Halleck's New English Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 491 pages of information about Halleck's New English Literature.

  “This beast not unobserved by nature fell;
  His death was mourned by sympathy divine.

  “The Being that is in the clouds and air,
  That is in the green leaves among the groves,
  Maintains a deep and reverential care
  For the unoffending creatures whom he loves."[15]

Whatever view we take of the indifference of nature or of the suffering in existence, it is necessary for us, in order to live hopeful and kindly lives, to feel with Wordsworth that the great powers of the universe are not devoid of sympathy, and that they encourage in us the development of “a spirit of love” for all earth’s creatures.  It was Wordsworth’s deepest conviction that any one alive to the presence of nature’s conscious spiritual force, that “rolls through all things”—­

  “Shall feel an overseeing power
  To kindle or restrain.”

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, 1722-1834

[Illustration:  SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE. From a pencil sketch by C.R.  Leslie.]

Life.—­The troubled career of Coleridge is in striking contrast to the peaceful life of Wordsworth.  Coleridge, the thirteenth child of a clergyman, was born in 1772 at Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire.  Early in his life, the future poet became a confirmed dreamer, refusing to participate in the play common to boys of his age.  Before he was five years old, he had read the Arabian Nights.  Only a few years later, the boy’s appetite for books became so voracious that he devoured an average of two volumes a day.

One evening, when he was about nine years old, he had a violent quarrel with his brother and ran away, sleeping out of doors all night.  A cold October rain fell; but he was not found until morning, when he was carried home more dead than alive.  “I was certainly injured;” he says of this adventure, “for I was weakly and subject to ague for many years after.”  Facts like these help to explain why physical pain finally led him to use opium.

After his father’s death, young Coleridge became, at the age of ten, a pupil in Christ’s Hospital, London, where he remained eight years.  During the first half of his stay here, his health was still further injured by continuing as he was in earlier childhood, “a playless daydreamer,” and by a habit of almost constant reading.  He says that the food “was cruelly insufficient for those who had no friends to supply them.”  He writes:—­

“Conceive what I must have been at fourteen; I was in a continual low fever.  My whole being was, with eyes closed to every object of present sense, to crumple myself up in a sunny corner, and read, read, read—­fancy myself on Robinson Crusoe’s island, finding a mountain of plumcake, and eating a room for myself, and then eating it into the shapes of tables and chairs—­hunger and fancy!”

A few months after leaving Christ’s Hospital, Coleridge went to Cambridge, but he did not remain

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Halleck's New English Literature from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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