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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!
On every corse there stood.
“This seraph-band, each waved his hand :
It was a heavenly sight;
Each one a lovely light.
“This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
No voice did they impart,-
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 hags 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 lan. guage, 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 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 lovely lady, Christabel,
Whom her father loves so well,
“She stole along; she nothing spoke;
The sighs she heaved were soft and low,
And naught was green upon the oak
“The night is chill, tủe forest bare :
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak ?
“Hush, beating heart of Christabel!
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 passed the hall, that echoes still
Pass as lightly as you will !
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 altered voice said she, • Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine !
I have power to bid thee flee.'
Off, woman! off! 'tis given to me!'
And raised to heaven her eyes so blue,
The power of witchcraft goes on increasing. Geraldine's silken robe falls; and, beautiful and stately lady as she shone before, there is now disclosed to the heartstricken Christabel an untold sight of some hidden, hideous deformity, some superhuman stump, such as could only belong to a witch’s body. The poor maiden sinks into a trance, and her power of speech is sealed up by the incantation that is uttered over her by the demon drawing close to her side: –
“In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell
Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel.”
I cannot trace the story of the poem without too much impairing the effect, and shall therefore only notice one or two passages in the remainder of it. The most striking of these is the apostrophe to the friends, and the gublimest image of a broken friendship to be found in the whole range of poetry :
“Alas, they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth,