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his twenty-fifth year. In poetic quality, above all in that most poetic of all qualities, a keen sense of and delight in beauty, the infection of which lays hold upon the reader, they are quite out of proportion to all his other composition. The form in both is that of the ballad, with some of its terminology, and some also of its quaint conceits. They connect themselves with that revival of ballad literature, of which Percy's Relics, and, in another way, Macpherson's Ossian are monuments, and which afterwards so powerfully affected Scott.
• Young-eyed poesy
All deftly masked as hoar antiquity,' — The Ancient Mariner, as also in its measure Christabel, is a ' romantic' poem, impressing us by bold invention, and appeal. ing to that taste for the supernatural, that longing for a shudder, to which the “romantic school in Germany, and its derivatives: in England and France, directly ministered. In Coleridge personally, this taste had been encouraged by his odd and out-ofthe-way reading in the old-fashioned literature of the marvellousbooks like Purchas's Pilgrims, early voyages like Hakluyt's, old naturalists and visionary moralists like Thomas Burnet, from whom he quotes the motto of The Ancient Mariner-Facile credo, plures esse naturas invisibiles quam visibiles in rerum universitate, &C. Fancies of the strange things which may very well happen, even in broad daylight, to men shut up alone in ships far off on the sea, seem to have arisen in the human mind in all ages with a peculiar readiness, and often have about them, from the story of the theft of Dionysus downwards, the fascination of a certain dreamy grace, which distinguishes them from other kinds of marvellous inventions. This sort of fascination The Ancient Mariner brings to its highest degree; it is the delicacy, the dreamy grace in his presentation of the marvellous, which makes Coleridge's work so remarkable. The too palpable intruders from a spiritual world, in almost all ghost literature, in Scott and Shakespeare even, have a kind of coarseness or crudeness. Coleridge's power is in the very fineness with which, as with some really ghostly finger, he brings home to our inmost sense his inventions, daring as they are—the skeleton ship, the polar spirit, the inspiriting of the dead bodies of the ship's crew; The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has the plausibility, the perfect adaptation to reason and the general aspect of life, which belongs to the marvellous when actually presented as part of a credible experience, in our dreams. Doubtless the mere experience of the opium-eater, the habit he must almost necessarily fall into of noting the more elusive phenomena of dreams, had something to do with that ; in its essence, however, it is connected with a more purely intellectual circumstance in the development of Coleridge's poetic gift. Some one once asked William Blake, to whom Coleridge has many resemblances, when either is at his best, (that whole episode of the inspiriting of the ship's crew in The Ancient Mariner being comparable to Blake's well-known design of the morning stars singing together,) whether he had ever seen a ghost, and was surprised when the famous seer, who ought, one might think, to have seen so many, answered frankly, ‘Only once!'. His 'spirits,' at once more delicate, and so much more real than any ghost-at once the burden and the privilege of his temperament — like it, were an integral element in his every-day life. And the difference of mood expressed in that question and its answer, is indicative of a change of temper in regard to the supernatural, which has passed over the whole modern mind, and of which the true measure is the influence of the writings of Swedenborg: and what that change is we may see, if we compare the vision by which Swedenborg was called, as he thought, to his work, with the ghost which called Hamlet ; or the spells of Marlowe's Faust with those of Goethe's. The modern, mind, so minutely self-scrutinising, if it is to be affected at all by a sense of the supernatural, requires to be more finely touched than was possible in the older romantic presentment of it. The spectral object, so crude, so impossible, has become plausible, as “the spot upon the brain that will show itself without,' and is understood to be but a condition of one's own mind, for which, according to the scepticism latent at least in so much of our modern philosophy, the so-called real things themselves are but spectra, after all.
It is this finer, more delicately marvellous supernaturalism, the fruit of his more delicate psychology, which Coleridge infuses into romantic narrative, itself also then a new, or revived thing in English literature ; and with a fineness of weird effect in The Ancient Mariner, unknown in those old, more simple, romantic legends and ballads. It is a flower of medieval, or later German romance, growing up in the peculiarly compounded atmosphere of modern psychological speculation, and putting forth in it wholly new qualities. The quaint prose commentary, which runs side by side with the verse of The Ancient Mariner, illustrates this
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. !1 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 mere 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
• With such perplexity of mind
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;
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 VOL. IV.
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,
weary days, besieged him close,
WALTER H. PATER.