Thursday, 28 April 2016

John Wilson, 'The Magic Mirror' (1812)


For a time, John Wilson (also known as 'Christopher North', 1785-1854) lived at Ellera, his estate on Windermerein 1807. He soon befriended his neighbours Coleridge and Wordsworth. A few years later he published 'The Magic Mirror' in the Edinburgh Annual Register [3 (1812), 107-117: it's dated 'for 1810' but was actually published 1812]. That's the first page of the poem up there, and here, with its interesting footnote, is the second page:

Inevitably we wonder: which unpublished poem? J C C Mays [Poetical Works (2 vols Princeton 2001), 1:526] thinks the reference is to a fragment Coleridge wrote in his notebook, perhaps in 1798:
The silence of the City—How awful at midnight—
Mute as the battlements & crags & towers
That fancy makes in the clouds—yea, as mute
As the moonlight that sleeps on the steady Vanes,—
The cell of a departed Anchoret,
His skeleton & flitting ghost are there,
Sole tenants—
And all the City, silent as the moon
That steeps in quiet light the steady Vanes
Of her huge temples—
I don't see this, myself: the specifics here surely don't match Wilson's poem. More, when Wilson collected 'The Magic Mirror' in his Miscellaneous Poems (1825), the wording of the footnote was changed:


To me, this suggests that whichever Coleridge poem Wilson was drawing on was an unpublished MS piece in 1812, but had been published by 1825 (the lines Mays instances were not published in Coleridge's lifetime). I wonder if Wilson didn't have in mind some lines from Coleridge's 'Destiny of Nations', written 1795 but not published under Coleridge's name until 1817. War coming like a mighty wind:
... War and all its dread vicissitudes
Pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts;...
A vapour sailed, as when a cloud, exhaled
From Egypt's fields that steam hot pestilence,
Travels the sky for many a trackless league,
Till o'er some death-doomed land, distant in vain,
It broods incumbent. Forthwith from the plain,
Facing the Isle, a brighter cloud arose,
And steered its course which way the vapour went.’

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Coleridge's "Wanderings of Cain" Versified



In the 1828 preface to the prose Wanderings of Cain (composed 1797), Coleridge notes that 'years afterward ...' (he means at some point between 1805 and 1815) ' ... I determined on commencing anew, and composing the whole in stanzas'. He claims to have made 'some progress in realizing this intention' but to have given up ('adverse gales drove my bark off the "Fortunate Isles" of the Muses' is how he puts it). Afterward, he says, he was able to remember only one stanza:
Encinctured with a twine of leaves,
That leafy twine his only dress!
A lovely Boy was plucking fruits,
By moonlight, in a wilderness.
The morn was bright, the air was free,
And fruits and flowers together grew
On many a shrub and many a tree:
And all put on a gentle hue,
Hanging in the shadowy air
Like a picture rich and rare.
It was a climate where, they say,
The night is more belov'd than day.
But who that beauteous Boy beguil'd,
That beauteous Boy to linger here?
Alone, by night, a little child,
In place so silent and so wild—
Has he no friend, no loving Mother near?
It's not possible to be sure how serious Coleridge was about this project of versifying the prose Wanderings of Cain, or to know whether he ever drafted more than this solitary stanza (he included it in a letter to Byron in 1815). Personally, I doubt it went any further. But if it had gone further, then I think the form would not have been a string of 17-line stanzas rhyming abcbdedeffgghihhi, all cloned from this one; but would rather have been stanzas of varying length rhyming variously, after the manner of Christabel. I do think, though, that he would have kept one formal feature from this sample throughout: that the each stanza would have topped off its run of tetrameter lines with a final pentameter.

There's a rather delicious pointlessness in trying to replicate Coleridge's declared project in this case; one I find hard to resist. I suppose there would be some point in finding out how easily, or otherwise, the original prose goes into rhymed tetrameters; but that's a pretty thin justification, really.  You can find that original prose, by the way, here.
Canto 2

"A little further, father dear,
And yet a little further on,
Until we come to where the clear
And silver moonlight shineth down."
Their road lay thwart a fir-tree wood;
And at its entrance tall trees stood
At distances from one another:
The path was broad within that cover,
In moonlight as the travellers viewed,
And moonlit shadows lying free
And silent there, appeared to be
Inhabitants of solitude.
The path then winded, and too soon
Grew narrow: where the sun at noon
Might speckle but could ne'er illume:
Grew dark and dark as any cavern's gloom.

"How dark it is, O father!" laught
The boyish Enos, "but the path
Beneath our feet is soft, and soon,
We shall emerge to the light of the moon."

"Lead on, my child!" said Cain: "as guide,
And stay thou ever by my side!"
In innocence the little child
Clasped a finger of the hand
Which in sin and anger wild
Had murdered righteous Abel, and
Did guide his father through that place.
"The fir branch drips upon thee, son."
"Tis pleasant father, for I've run
Most fast and eagerly to take
To thee the pitcher and the cake:
These droplets cool my body down.
How happy are the squirrels here
That feed upon these trees of fir!
They leap from bough to bough, they play
The old ones and their young together
Their nest a home that none dissever.
Noon yesterday I clomb a tree
O father, that I might but play
With them, but they all leapt away
And fled their branches and from me,
E'en to the slender twigs they leaped,
And in an instant I could see
Them sporting on another tree.
As thou treatst me, my thoughts were kind:
Why then, O father, did they flee?
Why, father, played they not with me?
They left my promised good behind.
I cried to them e'en as you weep
Whene'er thou givest food to me,
And when thou cover'st me at sleep,
And oft as I stand at thy knee
And thine eyes brimming look with grief at me?"

Cain ceased, his stifling groans low dropped
To earth, beneath the moonlight mild;
Beside him in the night his child
Fair Enos, likewise stood and stopped.

Cain lifted up his voice and cried
Most bitterly, and said, "Great Might!
He persecuteth me this side
And that, both on the left and right:
He doth pursue my soul like wind,
And like the sand-blast blows me through;
He is around me e'en as air!
O could I thrust my life behind!
My one desire is death's adieu,
When I look on the things that ne'er
Had life, nor move upon the earth—
Behold! they seem dear to mine eyes.
That man may live though lacking breath!
O to be one who never dies!
I might abide in darkness so,
And blackness, and an empty space!
Yea, I'd lie down, and nothing know,
No movement would my limbs e'er trace
Until I changed unto the rock
Within the lion's den that steepeth
On which the young lion's head does rest
Nightlong repose the while he sleepeth.
The torrent and the water shock
That roareth far off hath a voice;
And clouds in heaven look on me
With terror in their grim estate
The Mighty One against me moves
In winds within the cedar groves
And speaks; to leave me bare of joys
That suffering and silence be my fate."

Then Enos to his father spake:
"Arise my father, yet arise:
The place wherein I found the cake
And pitcher hereby closely lies."

And when Cain ask'd, "How knowest thou?"
The child replied—"Regard thou where
The large rocks lift their summit bare
A few strides distant from the grove;
And while e'en now thy spirit strove
To lift thy voice, I list, and heard echo."

Then child took hold of father's hand,
As he would raise him to his feet:
And Cain tho most too faint to stand
Rose slowly on his knees and pressed
Himself against the trunk of a fir,
And stood upon his feet, and followed on.

The path they walked was darkling ere
Three short strides of reaching there
And sudden turned where arch and frieze
Was formed by intwined blackest trees.
The moonlight for a moment gleamed
And like a dazzling portal seemed.
Enos ran and stood clear in air;
Til Cain, his father, came to sight
Emerged from the darkness into light,
The child affrighted was: for lo!
Cain's mighty limbs were wasted quite
As if by fire; his hair thick whorl
Like Bison's forehead's matted curl,
His fierce and sullen eye below
So glared as to engender fright;
And twined black locks on either side,
A rank and tangled mass provide
All stained and scorched, as though the grasp
Of burning iron had sought to rasp
And rend them; and his countenance
Exprest in language strange and trance
An unimagined agony
That had been, was, and yet still was to be.

All desolate the scene around;
As far as sight and eye could cover
The stark bare rocks faced one another,
Leaving between a long, broad strand
An interval of fine white sand.
No sign of seasons could be found
No matter where you wanderéd,
How close you peeped the land was dead.
It could no spring, no summer know,
Nor autumn: and the winter's snow,
That would have made a lovely sight
Fell not upon these scorching rocks
Or on these blasted sands of white.
No morning larks or fleeting hawks
E'er poised themselves above this blight
But the huge serpent savage hissed
Beneath the vulture's talons sharp,
The screaming vulture's wings did close
Upon the serpent's coiling twist.
The pointed shattered summits' scarp
And rocky ridge made mimicry
Of man's concerns, and seemed to scry
Mute prophecy of things not yet;
Steeples, and battlements, and ships
With mainmasts near a mile high.
As far from wood as a boy might set
A pebble thrown with slingshot strips
There was one rock stood by itself
Some distance from the main rock shelf.
Perhaps precipitated there
By that great groan of Earth's despair
Let out when our first father fell.
Before approach, it seemed to lie
Flat on the ground, twas hard to tell:
Its base lay slanted from its peak,
Where leaning rock met sands thereby
A tall man might stand upright there.
And in that place so stark and drear
Had Enos found the jug and cake,
And to this place he led his sire.
But ere they reached the rock they saw
A human shape; a prospect dire;
Its back towards them, hiddenly
And they advancing unperceived
Could hear him smite his breast, aggrieved
And cry aloud, "Wo, wo is me!
That I must never die again,
And yet I perish sore in pain
Of thirsting and of hunger. Wo is me!"

As pallid, as reflection bright
Of sheeted lightning on the cloud
Heavy-sailing through the night
Became the face of Cain; but tight
The child Enos held the shaggy pelt
Of his Sire's robe, and looking long
Whisperéd: "Ere that I could speak,
I know, O father, that I heard
That voice. Have not I often felt,
Recalled a voice sweet and strong?
O father! this in voice and word!"
And Cain exceeding trembled, weak:
The voice was sweet indeed, but thin
And querulous like of a slave
Who's pent in misery within,
Despairing even to the grave
And can not in himself refrain
From making lamentation drear.
Behold! Young Enos glid again,
And creeping softly round the base
Of rock, met stranger face to face
And looked upon him maugre fear.
The Shape shrieked loud, and turned around,
And Cain beheld him, saw his limbs
And face were of his brother ABEL
Whom he had killed! And Cain stood swouned
Like one who struggles in his sleep
Possessed by terrors in his dreams
Creatures of all fear and fable
Relinquish not the pull of the night's deep

Thus as he stood in silent waste
And awful darkness of his Soul,
The SHAPE fell at his feet, embraced
His knees, and cried out with cry
A bitter sound to terrify.
And words then uttered out of dole:
"Thou eldest born of Adam, whom
Eve my mother brought forth first
Cease thou my torment! Spare my doom!
That day of all my days most curst
When, feeding flocks in pastures green
By side of quiet rivers clean
Thou killedst me; and now the worst
I still live on: I am in and am misery."

Cain closed his eyes, and not to see
He hid them with his hands; and sighed
Again he op'd his eyes, and queyled,
And said to Enos at his side,
"What seest thou? Didst hear a voice
My son?" "Yes, father, I beheld
A man in garments unclean clad
And he in sweet voice, fully sad
And rich in lamentation, cried."
Then Cain raised up the Shape that seemed
Like unto Abel, thought he dreamed,
And said: "Our father's Maker had
Respect both unto thee and thine
Thy offspring and thy cleanly kine:
Wherefore hath He forsaken thee?"
Then shrieked the Shape a second time,
And rent the garment that him clad
His naked skin was like the sheet
Of white sands underneath their feet;
And for a third time he did shriek,
And threw himself on his face
Upon the sand beneath the peak,
Rock's shadow black upon the place.
And Cain and Enos sate beside
And hearkened to him as he cried
The child upon his right hand, and
Upon the left sat Cain, unmanned,
And all three there beneath the rock,
Within the shadow of that stony block.

The Shape of Abel rouséd up,
And spake unto the child; "I know
The food whereof I may not sup
Cold waters where I may not go
And drink: so wherefore didst thou take
Away my pitcher?" Cain replied,
"Didst thou not favour find with God?
Within His holy sight, and by His side?"

The Shape replied, "The Lord is God
But of the living only, him they laud:
The dead possess another God."
Then Enos lifted up his eyes
And did a child's prayer impart
But Cain rejoicéd darkling wise
Full secretly within his heart.

"Most wretched shall they be the days.
Of all their mortal life," exclaimed
The Shape, "who sacrifice with praise
Acceptable and aye acclaimed
Offered unto the God of the dead;
But after death their labour stoppeth.
Yet onto me the woe aye droppeth,
For I was well beloved by He
The God of the living, he none other:
And cruel wert thou, O my brother,
Who didst snatch me away from all
His power, his dominion close."
He spake and sudden he arose
And swift across the sands did flee;
And Cain said in his heart, "The curse
Of GOD the Lord of Hosts is me;
But who is the God of the dead?"
As he pursued the Shape traverse
The sands, the Shape with shrieking fled
The sands behind the steps of Cain
Rose like white mists against the black
But Abel's passage held not back
His feet disturbéd not the sands
And swift outrun Cain overland,
Til turning short, he wheeléd round,
And reached again the rocky crop
Beneath which they had come to stop
Where Enos still stood; and the child
Reached out his arm and fingers mild
Caught hold his garment as he passed
And fell he to the ground at last.
But Cain beheld him not, and cried,
"He has passed into the dark woods,"
And so walked slowly to the side;
Of those stark rocks, where his own child
His Enoch waited, spake him words
That he had caught hold of his pelt
As he passed by, and that the man
Had sprawled upon the ground a span
And Cain once more beside him knelt,
And said, "O Abel brother mine
Would that I could lament for thee,
But that the words within me pine,
My spirit withered and unfree
And burnt with agony extreme.
Now, now, I pray thee, by thy team
Of herding flocks, and by thy pasture,
And by the quiet rivers where
Thou lovedst to watch the stream flow faster,
I pray thee tell me all thou knowst.
Who is the God of the dead? And where
Doth he make of his dwelling place?
What sacrifices doth he find
Acceptable before his face?
For I have offered, but have not
Received an answer; I have prayed,
And not been heard; I am forgot
Can more affliction e'er be laid
Upon me, sole of humankind?
Where is Death's god? To him I goest."
The Shape arose and answered,
"O that thou once hadst had on me
Such pity as I have on thee.
Come, Son of Adam!" thus he said
"And bring with thee Enos, thy faithful child!"

They three passed through the desert wild
Between the rocks across white sands
Silent as the shadows in silent lands.
So there you have it. As you can see, if you compare this with Coleridge's original prose (and really, can you be bothered? I'm amazed you've read as far as this, to be honest) this cleaves really pretty closely to the original in terms of expression, specific images and particular expression. I've added one or two small things here and there, but mostly this is very close to the original, all the way through. I might add, I found this easier to do (howsoever rough and patchy the finished result) than I thought it might be. The conclusion I draw is that Coleridge sketched out his initial prose with a rough tetrameter pattern lurking in the back of his mind, or perhaps it would be less reckless to say: that the ponderous sub-Biblical cadences of his prose, replete with repetition and portentous elevation, was leavened by something of the rhythmic and balladic genius he was about to put into The Ancient Mariner.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Wanderings of Cain (1797)



I've never been entirely sure what to make of Coleridge's 'The Wanderings of Cain'. It's a 2000-word piece of prose written November 1797 (a few other fragmentary bits and pieces were written at later dates) that styles itself 'Canto 2' of an unfinished three canto work on the subject of Cain's exile after he murdered his brother Abel. At some point in the 1800s Coleridge tinkered with the notion of adapting his prose into verse, but this came to nothing. He finally published it in 1828 as 'a fragment'. The best place to read the original chunk and all the other related bits is this useful 'Romantic Circles' set of pages on The Wanderings of Cain.

To the 1828 version Coleridge added a preface in which he explained that the work was originally to have been a collaboration with Wordsworth.
The title and subject were suggested by myself, who likewise drew out the scheme and the contents for each of the three books or cantos, of which the work was to consist, and which, the reader is to be informed, was to have been finished in one night! My partner [Wordsworth] undertook the first canto; I the second: and which ever had done first, was to set about the third. Almost thirty years have passed by; yet at this moment I cannot without something more than a smile moot the question which of the two things was the more impracticable, for a mind so eminently original to compose another man's thoughts and fancies, or for a taste so austerely pure and simple to imitate the Death of Abel?
Coleridge wrote his piece, but Wordsworth drew a blank, and at that point the two were overcome by a 'sense of the exceeding ridiculousness of the whole scheme—which broke up in a laugh: and the Ancient Mariner was written instead.' The reference to 'imitating the Death of Abel' makes the germ of the idea clear: Coleridge had read the English translation of Salomon Gessner's extremely, indeed bafflingly popular Der Tod Abels (1758), a lengthy sort-of prose-poem that, despite its grim title (and as well as expatiating fruitily on questions of morality, piety, family and religion) spends most of its time lushly describing the delightful scenery of the post-Edenic world in an access of pastoral delight.



1797 is before Coleridge learned German, so he must have read the English translation by Mary Collyer (1761).


Not just any engravings, mark you: superb engravings. The Death of Abel, flowery in several senses, was one of the bestsellers of its age, as Gabrielle Bersier notes:
[Collyer's version] became an immediate and enduring bestseller on a par with Pilgrim's Progress and Robinson Crusoe. The sheer numbers are stunning: 40 editions and reprints between 1762 and 1800 reaching a total of 70 editions and reprints through to 1830 in Britain and North America, a success much to the dismay of the critics. The recipients of Gessner's biblical elegy belonged to a poorer and less educated public. While sophisticated readers on the Continent found delight in the Arcadian pantheism of the idyll, the poorer masses of England and North America were attracted to the epic's mixture of sentimental and pious feelings, hymnal pathos and cultural criticism, all of which was intensified in Mary Collyer's translation. [Bersier, 'Arcadia Revitalized: The International Appeal of Gessner's Idylls in the 18th Century', in Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand (ed), From the Greeks to the Greens: Images of the Simple Life (Wisconsin Univ. Press 1989), 37-8]
Presumably Coleridge hoped to enjoy something like that commercial success. I also like this idiosyncratic use of the past tense in Collyer's translator's preface:



'Is wrote', indeed. At any rate, reading Collyer's Gessner is a good way to prime us for reading Coleridge's rather over-ripe prose.



108 pages of that kind of thing. Coleridge's version overlaps with the end of Gessner's, plot-wise, and is a little more elevated and stiff in tone than Collyer's. This is how it starts:
"A little further, O my father, yet a little further, and we shall come into the open moonlight:" Their road was through a forest of fir-trees; at its entrance the trees stood at distances from each other, and the path was broad, and the moonlight, and the moonlight shadows reposed upon it, and appeared quietly to inhabit that solitude. But soon the path winded and became narrow; the sun at high noon sometimes speckled, but never illumined it, and now it was dark as a cavern.

"It is dark, O my father!" said Enos, "but the path under our feet is smooth and soft, and we shall soon come out into the open moonlight."

...

And Cain lifted up his voice and cried bitterly, and said, "The Mighty One that persecuteth me is on this side and on that; he pursueth my soul like the wind, like the sand-blast he passeth through me; he is around me even as the air! O that I might be utterly no more! I desire to die—yea, the things that never had life, neither move they upon the earth—behold! they seem precious to mine eyes. O that a man might live without the breath of his nostrils. So I might abide in darkness, and blackness, and an empty space! Yea, I would lie down, I would not rise, neither would I stir my limbs till I became as the rock in the den of the lion, on which the young lion resteth his head whilst he sleepeth. For the torrent that roareth far off hath a voice; and the clouds in heaven look terribly on me; the mighty one who is against me speaketh in the wind of the cedar grove; and in silence am I dried up." Then Enos spake to his father, "Arise my father, arise, we are but a little way from the place where I found the cake and the pitcher." And Cain said, "How knowest thou?" and the child answered—"Behold the bare rocks are a few of thy strides distant from the forest; and while even now thou wert lifting up thy voice, I heard the echo." Then the child took hold of his father, as if he would raise him: and Cain being faint and feeble rose slowly on his knees and pressed himself against the trunk of a fir, and stood upright and followed the child.
Cain's son, Enos, is sad that the squirrels won't play with him: 'How happy the squirrels are that feed on these fir trees! ... I clomb a tree yesterday at noon, O my father, that I might play with them, but they leapt away from the branches, even to the slender twigs did they leap, and in a moment I beheld them on another tree. Why, O my father, would they not play with me?' Since neither squirrels nor fir trees are native to the Holy Land, we have to assume that Cain's wanderings have taken him far from his home; indeed much of the scenery in the piece comes (according to Hazlitt) from Coleridge's own wanderings in the 'valley of the rocks' near Lynton in Dorset. Cain himself is so physically broken-down as to scare his son ('the child was affrighted'):
The mighty limbs of Cain were wasted as by fire; his hair was as the matted curls on the Bison's forehead, and so glared his fierce and sullen eye beneath: and the black abundant locks on either side, a rank and tangled mass, were stained and scorched, as though the grasp of a burning iron hand had striven to rend them; and his countenance told in a strange and terrible language of agonies that had been, and were, and were still to continue to be.
Bison, eh? Maybe Cain has wandered all the way to the States, which would indeed be some wander. The poem describes them travelling across a desolate land: 'hot rocks and scorching sands. Never morning lark had poised himself over this desert; but the huge serpent often hissed there beneath the talons of the vulture, and the vulture screamed, his wings imprisoned within the coils of the serpent.' They walk to a giant rock, and there Cain encounters the ghost, or 'Shape', of his murdered brother.
Thus as he stood in silence and darkness of Soul, the SHAPE fell at his feet, and embraced his knees, and cried out with a bitter outcry, "Thou eldest born of Adam, whom Eve, my mother, brought forth, cease to torment me! I was feeding my flocks in green pastures by the side of quiet rivers, and thou killedst me; and now I am in misery." Then Cain closed his eyes, and hid them with his hands; and again he opened his eyes, and looked around him, and said to Enos, "What beholdest thou? Didst thou hear a voice my son?" "Yes, my father, I beheld a man in unclean garments, and he uttered a sweet voice, full of lamentation." Then Cain raised up the Shape that was like Abel, and said. "The Creator of our father, who had respect unto thee, and unto thy offering, wherefore hath he forsaken thee?" Then the Shape shrieked a second time, and rent his garment, and his naked skin was like the white sands beneath their feet; and he shrieked yet a third time, and threw himself on his face upon the sand that was black with the shadow of the rock, and Cain and Enos sate beside him; the child by his right hand, and Cain by his left. They were all three under the rock, and within the shadow.
The canto ends with Cain miserably asking to be taken to the 'god of death':
"Abel, my brother, I would lament for thee, but that the spirit within me is withered, and burnt up with extreme agony. Now, I pray thee, by thy flocks, and by thy pastures, and by the quiet rivers which thou lovedst, that thou tell me all that thou knowest. Who is the God of the dead? where doth he make his dwelling? what sacrifices are acceptable unto him? for I have offered, but have not been received; I have prayed, and have not been heard; and how can I be afflicted more than I already am?"
Abel's ghost promises to show him, and the canto ends: 'And they three passed over the white sands between the rocks, silent as the shadows.' Boom.

There are scattered bits and pieces, some more convincingly related to this project than others, that can be quarried out of the Notebooks; but I think the key is right there, in plain sight. This reference to 'the god of death' ought to make us think, as it surely would have been in Coleridge's mind, of Romans 14:9, 'For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living'. Canto 2 is the pre-redeemed Cain; but the third canto would surely bring him to a true understanding of the nature of this 'god of the dead'.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Pains of Sleep (1803)



Written in 1803, when what were probably withdrawal symptoms from his opium addiction caused Coleridge such suffering that (he wrote to his friend Poole) 'my repeated Night-yells had made me a Nuisance in my own home.'
Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,
It hath not been my use to pray
With moving lips or bended knees;
But silently, by slow degrees,
My spirit I to Love compose,
In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
With reverential resignation
No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
Only a sense of supplication;
A sense o'er all my soul imprest
That I am weak, yet not unblest,
Since in me, round me, every where
Eternal strength and Wisdom are.

But yester-night I prayed aloud
In anguish and in agony,
Up-starting from the fiendish crowd
Of shapes and thoughts that tortured me:
A lurid light, a trampling throng,
Sense of intolerable wrong,
And whom I scorned, those only strong!
Thirst of revenge, the powerless will
Still baffled, and yet burning still!
Desire with loathing strangely mixed
On wild or hateful objects fixed.
Fantastic passions! maddening brawl!
And shame and terror over all!
Deeds to be hid which were not hid,
Which all confused I could not know
Whether I suffered, or I did:
For all seemed guilt, remorse or woe,
My own or others still the same
Life-stifling fear, soul-stifling shame.

So two nights passed: the night's dismay
Saddened and stunned the coming day.
Sleep, the wide blessing, seemed to me
Distemper's worst calamity.
The third night, when my own loud scream
Had waked me from the fiendish dream,
O'ercome with sufferings strange and wild,
I wept as I had been a child;
And having thus by tears subdued
My anguish to a milder mood,
Such punishments, I said, were due
To natures deepliest stained with sin,—
For aye entempesting anew
The unfathomable hell within,
The horror of their deeds to view,
To know and loathe, yet wish and do!
Such griefs with such men well agree,
But wherefore, wherefore fall on me?
To be loved is all I need,
And whom I love, I love indeed.
There's a lot to say about this, but for now I'm only going to note one small thing: the title. This ('doloribus somnum') is a piece of medical terminology, and speaks to a particular medical diagnosis. Here is Eduard Sandifort (1742-1814), the Dutchman who became one of the most famous physicians of the 18th-century, reporting in 1769 on a man aged 30 (coincidentally the same age that Coleridge was when he wrote his poem):



The key phrase is in the middle: 'Doloribus somnum excutientibus misere transegit noctem': he passed the night sadly, suffering paralysing pains of sleep. (You can see from that passage that, on day 5, the doctor managed to clear his costive bowels with an enema, but that on day 6 'extremum effudit spiritum', he poured out his final breath. Poor chap.)

The point here is that Coleridge is stressing the physicality of his situation: it's not a way of referring to 'bad dreams': it is very much a medical referent to somatic suffering enduring whilst sleeping.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

How many of Coleridge's Latin poems are actually Coleridge's?



No-one is going to pretend that Coleridge is a great, or even an especially noteworthy neo-Latin poet. Landor aside (and Landor was sui generis, which is the polite academic way of saying 'eccentric to the point of being bonkers') the validity of Neo-Latin verse had more-or-less died by the time of Romanticism. Indeed, the last Neo-Latin poet of truly international reputation and greatness was probably Casimir, in the seventeenth-century (the 'Polish Horace'); even such accomplished Latinist contemporaries of his as Cowley and Milton wrote primarily in their vernacular. Still, Coleridge read a lot of Latin, and sometimes wrote in Latin too. It's just that he wasn't always original when he wrote in Latin.

From time to time on this blog I've had reason to look at some of Coleridge's Latin verse. As often as not, as with his 'Ad Vilmum Axiologum' (1807) (which turns out to be mostly re-fried Ariosto), 1814's 'National Independence' or 'Magna Dabit (1812), I find that Latin poems attributed to Coleridge in the standard edition of his verse are not by him at all. Many of these, I have to say, are instances where poems that were never published in STC's day, and never intended to publication, are pulled out of his Notebooks; so it's hard to blame Coleridge himself for this. In many cases he clearly copied out some Latin that took his fancy, didn't attribute it, and energetic editors have assumed he composed it.

Still, I thought I'd have a look to see how many of the Latin poems attributed to Coleridge by J C C Mays in the Princeton Poetical Works are actually his. In what follows, Latin poetry attributed to STC but not actually by him is marked with an asterisk. [I am not counting the poem Mays numbers as 170, 'De Papa: Vaticinium Haud Valde Obscurum, Nee Incredibile' (1798), which was published anonymously in the Morning Post without a name, not collected or even mentioned anywhere by Coleridge. Mays sees 'reasonable grounds' for attributing it to STC, but I don't agree, since (a) though other neo-Latin writers, Landor not least, often did write mock epitaphs like this, Coleridge doesn't do it anywhere else; and (b) the Latin is very rough and unmetrical. But there's no way of proving Mays, or I, wrong or right on that].

---

23. 'Honos Alit Artes'. A Latin ode in four quatrains, originally part of a letter sent to STC's brother George. It begins:
Cernis, volucris, quae regit alites
Inane vastum scandit ut altior,
Scanditque fixis viva Solis
Lumina suspiciens ocellis?

[You see that bird, monarch of winged creatures,
into the vast void climbing higher
and climbing, seeing the living sun's
light with unmoving little eyes?]
This poem is original to Coleridge

27. 'Ardua Prima Via Est'. This poem, which takes a famous Ovidian tag as title and extrapolates from it, is original to Coleridge. Neither the Latin nor the metre are very good, actually.

50. 'Latin Lines on Ottery's Inhabitants' (1793). Another poem included in a letter to George Coleridge, about the departure of their brother Edward Coleridge from the family home: 'Ast Hunc Otteriae Juvenes flerunt abeuntem', 'the flower of Ottery manhood mourned his departure'. Original to Coleridge.

*54. 'Latin Verses, Sent to George Coleridge'. Four stanzas beginning:
Ite mordaces, procul ite, Curae!
Me vocat notis Helicon viretis,
Me sacrum lauri nemus, et canorum
Phocidos antrum.

[Away from me, go far away, gnawing Care!
I hear the call of Helicon's familiar meadows
The call of the sacred laurel grove, and the white
cave of Phocis!]
This is not by Coleridge; it's from a poem by Casimir (1595-1640):

It's hard to say, actually, whether Casimir was so famous (Coleridge quite often translated him, as in 67 'Song: Imitated from Casimir' and 68 'To a Friend', also based on Casimir; and he also quotes him in the last chapter of the Biographia) to mean that George would be expected to recognise this poem, or whether this is an example of Coleridge trying to pass somebody else's work as his own. Since the context, in the letter, is him thinking about entering a poem for the Cambridge Browne medal, I'm suspicious it might be the latter.

71. 'Latin Lines on Mary Evans'. Original to Coleridge:
Vivit, sed mihi non vivit—nova forte marita,
Ah dolor! alterius carâ, a cervice pependit.
Vos, malefida valete accensæ insomnia mentis,
Littora amata valete! Vale ah formosa Maria!

[She lives but she does not live for me—it seems she is newly wed,
Ah sorrow! She hangs upon the beloved neck of somebody else.
Farewell to you, deceiving dreams of a fevered mind,
Beloved shores, farewell! Farewell, ah, lovely Mary!]
*323: 'Latin Lines to William Sotheby' (Sept 1802). These are from Italian poet Girolamo Fracastoro (c. 1476–1478–1553)'s 'Hiems, ad eundem'. I discuss them here.

*328. 'Latin Lines on a Former Friendship' (Nov 1802). Actually from the Libri Epistolarum (1735) by Manuel Martí (1663–1737), and I discuss it here.

374. 'Latin Lines to William Wordsworth as Judge' (1806-10). These 9 lines are original to Coleridge. I talk about them here.

*430. 'Ad Vilmum Axiologum' (1807). Most of this poem is from Ariosto's 'Ad Petrum Bembum' [Carmina, 7] I discuss it at length here.

435. 'Latin Lines to Accompany a Personal Emblem' (1808). Six lines: 'Eheu! dum me mea Psyche,/Dulce decus veris aprici,/Pulchra Comes et Zephyrorum,/Dum Psyche me fugit eheu!/Pallidulum me tua taeda/Quid juvat, o inamata Juno!' Alas when my Psyche (soul/butterfly) has (gone) from me/Sweet delight of sunny Spring/Lovely partner of the Zephyrs/When Psyche has abandoned me alas!/Your little torch cannot delight pale me, unloved Juno!' The emblem in question is a butterfly. This poem is original to Coleridge.

436. 'Latin Lines to Accompany a Second Emblem' (1808). Two lines: 'Sine sole, absque Leda/Quid juvat nos junonia Taeda?' 'Without sun, lacking Leda/What joy in Juno's pine-torch?' The torch represents marriage. Original to Coleridge.

440. 'Latin Elegaics on Guy Fawkes'. Two lines of deliberately bad Latin, a joke: supposedly 'a schoolboy construing Guy Vulpes'. Original to Coleridge.

489. 'Latin Lines Perhaps Connected with John Morgan'. Four sexually-explicit lines:
Infelix, ah plusquam infelicissimus Ille,
Semivir in thalamum qui duxit Sesqui-puellam,
Mutumque ossitiens, tantique voraginem hiatüs
Vix rigidi tubuli lacrymoso röre lacessit!
'Unlucky, ah more than unlucky he,/that Half-man who takes to his bed a woman half-as-much again,/And into her silent, thirsty, wide-open cavern/Weeps a little dew from his tiny, rigid tube.' As far as I can see this composition is original to Coleridge.

*493. 'Latin Distich on Giving and Receiving'. This is actually the publisher's or editor's dedication to a man called Faustus Petro Coardo Mecoenatusa, in a late 15th-century edition of Saint Ambrose's Praeit Epistola Nuncupatoria; variously reprinted. I discuss this couplet here.

*508. 'National Independence: A Latin Fragment'. This poem (discussed at length here) is mostly Claudian, with a few other bits and pieces Frankenstein's-monstered into the middle.

570. 'A Practical Problem Concerning Flies'. A four line squib:
Sit alba, sit fusca
(Ni res est absurda)
Quod fuit Merda in Muscă
Jacet Merda in Merdà
'Whether white or black-dye/(Unless it's absurd)/What was shit in the fly/Lies a turd in-turd'. The Notebook entry where this was drafted [CN 4:4710] makes the 'interred' joke plainer: the practical problem is one 'suggested by the Grave Problem', and whether a breed of flies might be raised capable of 'performing burial-service'. This is Coleridge's own composition.

*587. 'Latin Couplet'. As Mays notes, this couplet is based closely on a line from John Swan's Speculum Mundi (1670).

*625. 'Tò τού EΣTHΣE τού έπιθανούς Epitaphium testamentarium αύτóγραφον' (1826) [The at-death's-door "Testimentary Epitaph" of STC, written with his own hand]. This is a couplet:
Quae linquam nihil, aut nihili, aut vix sunt mea—sordes
Do MORTI;—reddo caetera, Christe! tibi
['That which is left behind is nothing, or nothingness, or barely even my own—the corruption/I give to DEATH: I return the rest, Christ!, to you.']. Despite STC calling this an autographon, it actually draws heavily on John Wigand's 1587 epitaph, which was often reprinted. Here, for instance, it is, in the Scots Magazine or Edinburgh Literary Review [71 (1809), 812]:



685. 'Specimen of Pure Latinity: Ex Tempore'. Two versions of the same four lines of (deliberately, and comically) bad Latin. Original to Coleridge.

*701. 'Splendida Bilis'. Another short comic piece: various Latin terms for various illness, glossed with punning Englishness: 'mucus' - 'miew! curse!' and so on. One would hardly call this an original composition (it's not metrical, for instance).

702. 'Latin Address to Christopher Morgan'. Nothing much is known of this Morgan; although he appears to have been a kind of pimp and (as we would now say) drug dealer to George IV. These four lines (the fourth unfinished) are original to Coleridge.

---

So: that's twenty-one Latin poems collected by Mays (not counting 170) as by Coleridge, of which nine are not by Coleridge. A strike rate of a little over half.

Monday, 11 April 2016

'A Practical Problem Concerning Flies' (1820)



So as you can see from the last few posts, I have been working, in a more or less desultory way, through those Latin poems attributed to Coleridge in J C C Mays' Poetical Works, to see which were actually by him. But I think the best thing to do with this is not drip-feed it out in an interminable series of dull individual posts, but rather to bundle it all into one super-long bulletin, and so dispose of it. Meanwhile, I thought I'd pause over one Latin poem that Coleridge definitely did write himself, a four line squib introduced in the relevant Notebook entry [CN 4:4710] as 'A Grave Problem', but printed by Mays [as poem 570: 1.2:991] under the title given at the top of this post. Coleridge wonders 'whether the advantage of the transmutation of waste matter into flies is equaled by the excretions and extrusions of those same flies'. Then there's the poem:
Sit alba, sit fusca
(Ni res est absurda)
Quod fuit Merda in Muscă
Jacet Merda in Merdà
Mays translates as 'Be it white or be it black/(Unless it's absurd)/What was dung on the fly/Lies as turd on turd.' 'Fuscus' ‎('dark, swarthy, dusky') is liable to make us think of the dark-coloured academic dress code known as 'subfusc', which in turn makes me wonder if we could go with:
Whether white or black-tie
(Howsoever absurd)
What was shit in the fly
Lies as turd in-turd
The Notebook entry makes the 'interred' joke plainer: the practical problem is one 'suggested by the Grave Problem', whether a breed of flies might be raised capable of 'performing burial-service'. But maybe 'black-tie' is too much of a stretch. And maybe it's a shame to lose sight of the fact that Coleridge uses the same word, 'merda', three times in the last two lines. At least the following would maintain the internal rhyme:
Whether white or dark dye
(Howsoever absurd)
What was merde in the fly
Lies as turd in-turd
Or maybe:
Whether white or dark dye
(Howsoever absurd)
What was merde in the fly
Lies as merde im-mured
Tricky to bring it off, actually.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

'Latin Lines on a Former Friendship' (Nov 1802)



I appreciate these sorts of posts are pretty dull; but I've got a few to log, here, for my own benefit (if not for anyone else's). So: Mays includes this poem as number 328; but, once again, it's not a Coleridge composition. It is from the Libri Epistolarum (1735) of Manuel Martí (1663–1737), Spanish archeologist, humanist, poet and Hellenist.


This reveals the name that Coleridge omitted from the beginning of that first line: 'Mignana' (an Italian surname, though I haven't been able to unearth the identity of the original person here). The Latin Coleridge quotes means: '[Mignana], my one-time steadfast comrade/Our delight, charming, pleasant/Whose silent absence, for all these sad years,/I have endured on the unwritten page/If a tiny spark of the old love still endures/still living amongst these ashes/Then I am not entirely dead myself!' The poem is from this collection:



And this is what Marti looked like:

'Latin Lines to William Sotheby' (Sept 1802)



J C C Mays prints this poem as no. 323, and notes that it comes from 'a letter to Sotheby dated 28th Sept 1802', adding: 'C has just imagined or remembered himself walking with the Sothebys in summer ... he goes on to speak in the poem of a meeting Sotheby's fireside':
Frigidus at sylvis Aquilo si increverit, aut si
Hyberni pluviis dependent nubibus Imbres
Nos habeat domus, et multo Lar luceat igne.
Ante focum mihi parvus erit, qui ludat, Iulus,
Blanditias ferat, et nondum constantia verba:
Ipse legam magni tecum monumenta Platonis!

[If the chill north wind blows the woodlands more strongly, or if
wintry showers hang down from the rainy clouds
we'll remain indoors, and let the great fire burn in our hearth.
And before the fire my little one will play, Iulus,
And give us caresses and not-yet fully formed words:
Whilst you and I read together the remains of the great Plato!
]
Very nice, but not Coleridge. It's from a short poem by the sixteenth-century Italian poet Girolamo Fracastoro (Latin: Hieronymus Fracastorius; 1476–1553), called 'Hiems, ad eundem' ('Winter, to the same', that is, addressed to the same person as the previous poem, 'Joannus Baptista Turrianus Veronensus'):


As you can see, Coleridge has picked six from the original twelve lines of this poem, and made one change: Fracastoro's original has him snuggling up to read 'Maronis', which is to say: Vergil (indeed, Fracastoro's opening makes the literary pedigree explicit: 'frigidus et silvis aquilo' is quoted from Vergil, specifically from Georgics 2:403: 'frigidus et silvis aquilo decussit honorem', 'the chill north wind shook the woodland's coronal'). Coleridge changes it to Plato, presumably because he and Sotheby had been working their way through the Greek philosopher together.

Fracastoro was a reasonably famous Renaissance Latin poet. It was his 1539 pastoral poem Syphilis sive morbus gallicus ("Syphilis or The French Disease"), about a shepherd boy named Syphilus punished by Apollo with a ghastly sickness, that gave us the name 'Syphilis' for the notorious sexually transmitted disease. The question is: would we say that Fracastoro is well enough known, especially in his minor works, to mean that Coleridge could reasonably expect Sotheby to recognise these lines? I'm going to say no, and suggest that STC is being naughty here: Sotheby would surely assume that Coleridge himself had written this verse (as Mays, much later, also did). Coleridge certainly does nothing in his letter to disabuse either man of this assumption. And with that in mind, I'm going to finish with the story of Fracastoro's ball:
A marble portrait statue of Girolamo Fracastoro by the Carrarese sculptor Danese Cattaneo (completed 1559) stands on a beautiful arch in the central Piazza dei Signori of Verona, near the monument to Dante Alighieri. On its base is the inscription: "HIER FRACASTORIO \ PAULLI PHILIPPI F \ EX PUBLICA AUCTORITATE \ DICATA \ AN SAL MDLIX". According to a popular legend the stone ball Fracastoro holds in his right hand, symbolizing the world, will fall on the first honorable person to walk under the arch. Over the centuries many people have passed every day under the arch but the ball remains in place.
Here's the statue:



Coleridge could walk under that, no worries.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

'To Delia' (Oct-Nov 1799?)



So, there has been a hiatus, when other duties took me away from this blog; but now I return to Coleridge, at least for a while. Unfortunately this post, and the next few, will be concerned with some pretty dry matters of attribution; but in a little while I hope to get back into more substantial blogging here.

Not today though: today I'm looking at 'To Delia', included by J.C.C Mays in his edition of Coleridge's Poetical Works as poem 251 (2:602-3). As you can see at the head of this post, there, Mays is far from certain about the attribution: 'the identification of the hand is uncertain' and so on. Nor is it a very good poem.


Mays was right to be cautious, and wrong to include it in his edition. It's not by Coleridge; it's by 'Peter Pindar', which is to say, by John Wolcot (1738-1819), and can be found in his Collected Poems. The only wrinkle is that Wolcot published it as 'To Cynthia' rather than 'To Delia', although these sorts of poetic stylised lady-monikers are fairly interchangeable. Here it is in an 1802 edition: