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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 naturæ 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.
I can, if you desire it,
HARTLEY. Or more familiar. 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
Arcady of beauty, every nook of which we have been acquainted with, and loved, from childhood.
TALBOT. For my part I am glad that it has been so— old songs are ever the dearest, and really good verse never stales by repetition. If HARTLEY will recite the two poems he has mentioned, I shall listen to them with delight.
HARTLEY. The assurance is encouraging; yet, lest I weary you in spite of it, I will merely repeat the concluding portion of Coleridge's poem.
"Farewell, O Warbler! till to-morrow eve,
And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!
And now for our dear homes. That strain again!
My dear Babe,
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
And bid us listen! and I deem it wise
To make him Nature's playmate. He knows well
In most distressful mood (some inward pain
Had made up that strange thing an infant's dream),
I hurried with him to our orchard-plot,
And he beheld the moon, and hush'd at once,
Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
Sweet nightingale! Once more, my friends, farewell."
This is beautiful poetry; but I must be prosaic enough to remark that to take a screaming infant from its cradle, and to rush with it into the chill moonlight, is the height of midsummer madness. Such an erratic expedition was eminently characteristic of Coleridge, who seldom acted like his fellow mortals.
STANLEY. And wherefore should he? Men are not sheep; and he who likes not the common pasture is at liberty to feed elsewhere. For my part I had rather be what is popularly termed "a character," than one of your stereotyped respectabilities.
HARTLEY. At the risk of being personal, I must say that STANLEY's external appearance betrays no sign of the eccentricity after which he affects to hanker. On the contrary, he is evidently prone servilely to follow the fashion, and, even while rusticating at Lynton, acts upon the sound advice of Polonius. Methinks, from this and divers other signs, that some of our Devonshire beauties have won his regard :
Proudly dark, or softly fair,
Or laughing love through heavenly blue;
Leading down in purple stains
To the warm young hearts that beat
Softly stepping down the street.
Woo them, win them if you may ;
When the modest sun shines out
Earth is very young and fair,
Yet untann'd by summer's glare,—
Such are they, and such to see
Well may steal thy heart from thee.
STANLEY. Saul among the prophets,-HARTLEY among the poets. I did not know before that he employed his leisure in rhyme-making. Perhaps, however, like singlespeech Hamilton, he has made but this one attempt. If so, as he dedicates it to me, I am bound to be grateful. Happily he does not limit my affections, but asks me to love all Devonshire damsels; a broad request, yet one easy to fulfil. From this moment I embrace them men
tally, and wish that they had
To kiss them all at once from north to south."
HARTLEY. Who does not know that even this general affection, fanciful though it be, may lead the heart to settle on some precious and special object; nay, does not Coleridge say-and who knew better than he?—that all desires and hopes lead to this result.