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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 2 January 1797

Contents vol. VI
Letters: 1796
Letters: 1797
Letters: 1798
Letters: 1799
Letters: 1800
Letters: 1801
Letters: 1802
Letters: 1803
Letters: 1804
Letters: 1805
Letters: 1806
Letters: 1807
Letters: 1808
Letters: 1809
Letters: 1810
Letters: 1811
Letters: 1812
Letters: 1814
Letters: 1815
Letters: 1816
Letters: 1817
Letters: 1818
Letters: 1819
Letters: 1820
Letters: 1821
Contents vol. VII
Letters: 1821
Letters: 1822
Letters: 1823
Letters: 1824
Letters: 1825
Letters: 1826
Letters: 1827
Letters: 1828
Letters: 1829
Letters: 1830
Letters: 1831
Letters: 1832
Letters: 1833
Letters: 1834
Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
List of Letters
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[Dated outside: Jan. 2, 1797.]

YOUR success in the higher species of the Ode is such, as bespeaks you born for achievements of loftier enterprize than to linger in the lowly train of songsters and sonneteurs. Sincerely
I think
your Ode one of the finest I have read. The opening is in the spirit of the sublimest allegory. The idea of the “skirts of the departing year, seen far onwards, waving on the wind” is one of those noble Hints at which the Reader’s imagination is apt to kindle into grand conceptions. Do the words “impetuous” and “solemnize” harmonize well in the same line? Think and judge. In the 2d strophe, there seems to be too much play of fancy to be consistent with that continued elevation we are taught to expect from the strain of the foregoing. The parenthized line (by the way I abominate parentheses in this kind of poetry) at the beginng of 7th page, and indeed all that gradual description of the throes and pangs of nature in childbirth, I do not much like, and those 4 first lines,—I mean “tomb gloom anguish and languish”— rise not above mediocrity. In the Epode, your mighty genius comes again: “I marked ambition” &c. Thro’ the whole Epod indeed you carry along our souls in a full spring tide of feeling and imaginatn. Here is the “Storm of Music,” as Cowper expresses it. Would it not be more abrupt “Why does the northern Conqueress stay” or “where does the northern Conqueress stay”?—this change of measure, rather than the feebler “Ah! whither”. “Foul her life and dark her tomb, mighty army of the dead, dance like deathflies” &c.: here is genius, here is poetry, rapid, irresistible. The concluding line, is it not a personif: without use? “Nec deus intersit”—except indeed for rhyme sake. Would the laws of Strophe and antistrophe, which, if they are as unchangeable, I suppose are about as wise, [as] the Mede and Persian laws, admit of expunging that line altogether, and changing the preceding one to “and he, poor madman, deemd it quenchd in endless night?”—fond madman or proud madman if you will, but poor is more contemptuous. If I offer alterations of my own to your poetry, and admit not yours in mine, it is upon the principle of a present to a rich man being graciously accepted, and the same present to a poor man being considered as in insult. To return—The Antistrophe that follows is not inferior in grandeur or original: but is I think not faultless—e: g: How is Memory alone, when all the etherial multitude are there? Reflect. Again “storiedst thy sad hours” is harsh, I need not tell you, but you have gained your point in expressing much meaning in few words: “Purple locks and snow white glories” “mild Arcadians ever blooming” “seas of milk and ships of amber” these are things the Muse talks about when, to borrow H. Walpole’s witty phrase, she is not finely-phrenzied, only a little light-headed, that’s all. “Purple locks.” They may manage things differently in fairy land, but your “golden tresses” are more to my fancy. The spirit of the Earth is a most happy conceit, and the last line is one of the luckiest I ever heard—“and stood up beautiful before the cloudy
seat.” I cannot enough admire it. ’Tis somehow picturesque in the very sound. The 2d Antistrophe (what is the meaning of these things?) is fine and faultless (or to vary the alliteration and not diminish the affectation) beautiful and blameless. I only except to the last line as meaningless after the preceding, and useless entirely—besides, why disjoin “nature and the world” here, when you had confounded both in their pregnancy: “the common earth and nature,” recollect, a little before—And there is a dismal superfluity in the unmeaning vocable “unhurld”—the worse, as it is so evidently a rhyme-fetch.—“Death like he dozes” is a prosaic conceit—indeed all the Epode as far as “brother’s corse” I most heartily commend to annihilation. The enthusiast of the lyre should not be so feebly, so tediously, delineative of his own feelings; ’tis not the way to become “Master of our affections.” The address to Albion is very agreeable, and concludes even beautifully: “speaks safety to his island child”—“Sworded”—epithet I would change for “cruel”. The immediately succeeding lines are prosaic: “mad avarice” is an unhappy combination; and “the coward distance yet with kindling pride” is not only reprehensible for the antithetical turn, but as it is a quotation: “safe distance” and “coward distance” you have more than once had recourse to before—And the Lyric Muse, in her enthusiasm, should talk the language of her country, something removed from common use, something “recent,” unborrowed. The dreams of destruction “soothing her fierce solitude,” are vastly grand and terrific: still you weaken the effect by that superfluous and easily-conceived parenthesis that finishes the page. The foregoing image, few minds could have conceived, few tongues could have so cloath’d; “muttring destempered triumph” &c. is vastly fine. I hate imperfect beginnings and endings. Now your concluding stanza is worthy of so fine an ode. The beginning was awakening and striking; the ending is soothing and solemn—Are you serious when you ask whether you shall admit this ode? it would be strange infatuation to leave out
your Chatterton; mere insanity to reject this. Unless you are fearful that the splendid thing may be a means of “eclipsing many a softer satellite” that twinkles thro’ the volume. Neither omit the annex’d little poem. For my part, detesting alliterations, I should make the 1st line “Away, with this fantastic pride of woe.” Well may you relish Bowles’s allegory. I need only tell you, I have read, and will only add, that I dislike ambition’s name gilded on his helmet-cap, and that I think, among the more striking personages you notice, you omitted the most striking, Remorse!” He saw the trees—the sun—then hied him to his cave again”!!! The 2d stanza of mania is superfl: the 1st was never exceeded. The 2d is too methodic: for her. With all its load of beauties, I am more affected with the 6 first stanzas of the
Elegiac poem written during sickness. Tell me your feelings. If the fraternal sentiment conveyed in the
following lines will atone for the total want of anything like merit or genius in it, I desire you will print it next after my other sonnet to my sister.

Friend of my earliest years, & childish days,
My joys, my sorrows, thou with me hast shared
Companion dear; & we alike have fared
Poor pilgrims we, thro’ life’s unequal ways
It were unwisely done, should we refuse
To cheer our path, as featly as we may,
Our lonely path to cheer, as travellers use
With merry song, quaint tale, or roundelay.
And we will sometimes talk past troubles o’er,
Of mercies shewn, & all our sickness heal’d,
And in his judgments God remembring love;
And we will learn to praise God evermore
For those “Glad tidings of great joy” reveal’d
By that sooth messenger, sent from above.

If you think the epithet “sooth” quaint, substitute “blest messenger.” I hope you are printing my sonnets, as I directed you—particularly the 2d. “Methinks” &c. with my last added 6 lines at ye end: and all of ’em as I last made ’em.

This has been a sad long letter of business, with no room in it for what honest Bunyan terms heart-work. I have just room left to congratulate you on your removal to Stowey; to wish success to all your projects; to “bid fair peace” be to that house; to send my love and best wishes, breathed warmly, after your dear Sara, and her little David Hartley. If Lloyd be with you, bid him write to me: I feel to whom I am obliged primarily for two very friendly letters I have received already from him. A dainty sweet book that “Art and Nature“ is. I am at present re-re-reading Priestley’s examinat of the Scotch Drs: how the Rogue strings ’em up! three together! You have no doubt read that clear, strong, humorous, most entertaining piece of reasoning. If not, procure it, and be exquisitely amused. I wish I could get more of Priestley’s works. Can you recommend me to any more books, easy of access, such as circulating shops afford? God bless you and yours.

Poor Mary is very unwell with a sore throat and a slight species of scarlet fever. God bless her too.

Monday Morning, at Office.