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The old nurse Angela, who is the young lovers' only friend in all the hostile castle, tells him of Madeline's plan to try the charm of St. Agnes' Eve; and he persuades the dame to conceal him in Madeline's chamber, where, when she sleeps, he will spread at her bed-side the feast which the charm of St. Agnes promises to her vision.
The dame hides him there and hobbles off, half afraid of what she has done, just as Madeline enters her chamber.
“Out went the taper as she hurried in;
As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,
Save wings, for heaven. Porphyro grew faint;
In fancy fair St. Agnes in her bed,
Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
“Stolen to this paradise, and so entranced,
Porphyro gazed upon her empty dress,
And over the hushed carpet silent stept,
“ Then by the bedside, where the faded moon
Made a dim silver twilight, soft he set
“And still she slept, an azure-lidded sleep,
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavendered,
From Fez, and spiced dainties, every one
“ These delicates he heaped with glowing hand
On golden dishes, and in baskets bright
“Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,
Tumultuous, and, in chords that tenderest be,
Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone : Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone.
“Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
" Ah, Porphyro,' said she, “but even now
Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
Oh, leave me not in this eternal woe,
""My Madeline ! sweet dreamer ! lovely bride!
Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest ?
Saving of thy sweet self, if thou think'st well
“Hark! 't is an elfin storm from faery land,
Awake! arise ! my love, and fearless be,
They glide like phantoms into the wide hall ;
The chains lie silent on the footworn stones ;
“And they are gone : aye ! ages long ago
With Keats, who died in 1820, we enter upon the fair field of modern poetry, and find ourselves among the poets of our own age and our own forms of thought.
Lowell, one of our most sympathetic literary critics, has said,
“ Three men almost contemporaneous with each other Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron were the great means of bringing back English poetry from the sandy deserts of rhetoric and recovering for her her triple inheritance of simplicity, sensuousness, and passion. Of these, Wordsworth was the only conscious reformer and the deepest thinker; Keats, the most essentially a poet; and Byron, the most keenly intellectual of the three. ... Wordsworth has influenced most the ideas of succeeding poets; Keats their forms; and Byron, interesting to men of imagination less for his writings than for what his writings indicate, reappears no more in poetry, but presents an ideal to youth made restless with vague desires not yet regulated by experience, nor supplied with motives by the duties of life.”
ON SOME FRIENDS OF THE LAKE POETS.
HERE are many interesting writers, in prose as well
as verse, who wrote at the time the Lake School was rising to fame. They are worth better and longer mention than I can give in one brief Talk. The early part of this century saw gathered in London a group of men more interesting than any similar group since the days when the Scriblerus Club used to meet at Will's Coffee-house.
CHARLES LAMB, one of the sweetest and gentlest charac
ters that the past keeps alive for us, was a school1775-1835
mate of Coleridge in Christ's Hospital school, and they formed a friendship there which was never broken. Lamb was a man of varied talents. He wrote poems and one or two plays; but his merit as a writer is shown best in his Essays of Elia, which are full of quaint humor, and have a pathos entirely their own. No essays so fresh, delicate, and original had been written since the time of Abraham Cowley as these of Lamb, and I think I would rather part with Cowley even than with the gentle Elia.
Lamb was a true Londoner, born and dwelling in or near that great city all his life, and loving it as if it were a feeling and responsive being, conscious of his love. He went to visit Wordsworth once, and enjoyed the beautiful lake and mountain region among which his friend lived; but his heart was always in London. In one of his letters to Wordsworth he says,
Separate from the pleasure of your company, I don't much care if I never see a mountain in my life. I have passed all my days in London, until I have formed as many and intense local attachments as any of your mountaineers have done with dead nature. The lighted shops of the Strand and Fleet Street, the innumerable tradesmen and customers, coaches, wagons, play-houses, — all the bustle and wickedness round about Covent Garden, the watchmen, drunken scenes, rabbles, . . . the crowds, the very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements, the print-shops, old book-stalls, parsons cheapening books, coffee-houses, steams of soup from kitchens, the pantomimes, London itself a pantomime and masquerade, all these things work themselves into my mind, and feed me without a power of satiating me. The wonder of these sights impels me into night-walks about the city's crowded streets, and I often shed tears in the motley Strand from fulness of joy at so much life.”
Dr. Johnson also loved London as Lamb did, and preferred it to all the nature outside.
Lamb held for years a place as clerk in the India House, and his slight, stooping figure, clad in clerkly black, coming