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may be named not a few poems in these volumes, such as the sonnets beginning, Pains I have known that cannot be again,' • What is the meaning of the word “sublime?”? • From infancy 'to retrospective old, When I survey the long and deep and *wide,' • Accuse not gracious Nature of neglect.' This sonnet on Freedom' will not, we fear, give satisfaction to the Chartists:
“Say, what is Freedom? What the life of souls
Is ruled and scatter'd by a Godlike will.' (Vol. ii. p. 50.); The following, which traces one of our vaguest instincts to its seat in the Conscience, is a specimen of its author's psychological, as our former extract is of his political philosophy:
(Vol. ii. p. 54.) With the meditative poems may be classed a series with which the collection closes, consisting of pieces on theological subjects. The tone of these poems is serious, earnest, and devout, rather than impassioned. They are very unequal in merit. A few of them, which are doubtless to be regarded but as links in an incomplete series, seem to us but colder versions of narratives
Poetry on Scriptural Subjects.
more poetic in the prose of Holy Scripture; others (those probably which suggested the scheme) embody a genuine vision of some historic fact, or present to us a profound
sentiment with the softness at once and the vividness of poetry. They frequently express subtle as well as pregnant truths in singularly condensed language, as in the following lines on Faith:
• Think not the faith by which the just shall live
That bids eternal truth be present fact.' There is much significance also in a sonnet entitled • Faith how guarded':
• Yes, thou dost well to build a fence about
Truths long besieged too oft of hunger perish.'
• The word were but a blank, a hollow sound,
If He that spake it were not speaking still,
Were aught but issues of Almighty will.
And every flower that stars the elastic sod,
To thy pure spirit, is a word of God. An interesting portion of these poems might, in these days of illustrated books, be called illustrations of the Bible, picturing forth, as they do, some scene from the Old or New Testament, and closing with a line or two that points the moral. They will remind the reader occasionally of old Drummond of Hauthornden, and certainly are not inferior to the best sonnets in his · Flowers of Sion. We refer especially to • Enock,' • Hagar,' and • Moses,' which last we shall quote.
• She left her babe, and went away to weep,
The sacred silence of his slumbrous smile
(Vol. ii, p. 349.) With the following we must conclude our extracts:
(Vol. ii. p. 387.) The characteristics of Hartley Coleridge's poetry will have been better set forth by the specimens which we have given of its different classes than by any elaborate analysis. That it is true poetry the most careless reader cannot doubt. Its predominant spirit, especially in his later works, is that of a meditative humanity, which marks him on the whole as a pupil in the Wordsworthian school, notwithstanding a buoyancy and sweetness which often remind us of his father's most felicitous, if not his most elevated, vein. The temperament of his poetry, sane guine, pleasurable, and fitful, resembles also that of the elder Coleridge; while in his sonnets he attained an artistic perfection of form never reached by the other. In passion he was inferior to both the poets named; its place being supplied by a fancy which sometimes strayed in the direction of prettinesses, if not of conceits, but more often enlivened his verse with a poignant wit, and gave a sharper edge, and more brilliant relief, to weighty thought. Had he written at an earlier period, future critics could not fail to assign to his genius a place yet higher than will now perhaps be awarded to it; for in that case his
Strength necessary for Poetic Development.
originality would have been as unquestioned as the freshness, sweetness, and truthfulness of his verse. Poetry, however, no doubt borrows from itself as well as from human life; which is one reason for the copiousness with which, after a long frost, its fountains gush forth at particular periods. Poets learn to sing as children learn to speak, in part by imitation: the imitative power will be liveliest where the apprehensive faculty is most alert, and the sympathies are strongest; and assuredly Hartley Coleridge's nature must have been more sluggish than it was, if he had not caught some part of his inspiration from that which floated in the air he daily breathed.
This consideration is in itself some answer to the question, why, with powers so various and well trained, and with ample leisure, he did not execute a work of a larger and more important order? Other explanations might also be offered, founded on the peculiarities of his intellect and moral being. His biographer suggests that there was some faculty wanting in his mind, necessary for the completion of any great
whole. The deficiency, he seems to think, lay in the power to systematise. The elder Coleridge, he remarks, could methodise the most magnificent scheme in imagination, and by an intuitive discernment of its central idea ; but yet could seldom persuade his thoughts to arrange themselves within * artificial limits,'—the centrifugal and centripetal forces of his • mind were well balanced; but the foci of his thought were so distant that their orbit became practically unlimited, though each portion contained the law of its return, and the prophecy of its completion. No such power was ever exhibited by his son; he does not appear ever to have realised even the conception of any great whole. Such a want of completeness in conception would imply a defect of the creative faculty likewise, since the imagination can only create what it has previously conceived, and in its conception the idea of the complete work must be, at least germinally, contained... A plastic imagi-. nation is, indeed, very different from a creative energy; and in Hartley Coleridge it was more predominant. Yet on the other hand, no intellectual deficiency need be supposed in order to account for a discrepancy between what his poetry was and what it might have been. We have already remarked how much that poetry owed to the large and generous moral disposition of which it is the expression. The lesson would be incomplete if we did not admit that it lost proportionably from the defect of strength in his moral character. We may often indulge in the stronger vices with apparent impunity; but for every weakness Nature extorts a forfeit; and the penance which she most often
imposes is one which illudes observation—she denies us the power of fully exerting our powers. In art, as in life, a governing will must marshall all the powers. Self-control is the • leathern girdle' which, seeming but to restrain, braces the adventurous artist for his ascent up the mountain side. He must be equally prompt to act and patient to wait. His courage must not be impulsive only, nor must his prudence degenerate into caution. His sympathies must advance uncheered by vanity, and unchecked by repulse. His studies must be deliberate acts, converging towards a definite end, not merely an indulgence of curiosity or an escape from the cares of life. If he would be Nature's priest, offering her sacrifice, he needs somewhat of ascetic discipline and renunciation; remembering that though genius must ever be, in some measure, indebted to the mere temperament of genius, it yet should not draw too largely for nourishment upon its meaner part. If he would be Nature's inissionary, preaching her faith, he must dare great things: he must not cling to creeks and neighbouring coasts, trafficking but with the products of daily experience, and the spoils of chance encounters: he must push forth boldly, and tempt the deep.
How far, it may be asked, did the circumstances of Hartley Coleridge's life interfere with the largest exercise of his poetic powers ?
Their influence, we should say, must have been adverse, so far as they deprived him of that masculine invigoration which is often produced by the friendly oppugnancy of pursuits independent of inclination. He would have doubtless been a greater poet if he had been less exclusively a poet: for the stronger, and therefore the loftier the stem, the higher will its blossom and fruitage wave in the air. It is obvious, however, that avocations so utterly at variance with his whole nature as the management of a school must have tended rather to paralyse than to discipline his powers. Literary success might have stimulated his mind to more of continuous exertion; yet on this subject no general rule can be laid down. A mixture of prosperity and adversity seems as necessary for our moral culture as an alternation of sunshine and rain is for vegetable growth: but whether genius be developed most by the bright or the dark ministration depends mainly on the temperament with which it is associated. Melancholy and saturnine natures, especially if they be also proud and irascible, are often provoked to higher exertion by what they regard as neglect or injustice; and under such a stimulus become conscious of powers which, till precipitated into action, were locked up in reserve. Tenderer temperaments, on the other hand, require applause to enable them to shake off their diffidence. Sympathy is the