‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Friday 28 June 2013


Enough Coleridge for a while. I chanced upon an old notebook in which I'd jotted down this line from a Thomas Jones London Review of Books article on zombies ['Les Zombies, C'est Vouz', LRB, 26 Jan 2012, 27-8], in which, whilst discussing the question of whether Night of the Living Dead is able to 'sublimate the racism indulged by its precursors' says the following:
In many respects,. Zulu qualifies as a zombie film, as do a fair number of cowboy and indian movies.
Really? I wonder. The question a Zombie text asks is: 'what died?' Or more specifically: 'the death of what refuses to go away?' I don't see that question as applying to Zulu terribly well -- it's more a Cyberman movie avant la lettre than a zombie flick.

Thursday 27 June 2013

'Common Sense' on Coleridge (and Keats)

This is liable to be the last of these for a while: another almost-wholly-unknown literary satire, although this one is a little better than most of them:
Poor Coleridge! his is no affected rant,
He lives on opium, and he studies Kant;
Not over clear at first, what mortal brain
Opium and Kant together could sustain?
He sung, O Cristabelle, in all his glory,
Thy "singularly wild and beauteous story;"
Which what it means, and what it is about,
No commentator ever has made out:
He had the night-mare, dreamed of Kubla-Khan,
Then plunged into the Metropolitan:
He mounted next the tub, and long and loud
Poured his lay sermons o'er the astonished crowd:
And last, when opium's frantic transport fails,
And Kant thy gentler influence prevails,
Through the wide town advertisements are spread-
The poet lectures at a crown a-head.
[Charles Hughes Terrot, Common Sense: A Poem (1819), 8-9] ]
I also like his reference, on p.1, to Keats. Terror assures the reader that s/he will find in the volume 'Plain common sense, but no ecstatic feats,/And rhymes at least as good as Mister Keates' and adds a footnote explaining the reference:
Mr. John Keates, the muse's child of promise, is a rising poet of the Cockney School; who, if he had but an ear for rhyme, a little knowledge of grammar, and sufficient intellect to distinguish sense from nonsense, might perhaps do very well.
Hmm. What did happens to Mister Keates, I wonder?

The Augustan Review on Coleridge

This is the sort of review Coleridge reacts against in chapter 3 of the Biographia. I'm wondering if he read it in 1816 (at the height of his opium-addlement and ill health), and then thinking back a year later when writing the BL believed it to have been published by the Edinburgh?
Art. II.—Christabel: Kubla Khan, a Vision: The Pains of Sleep. By S.t.coleridge, Esq. Murray. 1816.

Jlaherbelot relates, that the celebrated Al-Farabi was commanded by Seifeddoulat to sing one of his own compositions before him and his courtiers, who valued themselves not a little on their critical skill; that this command being obeyed, the auditors were thrown into violent fits of laughter, and presently into a deep sleep. Whether the Vision of Kubla Khan was the soporific employed on that memorable occasion, the learned Orientalist does not inform us. We know, however, that in the perusal of it, and of the two other things bound up with it, we experienced the effects which the production of Al-Farabi is reported to have wrought; and, from that experience, we are led to the conclusion, that the said production could not well have been more extravagant, more dull, more affected and childish, than are these of Mr. Coleridge.

It is unpleasant to have to pronounce a sentence which some may think severe, while others, who only echo the judgement of Lord Byron instead of using their own, will pretend to think so. We are confident that the expectations excited by the noble poet's praises of Christabel, will be disappointed: and, although those who admired the unintelligible sublimities, the mysticism and the methodism of Mr. Coleridge's former writings, may continue to admire many kindred beauties in the poems before us; yet more rational readers, who deplored those errors and absurdities, while they reverenced the genius that made even faults splendid, will perceive and lament the absence of those efforts of the Muse beneath whose steps flowers used to spring up. Few of our readers can need to be informed, that Mr. Coleridge is one of those poets whose opinion it is, that the lakes and mountains of Cumberland and Westmoreland are the avia Pieridum loca, which those "Syren daughters of Dame Memory" almost exclusively delight to haunt. In spite of its errors, many of the principles of the school of Poetry to which we allude, are most enchanting. Their enthusiastic reverence of Nature,—their lofty admiration of Virtue,—their ardent love of Liberty,—and a constant aspiring after a purer state of existence,—something, in short, finer, more ethereal, and more animating than the dry bones which surround us in this valley of tears,—all these are captivating to a warm imagination: and we cannot help thinking that the success of the new school would have been almost complete, had not its founders carried their affectation of simplicity so far as to really render themselves ridiculous. We do not stand up for monotonous pomp and cumbrous dignity; but we do think that Mr. Wordsworth, and his brethren of the Lakes, have most egregiously erred in mistaking the vulgarisms of the Dalesmen, and the stammering of their children, for the songs of the Muses.—We hasten to give some account of Mr. Coleridge, who has some characteristics distinct from those of the other members of the confraternity.

In the words of old Purchas, his genius "delights more in by-wayes than high-wayes, in things above nature than in things merely natural. He has some of the spirit of Spenser, and is not without a portion of the romantic tenderness of Collins. He professes himself to be of the school of the divine Spenser; and he certainly possesses a similar talent for embodying abstract ideas with felicity; while he has the same grand fault of making us wind through the mazes of bis allegories and similes till we are nearly exhausted. His poetry is made up, in its best parts, of abstractions, adorned with the gorgeous colours of his imagination, and usually expressed in harmonious language. He is apt, however, to make his pictures too gaudy: they want shadows—and, by their excess of brilliancy, the eye is fatigued, and the images rendered indistinct. The melody of his verse, too, often degenerates into a monotonous and affected pompousness: at the same time that the wretchedness of the matter forms a strange contrast with the stateliness of the rhyme.—These, we repeat, are peculiarities in Mr. Coleridge's poetry.

His peculiar graces and defects may be clearly traced to the same source—his study of the old writers. He has drunk copiously of that well of English undefiled, which they made to flow. In both his prose and verse, the lofty march, the glorious though confused imagery of these giants in intellect, are apparent. He has not, indeed, escaped the contamination of their faults of style;—a style which, with all its beauties, is always obscure, elaborate, and debased by conceits. We do not mean to say that Mr. Coleridge has copied their style; but only that his genius is of the same order with theirs, and that, through the study of their writings, his productions seem identified with them. These remarks apply more particularly to his prose, which, in some of the papers in the Friend, is equal to other men's poetry. In indignant and pathetic eloquence, we do not remember any thing' superior to the story of Maria;—a story which will exist in the memory of many readers, when all other traces of the book shall have faded.

Mr. Coleridge's poetry has more of ideality about it than that of any other living author (we borrow this term from Doctors Gall and Spurzheim, no expressive one of English coinage being at hand); it has more of that highly-wrought metaphorical language, by the use of which Shakspeare and Spenser have presented such delightful and vivid pictures to the imagination. These pictures seem to have been produced at once and without effort. The conception, too, is almost always embodied in the most fortunate Words; and, so far is their love of this quality carried, that the commonest thoughts and objects are arrayed in them. Shakspeare speaks of enjoying "the Honey-heavy Dew of slumber,"—and Spenser of a tree " Spreading A Gladsome Gleam upon the hills."f Who ever read these, and similar passages in the works of their authors, without an intense feeling of delight? But we are venturing too near inchanted ground; and must retrace our steps, in order to proceed to our proper purpose.

Christabel is in the manner of Walter Scott and Lord Byron; that is to say, it resembles the productions of these authors in its general structure, while the foundation and embellishments are decidedly in the Lakish taste. The absurdity, by the way, of attempting to support the bold and massive entablatures of the former artists, upon the slender and grotesque columns of the architects of the Lakes, must be evident.


If any of Mr. Coleridge's readers should think that we have been too severe on him, let them consider that his sins are not involuntary, but committed in defiance of common sense as well as of criticism. We believe, however, that all those who are not bigoted admirers of the Lakers, will assent to the general correctness of the opinion of these poems which we have ventured to express; and will continue to do so, till tli.;-y shall learn to look upon babyism and silliness as nature and siniplicity>the extravagance of Bedlam as originality, and to mistake the contortions and ravings of Pythut for her inspirations.

[Augustan Review, 3 (1816), 14-20]

Mr Lancaster

Did the Royal Institution really pass a motion of censure against Coleridge?
I flatter myself that, by the evidence of facts, it has been proved, that Mr. Lancaster is the inventor of the System by which one master can educate an indefinite number of children in useful learning, with an expedition and economy altogether unexampled by any other person.

Against this system of education various objections have been made; some so trifling as not to need reply; such are objections to the principles of emulation and reward, as intended to supersede the use of the cane and the rod. Much empty declamation has been indulged in to pour contempt on the system, because of certain punishments which have been found successful, in tempering the froward and undisciplined habits of poor, neglected children. The gentleman who principally distinguished himself on this subject is Mr. Coleridge; the authority of whose name is adduced by the Quarterly Review Concerning the Lecture alluded to, much might be said: but, as Mr.Coleridge has failed to perform the promise'he made of its publication, it would have been more prudent of his friend to have suffered the remembrance of it to have sunk into oblivion, than, with the mention of the Lecture to have revived a recollection of the disgrace to which, the Lecturer subjected himself. The Reviewer ought to have recollected, that so great was the disapprobation of the Noble and Honourable Proprietors of the Royal Institution, that, at their following annual meeting, they expressed their opinion of that Lecture by passing a vote of censure on Mr. Coleridge on that account.

Joseph Fox ['Pythias'], A Vindication of Mr. Lancaster's System of Education from the Aspersions of Professor Marsh, the Quarterly, British and Anti-Jacobin Reviews (1812)

'Monsieur T. Coleridge'

A link (so I don't lose it) to an intriguing essay in the French journal L'Ambigu, ou, Variétés Littéraires, et Politiques [28 (10 Jan 1810), 3-16] entitled 'Extraits de quelques Lettres publiées dans le Journal (the Courier), par M. T. Coleridge, Auteur d'une Feuille périodique intitulée (The Friend.)' It's interesting that Coleridge reputation was high enough in 1810 for a French journal to consider it worthwhile translating some of his (public) writings on Napoleon (quelques 'expressions dures à l'égard de L'Empereur Français') and the political situation on the Continent. Although his reputation was not high enough for the author, M. Peltier, to realise that his name was not 'T. Coleridge'. Still, you can't have everything. Peltier was a celebrated anti-Napoleonist; and L'Ambigu was an emigre publication, French-language but produced and sold in London (subscriptions were, the title page informs us, an eye-watering five guineas a year).

Coleridge on Ballads

Where did Coleridge remark this? I'm hoping it was in conversation, or in a lecture, and that it has not otherwise been recorded (offhand I can't place it otherwise; but I may well be wrong about that):
There are many masons why ballads are likely to be better than any other species of poems. As being composed for the people, they would be in the language of the people, the language of life and passion. Passing from one recitor to another, from generation to generation, frequent additions would be made, and such only as improved the poem would adhere to it. And as we heard well remarked by Mr. Coleridge; in oral recitation all the feebler parts would be dropt in process of time, and hence they have obtained that boldness with which they so frequently open, and those exquisite transitions which we so justly admire; while all other compositions of the same age are weakened by prolixity.
['Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads', The Annual Review for 1808 7 (1809), 457]

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Coleridge in the "Sortes Horatianae" (1814)

I don't think this has been noticed before. The anonymous satirical poem Sortes Horatianae: a Poetical Review of Poetical Talent, with notes (London: T, Hamilton, 1814), written by somebody who calls Byron his 'patron', includes some lively mockery of the Lake school. The relevant passage opens with general chaff about the Pantisocratic scheme of American emigration:
Three English Bards, with hacknied logic smit,
Their native shore resolved for aye to quit;
To stem the fury of the winds and waves,
For wild Columbia's lakes, and gloomy caves.
There breathed, they said, on every hill and plain,
The Mountain-Goddess and her free-born train;
And there they'd dwell beneath the sacred tree
Of ever youthful, blooming Liberty!
In sooth, 't were pity, ere the bubble burst,
By minds diseas'd and brains disorder'd nurst,
They had not flown, and kindly with them ta'en
Each silly smatt'rer of the Muse's train:
The "SHIPPE OF FOOLLES" had borne them o'er the floods,
To awful wilds, and never ending woods;
And there, when morn had deck'd the radiant sky,
Each, as his Genius prompted him, might fly,
In all the charms of Solitude, to rove
The wide Savannah, or the shady grove.
[Sortes Horatianae (1814), 705-22]
The three, of course, are Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge; although in fact only the latter two ever planned to relocate to the banks of the Susquehanna River. Then there's a six-line dig at Southey, followed by this:
Coleridge* should mount some rock's o'erjutting height,
And tell his tale in accents of delight;
Fancy his seat "Apollo's forked hill,"
The high tribunal of poetic skill;
Or Surrey's chair, in which he toil'd in vain,
While tittering students mocked the tragic strain;
And think the winds that round would gently blow
Teem'd with the praises of the crowd below. [729-36]
The poem goes on to the third ('Wordsworth should stray adown the fragrant vale,/And breathe soft nonsense to the balmy gale'), but I'm going to pause at the thumbnail of Coleridge. The 'Apollo's hill' reference is to Pope (the Epistle to Arbuthnot, where the toadlike Bufo is 'Proud as Apollo on his forked hill') and the 'Surrey's chair' is a reference to Coleridge's London lectures. Here is the appended footnote:
*Mr. Coleridge is well known as having produced, at divers times, a dainty volume of Poetics, and a Play, which will be honorably mentioned hereafter.——He is also a Lecturer, at the Surrey Institution, on Poetry and "les Belles Lettres." With no very prominent talents, either natural or acquired, for a public Speaker, he endeavours to supply the absence of propriety with pathos, but seldom succeeds in interesting the feelings of his auditors, till he has completely overwhelmed his own; as the following anecdote will prove:

In the course of his lecture, one evening, he had wandered from the subject matter to the story of two lovers—in the moon! So completely absorbed was he in their imaginary distresses, that he failed to observe its effect upon his hearers, until bending from his desk to make a last appeal, he saw, as well as he could through eyes suffused with tears, that they were literally laughing at him.

Constitit et lacrymans.
The Latin is from the Aeneid, and describes what happened when Aeneas retold the story of the fall of Troy: 'he stopped, and began weeping'.

This, though, is fascinating stuff. In fact, Coleridge's 1808 lectures were delivered at the Royal Institution, not the Surrey Institution (though the latter was modelled on the former); unless the author of the Sortes is thinking of Coleridge's 1811-12 Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, which were delivered at the London Philosophical Society (again, not the Surrey Institution). It would be good to know, actually; since it's otherwise hard to pin-down at which point in which lecture Coleridge might have wandered from his brief to a tear-jerking discussion of two lovers in the moon.

Still, though it's presented to us here to mock its subject, I'd say there's genuine pathos in the picture of Coleridge, moved to tears by his own extempore lecturing, suddenly realising that his audience was literally laughing at him. I don't believe anybody else has noticed this little biographical nugget.

Louis Simond meets Southey and Coleridge, 1810

This is from Louis Simond, Journal of a tour and residence in Great Britain: during the years 1810 and 1811 (2 vols 1815-17), 1:350-4
We had the pleasure of seeing several times the celebrated Mr Southey, a distinguished favourite of the English muses. Mr Coleridge, whose talents are equally known, although less fruitful, was at Mr S.'s, with whom he has some family connection. Both of these gentlemen, and, I believe, Mr Wordsworth, another of the poets of the lakes, had, in the warmth of their youthful days, some fifteen years ago, taken the spirited resolution of traversing the Atlantic, in order to breathe the pure air of liberty in the United States. Some accident delayed the execution of this laudable project, and gave them time to cool. At present, these gentlemen seem to think that there is no need of going so far for liberty, and that there is a reasonable allowance of it at home. Their democracy is come down to Whiggism, and may not even stop there. Mr S. has resided in Spain, and is well acquainted with the literature of that country, and its people. He thinks the Spaniards are well aware of the defects of their government, and that a thorough reformation of them, and in fact a revolution, would have united the whole people against the invaders, and have rendered them invincible. He and his friend are enthusiastic in the Spanish cause. This sentiment is, in them, I am persuaded, quite sincere, and founded on just and honourable principles. But it is remarkable, that this same Spanish cause is one of the watch-words of party, to which I have alluded before. By a strange perversion of the human mind, those liberal and independent opinions in matters of government, which one of the parties professes, are generally found associated with a certain toleration of usurpation and tyranny in certain situations; which is, on the contrary, held in utter abhorrence by the other party, although accused of being, otherwise, less nice on those points than its adversary. This might well raise uncharitable suspicions of the candour and sincerity of both.

I learned here, that there are good grounds to believe, that the valuable race of Spanish Merino sheep was originally introduced there from England (Gloucestershire,! think,). ... Mr S. has rectified the error I was in respecting the Spanish play from which Corneille drew his Cid. The old father, (Don Diego,) in the French Cid, seeking an avenger of his outraged honour, addresses his son in these words :—"Rodrigue, as-tu du coeur?" To which the young hero answers, "Tout autre que mon pere. l'eprouveroit sur l'heur!" I had been told that, in the Spanish play, the old father, calling his three sons in succession,, seizes the hand of the first, and, carrying it to his mouth, bites his thumb severely! This unexpected proceeding does not fail to occasion vehement outcries and struggles on the part of the son, who is, in consequence, dismissed with contempt. A second son undergoes the same trial, with no better result. At last comes the third, the young Cid, who bears the biting without emotion, and is immediately proclaimed the avenger. Instead of biting, I.now understand that the old father gives only a hard squeeze of the hand, which is certainly a less shocking violation of the French bienseances tragiques.

Mr S. has chosen a career in which he. does not meet at present with any competitor. He is eminently the poet of chimeras. Milton left a great model in this kind; and he has surpassed it in monstrous creations and events, so totally out of nature, as to exclude not only sympathy, but,, in a great degree, meaning itself.
Je 1'avouerai, j'aime toute aventure,
Qui tient de pres a l'humaine nature.
The coarse remark of Cardinal d'Este to Ariosto is well known: "Dove diavolo, Signor Ludovico, avete pigliate tante de coglionerie;" and most of the readers of Milton and of Mr S. might be inclined to repeat it;—in fact they have few readers, although they have many admirers. The modern poet understands piety and tenderness much better than his predecessor. The love and the theology of Paradise Lost are alike harsh and austere, coarse and material,—while Mr S. has tenderness and spirituality. The latter is as picturesque as Milton, who was a great landscape-painter, and, in the age of box parterres, dipt hedges, and jets-d'eau, respected the freedom, and loved the native graces of nature.

Mr S. is much esteemed by all those who are acquainted with him, and seems to have as much good sense and general knowledge as talents and genius. I was surprised to hear him censuring highly the doctrine of the Essay on Population, or rather not taking it in its true light. One of the dreams of the revolutionary philosophy was, the faculty of indefinite perfectibility in the human species; and one of its errors, or its artifices, was, to suppose that the great obstacles to this perfectibility came altogether from the social institutions. It is not to be wondered at, that the discovery of a still greater obstacle,—an insurmountable one, raised by nature itself,—which deprives that philosophy of a favourite dogma, should be very ill received by its followers, and excite their ill-humour. In consequence, the doctrine of population is one of the signals of party. It is often approved by the whigs; but I have not found any thorough reformer to whom it was not odious. These two parties having, however, many points of contact and natural sympathies, individuals slide easily and unconsciously from one to the other; and *when the metamorphosis takes place, it happens frequently that the new insect, fresh out of his old skin, drags still some fragments of it after him,—-just enough to indicate what he was before.
Here's Ira Grushaw on Simond:
Louis Simond (1767-1831) earned a permanent place in the footnotes of the literary history of England when he was entertained while touring the Lake Country by De Quincey, who characterized him as a "thorough, knowing man of the world, keen, sharp as a razor, and valuing nothing but the tangible and the ponderable." By birth a Frenchman, Simond emigrated before the Revolution in his native land to the United States, where he became a successful New York merchant. In 1810-11 he made a tour of Great Britain, where he encountered De Quincey, Wordsworth, and others, recording his impressions in a journal written originally in English and published anonymously by a "French traveler" in 1815. After Waterloo a French translation appeared, a second edition of which finally identified the author by name.
There's a fair bit in this volume about De Quincey; but I don't recall previously coming across this little snapshot of Southey and Coleridge at Keswick together.

Friday 21 June 2013

Coleridge's 'Pensive at Eve' (1797)

Here's Coleridge's first 'Higgenbottom' sonnet:
Pensive at eve, on the hard world I mused,
And my poor heart was sad; so at the MOON
I gazed and sighed, and sighed; for ah how soon
Eve saddens into night! mine eyes perused
With tearful vacancy the dampy grass
That wept and glitter'd in the paly ray:
And I did pause me on my lonely way
And mused me on the wretched ones that pass
O'er the bleak heath of sorrow. But alas!
Most of myself I thought! when it befel,
That the soothe spirit of the breezy wood
Breath'd in mine ear: "All this is very well,
But much of ONE thing, is for NO thing good."
Oh my poor heart's INEXPLICABLE SWELL!
In the Biographia (where, at the end of the first chapter, he quotes all three sonnets) STC notes 'So long ago as the publication of the second number of the Monthly Magazine, under the name of NEHEMIAH HIGGENBOTTOM, I contributed three sonnets, the first of which had for its object to excite a good-natured laugh at the spirit of doleful egotism, and at the recurrence of favorite phrases, with the double defect of being at once trite and licentious.' Working backwards from the end.

(1) 'Inexplicable swell' is 'licentious' in its intimation of tumescence, I suppose. It appears to mock John Wesley:
Hear, Holy Ghost, our joint request,
And show thyself the Comforter;
And swell the inexplicable groan,
And breathe our wishes to the throne.
[Wesley, 'Hymn 428' (Psalm 113), John Wesley, A Collection of Hymns, for the use of the people called Methodists (1786), 414]
Would it be a little near the knuckle for Coleridge to mock a devotional work like this though? Particularly by focussing on what amounts to a double-entendre?

(2) 'My poor heart' pokes fun at the lyric, printed (amongst lots of other places) in The London Magazine 4 (1785), 45, 'Song in the Follies of a Day' (that is to say, the English adaptation of The Marriage of Figaro):
To the winds to the waves, to the woods I complain,
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart;
They hear not my sighs and they heed not my pain;
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart;

The name of my goddess,T grave on each tree;
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart!
'Tis I wound thy bark, but love's arrows wound me;
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart!

The heavens I view, and their azure bright skies;
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart!
My heaven exists in her still brighter eyes;
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart!

To thy sun's morning splendor thy poor Indian bows;
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart!
But I dare not worship where I pay my vows;
Ah! well-a-day, my poor heart!
This was a popular song of the day (music by William Shield, who may or may not also have composed 'Auld Lang Syne'). The triteness is obvious enough; the 'licentiousness' a mode of emotional incontinence, perhaps.

(3)'The soothe spirit of the breezy wood'. This may pastiche a couplet from Young's second Night Thoughts (1743; 'On Time, Death and Friendship'):
How often we talk’d won the summer’s sun,
And cool’d our passions by the breezy stream!
'Cool our passions' has, I suppose, a post-coital smack to it.

(4) 'mine eyes perused/With tearful vacancy the dampy grass/That wept and glitter'd in the paly ray'. Well 'dampy' may be a dig at Ambrose Phillips. Here from the second Pastoral (1709), is his lament for a dead shepherd, called 'Albino':
In yonder gloomy grove stretch'd out he lay,
His beauteous limbs upon the dampy clay,
The roses on his palid cheeks decay'd,
And o'er his lips a livid hue display'd:
Bleating around him lie his pensive sheep,
And mourning shepherds come in crouds to weep.
The pious mother comes, with grief oppress'd;
Ye, conscious trees and fountains, can attest
With what fad accents and what moving cries
She sill'd the grove, and importun'd the skies.
O peaceful may thy gentle spirit rest!
And flow'ry turf lie light upon thy breast;
Nor shrieking owl, nor bat fly round thy tomb,
Nor midnight fairies there to revel come.
Not for nothing was Phillips known as 'Namby-Pamby'. The most you could say is that Coleridge is hardly parodying contemporary taste in 1797 by mocking a poem published at the other end of the century. Maybe he has in mind a frankly plagiarised (and if you were going to plagiarise, wouldn't you choose a source-text rather better than Namby-Pamby?) passage from the reverend Matthew Pilkington, part of his 'A Pastoral Elegy, on the Death of a Lady's Canary-bird' (1761):
All stiff he lies the dampy earth along,
His little bosom swells no more with song,
[Poems &c. by the Rev Mr Matthew Pilkington, revised and connected by the late Dean Swift (1761), 154]
which is trite enough.

(5) What of 'the paly ray'? I wonder if Coleridge saw or read The Regent, a Tragedy (by 'Bertie Greatheed', too cool a name to be a pseudonym), acted at Drury Lane 1788, and afterwards printed? It contains the following passage:
But as the crocus opes its saffron veil,
To catch at morn the cloud-dissolving ray;
And stain with deeper gold its paly brow;
So would her heart expand on sight of Carlos!
Coleridge may have read, if not the play itself, then the review of it in the Critical Review (which we know he read) for 1788, that singles this passage out for praise 'pretty, perhaps beautiful' although adding 'we object, however, to "paly brow"'.

(6) I can't find any 'did pause me' or 'mused me' antecedants; and 'wretched ones' returns various hits but none of them poetic. But the 'so at the MOON/I gazed, and sighed' is a dig at Charlotte Turner Smith's sonnet 'To the Moon' (1784) -- which also (in its second line) gives Coleridge's pastiche its opening:
Queen of the silver bow!—by thy pale beam,
Alone and pensive, I delight to stray,
And watch thy shadow trembling in the stream,
Or mark the floating clouds that cross thy way.
And while I gaze, thy mild and placid light
Sheds a soft calm upon my troubled breast;
And oft I think, fair planet of the night,
That in thy orb, the wretched may have rest:
The sufferers of the earth perhaps may go,
Releas'd by death to thy benignant sphere,
And the sad children of despair and woe
Forget in thee, their cup of sorrow here.
Oh! that I soon may reach thy world serene,
Poor wearied pilgrim—in this toiling scene!
That's doleful egotism if you like.

Coleridge as Nehemiah Higgenbottom

Pensive at eve, on the hard world I mused,
And my poor heart was sad; so at the MOON
I gazed and sighed, and sighed; for ah how soon
Eve saddens into night! mine eyes perused
With tearful vacancy the dampy grass
That wept and glitter'd in the paly ray:
And I did pause me on my lonely way
And mused me on the wretched ones that pass
O'er the bleak heath of sorrow. But alas!
Most of myself I thought! when it befel,
That the soothe spirit of the breezy wood
Breath'd in mine ear: "All this is very well,
But much of ONE thing, is for NO thing good."
Oh my poor heart's INEXPLICABLE SWELL!

Oh I do love thee, meek SIMPLICITY!
For of thy lays the lulling simpleness
Goes to my heart, and soothes each small distress,
Distress tho' small, yet haply great to me,
'Tis true on Lady Fortune's gentlest pad
I amble on; and yet I know not why
So sad I am! but should a friend and I
Frown, pout and part, then I am very sad.
And then with sonnets and with sympathy
My dreamy bosom's mystic woes I pall;
Now of my false friend plaining plaintively,
Now raving at mankind in general;
But whether sad or fierce, 'tis simple all,
All very simple, meek SIMPLICITY!

AND this reft house is that, the which he built,
Lamented Jack! and here his malt he pil'd,
Cautious in vain! these rats, that squeak so wild,
Squeak not unconscious of their father's guilt.
Did he not see her gleaming thro' the glade!
Belike 'twas she, the maiden all forlorn.
What tho' she milk no cow with crumpled horn,
Yet, aye she haunts the dale where erst she stray'd:
And aye, beside her stalks her amorous knight!
Still on his thighs their wonted brogues are worn,
And thro' those brogues, still tatter'd and betorn,
His hindward charms gleam an unearthly white.
Ah! thus thro' broken clouds at night's high noon
Peeps to fair fragments forth the full-orb'd harvest-moon!

These three Coleridgean pastiche sonnets first appeared in the Monthly Magazine, November 1797 as ‘by Nehemiah Higginbottom’. The broader context for their appearance is summarised by David Erdman: ‘Having with some misgivings recently pushed through the publication of Poems, By S. T. Coleridge, Second Edition. To which are now added Poems By Charles Lamb, And Charles Lloyd, the main author, counting the "effusions" of Lamb and Lloyd as a part of his own folly, laughs cathartically at the whole performance-and then sells his laughter to the Monthly Magazine before sharing it with his collaborators. [Erdman, ‘Coleridge as Nehemiah Higginbottom’, Modern Language Notes, 73: 8 (1958), 569]. ‘I sent three mock Sonnets,’ was how Coleridge explained matters in a letter to Cottle, ‘in ridicule of my own, & Charles Lloyd's, & Lamb's, &c &c—in ridicule of that affectation of unaffectedness, of jumping & misplaced accent on common-place epithets, flat lines forced into poetry by Italics (signifying how well & mouthis[h]ly the Author would read them) puny pathos &c &c—the instances are almost all taken from mine & Lloyd's poems … think they may do good to our young Bards’ [Collected Letters 1:357-8]. However benign Coleridge’s intentions may have been, Lloyd, Lamb and Southey (who believed his own sonnets ridiculed here) were all upset by the publication. Coleridge wrote a letter to Southey [Collected Letters 1:358-9] denying that he had been a target.

The alias 'Higgenbottom' was chosen (clearly) because Coleridge thought it was funny. Arses are funny, too (the end of the third sonnet works hard to generate arse-related laughs); and Coleridge wasn't the only person to find the name comical.
It seems difficult to account for some extraordinary names: many of them are probably corrupted from foreign ones. Such as Mr. Bomgarten, Mr. Higgenbottom, and divers others. The first is the German name for a tree-garden, i.e. an orchard, and the latter signifying in the same tongue Ickenbaum, an oak-tree. ['Humorous Origin of Names', Walker's Hibernian Magazine, Or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge (1789), 653]
Ben Jonson mentions a 'Higginbottom', otherwise unknown but clearly a ruffian and mugger ("Walk with a cudgel, like Higginbottom, and may have a rapier for money", Every Man In His Humour, Act 2), which may be where Coleridge got it from. Or was his eye struck by the story of a certain Mr Price, who claimed to be a graduate of Oxford and who published a pamphlet claiming to have discovered the Philosopher's Stone? Here, in the Gentleman's Magazine for 8 November 1791, is a letter claiming to explode the claims of 'Mr Price':
Nothing short of the words "is not true" should have induced me to trouble you with any remarks on the long letter relative to Oxford degrees in your last month's Magazine. I always fully understood that Mr. Price's sole fame arose from his supposed discovery of the philosopher's stone; his writings never fell in my way, nor did I ever seek them: but, as my adversary had two editions of his pamphlet at once lying before him, it rested with him to have shewn what other "chymical labours" distinguished Mr. Price beyond the hundreds of industrious artisans in this city, who brandish their pestles, and heat their crucibles, without dreaming of being created doctors in physick, any more than I should of being dubbed Archbishop of Canterbury. Your correspondent, who (when the choler which actuated him when he first took up the pen is a little evaporated) appears to be a communicative, good-humoured man, assigns three other reasons for Mr. Price's obtaining the academical distinction of M.D. all equally curious: his having been a gentleman commoner, and behaved with sobriety; his having changed his name from Higginbottom, and being considered as very rich; and, lastly, his not intending to practise physick in England, but to carry his degree into foreign parts.
This is pretty funny, too; and might well have tickled Coleridge's fancy: a man gets his degree in part because he changes his name from an absurd to a regular moniker, and because he promises not to use his degree in Britain. You can read Price's pamphlet for yourself: it's called An account of some experiments on mercury, silver and gold (Oxford 1782).

Mathias, 'The Pursuits of Literature: A Satirical Poem' (1794-7)

I've been looking over The Pursuits of Literature: A Satirical Poem in Four Dialogues, with Notes, originally issued anonymously (four volumes, 1794-1797; afterwards several times reprinted in one), written by Thomas James Mathias. If you click that link it takes you to the Google Books edition, which contains (before the main title: scroll up) the follow, click-to-embiggen-if-you-like, interesting manuscript note:

Let me transcribe that for you:
This satirical publication created a great sensation and considerable controversy. The author is now confidently stated to have been T. J. Mathias. [The first edition appeared in 1794-7, 8vo. 4 pts. in 1 vol. In the different editions there were variations, omissions, &c, &c. Copies of the edition printed in 1812 in 4to. and folio, for the purpose of Illustration, a pursuit highly deprecated by the author in his Poem.]

Coleridge, in 'The Friend,' vol. 2, p. 12, (ed. 1818), alludes to this work as "the most vapid of satires become the object of keen public interest purely from the number of contemporary characters named in the patchwork notes (which possess, however, the comparative merit of being more poetical than the text), and because, to increase the stimulus, the author has sagaciously kept his own name for whispers and conjectures." See Gent. Mag. N.8. vol. 16, p. 123, for a long article on this book.
Well, see, that is interesting in its own right (since I'm working on Coleridge now); but it also helps us identify who wrote those lines. Because they appear in print in William Thomas Lowndes and Henry George Bohn's The Bibliographer's Manual of English Literature (Vol 7; 1861), 2012. (Indeed, if you've been paying attention you'll see that I haven't transcribed the MS at all; I've copied the text from Lowndes/Bohn 1861 book). From this we can deduce: the edition scanned into Google Books was owned and scribbled upon by Lowndes or Bohn, and probably by the former. But wait: whose are those intials at the end of the MS marginalium? It looks to me like 'JJ' or 'TT'; and neither WTL nor HGB. Curiouser and curiouser. (Actually, peering closely at it, I wonder if it isn't 'JCJB', with the C crossing the first J, and the second J providing the spar for the B. What do you think?)

Tuesday 18 June 2013

The Impact of the 1983 movie "War Games"

I was reading Natch Greyes paper, 'A New Proposal for the Department of Justice’s Interpretation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act' [Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, 17:04 (Winter 2012); pdf link], which argues persuasively against the world-spanning draconian powers available to, and often exercised by, the US Govt under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This passage in particular caught my eye:
Originally, passage of the CFAA was motivated by the 1983 movie War Games, in which a young American “hacker” unwittingly accesses the supercomputer that controls the nuclear arsenal of the United States. The CFAA was originally designed to allow the DOJ to prosecute computer “hackers,” like the protagonist in War Games. It also allowed the prosecution of those individuals who used a computer to obtain “classified information,” “financial or credit records,” or to interfere with the government’s use of a computer.
Golly. Is it true? Turns out it is: Greyes quotes the original documentation:
'Id. at para. 4. See also H.R. REP. NO. 98-894, at 10 (1984), reprinted in 1984 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3689, 3696 (“The motion picture ‘War Games’ showed a realistic representation of the automatic dialing and access capabilities of the personal computer.”).
SF ought to be more careful in its representations of the colossal power of Geeks. Our texts appear directly to be influencing US policy.

Monday 17 June 2013

Water Babies

That's the frontispiece to Kingsley's novel. Here's Art Historian Jonathan Ribner talking about it, as a specific reaction to the Great Stink.
In its Christian underpinning, Martin's vision of London awash with pure water bears affinity to the association of water with moral redemption in Kingsley's classic, The Water Babies: A Fairy Tale for A Land Baby (1863). This didactic fantasy - reminiscent, at once, of The Pilgrim's Progress and of Kingsley's favourite author, Rabelais - was written for the author's five- year-old son, Grenville. Its satirical edge, however, is thoroughly adult. Tom, an orphaned chimney sweep - who 'never washed himself, for there was no water up the court where he lived' - escapes from a life of squalid misery at the hands of a cruel master (Mr Grimes) by bathing in a river. With the assistance of a guardian fairy disguised as a poor Irish woman, Tom sheds his sooty skin and is transformed into a water baby - a gilled homunculus capable of conversing with trout, salmon, and other creatures that he meets on an adventurous passage down the river, to the sea, and on a pilgrimage to the Other-end-of- Nowhere. Along with his fellow water babies, Tom leads a charmed aquatic life, illustrated by Sir Noel Paton with a zoological specificity that recalls Kingsley's exhortation to the amateur naturalist, in his popular treatise on seaside collecting, to dauntlessly study God's marine creations without regard for beauty.

Under the guidance of the fairy, Tom learns justice and goodness, loses his former taste for cruel pranks, and forgives Mr Grimes, whose punishment in the afterlife is imprisonment in chimney No. 345 where, watched over by a talking truncheon, he fruitlessly tries to light his pipe.

The Water Babies embodies an association between cleansing and redemption that, modelled on the sacrament of baptism, had shaped the symbolism of Kingsley's early novel Yeast (1849). There, Argemone Lavington dies with the knowledge that her family has been cursed by its selfish denial of clean water to its poor tenants. Thus, her final plea to Lancelot that he redeem her family by providing the people of Ashy with water from the Nunpool: 'Take all the water, every drop, and make Ashy clean again! Make a great fountain of it ... and wash away the sins of the Lavingtons ....' (Yeast, p 304). Continuation of this line of symbolism in The Water Babies is most evident in the song sung by the river in which Tom is transformed. There, the purity and pollution of water are identified, respectively, with salvation and sin.
[Jonathan P Ribner, 'The Thames and Sin in the age of the Great Stink: Some artistic and literary responses to a Victorian environmental crisis' The British Art Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring 2000), 38-46]

Thursday 13 June 2013


Title page.
Sonnet 1 'Bereave me not of these delightful dreams'
Sonnet 2 'Languid, and sad, and slow from day to day'
Sonnet 3 Written at Tinemouth, Northumberland, After a Tempestuous Voyage
Sonnet 4 Written at Bamborough Castle
Sonnet 5 To the River Wensbeck
Sonnet 6 To The River Tweed
Sonnet 7 Evening! as slow thy placid shades descend
Sonnet 8 On Leaving A Village in Scotland
Sonnet 9 To The River Itchin, Near Winton
Sonnet 10 'O Poverty! though from thy haggard eye'
Sonnet 11 On Dover Cliffs, July 20th, 1787
Sonnet 12 On Landing at Ostend, July 21, 1787
Sonnet 13 Written at Ostend, July 22th 1787
Sonnet 14 On the Ryne
Sonnet 15 Written at a Convent
Sonnet 16 July 18th, 1787
Sonnet 17 In a Storm
Sonnet 18 On a Distant View of England
Sonnet 19 On Netley Abbey
Sonnet 20 'O Harmony! thou tendrest nurse of pain'
Sonnet 21 To the River Cherwell
So, there they are: Bowles’s 21 sonnets. Not much cop, if we're honest. Literary critics, when they treat Bowles at all, tend to do so as historically significant, in a small way, rather than on the grounds of his intrinsic merit as a poet. Here’s R S White:
Bowles’ immediate stimulus [in writing the sonnets] was the experience of being jilted by two fiancées, but his response was more Romantic than Petrarchan, since in poetry he found a soothing emotional connection to nature that distracted him from his amatory grief, rather than dwelling on feelings of unrequited love. He strives to express in verse his real feelings rather than relying on Petrarchan conventions. Descriptions of scenery and buildings, rivers and ruins are foregrounded, to the extent that the sequence becomes like a travelogue, encompassing sights from Scotland and the north of England, Oxford and Dover, and abroad from Ostend and the Rhine. … Bowles, even when writing initially as an anguished young man, adopts the stance of one looking back in time to former distress. Retrospection becomes as much a strategy to measure time and to lament lost youth, as to trace an unhappy love affair. [R. S. White, ‘The Sonnet from Milton to the Romantics’, in A D Cousins and Peter Howarth (eds), The Cambridge Companion to the Sonnet (Cambridge 2011), 181]
White goes on to note Coleridge and Wordsworth’s high opinion of the poems, and adds that ‘one of Bowles’ sonnets is called ‘Associations’, and the Hartleian word sums up his treatment of the way scenery stimulates, creates, or recreates past emotion.’ [182] But this doesn’t get us any closer to explaining what Coleridge found so beguiling in the works.

Beguiling he certainly found them. Coleridge’s early passion for Bowles’s sonnets is recorded in the first chapter of the Biographia Literaria, where he records his school-friend T F Middleton giving him the volume—this must have been the 21-sonnet second edition, not the 14-sonnet first, since Coleridge remembers that the sonnets were ‘twenty in number, and just then published in a quarto pamphlet’. He was at that point too poor to buy additional copies, and so copied out select sonnets (‘more than forty transcriptions’) to give to friends. A later reprint (from 1796) was given by Coleridge as a gift to Stella Thirlwell, with the following inscription:
Dear Mrs Thirlwell. I entreat your acceptance of this Volume, which has given me more pleasure, and done my heart more good, than all the other books, I ever read, excepting my Bible. Whether you approve or condemn my poetical taste, this Book will at least serve to remind you of your unseen, yet not the less sincere,
Friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Sunday Morning, December the eighteenth 1796. [This is quoted from George Whalley (ed) Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Marginalia I, Abbt to Byfield (Princeton Univ. Press 1980), 717]
Wordsworth was similarly struck: 'When Bowles's Sonnets first appeared ... - I bought them in a walk through London with my dear brother, who was afterwards drowned at sea. I read them as we went along, and to the great annoyance of my brother, I stopped in a niche of London Bridge to finish the pamphlet' [Mary Moorman, William Wordsworth: a Biography (2 vols: Oxford 1969-70), 1:125] Whalley notes that ‘Coleridge sent Bowles a copy of his Poems (1797) and in September of that year went to Bremhill to seek his criticism.’ Various letters of that period from Coleridge to Bowles survive, indicative of genuine warmth of friendship.
Even though Bowles accepted the manuscript of Osorio and persuaded Sheridan to write to Coleridge to discuss the possibility of staging the play, the visit was not a success … For Coleridge the spell was broken in 1802. “I well remember,” he told Sotheby, in one of his brilliant early letters on the nature of poetry, “that Southey observed to me, that you, I & himself had all done ourselves harm by suffering our admiration of Bowles to bubble up too often on the surface of our Poems.’ [Collected Letters 2:855; cf 864]
Whalley concludes that from 1802 to 1816 ‘Coleridge cultivated Bowles’ acquaintance’ and ‘received much kindness and encouragement from him’; but that ‘Bowles’ involvement in Tory church politics in 1817-18 because a cause of serious tension between them.’ Nonetheless, in 1821 Bowles gave Coleridge a copy of his latest pamphlet, Two Letters to the Right Honourable Lord Byron, of which more below.

Bowles wrote a good deal of other stuff, some of which Coleridge read; including poems elegiac, religious and descriptive. He also published a quantity of prose, and produced an edition of Pope. Several of his contemporaries, including individuals not well-disposed to him, mocked this latter. They did so on various grounds, but at the root of it was that Bowles’ own proto-Romantic fondness for a picturesque, Sublime poetry of Affect was at odds with Pope’s whole aesthetic. Campbell was one such, and Bowles published a sort of poetic manifesto addressed to Campbell: The invariable Principles of Poetry, in a Letter addressed to Thomas Campbell, Esq. occasioned by some Critical Observations in his Specimens of British Poets, particularly relating to the Poetical Character of Pope (1819). This in turn ignited a literary spat, between Bowles on the one hand, and a group of friends who considered themselves ‘defenders’ of the genius of Pope (against the sniping of so petty a writer as Bowles) on the other. In 1820 the Quarterly reviewed Bowles’s pamphlet:
It is with pain we have so long witnessed the attacks on the moral and poetical character of this great poet [i.e. Pope] … the Rev. Mr. Bowles, possesses the contest à l’outrance, with the appearance, though assuredly not with the reality, of personal hostility. It had been more honourable in this gentleman, with his known prejudices against the class of poetry in which Pope will always remain unrivalled, to have declined the office of editor, than to attempt to spread among new generations of readers the most unfavourable and the most unjust impressions of the POET, and of the MAN. We confidently hope, that the world has not yet reached that point of degradation, where to depreciate excellence in art, and to vilify one whose virtues were of no ordinary cast, shall be considered as a matter too unimportant to investigate, or too light to reprehend gravely. … Many years after, Johnson interrogating this critic, inquired, ‘If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found?’ To circumscribe poetry, he added, by a definition ‘will only shew the narrowness of the definer.’ Yet such a definer arose in the Rev. W. L. Bowles, who has distinguished himself in this idle controversy by his ‘Observations on the Poetic Character of Pope;' and his recent pamphlet on ‘The Invariable Principles of Poetry,’ in reply to Mr. Campbell's masterly vindication of Pope. Mr. Bowles has adopted a system which terminates in an exclusion of a great poet from the highest order of poets. [‘Spence’s Anecdotes of Books and Men', Quarterly Review (1820), 407-08]
The notional occasion for this essay was an newly discovered and published account of one of Pope’s contemporaries, Joseph Spence (Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters of Books and Men, collected from the Conversation of Mr. Pope, and other eminent Persons of his Time. By the Rev. Joseph Spence. Now first published from the original Papers, with Notes and a Life of the Author by Samuel Weller Singer 1820). Some of the anecdotes Spence related did not throw a very flattering light on Pope. This is how the Quarterly put it: 'Even Spence had long raised similar alarms by his "Anecdotes." Not only had his own friends (as we have seen) protested against their publication … but even some of the editors of Pope have vented their outcries against opening this box of Pandora. Listen to Mr. Bowles, a sort of sentimental critic:—‘I tremble for every character when I hear any thing of “Spence’s Anecdotes”. Neither friend nor foe are spared.’

This ‘Mr. Bowles, a sort of sentimental critic’ jibe evidently stung. Bowles quickly published a pamphlet of his own rebutting the review: A reply to an 'Unsentimental sort of critic', the reviewer of 'Spence's Anecdotes’ in the Quarterly Review for October 1820 (1820). This begins:
The first impression which the criticism on "Spence's Anecdotes," in the Quarterly Review for October, excited in my mind was regret that such an article, so false in its charges, so flippant in its style, so destitute of argument, and so abhorrent from the liberal feelings of an educated gentleman, should have been admitted in so respectable a publication. … Though this criticism is ostensibly on Spence's Anecdotes of Pope, as the last editor of the works of that illustrious Poet receives his full share of notice, and as the observations which are particularly directed to him in that character, appear neither fair nor well supported, I, as "one of the Family," shall endeavour to make some reply: and before I have done, I have little doubt but that I shall convince every dispassionate reader how ill this critic has performed his task. I hope I shall be excused, if, in, repelling sneers and sarcasms, I use a somewhat coarser manner in reply, than is either consonant to the habits or dispositions of our Family.
Bowles thought he knew who the author of the anonymous Quarterly piece was. (‘[I have] reasons which induce me to believe that this critic in the Quarterly Review is no less a personage than a certain Mr. Octavius Gilchrist; who, if I am not mistaken, is the same critic who figured, also, in the same Review last month upon certain productions of a “Poet of nature." If so, his praise or blame may be held in equal contempt.’] Gilchrist published his own pamphlet: A letter to the Rev. William Lisle Bowles, in answer to a pamphlet recently published under the title of "A Reply to an 'Unsentimental sort of critic', the reviewer of 'Spence's Anecdotes’ in the Quarterly Review for October 1820”. By Octavius Gilchrist (1820), which was boisterously, and sometimes amusingly, rude.
I am not without hopes of exciting by this letter that affected contempt in which writers who are driven to extremities have been, time out of mind, in the habit of indulging, and to which writers of Mr. Bowles's calibre are so prone to have recourse. The difficulty of pleasing the gentleman,—for so, he assures us, he is,—a trifling literary anecdote will suffice to prove. No very long time has elapsed since, in one of our periodical miscellanies, an ingenious writer fancied a pilgrimage of the living poets to the fountain of Aganippe, and in proportion as each was imbued with poetical inspiration, the pilgrim was supposed to quaff at the sacred spring. I write altogether from memory,—but, as I recollect, Byron was represented as drinking out of an ample goblet; Southey, Scott, and Words worth in, I know not what, proportion: at length came the sonneteer, Mr. W. Lisle Bowles, who was described as repeatedly dipping his little cockle-shell into the fons sacra, and retreating therefrom self-satisfied and smiling. Ingenious and unoffending as was this apologue, scarcely had the printer's devil washed his inky fingers, before Mr. Lisle Bowles presented a remonstrance against the writer and his cockleshell, and triumphantly referred to the sixth or eighth edition of his sonnets for his well-earned and unbought popularity. Can there remain any hope of contenting so sensitive a plant! But I have a more serious duty than that of conciliating Mr. Bowles.
It goes on in this tone (‘Having in the very threshold of " the Reply" employed more offensive language and contemptuous epithets, than can be found in the thirty four pages of the article on Spence in the Quarterly, there is something ludicrously absurd in commencing your pamphlet with "regret that an attack so coarse, and arguments so abhorrent &c.”’).

By now everybody was pitching in, including Byron himself. Bowles put out a second, expanded edition of his pamphlet: Observations on the Poetical Character of Pope, further elucidating the invariable Principles of Poetry, &c.; with a Sequel, in reply to Octavius Gilchrist (1821). Byron put out a quarto pamphlet attacked Bowles’s position, Letter to John Murray, Esq. on the Rev. W. L. Bowles's Strictures on the Life and Writings of Pope. By the Right Hon. Lord Byron. (1821).

In reply Bowles published a (rather respectfully-toned) reply, which ran to not two but three editions: Letters to Lord Byron on a Question of Poetical Criticism: 3d Edition, with Corrections. To which are now first added the Letter to Mr. Campbell, as far as regards Poetical Criticism; and the Answer to the Writer in the Quarterly Review, as far as they relate to the same subject: together with an Answer to some Objections, and further Illustrations (1822).  It was the first of these that Bowles gave to Coleridge.

Gilchrist put out A Second letter to the Rev. William Lisle Bowles, in answer to his Second Reply to the Reviewer of Spence's Anecdotes in the Quarterly Review for October, 1820 (1820) and A Third Letter to the Rev. William Lisle Bowles concerning Pope's Moral Character: including some Observations on that Person's Demeanour towards his Opponents, during the recent Controversy on that Subject (1821).

Bowles’s 190-page-long A Final Appeal followed in 1825. Full title: A Final Appeal to the Literary Public relative to Pope, in reply to certain Observations of Mr. Roscoe, in his Edition of that Poet's Works. To which are added some Remarks on Lord Byron's Conversations, as far as they relate to the same Subject, and the Author. In Letters to a Literary Friend.

Now, all this post-dates Coleridge's writing of the Biographia; but it does, I think, provide one quite important context to that work. At the heart of the spat was a disagreement about whether great poetry must be written direct from Nature (Bowles's argument), or whether it could be written from 'art'. And this was a debate, indeed a disagreement, that predated the Quarterly row; the Pope edition -- which is where it begins -- came out in 1806, for instance. By namechecking Bowles so generously right at the start of the Biographia, Coleridge was amongst other things positioning his own biographical aesthetics on the Bowles/Wordsworth, rather than the Pope/Byron side of the debate. What the side entails is here summarised by Bowles, quoting his own earlier writing:
"All images drawn from what is Beautiful or Sublime in the Works of Nature, are more beautiful and sublime than images drawn from art, and are therefore more poetical. In like manner, those Passions of the Human Heart which belong to nature in general, are, per se, more adapted to the Higher Species of poetry, than those which are derived from incidental and transient manners". The reader will instantly perceive, that these propositions are connected and consecutive; and to prevent the possibility of their being understood otherwise, I added, as illustrations, the following; instances, equally connected and consecutive. "A description of a forest is more poetical than a cultivated garden; and the passions which are portrayed in the Epistle Of Eloisa, render such a poem more poetical, (whatever might be the difference of merit in point of composition) intrinsically more poetical than a poem founded on the characters, incidents, and modes of artificial life, for instance, The Rape of the Lock." ... For, I beg you to observe, Sir, that, in my first proposition, I do not say that Works Of ART are in no instance poetical; but only that what is sublime or beautiful in works of nature "is More so!" The very expression "more so" is a proof that poetry belongs, though not in the same degree, to both. I must also beg you to remark, that, having laid down this position, I observe, in the very next sentence, (lest it should be misunderstood as it now is, and was by a writer in the Edinburgh Review,) substantially as follows,—that the general and loftier passions of human nature are more poetical than artificial manners; the one being eternal, the other local and transitory. [Bowles, The Invariable Principles, 8-9]
There's a lot in this pamphlet that returns in the Biographia, actually.

Bowles 21: To the River Cherwell

Last one! Here, since it points up the way that the Cherwell marked both the end of Bowles's pilgrimage and the beginning of his poetic career, is the preface Bowles wrote for the 1837 edition of his own poems, that summarises the genesis of these works:
To account for the variations which may be remarked in this last edition of my Sonnets, from that which was first published fifty years ago, it may be proper to state, that to the best of my recollection, they now appear nearly as they were originally composed in my solitary hours; when, in youth a wanderer among distant scenes, I sought forgetfulness of the first disappointment in early affections.

Delicacy even now, though the grave has long closed over the beloved object, would forbid entering on a detail of the peculiar circumstances in early life, and the anguish which occasioned these poetical meditations. In fact, I never thought of writing them down at the time, and many had escaped my recollection; but three years after my return to England, on my way to the banks of Cherwell, where
"I bade the pipe farewell, and that sad lay Whose music, on my melancholy way, I wooed,"
passing through Bath, I wrote down all I could recollect of these effusions, most elaborately mending the versification from the natural flow of music in which they occurred to me, and having thus corrected and written them out, took them myself to the late Mr Cruttwell, with the name of Fourteen Sonnets, written chiefly on Picturesque Spots during a Journey.

I had three times knocked at this amiable printer's door, whose kind smile I still recollect; and at last, with much hesitation, ventured to unfold my message; it was to inquire whether he would give any thing for "Fourteen Sonnets," to be published with or without the name. He at once declined the purchase, and informed me he doubted very much whether the publication would repay the expense of printing, which would come to about five pounds. It was at last determined one hundred copies, in quarto, should be published as a kind of "forlorn hope;" and these "Fourteen Sonnets" I left to their fate and thought no more of getting rich by poetry! In fact, I owed the most I ever owed at Oxford, at this time, namely, seventy pounds; and knowing my father's large family and trying circumstances, and those of my poor mother, I shrunk from asking more money when I left home, and went back with a heavy heart to Oxford, under the conscious weight, that my poetic scheme failing, I had no means of paying Parsons, the mercer's, bill! This was the origin of the publication.

As this plain account is so connected with whatever may be my name in criticism and poetry, it is hoped it will be pardoned.

All thoughts of succeeding as a poet were now abandoned; but, half a year afterwards, I received a letter from the printer informing me that the hundred copies were all sold, adding, that if I had published five hundred copies, he had no doubt they would have been sold also.

This, in my then situation, my father now dead, and my mother a widow with seven children, and with a materially reduced income (from the loss of the rectories of Uphill and Brean in Somerset), was gratifying indeed; all my golden dreams of poetical success were renewed;—the number of the sonnets first published was increased, and five hundred copies, by the congratulating printer, with whose family I have lived in kindest amity from that hour, were recommended to issue from the press of the editor of the Bath Chronicle.

But this was not all, the five hundred copies were sold to great advantage, for it was against my will that five hundred copies should be printed, till the printer told me he would take the risk on himself, on the usual terms, at that time, of bookseller and author.

Soon afterwards, it was agreed that seven hundred and fifty copies should be printed, in a smaller and elegant size. I had received Coleridge's warm testimony.
Here's the Cherwell sonnet:
Cherwell! how pleased along thy willow’d edge
Erewhile I stray’d, or when the morn began
To tinge the distant turret's golden fan,
Or Evening glimmer’d o'er the sighing sedge!
And now repos’d on thy lorn banks once more,
I bid the pipe farewell, and that sad lay
Whose music on my melancholy way
I woo’d: amid thy willows waving hoar,
Seeking a while to rest—till the bright sun
Of joy return; as when Heaven's beauteous bow
Beams on the night-storm's passing wings below:—
Whate'er betide, yet something have I won
Of Solace, that may bear me on serene,
Till Eve's last hush shall close the silent scene.
‘Beauteous’ again! But of course.

Bowles 20: O Harmony! thou tendrest nurse of pain

If we are to judge by the 1797 letter he sent to Bowles, Coleridge liked this sonnet best of all of them: 'I should have pleaded hard too for the first, Bereave me not -- & still more vehemently for the Sonnet to Harmony -- the only description of the effect of Music that suited my experience -- or rose above commonplace --'
O Harmony! thou tenderest nurse of pain,
If that thy note's sweet magic e'er can heal
Griefs which the patient spirit oft may feel,
Oh! let me listen to thy songs again,—
Till memory her fairest tints shall bring,
Hope wake with brighter eye, and list’ning seem
With smiles to think on some delightful dream,
That wav’d o'er the charmed sense its gladsome wing
For when thou leadest all thy soothing strains
More smooth along, the silent passions meet
In one suspended transport, sad and sweet—
And nought but sorrow's softest touch remains,
That, when the transitory charm is o'er,
Just wakes a tear, and then is felt no more.
I'm struggling to see what STC saw in this, I'll confess. 'Patient spirit' is another Bowlesian Empson-ambiguity, I suppose; and the idea (is it?) is that the diverse notes of the musical piece come harmoniously together in a way that propels the diverse emotional states of the poet's soul to unite, 'meet/In one suspended transport, sad and sweet.' Well, fair enough.

Bowles 19: On Netley Abbey

'Netley Abbey is a ruined late medieval monastery in the village of Netley near Southampton in Hampshire, England. The abbey was founded in 1239 as a house for Roman Catholic monks of the austere Cistercian order ... In 1536, Netley Abbey was closed by Henry VIII of England during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the building was converted into a mansion by William Paulet, a wealthy Tudor politician. The abbey was used as a country house until the beginning of the eighteenth century, after which it was abandoned and partially demolished for building materials. Subsequently the ruins became a tourist attraction, and provided inspiration to poets and artists of the Romantic movement.' For example, here's Bowles:
Fall'n pile! I ask not what has been thy fate,—
But when the weak winds, wafted from the main,
Through each lone arch, like spirits that complain,
Come mourning to my ear, I meditate
On this world's passing pageant, and on those
Who once, like thee, majestic and sublime
Have stood; till bow’d beneath the hand of time
Or hard mishap, at their sad evening’s close,
Their bold and beauteous port has sunk forlorn:
Yet wearing still a charm, that age and cares
Could ne’er subdue, decking the silver hairs
Of sorrow—as with short-liv’d gleam the morn
Illumines, whilst it weeps, the rested tower
That lifts its forehead grey, and smiles beneath the shower.
I ought to have tagged every time Bowles uses the word 'beauteous'. He sure loves that word.

Bowles 18: On a Distant View of England

Ah! from mine eyes the tears unbidden start,
Albion! As now thy cliffs (that white appear
Far o’er the wave, and their proud summits rear
To meet the beams of morn) my beating heart
With eager hope and filial transport hails!
Scenes of my youth, reviving gales ye bring,
As when erewhile the tuneful morn of spring
Joyous awoke amidst your hawthorn vales,
And fill’d with fragrance every painted plain:
Fled are those hours, and all the joys they gave,
Yet still I sigh, and count each rising wave
That bears me nearer to your haunts again;
If haply, 'mid those woods and vales so fair,
Stranger to peace, I yet may meet her there.
Coleridge's comment on this sonnet (in the letter quoted in the letter quoted in the previous post) is 'the parenthesis always [interr]upts the tide of my feelings'. And it is indeed a clunking great parenthesis: although not so distracting, to my eye, as the weird wrench of the sentiment of the poem at line 13-14: from eager hope and joy to a sudden sighing misery.

Bowles 17: In a Storm

Holding in mind the main purpose of these scattered sonnet-blogs, viz. plumbing the (shaping) appeal of Bowles's poetry to Coleridge, we come to this stormy piece:
Thou, whose stern spirit loves the awful storm,
That, borne on terror's desolating wings
Shakes the deep forest, or remorseless flings
The shivered surge; when rising griefs deform
Thy peaceful breast, oh! hie thee to the steep
That beetles o'er the rude and raving tide;
And when thou hear'st distress careering wide,
Tossed on the surge of life how many sink!
Think in a world of woe what thousands weep.
But if the kindred prospect fail to arm
Thy patient breast; if hope, long since forgot,
Be fled, like the wild blast which hears thee not;
Seek not in nature’s fairer scenes a charm,
But shroud thee in the mantle of distress,
And tell thy poor heart “This is happiness.”
Bowles is returning from the Continent (later editions titled this piece 'Written at Dover'). He has travelled over what were, evidently, rough seas. The original version of this sonnet had a completely different sestet:
And if thy cheek with one kind tear be wet,
And if thy heart be smitten, when the cry
Of danger and of death is heard more nigh,
Oh, learn thy private sorrows to forget;
Intent, when hardest beats the storm, to save
One who, like thee, has suffered from the wave.
Weaker in several ways.

This sonnet, amongst others, is singled out for Coleridge's praise in a letter he wrote to Bowles in 1797 (Bowles mother was unwell; indeed, she died on 25 Mar. 1797)
Address: Revd W. L. Bowles | Donhead | near Shaftsbury | Wilts.

Thursday Morning. [16 March 1797]

Dear Sir

But that I am not likely to have another opportunity of transmitting the accompanying trifles to you, I would not intrude on you at a moment, when your heart is necessarily occupied with it's own feelings. -- You have the nightly prayers of my little family for the restoration of your dear Mother's health. To me the death of the aged has a more mournful effect than that of the young. Accustomed to observe a completeness in all the works of Nature, the departure of the Latter seems more of a transition -- the heart is dissatisfied, & says, this cannot be all. But of the aged we have seen the bud, the blossom, & the fruit -- & the whole circle of existence appears completed. -- But praise & thanksgiving to him who sent light & immortality into the world, bidding the corruptible put on incorruption, & the mortal immortality: for the young & old alike rejoice before God & the Lamb. --

The poems of Mr Lloyd will, I think, please you -- the Woman, whom they lament, approached as near perfection, as human nature admits. -- His affection for her was almost too great -- for her death has had the most melancholy effects on his health -- he fell into a nervous complaint, which has terminated in a species of epileptic seizures. -- He is at present domesticated in my cottage.

My Ode you will read with a kindly forbearance as to it's political sentiments. -- The base of our politics is, I doubt not, the same. We both feel strongly for whomever our imaginations present to us in the attitude of suffering. -- I confess, that mine is too often a stormy pity.'

The plan I had sketched for my tragedy is too chaotic to be transmitted at present -- but immediately I understand it myself, I will submit it to you: & feel greatly obliged to you for your permission to do it. -- It is 'romantic & wild & somewhat terrible' -& I shall have Siddons & Kemble in my mind -- but indeed I am almost weary of the Terrible, having been an hireling in the Critical Review for these last six or eight months -- I have been lately reviewing the Monk, the Italian, Hubert de Sevrac & &c & &c -in all of which dungeons, and old castles, & solitary Houses by the Sea Side, & Caverns, & Woods, & extraordinary characters, & all the tribe of Horror & Mystery, have crowded on me -- even to surfeiting. --

I rejoice to hear of your new Edition -- Why did you ever omit that sublime Sonnet, Thou, whose stern Spirit loves the awful storm -- ? I should have pleaded hard too for the first, Bereave me not -- & still more vehemently for the Sonnet to Harmony -- the only description of the effect of Music that suited my experience -- or rose above commonplace -- [In Sonn]et xvi (as they now stand) the parenthesis always [interr]upts the tide of my feelings -- We describe [for o]thers -- not when we speak to the object described -- perhaps I may be wrong -- but I am sure, you will excuse my freedom -- I do not like your alteration of Evening -- it seems now to possess less oneness than it did before -- in the 18th you use 'hope' in two ways -- once as an abstract -- he with new hope -- once as an impersonation -- Sweet Hope! -- is this an imperfection? -- I could write a great deal about your late alteration -but I will not detain you any more --

believe me | very sincerely | Your's S. T. Coleridge

I shall be anxious to hear of your dear Parent's Health. --
'Why did you ever omit that sublime Sonnet, Thou, whose stern Spirit loves the awful storm?' It's almost too clear how and in what ways this sonnet was liable to appeal to Coleridge: the storm blast is rendered with real force and heft.

Bowles 16: July 18th, 1787

O Time! who know'st a lenient hand to lay
Softest on sorrow's wounds, and slowly thence,
(Lulling to sad repose the weary sense)
The faint pang stealest unperceiv'd away;
On Thee I rest my only hope at last,
And think, when thou hast dried the bitter tear
That flows in vain o'er all my soul held dear,
I may look back on many a sorrow past,
And meet life's peaceful evening with a smile—
As some lone bird, at day's departing hour,
Sings in the sunbeam of the transient shower,
Forgetful, tho' its wings are wet the while:—
Yet ah! how much must that poor heart endure,
Which hopes from thee, and thee alone, a cure!
'Time heals all wounds' (hardly the most original topic for a poem); with what looks like a Shakespearean twist ending in the final couplet. Except that: the final couplet does not so much provide a 'turn' on the sentiments expressed in the main body of the poem as a complete departure from it. It's as if the speaker of the last two lines hasn't been listening to the rest of the text: 'time heals all wounds; but it'll be a cold day in hell before I get any sexual reciprocity from you, you tease!' amounts to a non-sequitur.

Still, the simile of the songbird at evening is quite nice:
As some lone bird, at day's departing hour,
Sings in the sunbeam of the transient shower,
Forgetful, tho' its wings are wet the while:
I suppose the meaning is: it has been raining, and will rain again, but the downpour has stopped briefly and the sun has come out, which fills the (wet) bird with happiness. Which is fair enough, although the phrase 'the sunbeam of the transient shower' creates a nice frisson, as if it is raining and sunny at the same time. That sometimes happens! It is rainbow weather!

Bowles 15: Written at a Convent

If chance some pensive stranger, hither led,
His bosom glowing from majestic views,
The gorgeous dome or the proud landscape's hues,
Should ask who sleeps beneath this lowly bed—
'Tis poor MATILDA. To the cloister'd scene
A mourner, beauteous and unknown, she came,
To shed her tears unseen; and quench the flame
Of fruitless love: yet was her look serene
As the pale moon-light in the midnight isle;—
Her voice was soft, which yet a charm could lend,
Like that which spoke of a departed friend,
And a meek sadness sat upon her smile!—
Ah! be the spot by passing pity blest
Where, hush’d to long repose, the wretched rest.
Poor old Matilda. We're still in Germany, or at least northern Europe (we know this because 'Matilda' is, for eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English writers, coded 'Germanic' and 'Gothic'). The irony, as in many other instances of this kind of scenario, is that M.'s removal from the world of erotic love only makes her more beautifully desirable: her look serene, her voice charming, beautiful and meekly sad. Phwoar! These lines
....yet was her look serene
As the pale moon-light in the midnight isle;
interest me. Is that an 'isle' as in island? (Like the moonlit islands of Arnold's 1853 'To Marguerite—Continued') Or is it Bowlesian spelling of 'aisle', and the image is of a church at midnight? Either would work, I suppose; and both are appropriately Gothic. The original version of the poem had a completely different final couplet:
Now, far removed from every earthly ill,
Her woes are buried, and her heart is still.
This is bland, but perhaps better than the revision, where 'wretched' is used as a noun, but can hardly fail to strike the reader as an adjective, whereupon the final word comes unexpectedly, as when you're climbing the stairs and have come to the top but think there is another step to take, and bring your foot down with a startling thud.

Bowles 14: On the Ryne

'Twas morn, and beauteous on the mountain's brow,
(Hung with the blushes of the bending vine)
Stream'd the blue light, when on the sparkling Ryne
We bounded, and the white waves round the prow
In murmurs parted:—varying as we go,
Lo! the woods open, and the rocks retire,
Some Convent's ancient wall, or glist'ning spire,
'Mid the bright landscape's track, unfolding slow.
Here dark with furrowed aspect, like despair,
Hangs the bleak cliff—there on the woodland's side
The shadowy sunshine pours its streaming tide,
Whilst hope, inchanted with the scene so fair,
Would wish to linger many a summer's day,
Nor heeds how fast the prospect winds away.
'Beauteous' is a word Bowles overuses (and all his mountains appear to have brows); but this is otherwise an uncharacteristically lovely and vigorous piece of poetry. I especially like the 'shadowy sunshine': it suggests the sort of bright sunshine that casts clear, distinct shadows, I suppose; but it flirts just enough with a kind of oxymoronic contradiction (sunshine is the opposite of shadow, after all)—almost a Miltonic darkness visible—to spin-off a little spark of proper poetic effectiveness. Plus: I vastly prefer this spelling of Rhine. We should petition Parliament to have it adopted over here. Ryne. Lovely!

Bowles 13: Written at Ostend, July 22th 1787

How sweet the tuneful bells’ responsive peal!
As when, at opening morn, the fragrant breeze
Breathes on the trembling sense of wan disease,
So piercing to my heart their force I feel!
And hark! with lessening cadence now they fall,
And now, along the white and level tide,
They fling their melancholy music wide;
Bidding me many a tender thought recall
Of summer-days, and those delightful years
When by my native streams, in life’s fair prime,
The mournful magic of their mingling chime
First wak’d my wond’ring childhood into tears!
But seeming now, when all those days are o’er,
The sounds of joy, once heard, and heard no more.
Much better: music is troped as nature (piercing to the heart of an individual lacking ease, or actively suffering from some disease; either would work, and neither really contradicts the other). It may be that I'm over-rating the poem, perhaps because unlike the sonnets I've read so far, this one feels like a poem looking forward, rather than looking back. By 'looking forward', I mean something specific ('Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature' specific). Reading this poem put me in mind of Arnold's 1851 masterpiece, 'Dover Beach'. In particular, the striking image of the sound of the pealing bells rolling out across the beach at Ostend
...with lessening cadence now they fall,
And now, along the white and level tide,
They fling their melancholy music wide;
..... and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
The parallels here, actually, are quite striking: though Arnold is talking about waves and Bowles is talking about bells. But church bells are markers of religious observance; and the fact that these are 'flung', with the word's implication of careless disposal, across the beach, and that they connote 'melancholy', connects even if only obliquely with Arnold's withdrawing Sea of Faith. Above all, there is something genuine about the affect here: not (as, I was suggesting, in the preceding sonnet) mere emotional posing. Something modern and touching about the sadness.

Bowles 12: On Landing at Ostend, July 21, 1787

A companion piece to the previous sonnet; one day later. Here's a 1729 prospect of the port, by by G. B. Probst (after F.B. Werner):

I know that doesn't help us with Bowles's sonnet. I just like it. Maybe this early 19th-century painting ('A Windy Day Off Ostend' by Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven) sets the scene better:

The orient beam illumes the parting oar;—
From yonder azure track, emerging white,
The earliest sail slow gains upon the sight,
And the blue wave comes rippling to the shore—
Meantime far off the rear of darkness flies:
Yet 'mid the beauties of the morn, unmov'd
Like one for ever torn from all he lov'd,
Towards Albion's heights I turn my longing eyes,
Where every pleasure seem'd ere while to dwell:
Yet boots it not to think or to complain,
Musing sad ditties to the reckless main.—
To dreams like these, adieu!—the pealing bell
Speaks of the hour that stays not—and the day
To life's sad turmoil calls my heart away.

Well, this is picturesque, I suppose; but it reads as stiff also. You don't (as reader) really believe it, I think. Why is he so sad? He hasn't been exiled. Or -- let's be specific: we could read this as an exercise in poetic fictionalisation, in which the narrator has been exiled, and looks back mournfully at the land upon which he will never set foot again. If we do so, then I suppose we'll be struck by how decorously formalised the speaker's grief is, and how inapposite is the bright, breezy, sunny weather. If we don't, though, then we're left  with the inadvertent portrait of a blinking idiot: an individual who goes willingly on holiday and then poses melodramatically at his point of arrival sighing about how sad he is.

Bowles 11: 'On Dover Cliffs, July 20th, 1787'

[That's an 1845 engraving of Dover, not part of the original collection; I'm putting it in there because I like the look of it] The collection has taken us through Northumberland and into Scotland, coming back via Hampshire. Now we're at the famous white cliffs of Dover, prior to Bowles sailing for the Continent. Naturally enough the holiday prospect of an enjoyable tour of northern Europe fills him with: elegant sorrow.
On these white cliffs, that calm above the flood
Uplift their shadowing heads, and, at their feet,
Scarce hear the surge that has for ages beat,
Sure many a lonely wanderer has stood;
And whilst the lifted murmur met his ear,
And o’er the distant billows the still Eve
Sailed slow, has thought of all his heart must leave
To-morrow;—of the friends he lov'd most dear,—
Of social scenes, from which he wept to part:—
But if, like me, he knew how fruitless all
The thoughts that would full fain the past recall,
Soon would he quell the risings of his heart,
And brave the wild winds and unhearing tide,
The world his country, and his GOD his guide.
I like the way 'calm' in line 1 exists, Empsonian-ambiguously (and it's not the first time Seven Types of Ambiguity has popped into my head whilst reading these poems) as a sort of superposition of adjective and verb; the cliffs are calm; or the cliffs calm the sea. These two things pull in different directions, and that tug is relevant to the main theme of the poem. The first (the cliffs are calm although the sea is not) is picked up in the mannerist exaggeration of the cliffs' height, lifting themselves so far above the surf below they can hardly hear it. The second (the presence of the cliffs, in their monumental stillness, imparts a calm to the otherwise turbulent seascape; or at least to the mind of the speaker, which is the real theme here). The poem introduces multiple travellers, 'many a lonely wanderer'; then reduces the number to one ('But if he knew how fruitless...') by way of conflating the 'he' with the poem's 'I'.  The cliffs represent the border between home and the Otherlands; and the talisman the anxious traveller carries with him is that countries are human divisions; God thinks in terms of the whole world.

As with earlier sonnets, there's a couple of semiological blurrings that I can't make up my mind about; they're distracting muddlings indicative of a soggy imagination or they're clever foldings-together of related concepts that evocatively problematise the boundary between inside and outside. So, for example: the cliffs can hear, if faintly, the sea; but the tide itself is 'unhearing'. Why would one inanimate object be granting figurative aural powers and not another? The answer of course is that it is the poet who is hearing, or whose hearing is muffled (by the wind, I guess); and that he has exported his inner state onto the outer world. Likewise, it is the poet who is about to get on a ship and sail slow through the distant billows; and the way he talks about that in this sonnet is by describing evening (rather distractingly capitalised; but I'm not sure anything is gained by linking the poem with the Garden of Eden) as the boat-passenger. Good? Not-good?