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hand, the nobler nature, the clearer spirit of Shelley, fills his verse with a divine force of meaning, which Coleridge, who had it not in him, could not affect to give. That sensuous fluctuation of soul, that floating fervour of fancy, whence his poetry rose as from a shifting sea, in faultless completion of form and charm, had absorbed—if indeed there were any to absorb—all emotion of love or faith, all heroic beauty of moral passion, all inner and outer life of the only kind possible to such other poets as Dante or Shelley, Milton or Hugo. This is neither blameable nor regrettable; none of these could have done his work; nor could he have done it had he been in any way other or better than he was. Neither, for that matter, could we have had a Hamlet or a Faust from any of these, the poets of moral faith and passion, any more than a “Divina Commedia" from Shakespeare, a “ Prometheus Unbound" from Goethe. Let us give thanks for each after their kind to nature and the fates.
Alike by his powers and his impotences, by his capacity and his defect, Coleridge was inapt for dramatic poetry. It were no discredit to have fallen short of Shelley on this side, to be overcome by him who has written the one great English play of modern times; but here the very comparison would seem a jest. There is little worth praise or worth memory in the “Remorse" except such casual fragments of noble verse as may readily be detached from the loose and friable stuff in which they lie
imbedded. In the scene of the incantation, in the scene of the dungeon, there are two such pure and precious fragments of gold. In the part of Alhadra there are lofty and sonorous interludes of declamation and reflection. The characters are flat and shallow; the plot is at once languid, violent, and heavy. To touch the string of the spirit, thread the weft of evil and good, feel out the way of the soul through dark places of thought and rough places of action, was not given to this the sweetest dreamer of dreams. In “Zapolya” there are no such patches of imperial purple sewn on, but there is more of air and motion; little enough indeed of high dramatic quality, but a native grace and ease which give it something of the charm of life. In this lighter and more rapid work, the song of Glycine flashes out like a visible sunbeam ; it is one of the brightest bits of music ever done into words.
The finest of Coleridge's odes is beyond all doubt the " Ode to France." Shelley declared it the finest of modern times, and justly, until himself and Keats had written up to it at least. It were profitless now to discuss whether it should take or yield precedence, when weighed with the “ Ode to Liberty" or the “Ode to Naples." There is in it a noble and loyal love of freedom, though less fiery at once and less firm than Shelley's, as it proved in the end less duarble and deep. The prelude is magnificent in music, and in sentiment and emotion far above any other of his poems, nor are
the last notes inadequate to this majestic overture. Equal in force and sweetness of style, the “Ode on Dejection” ranks next in my mind to this one'; some may prefer its vaguer harmonies and sunset colours to the statelier movement, the more august and solemn passion of the earlier ode.
Some time later, when France, already stript of freedom and violated by treason, was openly paraded in her prostitution to the first Buonaparte, Coleridge published his “ Ode to Tranquillity,” beginning with two stanzas since retrenched. Having unearthed them in the “ Annual Register for 1801 ” (vol. xliii., p. 525) I set them down here as better worth saving than most of his political verse.
What statesmen scheme, and soldiers work;
“ Disturb[s] not me! Some tears I shed
It is noticeable that only his supreme gift of lyrical power could sustain Coleridge on political ground. His attempts of the kind in blank verse are poor indeed :
Untimely breathings, sick and short assays.” Compare the nerveless and hysterical verses headed “ Fears in Solitude” (exquisite as is the overture, faultless in tone and colour, and worthy of a better sequel) with the majestic and masculine sonnet of Wordsworth, written at the same time on the same subject : the lesser poet—for, great as he is, I at least cannot hold Wordsworth, though so much the stronger and more admirable man, equal to Coleridge as mere poet-speaks with a calm force of thought and resolution; Coleridge wails, appeals, deprecates, objurgates in a flaccid and querulous fashion without heart or spirit. This debility of mind and manner is set off in strong relief by the loveliness of landscape touches in the same poem. The eclogue of “Fire, Famine, and Slaughter,” being lyrical, is worthier of a great name; it has force and motion enough to keep it alive yet and fresh, impeded and trammelled though it usually be by the somewhat vain and verbose eloquence of a needlessly Apologetic Preface.” Blank verse Coleridge could never handle with the security of conscious skill and a trained strength; it grows in his hands too facile and feeble to carry the due weight or accomplish the due work. I have not found
of his poems in this metre retouched and reinvigorated as a few have been among his others. One
such alteration is memorable to all students of his art; the excision from the “ Ancient Mariner " of a stanza (eleventh of the Third Part) which described the Deathmate of the Spectre-Woman, his bones foul with leprous scurf and green corruption of the grave, in contrast to the red lips and yellow locks of the fearfuller Nightmare Life-in-Death. Keats in like manner cut off from the “ Ode on Melancholy" a first stanza preserved for us by his biographer, who has duly noted the delicate justice of instinct implied by this rejection of all ghastly and violent images, however noble and impressive in their violence and ghastliness, from a poem full only of the subtle sorrow born of beauty. The same keen and tender sense of right made Coleridge reject from his work the horrors while retaining the terrors of death. But of his studies in blank verse he seems to have taken no such care. They remain mostly in a hybrid or an embryonic state, with birthmarks on them of debility or malformation. Two of these indeed have a charm of their own, not shallow or transient: the “Nightingale " and " Frost at Midnight.” In colour they are perfect, and not (as usual) too effusive and ebullient in style. Others, especially some of the domestic or religious sort, are offensive and grievous to the human sense on that score. Coleridge had doubtless a sincere belief in his own sincerity of belief, a true feeling of his own truth of feeling ; but he leaves with us too often an unpleasant sense or taste-as it were a tepid dilution of sentiment, a rancid