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of mountain-peak and lake and forest, all these things had been his world; and consciously and unconsciously, the sublimity of that world, extending about us in its large patience and inscrutable repose, possessed and enlarged his soul. His life rises to the dignity of a great example, because it is so outwardly ordinary and so inwardly exceptional; because he showed us how to make a new use of those familiar sources of joy and comfort which lie open to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. His life was severely simple, yet the world was his, even as, up to the measure of our power of receiving, we may make it ours.
It is this serene and noble simplicity of Wordsworth's life and character that sheds upon certain of his poems an indescribable and altogether incomparable charm. We feel it in T'he Solitary Reaper:
“ Yon solitary Highland Lass!
and in the poem to Lucy:
“She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
And very few to love:
A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
The difference to me!”
Such characteristic and magical excellence refuses to be analyzed or defined.
Wordsworth's sonnets are among the best in the literature; and his longer poems, such as The Excursion, are illumined by passages of a wonderful wisdom and beauty. At times, as in the great odes To Duty and On the Intimations of Immortality, his verse has an elevation and a large majesty of utterance unheard in English poetry since the deep-throated harmonies of Milton. In spite of frequent lapses, Wordsworth's poetic art is of a very high order, and places him with the greatest poets of England.
Poet of Democracy. - In a very real sense Wordsworth is the poet of the new democracy, as he is of the new love of Nature. His sense of the underlying oneness in Nature and man, and his experience in living through the French Revolution, gave him a profound interest in man as man. He saw in the simple and hardy peasants of his native county, subjects worthy of the highest art of poetry. He found love in “huts where poor men lie.” He saw in the old shepherd Michael, in the poor Idiot Boy, in The Old Cumberland Beggar, in the "wretched parents" seeking Lucy Gray, who had been lost in the storm, pathos, suffering, and tragedy worthy of our deepest sympathy.
Matthew Arnold, himself a poetic disciple of Wordsworth, has thus summed up the peculiar greatness of his master's work: “Wordsworth's poetry is great because of the extraordinary power with which Wordsworth feels the joy offered to us in Nature, the joy offered to us in the simple primary affections and duties; and because of the extraordinary power with which, in case after case, he shows us this joy, and renders it so as to make us share it."
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
Coleridge threw a great stone into the standing pool of contemporary thought.”
“We are here to-day not to consider what Coleridge owed to himself, to his family, or to the world, but what we owe to him.”
Wordsworth lived out his long, blameless, and devoted life under conditions singularly favorable to the full development of his genius. Freed from the pressure of money difficulties, and enabled to live simply amid the loveliest of natural surroundings, happy in his home and in his friends, and blessed with health and energy, he has left us an example of a serene and truly successful life. The story of Coleridge, Wordsworth's friend and fellow-poet, is tragically different. It is the story of a man of rare and varied gifts, who, from whatever cause, could not, or did not, put forth his powers to the full.
Early Life, Education, and Travel. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the youngest of a large family, was the son of the vicar and schoolmaster at the little town of Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire. His father was an absentminded man, and a scholar who quoted Hebrew to his congregation as "the immediate language of the Holy Ghost." Left an orphan in his ninth year, Coleridge was admitted to the Charity School at Christ's Hospital, London, and began the unequal fight with life. Here he met the gentle Charles Lamb, who became his lifelong friend, and who speaks of him as “the poor friendless boy.” From the first, Coleridge seems to have lived
in a dream-world. He was unusually precocious and preferred the society of books to that of boys. As a little child, he wandered over the Devonshire fields, slashing the tops off weeds and nettles in the character of one of the “Seven Champions of Christendom;" and in school at London he would lie for hours on the roof, gazing after the drifting clouds while his schoolfellows played football in the court below; or in the midst of the crowded Strand, he would fancy himself Leander swimming the Hellespont. A gentleman interested in him gave him a subscription to a library; and thereafter Coleridge "skulked out” to the library and read "right through the catalogue.” Even at fifteen he
"bewildered” himself in metaphysics and theological controversy, and charmed and astonished his hearers by his wonderful talk. His uncle in London, he tells us,
“used to carry me from coffee-house to coffee-house, and tavern to tavern, where I drank and talked and disputed as if I had been a man.” Lamb recalled these days with rapture: “How have I seen the casual passer through the cloisters stand still, entranced with admiration; ... to hear thee unfold, in thy deep and sweet intonations, the mysteries of Jamblichus, or Plotinus, ... or reciting Homer in his Greek, or Pindar, while the walls of the old Grey Friars re-echoed to the accents of the inspired charity-boy!"
At nineteen Coleridge went to Cambridge and furnished his rooms with no thought of his inability to pay the upholsterers; then, under the pressure of a comparatively trifling debt, he gave up all his prospects, fied to London, and enlisted in the Dragoons. He returned to Cambridge, but left there in 1794 without taking a degree. Visiting Oxford in this year, he met the youthful Southey, in whom he found a kindred
spirit. Both were feeling that impulse from the French Revolution which was agitating Europe. They agreed that human society should be reconstructed, and decided to begin the reform by establishing an ideal community in the wilds of America. They chose for the site of the new community the banks of the Susquehanna, because of the music of its name. The new form of government was to be called a Pantisocracy, or a government by all, and the citizens were to combine farming and literature. In 1795 Coleridge married Sarah Fricker, and the Pantisocratic scheme was given up for lack of funds. It was about two years after this that Coleridge met Wordsworth at Alfoxden in Somersetshire, and wrote his greatest poem, The Ancient Mariner. In 1798 he left for Germany, where in two years he mastered the German tongue and went deep into German metaphysics. From the new intellectual life upon which that nation had just entered, Coleridge received a fresh and powerful stimulus, and was one of the first to introduce the new German philosophy and literature into England.
Poetry, Opium, and Metaphysics. — Coleridge returned to England in 1800, and began writing political articles for the Morning Post. So successful were they, by reason of Coleridge's wide knowledge and his philosophical and historical method of dealing with political questions, that he was offered an interest in the Post which would give him an income of £2000 a year, provided he would devote all his time to that paper. But this he rejected, with the remark that he would not give up the country and the lazy reading of old folios for two thousand times £2000, — in short, that beyond £250 a year he considered money a real evil.” Instead, he went to Keswick, among the English Lakes, to lead a life of quiet and study near his friends Wordsworth