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THE ANCIENT MARINER.
stand before us with grey beard, glittering eyes, and long, brown, skinny hands—enchains us with strange and mystic power. The shooting of the albatross, that came through the snowy fog to cheer the crew —the red blistering calm that fell upon
the seathe skeleton ship with its phantom dicers driving across the sun in view of the thirst-scorched seamen—the lonely life of the guilty mariner on the rolling sea amid the corpses of his shipmates—the springing of good thoughts at the sight of the beautiful water-snakes sporting “beyond the shadow of the ship"—the coming of sleet, and rain, and a spectral wind—and the final deliverance from the doomed vessel, are among the pictures that flit before us as we read-shadows all, but touched with weird light and colour, as from another world.
A visit to Germany (1798), the expense of which was defrayed by the Wedgewoods of Staffordshire, deepened the hues of mysticism already tinging the spirit of Coleridge. His translation of Schiller's Wallenstein was the principal result of his residence in that land of learning and romance. Upon his return to England in 1800, he took up his abode in Southey's house at Keswick, and with some temporary interruptions he continued to make the Lakes his head-quarters for ten years. He wrote largely for The Morning Post; during a visit to Malta in 1804 he acted as secretary to the governor of that island; he came home to deliver his eloquent and profound criticisms on Shakspere to a London audience, and to issue the weekly essays of the short-lived Friend, which ceased after a few numbers, as had happened to the Watchman, a similar venture of the old Bristol days. During these many changes, his opinions, both political and religious, had veered completely round. Once a Red Republican, he was now a keen upholder of the throne; once a Unitarian preacher at Taunton and Shrewsbury, he now acknowledged his firm belief in the Trinity.
In 1810 he bade good-bye to the Lakes, and went to live in London with various friends, who could forgive and pity the
1810 thriftless, erring man for the sake of his splendid genius. His natural sloth and dreaminess were increased by the destructive habit of opium-eating, or rather laudanum-drinking,
CARLYLE'S PORTRAIT OF COLERIDGE,
which he had formed while using the drug as a medicine. Deeper and deeper he plunged into those abysses of German metaphysics towards which he had been gradually drifting. Various convulsive efforts at hard work were made by him at times, but all his great plans dissolved into vapour and vanished. The roof of Gilman, a friendly 'surgeon at Highgate, sheltered the dreamer during his last nineteen years; and there the old man used for hours to pour out his wonderful talk in a stream, which was often turbid and slow, but which sometimes broke into a brilliant run, or discovered, through its clear crystal, the rich sands of gold and shining gems below. At Highgate he died in July 1834.
Carlyle's portrait of Coleridge "sitting on the brow of Highgate Hill,” to be found in his “ Life of Sterling,” is remarkably vivid :“Brow and head were round, and of massive weight; but the face was flabby and irresolute. The deep eyes, of a light hazel, were as full of sorrow as of inspiration; confused pain looked mildly from them, as in a kind of mild astonishment. The whole figure and air, good and amiable otherwise, might be called flabby and irresolute; expressive of weakness under possibility of strength. He hung loosely on his limbs, with knees bent, and stooping attitude; in walking, he rather shuffled than decisively stepped; and a lady once remarked, he never could fix which side of the garden-walk would suit him best, but continually shifted, in cork-screw fashion, and kept trying both. A heavy-laden, high-aspiring, and surely muchsuffering man. His voice, naturally soft and good, had contracted itself into a plaintive snuffle and sing-song; he spoke as if preaching-you would have said preaching earnestly, and also hopelessly, the weightiest things. I still recollect his object' and “subject,'—terms of continual recurrence in the Kantean province; and how he sung and snuffled them into 'om-m-mject' and 'sum-m-mject,' with a kind of solemn shake or quaver, as he rolled along."
His noble fragment, Christabel, has been already named. Begun at Stowey, and continued upon his return from Germany, by the advice of Byron it was given to the world in 1816 in its unfinished loveliness. Both Byron and Scott have echoed the irregular musio
CHRISTABEL" AND OTHER POEMS.
of its verse, though with peculiar variations. It is a tale of strange witchcraft. A sweet and innocent girl, praying for her lover's safety beneath a huge oak-tree outside the castle gate, under the dim moonlight of an April sky, is startled by the appearance of a witch, disguised as a richly-clad beauty in distress. The gentle Christabel asks the wanderer into the castle; the disguise is there laid aside; some horrible shape smites the poor hospitable maid into a trance; and the blinking glance of the witch's small, dull, snake-like eyes, shot suddenly at the shuddering victim, clouds the innocent blue of her eye with a passive imitation of the same hateful look. In dealing with mystic themes like this, Coleridge was master of a spell over thought and language, such as no other writer has ever possessed. But his inspiration came in gusts, and fragments grew around him at such a rate that soon the difficulty of choosing what to finish caused all to remain undone. His life was a succession of beginnings which never saw an end. He went to college, but took no degree. He prepared for emigration, but did not start. He got married, but left others to support his wife and children. At twenty-five he planned an epic on the Destruction of Jerusalem; but tomorrow—and to-morrow-and to-morrow -passed without one written line. A great genius with a great infirmity—the twinhood of mental strength and feebleness — he claims at once our reverence and our deep compassion.
Besides the works already named there are two which cannot be forgotten, as examples of the varied powers of this great poet. For simple tenderness and depth of natural feeling his little lovesong of Genevieve cannot be surpassed. And the Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni, of which we quote some lines, has in it an exultant sublimity akin to Milton's song. While the melody of Genevieve most resembles the sighing of "a lonely flute," stealing through the odours of the summer dusk, this Hymn to Mont Blanc swells through the darkness of the Alpine morning up to the rosy summit of the snow, with all the tumultuous music of a vast organ, pealing in unison with the chorus of ten thousand rejoicing throats.
Coleridge's Lectures on Shakspere have been already named.
SPECIMEN OF COLERIDGE'S VERSE.
The review of Wordsworth's poetry, which may be found in his Biographia Literaria, has been pronounced to be "perhaps the most philosophical piece of criticism extant in the language." Though able to penetrate deep into the mysteries of Shakspere's power over tears and laughter, he had himself no genuine dramatic faculty. His tragedies, Remorse and Zapoyla, contain some noble passages, but we read them with cold, unkindling souls.
FROM TIT HYMN AT CHAMOUNİ.
Thou first and chief, sole sovran of the vale !
And you, ye five wild torrents fiercely glad !
Ye ice-falls ! ye that from the mountain's brow Adown enormous ravines slope amainTorrents, methinks, that heard a mighty voice, And stopped at once amid their maddest plunge ! Motionless torrents ! silent cataracts! Who made you glorious as the gates of heaven Beneath the keen full moon ? Who bade the sun Clothe you with rainbows ? Who, with living flowers Of loveliest blue, spread garlands at your
feet? God I let the torrents, like a shout of nations, Answer I and let the ice-plains echo, God i God ! sing ye meadow-streams with gladsome voice ! Ye pine groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds ! And they, too, havo a voice, yon piles of snow, And in their perilous fall shall thunder, God I
ROBERT SOUTHEY, a linen draper's son, was born in Wine Street, Bristol, on the 12th of August 1774. After passing through various local seminaries, he went in 1788, at the expense of his uncle, the Reverend Herbert Hill, to the celebrated school of Westminster. From that school he was expelled four years afterwards, owing to the share he had taken in an article against flogging, which appeared in a magazine conducted by the senior boys. Entering Balliol College, Oxford, in 1792, he spent a couple of years in general reading and industrious verse-making, carrying from the University, according to his own account, a knowledge of but two things as the fruit of his imperfect undergraduate course-how to row and how to swim.
At Oxford he met Coleridge, and these “birds of a feather," both smitten by the widening swell of the French Revolution, • rank Republicans in political creed, and Unitarians in religious
profession, formed, in conjunction with others, the wild American scheme spoken of in the sketch of Coleridge. Southey, Coleridge, and their friend Lovell, another of the Pantisocrats, became the husbands of three sisters of Bristol; all of whom were gathered in a while under Southey's roof, for Lovell soon died, and Coleridge in his vast dreamings often forgot the real duty of supporting his wife and children.
Already Southey's pen had been busily at work. At college he had composed an epic poem, Joan of Arc, for which that kindly books