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TO MISS F. HARRISON.
Oh lady, since I'must away
From this gay scene of pleasure, To thee I leave this idle lay,
Despise not thou the measure. And though no treasured pledge bear I
Of Rawsdon to remind me, My heart will sometimes breathe a sigh
To those I leave behind me.
I boast not, I, a love-sick brow,
Nor breast of burning anguish; The merry Muse that greets thee now
Was never formed to languish.
From belle to belle'a rover,
Who is to none a lover.
Let sad Montgomery weep and whine
To Caroline or Chloe,
Their bosoms soft and snowy ;
The flaxen curl reposes,
And lilies deck their noses.
I hate the mawkish eye of blue,
That stares as if 'twere sleeping,.. That ne'er the beams of laughter knew,
And seems too cold for weeping. I ne'er have admiration known
For those insipid Misses, Whose lips have cold and pouting grown
Beneath love's burning kisses. Give me the laughing, bright, black eye,
That swims beneath the lashes, Through which the soul beams momently
In fifty thousand flashes. :.
Give me the wild and liquid glance,
With love's own lustre brightning,
The heart's etherial lightning.
Oh, Rawsdon's belles are wondrous fair!
Their eyes oh! Venus lights them ;
And curst be he who slights them.
Through classic groves to wander,
On whom my heart will ponder.
Then, lady, take this parting strain,
And not the style, commends it.
But deem it gay and sprightly ;
MY DEAR HODGSON,-From my avowed poetical predilections, you will not be surprised at my troubling you with another attempt to advocate the merits of the objects of them; and it would seem that the transition from Wordsworth to Coleridge is both a natural and convenient one, considering the early and intimate communion that has existed between them, that the works of either are so mutually impregnated with the spirit of the other, and that in short there is so much of Wordsworth in Coleridge, and so much of Coleridge in Wordsworth. It is not, however, my place or my intention to consider Coleridge in the character in which for some years past he has chosen exclusively to appear; nor will I presume either to accuse or lament, much less to rail at, what many have and many will term a useless waste of learning and talent, or at least a wilful perversion of intellect, which might have spread its genial and restorative influences over the whole extent of polite literature, politics, and theology. To deny that in “ The Friend” is displayed great erudition, brilliant talent, much occasional pathos, and not seldom the very highest inventive and exploring energy in the obscure region of Metaphysics, would simply show that the person who so denied the existence of these qualities was incapable of feeling their power. But conceding this, as I do most cordially, yet let me question whether a large share of “ The Friend” and of the first “ Lay Sermon” must not for ever be, for any purposes of practical advancement in the study of the mind, a mere vox et præterea nihil; and this not only to the “ general,” or operatives, as they are called, but even to that sum total of speculative minds, who, by the Philosopher's own system, are to be the media, through which the original rays of light, springing from that system, may be transmitted and scattered over the nations. The substance of this objection has, I am aware, been often urged before; and Mr. Coleridge has, in his “ Friend” and elsewhere, repeatedly put in his answer ;--that his subject is the most profound and abstruse to which we can apply ourselves; that to make an actual advance in it requires new modes of thinking, new modes of expression in the author, and a corresponding effort in the reader, to follow him; that the present age especially is overrun with the plague of superficial education; and that, abstractedly considered, the attempts to popularize learning and philosophy must end in the plebeification of knowledge! Be it so :-I am as far from being gratified at the notion of a “ Reading Public” as Mr. Coleridge can be ; and I perfectly detest the whole system so much in fashion now of making easy what ought not to be learnt without some difficulty ; for examples of which precious practice take, “ The History of England made perfectly easy to Children, in a series of Maps ;" • The System of Linnæus rendered intelligible to Young Ladies, in a series of Questions and Answers ;” nay, very lately, “The Whole Duty of a Christian Exemplified by a Pack of Cards ;" which last I suppose is meant, amongst other Christian duties, to inculcate the use and practice of Gambling ! But then assuredly there is another extreme; and, if Mr. Coleridge has fallen into it, perhaps it was the natural effect of the re-action of his mind occasioned by these convictions ;-but that there is such an extreme who will deny?-and that the first volume of the “ Biographia Litteraria" can show some specimens of it, perhaps not many will be found hardy enough to dispute. Lord Bacon and Sir Isaac Newton both made as great advances in the knowledge of Mind and Nature as any two men that ever lived; yet both have, I apprehend, been understood, and both acted upon ;-but where are we to find in Mr. Coleridge's philosophy that solid, sensible ground, upon which we may venture to build up an abiding-place for our doubts and our desires ? I do not affirm that this whole system of commingled Platonism, Kantism, and Christianism may not be true; but I do affirm, and I fear not contradiction, that it will never be useful. Perhaps if“ The Friend” live so long, -and I do not fear its dying, in the transcendent illumination of the Earthly Millennium its doctrines will be recognized, and its conjectures realized; but till that happy period in the Latter Days, while we are still perplexed with doubts and fears, and our minds bedimmed with passion and prejudice; whilst we persist in demanding plain reason for what we are to believe from men, and will not place that Faith in mortal ingenuity which we rest alone in Omnipotent Wisdom; 80 long, methinks, will “ The Friend” be the dark seer of an unknown land; so long will he sit enshrouded in his cloudy tabernacle, possessed, Cassandra-like, by a Spirit, which may denounce or may teach, but whose denunciations or whose teachings will be disregarded, be pitied, or be unnoticed by all.
But it is high time to turn to the particular subject of this Letter; from which, indeed, I should not have so long abstained, had I not thought a cursory mention of Mr. Coleridge's philosophical pretensions interesting, if not necessary, in a complete view of the productions of his Genius. And, for my own part, I confess I have never felt my regret at his present exclusive pursuit of undefinable mysticism so vivid, as when I have been charmed, tranquillized, and thrown into delicious musings, by the perusal of his exquisite Poems. These last have fared, with a few very splendid exceptions, much in the same manner as those of Wordsworth; and, to solicit for them a candid examination, is, I am conscious, to ask what will hardly be granted by the obdurate and almost malicious prejudices of many people. And yet, notwithstanding this general neglect or contempt, I declare it as my settled opinion, which has not been formed hastily, or without previous acquaintance with his all-praised contemporaries, that in many very most important respects, in a transparency of genius, a purity of conception, a matchless ear, and splendor of diction, Mr. Coleridge is not only equal, but once and again superior to all of them put together. With the same continual working of the soul upon its own energies, which is so conspicuous in Wordsworth, he is less abstracted and ideal; not so philosophically sublime, he is more humanly passionate; not so anatomizing, if I may so speak, in the operations of the heart
and the mind, he is more diffused, more comprehensive. From the natural bent of his genius there is a tendency to the strange, the wild, and mysterious ; which, though intolerable in the cool pursuit of Truth, is yet oftentimes the fruitful parent of the very highest Poetry. To this he adds a power of language truly wonderful, more romantically splendid than Wordsworth's, and more flexible and melodious than that of Southey. Indeed his excellence is so great in this particular, that in my judgment many finished specimens of perfect harmony of thought, passion, measure, and rhyme, may be selected from his Poems, which will hardly yield the palm to the most celebrated passages in Spenser, Shakspeare, or Milton. I shall quote an instance or two of this, when I come to speak more particularly of his Love Poetry. In the mean time, to give those who may be strangers to Mr. Coleridge's powers an idea of what he once could perform, and at the same moment to display that high and bright mysteriousness so peculiar to him, couched in what appears to me very beautiful numbers, I will present you with a view of his “ Ode on the Departing Year.”
“ Spirit who sweepest the wild Harp of Time!
It is most hard, with an untroubled ear
Thy dark inwoven harmonies to hear!
With inward stillness, and submitted mind;
Starting from my silent sadness,
Then with no unholy madness,
Then follows a very fine invocation to all Nature to suspend its woes and joys for a season—then a vivid description of the war incidents of the Year ;-after which comes the Vision :
“ Departing Year! 'twas on no earthly shore
Voiceless and stern, before the cloudy throne,
Thou storied'st thy sad hours! Silence ensued,
Deep silence o'er the etherial multitude,
Then, his eye wild ardours glancing,
From the choired gods advancing,