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SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
a physiognomic expression to all the works of nature. daily drudgery for the periodical press, and in Fifthly, A meditative pathos, a union of deep and nightly dreams distempered and feverish, he wasted, subtle thought with sensibility: a sympathy with to use his own expression, the prime and manhood man as man ; the sympathy, indeed, of a contem- of his intellect.' "The poet was a native of Devonplator rather than a fellow-sufferer and co-mate shire, being born on the 20th of October 1772 at (spectator, haud particeps), but of a contemplation from Ottery St Mary, of which parish his father was whose view no difference of rank conceals the same- vicar. He received the principal part of his educaness of the nature; no injuries of wind or weather, tion at Christ's hospital, where he had Charles Lamb or toil, or even of ignorance, wholly disguise the for a schoolfellow. He describes himself as being, human face divine. Last, and pre-eminently, I from eight to fourteen, “a playless day-dreamer, challenge for this poet the gift of imagination in the a helluo librorum ;' and in this instance the child was highest and strictest sense of the word. In the play father of the man,' for such was Coleridge to the of fancy, Wordsworth, to my feelings, is always end of his life. A stranger whom he had accigraceful, and sometimes recondite. The likeness is dentally met one day on the streets of London, and occasionally too strange, or demands too peculiar a who was struck with his conversation, made him free point of view, or is such as appears the creature of of a circulating library, and he read through the predetermined research, rather than spontaneous catalogue, folios and all. At fourteen, he had, like presentation. Indeed, his fancy seldom displays Gibbon, a stock of erudition that might have puzzled itself as mere and unmodified fancy. But in imagi- a doctor, and a degree of ignorance of which a schoolnative power he stands nearest of all modern writers boy would have been ashamed. He had do ambito Shakspeare and Milton, and yet in a mind per- tion; his father was dead, and he actually thought fectly unborrowed, and his own. To employ his own of apprenticing himself to a shoemaker who lived words, which are at once an instance and an illus- near the school. The head master, Bowyer, intertration, he does indeed, to all thoughts and to all fered, and prevented this additional honour to the objects
craft of St Crispin, already made illustrious by Add the gleam,
Gifford and Bloomfield. Coleridge became deputyThe light that never was on sea or land,
Grecian, or head scholar, and obtained an exhibition The consecration and the poet's dream.
or presentation from Christ's hospital to Jesus' college, Cambridge, where he remained from 1791 to 1793. He quitted college abruptly, without taking
a degree, having become obnoxious to his superiors SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, a remarkable man from his attachment to the principles of the French and rich imaginative poet, enjoyed a high reputation Revolution. during the latter years of his life for his colloquial eloquence and metaphysical and critical powers, of When France in wrath her giant-limbs upreared, which only a few fragmentary specimens remain. His
And with that oath which smote air, earth, and sea, poetry also indicated more than it achieved. Visions Bear witness for me, how i hoped and feared !
Stamped her strong foot, and said she would be free,
Unawed I sang, amid a slavish band :
The monarchs marched in evil day,
And Britain joined the dire array ;
Had swollen the patriot emotion,
To all that braved the tyrant-quelling lance,
But blessed the pæans of delivered France,
France, an Ode. In London, Coleridge soon elt himself forlorn and destitute, and he enlisted as a soldier in the 15th, Elliot's Light Dragoons. “On his arrival at the quarters of the regiment,' says his friend and biographer Mr Gillman, 'the general of the district inspected the recruits, and looking hard at Coleridge, with a military air, inquired, “What's your
“Comberbach." (The name he had Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
assumed.) “What do you come here for, sir?" as if of grace, tenderness, and majesty, seem ever to have doubting whether he had any business there. “Sir," haunted him. Some of these he embodied in exquisite said Coleridge, “ for what most other persons come verse; but he wanted concentration and steadiness of — to be made a soldier.” “Do you think," said the purpose to avail himself sufficiently of his intellectual general, "you can run a Frenchman through the riches. A happier destiny was also perhaps wanting; body?" "I do not know,” replied Coleridge, “ as I for much of Coleridge's life was spent in poverty and never tried; but I'll let a Frenchman run me through dependence, amidst disappointment and ill-health, the body before I'll run away.” “ That will do," and in the irregularity caused by an unfortunate and said the general, and Coleridge was turned into the excessive use of opium, which tyrannised over him ranks.' The poet made a poor dragoon, and never for many years with unrelenting severity. Amidst advanced beyond the awkward squad. He wrote
letters, however, for all his comrades, and they generous and munificent patronage' of Messrs attended to his horse and accoutrements. After Josiah and Thomas Wedgewood, Staffordshire, enfour months' service (December 1793 to April 1794), abled the poet to proceed to Germany to complete the history and circumstances of Coleridge became his education, and he resided there fourteen months known. He had written under his saddle, on the At Ratzburg and Gottingen he acquired & wellstable wall, a Latin sentence (Eheu! quam in- grounded knowledge of the German language and fortunii miserrimum est fuisse felicem !') which led literature, and was confirmed in his bias towards to an inquiry on the part of the captain of his troop, philosophical and metaphysical studies. On his who had more regard for the classics than Ensign return in 1800, he found Southey established at Northerton in Tom Jones. Coleridge was dis- Keswick, and Wordsworth at Grassmere. He went charged, and restored to his family and friends. to live with the former, and there his opinions The same year he published his Juvenile Poems, and underwent a total change. The Jacobin became a a drama on the Fall of Robespierre. He was then an royalist, and the Unitarian a warm and devoted ardent republican and a Socinian-full of high hopes believer in the Trinity. In the same year he puband anticipations, “the golden exhalations of the lished his translation of Schiller's · Wallenstein,' into dawn.' In conjunction with two other poetical en- which he had thrown some of the finest graces of his thusiasts—Southey and Lloyd-he resolved on emi- own fancy. The following passage may be considered grating to America, where the party were to found, a revelation of Coleridge's poetical faith and belief, amidst the wilds of Susquehanna, a Pantisocracy, conveyed in language picturesque and musical:or state of society in which all things were to be in common, and neither king nor priest could
Oh! never rudely will I blame his faith mar their felicity. “From building castles in the
In the might of stars and angels! 'Tis not merely air,' as Southey has said, 'to framing common
The human being's pride that peoples space wealths, was an easy transition. The dream was
With life and mystical predominance ;
Since likewise for the stricken heart of love never realised (it is said from a very prosaic causethe want of funds), and Coleridge, Southey, and
This visible nature, and this common world, Lloyd married three sisters—the Miss Frickers of
Is all too narrow : yea, a deeper import Bristol. Coleridge, still ardent, wrote two political
Lurks in the legend told my infant years, pamphlets, concluding that truth should be spoken
Than lies upon that truth we live to learn.
For fable is love's world, his house, his birthplace; at all times, but more especially at those times when to speak truth is dangerous.' He established also a
Delightedly dwells he 'mong fays, and talismans, periodical in prose and verse, entitled The Watchman,
And spirits ; and delightedly believes
Divinities, being himself divine. with the motto, “that all might know the truth, and that the truth might make us free. He watched in
The intelligible forms of ancient poets, vain. Coleridge's incurable want of order and punc
The fair humanities of old religion, tuality, and his philosophical theories, tired out and
The power, the beauty, and the majesty,
That had their haunts in dale, or piny mountain, disgusted his readers, and the work was discontinued
Or forest, by slow stream, or pebbly spring, after the ninth number. Of the unsaleable nature
Or chasms and watery depths; all these hare ranished. of this publication, he relates an amusing illustration. Happening one day to rise at an earlier hour than
They lire no longer in the faith of reason !
But still the heart doth need a language ; still usual, he observed his servant girl putting an extra- Doth the old instinct bring back the old names; vagant quantity of paper into the grate, in order to
And to yon starry world they now are gone, light the fire, and he mildly checked her for her wastefulness. “La, sir, (replied Nanny) why, it is only
Spirits or gods, that used to share this earth
With man as with their friend; and to the lover, Watchmen.' He went to reside in a cottage at Nether
Yonder they move, from yonder visible sky Stowey, at the foot of the Quantock hills, Somerset
Shoot influence down; and even at this day shire, which he has commemorated in his poetry. 'Tis Jupiter who brings whate'er is great, And now, beloved Stowey! I behold
And Venus who brings everything that's fair.
Mr Coleridge rose and gave out his text." He departed again And close behind them, hidden from my view,
into a mountain himself alone." As he gave out this text, his Is my own lowly cottage, where my babe
voice rose like a stream of rich distilled perfumes; and when he And my babe's mother dwell in peace !
came to the two last words, which he pronounced loud, deep,
and distinct, it seemed to me, who was then young, as if the And quickened footsteps thitherward I tread.
sounds had echoed from the bottom of the human heart, and Mr Wordsworth lived at Allfoxden, about two as if that prayer might have floated in solemn silence through miles from Stowey, and the kindred feelings and the universe. The idea of St John came into my mind, of one pursuits of the two poets bound them in the closest crying in the wilderness, who had his loins girt about, ani friendship. At Stowey, Coleridge wrote some of his whose food was locusts and wild honey. The preacher then ! most beautiful poetry—his Ode on the Departing The sermon was upon peace and war-upon church and state
launched into his subject like an eagle dallving with the wind. Year; Fears in Solitude; France, an Odle; Frost at
-not their alliance, but their separation on the spirit of the Midnight; the first part of Christabel; the Ancient world and the spirit of Christianity, not as the same, but as Mariner; and his tragedy of Remorse
. The luxuriant opposed to one another. He talked of those who had inscribed il fulness and individuality of his poetry show that he the cross of Christ on banners dripping with human gore! Ile was then happy, no less than eager, in his studies. made a poetical and pastoral excursion--and to show the fatal The two or three years spent at Stowey seem to have effects of war, drew a striking contrast between the simple been at once the most felicitous and the most illus- shepherd-boy driving his team a-field, or sitting under the trious of Coleridge's literary life. He had established hawthorn, piping to his flock, as though he should never bo his name for ever, though it was long in struggling old, and the same poor country lad, crimped, kidnapped, to stinction. During his residence at Stovey, brought into town, made drunk at an alehouse, turned into a Coleridge officiated as Unitarian preacher at Taun- wretched drummer-boy, with his hair sticking on end with ton, and afterwards at Shrewsbury.* In 1798 the powder and pomatum, a long cue at his back, and tricked out
in the finery of the profession of blood : * Mr Hazlitt has described his walking ten miles in a winter “Such were the notes our once loved poet sung :" day to hear Coleridge preach. When I got there,' he says, and, for myself, I could not have been more delighted if I had the organ was playing the 100th Psalm, and when it was done, I heard the music of the spheres.'
The lines which we have printed in Italics are an And even as life returns upon the drowned, expansion of two of Schiller's, which Mr Hayward Life's joy rekindling roused a throng of paing(another German poetical translator) thus literally Keen pangs of love, awakening as a babe renders :
Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart; The old fable-existences are no more ;
And fears self-willed, that shunned the eye of hope; The fascinating race has emigrated (wandered out or And hope that scarce would know itself from fear; away).
Sense of past youth, and manhood come in vain ; As a means of subsistence Coleridge reluctantly, And all which I had called in wood-walks wild,
And genius given, and knowledge won in vain ; consented to undertake the literary and political And all which patient toil had reared, and all department of the Morning Post, in which he sup; Commune with thee had opened out—but flowers ported the measures of government. In 1804 we find Strewed on my corse, and borne upon my bier, him in Malta, secretary to the governor, Sir Alex- In the same coffin, for the self-same grave ! ander Ball, with a salary of £800 per annum. He held this lucrative office only nine months, having These were prophetic breathings, and should be a disagreed with the governor'; and, after a tour in warning to young and ardent genius. In such mag. Italy, returned to England to resume his precarious nificent alternations of hope and despair, and in labours as an author and lecturer. The desultory discoursing on poetry and philosophy-sometimes irregular habits of the poet, caused partly by his committing a golden thought to the blank leaf of a addiction to opium, and the dreamy indolence and book or to a private letter, but generally content procrastination which marked him throughout life, with oral communication—the poet's time glided seem to have frustrated every chance and oppor- past. He had found an asylum in the house of a tunity of self-advancement. Living again at Grass- private friend, Mr James Gillman, surgeon, Highmere, he issued a second periodical, The Friend, gate, where he resided for the last nineteen years of which extended to twenty-seven numbers. The his life. Here he was visited by numerous friends essays were sometimes acute and eloquent, but as often rhapsodical, imperfect, and full of German mysticism. In 1816, chiefly at the recommendation of Lord Byron, the 'wild and wondrous tale' of *Christabel' was published. The first part, as we have mentioned, was written at Stowey as far back as 1797, and a second had been added on his return from Germany in 1800. The poem was still unfinished; but it would have been almost as difficult to complete the Faëry Queen, as to continue in the same spirit that witching strain of supernatural fancy and melodious verse. Another drama, Zapoyla (founded on the Winter's Tale), was published by Coleridge in 1818, and, with the exception of some minor poems, completes his poetical works. He wrote several characteristic prose disquisitionsThe Statesman's Manual, or the Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight; a Lay Sermon (1816); a Second Lay Sermon, addressed to the Higher and Middle Classes on the existing Distresses and Discontents (1817); Biographia Literaria, two volumes, 1817; Aids to Reflection (1825); On the Constitution of the Church and State (1830) ; &c. He meditated a great theological and philosophical work, his magnum opus, on Christianity as the only revelation of permanent and universal validity,' which was to
reduce all knowledge into harmony'—to unite the insulated fragments of truth, and therewith to frame a perfect mirror.' He planned also an epic poem on the destruction of Jerusalem, which he considered 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 Mr Gillman's House, Highgate, the last residence of Coleridge. interested all Greece. Here,' said he, there would and admirers, who were happy to listen to his inbe the completion of the prophecies ; the termination spired monologues, which he poured forth with of the first revealed national religion under the vio- exhaustless fecundity. We believe,' says one of lent assault of paganism, itself the immediate fore, these rapt and enthusiastic listeners, “it has not been runner and condition of the spread of a revealed the lot of any other literary man in England, since mundane religion ; and then you would have the Dr Johnson, to command the devoted admiration character of the Roman and the Jew; and the awful and steady zeal of so many and such wid, ly-differing ness, the completeness, the justice. I schemed it at disciples—some of them having become, and others twenty-five, but, alas! venturum expectat." This being likely to become, fresh and independent sources ambition to execute some great work, and his consti- of light and moral action in themselves upon the tutional infirmity of purpose, which made him defer principles of their common master. One half of or recoil from such an effort, he has portrayed with these affectionate disciples have learned their lessons great beauty and pathos in an address to Words of philosophy from the teacher's mouth. He has worth, composed after the latter had recited to him been to them as an old oracle of the academy or a poem 'on the growth of an individual mind:'
Lyceum. The fulness, the inwardness, the ultimate Ah! as I listened with a heart forlorn,
scope of his doctrines, has never yet been published The pulses of my being beat anew :
in print, and, if disclosed, it has been from time to
time in the higher moments of conversation, when in a passage of Shelvocke, one of the classical ciroccasion, and mood, and person, begot an exalted cumnavigators of the earth, who states that his crisis. More than once has Mr Coleridge said that, second captain, being a melancholy man, was poswith pen in hand, he felt a thousand checks and sessed by a fancy that some long season of foal difficulties in the expression of his meaning; but weather was owing to an albatross which had that-authorship aside - he never found the smallest steadily pursued the ship, upon which he shot the hitch or impediment in the fullest utterance of his bird, but without mending their condition. Colemost subtle fancies by word of mouth. His ab- ridge makes the ancient mariner relate the circumstrusest thoughts became rhythmical and clear when stances attending his act of inhumanity to one of chanted to their own music.'* Mr Coleridge died three wedding guests whom he meets and detains of at Highgate on the 25th of July 1834. In the pre- his way to the marriage feast. 'He holds him with ceding winter he had written the following epitaph, his glittering eye,' and invests his narration with a striking from its simplicity and humility, for him- deep preternatural character and interest, and with self:-
touches of exquisite tenderness and energetic de Stop, Christian passer-by! Stop, child of God !
scription. The versification is irregular, in the style And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
of the old ballads, and most of the action of the piece A poet lies, or that which once seemed he
is unnatural; yet the poem is full of vivid and original Oh! lift a thought in prayer for S. T. C. !
imagination. *There is nothing else like it,' says That he, who many a year, with toil of breath,
one of his critics ; 'it is a poem by itself; between Found death in life, may here find in death! it and other compositions, in pari materia, there is a Mercy for praise-to be forgiven for fame,
chasm which you cannot overpass. The sensitive He asked and hoped through Christ—do thou the same. reader feels himself insulated, and a sea of wonder Immediately on the death of Coleridge, several com
and mystery flows round him as round the spellpilations were made of his table-talk,
correspondence, theory of the connection between the material and the
stricken ship itself.' Coleridge further illustrates his and literary remains. His fame had been gradually spiritual world in his unfinished poem of Christabel' extending, and public curiosity was excited with respect to the genius and opinions of a man vao and the most remarkable modulation of verse. The
a romantic supernatural tale, filled with wild imagery combined such various and dissimilar powers, and versification is founded on what the poet calls a new who was supposed capable of any task, however gigantic. Some of these Titanic fragments are valu- principle (though it was evidently practised by able-particularly his Shakspearian criticism. They in each line the number of accentuated words, not
Chaucer and Shakspeare), namely, that of counting attest his profound thought and curious erudition, the number of syllables. “Though the latter," he and display his fine critical taste and discernment. In penetrating into and embracing the whole mean-lire the acænts will be found to be only four.' This
say, 'may vary from seven to twelve, yet in each ing of a favourite author-unfolding the nice shades irregular harmony delighted both Scott and Byron, and distinctions of thought, character, feeling, or melody_darting on it the light of his own creative by whom it was imitated. We add a brief specimind and suggestive fancy-and perhaps linking the whole to some glorious original conception or image, The night is chill; the forest bare; Coleridge stands unrivalled. He does not appear as
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak ! a critic, but as an eloquent and gifted expounder of There is not wind enough in the air kindred excellence and genius. He seems like one To move away the ringlet curl who has the key to every hidden chamber of pro
From the lovely lady's cheek; found and subtle thought and every ethereal concep
There is not wind enough to twirl tion. We cannot think, however, that he could ever The one red leaf, the last of its clan, have built up a regular system of ethics or criticism.
That dances as often as dance it can, He wanted the art to combine and arrange his mate- Hanging so light, and hanging so high, rials. He was too languid and irresolute. He had On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky. never attained the art of writing with clearness and Hush, beating heart of Christabel ! precision ; for he is often unintelligible, turgid, and Jesu Maria shield her well! verbose, as if he struggled in vain after perspicacity She foldeth her arins beneath her cloak, and method. His intellect could not subordinate the And stole to the other side of the oak. * shaping spirit of his imagination.
What sees she there? The poetical works of Coleridge have been col- There she sees a damsel bright, lected and published in three volumes. They are Dressed in a silken robe of white, various in style and manner, embracing ode, tragedy, That shadowy in the moonlight shone: and epigram, love poems, and strains of patriotism The neck that made that white robe wan, and superstition-a wild witchery of imagination, Her stately neck and arms were bare ; and, at other times, severe and stately thought and Her blue-veined feet unsandalled were; intellectual retrospection. His language is often And wildly glittered here and there rich and musical, highly figurative and ornate. Many The gems entangled in her hair. of his minor poems are characterised by tenderness I guess 'twas frightful there to see and beauty, but others are disfigured by passages of A lady so richly clad as she turgid sentimentalism and puerile affectation. The Beautiful exceedingly! most original and striking of his productions is his a finer passage is that describing broken friendwell-known tale of The Ancient Mariner. Accord
ships :ing to De Quincy, the germ of this story is contained
Alas! they had been friends in youth; * Quarterly Review, vol. lii. p. 5. With one so impulsive as Coleridge, and liable to fits of depression and to ill-health, these
But whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above; appearances must have been very unequal. We have known three men of genius, all poets, who frequently listened to him, And life is thorny; and youth is vain : and yet described him as generally obscure, pedantic, and
And to be wroth with one we love, tedious. In his happiest moods he must, however, have been
Doth work like madness in the brain. great and overwhelming. His voice and countenance were
And thus it chanced, as I divine, harmonious and beautiful
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother:
But never either found another
A dreary sea now flows between.
Shall wholly do away, I ween,
The marks of that which once hath been. This metrical harmony of Coleridge exercises a sort of fascination even when it is found united to incoherent images and absurd conceptions. Thus, in Khubla Khan, a fragment written from recollections of a dream, we have the following melodious rhapBody :
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
And drunk the milk of paradise. The odes of Coleridge are highly passionate and elevated in conception. That on France was considered by Shelley to be the finest English ode of modern times. The hymn on Chamouni is equally lofty and brilliant. His Genevieve' is a pure and exquisite love-poem, without that gorgeous diffuseness which characterises the odes, yet more chastely and carefully finished, and abounding in the delicate and subtle traits of his imagination. Coleridge was deficient in the rapid energy and strong passion necessary for the drama. The poetical beauty of certain passages would not, on the stage, atone for the paucity of action and want of interest in his two plays, though, as works of genius, they vastly excel those of a more recent date which prove highly sucCessful in representation.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
He holds him with his glittering eyeThe wedding-guest stood still, And listens like a three-years' child ; The mariner hath his will. The wedding-guest sat on a stone, He cannot choose but hear; And thus spake on that ancient man, The bright-eyed mariner. The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, Merrily did we drop Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top. The sun came up upon the left, Out of the sea came he ; And he shone bright, and on the right Went down into the sea. Higher and higher every day, Till over the mast at noonThe wedding-guest here beat his breast, For he heard the loud bassoon. The bride hath paced into the hall, Red as a rose is she ; Nodding their heads before her goes The merry minstrelay. The wedding-guest he beat his breast, Yet he cannot choose but heur; And thus spake on that anciant man, The bright-eyed mariner. And now the storm-blast can'?, and he Was tyrannous and strong ; He struck with his o'ertaking wings, And chased us south along. With sloping masts and dripping prow, As who pursued with yell and blow Still treads the shadow of his foe, And forward bends his head, The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast, And southward aye we fled. And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold ; And ice mast-high came floating by, As green as emerald. And through the drifts the snowy cliffs Did send a dismal sheen; Nor shapes of men nor beasts we kenThe ice was all between. The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around; It cracked and growled, and roared and howlod, Like noises in a swound ! At length did cross an albatross, Thorough the fog it came; As if it had been a Christian soul, We hailed it in God's name. It ate the food it ne'er had eat, And round and round it flew; The ice did split with a thunder-fit; The helmsman steered us through! And a good south wind sprung up behind, The albatross did follow, And every day for food or play, Came to the mariner's hollo ! In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, It perched for vespers nine; Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white, Glimmered the white moonshine.