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Literary Remains (1) by Coleridge

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Eheu! serenum quae nebulae tegunt
Repente caelum! quis sonus imbrium!
Surgamus--heu semper fugaci
Gaudia praeteritura passu!


The solemn-breathing air is ended--
Cease, O Lyre! thy kindred lay!
From the poplar branch suspended,
Glitter to the eye of day!

On thy wires, hov'ring, dying,
Softly sighs the summer wind:
I will slumber, careless lying,
By yon waterfall reclin'd.

In the forest hollow-roaring,
Hark! I hear a deep'ning sound--
Clouds rise thick with heavy low'ring!
See! th' horizon blackens round!

Parent of the soothing measure,
Let me seize thy wetted string!
Swiftly flies the flatterer, pleasure,
Headlong, ever on the wing!

[Footnote 1: The Odes of Casimire translated by G.H. [G. Hils.] London,
1646. 12mo. Ed.]

[Footnote 2: Had Casimir any better authority for this quantity than
Tertullian's line,--

Immemor ille Dei temere committere tale--?

In the classic poets the last syllable is, I believe, uniformly cut off.



Dim Hour! that sleep'st on pillowing clouds afar,
O rise, and yoke the turtles to thy car!
Bend o'er the traces, blame each lingering dove,
And give me to the bosom of my love!
My gentle love! caressing and carest,
With heaving heart shall cradle me to rest;
Shed the warm tear-drop from her smiling eyes,
Lull with fond woe, and med'cine me with sighs;
While finely-flushing float her kisses meek,
Like melted rubies, o'er my pallid cheek.

Chill'd by the night, the drooping rose of May
Mourns the long absence of the lovely day:
Young Day returning at her promised hour,
Weeps o'er the sorrows of the fav'rite flower,--
Weeps the soft dew, the balmy gale she sighs,
And darts a trembling lustre from her eyes.
New life and joy th' expanding flow'ret feels:
His pitying mistress mourns, and mourning heals!


In my calmer moments I have the firmest faith that all things work
together for good. But, alas! it seems a long and a dark process:--


The early year's fast-flying vapours stray
In shadowing trains across the orb of day;
And we, poor insects of a few short hours,
Deem it a world of gloom.
Were it not better hope, a nobler doom,
Proud to believe, that with more active powers
On rapid many-colour'd wing,
We thro' one bright perpetual spring
Shall hover round the fruits and flowers,
Screen'd by those clouds, and cherish'd by those showers!



These, Virtue, are thy triumphs, that adorn
Fitliest our nature, and bespeak us born
For loftiest action;--not to gaze and run
From clime to clime; or batten in the sun,
Dragging a drony flight from flower to flower,
Like summer insects in a gaudy hour;
Nor yet o'er lovesick tales with fancy range,
And cry, ''Tis pitiful,'tis passing strange!'
But on life's varied views to look around,
And raise expiring sorrow from the ground:--
And he--who thus hath borne his part assign'd
In the sad fellowship of human kind,
Or for a moment soothed the bitter pain
Of a poor brother--has not lived in vain.




Tho' Miss----'s match is a subject of mirth
She consider'd the matter full well,
And wisely preferr'd leading one ape on earth
To perhaps a whole dozen in hell.



From Rufa's eye sly Cupid shot his dart,
And left it sticking in Sangrado's heart.
No quiet from that moment has he known,
And peaceful sleep has from his eyelids flown;
And opium's force, and what is more, alack!
His own orations cannot bring it back.
In short, unless she pities his afflictions,
Despair will make him take his own prescriptions.



There comes from old Avaro's grave
A deadly stench;--why, sure, they have
Immured his soul within his grave!



Last Monday all the papers said
That Mr.---- was dead;
Why, then, what said the city?
The tenth part sadly shook their head,
And shaking sigh'd, and sighing said,
"Pity, indeed, 'tis pity!"

But when the said report was found
A rumour wholly without ground,
Why, then, what said the city?
The other nine parts shook their head,
Repeating what the tenth had said,
"Pity, indeed, 'tis pity!"




--nitens, et roboris expers Turget et insolida est: at spe delectat.

Thy smiles I note, sweet early flower,
That peeping from thy rustic bower,
The festive news to earth dost bring,
A fragrant messenger of spring!

But tender blossom, why so pale?
Dost hear stern winter in the gale?
And didst them tempt th' ungentle sky
To catch one vernal glance and die?

Such the wan lustre sickness wears,
When health's first feeble beam appears;
So languid are the smiles that seek
To settle on the care-worn cheek,

When timorous hope the head uprears,
Still drooping and still moist with tears,
If, through dispersing grief, be seen
Of bliss the heavenly spark serene.



This day among the faithful placed,
And fed with fontal manna,
O with maternal title graced
Dear Anna's dearest Anna!--

While others wish thee wise and fair,
A maid of spotless fame,
I'll breathe this more compendious prayer--
May'st thou deserve thy name!

Thy mother's name--a potent spell,
That bids the virtues hie
From mystic grove and living cell
Confess'd to fancy's eye;--

Meek quietness without offence;
Content in homespun kirtle;
True love; and true love's innocence,
White blossom of the myrtle!

Associates of thy name, sweet child!
These virtues may'st thou win;
With face as eloquently mild
To say, they lodge within.

So, when her tale of days all flown,
Thy mother shall be mist here;
When Heaven at length shall claim its own,
And angels snatch their sister;

Some hoary-headed friend, perchance,
May gaze with stifled breath;
And oft, in momentary trance,
Forget the waste of death.

Ev'n thus a lovely rose I view'd,
In summer-swelling pride;
Nor mark'd the bud, that green and rude
Peep'd at the rose's side.

It chanced, I pass'd again that way
In autumn's latest hour,
And wond'ring saw the selfsame spray
Rich with the selfsame flower.

Ah, fond deceit! the rude green bud
Alike in shape, place, name,
Had bloom'd, where bloom'd its parent stud,
Another and the same!



Hoarse Maevius reads his hobbling verse
To all, and at all times;
And finds them both divinely smooth,
His voice, as well as rhymes.

Yet folks say--"Maevius is no ass:"--
But Maevius makes it clear,
That he's a monster of an ass,
An ass without an ear.




Laetus abi! mundi strepitu curisque remotus;
Laetus abi! caeli qua vocat alma quies.
Ipsa Fides loquitur, lacrymamque incusat inanem,
Quae cadit in vestros, care pater, cineres.
Heu! tantum liceat meritos hos solvere ritus,
Et longum tremula dicere voce, Vale!


Depart in joy from this world's noise and strife
To the deep quiet of celestial life!
Depart!--Affection's self reproves the tear
Which falls, O honour'd Parent! on thy bier;--
Yet Nature will be heard, the heart will swell,
And the voice tremble with a last Farewell!


The following poem is intended as the introduction to a somewhat longer
one. The use of the old ballad word 'Ladie' for Lady, is the only piece
of obsoleteness in it; and as it is professedly a tale of ancient times,
I trust that the affectionate lovers of venerable antiquity, as Camden
says, will grant me their pardon, and perhaps may be induced to admit a
force and propriety in it. A heavier objection may be adduced against
the author, that in these times of fear and expectation, when novelties
explode around us in all directions, he should presume to offer to the
public a silly tale of old-fashioned love: and five years ago, I own I
should have allowed and felt the force of this objection. But alas!
explosion has succeeded explosion so rapidly, that novelty itself ceases
to appear new; and it is possible that now, even a simple story, wholly
uninspired with politics or personality, may find some attention amid
the hubbub of revolutions, as to those who have remained a long time by
the falls of Niagara, the lowest whispering becomes distinctly audible.

O leave the lily on its stem;
O leave the rose upon the spray;
O leave the elder-bloom, fair maids!
And listen to my lay.

A cypress and a myrtle-bough
This morn around my harp you twin'd,
Because it fashion'd mournfully
Its murmurs in the wind.

And now a tale of love and woe,
A woful tale of love I sing;
Hark, gentle maidens, hark! it sighs
And trembles on the string.

But most, my own dear Genevieve,
It sighs and trembles most for thee!
O come and hear the cruel wrongs
Befell the Dark Ladie! [1]


And now once more a tale of woe,
A woful tale of love I sing;
For thee, my Genevieve! it sighs,
And trembles on the string.

When last I sang the cruel scorn
That craz'd this bold and lovely knight,
And how he roam'd the mountain-woods,
Nor rested day or night;

I promised thee a sister tale
Of man's perfidious cruelty;
Come, then, and hear what cruel wrong
Befell the Dark Ladie.

[Footnote 1: Here followed the stanzas, afterwards published separately
under the title "Love." (Poet. Works, vol. i. p. 145. Pickering, 1834.)
and after them came the other three stanzas printed above; the whole
forming the introduction to the intended Dark Ladie, of which all that
exists is to be found ibid. p. 150. Ed.]



We ask and urge--(here ends the story!)
All Christian Papishes to pray
That this unhappy Conjuror may,
Instead of Hell, be but in Purgatory,--
For then there's hope;--Long live the Pope!



The butterfly the ancient Grecians made
The soul's fair emblem, and its only name--
But of the soul, escap'd the slavish trade
Of mortal life!--For in this earthly frame
Ours is the reptile's lot, much toil, much blame,
Manifold motions making little speed,
And to deform and kill the things whereon we feed.



How seldom, Friend! a good great man inherits
Honour or wealth, with all his worth and pains!
It sounds like stories from the land of spirits,
If any man obtain that which he merits,
Or any merit that which he obtains.


For shame, dear Friend! renounce this canting strain!
What would'st thou have a good great man obtain?
Place--titles--salary--a gilded chain--
Or throne of corses which his sword hath slain?--
Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends!
Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
The good great man?--three treasures, love and light,
And calm thoughts, regular as infants' breath;--
And three firm friends, more sure than day and night--
Himself, his Maker, and the angel Death.



Composed Before Day-Light on the Morning Appointed for the Departure of
a Very Worthy, But Not Very Pleasant Visitor, Whom It Was Feared The
Rain Might Detain.

I know it is dark; and though I have lain
Awake, as I guess, an hour or twain,
I have not once open'd the lids of my eyes,
But I lie in the dark, as a blind man lies.
O Rain! that I lie listening to,
You're but a doleful sound at best:
I owe you little thanks, 'tis true,
For breaking thus my needful rest!
Yet if, as soon as it is light,
O Rain! you will but take your flight,
I'll neither rail, nor malice keep,
Though sick and sore for want of sleep.

But only now, for this one day,
Do go, dear Rain! do go away!
O Rain! with your dull two-fold sound,
The clash hard by, and the murmur all round!
You know, if you know aught, that we,
Both night and day, but ill agree:
For days, and months, and almost years,
Have limped on through this vale of tears,
Since body of mine, and rainy weather,
Have lived on easy terms together.
Yet if, as soon as it is light,
O Rain! you will but take your flight,
Though you should come again to-morrow,
And bring with you both pain and sorrow;
Though stomach should sicken, and knees should swell--
I'll nothing speak of you but well.
But only now for this one day,
Do go, dear Rain! do go away!

Dear Rain! I ne'er refused to say
You're a good creature in your way.
Nay, I could write a book myself,
Would fit a parson's lower shelf,
Showing, how very good you are.--
What then? sometimes it must be fair!
And if sometimes, why not to-day?
Do go, dear Rain! do go away!

Dear Rain! if I've been cold and shy,
Take no offence! I'll tell you why.
A dear old Friend e'en now is here,
And with him came my sister dear;
After long absence now first met,
Long months by pain and grief beset--
With three dear friends! in truth, we groan
Impatiently to be alone.
We three, you mark! and not one more!
The strong wish makes my spirit sore.
We have so much to talk about,
So many sad things to let out;
So many tears in our eye-corners,
Sitting like little Jacky Horners--
In short, as soon as it is day,
Do go, dear Rain! do go away.

And this I'll swear to you, dear Rain!
Whenever you shall come again,
Be you as dull as e'er you could;
(And by the bye 'tis understood,
You're not so pleasant, as you're good;)
Yet, knowing well your worth and place,
I'll welcome you with cheerful face;
And though you stay'd a week or more,
Were ten times duller than before;
Yet with kind heart, and right good will,
I'll sit and listen to you still;
Nor should you go away, dear Rain!
Uninvited to remain.
But only now, for this one day,
Do go, dear Rain! do go away.



Of a Passage in Ottfried's Metrical Paraphrase of the Gospels.

"This Paraphrase, written about the time of Charlemagne, is by no means
deficient in occasional passages of considerable poetic merit. There is
a flow, and a tender enthusiasm in the following lines (at the
conclusion of Chapter V.), which even in the translation will not, I
flatter myself, fail to interest the reader. Ottfried is describing the
circumstances immediately following the birth of our Lord."--'Biog.
Lit.' vol. i. p. 203.

She gave with joy her virgin breast;
She hid it not, she bared the breast,
Which suckled that divinest babe!
Blessed, blessed were the breasts
Which the Saviour infant kiss'd;
And blessed, blessed was the mother
Who wrapp'd his limbs in swaddling clothes,
Singing placed him on her lap,
Hung o'er him with her looks of love,
And soothed him with a lulling motion.

Blessed! for she shelter'd him
From the damp and chilling air;--
Blessed, blessed! for she lay
With such a babe in one blest bed,
Close as babes and mothers lie!
Blessed, blessed evermore,
With her virgin lips she kiss'd,
With her arms, and to her breast,
She embraced the babe divine,
Her babe divine the virgin mother!
There lives not on this ring of earth
A mortal that can sing her praise.
Mighty mother, virgin pure,
In the darkness and the night
For us she bore the heavenly Lord.


"Most interesting is it to consider the effect, when the feelings are
wrought above the natural pitch by the belief of something mysterious,
while all the images are purely natural: then it is that religion and
poetry strike deepest."--'Biog. Lit.' vol. i. p. 204.



Mourn, Israel! Sons of Israel, mourn!
Give utterance to the inward throe,
As wails of her first love forlorn
The virgin clad in robes of woe!

Mourn the young mother snatch'd away
From light and life's ascending sun!
Mourn for the babe, death's voiceless prey,
Earn'd by long pangs, and lost ere won!

Mourn the bright rose that bloom'd and went,
Ere half disclosed its vernal hue!
Mourn the green bud, so rudely rent,
It brake the stem on which it grew!

Mourn for the universal woe,
With solemn dirge and falt'ring tongue;
For England's Lady is laid low,
So dear, so lovely, and so young!

The blossoms on her tree of life
Shone with the dews of recent bliss;--
Translated in that deadly strife
She plucks its fruit in Paradise.

Mourn for the prince, who rose at morn
To seek and bless the firstling bud
Of his own rose, and found the thorn,
Its point bedew'd with tears of blood.

Mourn for Britannia's hopes decay'd;--
Her daughters wail their dear defence,
Their fair example, prostrate laid,
Chaste love, and fervid innocence!

O Thou! who mark'st the monarch's path,
To sad Jeshurun's sons attend!
Amid the lightnings of thy wrath
The showers of consolation send!

Jehovah frowns!--The Islands bow,
And prince and people kiss the rod!
Their dread chastising judge wert Thou--
Be Thou their comforter, O God!



The rose that blushes like the morn
Bedecks the valleys low;
And so dost thou, sweet infant corn,
My Angelina's toe.

But on the rose there grows a thorn
That breeds disastrous woe;
And so dost thou, remorseless corn,
On Angelina's toe.



This way or that, ye Powers above me!
I of my grief were rid--
Did Enna either really love me,
Or cease to think she did.



We pledged our hearts, my love and I,--
I in my arms the maiden clasping;
I could not tell the reason why,
But, oh! I trembled like an aspen.

Her father's love she bade me gain;
I went, and shook like any reed!
I strove to act the man--in vain!
We had exchanged our hearts indeed.



Resembles life what once was deem'd of light,
Too ample in itself for human sight?
An absolute self--an element ungrounded--
All that we see, all colours of all shade
By encroach of darkness made?--
Is very life by consciousness unbounded?
And all the thoughts, pains, joys of mortal breath,
A war-embrace of wrestling life and death?



Now! It is gone.--Our brief hours travel post,
Each with its thought or deed, its Why or How:--
But know, each parting hour gives up a ghost
To dwell within thee--an eternal Now!



Quae linquam, aut nihil, aut nihili, aut vix sunt mea;--
Do Morti;--reddo caetera, Christe! tibi. [sordes.]



There are few families, at present, in the higher and middle classes of
English society, in which literary topics and the productions of the
Fine Arts, in some one or other of their various forms, do not
occasionally take their turn in contributing to the entertainment of the
social board, and the amusement of the circle at the fire side. The
acquisitions and attainments of the intellect ought, indeed, to hold a
very inferior rank in our estimation, opposed to moral worth, or even to
professional and specific skill, prudence, and industry. But why should
they be opposed, when they may be made subservient merely by being
subordinated? It can rarely happen, that a man of social disposition,
altogether a stranger to subjects of taste, (almost the only ones on
which persons of both sexes can converse with a common interest) should
pass through the world without at times feeling dissatisfied with
himself. The best proof of this is to be found in the marked anxiety
which men, who have succeeded in life without the aid of these
accomplishments, shew in securing them to their children. A young man of
ingenuous mind will not wilfully deprive himself of any species of
respect. He will wish to feel himself on a level with the average of the
society in which he lives, though he may be ambitious of distinguishing
himself only in his own immediate pursuit or occupation.

Under this conviction, the following Course of Lectures was planned. The
several titles will best explain the particular subjects and purposes of
each: but the main objects proposed, as the result of all, are the two

1. To convey, in a form best fitted to render them impressive at the
time, and remembered afterwards, rules and principles of sound judgment,
with a kind and degree of connected information, such as the hearers
cannot generally be supposed likely to form, collect, and arrange for
themselves, by their own unassisted studies. It might be presumption to
say, that any important part of these Lectures could not be derived from
books; but none, I trust, in supposing, that the same information could
not be so surely or conveniently acquired from such books as are of
commonest occurrence, or with that quantity of time and attention which
can be reasonably expected, or even wisely desired, of men engaged in
business and the active duties of the world.

2. Under a strong persuasion that little of real value is derived by
persons in general from a wide and various reading; but still more
deeply convinced as to the actual mischief of unconnected and
promiscuous reading, and that it is sure, in a greater or less degree,
to enervate even where it does not likewise inflate; I hope to satisfy
many an ingenuous mind, seriously interested in its own development and
cultivation, how moderate a number of volumes, if only they be
judiciously chosen, will suffice for the attainment of every wise and
desirable purpose; that is, in addition to those which he studies for
specific and professional purposes. It is saying less than the truth to
affirm, that an excellent book (and the remark holds almost equally good
of a Raphael as of a Milton) is like a well chosen and well tended fruit
tree. Its fruits are not of one season only. With the due and natural
intervals, we may recur to it year after year, and it will supply the
same nourishment and the same gratification, if only we ourselves return
to it with the same healthful appetite.

The subjects of the Lectures are indeed very different, but not (in the
strict sense of the term) diverse; they are various, rather than
miscellaneous. There is this bond of connexion common to them all,--that
the mental pleasure which they are calculated to excite is not dependent
on accidents of fashion, place, or age, or the events or the customs of
the day; but commensurate with the good sense, taste, and feeling, to
the cultivation of which they themselves so largely contribute, as being
all in kind, though not all in the same degree, productions of genius.

What it would be arrogant to promise, I may yet be permitted to
hope,--that the execution will prove correspondent and adequate to the
plan. Assuredly, my best efforts have not been wanting so to select and
prepare the materials, that, at the conclusion of the Lectures, an
attentive auditor, who should consent to aid his future recollection by
a few notes taken either during each Lecture or soon after, would rarely
feel himself, for the time to come, excluded, from taking an intelligent
interest in any general conversation likely to occur in mixed society.

'Syllabus of the Course'.

I. January 27, 1818.--On the manners, morals, literature, philosophy,
religion, and the state of society in general, in European Christendom,
from the eighth to the fifteenth century, (that is from A.D. 700, to
A.D. 1400), more particularly in reference to England, France, Italy and
Germany; in other words, a portrait of the so called dark ages of

II. January 30.--On the tales and metrical romances common, for the most
part, to England, Germany, and the north of France, and on the English
songs and ballads, continued to the reign of Charles I. A few selections
will be made from the Swedish, Danish, and German languages, translated
for the purpose by the Lecturer.

III. February 3.--Chaucer and Spenser; of Petrarch; of Ariosto, Pulci,
and Boiardo.

IV. V. VI. February 6, 10, l3.--On the dramatic works of Shakspeare. In
these Lectures will be comprised the substance of Mr. Coleridge's former
courses on the same subject, enlarged and varied by subsequent study and

VII. February l7.--On Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger;
with the probable causes of the cessation of dramatic poetry in England
with Shirley and Otway, soon after the restoration of Charles II.

VIII. February 20.--Of the life and all the works of Cervantes, but
chiefly of his Don Quixote. The ridicule of knight errantry shewn to
have been but a secondary object in the mind of the author, and not the
principal cause of the delight which the work continues to give to all
nations, and under all the revolutions of manners and opinions.

IX. February 24.--On Rabelais, Swift, and Sterne: on the nature and
constituents of genuine Humour, and on the distinctions of the Humorous
from the Witty, the Fanciful, the Droll, and the Odd.

X. February 27.--Of Donne, Dante, and Milton.

XI. March 3.--On the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, and on the romantic
use of the supernatural in poetry, and in works of fiction not poetical.
On the conditions and regulations under which such books may be employed
advantageously in the earlier periods of education.

XII. March 6.--On tales of witches, apparitions, &c. as distinguished
from the magic and magicians of Asiatic origin. The probable sources of
the former, and of the belief in them in certain ages and classes of
men. Criteria by which mistaken and exaggerated facts may be
distinguished from absolute falsehood and imposture. Lastly, the causes
of the terror and interest which stories of ghosts and witches inspire,
in early life at least, whether believed or not.

XIII. March 10.--On colour, sound, and form in Nature, as connected with
poesy: the word "Poesy" used as the generic or class term, including
poetry, music, painting, statuary, and ideal architecture, as its
species. The reciprocal relations of poetry and philosophy to each
other; and of both to religion, and the moral sense.

XIV. March 13.--On the corruptions of the English language since the
reign of Queen Ann, in our style of writing prose. A few easy rules for
the attainment of a manly, unaffected and pure language, in our genuine
mother tongue, whether for the purpose of writing, oratory, or



Mr. Coleridge began by treating of the races of mankind as descended
from Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and therein of the early condition of man in
his antique form. He then dwelt on the pre-eminence of the Greeks in Art
and Philosophy, and noticed the suitableness of polytheism to small
insulated states, in which patriotism acted as a substitute for
religion, in destroying or suspending self. Afterwards, in consequence
of the extension of the Roman empire, some universal or common spirit
became necessary for the conservation of the vast body, and this common
spirit was, in fact, produced in Christianity. The causes of the decline
of the Roman empire were in operation long before the time of the actual
overthrow; that overthrow had been foreseen by many eminent Romans,
especially by Seneca. In fact, there was under the empire an Italian and
a German party in Rome, and in the end the latter prevailed.

He then proceeded to describe the generic character of the Northern
nations, and defined it as an independence of the whole in the freedom
of the individual, noticing their respect for women, and their
consequent chivalrous spirit in war; and how evidently the participation
in the general council laid the foundation of the representative form of
government, the only rational mode of preserving individual liberty in
opposition to the licentious democracy of the ancient republics.

He called our attention to the peculiarity of their art, and showed how
it entirely depended on a symbolical expression of the infinite,--which
is not vastness, nor immensity, nor perfection, but whatever cannot be
circumscribed within the limits of actual sensuous being. In the ancient
art, on the contrary, every thing was finite and material. Accordingly,
sculpture was not attempted by the Gothic races till the ancient
specimens were discovered, whilst painting and architecture were of
native growth amongst them. In the earliest specimens of the paintings
of modern ages, as in those of Giotto and his associates in the cemetery
at Pisa, this complexity, variety, and symbolical character are evident,
and are more fully developed in the mightier works of Michel Angelo and
Raffael. The contemplation of the works of antique art excites a feeling
of elevated beauty, and exalted notions of the human self; but the
Gothic architecture impresses the beholder with a sense of
self-annihilation; he becomes, as it were, a part of the work
contemplated. An endless complexity and variety are united into one
whole, the plan of which is not distinct from the execution. A Gothic
cathedral is the petrefaction of our religion. The only work of truly
modern sculpture is the Moses of Michel Angelo.

The Northern nations were prepared by their own previous religion for
Christianity; they, for the most part, received it gladly, and it took
root as in a native soil. The deference to woman, characteristic of the
Gothic races, combined itself with devotion in the idea of the Virgin
Mother, and gave rise to many beautiful associations.

Mr. C. remarked how Gothic an instrument in origin and character the
organ was.

He also enlarged on the influence of female character on our education,
the first impressions of our childhood being derived from women. Amongst
oriental nations, he said, the only distinction was between lord and
slave. With the antique Greeks, the will of every one conflicting with
the will of all, produced licentiousness; with the modern descendants
from the northern stocks, both these extremes were shut out, to reappear
mixed and condensed into this principle or temper;--submission, but with
free choice,--illustrated in chivalrous devotion to women as such, in
attachment to the sovereign, &c.

[Footnote 1: From Mr. Green's note taken at the delivery. Ed.]



In my last lecture I stated that the descendants of Japhet and Shem
peopled Europe and Asia, fulfilling in their distribution the prophecies
of Scripture, while the descendants of Ham passed into Africa, there
also actually verifying the interdiction pronounced against them. The
Keltic and Teutonic nations occupied that part of Europe, which is now
France, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, &c. They were in general a
hardy race, possessing great fortitude, and capable of great endurance.
The Romans slowly conquered the more southerly portion of their tribes,
and succeeded only by their superior arts, their policy, and better
discipline. After a time, when the Goths,--to use the name of the
noblest and most historical of the Teutonic tribes,--had acquired some
knowledge of these arts from mixing with their conquerors, they invaded
the Roman territories. The hardy habits, the steady perseverance, the
better faith of the enduring Goth rendered him too formidable an enemy
for the corrupt Roman, who was more inclined to purchase the subjection
of his enemy, than to go through the suffering necessary to secure it.
The conquest of the Romans gave to the Goths the Christian religion as
it was then existing in Italy; and the light and graceful building of
Grecian, or Roman-Greek order, became singularly combined with the massy
architecture of the Goths, as wild and varied as the forest vegetation
which it resembled. The Greek art is beautiful. When I enter a Greek
church, my eye is charmed, and my mind elated; I feel exalted, and proud
that I am a man. But the Gothic art is sublime. On entering a cathedral,
I am filled with devotion and with awe; I am lost to the actualities
that surround me, and my whole being expands into the infinite; earth
and air, nature and art, all swell up into eternity, and the only
sensible impression left, is, 'that I am nothing!' This religion, while
it tended to soften the manners of the Northern tribes, was at the same
time highly congenial to their nature. The Goths are free from the stain
of hero worship. Gazing on their rugged mountains, surrounded by
impassable forests, accustomed to gloomy seasons, they lived in the
bosom of nature, and worshipped an invisible and unknown deity. Firm in
his faith, domestic in his habits, the life of the Goth was simple and
dignified, yet tender and affectionate.

The Greeks were remarkable for complacency and completion; they
delighted in whatever pleased the eye; to them it was not enough to have
merely the idea of a divinity, they must have it placed before them,
shaped in the most perfect symmetry, and presented with the nicest
judgment; and if we look upon any Greek production of art, the beauty of
its parts, and the harmony of their union, the complete and complacent
effect of the whole, are the striking characteristics. It is the same in
their poetry. In Homer you have a poem perfect in its form, whether
originally so, or from the labour of after critics, I know not; his
descriptions are pictures brought vividly before you, and as far as the
eye and understanding are concerned, I am indeed gratified. But if I
wish my feelings to be affected, if I wish my heart to be touched, if I
wish to melt into sentiment and tenderness, I must turn to the heroic
songs of the Goths, to the poetry of the middle ages. The worship of
statues in Greece had, in a civil sense, its advantage, and
disadvantage; advantage, in promoting statuary and the arts;
disadvantage, in bringing their gods too much on a level with human
beings, and thence depriving them of their dignity, and gradually giving
rise to scepticism and ridicule. But no statue, no artificial emblem,
could satisfy the Northman's mind; the dark wild imagery of nature,
which surrounded him, and the freedom of his life, gave his mind a
tendency to the infinite, so that he found rest in that which presented
no end, and derived satisfaction from that which was indistinct.

We have few and uncertain vestiges of Gothic literature till the time of
Theodoric, who encouraged his subjects to write, and who made a
collection of their poems. These consisted chiefly of heroic songs, sung
at the Court; for at that time this was the custom. Charlemagne, in the
beginning of the ninth century, greatly encouraged letters, and made a
further collection of the poems of his time, among which were several
epic poems of great merit; or rather in strictness there was a vast
cycle of heroic poems, or minstrelsies, from and out of which separate
poems were composed. The form of poetry was, however, for the most part,
the metrical romance and heroic tale. Charlemagne's army, or a large
division of it, was utterly destroyed in the Pyrenees, when returning
from a successful attack on the Arabs of Navarre and Arragon; yet the
name of Roncesvalles became famous in the songs of the Gothic poets. The
Greeks and Romans would not have done this; they would not have recorded
in heroic verse the death and defeat of their fellow-countrymen. But the
Goths, firm in their faith, with a constancy not to be shaken,
celebrated those brave men who died for their religion and their
country! What, though they had been defeated, they died without fear, as
they had lived without reproach; they left no stain on their names, for
they fell fighting for their God, their liberty, and their rights; and
the song that sang that day's reverse animated them to future victory
and certain vengeance.

I must now turn to our great monarch, Alfred, one of the most august
characters that any age has ever produced; and when I picture him after
the toils of government and the dangers of battle, seated by a solitary
lamp, translating the holy scriptures into the Saxon tongue,--when I
reflect on his moderation in success, on his fortitude and perseverance
in difficulty and defeat, and on the wisdom and extensive nature of his
legislation, I am really at a loss which part of this great man's
character most to admire. Yet above all, I see the grandeur, the
freedom, the mildness, the domestic unity, the universal character of
the middle ages condensed into Alfred's glorious institution of the
trial by jury. I gaze upon it as the immortal symbol of that age;--an
age called indeed dark;--but how could that age be considered dark,
which solved the difficult problem of universal liberty, freed man from
the shackles of tyranny, and subjected his actions to the decision of
twelve of his fellow countrymen? The liberty of the Greeks was a
phenomenon, a meteor, which blazed for a short time, and then sank into
eternal darkness. It was a combination of most opposite materials,
slavery and liberty. Such can neither be happy nor lasting. The Goths on
the other hand said, You shall be our Emperor; but we must be Princes on
our own estates, and over them you shall have no power! The Vassals said
to their Prince, We will serve you in your wars, and defend your castle;
but we must have liberty in our own circle, our cottage, our cattle, our
proportion of land. The Cities said, We acknowledge you for our Emperor;
but we must have our walls and our strong holds, and be governed by our
own laws. Thus all combined, yet all were separate; all served, yet all
were free. Such a government could not exist in a dark age. Our
ancestors may not indeed have been deep in the metaphysics of the
schools; they may not have shone in the fine arts; but much knowledge of
human nature, much practical wisdom must have existed amongst them, when
this admirable constitution was formed; and I believe it is a decided
truth, though certainly an awful lesson, that nations are not the most
happy at the time when literature and the arts flourish the most among

The translations I had promised in my syllabus I shall defer to the end
of the course, when I shall give a single lecture of recitations
illustrative of the different ages of poetry. There is one Northern tale
I will relate, as it is one from which Shakspeare derived that strongly
marked and extraordinary scene between Richard III. and the Lady Anne.
It may not be equal to that in strength and genius, but it is,
undoubtedly, superior in decorum and delicacy.

A Knight had slain a Prince, the lord of a strong castle, in combat. He
afterwards contrived to get into the castle, where he obtained an
interview with the Princess's attendant, whose life he had saved in some
encounter; he told her of his love for her mistress, and won her to his
interest. She then slowly and gradually worked on her mistress's mind,
spoke of the beauty of his person, the fire of his eyes, the sweetness
of his voice, his valour in the field, his gentleness in the court; in
short, by watching her opportunities, she at last filled the Princess's
soul with this one image; she became restless; sleep forsook her; her
curiosity to see this Knight became strong; but her maid still deferred
the interview, till at length she confessed she was in love with
him;--the Knight is then introduced, and the nuptials are quickly

In this age there was a tendency in writers to the droll and the
grotesque, and in the little dramas which at that time existed, there
were singular instances of these. It was the disease of the age. It is a
remarkable fact that Luther and Melancthon, the great religious
reformers of that day, should have strongly recommended for the
education of children, dramas, which at present would be considered
highly indecorous, if not bordering on a deeper sin. From one which they
particularly recommended, I will give a few extracts; more I should not
think it right to do. The play opens with:

Adam and Eve washing and dressing their children to appear before the
Lord, who is coming from heaven to hear them repeat the Lord's Prayer,
Belief, &c. In the next scene the Lord appears seated like a
schoolmaster, with the children standing round, when Cain, who is behind
hand, and a sad pickle, comes running in with a bloody nose and his hat
on. Adam says, "What, with your hat on!" Cain then goes up to shake
hands with the Almighty, when Adam says (giving him a cuff), "Ah, would
you give your left hand to the Lord?" At length Cain takes his place in
the class, and it becomes his turn to say the Lord's Prayer. At this
time the Devil (a constant attendant at that time) makes his appearance,
and getting behind Cain, whispers in his ear; instead of the Lord's
Prayer, Cain gives it so changed by the transposition of the words, that
the meaning is reversed; yet this is so artfully done by the author,
that it is exactly as an obstinate child would answer, who knows his
lesson, yet does not choose to say it. In the last scene, horses in rich
trappings and carriages covered with gold are introduced, and the good
children are to ride in them and be Lord Mayors, Lords, &c.; Cain and
the bad ones are to be made cobblers and tinkers, and only to associate
with such.

This, with numberless others, was written by Hans Sachs. Our simple
ancestors, firm in their faith, and pure in their morals, were only
amused by these pleasantries, as they seemed to them, and neither they
nor the reformers feared their having any influence hostile to religion.
When I was many years back in the north of Germany, there were several
innocent superstitions in practice. Among others at Christmas, presents
used to be given to the children by the parents, and they were delivered
on Christmas day by a person who personated, and was supposed by the
children to be, Christ: early on Christmas morning he called, knocking
loudly at the door, and (having received his instructions) left presents
for the good and a rod for the bad. Those who have since been in Germany
have found this custom relinquished; it was considered profane and
irrational. Yet they have not found the children better, nor the mothers
more careful of their offspring; they have not found their devotion more
fervent, their faith more strong, nor their morality more pure. [2]

[Footnote 1: From Mr. William Hammond's note taken at the delivery. Ed.]

[Footnote 2: See this custom of Knecht Rupert more minutely described in
Mr. Coleridge's own letter from Germany, published in the 2nd vol. of
the 'Friend', p. 320. Ed.; also in the 1st vol. of the 'Bibliographia
Epistolaris', currently also available in .txt and .php form, free for
(text Ed.)]



The last Lecture was allotted to an investigation into the origin and
character of a species of poetry, the least influenced of any by the
literature of Greece and Rome,--that in which the portion contributed by
the Gothic conquerors, the predilections and general tone or habit of
thought and feeling, brought by our remote ancestors with them from the
forests of Germany, or the deep dells and rocky mountains of Norway, are
the most prominent. In the present Lecture I must introduce you to a
species of poetry, which had its birth-place near the centre of Roman
glory, and in which, as might be anticipated, the influences of the
Greek and Roman muse are far more conspicuous,--as great, indeed, as the
efforts of intentional imitation on the part of the poets themselves
could render them. But happily for us and for their own fame, the
intention of the writers as men is often at complete variance with the
genius of the same men as poets. To the force of their intention we owe
their mythological ornaments, and the greater definiteness of their
imagery; and their passion for the beautiful, the voluptuous, and the
artificial, we must in part attribute to the same intention, but in part
likewise to their natural dispositions and tastes. For the same climate
and many of the same circumstances were acting on them, which had acted
on the great classics, whom they were endeavouring to imitate. But the
love of the marvellous, the deeper sensibility, the higher reverence for
womanhood, the characteristic spirit of sentiment and courtesy,--these
were the heir-looms of nature, which still regained the ascendant,
whenever the use of the living mother-language enabled the inspired poet
to appear instead of the toilsome scholar.

From this same union, in which the soul (if I may dare so express
myself) was Gothic, while the outward forms and a majority of the words
themselves, were the reliques of the Roman, arose the Romance, or
romantic language, in which the Troubadours or Love-singers of Provence
sang and wrote, and the different dialects of which have been modified
into the modern Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese; while the language of
the Trouveurs, Trouveres, or Norman-French poets, forms the intermediate
link between the Romance or modified Roman, and the Teutonic, including
the Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and the upper and lower German, as being the
modified Gothic. And as the northernmost extreme of the Norman-French,
or that part of the link in which it formed on the Teutonic, we must
take the Norman-English minstrels and metrical romances, from the
greater predominance of the Anglo-Saxon Gothic in the derivation of the
words. I mean, that the language of the English metrical romance is less
romanized, and has fewer words, not originally of a northern origin,
than the same romances in the Norman-French; which is the more
striking, because the former were for the most part translated from the
latter; the authors of which seem to have eminently merited their name
of Trouveres, or inventors. Thus then we have a chain with two rings or
staples:--at the southern end there is the Roman, or Latin; at the
northern end the Keltic, Teutonic, or Gothic; and the links beginning
with the southern end, are the Romance, including the Provencal, the
Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, with their different dialects, then
the Norman-French, and lastly the English.

My object in adverting to the Italian poets, is not so much for their
own sakes, in which point of view Dante and Ariosto alone would have
required separate Lectures, but for the elucidation of the merits of our
countrymen, as to what extent we must consider them as fortunate
imitators of their Italian predecessors, and in what points they have
the higher claims of original genius. Of Dante, I am to speak elsewhere.
Of Boccaccio, who has little interest as a metrical poet in any respect,
and none for my present purpose, except, perhaps, as the reputed
inventor or introducer of the octave stanza in his 'Teseide', it will be
sufficient to say, that we owe to him the subjects of numerous poems
taken from his famous tales, the happy art of narration, and the still
greater merit of a depth and fineness in the workings of the passions,
in which last excellence, as likewise in the wild and imaginative
character of the situations, his almost neglected romances appear to me
greatly to excel his far famed 'Decameron'. To him, too, we owe the more
doubtful merit of having introduced into the Italian prose, and by the
authority of his name and the influence of his example, more or less
throughout Europe, the long interwoven periods, and architectural
structure which arose from the very nature of their language in the
Greek writers, but which already in the Latin orators and historians,
had betrayed a species of effort, a foreign something, which had been
superinduced on the language, instead of growing out of it; and which
was far too alien from that individualizing and confederating, yet not
blending, character of the North, to become permanent, although its
magnificence and stateliness were objects of admiration and occasional
imitation. This style diminished the control of the writer over the
inner feelings of men, and created too great a charm between the body
and the life; and hence especially it was abandoned by Luther.

But lastly, to Boccaccio's sanction we must trace a large portion of the
mythological pedantry and incongruous paganisms, which for so long a
period deformed the poetry, even of the truest poets. To such an
extravagance did Boccaccio himself carry this folly, that in a romance
of chivalry, he has uniformly styled God the Father Jupiter, our Saviour
Apollo, and the Evil Being Pluto. But for this there might be some
excuse pleaded. I dare make none for the gross and disgusting
licentiousness, the daring profaneness, which rendered the 'Decameron'
of Boccaccio the parent of a hundred worse children, fit to be classed
among the enemies of the human race; which poisons 'Ariosto'--(for that
I may not speak oftener than necessary of so odious a subject, I mention
it here once for all)--which interposes a painful mixture in the humour
of Chaucer, and which has once or twice seduced even our pure-minded
Spenser into a grossness, as heterogeneous from the spirit of his great
poem, as it was alien to the delicacy of his morals.


Born at Arezzo, 1304.--Died 1374.

Petrarch was the final blossom and perfection of the Troubadours. See
Biog. Lit. vol. ii. p.27, &c.





SONNET. 1. Voi, ch' ascoltate, &c.
7. La gola, e 'l sonno, &c.
11. Se la mia vita, &c.
12. Quando fra l'altre, &c.
18. Vergognando talor, &c.
25. Quanto piu m' avvicino, &c.
28. Solo e pensoso, &c.
29. S' io credessi, &c.

CANZ. 14. Si e debile il filo, &c.


BALL. 1. Lassare il velo, &c.
CANZ. 1. Nel dolce tempo, &c.

This poem was imitated by our old Herbert; [2] it is ridiculous in the
thoughts, but simple and sweet in diction.


CANZ. 2. O aspettata in ciel, &c.
9. Gentil mia Donna, &c.

The first half of this ninth canzone is exquisite; and in Canzone 8, the
nine lines beginning:
O poggi, o valli, &c.
to 'cura', are expressed with vigour and chastity.

CANZ. 9.
Daquel di innanzi a me medesmo piacqui,
Empiendo d'un pensier' alto, e soave
Quel core, "ond' hanno i begli occhi la chiave."

Note. O that the Pope would take these eternal keys, which so for ever
turn the bolts on the finest passages of true passion!


CANZ. 1. Che debb' io far? &c.

Very good; but not equal, I think, to Canzone 2,

Amor, se vuoi ch' i' torni, &c.

though less faulty. With the omission of half-a-dozen conceits and
Petrarchisms of 'hooks, baits, flames,' and 'torches', this second
canzone is a bold and impassioned lyric, and leaves no doubt in my mind
of Petrarch's having possessed a true poetic genius.
'Utinam deleri possint sequentia':--

L. 17-19.
--e la soave fiamma
Ch' ancor, lasso! m' infiamma
Essendo spenta, or che fea dunque ardendo?

L. 54-56.
--ov' erano a tutt' ore
Disposti gli ami ov' io fui preso, e l'esca
Ch' i' bramo sempre.

L. 76-79.
--onde l' accese
Saette uscivan d' invisibil foco,
E ragion temean poco;
Che contra 'l ciel non val difesa umana.

And the lines 86, 87.
Poser' in dubbio, a cui
Devesse il pregio di piu laude darsi
--are rather flatly worded.

[Footnote 1: These notes, by Mr. C., are written in a Petrarch in my
possession, and are of some date before 1812. It is hoped that they will
not seem ill placed here. Ed.]

[Footnote 2: If George Herbert is meant, I can find nothing like an
imitation of this canzone in his poems. Ed.]


Born at Florence, 1431.--Died about 1487.

Pulci was of one of the noblest families in Florence, reported to be one
of the Frankish stocks which remained in that city after the departure
of Charlemagne:--

Pulcia Gallorum soboles descendit in urbem,
Clara quidem bello, sacris nec inhospita Musis.

Verino 'De illustrat. Cort. Flor.' III. v. 118.

Members of this family were five times elected to the Priorate, one of
the highest honours of the republic. Pulci had two brothers, and one of
their wives, Antonia, who were all poets:--

Carminibus patriis notissima Pulcia proles;
Quis non hanc urbem Musarum dicat arnicam,
Si tres producat fratres domus una poetas?

'Ib.' II. v. 241.

Luigi married Lucrezia di Uberto, of the Albizzi family, and was
intimate with the great men of his time, but more especially with Angelo
Politian, and Lorenzo the Magnificent. His Morgante has been attributed,
in part at least,[1] to the assistance of Marsilius Ficinus, and by
others the whole has been attributed to Politian. The first conjecture
is utterly improbable; the last is possible, indeed, on account of the
licentiousness of the poem; but there are no direct grounds for
believing it. The 'Morgante Maggiore' [2] is the first proper romance;
although, perhaps, Pulci had the 'Teseide' before him. The story is
taken from the fabulous history of Turpin; and if the author had any
distinct object, it seems to have been that of making himself merry with
the absurdities of the old romancers. The 'Morgante' sometimes makes you
think of Rabelais. It contains the most remarkable guess or allusion
upon the subject of America that can be found in any book published
before the discovery. [3] The well known passage in the tragic Seneca is
not to be compared with it. The 'copia verborum' of the mother
Florentine tongue, and the easiness of his style, afterwards brought to
perfection by Berni, are the chief merits of Pulci; his chief demerit is
his heartless spirit of jest and buffoonery, by which sovereigns and
their courtiers were flattered by the degradation of nature, and the
'impossibilification' of a pretended virtue.

[Footnote: 1 Meaning the 25th canto. Ed.]

[Footnote 2: The 'Morgante' was printed in 1488. Ed.]

[Footnote 3: The reference is, of course, to the following stanzas:--

Disse Astarotte: un error lungo e fioco
Per molti secol non ben conosciuto,
Fa che si dice d' Ercol le colonne,
E che piu la molti periti sonne.
Sappi che questa opinione e vana;
Perche piu oltre navicar si puote,
Pero che l' acqua in ogni parte e piana,
Benche la terra abbi forma di ruote:
Era piu grossa allor la gente humana;
Falche potrebbe arrosirne le gote
Ercule ancor d' aver posti que' segni,
Perche piu oltre passeranno i legni.
E puossi andar giu ne l' altro emisperio,
Pero che al centro ogni cosa reprime;
Si che la terra per divin misterio
Sospesa sta fra le stelle sublime,
E la giu son citta, castella, e imperio;
Ma nol cognobbon quelle genti prime:
Vedi che il sol di camminar s' affretta,
Dove io ti dico che la giu s' aspetta.
E come un segno surge in Oriente,
Un altro cade con mirabil arte,
Come si vede qua ne l' Occidente,
Pero che il ciel giustamente comparte;
Antipodi appellata e quella gente;
Adora il sole e Jupiterre e Marte,
E piante e animal come voi hanno,
E spesso insieme gran battaglie fanno.

C. XXV. st. 228, &c.]


Born in London, 1328.--Died 1400. [1]

Chaucer must be read with an eye to the Norman-French Trouveres, of whom
he is the best representative in English. He had great powers of
invention. As in Shakspeare, his characters represent classes, but in a
different manner; Shakspeare's characters are the representatives of the
interior nature of humanity, in which some element has become so
predominant as to destroy the health of the mind; whereas Chaucer's are
rather representatives of classes of manners. He is therefore more led
to individualize in a mere personal sense. Observe Chaucer's love of
nature; and how happily the subject of his main work is chosen. When you
reflect that the company in the Decameron have retired to a place of
safety from the raging of a pestilence, their mirth provokes a sense of
their unfeelingness; whereas in Chaucer nothing of this sort occurs, and
the scheme of a party on a pilgrimage, with different ends and
occupations, aptly allows of the greatest variety of expression in the


[Footnote 1: From Mr. Green's note. Ed.]


Born in London, 1553.--Died 1599.

There is this difference, among many others, between Shakspeare and
Spenser:--Shakspeare is never coloured by the customs of his age; what
appears of contemporary character in him is merely negative; it is just
not something else. He has none of the fictitious realities of the
classics, none of the grotesquenesses of chivalry, none of the allegory
of the middle ages; there is no sectarianism either of politics or
religion, no miser, no witch,--no common witch,--no astrology--nothing
impermanent of however long duration; but he stands like the yew tree in
Lorton vale, which has known so many ages that it belongs to none in
particular; a living image of endless self-reproduction, like the
immortal tree of Malabar. In Spenser the spirit of chivalry is entirely
predominant, although with a much greater infusion of the poet's own
individual self into it than is found in any other writer. He has the
wit of the southern with the deeper inwardness of the northern genius.

No one can appreciate Spenser without some reflection on the nature of
allegorical writing. The mere etymological meaning of the word,
allegory,--to talk of one thing and thereby convey another,--is too
wide. The true sense is this,--the employment of one set of agents and
images to convey in disguise a moral meaning, with a likeness to the
imagination, but with a difference to the understanding,--those agents
and images being so combined as to form a homogeneous whole. This
distinguishes it from metaphor, which is part of an allegory. But
allegory is not properly distinguishable from fable, otherwise than as
the first includes the second, as a genus its species; for in a fable
there must be nothing but what is universally known and acknowledged,
but in an allegory there may be that which is new and not previously
admitted. The pictures of the great masters, especially of the Italian
schools, are genuine allegories. Amongst the classics, the multitude of
their gods either precluded allegory altogether, or else made every
thing allegory, as in the Hesiodic Theogonia; for you can scarcely
distinguish between power and the personification of power. The 'Cupid
and Psyche' of, or found in, Apuleius, is a phenomenon. It is the
Platonic mode of accounting for the fall of man. The 'Battle of the
Soul' [1] by Prudentius is an early instance of Christian allegory.

Narrative allegory is distinguished from mythology as reality from
symbol; it is, in short, the proper intermedium between person and
personification. Where it is too strongly individualized, it ceases to
be allegory; this is often felt in the 'Pilgrim's Progress', where the
characters are real persons with nick names. Perhaps one of the most
curious warnings against another attempt at narrative allegory on a
great scale, may be found in Tasso's account of what he himself intended
in and by his 'Jerusalem Delivered'.

As characteristic of Spenser, I would call your particular attention in
the first place to the indescribable sweetness and fluent projection of
his verse, very clearly distinguishable from the deeper and more inwoven
harmonies of Shakspeare and Milton. This stanza is a good instance of
what I mean:--

Yet she, most faithfull ladie, all this while
Forsaken, wofull, solitarie mayd,
Far from all peoples preace, as in exile,
In wildernesse and wastfull deserts strayd
To seeke her knight; who, subtily betrayd
Through that late vision which th' enchaunter wrought,
Had her abandond; she, of nought affrayd,
Through woods and wastnes wide him daily sought,
Yet wished tydinges none of him unto her brought.

F. Qu. B. I. c. 3. st. 3.

2. Combined with this sweetness and fluency, the scientific construction
of the metre of the 'Faery Queene' is very noticeable. One of Spenser's
arts is that of alliteration, and he uses it with great effect in
doubling the impression of an image:--

In _w_ildernesse and _w_astful deserts,--
Through _w_oods and _w_astnes _w_ilde,--
They passe the bitter _w_aves of Acheron,
Where many soules sit _w_ailing _w_oefully,
And come to _fi_ery _fl_ood of _Ph_legeton,
Whereas the damned ghosts in torments _f_ry,
And with _sh_arp _sh_rilling _sh_rieks doth bootlesse cry,--&c.

He is particularly given to an alternate alliteration, which is,
perhaps, when well used, a great secret in melody:--

A _r_amping lyon _r_ushed suddenly,--
And _s_ad to _s_ee her _s_orrowful constraint,--
And on the grasse her _d_aintie _l_imbes _d_id _l_ay,--&c.

You cannot read a page of the Faery Queene, if you read for that
purpose, without perceiving the intentional alliterativeness of the
words; and yet so skilfully is this managed, that it never strikes any
unwarned ear as artificial, or other than the result of the necessary
movement of the verse.

3. Spenser displays great skill in harmonizing his descriptions of
external nature and actual incidents with the allegorical character and
epic activity of the poem. Take these two beautiful passages as
illustrations of what I mean:--

By this the northerne wagoner had set
His sevenfol teme behind the stedfast starre
That was in ocean waves yet never wet,
But firme is fixt, and sendeth light from farre
To all that in the wide deepe wandring arre;
And chearefull chaunticlere with his note shrill
Had warned once, that Phoebus' fiery carre
In hast was climbing up the easterne hill,
Full envious that Night so long his roome did fill;

_When_ those accursed messengers of hell,
That feigning dreame, and that faire-forged spright
Came, &c.

B. I. c. 2. st. 1.


At last, the golden orientall gate
Of greatest Heaven gan to open fayre;
And Phoebus, fresh as brydegrome to his mate,
Came dauncing forth, shaking his deawie hayre;
And hurld his glistring beams through gloomy ayre.
Which when the wakeful Elfe perceiv'd, streightway
He started up, and did him selfe prepayre
In sunbright armes and battailons array;
For with that Pagan proud he combat will that day.

Ib. c. 5. st. 2.

Observe also the exceeding vividness of Spenser's descriptions. They are
not, in the true sense of the word, picturesque; but are composed of a
wondrous series of images, as in our dreams. Compare the following
passage with any thing you may remember 'in pari materia' in Milton or

His haughtie helmet, horrid all with gold,
Both glorious brightnesse and great terrour bredd
For all the crest a dragon did enfold
With greedie pawes, and over all did spredd
His golden winges; his dreadfull hideous hedd,
Close couched on the bever, seemd to throw
From flaming mouth bright sparkles fiery redd,
That suddeine horrour to faint hartes did show;
And scaly tayle was stretcht adowne his back full low.

Upon the top of all his loftie crest
A bounch of haires discolourd diversly,
With sprinkled pearle and gold full richly drest,
Did shake, and seemd to daunce for jollitie;
Like to an almond tree ymounted hye
On top of greene Selinis all alone,
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily,
Whose tender locks do tremble every one
At everie little breath that under heaven is blowne.

Ib. c. 7. st. 31-2.

4. You will take especial note of the marvellous independence and true
imaginative absence of all particular space or time in the Faery Queene.
It is in the domains neither of history or geography; it is ignorant of
all artificial boundary, all material obstacles; it is truly in land of
Faery, that is, of mental space. The poet has placed you in a dream, a
charmed sleep, and you neither wish, nor have the power, to inquire
where you are, or how you got there. It reminds me of some lines of my

Oh! would to Alla!
The raven or the sea-mew were appointed
To bring me food!--or rather that my soul
Might draw in life from the universal air!
It were a lot divine in some small skiff
Along some ocean's boundless solitude
To float for ever with a careless course
And think myself the only being alive!

Remorse, Act iv. sc. 3.

Indeed Spenser himself, in the conduct of his great poem, may be
represented under the same image, his symbolizing purpose being his
mariner's compass:--

As pilot well expert in perilous wave,
That to a stedfast starre his course hath bent,
When foggy mistes or cloudy tempests have
The faithfull light of that faire lampe yblent,
And coverd Heaven with hideous dreriment;
Upon his card and compas firmes his eye,
The maysters of his long experiment,
And to them does the steddy helme apply,
Bidding his winged vessell fairely forward fly.

B. II. c. 7. st. 1.

So the poet through the realms of allegory.

5. You should note the quintessential character of Christian chivalry in
all his characters, but more especially in his women. The Greeks,
except, perhaps, in Homer, seem to have had no way of making their women
interesting, but by unsexing them, as in the instances of the tragic
Medea, Electra, &c. Contrast such characters with Spenser's Una, who
exhibits no prominent feature, has no particularization, but produces
the same feeling that a statue does, when contemplated at a distance:--

From her fayre head her fillet she undight,
And layd her stole aside: her angels face,
As the great eye of Heaven, shyned bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place;
Did never mortal eye behold such heavenly grace.

B. I. c. 3. st. 4.

6. In Spenser we see the brightest and purest form of that nationality
which was so common a characteristic of our elder poets. There is
nothing unamiable, nothing contemptuous of others, in it. To glorify
their country--to elevate England into a queen, an empress of the
heart--this was their passion and object; and how dear and important an
object it was or may be, let Spain, in the recollection of her Cid,
declare! There is a great magic in national names. What a damper to all
interest is a list of native East Indian merchants! Unknown names are
non-conductors; they stop all sympathy. No one of our poets has touched
this string more exquisitely than Spenser; especially in his chronicle
of the British Kings (B. II. c. 10.), and the marriage of the Thames
with the Medway (B. IV. c. 11.), in both which passages the mere names
constitute half the pleasure we receive. To the same feeling we must in
particular attribute Spenser's sweet reference to Ireland:--

Ne thence the Irishe rivers absent were;
Sith no lesse famous than the rest they be, &c.



And Mulla mine, whose waves I whilom taught to weep.


And there is a beautiful passage of the same sort in the Colin Clout's
'Come Home Again':--

"One day," quoth he, "I sat, as was my trade, Under the foot of Mole,"

Lastly, the great and prevailing character of Spenser's mind is fancy
under the conditions of imagination, as an ever present but not always
active power. He has an imaginative fancy, but he has not imagination,
in kind or degree, as Shakspeare and Milton have; the boldest effort of
his powers in this way is the character of Talus.[2] Add to this a
feminine tenderness and almost maidenly purity of feeling, and above
all, a deep moral earnestness which produces a believing sympathy and
acquiescence in the reader, and you have a tolerably adequate view of
Spenser's intellectual being.

[Footnote 1: 'Psychomachia'. Ed.]

[Footnote 2: B. 5. 'Legend of Artegall'. Ed.]



A contemporary is rather an ambiguous term, when applied to authors. It
may simply mean that one man lived and wrote while another was yet
alive, however deeply the former may have been indebted to the latter as
his model. There have been instances in the literary world that might
remind a botanist of a singular sort of parasite plant, which rises
above ground, independent and unsupported, an apparent original; but
trace its roots, and you will find the fibres all terminating in the
root of another plant at an unsuspected distance, which, perhaps, from
want of sun and genial soil, and the loss of sap, has scarcely been able
to peep above the ground.--Or the word may mean those whose compositions
were contemporaneous in such a sense as to preclude all likelihood of
the one having borrowed from the other. In the latter sense I should
call Ben Jonson a contemporary of Shakspeare, though he long survived
him; while I should prefer the phrase of immediate successors for
Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger, though they too were Shakspeare's
contemporaries in the former sense.

BEN JONSON. [1] Born, 1574.--Died, 1637.

Ben Jonson is original; he is, indeed, the only one of the great
dramatists of that day who was not either directly produced, or very
greatly modified, by Shakspeare. In truth, he differs from our great
master in every thing--in form and in substance--and betrays no tokens
of his proximity. He is not original in the same way as Shakspeare is
original; but after a fashion of his own, Ben Jonson is most truly

The characters in his plays are, in the strictest sense of the term,
abstractions. Some very prominent feature is taken from the whole man,
and that single feature or humour is made the basis upon which the
entire character is built up. Ben Jonson's 'dramatis personae' are
almost as fixed as the masks of the ancient actors; you know from the
first scene--sometimes from the list of names--exactly what every one of
them is to be. He was a very accurately observing man; but he cared only
to observe what was external or open to, and likely to impress, the
senses. He individualizes, not so much, if at all, by the exhibition of
moral or intellectual differences, as by the varieties and contrasts of
manners, modes of speech and tricks of temper; as in such characters as
Puntarvolo, Bobadill, &c.

I believe there is not one whim or affectation in common life noted in
any memoir of that age which may not be found drawn and framed in some
corner or other of Ben Jonson's dramas; and they have this merit, in
common with Hogarth's prints, that not a single circumstance is
introduced in them which does not play upon, and help to bring out, the
dominant humour or humours of the piece. Indeed I ought very
particularly to call your attention to the extraordinary skill shown by
Ben Jonson in contriving situations for the display of his characters.
In fact, his care and anxiety in this matter led him to do what scarcely
any of the dramatists of that age did--that is, invent his plots. It is
not a first perusal that suffices for the full perception of the
elaborate artifice of the plots of the Alchemist and the Silent
Woman;--that of the former is absolute perfection for a necessary
entanglement, and an unexpected, yet natural, evolution.

Ben Jonson exhibits a sterling English diction, and he has with great
skill contrived varieties of construction; but his style is rarely sweet
or harmonious, in consequence of his labour at point and strength being
so evident. In all his works, in verse or prose, there is an
extraordinary opulence of thought; but it is the produce of an amassing
power in the author, and not of a growth from within. Indeed a large
proportion of Ben Jonson's thoughts may be traced to classic or obscure
modern writers, by those who are learned and curious enough to follow
the steps of this robust, surly, and observing dramatist.

[Footnote: 1: From Mr. Green's note. 'Ed.']

Beaumont. Born, 1586.--Died, 1616.

Fletcher. Born, 1576.--Died, 1625.

Mr. Weber, to whose taste, industry, and appropriate erudition we owe, I
will not say the best, (for that would be saying little,) but a good,
edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, has complimented the Philaster, which
he himself describes as inferior to the Maid's Tragedy by the same
writers, as but little below the noblest of Shakspeare's plays, Lear,
Macbeth, Othello, &c. and consequently implying the equality, at least,
of the Maid's Tragedy;--and an eminent living critic,--who in the manly
wit, strong sterling sense, and robust style of his original works, had
presented the best possible credentials of office as 'charge d'affaires'
of literature in general,--and who by his edition of Massinger--a work
in which there was more for an editor to do, and in which more was
actually well done, than in any similar work within my knowledge--has
proved an especial right of authority in the appreciation of dramatic
poetry, and hath potentially a double voice with the public in his own
right and in that of the critical synod, where, as 'princeps senatus',
he possesses it by his prerogative,--has affirmed that Shakspeare's
superiority to his contemporaries rests on his superior wit alone, while
in all the other, and, as I should deem, higher excellencies of the
drama, character, pathos, depth of thought, &c. he is equalled by
Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson, and Massinger! [1]

Of wit I am engaged to treat in another Lecture. It is a genus of many
species; and at present I shall only say, that the species which is
predominant in Shakspeare, is so completely Shakspearian, and in its
essence so interwoven with all his other characteristic excellencies,
that I am equally incapable of comprehending, both how it can be
detached from his other powers, and how, being disparate in kind from
the wit of contemporary dramatists, it can be compared with theirs in
degree. And again--the detachment and the practicability of the
comparison being granted--I should, I confess, be rather inclined to
concede the contrary;--and in the most common species of wit, and in the
ordinary application of the term, to yield this particular palm to
Beaumont and Fletcher, whom here and hereafter I take as one poet with
two names,--leaving undivided what a rare love and still rarer
congeniality have united. At least, I have never been able to
distinguish the presence of Fletcher during the life of Beaumont, nor
the absence of Beaumont during the survival of Fletcher.

But waiving, or rather deferring, this question, I protest against the
remainder of the position in 'toto'. And indeed, whilst I can never, I
trust, show myself blind to the various merits of Jonson, Beaumont and
Fletcher, and Massinger, or insensible to the greatness of the merits
which they possess in common, or to the specific excellencies which give
to each of the three a worth of his own,--I confess, that one main
object of this Lecture was to prove that Shakspeare's eminence is his
own, and not that of his age;--even as the pine-apple, the melon, and
the gourd may grow on the same bed;--yea, the same circumstances of
warmth and soil may be necessary to their full development, yet do not
account for the golden hue, the ambrosial flavour, the perfect shape of
the pine-apple, or the tufted crown on its head. Would that those, who
seek to twist it off, could but promise us in this instance to make it
the germ of an equal successor!

What had a grammatical and logical consistency for the ear,--what could
be put together and represented to the eye--these poets took from the
ear and eye, unchecked by any intuition of an inward impossibility;--
just as a man might put together a quarter of an orange, a quarter of an
apple, and the like of a lemon and a pomegranate, and make it look like
one round diverse-coloured fruit. But nature, which works from within by
evolution and assimilation according to a law, cannot do so, nor could
Shakspeare; for he too worked in the spirit of nature, by evolving the
germ from within by the imaginative power according to an idea. For as
the power of seeing is to light, so is an idea in mind to a law in
nature. They are correlatives, which suppose each other.

The plays of Beaumont and Fletcher are mere aggregations without unity;
in the Shakspearian drama there is a vitality which grows and evolves
itself from within,--a key note which guides and controls the harmonies
throughout. What is Lear?--It is storm and tempest--the thunder at first
grumbling in the far horizon, then gathering around us, and at length
bursting in fury over our heads,--succeeded by a breaking of the clouds
for a while, a last flash of lightning, the closing in of night, and the
single hope of darkness! And Romeo and Juliet?--It is a spring day,
gusty and beautiful in the morn, and closing like an April evening with
the song of the nightingale;--whilst Macbeth is deep and
earthy,--composed to the subterranean music of a troubled conscience,
which converts every thing into the wild and fearful!

Doubtless from mere observation, or from the occasional similarity of
the writer's own character, more or less in Beaumont and Fletcher, and
other such writers will happen to be in correspondence with nature, and
still more in apparent compatibility with it. But yet the false source
is always discoverable, first by the gross contradictions to nature in
so many other parts, and secondly, by the want of the impression which
Shakspeare makes, that the thing said not only might have been said, but
that nothing else could be substituted, so as to excite the same sense
of its exquisite propriety. I have always thought the conduct and
expressions of Othello and Iago in the last scene, when Iago is brought
in prisoner, a wonderful instance of Shakspeare's consummate judgment:--

'Oth.' I look down towards his feet;--but that's a fable. If that thou
be'st a devil, I cannot kill thee.

'Iago.' I bleed, Sir; but not kill'd.

'Oth.' I am not sorry neither.

Think what a volley of execrations and defiances Beaumont and Fletcher
would have poured forth here!

Indeed Massinger and Ben Jonson are both more perfect in their kind than
Beaumont and Fletcher; the former in the story and affecting incidents;
the latter in the exhibition of manners and peculiarities, whims in
language, and vanities of appearance.

There is, however, a diversity of the most dangerous kind here.
Shakspeare shaped his characters out of the nature within; but we cannot
so safely say, out of his own nature as an individual person. No! this
latter is itself but a 'natura naturata',--an effect, a product, not a
power. It was Shakspeare's prerogative to have the universal, which is
potentially in each particular, opened out to him, the 'homo generalis',
not as an abstraction from observation of a variety of men, but as the
substance capable of endless modifications, of which his own personal
existence was but one, and to use this one as the eye that beheld the
other, and as the tongue that could convey the discovery. There is no
greater or more common vice in dramatic writers than to draw out of
themselves. How I--alone and in the self-sufficiency of my study, as all
men are apt to be proud in their dreams--should like to be talking
'king'! Shakspeare, in composing, had no 'I', but the 'I'
representative. In Beaumont and Fletcher you have descriptions of
characters by the poet rather than the characters themselves; we are
told, and impressively told, of their being; but we rarely or never feel
that they actually are.

Beaumont and Fletcher are the most lyrical of our dramatists. I think
their comedies the best part of their works, although there are scenes
of very deep tragic interest in some of their plays. I particularly
recommend Monsieur Thomas for good pure comic humor.

There is, occasionally, considerable license in their dramas; and this
opens a subject much needing vindication and sound exposition, but which
is beset with such difficulties for a Lecturer, that I must pass it by.
Only as far as Shakspeare is concerned, I own, I can with less pain
admit a fault in him than beg an excuse for it. I will not, therefore,
attempt to palliate the grossness that actually exists in his plays by
the customs of his age, or by the far greater coarseness of all his
contemporaries, excepting Spenser, who is himself not wholly blameless,
though nearly so;--for I place Shakspeare's merit on being of no age.
But I would clear away what is, in my judgment, not his, as that scene
of the Porter [2] in Macbeth, and many other such passages, and abstract
what is coarse in manners only, and all that which from the frequency of
our own vices, we associate with his words. If this were truly done,
little that could be justly reprehensible would remain. Compare the vile
comments, offensive and defensive, on Pope's

Lust thro' some gentle strainers, &c.

with the worst thing in Shakspeare, or even in Beaumont and Fletcher;
and then consider how unfair the attack is on our old dramatists;
especially because it is an attack that cannot be properly answered in
that presence in which an answer would be most desirable, from the
painful nature of one part of the position; but this very pain is almost
a demonstration of its falsehood!

[Footnote 1: See Mr. Gifford's introduction to his edition of Massinger.

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