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“ Drip ! drip! drip! there's nothing here but dripping."?
“In the original copy of the play, in the first scene of the fourth act, Isidore had commenced his soliloquy in the cavern, with the words :
“ Drip! drip ! a ceaseless sound of water-drops,”— as far as I can at present recollect; for, on the possible ludicrous association being pointed out to me, I instantly and thankfully struck out the line." I repeat this story as told by Mr. C. himself, because it has been otherwise told by others. I have little doubt that it was more pointedly than faithfully told to him, and can never believe that Mr. S. represented a ludicrous line as a fair specimen of the whole play, or his tenacious adherence to it as the reason for its rejection. I dare say he thought it, as Lord Byron afterwards thought Zapolya," beautiful but not practicable.” Mr. Coleridge felt that he had some claim to a friendly spirit of criticism in that quarter, because he had “ devoted the firstlings of his talents," as he says in a marginal note, “ to the celebration of Sheridan's genius ;"8 and, after the treatment described, “not only never spoke unkindly or resentfully of it, but actually was zealous and frequent in defending and praising his public principles and conduct in the Morning Post”-of which, perhaps, Mr. S. knew nothing. However, in lighter moods, my Father laughed at Sheridan's joke as much as any of his auditors could have done in 1806, and repeated, with great effect and mock solemnity, “ Drip !-Drip !-Drip !--nothing but dripping." I suppose it was at this time the winter of 1806–7-that he made an unsuccessful attempt to bring out the tragedy at Drury Lane.
When first written this play had been called Osorio, from the principal
? A certain fair poetess, encore resplendissante de beauté, if she ever casts her eye on this page, will take no offence at its contents, nor will her filial feelings quarrel angrily with mine. The “ dripping," whatever its unction may once have been, is stale enough now; but the story has freshness in it yet. Such neglects, as that of Mr. S. in not returning the MS. of Remorse, are always excusable in public men of great and various occupation; but the lesson to the literary aspirant is just the same as if he had been ever so blamable. My Father's whole history is a lesson to the professors of literature, and that which relates to the Remorse is a small but significant part of it, teaching patience and hope, while it may serve to repress the expectation, that money and credit can soon and certainly be obtained, even by writers possessed of genius not wholly unaccompanied with popular ability, and who have been favored with an introduction to some of the leaders and guides of the public, men of taste and talent and general influence.
& See his Sonnet to Sheridan. P. W., i., p. 65.
character, whose name my Father afterwards improved into Ordonio. I believe he in some degree altered, if he did not absolutely recast, the three last acts, after the failure with Mr. Sheridan, who probably led him to see their unfitness for theatrical representation. But of this point I have not certain knowledge. It was when Drury Lane was under the management of Lord Byron and Mr. Whitbread, and through the influence of the former, that it was produced upon the stage. Mr. Gillman says, “ Although Mr. Whitbread did not give it the advantage of a single new scene, yet the popularity of the play was such, that the principal actor (Mr. Roe), who had performed in it with great success, made choice of it for his benefit-night, and it brought an overflowing house." This was some time after Mr. Coleridge took up his residence at Highgate, in April, 1816. After all I am happy to think that this drama is a strain of poetry, and like all, not only dramatic poems, but highly poetic dramas, not to be fully appreciated on the stage.
Zapolya® came before the public in 1817. The stage fate of this piece is alluded to in the B. L. Mr. Gillman mentions that it was Mr. Douglas Kinnaird, then the critic for Drury Lane, who rejected the play, and complained of its “metaphysics”—a term which is not, upon all occasions, to be strictly construed, but, when used in familiar talk, seems merely to denote whatever is too fine-spun, in the texture of thought and speech, for common wear; whatever is not readily apprehensible and generally acceptable. Schoolboys call everything in books or discourse, which is graver or tenderer than they like, “ metaphysics.” Mr. Kinnaird may have judged quite rightly that the Play was too metaphysical for our theatres in their present state, though certainly plays as metaphysical were once well received on the stage. Zapolya, however, had a favorable audience from the public as a dramatic poem. Mr. Gillman says this Christmas Tale, which the author “never sat down to write, but dictated while walking up and down the room, became so immediately popular that 2000 copies were sold in six weeks.”
The collection of poems entitled Sybilline Leares, “ in allusion to the fragmentary and widely-scattered state in which they had been long suffered to remain," appeared in 1817, about the same time with Zapolya, the Biographia Literaria, and the first Lay Sermon.
The Miscellaneous Poems were composed at different periods of the author's life, many of them in his later years. I believe that Youth and
9 An important error in punctuation has crept into the later editions of Zapolya. In a speech of Sarolta, Act iii., Scene i., the note of admiration is placed after“ visitations,” at the end of line 22; whereas it should be placed at the end of line 21, after “ morsel of bread.” Poet. Works, ü., p. 314.
Age was written before he left the North of England in 1810, when he was about seven or eight-and-thirty,-early indeed for the poet to say of himself—
“ I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size:
The whole of the Poetical Works, with the exception of a few which must be incorporated in a future edition, are contained in that in three volumes. The Fall of Robespierre, an historic drama, of which the first act was written by Mr. Coleridge, and published September 22, 1794, is printed in the first vol. of the Lit. Remains. This first act contains the Song on Domestic Peace. In the blank verse there are some faint dawnings of his maturer style, as in these lines :
“ The winged hours, that scattered roses round me,
Languid and sad, drag their slow course along,
And shake big gall-drops from their heavy wings”— and in these :-
“ Why, thou hast been the mouth-piece of all horrors,
And, like a blood-hound, crouch'd for murder! Now
Hidest thy pale face in the skirts of Mercy!” but it contains scarcely anything of his peculiar original powers, and some of the lines are in a school-boy taste ; for instance :
“ While sorrow sad, like the dank willow near her,
Hangs o'er the troubled fountain of her eye.”
Yet three years after the date of this composition, in 1797, which has been called his Annus Mirabilis, he had reached his poetical zenith. But perhaps it may be said that, from original temperament, and the excitement of circumstances, my Father lived fast.
He had four poetical epochs, which represented, in some sort, boyhood, youthful manhood, middle age, and the decline of life. The first commenced a little on this side childhood, when he wrote Time Real and Imaginary, and ended in 1796. This period embraces the Juvenile Poems, concluding with Religious Musings, written on the Christmas Eve of 1794, a few months after The Fall of Robespierre : The Destiny of Nations was composed a little earlier. Lewii, written in 1795, The Æolian Harp, and Reflections on having left a place of Retirement, write ten soon after, are more finished poems, and exhibit more of his peculiar vein than any which he wrote before them: though one poet, Mr. Bowles, has said that he never surpassed the Religious Musings ! Fire, Famine, and Slaughter, belongs to 1796. The Lines to a Friend (Charles Lamb) who had declared his intention of writing no more poetry, and those To a Young Friend (Charles Lloyd), were composed in the same year. These poems of 1794-5-6, may be considered intermediate in power as in time, and so forming a link between the first epoch and the next.
Then came his poetic prime, which commenced with the Ode to the Departing Year, composed at the end of December, 1796. The year following, the five-and-twentieth of his life, produced The Ancient Mariner, Love, and The Dark Ladie, the first part of Christabel, Kubla Khan, Remorse, in its original cast, France, and This Lime-tree bower. Tears in Solitude, The Nightingale, and The Wanderings of Cain, were written in 1798. Frost at Midnight, The Picture, the Lines to the Rev. G. Coleridge, and those To W. Wordsworth, are all of this same Stowey period. It was in June, 1797, that my Father began to be intimate with Mr. Wordsworth, and this doubtless gave an impulse to his mind. The Hymn before Sunrise, and other strains produced in Germany, link this period to the next. The Hexamelers writlen during a temporary blindness, and the Catullian Hendecasyllables (which are freely translated from Matthisson's Milesisches Mährchen) Mr. Cottle seems to place in 1797, but the Author has marked the former as produced in 1799, and I believe that the latter are of the same date. The Night Scene, Myrtle Leaf that ill besped, Maiden that with sullen brow, are of this period, and so I believe are Lines composed in a concert-room, and some others.
The poems which succeed are distinguished from those of my Father's Stowey life by a less buoyant spirit. Poetic fire they have, but not the clear bright mounting flame of his earlier poetry. Their meditative vein is graver, and they seem tinged with the sombre hues of middle age; though some of them were written before the Author was thirty-five years old. A characteristic poem of this period is Dejection, an Ode: composed at Keswick, April 4, 1802. Wallenstein had been written in London in 1800. The Three Grares was composed in 1805 or 6; the second part of Christabelio soon after the Author's settling in the Lake
10 Christabel was condemned by the Edinburgh Review in good company, that of The White Doe. The two poems might be compared to Salm's two Leonoras, which seem the beautiful personification of sunshine and of pensive shadow. None of my Uncle (Mr. Southey's) Laureate Odes, not country in 1801); Youth and Age not long before he quitted it as a residence for ever (in 1810). Recollections of Love must have been written on his return to Keswick from Malta in 1806: The Happy Husband at that time, or earlier. The small fragment called The Knight's Tomb probably belongs to the North. The Devil's Thoughts appeared in The Morning Post in 1800. This production certainly has in it more of youthful sprightliness than of middle-aged soberness; still it is less fantastic and has more of world-wisdom in its satire than the War Eclogue of 1796. The Complaint and Reply first appeared in 1802. The Ode to Tranquillity was published in The Friend, March, 1809.
The poems of his after years, even when sad, are calmer in their melancholy than those produced while he was ceasing to be young. We are less heavy-hearted when youth is out of sight than when it is taking its leave. Duty surviving Self Lore, The Pang more sharp than all, Love's Apparition and Evanishment, The Blossoming of the solitary Date tree, and some other poems of his latter years, have this character of resigned and subdued sadness. Work without Hope was written at fifty-six. The Visionary Hope and The Pains of Sleep, which express more agitation and severe suffering, are of earlier date. These and all in the Sibylline Leaves were written before the end of 1817, when he had completed his forty-fifth year. The productions of the fourth epoch, looked at as works of imagination, are tender, graceful, exquisitely finished, but less bold and animated than those of his earlier day. This may be said of Zapolya, Alice du Clos, The Garden of Boccaccio, The Two Founts, Lines suggested by the last Words of Berengarius, Sancti Dominici Pallium, and other poems, written, I believe, when the poet was past forty, the four last-named after he was fifty years old. Love, Hope, and Patience in Education was, I think, one of his latest poetical efforts, if not the very last.
The following prose compositions are included in the poetical volumes, and the Apologetic Preface to Fire, Famine, and Slaughter, containing a comparison between Milton and Jeremy Taylor, is placed at the end of vol. i. : An Allegoric Vision, first published in The Courier in 1811, and
even that beautiful one on the death of the Princess Charlotte, shall form a third with these, but let Thalaba come to join the lovely pair, and then we shall have the three Graces.
It is curious to look at critical articles, full of furious ridicule and buffoonery, in any old reviewing jonrnal ; they remind one so of fossil porcupines, with quills fixed in rigidity, or harlequin snakes in bottles.-N. B. Most of these snakes are of the blind worm species.