Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

Spinoza whose name the detective had taken to mean himself.

From what I have said of Coleridge's habits of work, you will not be surprised to find that when the Lyrical Ballads were to go to press, and Wordsworth had twenty-two poems ready, Coleridge had only the Ancient Mariner and a part of the weird poem of Christabel, which was never finished. Hazlitt says that the Ancient Mariner is the only one of Coleridge's poems which he should like to put into any person's hands whom he wished to impress favorably with his great powers. No doubt he is right; and this one poem is great enough for one reputation. It is a unique poem in our literature ; and to those who feel its weird fascination it exercises a sway over the imagination which very few poems in our language can exercise.

Christabel remains a fragment, although Coleridge intended to finish it. He added a second part to it after it was first published, of which he said : first part I had the whole present to my mind, with the wholeness no less than the loveliness of a vision, I trust that I shall be yet able to embody in verse the three parts yet to come.” It is characteristic of Coleridge that the mood for which he waited never came, and that to the last we have only the fragment. The poem of Genevieve, or Love, was written as an introduction to a longer poem, which was planned, but never written. It is, however, complete in itself, an exquisite little love-story in verse, and I quote it entire :

“ As in my

LOVE.

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,

And feed his sacred flame.

Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o'er again that happy hour
When, midway on the mount, I lay
Beside the ruined tower.

The moonshine, stealing o'er the scene,
Had blended with the lights of eve;
And she was there, my hope, my joy,

My own dear Genevieve !
She leaned against the armed man,
The statue of the armed knight;
She stood and listened to my lay

Amid the lingering light.
Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope ! my joy! my Genevieve !
She loves me best whene'er I sing

The songs that make her grieve.

I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story,
An old, rude song that suited well

That ruin wild and hoary.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace ;
For well she knew I could not choose

But gaze upon her face.

I told her of the knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand,
And that for ten long years he wooed

The lady of the land.

I told her how he pined ; and ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another's love

Interpreted my own.

She listened with a fitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace ;
And she forgave me that I gazed

Too fondly on her face.

But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely knight,
And that he crossed the mountain-woods,

Nor rested day nor night;

That sometimes from the savage den, And sometimes from the darksome shade, And sometimes starting up at once

In green and sunny glade,

There came and looked him in the face
An angel beautiful and bright;
And that he knew it was a fiend,

This miserable knight!

And that, unknowing what he did,
He leaped amid a murderous band,
And saved from outrage worse than death

The lady of the land;

And how she wept, and clasped his knees,
And how she tended him in vain,
And ever strove to expiate

The scorn that crazed his brain;

And that she nursed him in a cave,
And how his madness went away,
When on the yellow forest leaves

A dying man he lay ;

His dying words But when I reached
That tenderest strain of all the ditty,
My faltering voice and pausing harp

Disturbed her soul with pity!

All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve,
The music and the doleful tale,

The rich and balmy eve;

And hopes, and fears that kindle hope,
An undistinguishable throng,
And gentle wishes long subdued,

Subdued and cherished long!

She wept with pity and delight,
She blushed with love and virgin shame;
And like the murmur of a dream

I heard her breathe my name.

Her bosom heaved; she stept aside,
As conscious of my look she stept ;
Then suddenly, with timorous eye,

She fled to me and wept.

She half enclosed me with her arms,
She pressed me with a meek embrace;
Then, bending back her head, looked up

And gazed upon my face.

T was partly love, and partly fear,
And partly ’t was a bashful art,
That I might rather feel than see

The swelling of her heart.

I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride ;
And so I won my Genevieve,

My bright and beauteous bride.

Coleridge wrote the dramatic poems Remorse, Zapolva, and the Fall of Robespierre. His finest dramatic work was in the translation of Schiller's Wallenstein, which is so well done that it has the value of an original drama in English.

Of all the Lake School, Coleridge seems to me to have been most of a poet by nature. “Logician ! Metaphysician ! Bard !” as his friend Charles Lamb addresses him, I can hardly limit my conception of what he might have been if, freed from the bondage of opium, he had only had the power of patient, persistent work in one direction. But it is work and patience against the world ; and without these,

! allied to genius, even genius itself can give nothing to the future.

LII.

ON WILLIAM WORDSWORTH AND ROBERT SOUTHEY.

NEVER

EVER was the judgment of the critics more wholly

overturned than in the case of William Wordsworth. He began by being laughed at; he lived to see his name set among the great poets, and died at eighty with the full knowledge that his fame was waxing greater and greater.

No doubt he was helped, even in his darkest hour, by his belief in himself. He set out early in life to be a great poet; he adopted it as a sacred profession, - one for which Nature had chosen him. He had fixed ideas about subjects for poetry, and the way these subjects should be handled.

It did not disturb him that his ideas were different from the poets who had come before him. It did not discourage him that his first poems were laughed at. There never was a poet who started with a clearer sense of what he meant to do as a poet, with a higher appreciation of his calling, or with a fuller belief in his own powers. This made it easy for him to wait till the world could see what he saw, and he waited without anxiety or trouble about the result.

Fortunately he was in the right path. He had chosen to be the poet of humanity; all that he wrote and felt was in harmony with the thought and feeling of the new age. Thus he could not speak far wide of his mark, and sooner or later he was sure to reach that heart to which he spoke.

His faults — and I think his best lover will admit faults in him come from some of the very causes that make him great. Believing firmly in himself as a poet, working upon a theory which was exact and proportioned in his own mind, there is often something a little business-like in his manner as a poet. He finds poetical capital in all things : a tour on the Continent, a mountain ascent, a walk in the garden,

-all furnish him song or sonnet. Having made up his mind that the natural, simple scenes of human life are the grandest themes for poetry, he finds nothing too trivial, and he sometimes tries to exalt things that cannot be lifted from the region of commonplace. It is well for genius when it is not moody, and can work patiently ; but we do not want to make it a common draught-horse.

sure that, with the best disposition to admire Wordsworth, the reader with a strong imagination will find him an unequal poet. After he has carried you away up with a flight like an eagle, he drops you like a stone. In reading his long poems you are constantly dropped thus. The divine fire in the poet never quite goes out; that spirit which in youth whirled him about in such ardor of enthusiasm for liberty, equality, and fraternity, controls him in nobler fashion as he grows older and calmer; but with all

I am

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »