Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 (Ottery St Mary) – 1834 (Highgate)
Scene--A spacious drawing-room, with music-room adjoining.
Katharine. What are the words ?
Eliza. Ask our friend, the Improvisatore ; here he comes. Kate has a favour
to ask of you, Sir ; it is that you will repeat the ballad [Believe me if
all those endearing young charms.--EHC's ? note] that Mr. ____ sang so
Friend. It is in Moore's Irish Melodies ; but I do not recollect the
words distinctly. The moral of them, however, I take to be this :--
Love would remain the same if true,
When we were neither young nor new ;
Yea, and in all within the will that came,
By the same proofs would show itself the same.
Eliza. What are the lines you repeated from Beaumont and Fletcher, which my
mother admired so much ? It begins with something about two vines so close
that their tendrils intermingle.
Friend. You mean Charles' speech to Angelina, in The Elder Brother.
We'll live together, like two neighbour vines,
Circling our souls and loves in one another !
We'll spring together, and we'll bear one fruit ;
One joy shall make us smile, and one grief mourn ;
One age go with us, and one hour of death
Shall close our eyes, and one grave make us happy.
Katharine. A precious boon, that would go far to reconcile one to old
age--this love--if true ! But is there any such true love ?
Friend. I hope so.
Katharine. But do you believe it ?
Eliza (eagerly). I am sure he does.
Friend. From a man turned of fifty, Katharine, I imagine, expects a
less confident answer.
Katharine. A more sincere one, perhaps.
Friend. Even though he should have obtained the nick-name of
Improvisatore, by perpetrating charades and extempore verses at
Christmas times ?
Eliza. Nay, but be serious.
Friend. Serious ! Doubtless. A grave personage of my years giving a
Love-lecture to two young ladies, cannot well be otherwise. The
difficulty, I suspect, would be for them to remain so. It will be
asked whether I am not the `elderly gentleman' who sate `despairing
beside a clear stream', with a willow for his wig-block.
Eliza. Say another word, and we will call it downright affectation.
Katharine. No ! we will be affronted, drop a courtesy, and ask pardon for
our presumption in expecting that Mr. ___ would waste his sense on two
Friend. Well, well, I will be serious. Hem ! Now then commences the
discourse ; Mr. Moore's song being the text. Love, as distinguished
from Friendship, on the one hand, and from the passion that too often
usurps its name, on the other--
Lucius (Eliza's brother, who had just joined the trio, in a whisper to the
Friend). But is not Love the union of both ?
Friend (aside to Lucius). He never loved who thinks so.
Eliza. Brother, we don't want you. There ! Mrs. H. cannot arrange the
flower vase without you. Thank you, Mrs. Hartman.
Lucius. I'll have my revenge ! I know what I will say !
Eliza. Off ! Off ! Now, dear Sir,--Love, you were saying--
Friend. Hush ! Preaching, you mean, Eliza.
Eliza (impatiently). Pshaw !
Friend. Well then, I was saying that Love, truly such, is itself not
the most common thing in the world : and that mutual love still less
so. But that enduring personal attachment, so beautifully delineated
by Erin's sweet melodist, and still more touchingly, perhaps, in the
well-known ballad, `John Anderson, my Jo, John,' in addition to a
depth and constancy of character of no every-day occurrence, supposes
a peculiar sensibility and tenderness of nature ; a constitutional
communicativeness and utterancy of heart and soul ; a delight in the
detail of sympathy, in the outward and visible signs of the sacrament
within--to count, as it were, the pulses of the life of love. But
above all, it supposes a soul which, even in the pride and summer-tide
of life--even in the lustihood of health and strength, had felt
oftenest and prized highest that which age cannot take away and which,
in all our lovings, is the Love ;----
Eliza. There is something here (pointing to her heart) that seems to
understand you, but wants the word that would make it understand itself.
Katharine. I, too, seem to feel what you mean. Interpret the feeling for
Friend. ---- I mean that willing sense of the insufficingness of the
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"The Improvisatore" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 24 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/34350/the-improvisatore>.