Coleridge An Unitarian Preacher
During his residence at Nether Stoney, Coleridge officiated as Unitarian
preacher at Taunton, and afterwards at Shrewsbury. Mr. Hazlitt has
described his walking ten miles on a winter day to hear Coleridge
preach. "When I got there," he says, "the organ was playing the 100th
psalm, and, when it was done, Mr. Coleridge rose and gave out his
text:--'He departed again into a mountain himself alone.' As he gave out
, his voice rose like a stream of rich distilled perfume; when
he came to the two last words, which he pronounced loud, deep, and
distinct, it seemed to me, who was then young, as if the sounds had
echoed from the bottom of the human heart, and as if that prayer might
have floated in solemn silence through the universe. The idea of St.
John came into my mind, of one crying in the wilderness, who had his
loins girt about, and whose food was locusts and wild honey. The
preacher then launched into his subject, like an eagle dallying with
the wind. The sermon was upon peace and war--upon Church and State; not
their alliance, but their separation; on the spirit of the world and the
spirit of Christianity; not as the same, but as opposed to one another.
He talked of those who had inscribed the cross of Christ on banners
dripping with human gore! He made a poetical and pastoral excursion;
and, to show the fatal effects of war, drew a striking contrast between
the simple shepherd-boy driving his team a-field, or sitting under the
hawthorn, piping to his flock, as though he should never be old, and the
same poor country-lad crimped, kidnapped, brought into town, made drunk
at an alehouse, turned into a wretched drummer-boy, with his hair
sticking on end with powder and pomatum, a long cue at his back, and
tricked out in the finery of the profession of blood.
"'Such were the notes our once-loved poet sung;'
and, for myself, I could not have been more delighted if I had heard the
music of the spheres."
* * * * *