear, my beloved, an old Milesian story!
High and embosom'd in congregated laurels,
Glimmer'd a temple upon a breezy headland;
In the dim distance, amid the skiey billows,
Rose a fair island; the god of flocks had placed it.
From the far shores of the bleak resounding island
Oft by the moonlight a little boat came floating,
Came to the sea-cave beneath the breezy headland;
Where amid myrtles a pathway stole in mazes
Up to the groves of the high embosom'd temple.
There, in a thicket of dedicated roses,
Oft did a priestess, as lovely as a vision,
Pouring her soul to the son of Cytherea,
Pray him to hover around the slight canoe-boat,
And with invisible pilotage to guide it
Over the dusk wave, until the nightly sailor,
Shivering with ecstacy, sank upon her bosom. — vol. ii. p. 69.
The minute study of the laws and properties of metre is observable in almost every piece in these volumes. Every kind of lyric measure, rhymed and unrhymed, is attempted with success; and we doubt whether, upon the whole, there are many specimens of the heroic couplet or blank verse superior in construction to what Mr. Coleridge has given us. We mention this the rather, because it was at one time, although that time is past, the fashion to say that the Lake school — as two or three poets, essentially unlike to each other, were foolishly called — had abandoned the old and established measures of the English poetry for new conceits of their own. There was no truth in that charge; but we will say this, that, notwithstanding the prevalent opinion to the contrary, we are not sure, after perusing some passages in Mr. Southey's "Vision of Judgment," and the entire "Hymn to the Earth," in hexameters, in the second of the volumes now before us, that the question of the total inadmissibility of that measure in English verse can be considered as finally settled; the true point not being whether such lines are as good as, or even like, the Homeric or Virgilian models, but whether they are not in themselves a pleasing variety, and on that account alone, if for nothing else, not to be rejected as wholly barbarous. True it is, that without great skill in the poet, English hexameters will be intolerable; but what shall we say to the following?—
Travelling the vale with mine eyes — green meadows and lake with green island,
Dark in its basin of rock, and the pure stream flowing in brightness,
Thrill'd with thy beauty and love in the wooded slope of the mountain,
Here, Great Mother, I lie, thy child, with his head on thy bosom!
Playful the spirits of noon, that rushing soft through thy tresses,
Green-haired goddess! refresh me; and hark! as they hurry or linger,
Fill the pause of my harp, or sustain it with musical murmurs.
Into my being thou murmurest joy, and tenderest sadness
Shedd'st thou, like dew on my heart, till the joy and the heavenly sadness
Pour themselves forth from my heart in tears, and the hymn of thanksgiving.
Earth! thou mother of numberless children, the nurse and the mother,
Sister thou of the stars, and beloved by the sun, the rejoicer!
Guardian and friend of the moon, O Earth! whom the comets forget not,
Yea, in the measureless distance wheel round and again they behold thee!
Fadeless and young (and what if the latest birth of Creation?)
Bride and consort of Heaven, that looks down upon thee enamoured!
Say, mysterious Earth! O say, great mother and goddess,
Was it not well with thee then, when first thy lap was ungirdled,
Thy lap to the genial Heaven, the day that he wooed thee and won thee!
Fair was thy blush, the fairest and first of the blushes of Morning!
Deep was the shudder, O Earth the throe of thy self-retention:
Inly thou strovest to flee, and didst seek thyself at thy centre!
Mightier far was the joy of thy sudden resilience; and forthwith
Myriad myriads of lives teemed forth from the mighty embracement.
Thousand-fold tribes of dwellers, impelled by thousand-fold instincts,
Filled, as a dream, the wide waters; the rivers sang in their channels;
Laughed on their shores the hoarse seas; the yearning ocean swelled upward;
Young life lowed through the meadows, the woods, and the echoing mountains,
Wandered bleating in valleys, and warbled on blossoming branches. — vol. ii. p. 67.
We may also quote from page 146 of the same volume the following exquisite couplets:—
THE HOMERIC HEXAMETER DESCRIBED AND EXEMPLIFIED.
Strongly it bears us along in swelling and limitless billows,
Nothing before and nothing behind but the sky and the ocean.
THE OVIDIAN ELEGIAC METRE DESCRIBED AND EXEMPLIFIED.
In the hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column:
In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.
The keen lines entitled "Sancti Dominici Pallium," and the following, suggested by the last words of Berengarius, seem to stand about midway between the rhythm of Pope and Dryden.
No more 'twixt conscience staggering and the Pope,
Soon shall I now before my God appear;
By him to be acquitted, as I hope;
By him to be condemned, as I fear.
Lynx amid moles! had I stood by thy bed,
Be of good cheer, meek soul! I would have said;
I see a hope spring from that humble fear.
All are not strong alike thro' storms to steer
Right onward. What, though dread of threaten'd death
And dungeon torture made thy hand and breath
Inconstant to the truth within thy heart,—
That truth from which, thro' fear, thou twice didst start,
Fear haply told thee, was a learned strife,
Or not so vital as to claim thy life,
And myriads had reach'd heaven who never knew
Where lay the difference 'twixt the false and true!
Ye, who secure 'mid trophies not your own,
Judge him who won them when he stood alone,
And proudly talk of recreant Bererigare,—
O first the age, and then the man compare!
That age how dark! congenial minds how rare!
No host of friends with kindred zeal did burn,
No throbbing hearts awaited his return;
Prostrate alike when prince and peasant fell,
He only disenchanted from the spell,
Like the weak worm that gems the starless night,
Moved in the scanty circlet of his light:—
And was it strange if he withdrew the ray,
That did but guide the night-birds to their prey?
The ascending day-star, with a bolder eye,
Hath lit each dewdrop on our trimmer lawn;
Yet not for this, if wise, shall we decry
The spots and struggles of the timid dawn;
Lest so we tempt the approaching noon to scorn
The mist and painted vapours of our morn! — vol. ii. p. 79.
For his blank verse take the following passage as an average example. It is, as will be instantly seen, altogether unlike the Miltonic movement; yet can anything for the purpose be imagined more exquisitely rich and harmonious?
And that simplest lute
Placed lengthways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caress'd,
Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound,
As twilight elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from fairy land,
Where melodies round honey-dropping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untamed wing!
Oh! the one life within us and abroad,
Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,—
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought and joyance everywhere;—
Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is music slumbering on her instrument!
We should not have dwelt so long upon this point of versification, unless we had conceived it to be one distinguishing excellence of Mr. Coleridge's poetry, and very closely connected with another, namely, fulness and individuality of thought. It seems to be a fact, although we do not pretend to explain it, that condensation of meaning is generally found in poetry of a high import in proportion to perfection in metrical harmony. Petrarch, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton are obvious instances. Goethe and Coleridge are almost equally so. Indeed, whether in verse, or prose, or conversation, Mr. Coleridge's mind may be fitly characterized as an energetic mind — a mind always at work, always in a course of reasoning. He cares little for anything, merely because it was or is; it must be referred, or be capable of being referred, to some law or principle, in order to attract his attention. This is not from ignorance of the facts of natural history or science. His written and published works alone sufficiently show how constantly and accurately he has been in the habit of noting all the phenomena of the material world around us; and the great philosophical system now at length in preparation for the press demonstrates, we are told, his masterly acquaintance with almost all the sciences, and with not a few of the higher and more genial of the arts. Yet his vast acquirements of this sort are never put forward by or for themselves; it is in his apt and novel illustrations, his indications of analogies, his explanation of anomalies, that he enables the hearer or reader to get a glimpse of the extent of his practical knowledge. He is always reasoning out from an inner point, and it is the inner point, the principle the law which he labours to bring forward into light. If he can convince you or' himself of the principle a priori, he generally leaves the facts to take care of themselves. He leads us into the laboratories of art or nature as a showman, guides you through a cavern crusted with spar and stalactites, all cold, and dim, and motionless, till he lifts his torch aloft, and on a sudden you gaze in admiration on walls and roof of flaming crystals and stars of eternal diamond.
All this, whether for praise or for blame, is perceptible enough in Mr. Coleridge's verse, but perceptible, of course, in such degree and mode as the law of poetry in general, and the nature of the specific poem in particular, may require. But the main result from this frame and habit of his mind is very distinctly traceable in the uniform subjectivity of almost all his works. He does not belong to that grand division of poetry and poets which corresponds with painting and painters; of which Pindar and Dante are the chief; — those masters of the picturesque, who, by a felicity inborn, view and present everything in the completeness of actual objectivity — and who have a class derived from and congenial with them, presenting few pictures indeed, but always full of picturesque matter; of which secondary class Spenser and Southey may be mentioned as eminent instances. To neither of these does Mr. Coleridge belong; in his "Christabel," there certainly are several distinct pictures of great beauty; but he, as a poet, clearly comes within the other division which answers to music and the musician, in which you have a magnificent mirage of words with the subjective associations of the poet curling, and twisting, and creeping round, and through, and above every part of it. This is the class to which Milton belongs, in whose poems we have heard Mr. Coleridge say that he remembered but two proper pictures — Adam bending over the sleeping Eve at the beginning of the fifth book of the "Paradise Lost," and Dalilah approaching Samson towards the end of the "Agonistes." But when we point out the intense personal feeling, the self-projection, as it were, which characterizes Mr. Coleridge's poems, we mean that such feeling is the soul and spirit, not the whole body and form, of his poetry. For surely no one has ever more earnestly and constantly borne in mind the maxim of Milton, that poetry ought to be simple, sensuous, and impassioned. The poems in these volumes are no authority for that dreamy, half-swooning style of verse which was criticized by Lord Byron (in language too strong for print) as the fatal sin of Mr. John Keats, and which, unless abjured betimes, must prove fatal to several younger aspirants-male and female — who for the moment enjoy some popularity. The poetry before us is distinct and clear, and accurate in its imagery; but the imagery is rarely or never exhibited for description's sake alone; it is rarely or never exclusively objective; that is to say, put forward as a spectacle, a picture on which the mind's eye is to rest and terminate. You may if your sight is short, or your imagination cold, regard the imagery in itself and go no farther; but the poet's intention is that you should feel and imagine a great deal more than you see. His aim is to awaken in the reader the same mood of mind, the same cast of imagination and fancy whence issued the associations which animate and enlighten his pictures. You must think with him, must sympathize with him, must suffer yourself to be lifted out of your own school of opinion or faith, and fall back upon your own consciousness, an unsophisticated man. If you decline this, "non tibi spirat." From his earliest youth to this day, Mr. Coleridge's poetry has been a faithful mirror reflecting the images of his mind. Hence he is so original, so individual. With a little trouble, the zealous reader of the "Biographia Literaria" may trace in these volumes the whole course of mental struggle and self-evolvement narrated in that odd but interesting work; but he will see the track marked in light; the notions become images, the images glorified, and not unfrequently the abstruse position stamped clearer by the poet than by the psychologist. No student of Coleridge's philosophy can fully understand it without a perusal of the illumining, and if we may so say, popularizing commentary of his poetry. It is the Greek put into the vulgar tongue. And we must say, it is somewhat strange to hear any one condemn those philosophical principles as altogether unintelligible, which are inextricably interwoven in every page of a volume of poetry which he professes to admire.
No writer has ever expressed the great truth that man makes his world, or that it is the imagination which shapes and colours all things — more vividly than Coleridge. Indeed, he is the first who, in the age in which we live, brought forward that position into light and action. It is nearly forty years ago that he wrote the following passage in his "Ode on Dejection," one of the most characteristic and beautiful of his lyric poems
A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear:—
O Lady! in this wan and heartless mood,
To other thoughts by yonder throstle wooed,
All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
Have I been gazing on the western sky
And its peculiar tint of yellow green;
And still I gaze — and with how blank an eye!
And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,
That give away their motion to the stars;
Those stars that glide behind them or between,
Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen;
Yon crescent moon, as filed as if it grew
In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue;—
I see them all so excellently fair,
I see, not feel, how beautiful they are!
My genial spirits fail;
And what can these avail
To lift the smothering weight from off my breast?
It were a vain endeavour,
Though I should gaze for ever
On that green light that lingers in the west:
I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.
O Lady! we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does nature live;
Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud!
And would we aught behold of higher worth
Than that inanimate cold world allowed
To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd,
Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud,
Enveloping the Earth—
And from the soul itself must there be sent
A sweet and potent voice of its own birth,
Of all sweet sounds the life and element!
O pure of heart! thou need'st not ask of me
What this strong music in the soul may be!
What and wherein it doth exist,
This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist,
This beautiful and beauty-making power.
Joy, virtuous Lady! Joy that ne'er was given
Save to the pure, and in their purest hour,
Life, and Life's effluence, cloud at once and shower,
Joy, Lady, is the spirit and the power
Which wedding nature to us gives in dower,
A new Earth and new Heaven,
Undreamt of by the sensual and the proud;—
Joy is the sweet voice — Joy the luminous cloud—
We in ourselves rejoice!
And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,
All melodies the echoes of that voice,
All colours a suffusion from that light. — vol. i. p. 238.
To this habit of intellectual introversion we are very much inclined to attribute Mr. Coleridge's never having seriously undertaken a great heroic poem. The "Paradise Lost" may be thought to stand in the way of our laying down any general rule on the subject; yet that poem is as peculiar as Milton himself, and does not materially affect our opinion, that the pure epic can hardly be achieved by the poet in whose mind the reflecting turn greatly predominates. The extent of the action in such a poem requires a free and fluent stream of narrative verse; description, purely objective, must fill a large space in it, and its permanent success depends on a rapidity, or at least a liveliness, of movement which is scarcely compatible with much of what Bacon calls inwardness of meaning. The reader's attention could not be preserved; his journey being long, he expects his road to be smooth and unembarrassed. The condensed passion of the ode is out of place in heroic song. Few persons will dispute that the two great Homeric poems are the most delightful of epics; they may not have the sublimity of the "Paradise Lost," nor the picturesqueness of the "Divine Comedy," nor the etherial brilliancy of the "Orlando;" but, dead as they are in language, metre, accent, — obsolete in religion, manners, costume, and country, — they nevertheless even now please all those who can read them beyond all other narrative poems. There is a salt in them which keeps them sweet and incorruptible throughout every change. They are the most popular of all the remains of ancient genius, and translations of them for the twentieth time are amongst the very latest productions of our contemporary literature. From beginning to end, these marvellous poems are exclusively objective; everything is in them, except the poet himself. It is not to Vico or Wolfe that we refer, when we say that Homer is "vox et praeterea nihil;" as musical as the nightingale, and as invisible.
If any epic subject would have suited Mr. Coleridge's varied powers and peculiar bent of mind, it might, perhaps, have been that which lie once contemplated, and for which he made some preparations — "The Fall of Jerusalem." The splendid drama which has subsequently appeared under that name by a younger poet, has not necessarily precluded an attempt on the epic scale by a master genius. Yet the difficulties of the undertaking are appalling from their number and peculiarity; and not the least overwhelming of them are involved in the treatment of those very circumstances and relations which constitute its singular attraction. We have twice heard Mr. Coleridge express his opinion on this point.
"The destruction of Jerusalem," he said upon one occasion, "is the only subject now remaining for an epic poem; a subject which, like Milton's Fall of Man, should interest all Christendom, as the Homeric War of Troy interested all Greece. There would he difficulties, as there are in all subjects; and they must be mitigated and thrown into the shade, as Milton has done with the numerous difficulties in the 'Paradise Lost.' But there would be a greater assemblage of grandeur and splendour than can now be found in any other theme. As for the old mythology, 'incredulus odi;' and yet there must be a mythology, or a quasi-mythology, for an epic poem. Here there would be the completion of the prophecies; the termination of the first revealed national religion under the violent assault of Paganism, itself the immediate forerunner and condition of the spread of a revealed mundane religion; and then you would have the character of the Roman and the Jew, and the awfulness, the completeness, the justice. I schemed it at twenty-five, but, alas! 'venturum expectat.'"
Upon another occasion, Mr. Coleridge spoke more discouragingly.
"This subject, with all its great capabilities, has this one grand defect — that, whereas a poem, to be epic, must have a personal interest — in the 'Destruction of Jerusalem' no genius or skill could possibly preserve the interest for the hero from being merged in the interest for the event. The fact is, the event itself is too sublime and overwhelming."
We think this is fine and just criticism; yet we ardently wish the critic had tried the utmost strength of his arm in executing the magnificent idea of his early manhood. Even now — vain as we fear any such appeal is — we cannot keep ourselves back from making a respectful call upon this great poet to consider whether his undiminished powers of verse do not seem to demand from him something beyond the little pieces, sweet as they are, which he has alone produced since his middle manhood. We know and duly value the importance of the essays in which his philosophical views have as yet been imperfectly developed, and we look with anxiety to the publication of the whole, or a part, of that great work in which, we are told, the labour of his life has been expended in founding and completing a truly catholic "System of philosophy for a Christian man." We would not, for the chance of an epic fragment, interfere with the consummation of this grand and long-cherished design. But is there any necessary incompatibility between the full action of the poet and the philosopher in Mr. Coleridge's particular case? He, of all men, would deny that the character of his studies alone tended to enfeeble the imagination, or to circumscribe the power of expression; and if that be so, what is there to prevent — what is there not rather to induce — a serious devotion of some portion, at least, of his leisure to the planning and execution of some considerable poem? "Poterit si posse videtur;" and could Mr. Coleridge but seem to himself as capable as he seems to others, we believe he would not leave the world without a legacy of verse even richer than aught that has yet come from him.
In attempting any poem of the magnitude suggested by us, unless it were entirely of a moral or philosophical kind, Mr. Coleridge would undoubtedly have to contend with that meditative or reflective habit of intellect which is predominant in him, and characterizes all his works. It dictated to him as a translator the happy choice of "Wallenstein," and constitutes at once the source of beauty and of weakness in the "Remorse" and "Zapolya." Unless this be remembered, and some indulgence be shown to it, justice will not be done to these fine poems. Perhaps there never was a translation, with the exception of Pope's "Iliad" and Dryden's "Eneid," that has become so intimately connected with the poetic fame of the translator as this English "Wallenstein." It is clearly, in our opinion, one of the most splendid productions of Mr. Coleridge's pen, and will with almost all readers for ever have the charm of an original work. The truth is, that many beautiful parts of the translation are exclusively the property of the English poet, who used a manuscript copy of the German text before its publication by the author; and it is a curious anecdote in literature, that Schiller, in more instances than one, afterwards adopted the hints and translated in turn the interpolations of his own translator. Hence it is, also, that there are passages in the German editions of the present day which are not found in the English version; they were, in almost every case, the subsequent additions of the German poet. Nevertheless, although Mr. Coleridge has not scrupled in some instances to open out the hint of the original, and even to graft new thoughts upon it, his translation is, in the best and highest sense of that term, a preeminently faithful translation indeed, it preserves, or compensates, the meaning and spirit of the author so perfectly, that we are inclined to think that, upon a balance struck, Schiller has lost nothing in the English of his "Wallenstein." Has he not gained? — As to this, we do not immediately refer to those beautiful passages in which Mr. Coleridge has confessedly ventured upon his own responsibility to expand the germ of thought in the original, — passages which are familiar to all who take any interest either in Coleridge or Schiller. We rather look to the total impression left upon the mind of the reader by the character of Wallenstein himself; and the question is, whether a more thorough perception of the idea of Hamlet, and a much greater sympathy with the Hamlet mood of mind, have not helped the countryman of Shakspeare to a grander presentment of Schiller's hero than Schiller's own picture of him. An Englishman and a German, indeed, can scarcely be expected to view such a question as this from precisely the same point; the associations which the mere words of your native language excite are indestructible and irrepressible; and the Shakspearian cast of feeling and reflection, easily distinguishable by us in the English Wallenstein, cannot be fully recognised or appreciated by a foreigner. It may not be the tone of Schiller; but it is the tone, or germane to the tone, which the fortunate predominance of Shakspeare has consecrated in England for dramatic poetry. The Germans do not seem to us to have arrived at any sympathy with it. The study of Shakspeare is said to be fashionable amongst all literary men in Germany; and some very clever and eloquent books have been written about him by natives of that country. The best of these critics, however, never seem to us to understand their subject. They do not see the absolute uniqueness in kind of Shakspeare's intellectual action. Of the other great authors of the English drama, they appear to know nothing. Tieck, we suspect, is the first German that ever made much acquaintance with any of Shakspeare's mighty contemporaries, Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger, — those giants everywhere but in Shakspeare's presence; and Tieck's own acquisitions in this department appear to be of very recent date. His friend and fellow-labourer, Augustus W. Schlegel, if we remember right, passes in some dozen frigid pages from Shakspeare to Dryden and Otway. This celebrated critic is so excessively superficial upon those masters of the romantic drama, Beaumont and Fletcher, that we are compelled to say that we do not believe he had read through their works when he wrote his "Dramatic Literature." To us it seems that, upon the whole, Schiller had something in his genius naturally nearer akin to the universality of Shakspeare than any other of the German poets. In depth of thought, in fertility of fancy, in creativeness of imagination, there is no comparison; but Schiller had, as Shakspeare had, that common human feeling — not too high, nor too low — that common tone of the race to which he belonged, which led and enabled him in the maturity of his abilities to give to his countrymen of every circle an historic drama of highest excellence and enduring national interest. This grand work — "Wallenstein" — which, although not similar, is analogous to the historic plays of Shakspeare, will, as we believe, ultimately constitute the permanent claim of Schiller to fame amongst his own fellow-countrymen; and the extraordinary fortune of an English translation which may be read, if we please, without once suggesting the fact of its not being original poetry, will go a great way in extending his fame amongst a people who, by kindred and by moral sympathy, can best appreciate it as it deserves. We have no room for any extracts from this translation; but we particularly refer our readers to act i. scene 4, act iv. scene 7, of the "Piccolomini," and act v. scene 1 of the "Death of Wallenstein." These are not amongst the parts commonly quoted; but they are the most powerful and characteristic; and in the intermediate one of the three there is an interesting, but perhaps unintended, parallel with the scene of Macbeth's conference with his wife previously to the murder of Duncan.
It is pretty generally known that Mr. Coleridge was solicited to undertake a translation of Faust before Mr. Shelley, Lord Francis Egerton, or Mr. Hayward, had, in their different manners, made that remarkable poem as familiar as it can possibly be made to the mere English reader: for Goethe being, like Coleridge, a great master of verbal harmony, must of necessity lose very considerably in a translation of any kind. His dress sticks to his body; it is inseparable without laceration of the skin. This, amongst some other considerations of graver moment, induced Mr. Coleridge, after a careful perusal of the work, to decline the proposition. We are not very sure that he would have succeeded in it; at least it would probably have been something very unlike Goethe's "Faust." Mr. Coleridge thinks — perhaps he is the only man who may without presumption think — that Goethe's "Faust" is a failure; that is to say, that the idea, or what ought to have been the idea, of the work is very insufficiently and inartificially executed. He considers the intended theme to be — the consequences of a misology, or hatred and depreciation of knowledge caused by an originally intense thirst for knowledge baffled. But a love of knowledge for itself, and for pure ends, would never produce such a misology, but only a love of it for base and unworthy purposes. There is neither causation nor progression in Faust: he is a ready-made conjurer from the very beginning; — the "incredulus odi" is felt from the first line. The sensuality, and the thirst after knowledge, are unconnected with each other. Mephistopheles and Margaret are excellent, but Faust himself is dull and meaningless. The scene in Auerbach's cellars is one of the best — perhaps the very best; that on the Brocken is also fine, and all the songs are beautiful. But there is no whole in the poem; the scenes are mere magic-lantern pictures, and a large part of the work very flat. Such, in substance, is the opinion which we have heard Mr. Coleridge express of this famous piece: upon the justice of the criticism, we have neither time nor inclination to say a word upon the present occasion; but we cannot miss this opportunity of mentioning the curious fact that long before Goethe's Faust had appeared in a complete state, which we think was in 1807 — indeed before Mr. Coleridge had ever seen any part of it — he had planned a work upon the same, or what he takes to be the same idea. This plan, like many of its fellows, is now in Ariosto's moon; yet its general shape deserves to be recorded, as a remarkable instance of unconscious coincidence between two great individual minds, having many properties in common. Coleridge's misologist — Faust — was to be Michael Scott. He appeared in the midst of his college of devoted disciples, enthusiastic, ebullient, shedding around him bright surmises of discoveries fully perfected in after times, and inculcating the study of nature and its secrets as the pathway to the acquisition of power. He did not love knowledge for itself — for its own exceeding great reward, — but in order to be powerful. This poison-speck infected his mind from the beginning. The priests suspect him, circumvent him, accuse him; he is condemned and thrown into solitary confinement. This constituted the prologus of the drama. A pause of four or five years takes place, at the end of which Michael escapes from prison, a soured, gloomy, miserable man. He will not, cannot study; of what avail had all his study been to him? His knowledge, great as it was, had failed to preserve him from the cruel fangs of the persecutors; he could not command the lightning or the storm to wreak their furies upon the heads of those whom he hated and contemned, and yet feared. Away with learning! — away with study! — to the winds with all pretences to knowledge. We know nothing; we are fools, wretches, mere beasts. Anon the poet began to tempt him. He made him dream, gave him wine, and passed the most exquisite of women before him, but out of his reach. Is there, then, no knowledge by which these pleasures can be commanded? That way lay witchcraft — and accordingly to witchcraft Michael turns with all his soul. He has many failures and some successes; he learns the chemistry of exciting drugs and exploding powders, and some of the properties of transmitted and reflected light; his appetites and curiosity are both stimulated, and his old craving for power and mental domination over others revives. At last Michael tries to raise the devil, and the devil comes at his call. This devil was to be the universal humorist, who should make all things vain and nothing worth by a perpetual collation of the great with the little in the presence of the infinite. He plays an infinite number of tricks for Michael's gratification. In the meantime, Michael is miserable; he has power, but no peace, and he every day feels the tyranny of hell surrounding him. In vain he seems to himself to assert the most absolute empire over the devil, by imposing the most extravagant tasks; — one thing is as easy as another to the devil. "What next, Michael?" is repeated every day with more imperious servility. Michael groans in spirit; his power is a curse; he commands women and wine, — but the women seem fictitious and devilish, and the wine does not make him drunk. He now begins to hate the devil, and tries to cheat him. He studies again, and explores the darkest depths of sorcery for a recipe to cozen hell; but all in vain. Sometimes the devil's finger turns over the page for him, and points out an experiment, and Michael hears a whisper — "Try that, Michael!" The horror increases, and Michael feels that he is a slave and a condemned criminal. Lost to hope, he throws himself into every sensual excess, — in the mid career of which he sees Agatha, and immediately endeavours to seduce her. Agatha loves him, and the devil facilitates their meetings; but she resists Michael's attempts to ruin her, and implores him not to act so as to forfeit her esteem. Long struggles of passion ensue, in the result of which Michael's affections are called forth against his appetites, and the idea of redemption of the lost will dawns upon his mind. This is instantaneously perceived by the devil; and for the first time the humorist becomes severe and menacing. A fearful succession of conflicts between Michael and the devil takes place, in which Agatha helps and suffers. In the end, after subjecting his hero to every imaginable or unimaginable horror, the poet "in nubibus" made him triumphant, and poured peace into his soul in the conviction of a salvation for sinners through God's grace. Of this sketch we will only say, what probably the warmest admirers of "Faust" will admit, that Goethe might have taken some valuable hints from it. It is a literary curiosity at least, and so we leave it.
The "Remorse" and "Zapolya" strikingly illustrate the predominance of the meditative, pausing habit of Mr. Coleridge's mind. The first of these beautiful dramas was acted with success, although worse acting was never seen. Indeed, Kelly's sweet music was the only part of the theatrical apparatus in any respect worthy of the play. The late Mr. Kean made some progress in the study of Ordonio, with a view of reproducing the piece; and we think that Mr. Macready, either as Ordonio or Alvar, might, with some attention to music, costume, and scenery, make the representation attractive even in the present day. But in truth, taken absolutely and in itself, the "Remorse" is more fitted for the study than the stage; its character is romantic and pastoral in a high degree, and there is a profusion of poetry in the minor parts, the effect of which could never be preserved in the common routine of representation. What this play wants is dramatic movement; there is energetic dialogue and a crisis of great interest, but the action does not sufficiently grow on the stage itself. Perhaps, also, the purpose of Alvar to waken remorse in Ordonio's mind is put forward too prominently, and has too much the look of a mere moral experiment to be probable under the circumstances in which the brothers stand to each other. Nevertheless, there is a calmness as well as superiority of intellect in Alvar which seem to justify, in some measure, the sort of attempt on his part, which, in fact, constitutes the theme of the play; and it must be admitted that the whole underplot of Isidore and Alhadra is lively and affecting in the highest degree. We particularly refer to the last scene between Ordonio and Isidore in the cavern, which we think genuine Shakspeare; and Alhadra's narrative of her discovery of her husband's murder is not surpassed in truth and force by anything of the kind that we know. The passage in the dungeon scene, in which Alvar rejects the poisoned cup, always struck us as uncommonly fine, although we think the conclusion weak. The incantation scene is a beautiful piece of imagination, and we are inclined to think a quotation of a part of it will put Mr. Coleridge's poetical power before many of our readers in a new light:—
REMORSE — Act III. sc. 1.
[A Hall of Armory, with an altar at the back of the stage. Soft music from an instrument of glass or steel.]
VALDEZ, ORDONIO, and ALVAR in a Sorcerer's robe.
ORD. This was too melancholy, father.
My Alvar loved sad music from a child.
Once he was lost; and after weary search
We found him in an open place in the wood,
To which spot he had followed a blind boy,
Who breathed into a pipe of sycamore
Some strangely-moving notes; and these, he said,
Were taught him in a dream. Him first we saw
Stretch'd on the broad top of a sunny heath-bank;
And lower down poor Alvar, fast asleep,
His head upon the blind boy's dog. It pleased me
To mark how he had fasten'd round the pipe
A silver toy his grandam had late given him.
Methinks I see him now as he then look'd—
Even so! — He had outgrown his infant dress,
Yet still he wore it.
ALV. (aside.) My tears must not flow!
I must not clasp his knees, and cry, My Father!
TER. Lord Valdez, you have ask'd my presence here,
And I submit; but heaven bear witness for me,
My heart approves it not. 'Tis mockery!
ORD. Believe you, then, no preternatural influence?
Believe you not that spirits throng around us?—
TER. Say rather that I have imagined it
A possible thing; — and it has sooth'd my soul
As other fancies have, but ne'er seduced me
To traffic with the black and frenzied hope
That the dead hear the voice of witch or wizard.
(To Alvar.) Stranger, I mourn and blush to see you here
On such employment. With far other thoughts I left you.
ORD. (aside.) Ha! he has been tampering with her!—
ALV. O high-soul'd maiden! and more dear to me
Than suits the stranger's name! — I swear — to thee
I will uncover all concealed guilt.
Doubt, but decide not! Stand ye from the altar. [Strain of music.
With no irreverent voice or uncouth charm
I call up the departed.
Soul of Alvar! Hear our soft suit, and heed my milder spell;—
So may the gates of Paradise, unbarr'd,
Cease thy swift toils! Since haply thou art one
Of that innumerable company
Who in broad circle, lovelier than the rainbow,
Girdle this round earth in a dizzy motion,
With noise too vast and constant to be heard—
Fittest unheard! — For oh! ye numberless
And rapid travellers, what ear unstunn'd,
What sense unmadden'd, might bear up against
The rushing of your congregated wings? [Music.
Even now your living wheel turns o'er my head!—
Ye, as ye pass, toss high the desart sands,
That roar and whiten, like a burst of waters,
A sweet appearance, but a dread illusion
To the parch'd caravan that roams by night!
And ye build up on the becalmed waves
That whirling pillar, which from earth to heaven
Stands vast, and moves in blackness! Ye too split
The ice-mount, and with fragments many and huge
Tempest the new-thaw'd sea, whose sudden gulfs
Suck in, perchance, some Lapland wizard's skiff!
Then round and round the whirlpool's marge ye dance,
Till from the blue-swoln corse the soul toils out,
And joins your mighty army!
[Voice behind sings, "hear, sweet spirit."
Soul of Alvar!
Hear the mild spell, and tempt no blacker charm!
By sighs unquiet, and the sickly pang
Of a half dead, yet still undying hope,
Pass visible before our mortal sense!
So shall the church's cleansing rites be thine,
Her knells and masses that redeem the dead!
Hear, sweet spirit, hear the spell,
Lest a blacker charm compel!
So shall the midnight breezes swell
With thy deep, long lingering knell.
And at evening evermore,
In a chapel on the shore,
Shall the chanters sad and saintly,
Yellow tapers burning faintly,
Doleful masses chant for thee,
Hark! the cadence dies away
On the quiet moonlight sea;—
The boatmen rest their oars and say,
Miserere Domine! [A long pause.
ORD. The innocent obey nor charm, nor spell.
My brother is in heaven. Thou sainted spirit,
Burst on our sight a passing visitant!
Once more to hear thy voice, once more to see thee,
O 'twere a joy to me!
ALV. A joy to thee!
What if thou heard'st him now? — What if his spirit
Re-enter'd its cold corse, and came upon thee
With many a stab from many a murderer's poniard?—
What if — his steadfast eye still beaming pity
And brother's love — he turn'd his head aside,
Lest he should look at thee, and with one look
Hurl thee beyond all power of penitence?
VALD. These are unholy fancies.
ORD. Yes, my father,
He is in heaven.
ALV. (to Ord.) But what if he had a brother,
Who had lived even so, that at his dying hour
The name of Heaven would have convulsed his face,
More than the death-pang?
VALD. Idly prating man!
Thou hast guess'd ill. Don Alvar's only brother
Stands here before thee — a father's blessing on him!
He is most virtuous.
ALV. (still to Ord.) What if his very virtues
Had pamper'd his swoln heart and made him proud?
And what if pride had duped him into guilt?
Yet still he stalk'd a self-created god,
Not very bold, but exquisitely cunning,
And one that at his mother's looking-glass
Would force his features to a frowning sternness.
Young lord! I tell thee that there are such beings—
Yea, and it gives fierce merriment to the damn'd,
To see these most proud men, that lothe mankind,
At every stir and buz of coward conscience
Trick, cant, and lie, — most whining hypocrites!
Away! away! Now let me hear more music. — vol. ii. p. 193.
"Zapolya" is professedly an imitation of "The Winter's Tale," and was not composed with any view to scenic representation. Yet it has some situations of dramatic interest in no respect inferior to the most striking in the "Remorse;" the incidents are new and surprising, and the dialogue is throughout distinguished by liveliness and force. The predominant character of the whole is, like that of the "Remorse," a mixture of the pastoral and the romantic, but much more apparent and exclusive than in the latter; and it has always seemed to us that the poem breathed more of the spirit of the best pieces of Beaumont and Fletcher, such as the "Beggars' Bush" for example, than of anything of Shakspeare's. "Zapolya" has never been appreciated as it deserves. It is, in our opinion, the most elegant of Mr. Coleridge's poetical works; there is a softness of tone, and a delicacy of colouring about it, which have a peculiar charm of their own, and amply make amends for some deficiency of strength in the drawing. Although this Christmas tale is, perhaps, as a whole, less known than any other part of Mr. Coleridge's poetry, there is, oddly enough, one passage in it which has been quoted as often as any, and seems to have been honoured by the elaborate imitation of Sir Walter Scott in "Peveril of the Peak," vol. iii. p. 6 — "The innocent Alice," &c.
The traitor Laska!—
And yet Sarolta, simple, inexperienced,
Could see him as he was, and often warn'd me.
Whence learn'd she this? — Oh! she was innocent;—
And to be innocent is nature's wisdom!
The fledge-dove knows the prowlers of the air,
Fear'd soon as seen, and flutters back to shelter;
And the young steed recoils upon his haunches,
The never-yet-seen adder's hiss first heard.
O surer than suspicion's hundred eyes
Is that fine sense, which to the pure in heart,
By mere oppugnancy of their own goodness,
Reveals the approach of evil.
How fine is Bethlen's image!—
Those piled thoughts, built up in solitude,
Year following year, that press'd upon my heart
As on the altar of some unknown God;
Then, as if touch'd by fire from heaven descending,
Blazed up within me at a father's name—
Do they desert me now — at my last trial!
And Glycine's song might, we think, attract the attention of some of our composers. How like some of Goethe's jewels it is!—
A sunny shaft did I behold,
From sky to earth it slanted,
And poised therein a bird so bold—
Sweet bird, thou wert enchanted!
He sank, he rose, he twinkled, he troll'd
Within that shaft of sunny mist;—
His eyes of fire, his beak of gold,
All else of amethyst!
And thus he sang — "Adieu! adieu!
Love's dreams prove seldom true.
The blossoms they make no delay;
The sparkling dew-drops will not stay.
Sweet month of May,
We must away,
Far, far away,
Upon the whole, then, referring to the "Wallenstein," the "Remorse," and "Zapolya," we think it impossible not to admit that Mr. Coleridge's dramatic talent is of a very high and original kind. His chief excellence lies in the dialogue itself, — his main defect in the conception, or at least in the conduct, of the plot. We can hardly say too much for the one, or too little for the other. In this respect, indeed, as in some others, his two plays remind us more of Beaumont and Fletcher than of Shakspeare. Yet we can conceive even the "Zapolya" capable of being charmingly represented under circumstances which the common London stage excludes in modern days. But little would be gained by such an attempt, however successful; it could not much heighten the effect of the poetry, and perhaps it might injure it, whilst defects in the action would become more apparent. The "Remorse" is, indeed, of stronger texture, and has borne, and might again bear, acting by common performers before the common audience; yet even in this instance we doubt whether the representation would not interfere with the more exquisite pleasure attending on the calm perusal of the poetry itself. There are parts in it, as in most of Shakspeare's plays, which neither sock nor buskin can reach, and which belong to the imagination alone.
We have not yet referred to the "Ancient Mariner," "Christabel," the "Odes on France," and the "Departing Year," or the "Love Poems." All these are well known by those who know no other parts of Coleridge's poetry, and the length of our preceding remarks compels us to be brief in our notice. Mrs. Barbauld, meaning to be complimentary, told our poet, that she thought the "Ancient Mariner" very beautiful, but that it had the fault of containing no moral. "Nay, madam," replied the poet, "if I may be permitted to say so, the only fault in the poem is that there is too much! In a work of such pure imagination I ought not to have stopped to give reasons for things, or inculcate humanity to beasts. 'The Arabian Nights' might have taught me better." They might — the tale of the merchant's son who puts out the eyes of a genii by flinging his date-shells down a well, and is therefore ordered to prepare for death — might have taught this law of imagination; but the fault is small indeed; and the "Ancient Mariner" is, and will ever be, one of the most perfect pieces of imaginative poetry, not only in our language, but in the literature of all Europe. We have, certainly, sometimes doubted whether the miraculous destruction of the vessel in the presence of the pilot and hermit, was not an error, in respect of its bringing the purely preternatural into too close contact with the actual framework of the poem. The only link between those scenes of out-of-the-world wonders, and the wedding guest, should, we rather suspect, have been the blasted, unknown being himself who described them. There should have been no other witnesses of the truth of any part of the tale, but the "Ancient Mariner" himself. This by the way: but take the work altogether, there is nothing else like it; it is a poem by itself; between it and other compositions, in "pari materia," there is a chasm which you cannot overpass; the sensitive reader feels himself insulated, and a sea of wonder and mystery flows round him as round the spell-stricken ship itself. It was a sad mistake in the able artist — Mr. Scott, we believe — who in his engravings has made the ancient mariner an old decrepit man. That is not the true image; no! he should have been a growthless, decayless being, impassive to time or season, a silent cloud — the wandering Jew. The curse of the dead men's eyes should not have passed away. But this was, perhaps, too much for any pencil, even if the artist had fully entered into the poet's idea. Indeed, it is no subject for painting. The "Ancient Mariner" displays Mr. Coleridge's peculiar mastery over the wild and preternatural in a brilliant manner; but in his next poem, "Christabel," the exercise of his power in this line is still more skilful and singular. The thing attempted in "Christabel" is the most difficult of execution in the whole field of romance — witchery by daylight; and the success is complete. Geraldine, so far as she goes, is perfect. She is "sui generis." The reader feels the same terror and perplexity that Christabel in vain struggles to express, and the same spell that fascinates her eyes. Who and what is Geraldine — whence come, whither going, and what designing? What did the poet mean to make of her? What could he have made of her? Could he have gone on much farther without having had recourse to some of the ordinary shifts of witch tales? Was she really the daughter of Roland de Vaux, and would the friends have met again and embraced?—
Alas! they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth
And constancy lives in realms above;
And life is thorny — and youth is vain—
And to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain..—
And thus it chanced, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother:
They parted — ne'er to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining;—
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs which had been rent asunder:—
A dreary sea now flows between:
But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away, I ween,
The marks of that which once has been. — vol. ii. p. 45.
We are not amongst those who wish to have "Christabel" finished. It cannot be finished. The poet has spun all he could without snapping. The theme is too fine and subtle to bear much extension. It is better as it is, imperfect as a story, but complete as an exquisite production of the imagination, differing in form and colour from the "Ancient Mariner," yet differing in effect from it only so as the same powerful faculty is directed to the feudal or the mundane phases of the preternatural.
From these remarkable works we turn to the love poems scattered through the volumes before us. There is something very peculiar in Mr. Coleridge's exhibition of the most lovely of the passions. His love is not gloomy as Byron's, nor gay as Moore's, nor intellectual as Wordsworth's. It is a clear unclouded passion. made up of an exquisite respect and gentleness, a knightly tenderness and courtesy, — pure yet ardent, impatient yet contemplative. It is Petrarch and Shakspeare incorporate — it is the midsummer moonlight of all love poetry. The following fragment is now first printed:—
Imagination; honourable aims;
Free commune with the choir that cannot die;
Science and song; delight in little things,
The buoyant child surviving in the man;
Fields, forests, ancient mountains, ocean, sky,
With all their voices — O dare I accuse
My earthly lot as guilty of my spleen,
Or call my destiny niggard? O no! no!
It is her largeness, and her overflow,
Which being incomplete, disquieteth me so!
For never touch of gladness stirs my heart,
But tim'rously beginning to rejoice
Like a blind Arab, that from sleep doth start
In lonesome tent, I listen for thy voice.
Beloved! 'tis not thine; thou art not there!
Then melts the bubble into idle air,
And wishing without hope I restlessly despair.
The mother with anticipated glee
Smiles o'er the child, that, standing by her chair
And flatt'ning its round cheek upon her knee,
Looks up, and doth its rosy lips prepare
To mock the coming sounds. At that sweet sight
She hears her own voice with a new delight;
And if the babe perchance should lisp the notes aright,
Then is she tenfold gladder than before
But should disease or chance the darling take,
What then avail those songs, which sweet of yore
Were only sweet for their sweet echo's sake?
Dear maid! no prattler at a mother's knee
Was e'er so dearly prized as I prize thee:
Why was I made for Love and Love denied to me? — vol. ii. p. 95.
We forbear to quote from the celebrated "All thoughts, all passions, all delights," or any other pieces previously published, in which "Amor triumphans" is sung, — not only because they are very generally known, but that we may make room for another poem now printed for the first time, in which a rarer and more difficult thing is attempted — an expression of the poet's anguish at the services of kindness as a substitute for love. This theme — the diversity of love and friendship — is several times most exquisitely touched in the new parts of this publication, particularly in a piece called "Love's Apparition and Evanishment;" but we must confine ourselves to one in the first volume, entitled "The Pang more sharp than all." It runs thus:—
He too has flitted from his secret nest—
Hope's last and dearest Child without a name
Has flitted from me, like the warmthless flame,
That makes false promise of a place of rest
To the tired Pilgrim's still believing mind
Or like some Elfin Knight in kingly court,
Who having won all guerdons in his sport,
Glides out of view, and whither none can find!
Yes; He hath flitted from me — with what aim,
Or why, I know not! 'Twas a home of bliss,
And He was innocent as the pretty shame
Of babe that tempts and shuns the menaced kiss
From its twy-cluster'd hiding-place of snow!
Pure as the babe, I ween, and all aglow
As the dear hopes that swell the mother's breast—
Her eyes down gazing o'er her clasped charge;
Yet gay as that twice happy father's kiss,
That well might glance aside, yet never miss,
Where the sweet mark emboss'd so sweet a targe—
Twice wretched he who hath been doubly blest!
Like a loose blossom on a gusty night
He flitted from me, — and has left behind,
(As if to them his faith he ne'er did plight)
Of either sex and answerable mind,
Two playmates, twin-births of his foster-dame:—
The one a steady lad (Esteem he bight),
And Kindness is the gentler sister's name.
Dim likeness now, tho' she be fair and good,
Of that bright Boy who hath us all forsook;—
But in his full-eyed aspect when she stood,
And while her face reflected every look,
And in reflection kindled — she became
So like Him, that almost she seem'd the same!
Ah! he is gone, and yet will not depart!—
Is with me still, yet I from him exiled
For still there lives within my secret heart
The magic image of the magic Child,
Which there He made upgrow by his strong art,
As in that crystal orb-wise Merlin's feat—
The wondrous "world of glass" wherein misled
All long'd-for things their beings did repeat
And there He left it, like a Sylph beguiled,
To live, and yearn, and languish incomplete!
Can wit of man a heavier grief reveal?
Can sharper pang from hate or scorn arise?
Yes! one more sharp there is that deeper lies,
Which fond Esteem but mocks when he would heal.
Yet neither scorn nor hate did it devise,
But sad compassion and atoning zeal!
One pang more blighting keen than hope betrayd!
And this it is my woeful hap to feel,
When at her Brother's best, the twin-born Maid,
With face averted and unsteady eyes,
Her truant playmate's faded robe puts on
And inly shrinking from her own disguise,
Enacts the fairy Boy that's lost and gone.
O worse than all! O pang all pangs above
Is Kindness counterfeiting absent Love! — vol. i. p. 263.
It would be strange, indeed, if we concluded a notice of Mr. Coleridge's poetry without particularly adverting to his Odes. We learn from Captain Medwin, that Mr. Shelley pronounced the "France" to be the finest English ode of modern times. We think it the most complete — the most finished as a whole; but we do not agree that it is equal in imagination — in depth — in fancy — to "The Departing Year," or "Dejection," although these latter are less perfect in composition. It is rather passionate than imaginative: it has more of eloquence than of fancy. We may be wrong in setting up the imaginative before the passionate in an ode, and especially in an ode on such a subject; but we think the majestic strophe with which it concludes will, when compared with any part of the other two odes, prove the accuracy of the distinction taken as a matter of fact.
The sensual and the dark rebel in vain,
Slaves by their own compulsion! In mad game
They burst their manacles, and wear the name
Of freedom, graven on a heavier chain.
O Liberty! with profitless endeavour
Have I pursued thee many a weary hour;—
But thou nor swell'st the victor's strain, nor ever
Didst breathe thy soul in forms of human power.
Alike from all, howe'er they praise thee,—
Nor prayer, nor boastful name delays thee—
Alike from priestcraft's harpy minions,
And factious blasphemy's obscener slaves,
Thou speedest on thy subtle pinions,
The guide of homeless winds, and playmate of the waves!
And there I felt thee! — on that sea-cliff's verge,
Whose pines, scarce travelled by the breeze above,
Had made one murmur with the distant surge;—
Yea, while I stood and gazed, my temples bare,
And shot my being through earth, sea, and air,
Possessing all things with intensest love,
O Liberty! my spirit felt thee there!
Of the other two odes named above, the first is the more varied and brilliant — the last the most subtle and abstract. If we must express an opinion, we must do so without assigning our reasons; and it is, that the ode on "Dejection" is the higher effort of the two. It does not, in a single line, slip into declamation, which cannot be said strictly of either of the other odes: it is poetry throughout, as opposed to oratory.
It has been impossible to express, in the few pages to which we are necessarily limited, even a brief opinion upon all those pieces which might seem to call for notice in an estimate of this author's poetical genius. We know no writer of modern times whom it would not be easier to characterize in one page than Coleridge in two. The volumes before us contain so many integral efforts of imagination, that a distinct notice of each is indispensable, if we would form a just conclusion upon the total powers of the man. Wordsworth, Scott, Moore, Byron, Southey, are incomparably more uniform in the direction of their poetic mind. But if you look over these volumes for indications of their author's poetic powers, you find him appearing in at least half a dozen shapes, so different from each other, that it is in vain to attempt to mass them together. It cannot indeed be said, that he has ever composed what is popularly termed a great poem; but he is great in several lines, and the union of such powers is an essential term in a fair estimate of his genius. The romantic witchery of the "Christabel," and "Ancient Mariner," the subtle passion of the love-strains, the lyrical splendour of the three great odes, the affectionate dignity, thoughtfulness, and delicacy of the blank verse poems — especially the "Lover's Resolution," "Frost at Midnight," and that most noble and interesting "Address to:Mr. Wordsworth" — the dramas, the satires, the epigrams — these are so distinct and so whole in themselves, that they might seem to proceed from different authors, were it not for that same individualizing power, that "shaping spirit of imagination" which more or less sensibly runs through them all. It is the predominance of this power, which, in our judgment, constitutes the essential difference between Coleridge and any other of his great contemporaries. He is the most imaginative of the English poets since Milton. Whatever he writes, be it on the most trivial subject, be it in the most simple strain, his imagination, in spite of himself, affects it. There never was a better illustrator of the dogma of the Schoolmen — "in omnem actum intellectualem imaginatio influit." We believe we might affirm, that throughout all the mature original poems in these volumes, there is not one image, the expression of which does not, in a greater or less degree, individualize it and appropriate it to the poet's feelings. Tear the passage out of its place, and nail it down at the head of a chapter of a modern novel, and it will be like hanging up in a London exhibition-room a picture painted for the dim light of a cathedral. Sometimes a single word — an epithet — has the effect to the reader of a Claude Lorraine glass; it tints without obscuring or disguising the object. The poet has the same power in conversation. We remember him once settling an elaborate discussion carried on in his presence, upon the respective sublimity of Shakspeare and Schiller in Othello and the Robbers, by saying, "Both are sublime; only Schiller's is the material sublime — that's all!" All to be sure; but more than enough to show the whole difference. And upon another occasion, where the doctrine of the Sacramentaries and the Roman Catholics on the subject of the Eucharist was in question, the poet said, "They are both equally wrong; the first have volatilized the Eucharist into a metaphor — the last have condensed it into an idol." Such utterance as this flashes light; it supersedes all argument — it abolishes proof by proving itself.
We speak of Coleridge, then, as the poet of imagination; and we add, that he is likewise the poet of thought and verbal harmony. That his thoughts are sometimes hard and sometimes even obscure, we think must be admitted; it is an obscurity of which all very subtle thinkers are occasionally guilty, either by attempting to express evanescent feelings for which human language is an inadequate vehicle, or by expressing, however adequately, thoughts and distinctions to which the common reader is unused. As to the first kind of obscurity, the words serving only as hieroglyphics to denote a once existing state of mind in the poet, but not logically inferring what that state was, the reader can only guess for himself by the context, whether he ever has or not experienced in himself a corresponding feeling; and, therefore, undoubtedly, this is an obscurity which strict criticism cannot but condemn. But, if an author be obscure, merely because this or that reader is unaccustomed to the mode or direction of thinking in which such author's genius makes him take delight — such a writer must indeed bear the consequence as to immediate popularity; but he cannot help the consequence, and if he be worth anything for posterity, he will disregard it. In this sense almost every great writer, whose natural bent has been to turn the mind upon itself, is — must be — obscure; for no writer, with such a direction of intellect, will be great, unless he is individual and original; and if he is individual and original, then he must, in most cases, himself make the readers who shall be competent to sympathize with him.
The English flatter themselves by a pretence that Shakspeare and Milton are popular in England. It is good taste, indeed, to wish to have it believed that those poets are popular. Their names are so; but if it be said that the works of Shakspeare and Milton are popular — that is, liked and studied — among the wide circle whom it is now the fashion to talk of as enlightened, we are obliged to express our doubts whether a grosser delusion was ever promulgated. Not a play of Shakspeare's can be ventured on the London stage without mutilation — and without the most revolting balderdash foisted into the rents made by managers in his divine dramas; nay, it is only some three or four of his pieces that can be borne at all by our all-intelligent public, unless the burthen be lightened by dancing, singing, or processioning. This for the stage. But is it otherwise with "the reading public?" We believe it is worse; we think, verily, that the apprentice or his master who sits out Othello or Richard at the theatres, does get a sort of glimpse, a touch, an atmosphere of intellectual grandeur; but he could not keep himself awake during the perusal of that which he admires — or fancies he admires — in scenic representation. As to understanding Shakspeare — as to entering into all Shakspeare's thoughts and feelings — as to seeing the idea of Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello, as Shakspeare saw it — this we believe falls, and can only fall, to the lot of the really cultivated few, and of those who may have so much of the temperament of genius in themselves, as to comprehend and sympathize with the criticism of men of genius. Shakespeare is now popular by name, because, in the first place, great Then, more on a level with the rest of mankind, have said that he is admirable, and also because, in the absolute universality of his genius, he has presented points to all. Every man, woman, and child, may pick at least one flower from his garden, the name and scent of which are familiar. To all which must of course be added, the effect of theatrical representation, be that representation what it may. There are tens of thousands of persons in this country whose only acquaintance with Shakspeare, such as it is, is through the stage.
We have been talking of the contemporary mass; but this is not all; a great original writer of a philosophic turn — especially a poet — will almost always have the fashionable world also against him at first, because he does not give the sort of pleasure expected of him at the time, and because, not contented with that, he is sure, by precept or example, to show a contempt for the taste and judgment of the expectants. He is always, and by the law of his being, an iconoclast. By and by, after years of abuse or neglect, the aggregate of the single minds who think for themselves, and have seen the truth and force of his genius, becomes important; the merits of the poet by degrees constitute a question for discussion; his works are one by one read; men recognize a superiority in the abstract, and learn to be modest where before they had been scornful; the coterie becomes a sect; the sect dilates into a party; and lo! after a season, no one knows how, the poet's fame is universal. All this, to the very life, has taken place in this country within the last twenty years. The noblest philosophical poem since the time of Lucretius was, within time of short memory, declared to be intolerable, by one of the most brilliant writers in one of the most brilliant publications of the day. It always put us in mind of Waller — no mean parallel — who, upon the coming out of the "Paradise Lost," wrote to the duke of Buckingham, amongst other pretty things, as follows: — "Milton, the old blind schoolmaster, has lately written a poem on the Fall of Man — remarkable for nothing but its extreme length!" Our divine poet asked a fit audience, although it should be but few. His prayer was heard; a fit audience for the "Paradise Lost" has ever been, and at this moment must be, a small one, and we cannot affect to believe that it is destined to be much increased by what is called the march of intellect.
Can we lay down the pen without remembering that Coleridge the poet is but half the name of Coleridge? This, however, is not the place, nor the time, to discuss in detail his qualities or his exertions as a psychologist, moralist, and general philosopher. That time may come, when his system, as a whole, shall be fairly placed before he world, as we have reason to hope it will soon be; and when the preliminary works — the "Friend," the "Lay Sermons," the "Aids to Reflection," and the "Church and State," — especially the last two — shall be seen in their proper relations as preparatory exercises for the reader. His "Church and State, according to the Idea of Each" — a little book — we cannot help recommending as a storehouse of grand and immovable principles, bearing upon some of the most vehemently disputed topics of constitutional interest in these momentous times. Assuredly this period has not produced a profounder and more luminous essay. We have heard it asked, what was the proposed object of Mr. Coleridge's labours as a metaphysical philosopher? He once answered that question himself, in language never to be forgotten by those who heard it, and which, whatever may be conjectured of the probability or even possibility of its being fully realized, must be allowed to express the completest idea of a system of philosophy ever yet made public.
"My system," said he, "if I may venture to give it so fine a name, is the only attempt that I know, ever made, to reduce all knowledge into harmony. It opposes no other system, but shows what was true in each and how that which was true in the particular in each of them, became error, because it was only half the truth. I have endeavoured to unite the insulated fragments of truth, and therewith to frame a perfect mirror. I show to each system that I fully understand and rightfully appreciate what that system means; but then I lift up that system to a higher point of view, from which I enable it to see its former position, where it was indeed, but under another light and with different relations, — so that the fragment of truth is not only acknowledged, but explained. So the old astronomers discovered and maintained much that was true; but because they were placed on a false ground, and looked from a wrong point of view, they never did — they never could — discover the truth — that is, the whole truth. As soon as they left the earth, their false centre, and took their stand in the sun, immediately they saw the whole system in its true light, and the former station remaining-but remaining as a part of the prospect. I wish, in short, to connect by a moral copula, natural history with political history; or, in other words, to make history scientific, and science historical; — to take from history its accidentality, and from science its fatalism."
Whether we shall ever, hereafter, have occasion to advert to any new poetical efforts of Mr. Coleridge, or not, we cannot say. We wish we had a reasonable cause to expect it. If not, then this hail and farewell will have been well made. We conclude with, we believe, the last verses he has written:—
MY BAPTISMAL BIRTH-DAY.
God's child in Christ adopted, — Christ my all,—
What that earth boasts were not lost cheaply, rather
Than forfeit that blest name, by which I call
The Holy One, the Almighty God, my Father?
Father! in Christ we live, and Christ in Thee;
Eternal Thou, and everlasting we.
The heir of heaven, henceforth I fear not death:
In Christ I live: in Christ I draw the breath
Of the true life: — Let then earth, sea, and sky
Make war against me! On my heart I show
Their mighty Master's seal. In vain they try
To end my life, that can but end its woe.
Is that a death-bed where a Christian lies?
Yes! but not his — 'tis Death itself there dies. — vol. ii. p. 151.