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moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter !
Then all the charm
Is broken-all that phantom-world so fair Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread, And each mis-shape the other. Stay awhile, Poor youth! who scarcely dar'st lift up thine eyes
The stream will soon renew its smoothness,
The visions will return! And lo, he stays, And soon the fragments dim of lovely forms Come trembling back, unite, and now once
The pool becomes a mirror.
[From The Picture; or, the Lover's Resolution.]
Yet from the still surviving recollections in his mind, the Author has frequently purposed to finish for himself what had been originally, as it were, given to him. Zápμov1 adiov aow: but the to-morrow is yet to
As a contrast to this vision, I have annexed a fragment of a very different character, describing with equal fidelity the dream of pain and disease.2
On the 26th of April 1816 Lamb wrote to Wordsworth: 'Coleridge is printing Christabel by Lord Byron's recommendation to Murray, with what he calls a vision, Kubla Khan, which said vision he repeats so enchantingly that it irradiates and brings heaven and elysian bowers into my parlour when he sings or says it; but there is an observation, "Never tell thy dreams," and I am almost afraid that Kubla Khan is an owl that will not bear daylight. I fear lest it should be discovered by the lantern of typography and clear re
1 Αύριον, 1834. ED.
2 The Pains of Sleep.-ED.
ducting to letters no better than nonsense or no sense' (Ainger's Letters, i. 305).
Lamb's suspicions were justified to this extent that the Edinburgh Review made fun of Kubla Khan. But the reviewer (believed to be Hazlitt) did not think it quite so bad as Christabel, or 'mere raving' like The Pains of Sleep.
I believe no manuscript of Kubla Khan exists, but some changes must have been made in the draft before it was printed, for in her lines 'To S. T. Coleridge, Esq.,' Mrs. Robinson ('Perdita,' who died Dec. 28, 1800) writes :—
'I'll mark thy "sunny dome," and view Thy "caves of ice," thy fields of dew," the phrase italicised not being found in the published text.
Frere was probably thinking more of Kubla Khan than of Rasselas when (in 'Whistlecraft') he wrote (1817) :—
'He found a valley closed on every side Resembling that which Rasselas describes ;
Six miles in length, and half as many wide,' etc.
And again :
The very river vanished out of sight, Absorbed in secret channels underground.'
112. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,
First printed anonymously in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, 1798, with the title, The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, in Seven Parts. The text was much altered in the second edition of L.B. 1800. That of the first edition, with comparative readings from the second, will be found in APPENDIX E,' p. 512. Again reprinted in L.B. 1802 and 1805, without material change in text (1800), but with omission of the Argument. Its next appearance was in Sib. Leaves, with some changes of text and the addition of the marginal notes and the motto from Burnet. No alterations of importance were subsequently made.
The genesis of The Ancient Mariner was thus described to Miss Fenwick by Wordsworth:
In the autumn of 1797 [really November] he (Coleridge), my sister, and myself started from Alfoxden pretty late in the afternoon with a view to visit Linton and the Valley of Stones, near to it. Accordingly we set off and proceeded along the Quantock Hills towards Watchet, and in the course of this walk was planned the poem of The Ancient Mariner, founded on a dream, as Mr. Coleridge said, of his friend Mr. Cruikshank. Much the greatest part of the story was Mr. Coleridge's invention, but certain parts I suggested for example, some crime was to be committed which should bring upon the Old Navigator, as Coleridge afterwards delighted to call him, the spectral persecution, as a consequence of that crime and his own wanderings. I had been reading in Shelvocke's Voyages a day or two before that, while doubling Cape Horn, they frequently saw albatrosses in that latitude, the largest sort of sea-fowl, some extending their wings twelve or thirteen feet. "Suppose," said I, "you represent him as having killed one of these birds on entering the South Sea, and that the tutelary spirits of these regions take upon them to avenge the crime." The incident was thought fit for the purpose and adopted accordingly. I also suggested the navigation of the ship by the dead men, but do not recollect that I had anything more to do with the scheme of the poem. The gloss with which it was subsequently accompanied was not thought of by either of us at the time, at least not a hint of it was given to me, and I have no doubt it was a gratuitous afterthought. We began the composition together on that, to me, memorable evening. I furnished two or three lines at the beginning of the poem, in particular
"And listen'd like a three years' child : The Mariner had his will."
These trifling contributions, all but one, which Mr. C. has with unnecessary scrupulosity recorded, slipped out of his mind, as they well might. As we endeavoured to proceed conjointly (I speak of the same evening), our respective manners proved so widely different that it would have been quite presumptuous in me to do anything but separate from an undertaking upon
which I could only have been a clog.'Memoirs of William Wordsworth, London, 1851, vol. i. pp. 107, 108.
A further reminiscence of Wordsworth was communicated by the Rev. Alex. Dyce to H. N. Coleridge :
When my truly honoured friend Mr. Wordsworth was last in London, soon after the appearance of De Quincey's papers in Tait's Magazine, he dined with me in Gray's Inn, and made the following statement, which, I am quite sure, I give you correctly: The Ancient Mariner was founded on a strange dream, which a friend of Coleridge had, who fancied he saw a skeleton ship, with figures in it. We had both determined to write some poetry for a monthly magazine, the profits of which were to defray the expenses of a little excursion we were to make together. The Ancient Mariner was intended for this periodical, but was too long. I had very little share in the composition of it, for I soon found that the style of Coleridge and myself would not assimilate. Besides the
lines (in the fourth part)—
and four or five lines more in different parts of the poem, which I could not now point out. The idea of shooting an albatross' was mine; for I had been reading Shelvocke's Voyages, which probably Coleridge never saw. I also suggested the reanimation of the dead bodies, to work the ship." [Note in Poems of S. T. C. ed. 1852.]
The following is Coleridge's account of the matter, as given in chap. xiv. of his Biog. Lit.
'During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two car dinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of
novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset, diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions, as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real.
And real in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency. For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life; the characters and incidents were to be such as will be found in every village and its vicinity where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after them, or to notice them when they present themselves.
In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads; in which it was agreed that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude, we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand.
With this view I wrote The Ancient
done in my first attempt. But Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an interpolation of heterogeneous matter. Mr. Wordsworth added two or three poems written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction which is characteristic of his genius. In this form the Lyrical Ballads were published.'
In that curious thirteenth chapter of the Biog. Lit. which contains the 'very judicious letter' from Coleridge to himself-in which the correspondent advises the philosopher to withdraw' that essay 'On the Imagination, or Esemplastic Power,' which was never written-there is a kind of postscript concerning The Ancient Mariner which was suppressed by the editor of the 1847 edition of the Biographia :—
Whatever more than this I shall think it fit to declare concerning the powers and privileges of the imagination in the present work, will be found in the critical essay on the uses of the Supernatural in poetry and the principles that regulate its introduction: which the reader will find prefixed to the poem of THE ANCIENT MARINER.-Biog. Lit. 1817, i. 296.
As regards the hints from the outside which were made use of by Coleridge, we have Wordsworth's statements respecting the dream of their Stowey friend Cruikshank, the passage in Shelvocke, and the navigation of the ship by the dead men. Since Wordsworth's day a claim has been set up for Captain Thomas James's 'Strange and dangerous Voyage
his intended Discovery of the North-West Passage into the South Sea: London, 1633,' as The Source of The Ancient Mariner.' In this little book (Cardiff: Owen, 1890) the author, Mr. Ivor James,2
1 At the time this passage was written and printed (1815), the B.L. and the Poems (Sib. Leaves) were intended to have been published as one book in two volumes. The introduction to the A.M. was never printed-probably never written.-ED.
2 Mr. Ivor James was not the first. In a pamphlet, which he omits to mention, by J.
pushes his theory very far, but he makes it at least probable that Coleridge had seen James's Voyage, and been inspired by a few phrases of the old Bristol navigator. One or two will be found in the Notes' below. Then, in the Gentleman's Magazine for October 1853, it is suggested that Coleridge took the idea of the angelic navigation of the ship from The Letter of Saint Paulinus to Macarius, in which he relates astounding wonders concerning the shipwreck of an old man,' a curious document to be found in La Bigne's Magna Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum, 1618. The old man of this story of the fourth century was the sole sur vivor of a ship's crew; the ship was navigated by a crew of angels,' steered by the Pilot of the World' to the Lucanian shore'; the fishermen there saw a crew which they took for soldiers, and fled, until recalled by the old man, who shewed them he was alone; they then towed the ship into the harbour.
It is not at all unlikely that Coleridge had read the Epistle of Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, and honoured it by accepting a hint or two but all such hints are as dust in the balance. The Ancient Mariner is the one perfect, complete, and rounded poem of any length which Coleridge achieved, and, as he said to Allsop: The Ancient Mariner cannot be imitated, nor the poem Love. They may be excelled: they are not imitable' (i. 95).
The Ancient Mariner was very badly received by the critics-even Southey, in the Critical Review, called it a Dutch attempt at German sublimity,' a remark which called forth a sharp rebuke from Lamb, although it was Southey and not Coleridge who was in favour with Lamb just at that time. Even to Wordsworth's eye The Ancient Mariner had grave defects, and he freely attributed the failure
F. Nicholls, City Librarian of Bristol (Bristol Biographies, No. 2, Captain Thomas James, and George Thomas: Bristol, June 1870, p. 76) is the following passage: 'It is very likely indeed that S. T. Coleridge, who was a regular frequenter of our old City Library, derived his marrow-chilling scenes depicted in that unique and immortal poem, The Ancient Mariner, from Captain James's Strange and dangerous Voyage.'
of the volume to what he considered the not altogether undeserved unpopularity of his friend's ballad. The report, no doubt, reached Coleridge, who naturally desired that his Jonah should be thrown overboard, but Wordsworth contented himself with printing this patronising Note' in the second edition (1800) of the Lyrical Ballads:
Note to The Ancient Mariner.—I cannot refuse myself the gratification of informing such Readers as may have been pleased with this Poem, or with any part of it, that they owe their pleasure in some sort to me; as the Author was himself very desirous that it should be suppressed. This wish had arisen from a consciousness of the defects of the Poem, and from a knowledge that many persons had been much displeased with it. The Poem of my Friend has indeed great defects; first, that the principal person has no distinct character, either in his profession of Mariner, or as a human being who having been long under the controul of supernatural impressions might be supposed himself to partake of something supernatural: secondly, that he does not act, but is continually acted upon : thirdly, that the events having no necessary connection do not produce each other; and lastly, that the imagery is somewhat too laboriously accumulated. Yet the Poem contains many delicate touches of passion, and indeed the passion is everywhere true to nature; a great number of the stanzas present beautiful images, and are expressed with unusual felicity of language; and the versification, tho' the metre is itself unfit for long poems, is harmonious and artfully varied, exhibiting the utmost powers of that metre, and every variety of which it is capable. It therefore appeared to me that these several merits (the first of which, namely, that of the passion, is of the highest kind) gave to the Poem a value which is not often possessed by better Poems. On this account I requested of my Friend to permit me to republish it.'
It is necessary to read this note to understand Lamb's remarks addressed to Wordsworth in a letter of January 1800 (Ainger's Letters, i. 164) too long for quotation here. The whole passage is a
rebutting criticism of Wordsworth's 'Note.' This has been overlooked by Lamb's editors, owing, no doubt, to the fact that the Note' was never reprinted.
In the same letter Lamb writes respecting the new sub-title: 'I am sorry that Coleridge has christened his Ancient Mariner, "A Poet's Reverie"; it is as bad as Bottom the Weaver's declaration that he is not a lion, but only the scenical representation of a lion. What new idea is gained by this title, but one subversive of all credit which the tale should force upon us of its truth!' Coleridge no doubt saw the force of this criticism, and intended to abandon the sub-title in 1802, for it was carefully erased from the heading, in the corrected copy of 1800 sent to the printer for 1802, but its presence on the half-title was prob ably overlooked. 'A Poet's Reverie' reappeared in the same place in 1805, but at that time Coleridge was in Malta.
As to the probability' and 'morality' of the poem, about which some critics (of an order not yet extinct) were troubled, Coleridge made these pertinent remarks :
'Mrs. Barbauld once told me that she admired The Ancient Mariner very much, but that there were two faults in it,-it was improbable, and had no moral. As for the probability, I owned that that might admit some question; but as to the want of a moral, I told her that in my own judgment the poem had too much; and that the only, or chief fault, if I might say so, was the obtrusion of the moral sentiment so openly on the reader as a principle or cause of action in a work of such pure imagination. It ought to have had no more moral than the Arabian Nights' tale of the merchant's sitting down to eat dates by the side of a well, and throwing the shells aside, and lo! a genie starts up, and says he must kill the aforesaid merchant, because one of the date shells had, it seems, put out the eye of the genie's son.'-Table Talk, May 31, 1830.
The Ancient Mariner was translated into German by Ferdinand Freiligrath, the editor of the Tauchnitz edition of Coleridge's Poems.
NOTES ON THE TEXT.
1. 32. During Coleridge's residence in Stowey his friend Poole reformed the church choir, and added a bassoon to its resources. Mrs. Sandford (T. Poole and his Friends, i. 247) happily suggests, that this was the very original and prototype of the "loud bassoon" whose sound moved the wedding-guest to beat his breast.'
1. 41-44. Marginal note thereto. have ventured to take the liberty of altering drawn into driven. As a matter of fact, the ship was driven, not 'drawn,' along. The line in Sib. Leaves reads
And chased us south along';
but in all the four preceding texts it was'Like chaff we drove along';
and the change in the word here makes no change in the sense. Coleridge, I have no doubt, wrote driven, but in very small characters on the narrow margin of the Lyrical Ballads; the word was misprinted drawn, and the mistake was overlooked then and after. The two words, written or printed, are not easily distinguishable.
11. 51-70. If Coleridge read Captain James's 'North-west Passage' log, he probably noted the following entries. The references are to the edition of 1633. It is to be observed that most of Captain James's contemporaries measured icebergs by fathoms, and not, as he, by his
All day and all night, it snow'd hard' (p. 11); "The nights are very cold; so that our rigging freezes' (p. 15); 'It prooved very thicke foule weather, and the next day, by two a Clocke in the morning, we found ourselves incompassed about with Ice' (p. 6); We had Ice not farre off about us, and some pieces as high as our Top-mast-head' (p. 7); 'The seventeenth we heard the rutt against a banke of Ice that lay on the Shoare. It made a hollow and hideous noyse, like an over-fall of water, which made us to reason amongst our selves concerning it, for we were not able to see about us, it being darke night and foggie' (p. 8); The Ice. crackt all over the Bay, with a fearfull noyse' (p. 77); 'These great pieces that came a grounde began to