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

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Henry Francis Cary, 1830 ca.; in Memoir of the Rev. Henry Francis Cary (1847) 2:299-300.



He is superior, I think, to almost all of our poets, except Spenser, in the deliciousness of his numbers. This charm results more from melody than measure, from a continuity of sweet sounds than from an apt division or skilful variation of them. There is no appearance of preparation, effort, or artifice; they rise or fall with his feelings, like the unbidden breathings of an Aeolian harp, from the deep intonations of passion to the light skirmishes of fancy.

On the generality of readers it is to be feared this is all so much thrown away. Rapidity of reading hinders attention to it. To enjoy this instrument one had need to be in some such happy Castle of Indolence as Thomson has placed it in.

By Lamb, who conversed much with him in his youth, I was told that he fed himself on Collins, to whom, in his earlier pieces, he bears much resemblance.

He had little or no observation. What he saw or heard left an impression on him, as it seemed, almost without his own consciousness, and was then taken up and transmuted into music or beauty by an internal alchemy, or tinted in the ethereal colours of an ever-active imagination.

He judges admirably in the abstract, but was below a common man when he came to compare and decide upon particulars.