« ZurückWeiter »
“ I look'd upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away ;
And there the dead men lay!
But, or ever a prayer had gusht,
My heart as dry as dust!
And the balls like pulses beat;
And the dead were at my feet.
Nor rot nor reek did they ;
Had never pass’d away.
A spirit from on high;
Is the curse in a dead man's eye.
And yet I could not die !" In his loneliness and wretchedness and perpetual wakefulness, the ancient mariner's heart, touched by a skyey influence, yearneth towards the tranquil motions of the heavenly bodies :
“The moving moon went up the sky,
And nowhere did abide;
And a star or two beside." He looks beyond the enchanted shadow of the ship, and beholds the bright creatures of the deep; and, as the wanton murder of the bird had brought the mysterious affliction upon himself and his companions, the spell begins to break when there springs in his heart a sudden sympathy with the happiness of the animals floating in his sight; and when from his lips breaks a blessing upon them,
“O happy living things ! no tongue
Their beauty might declare.
And I bless'd them unaware.
And I bless'd them unaware :
THE ANCIENT MARINER.
The utterance of prayer brings to the mariner's wasted spirit the blessing of sleep, rain upon the parched planks of the ship, and the help of a troop of angelic spirits, which, incarnated in the dead bodies of the crew, man the ship. Wild commotions and strange sights fill the sky and the elements, and soft spiritual music and voices soothe the lone human being into a trance. When that is abated, the penance is renewed for a brief space; but the curse is at last expiated :
“I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather :
The dead men stood together!
For a charnel-dungeon fitter;
That in the moon did glitter.
with which they died,
Nor turn them up to pray.
I view'd the ocean green,
Of what had else been seen.
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And turns no more his head ;
Doth close behind him tread.
Nor sound nor motion made :
In ripple or in shade.
Like a meadow-gale of spring :
Yet it felt like a welcoming.
Yet she sail'd softly too.
On me alone it blew." The wild voyage, haunted by fiends and blessed by good angels, is drawing to a close. There dawns upon the mariner's eye the light-house top, the hill, and the church,-happy visions of his native land! At the same time he looks to the lifeless bodies which had risen up to do the service of the ship, and, lo'! the angelic spirits are leaving them, and the last guardian act is the waving of their seraph-hands across the waters of the calm harbour-bay, as signals to the pilot and to the hermit who dwells in the wood on the seashore, thus giving the mariner over to the care of his fellow human beings :
“Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat;
And, by the holy rood !
On every corse there stood.
It was a heavenly sight ;
Each one a lovely light.
No voice did they impart, -
Like music on my heart.”
poem of “ Christabel” is a more pleasing production than the “Ancient Mariner.” There is less wildness of imagination, though quite as high an effect of it. It has more of human interest, presenting, however, the same remarkable combination of the natural and supernatural. It is a story of witchcraft, but not the witchcraft of ugly bags like the weird-sisters in Macbeth, but the magic power of a beautiful sorceress. It is a story of the alliance of the strength of goodness and prayer with the guardianship of the sainted dead, potent against the demoniac power of evil. The heroine, Christabel, is as lovely a creation as ever poet's imagination formed. Orphaned of her mother, the pride and sole prop of her aged father, the betrothed of a knightly lover,gentle, innocent, pious, and beautiful,-she is the fairest victim witchcraft ever struck at. It must also be noticed that the poem is one of the most remarkable specimens of versification in the language, and shows Coleridge's great powers in that important branch of his art. To the eye it has the appearance of very irregular verse; to the ear and to the feelings no such effect is produced, for the variations it presents accord with some transitions of the imagery or the passion, and the rhythm throughout may be said to be faultless. The poem was recognised as a perfect specimen of musical versification by Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron, and imitated by them both. It was the acknowledged model of metre of the “Lay of the Last Minstrel.”
The scene of “ Christabel” is laid in an ancient baronial castle, at
midnight, when the only sounds are the hootings of the owls and the howling of the old mastiff, answering the striking of the clock :
“Is the night chilly and dark ?
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
What sees she there?"
While the innocent Christabel is thinking her prayers from the depths of her pure and loving heart, the witch is close by, in the shape of a woman richly clad and exceedingly beautiful. She asks for pity on her distress, telling that her name is Geraldine, and giving a deceitful story. The tender heart of Christabel is touched, and she bids the witch welcome to share her couch with her. The supernatural thickens as they enter into the castle, and the victim is getting entangled in the meshes of sorcery. According to the popular superstition, the witch sinks, as if in sudden pain, at the threshold, and is lifted over by Christabel, who devoutly proposes a thanksgiving for their safety; but the evil spirit eludes it :
“ • Alas, alas !' said Geraldine ;
'I cannot speak for weariness.'” As they move along, the sleeping mastiff utters an angry moan, and the dying embers on the hearth dart forth a tongue of flame, while a beautiful relief is given to the supernatural by an impulse of simple nature, in Christabel's tender thoughtfulness for her aged parent :
“They pass’d the hall, that echoes still
Pass as lightly as you will !
*My father seldom sleepeth well.'' Christabel speaks, too, of her departed mother, when, lo! at her child's fond and innocent wish, echoed mysteriously by the witch, the guardian spirit of the mother is at hand, invisible except to the spectral sight of the sorceress; and a conflict ensues between the good and evil spirits :
“O mother dear! that thou wert here!'
'I would,' said Geraldine, she were!' But soon with alter'd voice said she,
Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine! I have power to bid thee flee.' Alas! what ails poor Geraldine ? Why stares she with unsettled eye? Can she the bodiless dead espy?