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TO THE REVEREND GEORGE COLERIDGE, OF
OTTERY ST. MARY, DEVON.
Notus in fratres animi paterni.
Hor. Carm. Lib. II. 2.
A blessed lot hath he, who having past
His youth and early manhood in the stir
And turmoil of the world, retreats at length,
With cares that move, not agitate the heart,
To the same dwelling where his father dwelt;
And haply views his tottering little ones
Embrace those aged knees and climb that lap,
On which first kneeling his own infancy
Lisp'd its brief prayer. Such, O my earliest friend!
Thy lot, and such thy brothers too enjoy.
At distance did ye climb life's upland road,
Yet cheer'd and cheering: now fraternal love
Hath drawn you to one centre. Be your days
Holy, and blest and blessing may ye live!
To me th’ Eternal Wisdom hath dispens'd
A different fortune and more different mind
Me from the spot where first I sprang to light,
Too soon transplanted, ere my soul had fix'd
Its first domestic loves; and hence through life
Chasing chance-started friendships. A brief while
Some have preserv'd me from life's pelting ills;
But, like a tree with leaves of feeble stem,
If the clouds lasted, or a sudden breeze
Ruffled the boughs, they on my head at once
Dropt the collected shower: and some most false,
False and fair-foliag'd as the manchineel,
Have tempted me to slumber in their shade
E’en mid the storm; then breathing subtlest damps,
Mix'd their own venom with the rain from heaven,
That I woke poison'd! But, all praise to Him
Who gives us all things, more have yielded me
Permanent shelter: and beside one friend,
Beneath th' impervious covert of one oak,
I've rais'd a lowly shed, and know the names
Of husband and of father ; nor unhearing
Of that divine and nightly-whispering voice,
Which from my childhood to maturer years
Spake to me of predestinated wreaths,
Bright with no fading colours !
Yet at times My soul is sad, that I have roam'd through life Still most a stranger, most with naked heart At mine own home and birth-place: chiefly then, When I remember thee, my earliest friend ! Thee, who didst watch my boy-hood and my youth ;
Didst trace my wanderings with a father's eye;
And boding evil, yet still hoping good,
Rebuk'd each fault and wept o'er all my woes.
Who counts the beatings of the lonely heart,
That Being knows how I have lov'd thee ever,
Lov'd as a brother, as a son rever'd thee!
O'tis to me an ever-new delight,
My earger eye glist’ning with mem'ry's tear,
To talk of thee and thine; or when the blast
Of the shrill winter, ratt’ling our rude sash,
Endears the cleanly hearth and social bowl;
Or when, as now, on some delicious eve,
We in our sweet sequester'd orchard-plot
Sit on the tree crook'd earth-ward ; whose old boughs,
That hang above us in an arborous roof,
Stirr'd by the faint gale of departing May
Send their loose blossoms slanting o'er our heads !
Nor dost not thou sometimes recall those hours,
When with the joy of hope thou gav'st thine ear
To my wild firstling lays ? Since then my song
Hath sounded deeper notes, such as beseem
Or that sad wisdom, folly leaves behind,
Or the high raptures of prophetic faith,
Or such, as tun'd to these tumultuous times,
Cope with the tempest's swell!
These various songs, Which I have fram'd in many a various mood, Accept my brother! and (for some perchance
Will strike discordant on thy milder mind)
If aught of error or intemperate truth
Should meet thine ear, think thou that riper age
Will calm it down, and let thy love forgive it!
May 26th, 1797. Nether-Stowey, Somerset.
COMPOSITIONS resembling those of the present volume are not unfrequently condemned for their querulous egotism. But egotism is to be condemned then only when it offends against time and place, as in a history or an epic poem. To censure it in a monody or sonnet is almost as absurd as to dislike a circle for being round. Why then write sonnets or monodies ? Because they give me pleasure when perhaps nothing else could. After the more violent emotions of sorrow, the mind demands amusement, and can find it in employment alone; but full of its late sufferings, it can endure no employment not in some measure connected with them. Forcibly to turn away our attention to general subjects is a painful and most often an unavailing effort:
“But O! how grateful to a wounded heart
The tale of misery to impart-
From others' eyes bid artless sorrows flow,
And raise esteem upon the base of woe!”
Shaw. The communicativeness of our nature leads us to describe our own sorrows; in the endeavour to describe them, intellectual activity is exerted ; and from intellectual activity there results a pleasure, which is gradually associated,