“November” by Hartley Coleridge, With a Brief Sketch of the Author
by Ann Neilson
David Hartley Coleridge, known commonly as Hartley Coleridge, was a nineteenth century poet, critic, biographer, essayist, and, for a brief time, teacher. Born in England in 1796, he was the eldest son of the well-known Samuel Taylor Coleridge (source.) Although Coleridge struggled with maintaining a unique image and reputation from that of his father’s, the culmination of his work up until his death in 1849 left him certainly accomplished enough to separate himself from his father’s esteemed legacy.
Of his skill as a writer and generally regarding the character of Hartley Coleridge, his brother, Derwent, explains,
A resemblance in kind is discernable, more especially if the comparison [between Hartley and their father, Samuel] be made with the earlier productions of the elder Coleridge, though this is not so striking as the contrast exhibited on the whole. A wit and a humorist, a keen observer, and a deep but not a sustained or comprehensive thinker; intensely subjective, or at least introspective, yet not disposed to dwell in pure abstractions; seeing the universal in the individual, yet resting in the individual rather than the universal; acute and sagacious, often under the disguise or paradox; playful and tender, with a predominance of the fancy over the imagination, yet capable of the deepest pathos; clear, rapid, and brilliant, the qualities of his mind may almost be regarded as supplemental to those by which his father’s later and more elaborate productions are distinguished (Coleridge xx).
During his impressionable boyhood years, Hartley acquainted himself with figures such as Sir Walter Scott and Wordsworth, which,
…made an indelible impression upon his mind, the effect being immediately apparent in the complexion of those extraordinary day-dreams in which he passed his visionary boyhood, and to which he was wont to transfer whatever struck his fancy or stimulated his intellect in actual life. Nothing remained for him upon the earth to which it belonged. The scenery at his feet he beheld mirrored a floating cloud, when it became for him more real and important than the matter-of-fact world in which he had to live (xl-xli).
Although the poem I have transcribed for this post does not fully display the unique, seemingly eccentric and dreamy qualities of this gentleman, it provides a keyhole to peer into scattered hints of sombre and mournful imagery, characteristic of the mystical world Coleridge had created for himself.
The mellow year is hasting to its close;
The little birds have almost sung their last,
Their small notes twitter in the dreary blast—
That shrill-piped harbinger of early snows;
The patient beauty of the scentless rose,
Oft with the morn’s hoar crystal quaintly glass’d,
Hangs, a pale mourner for the summer past,
And makes a little summer where it grows.
In the chill sunbeam of the faint brief day
The dusky waters shudder as they shine;
The russet leaves obstruct the straggling way
Of oozy brooks, which no deep banks define;
And the gaunt woods, in ragged, scant array,
Wrap their old limbs with sombre ivy twine.