Of Coleridge as poet there is unfortunately little more to relate, for during the remainder of his life he devoted himself mainly to philosophy and literary criticism, with occasional work in journalism. After a stay in Germany he brought back to England a knowledge of German metaphysics and an enthusiasm for German literature which enabled him to do much towards awakening in his own countrymen an interest in these subjects. He had never been strong, and from the age of thirty-four he suffered seriously from ill-health and from his practice of using opium—a habit begun by his taking the dangerous drug to relieve acute pain. No doubt his powers were impaired by these causes. In 1804, hoping to benefit by change of climate, he went to Malta, and before his return spent some months in Italy. With the exception of a short tour on the Rhine with the Wordsworths, the last sixteen years of his life were passed quietly at Highgate, a village near London, where through the kind care of friends he was enabled to control the opium habit and do a fair amount of intellectual work. His mind dwelt much on religious subjects, and the faith which had earlier found expression in his noble Hymn in the Vale of Chamouni brought light and consolation as the end drew near. Many young men came to see him during these last years, drawn by his fame as a poet and still more by his remarkable powers as a talker. One of them has said of him in this connection: “Throughout a long summer’s day would this man talk to you in low, equable, but clear and musical tones, concerning things human and divine.” And the same person has described a day spent with him as “a Sabbath past expression, deep, tranquil, and serene.” The poet died at Highgate in 1834, at the age of sixty-two.
Coleridge was a many-sided genius, and perhaps the world has benefited as largely by his powers as a thinker as by his gift for poetry. He did much both by talking and writing to broaden English thought, and his keen and suggestive criticism of other authors, of Shakespeare especially, has been of high value to lovers of literature. As a poet he is distinguished for the rare quality of his imagination and the wonderful music of his verse.
ARGUMENT OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
The argument, or plot, of the poem is as follows:[*]
Three guests were on their way to a wedding, when one of them—the bridegroom’s nearest relative—was stopped by a Mariner with long gray beard and glittering eye, who constrained him to listen to his story. The Mariner once set sail in a ship bound southward. After crossing the equator the vessel was driven by strong winds toward the south pole, and was finally hemmed in by icebergs. An albatross which appeared at this time brought good luck: the ice split and the ship sailed northward. The Mariner, for no apparent reason, shot the bird of good omen. At first his comrades