« AnteriorContinuar »
It is that description of the serpent-look of the witch's eyes which, on being read in a company at Lord Byron's, is said to have caused Shelley to faint.
The poem of “Christabel” is a fragment. It was so left by the poet. Other writers have aspired to complete it, but their imitations have proved adventures as vain as presumptuous. Coleridge himself meditated its completion; but, like other of his poems, it was a work of tomorrow—and to-morrow—and to-morrow. And his petty pace of life crept away without it.
In my lecture on Burns, I quoted to you the stanzas which the peasant-poet in fancy appropriated as the epitaph for his own tomb. It was an admonition to the living, and a touching plea for a little charity to the memory of the poor inhabitant below. The deeply-meditative imagination of Coleridge was busy too in taking the measure of an unmade grave, and dictated his own epitaph. His mind had roamed through the vast regions of human learning, and trod the highest places of speculative philosophy; his imagination had taken the boldest and most limitless flights; but this late effusion of his genius—probably his last verses—has its best beauty in its simplicity and its perfect Christian humility. The initials will be recognised as his customary designation of his name:—
“Stop, Christian passer-by! Stop, child of God,
§ on the g.
Charles Lamb, the friend of Coleridge and Southey — “The Old Familiar Faces”—“Elia”—Robert Southey—Character of his prose —His complete poetical works—His mental derangement—Personal interest of his poems — Satirical power — “Wat Tyler”— “Joan of Arc”—The product of imagination is often truth — “Madoc"—“Roderic”—“Thalaba”- “The Curse of Kehama”— Scriptural character of “Thalaba”—Keble’s “Christian Year”— Story of “Thalaba and Oneiza” — Southey's Odes—“The Retreat from Moscow”—“The Tale of Paraguay”—His playful poetry— Ode on the Portrait of Bishop Heber.
IN the last lecture it was my intention to give a few words, at the close, to an author whom I wished to notice briefly; but I became entangled in the witchery of “Christabel,” and the glittering eye of “the Ancient Mariner” held me too long to let me accomplish my purpose. It was a life-long friend of Coleridge's I was anxious to speak of; and I must find room for him now, before proceeding to the chief subject of the present lecture. Let me, therefore, present Charles Lamb between his two friends Coleridge and Southey. His
intimacy with Coleridge began within the venerable pre- 127
cincts of Christ's Hospital, when they were blue-coat boys together in that time-honoured school. The friendship of boyhood, as is not usual, lasted into manhood and during life, their minds, in many respects dissimilar, closely associated and identified. Coleridge died; and, in the brief interval of only a few months that Lamb survived, he was constantly reiterating, in a kind of Soliloquy, and that confused state of feeling before we realize the absence in death of one whose presence has long been familiar, he was reiterating, “Coleridge is dead | Coleridge is dead P’ A poet who knew and loved them both has coupled their names in the same stanzas of his elegy on his brother-bards:—
“Nor has the rolling year twice measured
From sign to sign its steadfast course,
“The rapt one of the godlike forehead,
“Like clouds that rake the mountain summit.
The early poetical pieces of Lamb were first published with Coleridge's; and it was Coleridge, he said, who first kindled in him, if not the power, yet the love, of poetry, and beauty, and kindliness. Poetry was gradually given up by them both. “You,” said Lamb
to his friend, now devoted to his philosophy, “now write no “Christabels’ nor ‘Ancient Mariners,’ and I have dwindled into prose and criticism.” One of the most pleasing pieces in the small collection of Lamb's poems may illustrate both the depth and tenderness of his feelings and the peculiarity of his way of thought. The verses have the merit of giving currency to a very feeling phrase, one of those happy combinations of words which poetry frequently incorporates into the language, serving to express some universal sentiment, and, therefore, soon acquiring the familiarity of a proverb. It cannot fail to be recognised, I think, as an expression of a feeling which has been experienced probably by every one who is now listening to me, that painfully hollow sense of destitution when there comes across us the memory of faces familiar to some former period of life, —that desolate craving after the departed,—-the missing of something which had been a portion of our very selves. Several of the stanzas go on to mention the memory of what has been and never more will be, and in language as simple as possible, just such words as the feeling would express itself in, finding natural utterance in earnest conversation; but, as it is dwelt on, suddenly the imagination expands, and, as the shadowy recollections of childhood—memories of the old familiar faces—throng around him, the living man, moved by a stronger sympathy with the past than with the present, nearer of kin, as it were, to the dead than to the living, -feels spectre-like visiting the scenes of his childhood, and, in the intensity of his loneliness, the earth becomes a very desert to him. The allusion in the latter part of the verses is to Coleridge:– VOX. IX. - 9