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PREFACE TO THE POEMS.
As a chronological arrangement of Poetry in completed collections is now beginning to find general favour, pains have been taken to follow this method in the present Edition of S. T. Coleridge's Poetical and Dramatic Works, as far as circumstances permitted - that is to say, as far as the date of composition of each poem was ascertainable, and as far as the plan could be carried out without effacing the classes into which the Author had himself distributed his most important poetical publication, the “Sibylline Leaves," namely, POEMS OCCASIONED BY POLITICAL EVENTS, OR FEELINGS CONNECTED WITH THEM; LOVE POEMS; MEDITATIVE POEMS IN BLANK VERSE; ODES AND MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. count of these impediments, together with the fact, that many a poem, such as it appears in its ultimate form, is the growth of different periods, the agreement with chronology in this Edition is approximative rather than perfect; yet in the majority of instances the date of each piece has been made out, and its place fixed accordingly.
In another point of view, also, the Poems have been distributed with relation to time : they are thrown into three broad groups, representing first the Youth, — secondly, the Early Manhood and Middle Life, — thirdly, the Declining Age of the Poet ; * and it will be readily perceived that each division has its own distinct tone and colour, corresponding to the period of life in which it was composed. It has been suggested, indeed,t that Coleridge had four poetical epochs, more or less diversely characterized,- that there is a discernible difference betwixt the productions of his Early Manhood and of his Middle Age, the latter being distinguished from those of his Stowey life, which may be considered as his poetic prime, by a less buoyant spirit. Fire they have; but it is not the clear, bright, mounting fire of his earlier poetry, conceived and executed when “he and youth were housemates still.” In the course of a very few years after three-and-twenty all his very finest poems were produced; his twenty-fifth year has been called his annus mirabilis. To be a “ Prodigal's favourite then, worse truth ! Miser's pensioner,” I is the lot of Man. In re
* S. T. Coleridge was born Oct. 21, 1772, and died July 25, 1834.
† See Supplement to the Second Edition of the Biographia Literaria, vol. ii. p. 417.
| Wordsworth's Poetical Works, vol. v. p. 294. The Small Celandine. See motto to the last section.
spect of poetry, Coleridge was a “Prodigal's favourite,” more, perhaps, than ever Poet was before.
1. The Juvenile Poems (now called Poems written in Youth,) so named by the Author himself when he had long ceased to be juvenile, were first published in 1796. The second edition, which appeared in May, 1797, omitted nineteen pieces of the previous publication, and added eleven new. The volume, says Mr. H. N. Coleridge, in a note to the Biographia Literaria, comprised poems by Lamb and Lloyd, and on the title-page was printthe prophetic aspiration :-" Duplex nobis vinculum, et amicitiæ junctarumque Camænarum, quod utinam neque mors solvat ; neque temporis longinquitas.” *
In the London edition of 1803, fifty-two of the pieces, contained in the first and second, were again presented to the public, but what is now difficult to account for, unaccompanied by many fine poems which were undoubtedly written by that time, but saw not the light till, in 1817, they formed a part of the "Sibylline Leaves,” beside the “ Ancient Mariner," “ The Foster-Mother's Tale” (an off-shoot from “ Remorse," then entitled “Osorio,") and “The Nightingale: a Conversation Poem,” which entered the world along with the afterwards celebrated and ever immor
Biographia Literaria, 2d edit. vol. i. p. 4.
tal “ Lyrical Ballads ” of William Wordsworth. Only thirty-six of the Juvenile Poems were included in the collection of Coleridge's “ Poetical and Dramatic Works,” published by Mr. Pickering in 1828. These all produced before the Author's twenty-fourth year, devoted as he was to the “ soft strains” of Bowles, have more in common with the passionate lyrics of Collins and the picturesque wildness of the pretended Ossian, than with the well-tuned sentimentality of that Muse which the over-grateful poet has represented as his earliest inspirer. For the young they will ever retain a peculiar charm, because so fraught with the joyous spirit of youth; and in the minds of all readers that feeling which disposes men " to set the bud above the rose full-blown” would secure them an interest, even if their intrinsic beauty and sweetness were less adequate to obtain it.
2. Poems of Early Manhood are “ The Ancient Mariner,” “ The Wanderings of Cain,” “ Kubla Khan," " Christabel,” Part I. The “Sibylline Leaves” of 1817 comprises many minor poems of the same date as those just mentioned, and likewise another set, which must be referred to Middle Life, that collection extending from 1796 to the time of publication. The second part of “ Christabel” we know, on the Poet's own authority, to have been composed in 1800; it therefore occupies an intermediate station between the two eras.