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on a Patriot's furrowed cheek." The main difficulty of
the metre, too — that of avoiding forced rhymes — is rarely
surmounted. Even in the three fine lines in the Burke —

" Thee stormy Pity, and the cherished lure
Of Pomp and proud precipitance of soul,
'Wildered with meteor fires " —

we cannot help feeling that "lure" is extremely harsh,
while the weakness of the two concluding lines of the
sonnet supplies a typical example of the disappointment
which these " effusions " so often prepare for their readers.
Enough, however, has been said of the faults of these
early poems ; it remains to consider their merits, foremost
among which, as might be expected, is the wealth and
splendour of their diction in these passages, in which such
display is all that is needed for the literary ends of the
moment. Over all that wide region of literature, in which
force and fervour of utterance, depth and sincerity of feel-
ing avail, without the nameless magic of poetry in the
higher sense of the word, to achieve the objects of the
writer and to satisfy the mind of the reader, Coleridge
ranges with a free and sure footstep. It is no disparage-



II.] EARLY rOEMS. 25

ment to his Religioiis Mtisin(js to say that it is to this
class of literature that it belongs. Ilaving said this, how-
ever, it must be added that poetry of the second order
has seldom risen to higher heights of power. The faults
already admitted disfigure it here and there. We have
"moon-blasted Madness when he yells at midnight;" we
read of "eye-starting wretches and rapture-trembling ser-
aphim," and the really striking image of Ruin, the "old
hag, unconquerable, huge. Creation's eyeless drudge," is
marred by making her " nurse " an " impatient earthquake."
But there is that in Coleridge's aspirations and apostrophes
to the Deity which impresses one even more profoundly
than the mere magnificence, remarkable as it is, of their
rhetorical clothing. They are touched with so penetrat-
ing a sincerity ; they are so obviously the outpourings of
an awe-struck heart. Indeed, there is nothing more re-
markable at this stage of Coleridge's poetic development
than the instant elevation which his verse assumes when-
ever he passes to Divine things. At once it seems to take
on a Miltonic majesty of diction and a Miltonic stateliness
of rhythm. The tender but low-lying domestic sentiment
of the jEol'mn Harp is in a moment informed by it with
the dignity which marks that poem's close. Apart too
from its literary merits, the biographical interest of Re-
ligious Musings is very considerable. " Written," as its
title declares, but in reality as its length would suggest,
and as Mr. Cottle in fact tells us, only completed, "on the
Christmas eve of 1794," it gives expression to the tumult-
uous emotions by which Coleridge's mind was agitated at
this its period of highest political excitement. His revo-
lutionary enthusiasm was now at its hottest, his belief in
the infant French Republic at its fullest, his wrath against
the " coalesced kings" at its fiercest, his contempt for their



26 COLERIDGE. [chap.

religious pretence at its bitterest. "Thee to defend," he
cries,

" Thee to defend, dear Saviour of mankind !

Tliee, Lamb of God ! Thee, Wameless Prince of Peace !

From all sides rush the thirsty brood of war —

Austria, and that foul Woman of the Nortli,

The lustful murderess of her wedded lord,

And he, connatural mind ! whom (in their songs,

So bards of elder time had haply feigned)

Some Fury fondled in her hate to man,

Bidding her serpent hair in tortuous fold

Lick his young face, and at his mouth imbreathe

Horrible Sympathy !"

This is vigorous poetic invective ; and the effect of such
outbursts is heightened by the rapid subsidence of the
passion that inspires them and the quick advent of a
calmer mood. We have hardly turned the page ere de-
nunciations of Catherine and Frederick William give place
to prayerful invocations of the Supreme Being, which are
in their turn the prelude of a long and beautiful contem-
plative passage: "In the primaeval age, a dateless while,"
etc., on the pastoral origin of human society. It is as
though some sweet and solemn strain of organ music had
succeeded to the blast of war-bugles and the roll of drums.
In the Ode to the Departing Year, written in the last days
of 1796, with its "prophecy of curses though I pray fer-
vently for blessings " upon the poet's native country, the
mood is more uniform in its gloom ; and it lacks some-
thing, therefore, of those peculiar qualities which make
the Religious Musings one perhaps of the most pleasing
of all Coleridge's earlier productions. But it shares with
the poems shortly to be noticed what may be called the
autobiographic charm. The fresh, natural emotion of a
young and brilliant mind is eternally interesting, and Cole-



II.] EARLY POEMS. 27

ridge's youthful Muse, with a frankness of self-disclosure
which is not the less winning because at times it provokes
a smile, confides to us even the history of her most tem-
porary moods. It is, for instance, at once amusing and
captivating to read in the latest edition of the poems, as
a fool-note to the lines —

" Not yet enslaved, not wholly vile,
O Albion ! my mother isle !"
the words —

"0 doomed to fall, enslaved and vile — 179C."

Yes; in 179G and till the end of 1797 the poet's native
country toas in his opinion all these dreadful things; but
directly the mood changes, the verse alters, and to the ad-
vantage, one cannot but think, of the beautiful and often-
quoted, close of the passage —

" And Ocean 'mid his uproar wild
Speaks safety to his island child.

Hence for many a fearless age
Has social Quiet loved thy shore,
Nor ever proud invader's rage,
Or sacked thy towurs or stained thy fields with gore."

And whether we view him in his earlier or his later mood
there is a certain strange dignity of utterance, a singular
confidence in his own poetic mission, which forbids us to
smile at this prophet of fonr-and-twenty who could thus
conclude his menacing vaticinations :

" Away, my soul, away !
I, unpartaking of the evil thing.

With daily prayer and daily toil

Soliciting for food ray scanty soil,
Have wailed my country with a loud lament.
Now I recentre my immortal mind

In the deep Sabbath of meek self-content.



28 COLERIDGE. [chap.

Cleansed from the vaporous passions which bedim
God's image, sister of the Serapliim."

If ever the consciousness of great powers and the assur-
ance of a great future inspired a youth with perfect and
on the whole well-warranted fearlessness of ridicule it has
surely done so here.

Poetry alone, however, formed no sufficient outlet for
Coleridge's still fresh political enthusiasm — an enthusiasm
which now became too importunate to let him rest in his
quiet Clevedon cottage. Was it right, he cries in his lines
of leave-taking to his home, that he should dream away
the entrusted hours " while his unnumbered brethren toiled
and bled?" The propaganda of Liberty was to be pushed
forward ; the principles of Unitarianism, to which Cole-
ridge had become a convert at Cambridge, were to be
preached. Is it too prosaic to add that what poor Henri
Murger calls the "chasse aux pieces de cent sous" was in
all probability demanding peremptorily to be resumed?

Anyhow it so fell out that in the spring of the year 1796
Coleridge took his first singular plunge into the unquiet
waters of journalism, instigated thereto by " sundry phi-
lanthropists and anti-polemists," whose names he does not
record, but among whom we may conjecturally place Mr.
Thomas Poole of Stowey, with whom he had formed what
was destined to be one of the longest and closest friend-
ships of his life. Which of the two parties — the advisers
or the advised — was responsible for the general plan of
this periodical and for the arrangements for its publica-
tion is unknown ; but one of these last-mentioned details
is enough to indicate that there could have been no " busi-
ness liead " among them. Considering that the motto of
the Watchman declared the object of its issue to be that
"all might know the truth, and that thetrulh might make



II.] THE WATCHMAN. 29

ttem free," it is to be presumed that the promoters of the
scheme were not unwilUng to secure as many subscribers
as possible for their sheet of " thirty-two pages, large oc-
tavo, closely printed, price only fourpence." In order, how-
ever, to exempt it from the stamp-tax, and with the much
less practical object of making it "contribute as little as
possible to the supposed guilt of a war against freedom,"
it was to be published on every eighth day, so that the week-
day of its appearance would of course vary with each suc-
cessive week — an arrangement as ingeniously calculated to
irritate and alienate its public as any perhaps that the wit
of man could have devised. So, however, it was to be, and
accordingly, with "a flaming prospectus, 'Knowledge is
Power,' to cry the state of the political atmosphere," Cole-
ridge set off on a tour to the north, from Bristol to Shef-
field, for the purpose of procuring customers, preaching
Unitarian sermons by the way in most of the great towns,
" as an hireless volunteer in a blue coat and white waist-
coat, that not a rag of the woman of Babylon might bo
seen on me." How he sped upon his mission is related by
him with infinite humour in ihc Biographia Literaria. He
opened the campaign at Birmingham upon a Calvinist tal-
low - chandler, who, after listening to half an hour's ha-
rangue, extending from "the captivity of the nations" to
"the' near approach of the millennium," and winding up
with a quotation describing the latter "glorious state" out
of the Religious Musings, inquired what might be the cost
of the new publication. Deeply sensible of " the anti-cli-
max, the abysmal bathos " of the answer, Coleridge replied,
" Only fourpence, each number to be published every eighth
day," upon which the tallow-chandler observed doubt-
fully that that came to " a deal of money at the end of
the year." What determined him, however, to withhold



30 COLERIDGE. [chap

his patronage was not the price of the article but its quan<
tity, and not the deficiency of that quantity but its excess.
Thirty-two pages, he pointed out, was more than he ever
read all the year round, and though " as great a one as any
man in Brummagem for liberty and truth, and them sort
of things, he begged to be excused." Had it been possi-
ble to arrange for supplying him with sixteen pages of the
paper for twopence, a bargain might no doubt have been
struck ; but he evidently had a business-like repugnance to
anything in the nature of " over-trading." Equally unsuc-
cessful was a second application made at Manchester to
a "stately and opulent wholesale dealer in cottons," who
thrust the prospectus into his pocket and turned his back
upon the projector, muttering that he was " overrun with
these articles." This, however, was Coleridge's last attempt
at canvassing. His friends at Birmingham persuaded him
to leave that work to others, their advice being no doubt
prompted, in part at least, by the ludicrous experience of
his qualifications as a canvasser which the following inci-
dent furnished them. The same tradesman who had intro-
duced him to the patriotic tallow-chandler entertained him
at dinner, and, after the meal, invited his guest to smoke a
pipe with him and " two or three other illuminati of the
same rank." The invitation was at first declined, on the
plea of an engagement to spend the evening with a minis-
ter and his friends, and also because, writes Coleridge, "I
had never smoked except once or twice in my lifetime, and
then it was herb-tobacco mixed with Oronooko." His host,
however, assured him that the tobacco was equally mild,
and " seeing, too, that it was of a yellow colour," he took
half a pipe of it, " filling the lower half of the bowl," for
some unexplained reason, " with salt." He was soon,
however, compelled to resign it "in consequence of a



II.] THE WATCHMAN. 31

giddiness, and distressful feeling" in bis eyes, which, as
he had drunk but a single glass of ale, he knew must
have been the effect of the tobacco. Deeming himself re-
covered after a short interval, he sallied forth to fulfil the
evening's engagement; but the symptoms returned with
the walk and the fresh air, and he had scarcely entered the
minister's drawing-room and opened a packet of letters
awaiting him there than he " sank back on the sofa in a
sort of swoon rather than sleep." Fortunately he had had
time to inform his new host of the confused state of his
feelings and of its occasion ; for " here and thus I lay," he
continues, " my face like a wall that is whitewashing,
deathly pale, and with the cold drops of perspiration run-
ning down it from my forehead ; while one after another
there dropped in the different gentlemen who had been in-
vited to meet and spend the evening with me, to the num-
ber of from fifteen to twenty. As the poison of tobacco
acts but for a short time, I at length awoke from insensi-
bility and looked round on the party, my eyes dazzled by
the candles, which had been lighted in the interim. By
way of relieving my embarrassment one of the gentlemen
began the conversation with, 'Have you seen a paper to-
day, Mr. Coleridge V ' Sir,' I replied, rubbing my eyes, ' I
am far from convinced that a Christian is permitted to
read either newspapers or any other works of merely po-
litical and temporary interest.' " The incongruity of this
remark, with the purpose for which the speaker was known
to have visited Birmingham, and to assist him in which
the company had assembled, produced, as was natural,
"an involuntary and general burst of laughter," and the
party spent, we are told, a most delightful evening. Both
then and afterwards, however, they all joined in dissuading
the young projector from proceeding with his scheme, as-



32 COLERIDGE. [chap.

suring him " in the most friendly and yet most flattering
expressions" that the employment was neither fit for him
nor he for the employment. They insisted that at any
rate " he should make no more applications in person, but
carry on the canvass by proxy," a stipulation which we
may well believe to have been prompted as much by policy
as by good nature. The same hospitable reception, the
same dissuasion, and, that failing, the same kind exertions
on his behalf, he met with at Manchester, Derby, Notting-
ham, and every other place he visited ; and the result of
his tour was that he returned with nearly a thousand
names on the subscription list of the Watchman, togetlicr
with " something more than a half conviction that pru-
dence dictated the abandonment of the scheme." Nothing
but this, however, was needed to induce him to persevere
with it. To know that a given course of conduct was the
dictate of prudence was a sort of presumptive proof to
him at this period of life that the contrary was the dictate
of duty. In due time, or rather out of due time — for the
publication of the first number was delayed beyond the
day announced for it — the Watchinan appeared. Its ca-
reer was brief — briefer, indeed, than it need have been.
A naturally short life was suicidally shortened. In the
second number, records Coleridge, with delightful naivete,
"an essay against fast-days, with a most censurable appli-
cation of a text from Isaiah' for its motto, lost me near
five hundred subscribers at one blow." In the two follow-
ing numbers he made enemies of all his Jacobin and dem-
ocratic patrons by playing Balaam to the legislation of
the Government, and pronouncing something almost like
a blessing on the "gagging bills" — measures he declared

' " WliM'eforc iny bowolrf sliiill ?ouiul like an liarp." — Ts xvi. 11.



II.] TUE WATCHMAN. 33

which, " whatever the motive of their introduction, would
produce an effect to be desired by all true friends of free-
dom, as far as they should contribute to deter men from
openly declaiming on subjects the principles of which they
had never bottomed, and from pleading to the poor and
ignorant instead of pleading for them." Aj the same
time the editor of the Watchman avowed his conviction
that national education and a concurring spread of the
Gospel were the indispensable conditions of any true po-
litical amelioration. We can hardly wonder on the whole
that by the time the seventh number was published its pred-
ecessors were being " exposed in sundry old iron shops at
a penny a piece."

And yet, like everything Avhich came from Coleridge's
hand, this immature and unpractical production has an
interest of its own. Amid the curious mixture of actuali-
ty and abstract disquisition of which each number of the
Watchman is made up, we are arrested again and again by
some striking metaphor or some weighty sentence which
tells us that the writer is no mere wordy wicldcr of a facile
pen. The paper on the slave trade in the seventh number
is a vigorous and, in places, a heart-stirring appeal to the
humane emotions. There are passages in it which fore-
shadow Coleridge's more mature literary manner — the
• manner of the great pulpit orators of the seventeenth cen-
tury — in a very interesting way.* But what was the use

' Take for instance this sentence : " Our own sorrows, like the
Princes of Hell in Milton's Pandemonium, sit enthroned 'bulky and
vast;' while the miseries of our fellow-creatures dwindle into pigmy
forms, and are crowded in an innumerable multitude into some dark
corner of the heart." Both in character of imagery and in form of
structure we have here tlic germ of such passages as this, which one
might confidently defy the most accomplished literary " taster " to



34 COLERIDGE. [chap.

of No. IV, containing an effective article like this when
No. III. had opened with an " Historical Sketch of the
Mannei's and Religion of the Ancient Germans, introduc-
tory to a sketch of the Manners, Religion, and Politics of
present Germany ?" This to a public who wanted to read
about Napoleon and Mr. Pitt ! No. III. in all probability
"choked off" a good proportion of the commonplace
readers who might have been well content to have put up
with the humanitarian rhetoric of No. IV., if only for its
connection with so unquestionably an actuality as West
Indian sugar. It was, anyhow, owing to successive aliena-
tions of this kind that on 13th May, 1796, the editor of
the Watchman was compelled to bid farewell to his few
remaining readers in the tenth number of his periodical,
for the " short and satisfactory " reason that " the work
does not pay its expenses." " Part of my readers," con-
tinues Coleridge, " relinquished it because it did not con-
tain sufficient original composition, and a still larger part
because it contained too much ;" and he then proceeds
with that half-humorous simplicity of his to explain what
excellent reasons there were why the first of these classes
sliould transfer their patronage to Flower's Cambridge In-
telligencer, and the second theirs to the New Monthly
Magazine.

It is not, however, for the biographer or the world to
regret the short career of the Watchman, since its decease
left Coleridge's mind in undivided allegiance to the poetic
impulse at what was destined to be the period of its great-
distinguish from Jeremy Taylor: " Or like two rapid streams that at
their first meeting within narrow and rocky banks mutually strive to
repel each other, and intermix reluctantly and in tumult, but soon
finding a wider channel and more yielding shores, blend and dilate
and flow on in one current and with one voice." — Biog. Lit. p. 155.



II.] RETIREMENT TO STOWEY. 35

est power. In the meantime one result of the episode had
been to make a not unimportant addition to his friend-
ships. Mention has already been made of his somewhat
earlier acquaintance with Mr. Thomas Poole, of Nether
Stowey, a man of high intellio-ence and mark in his time ;
and it was in the course of his northern peregrinations in
search of subscribers that he met with Charles Lloyd.
This young man, the son of an eminent Birmingham
banker, was so struck with Coleridge's genius and elo-
quence as to conceive an " ardent desire to domesticate
himself permanently with a man whose conversation was
to him as a revelation from heaven ;" and shortly after the
decease of the Watchman he obtained his parents' consent
to the arrangement.

Early, therefore, in the year 1797 Coleridge, accom-
panied by Charles Lloyd, removed to Nether Stowey in
Somersetshire, where he occupied a cottage placed at his
disposal by Mr. Poole. His first employment in his new
abode appears to have been the preparation of the second
edition of his poems. In the new issue nineteen pieces of
the former publication were discarded and twelve new
ones added, the most important of which was the Ode to
the Dejjartiuff Year, which had first appeared in the Cam-
bridge Intelligencer, and had been immediately afterwards
republished in a separate form as a thin quarto pamphlet,
together with some lines of no special merit " addressed
to a young man of fortune" (probably Charles Lloyd),
" who abandoned himself to an indolent and causeless
melancholy." To the new edition were added the preface
already quoted from, and a prose introduction to the son-
nets. The volume also contained some poems by Charles
Lloyd and an enlarged collection of sonnets and other
pieces by Charles Lamb, the latter of w-hom about the



36 COLERIDGE. [chap. ii.

time of its publication paid bis first visit to tbe friend
witb ■wbom, ever since leaving Cbrist's Hospital, be bad
kept up a constant and, to tbe student of literature, a most
interesting correspondence.* In June, lV97, Charles and
Mary Lamb arrived at tbe Stowey cottage to find tbeir
host disabled by an accident which prevented him from
walking during their whole stay. It was during their
absence on a walking expedition that he composed tbe
pleasing lines,

" The lime-tree bower my prison,"

in which he thrice applies to bis friend that epithet which
gave such humorous annoyance to the gentle -hearted
Charles." '

But a greater than Lamb, if one may so speak without
offence to tbe votaries of that rare humorist and exquisite
critic, had already made his appearance on the scene.
Some time before this visit of Lamb's to Stowey Cole-
ridge had made tbe acquaintance of tbe remarkable man
who was destined to influence his literary career in many
ways importantly, and in one way decisively. It was in
tbe month of June, 1797, and at tbe village of Racedown
in Dorsetshire, that he fir.st met William Wordsworth.

' Perhaps a " correspondence " of which only one side exists may
be hardly thought to deserve that name. Lamb's letters to Coleridge
are full of valuable criticism on their respective poetical efforts. Un-
fortunately in, it is somewhat strangely said, " a fit of dejection," he
destroyed all Coleridge's letters to him.

' Lamb's Correspondence with Coleridge, Letter XXXVIL



M^



CHAPTER III.

COLERIDGE AND WORDSWORTn. —PUBLICATION OF THE "LYRI-
CAL BALLADS." — THE "ANCIENT MARINER." — THE FIRST
PART OF "CIIRISTABEL." — DECLINE OF COLERIDGE'S POETIC
UIPULSE. — FINAL REVIEW OF HIS POETRY.

[1797-1799.]

The years 1797 and 1798 are generally and justly regarded
as the blossoming -time of Coleridge's poetic genius. It
would be scarcely an exaggeration to say that they were
even more than this, and that within the brief period cov-
ered by them is included not only the development of the
poet's powers to their full maturity but the untimely be-
ginnings of their decline. For to pass from the poems
written by Coleridge within these two years to those of
later origin is like passing from among the green wealth
of summer foliage into the well-nigh naked woods of later
autumn. During 1797 and 1798 the Ancient Mari7ier, the
first part of Christabel, the fine ode to France, the Fears
in Solitude, the beautiful lines entitled Frost at Mid-
niffhtjihc Nightingale, the Circassian Love-Chant, the piece
known as Love, from the poem of the Dark Ladie, and
that strange fragment Kubla Khan, were all of them writ-
ten and nearly all of them published ; while betw een the
last composed of these and that swan-song of his dying
Muse, the Dejection, of 1802, there is but one piece to be
added to the list of his greater works. This, therefore, the



38 COLERIDGE. [chap.

second part of Christahel (1800), may almost be described
by the picturesque image in the first part of the same


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