網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

wide circle of thought, though there appear no result, and though the sole trace is left upon the tablets of the brain, and the only record is in our own remembrance. Where the imagination is active, we are allowed to follow it. It carries us along over the far track of the past, and opens to us the long vista of the future. Splendid scenes and novel incidents rise as we course along, and pain too, and melancholy and doubt; all are represented with their various features of exaggeration, and all stand like realities for the moment. It is the same as a romance or a drama, where, though all is fiction, we cannot rid ourselves of the feeling of the existence of every character. There is no necessity for the hands recording what we have done, or seen, or felt; memory has fixed and infused it among the unfading sources of mental action; and it becomes an enduring record of the mind's vitality. What matters it if we have nothing to show after this long abstracted dream. There may be an increase in the power of reflection, and more food laid by for its future purposes. It is not as if we had dreamed, and the moment of our awaking destroyed the illusion, and showed how unsubstantial was the whole of that we had enjoyed, and of that too which gave us pain. It is not as if the senses had slumbered in the midst of day, nor is it like madness, when time and life bring nothing but the body's decay, and the agony imagination brings from our hearts, and the pleasure it creates, are the constant existence of past impression, wrought indelibly upon our minds, and coming forth with the vivid intensity of an incident of the moment. We are pursued by no phantom, shapeless, ghostly, and unreal; but that which stands before us is the spirit, in its living lifelike form, of that which has been, and though no more, is ever near us, in all the deep torture of an undying remembrance.

The state of strong reflection to which we allude, is like none of these; but the mind, though it show not nor put into form its creations or its conclusions, has still exerted equal power, and feels weary of its effort. It is not indolent, but it shows a want of active industry, in thus allowing its gleanings to be thrown

This appears to have been one of the bad propensities of Coleridge. He thought, and studied, and his mind was ever powerfully exerted; but there was a want of object that gave a rambling character to his thoughts, and his indolence did not admit of his fixing, with determined and persevering energy, on some one design. There is a great difference between thinking, and the attempt to make our conclusions available by giving them the form of manuscript. The one is a necessity with all--not cursed with the very spirit of vacancy, for no mind can live without action; it is a law of its nature, and as imperative as any to which we submit. But, where one is VOL. XVIII.-NO. 37.

4

compelled to reduce to shape the various ideas reason and imagination suggest, to form a living being, the image that exists only in the recesses of the mind, is an arduous and exhausting task-one far greater than the labour of thinking, the mere passive attention to our ideas as they rise, shapeless, chaotic, and crude.

We do not inean to disparage Coleridge so far as to accuse him of yielding to this intellectual idleness, though there was an approach to it, in the want of arrangement, and the obscurity displayed in his writings; and it appeared, too, the origin of a dislike of manual toil, and of a habit of loose thinking, that made him prefer conversation to every other mode of making known his peculiar opinions. It was a faculty and habit the most congenial to his disposition; it allowed him to give all the wild wanderings of his mind and imagination, without the toil of condensing his thoughts, and concentrating their power in expression. By its means he brought the whole mass of his great erudition into play, with all the variety of topic and illustration it suggested, and found in this way a ready vent for the multitude of ideas that thronged and crowded his intellect. But there were few to whom he was intelligible; they could not follow, when the guide had lost himself and thrown away the clue to the tortuous windings of his fancy, and cast all connection into intricacy and confusion. It was not that he was vague or abstract--for there were minds near him that could keep by his side, in the most profound and difficult matters—but that the law of association was peculiar with him, that he saw analogies from dwelling more minutely on his thoughts, and that relations, even the most distant, were familiar to him, which others could not readily perceive: and thus there seemed no link between the folds that he had uncoiled---no consecutive series of ideas--but a disunited mass of great compass and depth-a fountain whose source was indistinct and obscure. For this reason, his conversation was like the firmament of heaven, filled with bright orbs, that rolled through the deep distance and fathomless obscurity of the sky, and clouded and remote to those in an inferior sphere, but which were regulated by the governing influence of his mind, and clear both in use and design to him, but to him alone.

But we must listen to his other excuse, of ill health, as a cause of inaction-a matter of which no one is a judge, who has not suffered; yet it has, like other evils, a compensating power—for, with all, there is at times the disposition to look in upon themselves, and even those most engaged in the toils and anxieties of the business of life, are often led to meditate on things that involve higher relations than their personal interests and welfare. Misfortune generally concentrates the

thoughts on self; and there is none greater than the disabled condition of physical debility.

There is no severer torment to the active spirit, than the consciousness of being unable to carry through what it undertakes, or of wanting more time for the execution of its labours, than others. But ill health causes a cowardly shrinking from labour. The mind may be active and vigorous, but it is subdued by the inertia of the body; it not only has to bear the weight of its own exertions, but to support a quickly exhausted frame. The living and the dead are bound together, and the soul ever feels its burden. But disease, which oppresses the spirits, and gives a despairing view of the importance of life, and its complete nothingness, keeps constantly before us the possibility of death, and withers the hope of action by enfeebling the desire. We ask the utility of commencing a work, when the chances are against our finishing it. We question the advantage of all or any exertion, when it may only shorten life. These demands show the morbid state of the mind, but they are the common and unhappy reaction of physical ill on our intellectual energies. But there is a self-conteinplation from bad health, that seems to make us better acquainted with ourselves. From the ambitious wish to be at work, and the sense of total disqualification for exertion, arises a habit of meditating on our minds. There is a repeated examination of their capacity, a balancing of their energies, a fathoming, of all they are fit for, and all they can do, that leads to a self-knowledge, which in itself is action; though while we are searching our souls to their depths, we meet with nothing to cheer, but much to depress in the physical weakness that incapacitates, much to unnerve and produce a disheartening and self-depreciating state. Through the death of the body, we thus are made to know the life of the mind; and through the decay of our strength, to appreciate our intellectual powers; and in this way we are, to some extent, compensated for our misery. But there is another way in which the want of health makes up for its unhappy influence: all sensation becomes more vivid, and pain and pleasure vibrate over the nerves with more intensity; and thus there is given a wider and more various play of feeling, and as the heart expands, the sphere for the movements of the intellect deepens and enlarges. It is this state of strong internal life and depressed animal spirits, that seems favourable to the observation of the poet, in endowing him with a finer perception, if it does not heighten his admiration for the beauty of nature, and opening every sense to the ready reception of a more powerful impression, by increasing the spirit of universal benevolence and good feeling that closes in over the humiliation and contempt for self.

But we must draw our remarks to a close, and merely add, that we shall have done a good deed, if a single individual should be induced by them, to make himself acquainted with their subject. We have expressed our admiration of the man and his mind, without discussing the character of his opinions or philosophy. It is enough if we find something to honour, little to cavil at, still less to blame. Time will prove itself the friend of that which is worthy of preservation, and close over all that it dooms to destruction.

ART. II.--The Southwest, by A YANKEE. 2 vols, 12mo. New

York: Harper & Brothers. 1835.

For two reasons, the above book claims our notice. In the first place, it is an American production, evincing considerable talent; and secondly, the kind of work is a novelty. Travels in America, by an American! How many ideas does the very phrase suggest! The magnitude of the country; the diversity of character, of education, habits, and modes of life; the variety of institutions; the system of internal colonisation by which we build up mighty states within ourselves, the population of one section flooding another, and converting wildernesses into gardens. These ideas, and others as interesting, press at once upon the mind, and almost baffle both calculation and conjecture. Here is a native of one quarter of our land, who projects a visit to a distant part, which, perhaps at his birth, was, in a great measure, a pathless desert; inhabited but by hostile tribes of savages, and claimed as subject to foreign rule; after a sea-voyage of sufficient length to transport him to a totally different climate, (for he had left the trees and herbage of his native hills pinched by the winter's frost, and he finds every thing around him laughing in the luxuriance of summer;) he arrives at what, in so short a space of time, has become a permanent and settled portion of our Union, and discovers her teeming with population, wealth and enterprise, and preparing to be herself a centre for like progressive action upon lands as remote as she from her parent soil. Though distant more than a thousand miles from his native state, he feels the genial and protecting influence of the constitution of his country, which has expanded to encircle and embrace new empires, and he recognises the same principles of civil and religious liberty, which course, with the blood, through the veins of

men.

[ocr errors]

every American. But though the same general outline meets his view, every diversity of detail is presented to him. He has left a manufacturing and commercial, and is among an agricultural people; planters, not farmers; with an agriculture unlike any he had seen, and with labourers of a different race of

He surveys a picture of life where all the touches are grand, though rude; hospitality, boundless; generosity, profuse; expenditure, liberal ; enterprise, unlimited; and though the fair face of the portraiture be occasionally discoloured by ruinous vices, as gambling, intemperance, and disregard of religion, he feels convinced that these are the inevitable scourges of a new country, where the door is thrown open so widely to profitable speculation, and that they will finally vanish, as they are in fact now gradually passing away, before the advance of civilisation, and her true parent, religion.

All this he records for the benefit of his countrymen at the north; and as he saw much that was both new and entertaining to himself, he concludes, and rightly, that it will be equally so to them.

In the destinies of the west, we believe all feel a deep interest. Every reflecting man is convinced, that the sceptre of empire in America is passing into western hands; and whether for weal or for woe, will ultimately depend upon their fitness to wield it. Hence the anxiety experienced at the east, for the spread of religion, of education, and of correct political sentiments in that vast region; and hence, too, the efforts of the virtuous and intelligent there, for the accomplishment of the same beneficent purposes. While, however, the interest is such as we have described, the actual information upon the subject with the majority at the north and east, is, we believe, but partial; and to such, the present work will be highly acceptable.

Of the productions of foreign tourists, except for purposes of amusement, we have seen quite enough. For information, it is idle to turn to them. These writers either do not, or will not, understand us. We would except Latrobe; but for the rest, none have gone beneath the surface, whether from want of intellect, or want of knowledge, may be questionable. They either flounder about in a thick mist which their own ignorance has engendered, or else, leaving their homes with certain theories in their heads, which must be made to suit all times and all places, every thing appears 'warped which does not square with them; or, if any cannot be so bent as to fit, they are, of course, condemned.

condemned. What is new is absurd, and must therefore be laughed at. Mere externals easily admit of this, and these have, on that account, generally been selected for this object. We have made an exception in favour of such

« 上一頁繼續 »