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WILLIAM LISLE BOWLES.
[THE REV. WILLIAM LISLE BOWLES was born at King's Sutton in 1762. His chief work is his Sonnets, first published in 1789. He died at Salisbury in 1850.]
It was the candle of Bowles that lit the fire of Coleridge. We have it on record in the Biographia Literaria that to the author of The Ancient Mariner, bewildered at seventeen between metaphysics and theological controversy, and utterly out of sympathy with the artificialities of the Popesque school, the early sonnets of Bowles came almost in the light of a revelation. In a copy preserved at South Kensington he writes of them later as 'having done his heart more good than all the other books he ever read excepting his Bible.' Those who to-day turn to the much-praised verses will scarcely find in their pensive amenity that enduring charm which they presented to the hungry and restless soul of Coleridge, seeking its fitting food in unpropitious places. They exhibit a grace of expression, a delicate sensibility, and above all a 'musical sweet melancholy' that is especially grateful in certain moods of mind; but with lapse of time and change of fashion they have grown a little thin and faint and colourless. Of Bowles's remaining works it is not necessary to speak. He was overmatched in his controversy with Byron as to Pope, and the blunt
'Stick to thy sonnets, Bowles,—at least they pay' of the former must be accepted as the final word upon the poetical efforts of the cultivated and amiable Canon of Salisbury.
WRITTEN AT OSTEND.
How sweet the tuneful bells responsive peal!
INFLUENCE OF TIME ON GRIEF.
O Time! who know'st a lenient hand to lay
And think, when thou hast dried the bitter tear
There is strange music in the stirring wind,
Whose was that gentle voice, that, whispering sweet,
Most like soft music, that might sometimes cheat
Of truth, of friendship, of affection meek;
That oh! poor friend, might to life's downward slope
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
[Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE was born at Ottery Saint Mary in the year 1772, was educated at Christ's Hospital and Jesus College, Cambridge. and died in 1834, at Highgate, in the house of Mr. Gillman, under whose friendly care he had passed the last eighteen years of his life, during which years he wrote but little. His first volume of poems was published at Bristol in 1796, and in 1798, Wordsworth's famous volume of Lyrical Ballads, to which Coleridge contributed The Ancient Mariner, together with some other pieces. Christabel, after lying long in manuscript, was printed in 1816, three editions of it appearing in one year; and in the next year Coleridge published a collection of his chief poems, under the title of Sibylline Leaves, in allusion,' as he says, 'to the fragmentary and wildlyscattered state in which they had been long suffered to remain.' A desultory writer both in prose and verse, he published the first really collective edition of his Poetical and Dramatic Works in the year 1828, in three volumes arranged by himself; a third and more complete issue of which, arranged by another hand, appeared in 1834, the year of his death. The latest reprint', with notes and an excellent memoir, and some poems not included in any earlier collection, is founded on that final edition of 1834.]
Coleridge's prose writings on philosophy, politics, religion and criticism, were but one element in a whole life-time of endeavours to present the then recent metaphysics of Germany to English readers, as a legitimate expansion of the older, classical and native, masters of what has been variously called the à priori, or absolute, or spiritual, or Platonic view of things. To introduce that spiritual philosophy, as represented by the more transcendental parts of Kant, and by Schelling, into all subjects, as a system of reason in them, one and ever identical with itself, however various the matter through which it was diffused, became with him the motive of an unflagging enthusiasm, which seems to have been the one thread of continuity in a life otherwise
'London: Basil Montagu Pickering, 1877.
singularly wanting in unity of purpose, and in which he was certainly far from uniformly at his best. Fragmentary and obscure, but often eloquent, and always at once earnest and ingenious, those writings, supplementing his remarkable gift of conversation, were directly and indirectly influential, even on some the furthest removed from Coleridge's own masters; on John Stuart Mill, for instance, and some of the earlier writers of the high-church school. Like his verse, they display him also in two other characters—as a student of words, and as a psychologist, that is, as a more minute observer than other men of the phenomena of mind. To note the recondite associations of words, old or new; to expound the logic, the reasonable soul, of their various uses; to recover the interest of older writers who had had a phraseology of their own-this was a vein of enquiry allied to his undoubted gift of tracking out and analysing curious modes of thought. A quaint fragment on Human Life might serve to illustrate his study of the earlier English philosophical poetry. The latter gift, that power of the 'subtle-souled psychologist,' as Shelley calls him, seems to have been connected with a tendency to disease in the physical temperament, to something of a morbid want of balance in the parts where the physical and intellectual elements mix most intimately together, with a kind of languid visionariness, deep-seated in the very constitution of the 'narcotist' who had quite a gift for 'plucking the poisons of self-harm,' and which the actual habit of taking opium, accidentally acquired, did but reinforce. This morbid languor of nature, connected both with his fitfulness of purpose and his rich delicate dreaminess, qualifies Coleridge's poetic composition even more than his prose; his verse, with the exception of his avowedly political poems, being, unlike that of the 'Lake School,' to which in some respects he belongs, singularly unaffected by any moral, or professional, or personal effort and ambition,-'written,' as he says, 'after the more violent emotions of sorrow, to give him pleasure, when perhaps nothing else could;' but coming thus, indeed, very close to his own most intimately personal characteristics, and having a certain languidly soothing grace or cadence, for its most fixed quality, from first to last. After some Platonic soliloquy on a flower opening on a fine day in February, he goes on
Weaving in mortal strains, I've stolen one hour