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SPECIMENS OF HIS TABLE-TALK.
Mr. Coleridge visited Cambridge upon occasion of the Scientific
Meeting there, in June, 1833. “ My emotions at visiting the university,” he said, were at first overwhelming. I could not speak for an hour; yet my feelings were upon the whole very pleasurable, and I have not passed, of late years at least, three days of such great enjoyment and healthful excitement of mind and body.”—Note to the Table-Talk.
Thou who rewardest but with popular breath,
HE is gone from amongst us! After a painful and dreary voyage, though cheered by one STAR, which no tempest can overcloud, the ANCIENT MARINER hath reached the haven where he would be. He is
from amongst us! but never let it be said, that the place thereof knows him no
The old man, eloquent still, haunts the courts of " dear, dear Jesus;" his rooms are still to be seen by the gateway of the College, and to many a youthful heart in those academic bowers will long be consecrated by his virtue, his piety, and his learning.
To one, who, like myself, has been an attentive observer of our literature during the last thirty years, the history of Coleridge offers no flattering testimony of popular taste. Throughout à life which, if intellectually considered, was certainly characterized by unwearied diligence and activity, he was, in the common sense of the term, an unsuccessful author, as he pleasantly observed, better known to his bookseller than to the public. The eloquence of his prose, the music of his poetry, fell equally unheeded on the national ear. The humblest hurdy-gurdy that ever called forth an execration, obtained a more generous reward than the dulcimer of “the Abyssinian Maid.” A change seems now gradually coming over the spirit of the dream. His poems are selling, the crumbs are gathered from his table, and an edition of his Remains announced to be in preparation, under the superintendence of one whose taste can discover their beauties, and whose eloquence can defend them.
But I am wandering from Coleridge's visit to Cambridge,-and who that was present will ever forget that evening, under the clock at Trinity*, which witnessed a symposium from which Plato himself might have carried something away? The remembrance even now creeps over the mind like a Summer Night's Dream.
* Mr. Thirlwall's Rooms.
While lingering the other day over the recently published specimens of Coleridge's Table -Talk, it occurred to me, that I might also be able to contribute something to that heap of treasure, though the fragments would be far less pure and precious. They only who have been in the society of the poet, can make adequate allowances for the deficiencies of his reporter. Of all the eminent men with whom it has been my fortune to be associated, his conversations were the most difficult to preserve. You went away with a few links, and thought you had the chain. Conversations, indeed, become misnomer when applied to Coleridge. They were rather a series of monologues ; episodes delivered before an audience. Yet, who would wish to 'punctuate,' by a single question, that rich and musical discourse, or interrupt the stream of variegated thoughts which flowed from that Mouth of Gold? What appeared to the common or inattentive listener to be tedious and useless digressions, were, in reality, only so many winding steps to the wide and comprehensive view of the subject; and who, that has climbed with this venerable guide to the summit of his lofty arguments, ever regretted the weariness of the ascent, or did not think the labour amply repaid by the glorious prospect spread out before him?
Boswell would have found his occupation gone at
1 f 1
Highgate. The genius of Coleridge very rarely broke out in those flashes of poignant satire and eloquence, that taught men to tremble before the Lion of Bolt-court. It is true of a sentence, as of a serpent,—the shorter it is the sharper its sting. Coleridge, from the poetical and peculiar turn of his mind, was accustomed to run into prolixity, and hence his argument often grew weak at the point. For this reason I never regarded him, notwithstanding his skill in logic, as a successful disputant; he fought well at a distance, but seemed to shrink from close combat, and to think more of the splendour of his weapons than of their temper. He would have stood little chance with Warburton's club.
The poet's editor and kinsman has met this objection with great spirit, in his affectionate preface; and, in fact, it only amounts to saying,—that Coleridge was not Johnson. He was equally admirable, in a different manner. There is nothing in Boswell finer than the comparison of Kean's unequal acting to reading Shakspeare by flashes of lightning. It is a magnificent simile.
The following specimens were written down while the voice of the poet was ringing in my ears; and some snatches of the original melody are therefore, I hope, retained in the transcription.
MILTON, NEWTON, AND HALE.
How the heart opens at the magic name of Milton! yet who shall, in our day, hang another garland upon his tomb ? Eloquence has exhausted its treasures in his praise, and men of genius have rivalled each other in the splendour of their offerings at the shrine of the Bard. He has long ago taken his seat with Homer and with Shakspeare, one of the Poets of the World.
It belongs only to the noblest intellect thus to identify itself with all nations, and to find countrymen wherever the spirit of humanity dwells. Into the remotest seclusion of the civilized world, the voice of the “old man eloquent” has penetrated. Even the lone Icelander, placed
Far amid the melancholy main, has listened in his own tongue to the Story of Paradise. As a poet, his genius was universal. He has left us models of excellence in every branch of his art. In the sublime epic, the noble drama, the picturesque mask, the graceful elegy, the vigorous sonnet,-in all he is equally great, equally beyond the reach of rivalry. His genius ripened with his years; and every poem he wrote was a step of purer gold to his Temple of Fame. His element was sublimity,—but he possessed, in an