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In the midst of brown was born,
“Round her eyes her tresses fell,
Which were blackest none could tell ;
“ And her hat with shady brim,
Made her tressy forehead dim ;
“Sure, I said, Heaven did not mean,
Where I reap, thou should'st but glean.
HARTLEY. And so too let us deposit our sheaf of poetic gleanings. To-night we have read enough and talked more than enough to satisfy all reasonable desires ; and, although mated for the nonce to the Muse of poetry, our love is in danger of becoming less ardent, if we have too much of her society.
STANLEY. So speaks a Benedict. If you or I, Talbot, had given utterance to such a sentiment we should have been reproved for talking of what we understood not. But we may now take HARTLEY's word for it, that absence adds to the affection of the matrimonial heart.
O holde Einsamkeit,
Criticism must be brief-not, like poetry, because its charm is too intense to be sustained—but, on the contrary, because its interest is too weak to be prolonged.
On entering his study the following evening I observed that HARTLEY appeared unusually thoughtful. He had one of Coleridge's prose works in his hands, but the book was closed ; and, although there are "spiritualists" in the present day, who affirm that they are able to read a shut volume with as much ease as an open page, my friend did not pretend to possess any gift of that kind. Indeed, I have often heard him say, with Mr. Faraday, that he was tired of the spirits.” But if he were not reading “ The Friend,” I soon discovered that he was thinking of its author. "The most suggestive writer and the greatest genius of this century!” he exclaimed, pointing to the well-known initials, S. T.C. “It is passing sad to think that to so majestic an intellect, there should have been united so feeble a will. We revere the man and pity him at the same time. But our pity sometimes approaches very nearly to contempt. Yet Coleridge's
self-reproach was far bitterer than the censure of his friends. In some unpublished letters of his which I have seen, his abasement seems to be extreme. He is like Job scraping himself with potsherds.
STANLEY. Coleridge might have been the greatest poet, as he was beyond all comparison the greatest critic of his century. With more creative imagination than Wordsworth possessed, with a finer ear, and with a wider culture, he nevertheless, fell far behind his friend; for he lacked his high moral courage, his invincible perseverance. The life of the one was itself a poem ; the life of the other early lost its freshness of bloom. His genius only added to his misery; he felt himself bound by chains which he could not burst, and he despised himself for submitting to the bonds. Had he been a happy man, his majestic genius would, I think, have exerted a more potent influence.
TALBOT. Despite this drawback, the power exercised
Talbot by Coleridge over the minds of his countrymen cannot well be over-estimated. Men of highest mark have acknowledged him as their master; and the germs of most recent thought may be discovered in his pages. As a boy there was scarcely any modern writer who affected me so powerfully. I was fascinated with his poetry and excited by his prose; and had read “ The Friend," and the “ Aids to Reflection,” long before I could in any degree estimate the merits or defects of those suggestive volumes. We have not a hymn in the language equal to his in the Vale of Chamouni, not a love-poem superior to “ Genevieve," not more than one or two odes that can vie with his "France," scarcely one poetical translation comparable to
his " Wallenstein," not an imaginative conception more wild than the “ Ancient Mariner or more strangely beautiful than “ Christabelle ;' and, when you add to all this that the music of his rhythm is daintily exquisite, and that his descriptive touches cannot be surpassed by our best descriptive poets, you must allow that Coleridge deserves a place among the worthiest of our country's minstrels, as one who has made “all nature lovelier," and should himself “ be loved like nature."
HARTLEY. Years ago I went to see Coleridge's vault in the old and now disused churchyard at Highgate. I remember, as with reverence I read the inscription on the coffin, how the sexton told me that the poet's funeral was not half so grand as that of Henry Nelson Coleridge, who, I believe, is buried in the same tomb. The old gravedigger evidently estimated a man's greatness by the magnificence of his obsequies. But wiser men than he are too often befooled in a kindred fashion, and judge of a man's worth by his possessions, if not by his graveclothes.
STANLEY. I hope the day may yet come when we shall have a biography of Coleridge. Is it too much to look for in the present generation? What large qualifications would be required for the work! The biographer ought to be a devout, God-fearing man, but, withal, brave and honest enough to investigate with impartiality the novel and, as some think, unorthodox opinions broached by the philosopher. He should possess a large and loving heart, and be free from party feeling and sectarian jealousy. He should have genius to apprehend genius, a wide acquaintance with ancient and modern literature, and imagination enough to
view things, as far as possible, from Coleridge's own stand-point. He should hold
HARTLEY. There, that will do. No man will ever be found with your requirements. So perfect a biographer would be a lusus nature in this somewhat imperfect world. A truce to more discussion, especially as Talbot has Coleridge's poems in his hands, and seems ready to read
TALBOT. I was thinking as I turned over the leaves, how pleasantly some of our poets have sung the praises of their brother-songsters, the birds, and how much of finest imagination has been expressed in this way. Of Wordsworth's bird-lyrics HARTLEY has already spoken. Like him, Shelley, and Hogg, and a host of ancient and moderns bards have immortalized the sky-lark ; but the subject appears inexhaustible, and I doubt not that the poets that shall be hereafter will add, as already our living poets have done, to the stock of beautiful thoughts and quaint fancies suggested by that “ bird of light." The nightingale also has been the theme of all poets, and poetasters, since the world began; and yet both Coleridge and Keats have treated the subject with marvellous genius and originality. Nothing can be more unlike than Coleridge's Conversational Poem and the Ode of Keats, but I know not which of the twain is the more beautiful. HARTLEY. Or more familiar. I can, if
desire it, recite them both without book. It has been our lot throughout these readings, instead of breaking fresh ground, and discovering the wealth that lies hidden in the works of obscure poets, to tramp over an accustomed highway, or, if you prefer the metaphor, to wander in an