« PreviousContinue »
COLERIDGE, for many a studious year I have been
WHOEVER would write becomingly about Coleridge must admire him, and admire him with earnest thankfulness. Sympathy, - so essential to the biographer, aye, and to the full critic, - even a several-sided sympathy, were not enough. The warmth of admiration will enkindle to its tenderest our charity, and admiration and charity, with their united glow, will dissolve into vapor any thoughts on the weaknesses and failures of this remarkable man; so that, if we think of them at all, we think of them only with a plaintive murmur, because through them we have been bereft of some of the harvest we had a right to expect from the healthful growth of such diverse and peerless powers. And even mildest murmur will be hushed, through sympathy with the sufferings his weaknesses caused to
the author and man, our splendent gracious benefactor.
Were there left of Coleridge nothing but Kubla Khan, from this gem one might almost reconstruct, in full brightness, its great author's poetic work, just as the expert zoologist reconstructs the extinct megatherium from a single fossil bone. Of this masterpiece, the chief beauty is not the noted music of the versification, but the range and quality of the imaginings embodied in this music. Were there in these no unearthly breathings, no mysterious grandeur, the verse could not have been made to pulsate so rhythmically. The essence of the melody is in the fineness of the conception, in the poetic imaginations. In this case, as in all cases, the spirit not only controls but creates the body. Metrical talent must be there to handle the molten words as they flow from the furnace of genius, shaping and placing them while still swollen with genial warmth. Genius, the master, cannot do without talent, the servant.
“Five miles meandering with a mazy motion