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To walk together to the kirk,
And all together pray,
And youths and maidens gay.
Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell
To thee, thou wedding-guest !
Both man and bird and beast.
( Ere on my
• He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
He made and loveth all.'--i. 37, 38 The character of the ritual usually corresponds with that of the Deity. Our notions of worship must be coloured in conformity with our picture of its object. No ceremonial would be an appropriate pendant to the theology of these poems :
limbs I lay,
round me, every where Eternal strength and wisdom are.'-i. p. 334. Was there ever a better commentary on that passage in the Bible which enjoins us to “worship the Father in spirit and in truth?”
The principle of our author's morality, the pursuit of bappiness by its diffusion, the expansion of the idea of self by the agency of sympathy, the realizing of the sufferings or enjoyments of our fellow beings in the imagination until they come to constitute our own, assume the regulation of our feelings, give the prevailing impulse to our actions, and form the end and aim of our being, is also clearly stated in the “ Religious Musings :"
A sordid, solitary thing
When he by sacred sympathy might make
This the Messiah's destined victory.-i. p. 90, 91. A mind imbued with this principle looks abroad on universal Nature with affectionate complacency. It will pour forth such moral music as we have in the lines on an Eolian Harp. We give it with the delicious prelude which precedes :
• Such a soft floating witchery of sound
Is music slumbering on her instrument.'-i. p. 224. The most interesting poetical development of a moral system consists in pourtraying the various states of mind, the different modifications of thought and feeling which flow from it, as observation is directed to different characters. Amongst very much of this sort of illustration we may refer particularly to the self-reproaches of one who has lived, but not enough lived, for his species; the admiration of those who, by making “ audible” some “lay of truth profound," have placed themselves “in the choir of ever-enduring men,” the "sacred roll” of the world's benefactors; the pity and love, the respect and gratitude, which repel harsh censures on the frailty of those who have yet been good and great; the self-administered spiritstirring exhortation to useful activity ; its enforcement upon others who neglect the exercise of their power of beneficence; and the devotedness of soul to the welfare of humanity, which in age, and amid desertion and depression, remains unchanged and unshaken. These are displayed, the two first-mentioned in the lines occasioned by “the Recitation of a poem on the Growth of an Individual Mind;" and the rest, respectively, in those on “the Last words of Berengarius ;" "on having left a place of retirement;" to a young man of fortune who abandoned himself to an indolent and causeless melancholy;" and
“ Duty surviving self-love the only sure friend of declining life.” And there is a touching expression of the mood which some of these pieces were designed to rebuke in the deep and rich melody of those mournful lines entitled “ Work without Hope. There would be pleasure in quoting all these, but that may not be. There is another passage which belongs to them ; a contrast between the dealings of man and those of nature with criminality. It is the speech of Alvar at the commencement of the fifth act of “ Remorse.” The scene, a dungeon:
And this place my forefathers made for man !
To each poor brother who offends against us ;' and then, for room cannot be afforded for the whole, after de. scribing the hardening process by which, in what is commonly deemed the administration of criminal justice, and criminal justice it is, the wretch is Circled with evil till his
soul Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deform'd
By sights of evermore deformity;
With other ministrations thou, O Nature !
By the benignant touch of love and beauty.'-ii. p. 215. These verses contain the true moral of the tragedy of “Remorse, which is a representation of the superiority of the benignant over the vindictive principle in their influences upon the guilty. Ordonio is twice a murderer in intention, though only once in
Alvar, his supposed victim in the one case; and Alhadra, the widow of his real victim in the other, are alike bent upon making him feel the consequences of his crime; but the one would waken remorse within him only as the agency
for covering his heart to the pure and generous sentiments of humanity, and thus enabling him to enjoy and bestow happiness; while the other desires it merely as an aggravation of his payment of “the rigid retribution, blood for blood.” Both
are, to a certain extent, successful; but how different their triumph. Alhadra sheds his blood, and Alvar saves his soul.
Principles such as these consecrate the poetry in which they are worthily enshrined. Nor is it to be lamented that they are not taught systematically, or more elaborately illustrated. That is the business of the philosopher and the moralist. It is enough for the poet if he inculcate them, as the Bible, so much of which consists in the compositions of the bards of Judea, inculcates our duty-" Here a little and there a little,” as his inspiration may move him to take up his parable. We have no right to expect more. Nor perhaps would an ethical system, in the guise of poetry, be more, Only portions of it would be poetry; and it is better to have them by themselves. Give us the Sibylline leaves. They may be only fragments, but they are fragments of
* An Orphic song indeed,
To their own music chaunted !' Mr. Coleridge's addictedness to metaphysical theories, which are said to succeed one another in his mind like travellers at an inn, each making itself quite at home there during its temporary abode, has no more spoiled his poetry than has his political partizanship. The metaphysics of these volumes are of the most useful and least disputable description. There is the delineation and solution of some interesting mental phenomenon to be constantly met with. The solution is usually as satisfactory as the delineation is beautiful, and both, by an exertion of art pre-eminently happy and admirable, are made productive of emotion in the reader. This is indeed the most extraordinary quality, the most absolute peculiarity of his poetry. It combines to an unparalleled extent the investigation or exposition of the workings of the human mind with the expression or excitation of whatever affects the heart or delights the imagination. It propounds abstract truth in " thoughts that breathe, and words that burn." His selection of terms is often such as that we become at once conscious of their peculiar appropriateness and their resistless power. They convey the truth precisely and completely; and they convey it with all those melancholy, tender, or joyous associations which it is the poet's especial business to call up. They are like sunbeams ; and their light and heat are inseparable. It is as if he announced a philosophical fact in hieroglyphics ; but they are perfectly distinct and intelligible hieroglyphics; and their forms are lovely to the eye; and they combine harmoniously into a picturesque group; and their grouping tells a story, a story
which makes the nerves thrill and the bosom throb, and leaves us morally better for its agitating interest.
Many of these compositions, including some which belong to the purest, the highest, and the most powerful kind of poetry, are, in their construction and object, as instanced in the beautiful ballad of Genevieve, specimens of metaphysical analysis. Such is also the Ode to the Duchess of Devonshire, Constancy to an Ideal Object, the Blossoming of the Solitary Date Tree, the Sonnet on his Child being first presented to him, and the verses which he calls, we know not why, the conclusion to the second part of Christabel. All these are portions of the most splendid work on the philosophy of the human mind that was ever conceived. They are glimpses of that clear profundity of truth, of which we trace emanations in almost every one of his compositions, “ The blue sky bends over all.” Passages are continually occurring which shew the deep reflection of the author, his intense self-inspection, a knowledge of our nature acquired in the best school, the study of himself. There is one of these in the Hymn before Sun-rise, in the Vale of Chamouny.
• O dread and silent Mount! I gaz'd upon thee,
As in her natural form, swellid vast to Heaven !' Equally true is the following sketch, in the Night Scene, of the ministry of one passion to another, but mightier, which seems its opposite :
The inquietudes of fear, like lesser streams,
Fleeing from Pain, sheltered herself in Joy.' And what a picture is that in Christabel, of the strange fascination by which we are impelled, involuntarily, to the corporeal imitation of an object or action on which the mind is dwelling with abhorrence and dread: the innocent girl assumes the look of her serpent-eyed tormentor :
« The maid, alas ! her thoughts are gone,