Forest Hermit
Forest Hermit
Forest Hermit
Forest Hermit
Forest Hermit

Forest Hermit

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    The "Forest Hermit" in Coleridge and Wordsworth.Author(s): Lane CooperReviewed work(s):Source: Modern Language Notes, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Feb., 1909), pp. 33-36Published by: The Johns Hopkins University PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2916638 .

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    MODERN LANGUAGENOTESVOL.XXIV. BALTIMORE, FEBRUARY, 1909. No. 2.

    THE "F OREST HERMIT " IN COLE-RIDGE AND WORDSWORTH.The romantic magination,e are to under-stand, ays emphasis pon hepartas against hewhole uponthepoetic etail s against he argeand unified oetical onception upontheindi-vidual element npoetry-soAristotlemight utit-as against heuniversal; upon he ndividual

    man also as against he state n and for tself.Hence, n a measure, risesthephenomenonfthe beautiful ragment,ike Christabelr KubicaKhan, which ts author s powerless o finishforwant of a dominant rchitectonicdea,forwant f an original nd compelling nity, e isunable o subordinateach separate hrase, achaccretion f images, o the inexorable volutionof a complete and harmoniousmasterpiece.Hence also, f wemaymake such a leap, comesinpart he romanticdealization f thesolitary,theanchoret,he recluse; of the individualwhowithdraws rom he social organism nd tries oexist lone ndforhimself.His retreat,fcourse,mustbe voluntary. Ifit s forced, r forciblyrolonged, e willshortlybe heard amenting ithCowper's elkirk

    0 Solitude! where re the charmsThat sageshave seen n thyface?Andeven f itbe altogether f his ownvolition,he can by no means enyhimself he ocial oy oftelling thers bout his preference.Thus in adozenplacesDe Quincey eveals he secret fhiscarefully ourished passioin for olitude. Hispassion, f course, epresents mood that everyone feelsnow and then. But undoubtedlyheairwas surcharged ith he mood after hetimeof thatnatural man Rousseau. Even CharlesLamb, most affable nd accessibleof mortals,confesses o a like "passion," though his con-fession as thefaintest roma of literarynherit-ance. The mood was a part of the literarybequest rom generationreceding.

    Undoubtedly,oo, here s an element ere frevivedmedievalism. Theromanticolitary ar-ries abouthim somereminderf the cloister rthe staffndscrip. In any case,retire rwanderas faras hewill,he can neverquite succeed nbeing creatureundered romhegenerality,orafter ll there re many ikehim and inspite fhis cry, II am myself, yself lone " if wedraghim ndhis nearestneighborromheir e-spectivemossy ells, he sunlightmay disclosesimilaritiesetween lhemmountingo thefixedcharacteristicsf tvpe.In readingThe Rimeof heAncientMlariner,thepresent riterong imaginedhat heHermitwho ppearsnPartvi to shrive heherohad anoriginal n some real personage. Andthismaystillbe true. The momentheMariner eachesshore, e enters landscape, longtheSomersetcoast of the Severn Sea, with whichColeridgeandhis erstwhileollaborator, ordsworth,erethoroughlyamiliar it may be thatsomewherein theirramblings mong the QuantockHillsone or both f thepoetshad seen recluse orres-ponding, fter fashion, o the Hermitof theWood. At the ametime, his Hermithassuchfirst-classiteraryntecedents,nd suchclear ndoccasionallyrtificialarallelsnWordsworthndColeridgehemselves,s toshakeone'sbelief hateitherpoet necessarily ad " his eye on theobject" when the holyman of the Rime wastaking hape. Thehermitsn English iteratureare numerous. It might e interestingo com-pare this one with Spenserian haracter homhegreatly esemblesalbeit the latter s a piousfraud); for t willbe recalled hatbothColeridgeandWordsworth ereeagerly eading penser nQuantockiandays. First,however,t may bewellto comparehimand his habitatwithotherhermitss conceived y the two modern oets;since,whatever is origin, e is withoutoubtstereotypediguren both, nd forWordswortha stockpoeticalresource, ot unlikeseveralofthe pseudo-classicdevices which Wordswortheschewed.

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    34 MODERN LANGUAGE NOTES. [Vol. xxiv,No. 2.Save for a traditionalslip in theprinting,' hedescriptionof the "forest Hermit" in the finaltext ofthe AncientMariner (lines 508-541, 560-563, 570-577) is substantially he same as that

    first iven in theLyrical Ballads of 1798. Cole-ridge had indeedintroduced touch of somethingsimilar n a poem whichDykes Campbell assignsto the year 1793, entitled Lines to a BeatttifulSpring in a Village:Northine nseenncavern epths odwell,The Hermit-fountainf ome rippingell 2

    -where the contextsavors of an influence romVirgil or even Theocritus. And it is believedthathe had in mindthe same scene as that ustcited from the AncienttMlariner,when he puttogether certain lines in a " ballad-tale" forwhich Wordsworth ave him the subject n 1797,The Three Graves:

    'Tis sweetohear brook,tissweetTo hear he abbath-bell,Deep na woody ell.His limbs long hemoss, isheadUpon mossy eap,With lhut-upenses, dwarday;Thatbrook 'en on a workingayMight hatterneto sleep.3

    Again, we may not be far from he holy Hermit'scushion plump,when we are taken in the mid-nightwood to watch Christabel praying underthe traditionalnmossyak:Thesighs heheavedwereoft nd ow,Andnought asgreen pon he akBut moss ndrarestmistletoe:She kneels eneathhehuge aktree,And nsilence rayethhe.4

    IThis slip is worthnoting. In most of therecent er-sions, ncluding he standard extofDykesCampbell, ines529-530 ofthe AncientMariner re madetorun:The planks ookedwarped and see those ails,How thintheyare and sere tAside from the impossible asttense, ookedwarpeds anodd bitof acophony o foist pontheauthor fChristabel;it is about as melodious s thecelebrated legiac line com-posed-says De Quincey-by Coleridge's old pedagogue,Jemmy oyer:'Twas thouthat mooth'd'st herough-rugg'd ed ofpain.2Coleridge,PoeticalWorks, 893,p. 24.3The ThreeGraves492-500,PoeticalWorks, . 92; seeHutchinson'seditionofLyricalBallads, pp. 217, 258.Christabel2-36, PoeticalWorks, . 116.

    Finally, there s a directreference o the tradi-tional hermit,with a generalreminiscence f hissylvan dwellinig, n Coleridge's Mad Monk, apoem written bouit hreeyears aftertheAncientMariner, and like the Lines to a Beautiful Springin a Village, indebted to a bucolic source n theclassics. The familiaroak has changed to a treeof equally good literaryparentage,the Sicilianchestnut:

    I heard voice romtna's ide;Where 'era cavern'smouthThatfrontedothe outhA chestnutpreadtsumbrage ide:A hermitra monk hemanmight e;But him couldnot ee:Andthus hemusic low'dlong,Inmelodymostiketo oldSicilian ong:"Therewas timewhen arth,nd ea, nd kies,Thebrightreen ale, ndforest'sark ecess,With ll things,aybefore ine yesIn steadyoveliness:Butnow feel, nearth's neasycene,Such orrowsswillnever ease;-I only skfor eace;If mustive toknowhat uch time asbeen!"The rest s not now to thepoint. The tale closesabruptly,with a hint of the hermit's ustomaryenvironment:

    Hereceased hevoice. In deepdismay,Down hroughheforestpursu'dmyway.5So much forsylvanhermits n Coleridge; nowfor a few n Wordsworth. The first hatwe comeupon in the latter poet is scarcelytypical-he isa man witha family; but he is fairly rtificial.He dwells on the border of Lake Como, whereWordsworthwith careful circumstantiality ic-tureshimin theDescriptive ketches f 1793

    Oncedid pierce owhere cabin tood,Thered-breasteacehadbury'dt nwood,There, y hedoor hoary-headedireTouch'dwith iswither'd and naged yre;TheM31ad onk1-16, 46-47. This poem,bytheway,ought ometime o be comparedwithWordsworth'snti-qnmatonsf mmortalitynd Coleridge'sDejection; forthediscoverywillyetbe madethatthey reall threeIn melodymost ike toold Sicilian song.The conventional urn, There was a time . . But now

    . . ." (cf. Dejection, tanza 6, Intimationsf mmortality,Stanza1) is thesamemodulation hatwe find n Lycidas:But 0 theheavychange,nowthouartgon.

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    February, 909.] MODERN LANGUAGE NOTES. 35Beneath an old-grey ak as violets ie,Stretch'd t his feetwith tedfast, pward e