This first appeared as part of the 'Introduction' to A LAY-SERMON, ADDRESSED TO THE HIGHER AND MIDDLE CLASSES, ON THE EXISTING DISTRESSES AND DISCONTENTS. BY S. T. Coleridge, Esq. London: 1817. 'It has been my purpose throughout the following discourse to guard myself and my readers from extremes of all kinds : I will therefore conclude this Introduction by inforcing the maxim 1 in its relation to our religious opinions, out of which, with or without our consciousness, all our other opinions flow, as from their Spring-head and perpetual Feeder. And that I might neglect no innocent mode of attracting or relieving the reader's attention, I have moulded my reflections into the following ALLEGORIC VISION.' The Allegoric Vision was included by Coleridge in the edition of the Poems in 1829, and by H. N. Coleridge in that of 1834. Since then it has been reprinted only with the prose works. I have deemed the limbo of an 'Appendix' its most appropriate place.-ED.

A FEELING of sadness, a peculiar melancholy, is wont to take possession of me alike in Spring and in Autumn. But in Spring it is the melancholy of Hope: in Autumn it is the melancholy of Resignation. As I was journeying on foot through the Appennine, I fell in with a pilgrim in whom the Spring and the Autumn and the Melancholy of both seemed to have combined. In his discourse there were the freshness and the colours of April :

Qual ramicel a ramo, Tal da pensier pensiero In lui germogliava.

But as I gazed on his whole form and figure, I bethought me of the not unlovely. decays, both of age and of the late season, in the stately elm, after the clusters have been plucked from its entwining vines, and

1 'Extremes meet,'-which Coleridge somewhere quotes as his favourite proverb.-ED.

the vines are as bands of dried withies around its trunk and branches. Even so there was a memory on his smooth and ample forehead, which blended with the dedication of his steady eyes, that still looked-I know not, whether upward, or far onward, or rather to the line of meeting where the sky rests upon the distance. But how may I express that dimness of abstraction which lay on the lustre of the pilgrim's eyes like the flitting tarnish from the breath of a sigh on a silver mirror! and which accorded with their slow and reluctant movement, whenever he turned them to any object on the right hand or on the left? It seemed, methought, as if there lay upon the brightness a shadowy presence of disappointments now unfelt, but never forgotten. It was at once the melancholy of hope and of resignation.

We had not long been fellow-travellers, ere a sudden tempest of wind and rain forced us to seek protection in the vaulted door-way of a lone chapelry; and we sate face to face each on the stone bench alongside the low, weather-stained wall, and as close as possible to the massy door.

After a pause of silence: even thus, said he, like two strangers that have fled to the same shelter from the same storm, not seldom do Despair and Hope meet for the first time in the porch of Death!1 All extremes meet, I answered; but yours was a strange and visionary thought. The better then doth it beseem both the place 1 Call to the Hours, that in the distance play, The faery people of the future day— Fond Thought! not one of all that shining


Will breathe on thee with life - enkindling breath,

Till when, like strangers shelt'ring from a storm, Hope and Despair meet in the porch of Death! Constancy to an Ideal Object, p. 172.


and me, he replied. From a Visionary wilt thou hear a Vision? Mark that vivid flash through this torrent of rain! Fire and water. Even here thy adage holds true, and its truth is the moral of my Vision. I entreated him to proceed. Sloping his face toward the arch and yet averting his eye from it, he seemed to seek and prepare his words: till listening to the wind that echoed within the hollow edifice, and to the rain without,

Which stole on his thoughts with its two-fold sound,

The clash hard by and the murmur all round,1 The gradually sank away, alike from me and from his own purpose, and amid the gloom of the storm and in the duskiness of that place, he sate like an emblem on a rich man's sepulchre, or like a mourner on the sodded grave of an only one-an aged mourner, who is watching the waned moon and sorroweth not. Starting at length from his brief trance of abstraction, with courtesy and an atoning smile he renewed his discourse, and commenced his parable.

During one of those short furlows from the service of the Body, which the Soul may sometimes obtain even in this, its militant state, I found myself in a vast plain, which I immediately knew to be the Valley of Life. It possessed an astonishing diversity of soils and here was a sunny spot, and there a dark one, forming just

such a mixture of sunshine and shade, as we may have observed on the mountains' side in an April day, when the thin broken clouds are scattered over heaven. Almost in the very entrance of the valley stood a large and gloomy pile, into which I seemed constrained to enter. Every part of the building was crowded with tawdry ornaments and fantastic deformity. On every window was portrayed, in glaring and inelegant colours, some horrible tale, or preternatural incident, so that not a ray of light could enter, untinged by the medium through which it passed. The body of the building was full of people, some of them dancing, in and out, in unintelligible figures, with strange ceremonies and antic merriment, while others seemed convulsed

1 From some cancelled portion of Christabel?



with horror, or pining in mad melancholy. Intermingled with these, I observed number of men, clothed in ceremonial robes, who appeared now to marshal the various groups, and to direct their movements; and now with menacing countenances, to drag some reluctant victim to a vast idol, framed of iron bars intercrossed, which formed at the same time an immense cage, and the shape of a human Colossus.

I stood for a while lost in wonder what these things might mean; when lo! one of the Directors came up to me, and with a stern and reproachful look bade me uncover my head, for that the place into which I had entered was the temple of the only true Religion, in the holier recesses of which the great Goddess personally resided. Himself too he bade me reverence, as the consecrated minister of her rites. Awe

struck by the name of Religion, I bowed before the priest, and humbly and earnestly intreated him to conduct me into her presence. He assented. Offerings he took from me, with mystic sprinklings of water and with salt he purified, and with strange sufflations he exorcized me; and then led me through many a dark and winding alley, the dew-damps of which chilled my flesh, and the hollow echoes under my feet, mingled, methought, with moanings, affrighted me. At length we entered a large hall, without window, or spiracle, or lamp. The asylum and dormitory it seemed of perennial night-only that the walls were brought to the eye by a number of self-luminous inscriptions in letters of a pale sepulchral light, which held strange neutrality with the darkness, on the verge of which it kept its rayless vigil. I could read them, methought; but though each of the words taken separately I seemed to understand, yet when I took them in sentences, they were riddles and incomprehensible. As I stood meditating on these hard sayings, my guide thus addressed me

'Read and believe these are mysteries!'-At the extremity of the vast hall the Goddess was placed. Her features, blended with darkness, rose out to my view, terrible, yet vacant. I prostrated myself before her, and then retired with my guide, soul-withered, and wondering, and dissatisfied.

As I re-entered the body of the temple, I heard a deep buz as of discontent. A few whose eyes were bright, and either piercing or steady, and whose ample foreheads, with the weighty bar, ridge-like, above the eyebrows, bespoke observation followed by meditative thought; and a much larger number, who were enraged by the severity and insolence of the priests in exacting their offerings, had collected in one tumultuous group, and with a confused outcry of 'This is the Temple of Superstition!' after much contumely, and turmoil, and cruel mal-treatment on all sides, rushed out of the pile and I, methought, joined them.

We speeded from the Temple with hasty steps, and had now nearly gone round half the valley, when we were addressed by a woman, tall beyond the stature of mortals, and with a something more than human in her countenance and mien, which yet could by mortals be only felt, not conveyed by words or intelligibly distinguished. Deep reflection, animated by ardent feelings, was displayed in them: and hope, without its uncertainty, and a something more than all these, which I understood not, but which yet seemed to blend all these into a divine unity of expression. Her garments were white and matronly, and of the simplest texture. We inquired her name. My name,' she she replied, 'is Religion.'

The more numerous part of our company, affrighted by the very sound, and sore from recent impostures or sorceries, hurried onwards and examined no farther. A few of us, struck by the manifest opposition of her form and manners to those of the living Idol, whom we had so recently abjured, agreed to follow her, though with cautious circumspection. She led us to an eminence in the midst of the valley, from the top of which we could command the whole plain, and observe the relation of the different parts to each other, and of each to the whole, and of all to each. She then gave us an optic glass which assisted without contradicting our natural vision, and enabled us to see far beyond the limits of the Valley of Life; though our eye even thus assisted permitted us only to behold a light and a glory, but what we could not

descry, save only that it was, and that it was most glorious.

And now with the rapid transition of a dream, I had overtaken and rejoined the more numerous party, who had abruptly left us, indignant at the very name of religion. They journied on, goading each other with remembrances of past oppressions, and never looking back, till in the eagerness to recede from the Temple of Superstition they had rounded the whole circle of the valley. And lo! there faced us the mouth of a vast cavern, at the base of a lofty and almost perpendicular rock, the interior side of which, unknown to them, and unsuspected, formed the extreme and backward wall of the Temple. An impatient crowd, we entered the vast and dusky cave, which was the only perforation of the precipice. At the mouth of the cave sate two figures; the first, by her dress and gestures, I knew to be Sensuality; the second form, from the fierceness of his demeanour, and the brutal scornfulness of his looks, declared himself to be the monster Blasphemy. He uttered big words, and yet ever and anon I observed that he turned pale at his own courage. We entered. Some remained in the opening of the cave, with the one or the other of its guardians. The rest, and I among them, pressed on, till we reached an ample chamber, that seemed the centre of the rock. The climate of the place was unnaturally cold.

In the furthest distance of the chamber sate an old dim-eyed man, poring with a microscope over the torso of a statue which had neither basis, nor feet, nor head; but on its breast was carved 'NATURE!' To this he continually applied his glass, and seemed enraptured with the various inequalities which it rendered visible on the seemingly polished surface of the marble.-Yet evermore was this delight and triumph followed by expressions of hatred, and vehement railing against a Being, who yet, he assured us, had no existence. This mystery suddenly recalled to me what I had read in the holiest recess of the temple of Superstition. The old man spake in divers tongues, and continued to utter other and most strange mysteries. Among the rest

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though all were alike blind. Methought I borrowed courage from surprise, and asked him-Who then is at the head to guide them? He looked at me with ineffable contempt, not unmixed with an angry suspicion, and then replied, 'No one.' The string of blind men went on for ever without any beginning; for although one blind man could not move without stumbling, yet infinite blindness. supplied the want of sight. I burst into laughter, which instantly turned to terrorfor as he started forward in rage, I caught a glimpse of him from behind; and lo! I beheld a monster bi-form and Janusheaded, in the hinder face and shape of which I instantly recognised the dread countenance of Superstition-and in the terror I awoke.

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Sed viget ingenium, et magnos accinctus in demned for their querulous egotism. But


egotism is to be condemned then only when

it offends against time and place, as in an History or an Epic Poem. To censure it in a Monody or Sonnet is almost as absurd as to dislike a circle for being round. Why then write Sonnets or Monodies? Because they give me pleasure when perhaps nothing else could. After the more violent emotions of Sorrow, the mind demands solace and can find it in employment alone; but full of its late sufferings, it can endure no employment not connected with those sufferings. Forcibly to turn away our attention to other subjects is a painful and in general an unavailing effort.

'But O! how grateful to a wounded heart,
The tale of misery to impart ;
From others' eyes bid artless sorrows flow,
And raise esteem upon the base of woe!'

The communicativeness of our nature leads us to describe our own sorrows; in the endeavor to describe them intellectual activity is exerted; and by a benevolent law of our nature from intellectual activity a pleasure results, which is gradually associated and mingles as a corrective with the painful subject of the description. 'True' it may be answered, but how are the PUBLIC interested in your sorrows or your description?" We are for ever attributing a personal unity to imaginary aggregates. What is the PUBLIC but a term for a number of scattered individuals of whom as many will be interested in these sorrows as have experienced the same or similar?

'Holy be the Lay

Which mourning soothes the mourner on his way!'

There is one species of egotism which is truly disgusting; not that which leads us to communicate our feelings to others, but that which would reduce the feelings of others to an identity with our own. The Atheist, who exclaims, pshaw!' when he glances his eye on the praises of Deity, is an Egotist: an old man, when he speaks, contemptuously of love-verses, is an Egotist: and your sleek favourites of Fortune are Egotists, when they condemn all melancholy, discontented' verses.

Surely it would be candid not merely to ask whether the Poem pleases ourselves,

but to consider whether or no there may not be others to whom it is well-calculated to give an innocent pleasure. With what anxiety every fashionable author avoids the word I!-now he transforms himself into a third person, the present writer' -now multiplies himself and swells into 'we' and all this is the watchfulness of guilt. Conscious that this said I is perpetually intruding on his mind and that it monopolizes his heart, he is prudishly solicitous that it may not escape from his lips.

This disinterestedness of phrase is in general commensurate with selfishness of feeling men old and hackneyed in the ways of the world are scrupulous avoiders of Egotism.

Of the following Poems a considerable number are styled Effusions,'1 in defiance

of Churchill's line

'Effusion on Effusion pour away.'

I could recollect no title more descriptive of the manner and matter of the Poems— I might indeed have called the majority of them Sonnets-but they do not possess that oneness of thought which I deem indispensible in a Sonnet-and (not a very honorable motive perhaps) I was fearful that the title Sonnet' might have reminded my reader of the Poems of the Rev. W. L. Bowles--a comparison with whom would have sunk me below that mediocrity, on the surface of which I am at present enabled to float.

Some of the verses allude to an intended emigration to America on the scheme of an abandonment of individual property.

The Effusions signed C. L. were written by Mr. CHARLES LAMB, of the India House independently of the signature their superior merit would have sufficiently distinguished them. For the rough sketch of Effusion XVI. [Sweet Mercy! how my very heart has bled'] I am indebted to Mr. FAVELL. And the first half of Effusion XV. ['Pale Roamer thro' the Night!'] was written by the Author of Joan of Arc, an Epic Poem [Robert Southey].

1 Lamb remonstrated (Dec. 2, 1796)—' what you do retain [in ed. 1797], call Sonnets, for heaven's sake, and not "Effusions"- and Coleridge consented. -ED.

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