A Slip of Coleridge's

— Has any one ever called attention to the extraordinary blunder, in describing natural phenomena, which occurs in the Ancient Mariner of Coleridge ? At the moment of the terrific apparition of the phantom ship, we read how

“The western wave was all aflame,
The day was well-nigh done ;
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright sun.”

Then comes the awful game of dice, then the sunset, and then the instantaneous tropical night and the miserable efforts of the steersman, when

“ Clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.”

But if the moon rose in the east and gradually climbed the sky, she was at or near her full, — opposite the sun. Hence she could not be horned, or have a star within either tip. The crescent moon, with her horns, is of course seen in the west, at or near sunset, and the crescent moon is steadily setting and getting lower in the sky from the instant of its appearance. It may also be crescent in the east at sunrise, but this has no application here.

The significance of this error is twofold. First, Coleridge is one of those authors whom his admirers generally will not allow to be criticised; he is supposed to be justified by a kind of inspiration in anything he ever wrote. In such circumstances, there is some satisfaction for those whose taste is for a wholly different style of composition, and who consider Coleridge a peculiarly proper subject for criticism, to find the sort of mistake in him which, if made by Scott, Byron, or Moore, would have instantly brought down on the offender a swarm of harpies.

But there is a much deeper significance in this mistake. It shows that a poet, of undoubted genius and skill in composition, who has planned and composed a poem with profound thought and care, may in the course of forty lines admit an impossible incongruity, unnoticed by himself, and, as time has shown, unnoticed by three generations of readers. Yet it is precisely such incongruities that cause the various German critics to cut up the Iliad and Odyssey into separate poems, and declare that no one man could have composed either of them. Coleridge tells us himself that he is indebted to Wordsworth for two lines of the poem. Lachmann would undoubtedly argue that one of these two poets must have stopped his hand soon after describing the sunset, and then the other have inserted the description of the moon.