« ZurückWeiter »
sublime simplicity and most deep always, at least, retain the wish to tenderness. It is one of the most please it by the effect of his piecesmelancholy things in human nature, even while he may differ very widely to see how often the grandest mys- from common opinions, with regard teries of the meditative soul lie at the to the means to be employed. This mercy of surface-skimming ridicule, is a truth which has unfortunately and self-satisfied rejoicing ignor- been very inadequately attended to by ance-It is like seeing the most so- several of the most powerful geniuses lemn gestures of human dignity mim- of our time; but we know of none icked into grotesque absurdity by upon whose reputation its neglect monkeys. Now, to our mind, the im- has been so severely visited as on that propriety of the treatment which has of Mr Coleridge. It is well, that in been bestowed upon Mr Coleridge, is spite of every obstacle, the native mightily increased by the very facili power of his genius has still been ties which the peculiarities of the able to scatter something of its image poet himself afforded for its infliction. upon all his performances—it is well, It is a thing not to be denied, that, above all things, that in moods of even under the most favourable of more genial enthusiasm he has created circumstances, the greater part of the a few poems, which are, though short, readers of English poetry could never in conception so original, and in have been expected thoroughly and execution so exquisite, that they canintimately to understand the scope of not fail to render the name of Colethose extraordinary productions—but ridge co-extensive with the language this ought only to have acted as an ad in which he has written and to asditional motive with those who profess sociate it for ever in the minds of all to be the guides of public opinion, to feeling and intelligent men, with those make them endeavour, as far as might of the few chosen spirits that have in them lie, to render the true mer- touched in so many ages of the world its of those productions more visible to the purest and most delicious chords the eye of the less penetrating or less of lyrical enchantment. reflective. Unless such be the duty Those who think the most highly of professional critics on such occa of the inborn power of this man's sions and one, too, of the very genius, must now, perhaps, be connoblest duties they can ever be called tented, if they would speak of him to upon to dischargewe have erred the public with any effect, to suppress very widely in all our ideas concern their enthusiasm in some measure ing such matters.
and take that power alone for granted However well he might have been which has been actually shown to treated by the critics-nay, however exist. Were we to speak of him largely he might have shared in the without regard to this prudential rule sweets of popularity—there is no and hazard the full expression of doubt Mr Coleridge must still have our own belief in his capacities--there continued to be a most eccentric is no question we should meet with author. But the true subject for re- many to acknowledge the propriety, gret is, that the unfavourable
recep to use the slightest phrase, of all that tion he has met with, seems to have we might say—but these, we appreled him to throw aside almost all re- hend, would rather be found among gard for the associations of the multi those who have been in the society tude--and to think, that nothing of Mr Coleridge himself, and witcould be so worthy of a great genius, nessed the astonishing effects which, sounworthily despised, as to reject in his according to every report, his elosubsequent compositions every standard quence never fails to produce upon save that of his own private whims. those to whom it is addressed than Now it was a very great pity that this among men who have (like ourselves) remarkable man should have come so been constrained to gather their only hastily to such a resolution as this ideas of him from the printed proand by exaggerating his own original ductions of his genius. We are very peculiarities, thus widened the breach willing to acknowledge, that our own every day between himself and the
excess of admiration may have been public. A poet, although he may in some measure the result of peculiar have no great confidence in the public circumstances that it may have arisen taste, as a guide to excellence, should out of things too minute to be ex
plained and which, if explained, indeed, may be said to be heaped up would be regarded by many as merely to superfluity-and so it is the lanfantastic and evanescent. What, ac- guage to be redundant-and the narcording to our belief, Mr Coleridge rative confused. But surely those might have been--what, according to who cavilled at these things, did not the same belief, he may yet be these consider into whose mouth the poet are matters in regard to which it may has put this ghastly story. A guest be wise to keep silence. We have no is proceeding to a bridal—the sound desire, had we the power, to trouble of the merry music is already in his our readers with any very full exposi- ears and the light shines clearly tion of our opinions, even concerning from the threshold to guide him to what he has done in poetry. Our the festival. He is arrested on his only wish for the present, is to offer a way by an old man, who constrains few remarks in regard to one or two him to listen-he seizes him by the of his individual productions, which hand-that he shakes freembut the may perhaps excite the attention of old man has a more inevitable spell, such of our readers as have never yet and he holds him, and will not be paid any considerable attention to any silent. of them and this, more particularly, He holds him with his glittering eye, as we have already hinted, with a view to our own countrymen in Scot- And listens like a three-years child :
The wedding-guest stood still, land.
The mariner hath his will. The longest poem in the collection of the Sibylline Leaves, is the The wedding guest sat on a stone,
He cannot ehuse but hear Rime of the Ancient Mariner--and to
And thus spake on that ancient man, our feeling, it is by far the most won
The bright-eyed mariner. derful also the most original-and the most touching of all the produc- The bride hath paced into the hall, tions of its author. From it alone, we
Red as a rose is she : are inclined to think an idea of the Nodding their heads before her goes whole poetical genius of Mr Coleridge The merry minstrelsy. might be gathered, such as could scarcely receive any very important
The wedding-guest he beat his breast, addition either of extent or of dis- And thus spake on that ancient man,
Yet he cannot chuse but hear tinctness, from a perusal of the whole of his other works. To speak of it
The bright-eyed mariner. at all is extremely difficult; above all In the beginning of the mariner's the poems with which we are ac- narrative, the language has all the imquainted in any language--it is a petus of a storm-and when the ship poem to be felt-cherished—mused is suddenly locked among the polar upon--not to be talked about—not ice, the change is as instantaneous as capable of being described-analyzed it is awful. or criticised. It is the wildest of all the creations of genius—it is not The ice was here, the ice was there, like a thing of the living, listening, it cracked and growled, and roared' and moving world -- the very of
howl'd, its words is like the melancholy Like noises in a swound ! mysterious breath of something sung to the sleeping ear-its images have At length did cross an Albatross : the beauty--the grandeur—the inco- Thorough the fog it came ;
As if it had been a Christian soul, herence of some mighty vision. The
We hailed it in God's name. loveliness and the terror glide before us in turns--with, at one moment, the It ate the food it ne'er had eat, awful shadowy dimness—at another, And round and round it flew. the yet more awful distinctness of a
The ice did split with a thunder-fit ;
The helmsman steer'd us through! majestic dream.
Dim and shadowy, and incoherent, And a good south wind sprung up behind ; however, though it be-how blind, The Albatross did follow, how wilfully, or how foolishly blind And every day, for food or play, must they have been who refused to
Came to the Mariner's hollo ! see any meaning or purpose in the In mist or cloud, or mast or shroud, Tale of the Mariner ! The imagery, It perch'd for vespers nine ;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs white,
Upon the slimy sea. Glimmered the white Moon-shine.
About, about, in reel and rout « God save thee, ancient Mariner !
The death-fires danced at night ; From the fiends that plague thee thus ! The water, like a witch's oils, Why look'st thou so ?”_With my cross. Burnt green, and blue, and white. bow
Ah ! well a-day! what evil looks I shot the ALBATROSS !
Had I from old and young! All the subsequent miseries of the Instead of the cross, the Albatross crew are represented by the poet as About my neck was hung. having been the consequences of this In the “ weary time” which follows, violation of the charities of sentiment; a spectre-ship sails between them and and these are the same miseries which the “ broad bright sun” in the west. the critics have spoken of, as being This part of the poem is much imcauseless and unmerited ! We have no proved in this last edition of it. The difficulty in confessing, that the ideas male and the fernale skeleton in the on which the intent of this poem spectre-ship, or, as they are now called, hinges, and which to us seem to pos « Death and LIFE-IN-Death,” have sess all beauty and pathos, may, after diced for the ship's crew-and she, all, have been selected by the poet with the latter, has won the ancient Maria too great neglect of the ordinary ner. These verses are, we think, sympathies. But if any one will sub- quite new. The second of them is, mit himself to the magic that is around perhaps, the most exquisite in the him, and suffer his senses and his whole poem. imagination to be blended together, The naked hulk alongside came, and exalted by the melody of the And the twain were casting dice ; charmed words, and the splendour “ The game is done ! I've won, I've won !" of the unnatural apparitions with Quoth she, and whistles thrice. which the mysterious scene is opened, The Sun's rim dips , the stars rush out : surely he will experience no revulsion At one stride comes the dark ; towards the centre and spirit of this With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea, lovely dream. There is the very es Off shot the spectre-bark. sence of tenderness in the remorseful
We listen'd and look'd sideways up! delight with which the Mariner dwells Fear at my heart, as at a cup, upon the image of the “pious bird of My life-blood seem'd to sip! omen good," as it
The stars were dim, and thick the night, Every day, for food or play,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleam'd Came to the Mariner's hollo !
white; And the convulsive shudder with from the sails the dews did drip which he narrates the treacherous Till clombe above the eastern bar issue, bespeaks to us no pangs more
The horned Moon, with one bright star than seem to have followed justly on
Within the nether tip. that inhospitable crime. It seems as
The crew, who had approved in calmif the very spirit of the universe had
ness the sin that had been committed been stunned by the wanton cruelty in wantonness and madness, die, -and of the Mariner-as if earth, sea,
the Mariner alone is preserved by the and sky, had all become dead and rise of an expiatory feeling in his stagnant in the extinction of the mov
mind. Pain, sorrow, remorse, there ing breath of love and gentleness.
are not enough ;—the wound must be All in a hot and copper sky,
healed by a heartfelt sacrifice to the The bloody Sun, at noon,
same spirit of universal love which Right up above the mast did stand, had been bruised in its infliction. No bigger than the moon.
The moving Moon went up the sky, Day after day, day after day,
And no where did abide : We stuck, nor breath nor motion,
Softly she was going up, As idle as a painted ship
And a star or two beside Upon a painted ocean.
Her beams bemock'd the sultry main, Water, water, every where,
Like April hoar-frost spread; And all the boards did shrink;
But where the ship's huge shadow lay, Water, water, every where,
The charmed water burnt alway Nor any drop to drink.
A still and awful red. The very deep did rot: 0 Christ!
Beyond the shadow of the ship, That ever this should be !
I watch'd the water-snakes :
They moved in tracts of shining white, The conclusion has always appeared And when they reared, the elfish light to us to be happy and graceful in the Fell off in hoary flakes.
utmost degree. The actual surface-life Within the shadow of the ship
of the world is brought close into conI watch'd their rich attire :
tact with the life of sentiment the Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, soul that is as much alive, and enjoys, They coiled and swam; and every track
and suffers as much in dreams and vi. Was a flash of golden fire.
sions of the night as by daylight. O happy living things! no tongue One feels with what a heavy eye the Their beauty might declare :
Ancient Mariner must look and listen A spring of love gusht from my heart,
to the pomps and merry-makings And I blessed them unaware !
even to the innocent enjoyments of Sure my kind saint took pity on me, And I blessed them unaware.
those whose experience has only been The self same moment I could pray;
of things tangible. One feels that to
him another world-we do not mean And from my neck so free The Albatross fell off, and sank
a supernatural, but a more exquisitely Like lead into the sea.
and deeply natural world has been It is needless to proceed any longer in revealed--and that the repose of his this, for the principle of the poem is spirit can only be in the contemplation all contained in the last of these ex
of things that are not to pass away. tracts. Had the ballad been more in- The sad and solemn indifference of
his mood is communicated to his hearterwoven with sources of prolonged
er- and we feel that cven after read. emotion extending throughout-and had the relation of the imagery to the ing what he had heard, it were better purport and essence of the piece been to “turn from the bridegroom's door. a little more close it does not seem o Wedding-Guest ! this soul hath been to us that any thing more could have Alone on a wide wide sea : been desired in a poem such as this. So lonely 'twas, that God himself As it is, the effect of the wild wander- Scarce seemed there to be. ing magnificence of imagination in the sweeter than the marriage-feast,
'Tis sweeter far to me, details of the dream-like story is a thing that cannot be forgotten. It is with a goodly company!
To walk together to the kirk as if we had seen real spectres, and
To walk together to the kirk, were for ever to be haunted. The
And all together pray, unconnected and fantastic variety of While each to his great Father bends, the images that have been piled up be- Old men, and babes, and loving friends, fore us works upon the fancy, as an And youths and maidens gay! evening sky made up of half lurid cas- Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell tellated clouds-half of clear unpollute To thee, thou Wedding-Guest ! ed azure-would
It is He prayeth well, who loveth well like the fitful concert of fine sounds ‘Both man, and bird, and beast. which the Mariner himself hears af. He prayeth best, who loveth best ter his spirit has been melted, and All things both great and small ; the ship has begun to sail homewards. For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar, Now mixed, now one by one.
Is gone; and now the Wedding-guest Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
Turned from the bridegroom's door. I heard the sky-lark sing ;
He went like one that hath been stunned, Sometimes all little birds that are,
And is of sense forlorn :
HE ROSE THE MORROW MORN.
Of all the author's productions, the Now like a lonely flute ;
one which seems most akin to the And now it is an angel's song, That makes the Heavens be mute.
Ancient Mariner, is Christabel, a wonIt ceased ; yet still the sails made on
derful piece of poetry, which has been A pleasant noise till noon,
far less understood, and is as yet far less A noise like of a hidden brook
known than the other. This performe In the leafy month of June,
ance does not make its appearance in That to the sleeping woods all night the Sibylline Leaves—but we hope Mr Singeth a quiet tune.
Coleridge will never omit it in any future collection. The reception it Language is a material which it remet with was no doubt a very dise quires no little labour to reduce into couraging one, more particularly when beautiful forms,-a truth of which the contrasted with the vehement admira- ancients were, above all others, well tion which seems to have been expres- and continually aware. For although sed by all who saw it while yet in vivid ideas naturally suggest happy exMS. Mr Coleridge, however, should pressions, yet the latter are, as it were, remember that the opinions of the few only insulated traits or features, which who saw and admired Christabel then, require much management in the may very well, without any over- joining, and the art of the composer weening partiality on his part, be put is seen in the symmetry of the whole into competition with the many who structure. Now, in many respects Mr have derided it since. Those who Coleridge seems too anxious to enjoy know the secret history of the poem, the advantages of an inspired writer, and compare it with the productions and to produce his poetry at once of the most popular poets of our time, in its perfect form-like the palaces will have no difficulty in perceiving which spring out of the desert in comhow deep an impression his remarka. plete splendour at a single rubbing of ble creation had made on the minds the lamp in the Arabian Tale. But of those of his contemporaries, whose carefulness above all is necessary to a approbation was most deserving to be poet in these latter days, when the oran object of ambition with such a man dinary medium through which things as Mr Coleridge.
are viewed is so very far from being Christabel, as our readers are aware, poetical-and when the natural strain is only a fragment, and had been in of scarcely any man's associations can existence for many years antecedent be expected to be of that sort which is to the time of its publication. Nei- most akin to high and poetical feeling. ther has the author assigned any rea
There is no question there are many, son either for the long delay of its ap- very many passages in the poetry of pearance
or for the imperfect state in this writer, which shew what excelwhich he has at last suffered it to ap- lent things may be done under the pear. In all probability he had waited impulse of a happy moment-paslong in the hope of being able to finish sages in which the language--above all it to his satisfaction ; but finding that things has such aërial graces he was never revisited by a mood suf- would have been utterly beyond the ficiently genial-he determined to let reach of any person who might have the piece be printed as it was. It is attempted to produce the like, without not in the history of Christabel alone being able to lift his spirit into the that we have seen reason to suspect same ecstatic mood. It is not to be Mr Coleridge of being by far too pas- denied, however, that among the sive in his notions concerning the whole of his poems there are only a mode in which a poet ought to deal few in the composition of which he with his muse. It is very true, that seems to have been blessed all throughthe best conceptions and designs are out with the same sustaining energy of frequently those which occur to a man afflatus. The Mariner—we need not of fine talents, without having been say—is one of these. The poem Love painfully sought after : but the exer- is another-and were Christabel comtion of the Will is always necessary pleted as it has been begun, we doubt in the worthy execution of them. It be- not it would be allowed by all who are hoves a poet, like any other artist, after capable of tasting the merits of such he has fairly conceived the idea of his poetry, to be a third-and, perhaps, piece, to set about realising it in good the most splendid of the three. earnest, and to use his most perseve- It is impossible to gather from the ring attention in considering how all part which has been published any its parts are to be adapted and con- conception of what is the meditated joined. It does not appear that even conclusion of the story of Christabel. the language of a poem can arise spon- Incidents can never be fairly judged taneously throughout like a strain of of till we know what they lead to. music, any more than the colours of Of those which occur in the first and the painter will go and arrange them- second cantos of this poem, there is selves on his canvass, while he is no doubt many appear at present very musing on the subject in another room. strange and disagreeable, and the