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1 Nowhere is this displayed with more comic self-complacency than when he thought it needful to rewrite the ballad of Helen of Kirconnel,— a poem hardly to be matched in any language for swiftness of movement and savage sincerity of feeling. Its shuddering compression is masterly. Compare
Curst be the heart that thought the thought,compare this with,—
And curst the hand that fired the shot,
When in my arms burd Helen dropt,
That died to succor me!
O, think ye not my heart was sair
When my love dropt down and spake na mair?
Proud Gordon cannot bear the thoughtsThese are surely the verses of an attorney's clerk ‘penning a stanza when he should engross.’ It will be noticed that Wordsworth here also departs from his earlier theory of the language of poetry by substituting a javelin for a bullet as less modern and familiar. Had he written,—
That through his brain are travelling,
And, starting up, to Bruce's heart
He launched a deadly javelin:
Fair Ellen saw it when it came,
And, stepping forth to meet the same,
Did with her body cover
The Youth, her chosen lover.
And Bruce (as soon as he had slain
The Gordon) sailed away to Spain,
And fought with rage incessant
Against the Moorish Crescent.
And Gordon never gave a hint,it would hardly have seemed more like a parody than the rest. He shows the same insensibility in a note upon the Ancient Mariner in the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads: ‘The poem of my friend has indeed great defects; first, that the principal person has no distinct character, either in his profession of mariner, or as a human being who, having been long under the control of supernatural impressions, might be supposed himself to partake of something supernatural; secondly, that he does not act, but is continually acted upon; thirdly, that the events, having no necessary connection, do not produce each other; and lastly, that the imagery is somewhat laboriously accumulated.’ Here is an indictment, to be sure, and drawn, plainly enough, by the attorney's clerk aforenamed. One would think that the strange charm of Coleridge's most truly original poems lay in this very emancipation from the laws of cause and effect.
But, having somewhat picked his flint,
Let fly the fatal bullet
That killed that lovely pullet,
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