A Critical History of English Poetry

By Herbert J. C. Grierson; J. C. Smith | Go to book overview

Chapter Twenty-five
WORDSWORTH AND COLERIDGE: LATER POEMS

IN September, 1798, Coleridge and the Wordsworths sailed for Germany. At Hamburg they parted, Coleridge to study philosophy at Ratzburg and Göttingen, the Wordsworths to hibernate in the little Saxon town of Goslar. It was a fateful winter for both poets. It turned Coleridge from poetry to metaphysics. The translations that he made next year from Schiller Piccolomini and Wallenstein's Death contain some fine things that are not in the German --"The fair humanities of old religion" is pure Coleridge--but of original poetry henceforth he wrote very little. In October, 1800, he came to Grasmere and delighted the Wordsworths with the second part of Christabel. The second part of Christabel is a fine poem in its way: it contains one wonderful stroke of psychology in the lines which tell how Christabel was so fascinated by the serpent eyes of Geraldine that her own features

passively did imitate That look of dull and treacherous hate;

but from the rest of it the magic has somehow faded; the poet seems to be marking time; and when the herald is ordered out with

Bard Bracy! Bard Bracy! your horses are fleet,

we seem to have left the world of Coleridge for the world of Scott.

In April, 1802, Wordsworth visited Coleridge at Keswick and read to him the first four stanzas of his Immortality ode: Coleridge replied with the ode on Dejection. Structurally the ode on Dejection is a magnificent performance in a very difficult kind, finer even than the ode to France. But it marks a parting of the ways. In the Nether Stowey days Coleridge had accepted Wordsworth's view of Nature as living and Divine; since then he had learned

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