Imágenes de páginas

Me longus silendi
Edit amor, facilesque luctus
Hausiť medullas. Fugerit ocyus,
Simul negantem visere jusseris
Aures amicorum, et loquacem

Questibus evacuaris iram.

Olim querendo desinimus queri;
Ipsoque fletu lacryma perditur :
Nec fortis” æque, si per omnes

Cura volat residetque ramos.

Vires amicis perdit in auribus,
Minorque semper dividitur dolor,
Per multa permissus vagari


I shall not make this an excuse, however, for troubling my readers with any complaints or explanations, with which, as readers, they have little or no concern. It may suffice (for the present at least) to declare, that the causes that have delayed the publication of these volumes for so long a period after they had been printed off, were not connected with any neglect of my own; and that they would form an instructive comment on the chapter concerning authorship as a trade, addressed to young men of genius in the early part of this work. I remember the ludicrous effect produced on my mind by the first sentence of an auto-biography, which, happily for the writer, was as meagre in incidents as it is well possible for the life of an individual to be--" The eventful life which I am about to record, from the hour in which I rose into existence on this planet,” &c. Yet when, notwithstanding this warning example of self-importance before me, I review my own life, I cannot refrain from applying the same epithet to it, and with more than ordinary emphasisand no private feeling, that affected myself only, should prevent me from pablishing the same (for write it I assuredly shall, should life and leisure be granted me), if continued reflection should strengthen my present belief, that my history would add its contingent to the enforcement of one important truth, to wit, that we

Flectit, or if the metre had allowed, premit would have supported the metaphor better.

must not only love our neighbors as ourselves, but ourselves like wise as our neighbors; and that we can do neither unless we love God above both.

Who lives, that's not
Depraved or depraves ? Who dies, that bears
Not one spurn to the grave-of their friends' gift 73

Strange as the delusion may appear, yet it is most true, that three years ago I did not know or believe that I had an enemy in the world : and now even my strongest sensations of gratitude are mingled with fear, and I reproach myself for being too often disposed to ask,-Have I one friend ?-During the many years which intervened between the composition and the publication of the CHRISTABEL, it became almost as well known among literary men as if it had been on common sale; the same references were

; made to it, and the same liberties taken with it, even to the very names of the imaginary persons in the poem. From almost all of our most celebrated poets, and from some with whom I had no personal acquaintance, I either received or heard of expressions of admiration that (I can truly say) appeared to myself utterly dis proportionate to a work, that pretended to be nothing more than a common Faery Tale. Many who had allowed no merit to my other poems, whether printed or manuscript, and who have frankly told me as much, uniformly made an exception in favor of the CHRISTABEL and the poem entitled Love. Year after year, and in societies of the most different kinds, I had been entreated to recite it: and the result was still the same in all, and altogether different in this respect from the effect produced by the occasional recitation of any

I had composed. This before the publication. And since then, with very few exceptions, I have heard nothing but abuse, and this too in a spirit of bitterness at least as disproportionate to the pretensions of the poem, had it been the most pitiably below mediocrity, as the previous eulogies, and far more inexplicable. This may serve as a warning to authors, that in their calculations on the probable reception of a poem, they must subtract to a large amount from the panegyrio,

: [Timon of Athens. Act i., sc. ii. “ Their graves” in Shakspeare

other poems

which may have encouraged them to publish it, however unsuspicious and however various the sources of this panegyric may have been. And, first, allowances must be made for private enmity, of the very existence of which they had perhaps enter. tained no suspicion—for personal enmity behind the mask of anonymous criticism : secondly for the necessity of a certain proportion of abuse and ridicule in a Review, in order to make it saleable, in consequence of which, if they have no friends behind the scenes, the chance must needs be against them; but lastly and chiefly, for the excitement and temporary sympathy of feeling, which the recitation of the poem by an admirer, espe. cially if he be at once a warm admirer and a man of acknowledged celebrity, calls forth in the audience. For this is really a species of animal magnetism, in which the enkindling reciter, by perpetual comment of looks and tones, lends his own will and apprehensive faculty to his auditors. They live for the time within the dilated sphere of his intellectual being. It is equally possible, though not equally common, that a reader left to him. self should sink below the poem, as that the poem left to itself should flag beneath the feelings of the reader. But in my own instance, I had the additional misfortune of having been gossiped about, as devoted to metaphysics, and worse than all, to a system incomparably nearer to the visionary flights of Plato, and even to the jargon of the Mystics, than to the established tenets of Locke. Whatever therefore appeared with my name was con. demned beforehand, as predestined metaphysics. In a dramatic poem, which had been submitted by me to a gentleman of great in. Auence in the theatrical world, occurred the following passage:

“O we are querulous creatures! Little less

Than all things can suffice to make us happy:
And little more than nothing is enough
To make us wretched."4

Aye, here now ! (exclaimed the critic) here come Coleridge's netaphysics! And the very same motive (that is, not that the ines were unfit for the present state of our immense theatres ;

* (Coleridge's Poetical Works. S.C]

but that they were metaphysics") was assigned elsewhere for the rejection of the two following passages. The first is spoken in answer to a usurper, who had rested his plea on the circumstance, that he had been chosen by the acclamations of the people.

“ What people ? How convened? or, if convened,

Must not the magic power that charins together
Millions of men in council, needs have power
To win or wield them? Rather, O far rather
Shout forth thy titles to yon circling mountains,
And with a thousand-fold reverberation
Make the rocks flatter thee, and the volleying air,
Unbribed, shout back to thee, King Emerick,
By wholesome laws to embank the sovereign power,
To deepen by restraint, and by prevention
Of lawless will to amass and guide the flood
In its majestic channel, is man's task
And the true patriot's glory! In all else
Men safelier trust to Heaven, than to themselves
When least themselves : even in those whirling crowds
Where folly is contagious, and too oft
Even wise men leave their better sense at home,
To chide and wonder at them, when returned.” 6

The second passage is in the mouth of an old and experienced courtier, betrayed by the man in whom he had most trusted.

“ And yet Sarolta, simple, inexperienced,

Could see him as he was, and often warned me.
Whence learned she this?-0 she was innocent!
And to be innocent is Nature's wisdom !
The fledge-dove knows the prowlers of the air,

6 Poor unlucky Metaphysics ! and what are they? A single sentence expresses the object and thereby the contents of this science. Trwar


Nosce te ipsum, Tuque Deum, quantum licet, inque Deo omnia noscas. Know thyself: and so shalt thou know God, as far as is permitted to a crea. ture, and in God all things.-Surely, there is a strange-nay, rather a too natural--aversion in many to know themselves

* (Coleridge's Poetical Works. S. ]


Feared soon as seen, and flutters back to shelter.
And the young steed recoils upon his haunches,
The never-yet-seen adder's hiss first heard.
O surer than suspicion's hundred eyes
Is that fine sense, which to the pure in heart,
By mere oppugnancy of their own goodness,
Reveals the approach of evil.” ?

As therefore my character as a writer could not easily be more injured by an overt act than it was already in consequence of the report, I published a work, a large portion of which was professedly metaphysical. A long delay occurred between its first annunciation and its appearance ; it was reviewed therefore by anticipation with a malignity, so avowedly and exclusively personal, as is, I believe, unprecedented even in the present contempt of all common humanity that disgraces and endangers the liberty of the press. After its appearance, the author of this

7 [Coleridge's Poetical Works. S. C.]

8 [Political Essays by William Hazlitt, p. 118, et seq. “ It may be proper to notice,” says a note to the Essay on the Lay Sermon, " that this article was written before the Discourse, which it professes to criticise, had appeared in print.” There is some wit in this libel caricature: it is unlike those portraits of my Father, scrawled in the dark, by enemies, who had no sense of his character and genius; but looks like a minute study from life curiously distorted in every part, and with every distortion enormously magnified. Many of these distortions are injurious falsehoods : as for instance : “ He takes his notions of religion from the sublime piety' of Giordano Bruno, and considers a belief in God as a very subor. dinate question to the worship of the three persons of the Trinity. The Thirty-nine Articles and Athanasius's Creed are, upon the same principle, much more fundamental parts of the Christian religion than the miracles or Gospel of Christ. He makes the essence of devotion to consist in Athe. ism, the perfection of moi ality in a total disregard of consequences. He defines Jacobinism to be an abstract attachment to liberty, truth, and justice; and finding that this principle has been abused and carried to excess, he argues that Anti-Jacobinism, or the abstract principles of despotism, superstition, and oppression, are the safe, sure, and undeniable remedy for the former, and the only means of restoring liberty, truth, and justice in the world.” (The italics are mine.)

Any one who compares this rhapsody and the review of the Lay Sermon after its appearance, in the Political Essays, with the article on that production in the Edinburgh Review, must see that they are by the same hand ; only that the Scorner of the Edinburgh is a degree more cold, hard,

« AnteriorContinuar »