TO H. C.


“O THOU! whose fancies from afar are brought;
Who of thy words dost make a mock apparel,
And fittest to unutterable thought
The breeze-like motion and the self-born carol;
Thou fairy voyager ! that dost float
In such clear water, that thy Boat
May rather seem
To brood on air than on an earthly stream;
Suspended in a stream as clear as sky,
Where earth and heaven do make one imagery ;
O blessed Vision! happy Child !
Thou art so exquisitely wild,
I think of thee with many fears
For what may be thy lot in future years.
I thought of times when Pain might be thy guest,
Lord of thy house and hospitality ;
And Grief, uneasy lover! never rest,
But when she sat within the touch of thee.
O too industrious folly
O vain and causeless melancholy
Nature will either end thee quite
Or, lengthening out thy season of delight,
Preserve for thee, by individual right,
A young lamb's heart among the full-grown flocks.
What hast thou to do with sorrow,
Or the injuries of to-morrow?
Thou art a Dew-drop, which the morn brings forth,
Ill fitted to sustain unkindly shocks,
Or to be trailed along the soiling earth;
A gem that glitters while it lives,
And no forewarning gives;
But, at the touch of wrong, without a strife
Slips in a moment out of life.”


HARTLEY COLERIDGE, to whom these exquisite and all but prophetic lines were addressed, the eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was born at Clevedon,* a small village near Bristol, of which

* Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge, vol. i., pp. 190, 193. (Pickering, 1847.)

city his mother was a native, on the 19th of September, 1796. The circumstances under which this took place belong to the life of his father, to which this memorial may be considered as an appendix and contribution. For the same reason no account need here be given of his family connexions.

He was an eight months' child, and was born during the absence of his father, who has recorded his feelings both when he heard of his birth, and when he first saw him, in two sonnets,* interesting in themselves, and as the first expression of an affection, which never ceased to regard its object as in some sort an infant still. This affection was returned in kind. To the latest hour of his life, Hartley, in the presence of his father's memory, which was seldom long absent from him, felt as a child, even when reviewing the writings or opinions of his departed sire with the boldest independence of thought.

The singularity of appearance, by which he was distinguished through life, and which, together with the shortness of his stature, (possibly attributable in some measure to his premature birth,) had a marked influence upon his character, was apparent from the first,t though he grew up to be a pretty and engaging child. His father in the

* Poet. Works, vol. i., pp. 251, 252. + See Coleridge's “ Biographia Literaria,” vol. ii., p. 374.

exquisite poem, entitled “Frost at Midnight, addresses him as his “babe so beautiful.” The lines must be familiar to all the readers of Coleridge's poetry, but they may perhaps be read here with a new interest.

“Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought !
My Babe, so beautiful ! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look on thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes ! For I was rear'd
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my Babe, shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountains, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags : so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language which thy God
Utters, Who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in Himself.
Great universal Teacher! He shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.”

Whether these lines be taken as expressing a purpose or a hope, the prediction which they contain was fulfilled in a manner and to an extent which could not at the time have been anticipated.

* Poet. Works, vol. i., p. 216.

In a similar strain his father addresses him in the poem entitled “The Nightingale.' *

“ That strain again?
Full fain it would delay me! My dear Babe,
Who, capable of no articulate sound,
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
His little hand, the small fore-finger up,
And bid us listen ! And I deem it wise
To make him Nature's Playmate. He knows well
The evening star; and once when he awoke
In most distressful mood, (some inward pain
Had made up that strange thing, an infant's dream,)
I hurried with him to our orchard plot,
And he beheld the moon, and, hush'd at once,
Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,
While his fair eyes, that swam with undropt tears,
Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam. Well,
It is a Father's tale : but if that Heaven
Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
Familiar with these songs, that with the night
He may associate joy ! ”

The “ lakes and sandy shores and mountain crags,” among which Hartley Coleridge's childhood was actually passed, are not visited by the feathered songster of the night and of the woods. But the hope and purpose expressed in the above lines were fully realised in their general meaning. It is more remarkable that Hartley's childhood proved to be in the highest degree susceptible of such influences.

* Poet. Works, vol. i., p. 212.

By nature not less than by circumstances he was indeed the poet-child of a poet-father.

His name, however,--Hartley,-bore evidence to his father's early fondness for a study, which was destined to supersede within a few years what, perhaps, most persons may consider the more genial pursuits of poetry. It was given him in honour of the metaphysician, David Hartley; and had he been baptised in his infancy, he would have borne both names.* His baptism did not, in fact, take place till within the period of his distinct remembrance.

A picture of his infancy has already been pre

* In a letter to Mrs. Poole, dated Nov. 1, 1796, his father thus refers to his monthling :—“David Hartley Coleridge is stout, healthy, and handsome. He is the very miniature of me.”

Again, in a most interesting letter, written after a visit to my father in August 1797, the writer (Mr. Richard Reynell) thus brings us back to the time and place, and persons:—"Coleridge has a fine little boy about nine or ten months old, whom he has named David Hartley—for Hartley and Bishop Berkley are his idols—and he thinks them two of the greatest men that ever lived. This child is a noble healthy-looking fellow, has strong eye-brows, and beautiful eyes. It is a treat, a luxury, to see Coleridge hanging over his infant and talking to it, and fancying what he will be in future days.” The remainder of the letter, which refers to Mr. Wordsworth as well as to my father, and gives a most lively account of both, will appear elsewhere. It has recently been communicated to me by the kindness of Dr. Wreford, of Bristol, the nephew of the writer.

« 前へ次へ »