« PreviousContinue »
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw ;
That is but one note of a music ever sweet, yet never cloying.
It ceas'd; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
The stanzas of the poem from which this extract is made (The Ancient Mariner) generally consist of four lines only; but see how the "brook" has carried him on with it through the silence of the night.
I have said a good deal of the versification of Christabel, in the Essay prefixed to this volume, but I cannot help giving a further quotation.
it was a lovely sight to see
Of massy leafless boughs,
To make her gentle vows:
All the weeping eyes of Guido were nothing to that. But I shall be quoting the whole poem. I wish I could; but I fear to trespass upon the bookseller's property. One more passage, however, I cannot resist. The good Christabel had been undergoing a trance in the arms of the wicked witch Geraldine :
A star hath set, a star hath risen,
O Geraldine! since arms of thine
O Geraldine! one hour was thine-
(An appalling fancy)
But now they are jubilant anew,
From cliff and tower tu-whoo! tu-whoo!
And see! the lady Christabel
(This, observe, begins a new paragraph, with a break in the rhyme)
Gathers herself from out her trance;
Grows sad and soft; the smooth thin lids
Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep,
Beauteous in a wilderness,
We see how such a poet obtains his music. Such forms of melody can proceed only from the most beautiful inner spirit of sympathy and imagination. He sympathizes, in his universality, with antipathy itself. If Regan or Goneril had been a young and handsome witch of the times of chivalry, and attuned her
violence to craft, or betrayed it in venomous looks, she could not have beaten the soft-voiced, appalling spells, or sudden, snakeeyed glances of the lady Geraldine,-looks which the innocent Christabel, in her fascination, feels compelled to "imitate."
A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy,
And the lady's eyes they shrank in her head,
Each shrank up to a serpent's eye;
And with somewhat of malice and more of dread,
At Christabel she look'd askance.
The maid devoid of guile and sin
That look, those shrunken serpent eyes,
To this sole image in her mind,
And passively did imitate
That look of dull and treacherous hate.
This is as exquisite in its knowledge of the fascinating tendencies of fear as it is in its description. And what can surpass a line quoted already in the Essay (but I must quote it again!) for very perfection of grace and sentiment?—the line in the passage where Christabel is going to bed, before she is aware that her visitor is a witch.
Quoth Christabel,-So let it be !
Oh! it is too late now; and habit and self-love blinded me at the time, and I did not know (much as I admired him) how great a poet lived in that grove at Highgate; or I would have cultivated its walks more, as I might have done, and endeavored to return him, with my gratitude, a small portion of the delight his verses have given me.
I must add, that I do not think Coleridge's earlier poems at all equal to the rest. Many, indeed, I do not care to read a second time; but there are some ten or a dozen, of which I never tire, and which will one day make a small and precious volume to
put in the pockets of all enthusiasts in poetry, and endure with the language. Five of these are The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan, Genevieve, and Youth and Age. Some, that more personally relate to the poet, will be added for the love of him, not omitting the Visit of the Gods, from Schiller, and the famous passage on the Heathen Mythology, also from Schiller. A short life, a portrait, and some other engravings perhaps, will complete the book, after the good old fashion of Cooke's and Bell's editions of the Poets; and then, like the contents of the Jew of Malta's casket, there will be
Infinite riches in a little room.
LOVE; OR, GENEVIEVE.
All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Are all but ministers of Love,
Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o'er again that happy hour,
The moonlight stealing o'er the scene,
She leant against the armèd man,
The statue of the armèd knight;
Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope! my joy! my Genevieve
The songs that make her grieve.
I play'd a soft and doleful air,
She listen'd with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace, For well she knew I could not choose But gaze upon her face.
I told her of the knight that wore
I told her how he pin'd, and—ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone With which I sang another's love, Interpreted my own.
She listen'd with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace, And she forgave me, that I gaz'd Too fondly on her face!
But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely knight, And that he cross'd the mountain-woods, Nor rested day nor night:
That sometimes from the savage den,
And sometimes from the darksome shade, And sometimes starting up at once In green and sunny glade,
There came and look'd him in the face
And that, unknowing what he did,
And how she wept and claspt his knees; And how she tended him in vain—