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BYRON AND BOWLES CONTROVERSY.
tion, and attacking him on the lower ground of his not having allotted due importance to poetic art,—that command which the poet ought to have over his materials. This may or may not have been the case at all events, it is only one of the subsidiary issues of the argument; and it was simply by ingeniously evading the main topic of controversy, that Byron, Campbell, Roscoe, Gilchrist, and the host of pamphleteers whom they succeeded in calling into the field-by keeping up a sort of bush-fighting-brought matters at last to an ignoble truce. That Bowles was once or twice entrapped into unwary admissions, I admit; but, on the whole, he showed himself a much more expert master of fence -a far abler, subtler, and more logical disputant than any of those who attempted to answer his arguments.
The origin, progress, and tenets of the Lake School.-S. T. Coleridge, Robert Southey, Lloyd and Lovell.-The Lyrical Ballads.-William Wordsworth as a reformer of our poetry; his peculiar views; his faults and excellencies; extract from Goody Blake and Harry Gill; Morning Sketch; from Peter Bell; Sonnet at Killiecrankie; and portion of Skating Scene from Prelude.Coleridge as a man of genius; his early magnificent promise.-The Ancient Mariner and Christabel; specimen, Youth and Age.-Charles Lamb; extract from Forest Scenery.-Thalaba, Madoc, Kehama, Roderick, and the Miscellaneous Poetry of Southey: specimens, Boyhood of Thalaba; Storm at Sea, from Madoc; Love, from Kehama.-Autumn Sketch.-Southey's amazing industry; his excellencies and defects.-Walter Savage Landor; general character of his poetry.-The Scottish poets of the period, more especially James Hogg and Allan Cunningham.-Extracts from Witch of Fife and Kilmeny: Fragment.-Do Science and Poetry progress together?
WE come now to make mention of one of the most brilliant constellations of genius that ever illustrated our literature, whether we regard originality or variety. It consisted primarily of three great luminaries-Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth; and of three lesser ones— Lamb, Lloyd, and Lovell.
In 1794, Samuel Taylor Coleridge made his appearance as an author in his "Juvenile Poems," and in a drama on "The Fate of Robespierre;" followed by a collection of verses, in conjunction with Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb, wherein many indications of the future excellencies of the author of "Christabel" may be discovered. During the same year came forth another partnership volume, by Robert Southey and Robert Lovell, shortly after which the latter died. Coleridge and Lamb had been schoolfellows at Christ
Church Hospital; where, even then, the former was a kind of prodigy-wonderful for his natural abilities, eccentric in his habits, simple to silliness. All these youths were enthusiastic-were united by reciprocity of taste, feeling, and sentiment-were optimists according to the sanguine fashion of the day; and, while they deplored the evils of society, hopefully thought to put some new reforming spokes into the machinery, which were to make all things go smack and smooth. In short, without the smallest possible superfluity in friends, funds, or experience, they reckoned the regeneration of the world a task of the easiest, and solaced each other with seeing golden visions, and dreaming Elysian dreams. Many little harassing difficultiesmany tiny nibblings at the shoe-latchets of the mighty -taught them, nevertheless, that they were still denizens of this prosaic lower world, and that it was somewhat necessary for them, whatever the Utopian fashion of their opinions might be, to conform to the usages of that society which they exhibited such a philanthropic anxiety to reclaim. Circumstances, like the Liliputian pegs of Gulliver, began to pin them down to stern realities, more closely and securely than they had at all anticipated; and, like a beautiful moral exhalation, the little Pantisocratical Society was soon fain to break up. Coleridge, who cultivated the deserts of Sahara, and continued dreaming to the end of life's chapter, went to reside at Nether Stowey, in Somersetshire; at Alfoxden, two miles distant from which William Wordsworth had already located himself. He also had, previous to this, appeared as a poet in his "Evening Walk" and "Descriptive Sketches ;" and kindred feelings and pursuits brought and bound the gifted youths together. They seemed to have each the most intense admiration for the other's abilities. Both were philosophers as well as poets: most of their leading ideas on literary points coincided; and, as the first experimental fruits
of a new system, which was to renovate and refreshen literature-a system which was to bring back poetry, both subjectively and objectively, to every day life, and which was to make its style and language those of common intercourse-the "Lyrical Ballads" made their appearance. The greater part of the volume was Wordsworth's; but, with two or three other things less important, Coleridge contributed certainly the most striking poem in the collection-" The Ancient Mariner."
The transition from fripperied Art to half-slipshoddrabbish Nature, and at one leap, was too much for the multitude; so the primary results were anything but auspicious. Some laughed; many marvelled; most regarded the matter as a strange attempt at hoaxing the gullible. For several years little real notice was attracted by the ballads; and the attendant sounds were less the whoop of triumph than the scoff of scorn. Nor, all things considered, was this much to be wondered at. Subjects which had been long scouted as utterly unfit for verse, were pitched upon as those really most worthy of poetical embellishment; and from complicated theories and trite artificial diction, the young writers had flown away to the most bald topics and to the most colloquial platitudes. The pathetic was not only brought into contact with the ludicrous, but worked up with it into a compound of that doubtful species of nutriment which was neither fowl nor flesh; and the reader felt often at a loss to know, whether he was called upon to lament with "Betty Foy," or to rejoice with her idiot son "Johnny." "Goody Blake and Harry Gill," with all its picturesqueness-for it is like a scene by Berghemwas equally a puzzler. "The Last of the Flock" verged on the silly; while "Alice Fell," with her tattered red cloak, was palpably mediocre and worthless. Widely different, however, were the ballad of "Ruth," "Lucy
Gray," "We are Seven," "Expostulation and Reply," "The Pet Lamb," "Michael," and "The Brothers compositions which, in their several ways, were never excelled in Wordsworth's after compositions. In these there was much gold, if not refined gold. There was a comprehensive spirit of humanity, a truthful delineation, a natural grandeur, a simplicity of feeling, which proved the true poet; and subtler critics felt and acknowledged that the destiny of the author, for success or failure, lay entirely in the kind of web that he might subsequently choose to weave.
I shall give first a short specimen of Wordsworth's original eccentricities. An old woman, stealing sticks, is seized and shaken by the farmer; but she chanced to be a friend of Monk Lewis, consequently with a spice of necromancy about her; so straightway showed him he had caught a tartar :
"She prayed, her withered hand uprearing,
"He went complaining all the morrow
His face was gloom, his heart was sorrow,
"Twas all in vain, a useless matter,
And blankets were about him pinn'd ;