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No III.-Coleridge. There is no question many of our saying, that in regard to this and a readers will think we are doing a very very great number of subjects besides, useless, if not a very absurd thing, in they stand quite in a different situawriting, at this time of day, any thing tion from our English readers. The like a review of the poetry of Mr reading-public of England (speaking Coleridge. Several years have elapsed largely) have not understood Mr Cole since any poetical production, entitled ridge's poems as they should have to much attention, has been published dope The reading-public of Scotland by him and of those pieces which are in general ignorant that any such the true strength and originality of poems 'exist, and of those who are his genius have been expressed, by far aware of their existence, the great the greater part were presented to the majority owe the whole of their inworld before any of the extensively formation concerning them to a few popular poetry of the present day exist reviews, which, being written by men ed. In the midst, however, of the many of talent and understanding, could new claimants which have arisen on not possibly have been written from every hand to solicit the ear and the fa- any motives but those of malice, or vour of the readers of poetry, we are not with any purposes but those of missure that anyone has had so much rea- representation. son to complain of the slowness and ina- The exercise of those unfair, and dequacy of the attention bestowed upon indeed wicked arts, by which the suhim as this gentleman, who is, com- perficial mass of readers are so easily paratively speaking, a veteran of no swayed in all their judgments, was, inconsiderable standing. It is not in this instance, more than commonly easy to determine in what proportions easy, by reason of the many singular the blame of his misfortunes should eccentricities observable in almost all be divided between himself and his the productions of Mr Coleridge's countrymen. That both have con muse. What was already fantastic, it ducted themselves very culpably—at could not be no difficult matter for least very unwisely—begins at length, those practised wits, to represent, as we believe, to be acknowledged by most utterly unmeaning, senseless, and abof those whose opinion is of any con- surd. But perhaps those who are sequence. As for us, we can never accustomed to chuckle over the ludisuppose ourselves to be ill employed crous analysis of serious poems, so when we are doing any thing that may common in our most popular reviews, serve in any measure to correct the might not be the worse for turning to errors of the public judgment on the the Dictionnaire Philosophique, and one hand, or to stimulate the efforts seeing with what success the same of ill-requited, and thence, perhaps, weapons have been employed there, desponding or slumbering genius on (by much greater wits, it is true) to the other. To our Scottish readers transform and degrade into subjects we owe no apology whatever; on the of vulgar merriment all the beautiful contrary, we have no hesitation in narratives of the sacred books-their Vol. VI.
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 pieces melancholy 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 as ditional motive with those who professsociate 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 occan 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 explained 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 free but 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
The wedding-guest stood still, view to our own countrymen in Scot- And listens like a three-years child : 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 heartinctness, from a perusal of the whole
The bright-eyed mariner. of his other works To speak of it 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 music of
howld, 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 ; herence of some mighty vision. The
As if it had been a Christian soul,
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 helmsman steer'd us through!
The ice did split with a thunder-fit; 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, minst they have been who refused to Came to the Mariner's hollo ! see any ineaning 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 dripwhich 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
A still and awful red.
I watch'd thc 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 viWas 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, And I blessed them unaware !
to the pomps and merry-makingsSure my kind saint took pity on me,
even to the innocent enjoyments-of 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 terwoven with sources of prolonged his mood is communicated to his hearemotion extending throughout-and er-and we feel that cven after readhad 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.” å 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, details of the dream-like story is a To walk together to the kirk
'Tis sweeter far to me, thing that cannot be forgotten. It is with a goodly company as if we had seen real spectres, and to walk together to the kirk, were for ever to be haunted. 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 unpollut. To thee, thou Wedding-Guest ! ed azure-would upon the eye. 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 Au 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 ; And now it is an angel's song,
one which seems most akin to the 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 performIn 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
The And all together pray,