« AnteriorContinuar »
rusal, and admiration of these poems, (to which let me
but very significant phrase, lead the Calvinistic and Arminian parties within the Church in England. To the former it seems more natural in respect of their being, upon the whole, men of lower education, meaner attainments and more limited abilities: -in the latter, and especially in the most eminent of the latter, it is self contradiction, and has the appearance, to calm observers, of mere wilfulness. For in the perusal of the many eloquent volumes which have proceeded of late years from the latter, there may be found metaphysic and even psychological arguments, which shew a knowledge of Aristotle, and also-quod minime reris-an acquaintance with Coleridge,-the last, however, without recognition by name, and speedily atoned for in a following page by some religious dehortation, or sullen dogma of contrary import. It is evident, therefore, that the particular system is the object of dislike. Would it not be more agreeable to the sincerity of lovers of truth, and to the courtesy of men of letters, to meet, cominend, or censure, adopt or reject, what stands in their path in a perfectly questionable shape, than to pass by on the other side in affected ignorance or contempt? Can the Aids to Reflection be honestly pretermitted by a divine of this day, or ought the only use made of it by a gentleman to be—to borrow from it without acknowledgment?-But it is a true saying, that they who begin by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving their own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving themselves better than all.
This is something of a digression, but it is needed.
It can hardly be necessary to remark, that Mr. Coleridge is only speaking relatively to his youth, and his vocation as a poet, and the proportion which metaphysical studies should bear in a well ordered education to the exercise of the imagination, and the observation of external nature. Something also was, no doubt, intended against particular books and lines of research, which, in his almost limitless range, he had perused or followed. There are unwholesome books in metaphysics as there are in divinity and romance, but not so many or so injurious by half; and it is just as wise to proscribe the former on account of Spinóza or Hume, as it would be to prohibit the latter for Socinus or Paul de Kock. No man could be a great metaphysician, or make an epoch in the history of the science, without an acquain
add, though known to me at a somewhat later period, the Lewesdon Hill of Mr. Crowe 19 bears more immediately on my present subject. Among those with whom I conversed, there were, of course, very many who had formed their taste, and their notions of poetry, from the writings of Pope and his followers; or to speak more generally, in that school of French poetry, condensed and invigorated by English understanding, which had predominated from the last century. I was not blind to the merits of this school, yet, as from inexperience of the world, and consequent want of sympathy with the general subjects of these poems, they gave me little pleasure, I doubtless undervalued the kind, and with the presumption of youth withheld from its masters the legitimate name of poets. I saw that the excellence of this kind consisted in just and acute observations on men and manners in an artificial state of society, as its matter and substance; and in the logic of wit, conveyed in smooth and strong epigrammatic couplets, as its form: that even when the subject was addressed to the fancy, or the intellect, as in the Rape of the Lock, or the Essay on Man; nay, when it was a consecutive narration, as in that astonishing product of matchless talent and ingenuity, Pope's Translation of the Iliad; still a point was looked for at the
tance as extensive as Mr. C's with all that had been done or attempted before him; but such a course is not more necessary to the education of the mind in general, to which the elements of metaphysic knowledge are essential, than five years' attendance at the State Paper Office to the accomplishment of a gentleman in the history of England; and it may perhaps be admitted that the philosophic spell which overmastered Coleridge's advancing manhood for ever slacked the strings of the enchanting lyre of his youth. But on this we can only speculate. Ed.]
19 [Lewesdon Hill was first published in 1786; there was a second edition in 1788, and a third in 1804. Ed.]
end of each second line, and the whole was, as it were, a sorites, or, if I may exchange a logical for a grammatical metaphor, a conjunction disjunctive, of epigrams. Meantime the matter and diction seemed to me characterized not so much by poetic thoughts, as by thoughts translated into the language of poetry. On this last point, I had occasion to render my own thoughts gradually more and more plain to myself, by frequent amicable disputes concerning Darwin's Botanic Garden,20 which, for some years, was greatly extolled, not only by the reading public in general, but even by those, whose genius and natural robustness of understanding enabled them afterwards to act foremost in dissipating these "painted mists" that occasionally rise from the marshes at the foot of Parnassus. During my first Cambridge vacation," I assisted a friend in a contribution for a literary society in Devonshire: and in this I remember to have compared Darwin's work to the Russian palace of ice, glittering, cold and transitory. In the same essay too,22 I assigned sundry reasons, chiefly drawn from a comparison of passages in the Latin poets with the original Greek, from which they were borrowed, for the preference of Collins's odes to those of Gray; and of the simile in Shakespeare
How like a younker or a prodigal,
The scarfed bark puts from her native bay,
20 [The Botanic Garden was published in 1781. Ed.]
21 [Mr. Coleridge entered at Jesus College, Cambridge, on the 5th of February, 1791. Ed.]
22 [I have never been able to discover any traces of this essay, which I presume was not printed. Ed.]
Lean, rent, and beggar'd by the strumpet wind!
to the imitation in the Bard;
Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows
Youth at the prow and pleasure at the helm;
(in which, by the bye, the words "realm" and "sway" are rhymes dearly purchased)-I preferred the original on the ground, that in the imitation it depended wholly on the compositor's putting, or not putting, a small capital, both in this, and in many other passages of the same poet, whether the words should be personifications, or mere abstractions. I mention this, because, in referring various lines in Gray to their original in Shakespeare and Milton, and in the clear perception how completely all the propriety was lost in the transfer, I was, at that early period, led to a conjecture, which, many years afterwards was recalled to me from the same thought having been started in conversation, but far more ably, and developed more fully, by Mr. Wordsworth ;-namely, that this style of poetry, which I have characterized above, as translations of prose thoughts into poetic language, had been kept up by, if it did not wholly arise from, the custom of writing Latin verses, and the great importance attached to these exercises, in our public schools. Whatever might have been the case in the fifteenth century, when the use of the Latin tongue was so general among learned men, that Erasmus is said to have forgotten his native language; yet in the present day it is not to be supposed, that a youth can think in Latin, or that he can have any other reliance on the force or fitness of his phrases,
but the authority of the writer from whom he has adopted them. Consequently he must first prepare his thoughts, and then pick out, from Virgil, Horace, Ovid, or perhaps more compendiously from his Gradus,23 halves and quarters of lines, in which to embody them.24 I never object to a certain degree of disputatious
23 [In the Rusticus of Politian* there occurs this line : Pura coloratos interstrepit unda lapillos.
Casting my eye on a University prize-poem, I met this line, Lactea purpureos interstrepit unda lapillos.
Now look out in the Gradus for purus, and you find as the first synonime, lacteus; for coloratus, and the first synonime is purpureus. I mention this by way of elucidating one of the most ordinary processes in the ferrumination of these centos.]
24 [The description in the text may be true of those who never in any proper sense succeed in writing Latin verse. But the experience of many scholars in England, amongst boys, would enable them with sincerity to deny its universal application. The chief direct use of the practice of Latin verse composition consists in the mastery which it gives over the vocabulary and constructive powers of the language. But it is, perhaps, greatly to be regretted that spoken and written Latin has to so great a degree ceased to be a mean of communication between liberally educated Europeans. The pretence that the extended knowledge of modern languages is an adequate substitute, is in five cases out of ten generally, and in the pre-eminent instances of Germany and England, in three out of four, notoriously untrue. Mere school editions of the Classics may properly enough be accompanied with notes in a modern language, but every work designed for the promotion of scholarship generally ought, by literary comity, to be published in a language which every scholar can read. This remark does not touch the question of dictionaries; as to which nothing but necessity can justify the ordinary use of any interpretation but into the native idiom of the student. Ed.]
* Angelus Politianus was born July 14, 1454, at Monte Pulciano in Tuscany; died at Florence, Sept. 24, 1494. The line quoted is the fourteenth of the Silva cui titulus Rust