« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
And gaze upon the maid who gazing sings :
The brightness of the world, O thou once free,
Poetical Works, Aldine Edition, Vol. 2.
'Tis a strange place, this Limbo !_not a Place,
With scant white hairs, with foretop bald and high,
No such sweet sights doth Limbo den immure,
Aldine Edition, Vol. 1. Of Coleridge's poetical powers the suggest to his publisher. Of estimate has been each year increasing, the political poems the only ones and we have never known any instance which we would retain in such an of a person once admiring his powers, edition, are the blank-verse poem, and as in other cases of admiration FEARS IN SOLITUDE; and Fire, FAformed in boyhood, ceasing to love MINE AND SLAUGHTER, We do not thein. There is no one poem which believe that by such omission we Mr. Coleridge has written, which would lose any one poem which had should not be preserved ; but we are become embodied in our literature, or convinced that in the late editions had given to popular language or Christabel and the Ancient Mariner sentiment any expression or allusion ; should have been printed separatelyfrom omissions of the same kind cannot be a great deal which the volumes con made in the case of writers of powers tain ; and that while a very few of the far inferior to Mr. Coleridge, when by very earliest poems should have been any accident a poem has had that kind given, as proofs of the early develop- of popularity, which makes its phrases, ment of poetical power, almost everywbether they be genuine gold, or only thing written in the interval between some glittering imitation of it, pass the date of these poems and the year into circulation and be received without 1797 should have been omitted. The question. The Aldine edition, (Pickothers might have been preserved in ering, 1835) is before us, the part of some one of Mr. Pickering's beautiful the first volume called Sibylline Leaves, editiuns, brit we have no doubt what- with the exception of some three or ever, that the part of the Aldine edi- four poems, and the second volume, tion called Juvenile Porins has pre- omitting Zapolya, ouglıt, we think, to vented many from reading the better be printed together, and in this way poems. The manhoud of Coleridge's Mr. Pickering would form one of the true poetical life was in the year 1797, most beautiful volumes of poems in and all earlier poems are but the exer the language, and venture to cises by which he was disciplining predict, one of the most popular ; in himself for his vocation. There is no reality what we propose would be one of them which does not exhibit nothing more than in future imprespower ; yet were we to advise a reader sions arranging the poems differentlywho had not before been acquainted for the volumes of the Aldine edition with his works, there is no one of are sold separately ; our suggestion them on
which should wish would enable the publisher to print a hiin to delay; and it is rather from smaller impression of the poems which the recollection that Shelley and Wilson we assume not only to be less popular,but have spoken of the political odes as to impair the popularity of the others. amongst the very finest in the lan The volume we propose would be the guage, than that we ourselves regard most delightful volume of poetry in them as wholly worthy of Coleridge's the language. It is a sad thing to mature powers, that we would allow think that almost its whole contents them to be preserved in such an edition were produced in a single year of of Coleridge's select poems as we Coleridge's life. Of the history of
Mr. Coleridge's mind, the volumes of absolutely distinct from any thing that his Table-Talk give us no record. had been before heard of in our literaWhen his biography shall be written ture, that there is no one writer of we will look with great anxiety for whose style it in any respect whatever some account of the “annus mirabilis” reminds us, or with which it can, for a of his life, in which REMORSE, THE moment, be compared. We mention ANCIENT MARINER, THE FIRST PART this because the preface to the Tableor ChristABEL, KUBLA Kuan and the Talk, very neerllessly, discusses some Pains of Sleep, not to mention num- silly attacks on Mr. Coleridge's repuberless smaller poems, were produced. tation, as an original writer. They Coleridge was not then niore than talk of the “plagiarisms” of Coleridge. five and twenty years of age, and as Of all the nonsense which has been suredly since the days of Milton, with written about him, this is the most whom we have often in thought asso- nonsensical. The origin of the Rime ciated him, never did the spring-time of the Ancient Mariner is traced to an of a poet's youth blossom so lavishly. old account of a voyage—which says, We have excluded from this enunie that" one of the sailors being a melanration of the works of the period, the choly man, was possessed by a fancy, political odes, because we feel, per- that some long season of foul weather haps wrongly, that their
is was due to an albatross which had rather that of eloquence than of poetry, threateningly pursued the ship : upon and proudly and gloriously eloquent which he shot the bird, but without mendthey are. Still — still — while we ing their condition.” Till the Opiumwould not wish one line of them Eater made the charge of plagiarisın, unwritten—they are not a part of the and till the editor of the Table-Talk Coleridge of our imagination ;-neither gave us the passage from Shelvocke's have we mentioned any of the prose Voyage, we heard nothing of this. There essays — not only because without can be no doubt in any mind, that some books of reference which are whether Mr. Coleridge remembered not within our immediate reach, we or forgot the passage in question, it should have more trouble than we must have been the ground-work of choose to take, to fix dates not very the Ancient Mariner. But is there important, but, because, really and truly one person in the world, who, adestiinating Mr. Coleridge's prose works mitting this to be the case, can think as highly as any one can, they enter for a inoment less of the powers of as little into the feeling with which invention displayed in that wonderful we regard his poetry as our opinion poem? We will ask our readers to of Milton's Areopagitica, which we look back to the account of the origin have read till we have it by heart, or of the Lyrical Ballads, given from of his Tetrachordon, of which we have, Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, in our like true reviewers, formed an opinion review of Wordsworth's late poems. which will for ever prevent our reading In that we are told, that, in the it-interferes with our enjoyment of original plan of the Lyrical "Ballads, Comus. Of the poems which we have were contemplated two classes of mentioned, the work of the same year, poems. With the portion which Mr. all are different, each in its kind, alone Wordsworth undertook to supply, we in our literature. We have no means are not now concerned. In the other, whatever of determining whether Chris Mr. Coleridge's portion of the work tabel was or was not popular on its “the incidents and agents were to be first publication, but it is quite certain in part at least supernatural, and the that many of the passages of Byron excellence aimed at was to consist and Scoti, which at once fixed them in the interesting of the affections by selves in the public ear, were but the the dramatic truth of such emotions echo of passages in the poem--which as would naturally accompany such often as they have been imitated, are situations, supposing them real. And felt still to be wholly unrivalled such they have been to every huinan indeed we think unapproached. being, who, from whatever source of
of the Ancient Mariner, we must delusion, has, at any time, believed seek other opportunities of speaking. himself under supernatural agency.” We only mention it now as a work so Is it possible that any human being
can conceive the originality which the but every incident sets him thinking : poet ever aims at, can be that of invent- and it is curious, and at the same time ing the very incidents themselves? Plac strictly natural, that Hamlet, who, all giarism!-ihe statuary may as well be through the play, seems reason itself spoken of stealing his conception from should be impelled at last by mere aethe quarryfromwhich his marble is taken. cident to effect his object. I have a For ourselves, we are inclined to think smack of Hamlet myself if I may say that in future editions the effect of the so.”. Suppose our poet having thus poem would be encreased by printing explained his notion of the character the sentence describing Hatley's me. insisted not alone on the truth but the lancholy as a motto to the work ; and absolute originality of the conception ; if anything could increase our admira- and suppose some bystander to quote in tion of the inspired powers of the reply to him a sentence from Saxo Grampoet, it would be his editor's exhibit- maticus or the “ Historie of Hamblet,” ing-what he could not have himself that for instance, as giving most supdone without the imputation of unbe. port to this argument, in which the coming vanity—the cloud no larger at counsellor enters secretly into the first than a man's hand, which has as. Queen's chamber, and there hides himsumed the form of this magnificent self behind the arras. Suppose him pageant :
to continue his quotation, and repeat " At first it seemed a little speck,
from one of these old poems,
« that And then it seemed a mist.
the wariness of Hamblet was not infeIt moved and moved, and took at last rior to the craft of his enemies : enterA certain shape I wist."
ing the chamber with his customary Suppose it were found in some old airs of flying, he began to crow like a medical book, that a Spanish gentleman cock, beating his arm against the hanghad gone mad from reading books of ings in imitation of that bird's action knight-errantry-suppose it could be with his wings. Feeling something shown with entire certainty, that Cer- stir behind the arras, he cried, a rat, a vantes had read the story, is there any rat! and drawing his sword, thrust it man would think Don Quixote a less through the concealed spy, whose body original conception? Suppose the he cut in pieces, and cast into a vault.” Spanish poet--for less than a poet we Is there in all this any thing that, in the must not call him--had to repel a slightest degree, affects the assertion of charge of plagiarism in this way sought the poet's absolute originality. Is not to be established against him, and said, the use of such materials as these, in long before I heard of the story I had subservience to the power of imaginaconceived the plan of describing a tion, that, in which the poet's originality mind partially insane, and whether I consists? If any thing could increase had seen the story or not could make our opinions of Shakspeare's powers, no difference whatever in any part of it has been increased by our looking my plan. I looked into the old book over the piles of rubbish which have you mention, thinking it not impossible been heaped together from forgotten that it might supply me with an illus- chronicles and novels, and which were tration of my subject; my work would, his materials. What is there in any in every thing that constitutes it á or in all of them ?-and there is not a poem, have been the same, though single scene which the critics have not such incident had never occurred. been busy in tracing to its source-to Would he have said anything which lessen our estimate of the miraculous would not have commanded our fullest power which is shewn in thus creating assent? Let us suppose Mr. Coleridge its own worlds for these ruins ? The not speaking of one of his own poems, Ancient Mariner of Coleridge is as but engaged in explaining the cha- much the creature of Shelvocke's voyracter of Hamlet.
Let us suppose age as Shakspeare's Hamlet is the work him using the very words which we of Saxo Grammaticus, and a denial the ind in the volume before us. “ Ham- most absolute in terms—supposing such let's character is the prevalence of the to have been given by Coleridge-of abstracting and generalizing habit over his being under any obligation whatever the practical. He does not want to Shelvocke, would have been, in the courage, skill, will, or opportunity; only meaning in which such denial
could have been given, a mere state mask of reality as a reference to any ment of actual and unquestionable fact, thing but his own log books, from such one which it seems absolutely impossi a voyager as Captain Lemuel Gulliver. ble should not be insist ed upon by any In any future editions, however, three one having to answer, according to his or four lines from Shelvocke might folly, a critic of the class we have been be printed as a note, and when the works imayining. The inventor of the kaleido- of Coleridge are printed, as one day or scope might as reasonably,have been ac- other they no doubt will--illustrated cused of pirating the principle of that as Milton's poems have been by Warbeautifultoyfroin the manufacturer of co ton, and Warton's by Mant, we have loured glass, which he has to make use of; no doubt that the more perfect such and gentle,and communicative, and sin an edition is, the more entirely the gularly free from any thing of personal writer is enabled to exhibit the whole vanity to interfere with him
as Coleridge mind of the writer-often expressed in was, we can imagine him, in the case single words—often shewing itself in which we have supposed, exhibiting the images just touched with light, or faintly same impatience which he would un. shadowed aud left quietly and by themdoubtedly have felt had the question been selves to produce their magic effect, not of hiniself but of Shakspeare. Had the more entire will be the conviction the passage in any way originated the of the absolute originality of Coleridge's poem--had it been more than a sub- poetry in the only sense in which that ject which accidentally served his pur- word can be used in speaking of poetry pose as well and no better than a thou- at all? The Edinburgh Review ought sand others, it is impossible that he to have chosen a less offensive word should not have referred to it, when than it has, when it speaks of " Colein conversation naturally called to the ridge's plagiarisms from himself and subject, although we can easily con others.” Coleridge reprints, in his esceive strong reasons why he should say on Church and State, a few senhave in some sort feared to destroy tences from the BIOGRAPHIA LITEthe illusion of his romance by a formal RARIA or the FRIEND—works that had quotation from an actual narrative. It been long out of print, and which, by should be remembered, that when the one unfortunate accident or other-the Ancient Mariner was first published, the fault of his publisher, or perhaps his custom had not yet arisen of the poet's own fault--were never fairly brought seeking to justify every page he had before the public. In another book written by some prose authority ;—and he reprints from some old newspaper entertaining as the notes to the poems an essay of his own, which he feels of Southey and Scott are, and in all ought to have a place among his works, respects of value to the student of and this is what the conscientious jourpoetry, we remember, on our first nalist does not hesitate to call plagireading Thalaba,
any arisms. The distinct statement of the thing but pleased at the perpetual fact is, of course, the only answer it references to books of travels in sup can receive. The accusation with report of the imagery. A part of spect to others, the only important the poet's power is lost when he one, has been well answered by Mr. forces the reader to know that he is H. N. Coleridge. We really grudge not an improvisatore—and the margi. the page we are obliged to give to this nal notes given in the new edition of matter. The“ Opium-Eater," with great the Ancient Mariner-quaintly written solemnity, tells us that Coleridge, in as they are, and in perfect imitation conversation, explained the injunction of our elder writers, and now necessa of Pythagoras to his disciples, to abrily printed in every republication of stain from beans, to mean that they the poem, are far from an improve- should avoid any interference with pó. ment. If the story be difficult they litical affairs, public elections being condo not lessen the difficulties. The ducted by beans. Mr. De Quincy's asserpoem was first published without any tion is, that Mr. Coleridge explained the note of any kind, and we think a refe- matter in this way, in conversation, rence to Shelvocke could then have been without making any reference to some as little expected from a writer who had German who gave
the same account of to make his Ancient Mariner wear the the matter. Mr. H. N. Coleridge says