1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Robinson

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "A Stranger Minstrel" 1800; Robinson, Poetical Works (1806) 1:xlviii-li.



As late on SKIDDAW'S mount I lay supine,
Midway th' ascent, in that repose divine,
When the soul, centred in the heart's recess,
Hath quaff'd its fill of NATURE'S loveliness,
Yet still beside the fountain's marge will stay,
And fain would thirst again, again to quaff;
Then when the tear, slow trav'lling on its way,
Fills up the wrinkles of a silent laugh,
In that sweet mood of sad and humorous thought,
A form within me rose, within me wrought
With such strong magic, that I cried aloud,
Thou ancient SKIDDAW! by thy helm of cloud,
And by thy many-colour'd chasms deep,
And by their shadows, that for ever sleep,
By yon small flaky mists that love to creep
Along the edges of those spots of light,
Those sunny islands on thy smooth green height,
And, by yon Shepherds with their sheep,
And dogs, and boys, a gladsome crowd,
That rush e'en now with clamour loud
Sudden from forth thy topmost cloud,
And by this laugh, and by this tear,
I would, old SKIDDAW, SHE were here.
A lady of sweet song is she,
Her soft blue eye was made for thee!
O! ancient SKIDDAW, by this tear,
I would, I would, that she were here!
Then ancient SKIDDAW, stern and proud,
In sullen majesty replying,
Thus spake from out his helm of cloud,
(His voice was like an echo dying!)
"She dwells belike in scenes more fair
And scorns a mount so bleak and bare."
I only sigh'd when this I heard,
Such mournful thoughts within me stirr'd,
That all my heart was faint and weak,
So sorely was I troubled!
No laughter wrinkled on my cheek,
But, oh! the tears were doubled.

But ancient SKIDDAW, green and high,
Heard, and understood my sigh:
And now, in tones less stern and rude,
As if he wished to end the feud,
Spake he, the proud response renewing:
(His voice was like a monarch wooing.)

"Nay, but thou dost not know her might,
The pinions of her soul, how strong!
But many a stranger in my height
Hath sung to me her magic song,
Sending forth his ecstasy
In her divinest melody,
And hence I know her soul is free,
She is, where'er she wills to be,
Unfetter'd by mortality!
Now, to 'the haunted beach' can fly,
Beside the threshold scourg'd with waves,
Now where the maniac wildly raves,
'Pale Moon, thou spectre of the sky!'
No wind that hurries o'er my height
Can travel with so swift a flight.
I too, methinks, might merit
The presence of her spirit!
To me too might belong
The honour of her song and witching melody!
Which most resembles me,
Soft, vaporous, and sublime,
Exempt from wrongs of time!"

Thus spake the mighty mount! and I
Made answer, with a deep drawn sigh,
"Thou ancient SKIDDAW! by this tear,
I would, I would, that she were here!"
November, 1800.