« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
While still a student he made an excursion with a friend to Oxford, and there he fell in with Robert Southey. It was the restless time of the French Revolution, and these young students and enthusiasts were eager to try some new order of life in some new world. With a few others they concocted a scheme to which they gave the name “ Pantisocracy,” or the equal rule of all, and proposed to form a community on the banks of the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania, where two or three hours' labor a day on the part of each would suffice for the community, and then the remaining time could be given to philosophy, poetry, and all the arts. Southey was married presently, and Coleridge was thrown much with Mrs. Southey's sister, Sara Fricker, as a result of which, in connection with a disappointment in love in another quarter, he hastily married.
Among his friends at this time in Bristol, where the Frickers lived, was Joseph Cottle, a bookseller, who had great faith in Coleridge's literary powers. He undertook the publication of a volume of poems, and by lending and giving money, carried the new couple along for some time. Coleridge at the time of his marriage was twenty-three years old. Southey's marriage, as well, probably, as the return of reason after a short flight, had cooled his ardor for experiments in Utopia, and the pantisocratic scheme faded out. For nearly a score of years, Coleridge and his wife, and the children born to them, led a shifting life ; sometimes they were together, sometimes they were separated. Now, Coleridge would make a stay in Germany, now, they would be all together with the Wordsworths and Southeys in the Lake Country, but by 1813 the somewhat unhappy connection, unhappy as the union of an irresponsible, dreamy husband with a wife of limited intellectual sympathy, came practically to an end.
For three years Coleridge led a dreary life, lecturing, abiding with friends, and struggling against the habit of opium which had fastened itself on him.
In 1816 he put himself under the care of Dr. Gillman, living at Highgate, on the outskirts of London, and there he spent the last sixteen years of his life, cared for by a kind physician, making occasional journeys into other parts of England and to the Continent, receiving many visitors, and continuing to write both prose and verse. His most notable poems were written in the closing years of the eighteenth century, and Coleridge did not die till July 25, 1834. In that full generation, Coleridge's great contributions were in the form of literary, philosophical, religious, and theological writings, but the one spirit which brooded over all was a large imagination, which gave him the power to see more widely and send his plummet deeper than any man of his generation. This it is which makes readers to-day delve in the great mass of his books, his essays and his letters, even though they seem to be for the most part formless and unfinished. They know that they are in the presence of a large, fruitful mind, gifted with great spiritual insight, and though they mourn over the irresolute will, rendered irresolute largely through a physical subjection to an insidious drug, they go to his work as the men of his day went to Coleridge himself to hear him talk, knowing that from his lips they will catch inspiration and new thoughts of God and man.
THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER.
In the winter of 1797–1798 the Coleridges were living at a little village called Nether Stowey, at the foot of the Quantock Hills, about forty miles from Bristol, so as to be near Thomas Poole, a rich young tanner who shared Coleridge's democratic views, and was then, and long after, a most liberal friend. In the same neighborhood at Alfoxden were then living Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. The intercourse between the two families was constant. Wordsworth and Coleridge took long country walks, and they were under the strong, sweet influence of Dorothy Wordsworth. In November, 1797, the three set off on a little tour, intending to meet the expenses of their journey by a poem to be composed jointly by the two poets.
It is amusing to note that they started on their journey apparently with no engagement, but with full confidence in their ability to write the poem, and then to sell it for £5 to the editor of the Monthly Magazine. They set out hopefully, but after eight miles the scheme broke down, and Wordsworth's contribution first and last was confined to half a dozen lines, and one or two suggestions.
When first printed, the poem was introduced by the following
ARGUMENT. "How a ship having passed the Line, was driven by storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole ; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical latitude of the great Pacific Ocean ; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Mariner came back to his own Country.”
In his Table Talk, Coleridge meets an objection which was raised in his day more than it is now, when the poem has become established as an English classic. “ Mrs. Barbauld once told me,” he says, “ that she admired The Ancient Mariner very much, but that there were two faults in it, — it was improbable, and had no moral. As for the probability, I owned that that might admit some question, but as to the want of a moral, I told her that in my own judgment the poem had too much; and that the only or chief fault, if I might say so, was the obtrusion of the moral sentiment so openly on the reader as a principle or cause of action in a work of such pure imagination. It ought to have had no more moral than the Arabian Nights’ tale of the merchant's sitting down to eat dates by the side of a well, and throwing the shells aside, and lo! a genie
he must kill the aforesaid merchant, because one of the date shells had, it seems, put out the eye of the genie's son."
THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT
IN SEVEN PARTS.
An ancient Mariner meeteth three
It is an ancient Mariner, And he stoppeth one of three. “ By thy long gray beard and glittering den to a wed
ding-feast, eye, Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
and detainett one.
5" The Bridegroom's doors are opened
He holds him with his skinny hand; 10 “ There was a ship,” quoth he. “ Hold off! unhand me, gray - beard
loon!” Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
He holds him with his glittering eye
The Wedding-Guest stood still, 15 And listens like a three years' child :
The Mariner hath his will.