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“ I look'd upon the rotting sea,

And drew my eyes away ;
I look'd upon the rotting deck,

And there the dead men lay!
I look'd to heaven, and tried to pray,

But, or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made

My heart as dry as dust!
I closed my lids and kept them close,

And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,
Lay like a load on my weary eye,

And the dead were at my feet.
66 The cold sweat melted from their limbs,

Nor rot nor reek did they ;
The look with which they look'd on me

Had never pass’d away.
“ An orphan's curse would drag to hell

A spirit from on high;
But, oh! more horrible than that

Is the curse in a dead man's eye.
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,

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;
Softly she was going up,

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.
A spring of love gush'd from my heart,

And I bless'd them unaware.
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I bless'd them unaware :
“ The selfsame moment I could pray!"

THE ANCIENT MARINER.

279

the curse,

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 :
’T was night, calm night; the moon was high :

The dead men stood together!
All stood together on the deck

For a charnel-dungeon fitter;
All fix'd on me their stony eyes,

That in the moon did glitter.
"The pang,

with which they died,
Had never pass'd away :
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,

Nor turn them up to pray.
And now this spell was snapt: once more

I view'd the ocean green,
And look'd far forth, yet little saw

Of what had else been seen.
“ Like one that on a lonesome road

Doth walk in fear and dread,
And, having once turn'd round, walks on

And turns no more his head ;
Because he knows a frightful fiend

Doth close behind him tread.
“ But soon there breathed a wind on me,

Nor sound nor motion made :
Its path was not upon the sea,

In ripple or in shade.
“It raised my hair; it fann'd my cheek

Like a meadow-gale of spring :
It mingled strangely with my fears ;

Yet it felt like a welcoming.
“Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship;

Yet she sail'd softly too.
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze,

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 !
A man all light, a seraph-man,

On every corse there stood.
“ This seraph-band, each waved his hand :

It was a heavenly sight ;
They stood as signals to the land,

Each one a lovely light.
“ This seraph-band, each waved his hand :

No voice did they impart, -
No voice ; but, oh! the silence sank

Like music on my heart.”
The

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

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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 ?
The night is chilly, but not dark;
The thin gray cloud is spread on high ;
It covers but not hides the sky.
The moon is behind, and at the full,
And yet she looks both small and dull;
The night is chill, the cloud is gray ;
'T is a month before the month of May,
And the spring comes slowly up this way.
“The lovely lady, Christabel,
Whom her father loves so well,
What makes her in the woods so late,
A furlong from the castle-gate ?
She had dreams all yesternight
Of her own betrothéd knight,
And she in the midnight wood will pray
For the weal of her lover that 's far away.
“She stole along ; she nothing spoke ;
The sighs she heaved were soft and low,
And nought was green upon the oak
But moss and rarest misletoe ;
She kneels beneath the huge oak-tree,
And in silence prayeth she.
The lady sprang up suddenly,
The lovely lady, Christabel ;
It moan'd as near as near can be,
And what it is she cannot tell ;
On the other side it seems to be
Of the huge, broad-breasted old oak-tree.
“ The night is chill, the forest bare ;

Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet-curl
From the lovely lady's cheek ;
There is not wind enough to twirl
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,

On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
“Hush, beating heart of Christabel !
Jesu, Maria, shield her well.
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak:

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 !
The brands were flat; the brands were dying,
Amid their own white ashes lying :
But when the lady pass'd, there came
A tongue of light, a fit of flame,
And Christabel saw the lady's eye,
And nothing else saw she thereby,
Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,
Which hung in a murky old niche in the wall.
Oh, softly tread,' said Christabel;

*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?

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