Page images
PDF
EPUB

xx.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.

1772-1834.

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

CHARACTERIZATION BY CRAIK. . : 1. Coleridge's poetry is remarkable for the perfection of its execution, for the exquisite art with which its divine spirit is endowed with formal expression. The subtly woven words, with

From English Language and Literature, by G. L. Craik, LL.D., vol. ii., p. 478 et seq.

all their sky colors, seem to grow out of the thought or emotion, as the flower from its stalk, or the flame from its feeding oil. The music of his verse, too, especially of what he has written in rhyme, is as sweet and as characteristic as anything in the language, placing him for that rare excellence in the same small band with Shakespeare, and Beaumont and Fletcher (in their lyrics), and Milton, and Collins, and Shelley, and Tennyson.

2. It was probably only quantity that was wanting to make Coleridge the greatest poet of his day. Certainly, at least, some things that he has written have not been surpassed, if they have been matched, by any of his contemporaries. And (as, indeed, has been the case with almost all great poets) he continued to write better and better the longer he wrote : some of his happiest verses were the produce of his latest years. Not only, as we proceed from his earlier to his later compositions, does the execution become much more artistic and perfect, but the informing spirit refined and purified, the tenderness grows more delicate and deep, the fire brighter and keener, the sense of beauty more subtle and exquisite. Yet from the first there was in all he wrote the divine breath which essentially makes poetry what it is. There was “the shaping spirit of imagination," evidently of soaring pinion and full of strength, though as yet sometimes unskilfully directed, and encumbered in its flight by an affluence of power which it seemed hardly to know how to manage ; hence an unselecting impetuosity in these early compositions, never indicating anything like poverty of thought, but producing occasionally considerable awkwardness and turgidity of style, and a declamatory air, from which no poetry was ever more free than that of Coleridge in its maturer form.

3. Of Coleridge's poetry, in its most matured form, and in its best specimens, the most distinguishing characteristics are vividness of imagination and subtlety of thought, combined with un rivalled beauty and expressiveness of diction, and the most exquisite melody of verse. With the exception of a vein of melancholy and meditative tenderness, flowing rather from a contemplative survey of the mystery—the strangely mingled good and evil-of all things human than connected with any individual interests, there is not in general much of passion in his compo

sitions, and he is not well fitted, therefore, to become a very popular poet, or a favorite with the multitude.

4. His love itself, warm and tender as it is, is still Platonic and spiritual in its tenderness, rather than a thing of flesh and blood. There is nothing in his poetry of the pulse of fire that throbs in that of Burns ; neither has he much of the homely every-day truth, the proverbial and universally applicable wisdom of Wordsworth. Coleridge was, far more than either of these poets, “ of imagination all compact." The fault of his poetry is the same that belongs to that of Spenser—it is too purely or unalloyedly poetical. But rarely, on the other hand, has there existed an imagination in which so much originality and daring were associated and harmonized with so gentle and tremblingly delicate a sense of beauty. Some of his minor poems especially, for the richness of their coloring combined with the most perfect finish, can be compared only to the flowers which spring up into loveliness at the touch of “great creating nature.” The words, the rhyme, the whole flow of the music seem to be not so much the mere expression or sign of the thought as its blossoming or irradiation of the bright essence, the equally bright though sensible effluence.

I.-LOVE.
1. All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers * of Love,

And feed his sacred flame.

LITERARY ANALYSIS.—To what class of poetry does this poem belong? Ans. It belongs to the class of lyric poetry.

State the versification of the poem. Ans. The poem is written in stanzas of four lines, the first three of which are iambic tetrameter, while the fourth is an iambic trimeter ; the fourth and second lines rhyme.

What are the chief characteristics of the poem? Ans. They are a fine union of passion with delicacy, and of both with the sweetest, richest music.

1-4. All ... flame. What kind of statement is made in the first stanza, a particular or a general statement? What purpose does this stanza serve?Point out an example of personification in these lines.--Explain “ministers" as here used.

2. Oft in my waking dreams do I

Live o'er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,

Beside the ruined tower.
3. The moonshine, stealing o'er the scene

Had blended with the lights of eve;
And she was there, my hope, my joy,

My own dear Genevieve!
4. She leaned against the armed man,

The statue of the armed knight ;
She stood and listened to my lay,

Amid the lingering light.
5 Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope ! my joy! my Genevieve !
She loves me best whene'er I sing

The songs that make her grieve.
6. I played a soft and doleful air,

I sang an old and moving story-
An old rude song, that suited well

That ruin wild and hoary.

20

LITERARY ANALYSIS.—5-8. Oft ... tower. Arrange this stanza in the prose order.-Explain “waking dreams.”—Give an instance of alliteration in this stanza.

7-10. State in your own words what was the scene of the romance. Is it effective for the poet's purpose? Why?

11. And... joy. What two metaphors in this line?
15, 16. She ... light. Point out examples of alliteration.

17. Few ... own. What is the most emphatic word in this line? By what device is it brought into prominence? Transpose into the prose order, and note the difference.

17-20. In this stanza, how many words are of other than Anglo-Saxon origin?

18. My hope! my joy! Note the fine effect of the recurrence of these terms used in line II.

20. grieve. Were it not for rhyme's sake, do you think the poet would use a word so strong as "grieve ?” What is perhaps a more fitting word ?-Se. lect, from Dryden's Alexander's Feast, a line expressing a thought similar to that in lines 19, 20.

[merged small][ocr errors]

?. She listened with a flitting blush,

With downcast eyes and modest grace;
For well she knew I could not choose

But gaze upon her face.
8. I told her of the knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand;
And that for ten long years he wooed

The Lady of the Land.
9. I told her how he pined: and ah!

The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another's love

Interpreted my own.
10. She listened with a flitting blush,

With downcast eyes and modest grace;
And she forgave me, that I gazed

Too fondly on her face !
11. But when I told the cruel scorn

That crazed that bold and lovely knight,
And that he crossed the mountain-woods,

Nor rested day nor night;
12. That sometimes from the savage den,

And sometimes from the darksome shade,
And sometimes starting up at once

In green and sunny glade,

LITERARY ANALYSIS.—25-28. Observe how preparation is made for the introduction of the story-how (stanza 5) we are told that Genevieve loved best when listening to songs that made her grieve, and how (line 22) the lover sang a “moving story ;" then how, before proceeding with the story as began in stanza 8, a fine effect is obtained by the pause in stanza 7.

28. But. Grammatical construction ?

31. And ... wooed. Supply the ellipsis. – What is the peculiar force of "long” as here used ?

37, 38. Of what lines are these an iteration ?-Observe the context of these lines in each instance.

41-44. In stanza 11, name two words derived from Latin through French. 45-47. That sometimes ... once. What is the figure of speech? (See Def. 36.)– To what word is the phrase "starting up at once" an adjunct ?

« PreviousContinue »