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But the little he has done of true and sterling excellence is overloaded by the quantity of indifferent matter which he turns out every year, “prosing or versing,” with equally mechanical and irresistible facility. His Essays, or political and moral disquisitions, are not so full of original matter as Montaigne's. They are second or third rate compositions in that class. It remains that I should say a few words of Mr. Coleridge; and there is no one who has a better right to say what he thinks of him than I have. “Is there here any dear friend of Caesar! To him I say, that Brutus's love to Caesar was no less than his.” But no matter.—His Ancient Mariner is his most remarkable. performance, and the only one that I could point out to any one as giving an adequate idea of his great natural powers. It is high German, however, and in it he seems to “conceive of poetry but as a drunken dream, reckless, careless, and heedless, of past, present, and to come.” His tragedies (for he has written two) are not answerable to it; they are, except a few poetical passages, drawling sentiment and metaphysical jargon. He has no genuine dramatic talent. There is one fine passage in his Christabel, that which contains the description of the quarrel between Sir Leoline and Sir Roland de Vaux of Tryer. maine, who had been friends in youth.
“Alas! they had been friends in youth,
Each speak words of high disdain
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Shall wholly do away I ween
Sir Leoline a moment's space
It might seem insidious if I were to praise his ode entitled Fire, Famine, and Slaughter, as an effusion of high poetical enthusiasm, and strong political feeling. His Sonnet to Schiller conveys a fine compliment to the author of the Robbers, and an equally fine idea of the state of youthful enthusiasm in which he composed it.
“Schiller! that hour I would have wish'd to die,
That in no after moment aught less vast
From the more with'ring scene diminish'd pass'd.
Ah! Bard tremendous in sublimity
Wand'ring at eve, with finely frenzied eye,
Then weep aloud in a wild ecstasy!”—
His Conciones ad Populum, Watchman, &c. are dreary trash. Of his Friend, I have spoken the truth elsewhere. But I may say of him here, that he is the only person I ever knew who answered to the idea of a man of genius. He is the only person from whom I ever learnt anything. There is only one thing he could learn from me in return, but that he has not. He was the first poet I ever knew. His genius at that time had angelic wings, and fed on manna. He talked on for ever; and you wished him to talk on for ever. His thoughts did not seem to come with labour and effort; but as if borne on the gusts of genius, and as if the wings of his imagination lifted him from off his feet. His voice rolled on the ear like the pealing organ, and its sound alone was the music of thought. His mind was clothed with wings; and raised on them, he lifted philosophy to heaven. In his descriptions, you then saw the progress of human happiness and liberty in bright and neverending succession, like the steps of Jacob's ladder, with airy shapes ascending and descending, and with the voice of God at the top of the ladder. And shall I, who heard him then, listen to him now? Not Is That spell is broke; that time is gone forever; that voice is heard no more : but still the recollection comes rushing by with thoughts of long-past years, and rings in my ears with never-dying sound.
“What though the radiance which was once so bright,
I have thus gone through the task I intended, and have come at last to the level ground. I have felt my subject gradually sinking from under me as I advanced, and have been afraid of ending in nothing. The interest has unavoidably decreased at almost every successive step of the progress, like a play that has its catastrophe in the first or second act. This, however, I could not help. I have done as well as I could.
oN MILTON's LYcIDAs.
“At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue:
OF all Milton's smaller poems, Lycidas is the greatest favourite with me. I cannot agree to the charge which Dr. Johnson has brought against it of pedantry and want of feeling. It is the fine emanation of classical sentiment in a youthful scholar— “most musical, most melancholy.” A certain tender gloom overspreads it, a wayward abstraction, a forgetfulness of his subject in the serious reflections that arise out of it. The gusts of passion come and go like the sounds of music borne on the wind. The loss of the friend whose death he laments seem to have recalled, with double force, the reality of those speculations which they had indulged together; we are transported to classic ground, and a mysterious strain steals responsive on the ear, while we listen to the poet,
“With eager thought warbling his Doric lay.”
I shall proceed to give a few passages at length in support of my opinion. The first I shall quote is as remarkable for the truth and sweetness of the natural descriptions as for the characteristic elegance of the allusions.