« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
a composition of quite a different shade of beauty and merit from that of the verse which it accompanies, connecting this the chief poem of Coleridge with his philosophy, and emphasizing in it that psychological element of which I have spoken, its curious soul-lore.
Completeness, the perfectly rounded unity and wholeness of the impression it leaves on the mind of a reader who really gives himself to it.—that, too, is one of the characteristics of a really excellent work, in the poetic, as in every other kind of art; and by this completeness The Ancient Mariner certainly gains upon Christabel,-a completeness, entire as that of Wordsworth's Leech-gatherer, or Keats's Saint Agnes' Eve, each typical in its way of such wholeness or entirety of effect on a careful reader. It is Coleridge's own great complete work, the one really finished thing, in a life of many beginnings. Christabel remained a fragment—the first, and portions of a second, part, on which two other parts should have followed, each with its own conclusion'; and we seem to have lost more by its incompleteness than the mere̱ amount of excellent verse; for what Coleridge tells us about it suggests the notion of a very exquisitely limited design, with that pleasing sense of unity, which is secured in the The Ancient Mariner, partly by the skill with which the incidents of the marriage-feast break in, dreamily, from time to time, upon the main story; and with which the whole night mare story itself is made to end, so pleasantly and reassuringly, among the clear, fresh sounds and lights of the bay, where it began, with
The moon-light steeped in silentness
The steady weather-cock.'
So different from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in regard to this completeness of effect, Christabel illustrates the same complexion of motives, the same intellectual situation. Here too the work is that peculiar to one who touches the characteristic motives of the old romantic ballad in a spirit made subtle and fine by modern reflexion, and which we feel, I think, in such passages
'But though my slumber had gone by,
'For she belike, hath drunken deep
Of all the blessedness of sleep; '
And the gift of handling the finer passages of human feeling, at once with power and delicacy, which was another of the results of that finer psychology, of his exquisitely refined habit of selfreflexion, is illustrated by a passage on Friendship in the Second Part:
'Alas! they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth;
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
To free the hollow heart from paining-
The marks of that which once hath been.'
I suppose these lines leave almost every reader with a quickened sense of the beauty and compass of human feeling; and it is the sense of such richness and beauty which, in spite of his ' dejection,' in spite of that burden of his morbid lassitude, accompanies Coleridge himself through life. A warm poetic joy in every thing beautiful, whether it be a moral sentiment, like the friendship of Roland or Leoline, or only the flakes of falling light from the water-snakes—this joy, visiting him, now and again, after sickly dreams, waking or sleeping, as a relief not to be forgotten, and with such a power of felicitous expression that the infection of it passes irresistibly to the reader, this is the predominant quality in the matter of his poetry, as cadence is the predominant quality of its form. 'We bless Thee for our creation!' he might have said, in his later period of definite religious assent, because the world is
so beautiful; the world of ideas-living spirits, detached from the divine nature itself, to inform and lift the heavy mass of material things; the world of man, above all in his melodious and intelligible speech; the world of living creatures and natural scenery; the world of dreams. What he really did say, by way of a Tombless Epitaph, is true enough of himself—
'Sickness, 'tis true,
Whole years of weary days, besieged him close,
WALTER H. PATER.
TIME, REAL AND IMAGINARY.
On the wide level of a mountain's head,
(I knew not where, but 'twas some faery place)
That far outstripped the other;
O'er rough and smooth with even step he passed, And knows not whether he be first or last.
All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
All are but ministers of Love,
Oft in my waking dreams do I
The moonshine, stealing o'er the scene,
She leaned against the armed man,
Few sorrows hath she of her own,
The songs that make her grieve.
I played a soft and doleful air,
She listened with a flitting blush,
I told her of the Knight that wore
I told her how he pined; and ah!
She listened with a flitting blush,
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 starting up at once
In green and sunny glade,