Could you post is best poems, preferably short poems.
if you go to the top right corner of the page you'll see a "classical poet list." click there and you will find many of his poems.
thanks Hugh, can you tell me what are the best poems?
Wonderful poems, Hugh, but don't overlook the excellent Conversation Poems, especially Dejection: An Ode, The Eolian Harp and This Lime Tree Bower, My Prison. Croitical reading for any student of Coleridge. Interesting essay on them at:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A visitor from Porlock spawn.
Yer just trying to upset me now. Porlock visitor was a great myth, but untrue.
Please! No Coleridge! I beg of you! Okay, so he's not that bad, but I still found his Nightmare poems, such as "Christabel," excruciatingly painful to read, much less analyze for class. His Conversational poems, I think, are sooo much easier to understand. Plus, they're shorter, which is always a good thing for an overworked college student.
Count yourself lucky, appgrrl, you might have been assigned Blake!
We discussed Blake on the first day of class. Thank God we stopped there!
I recall having to read Samuel Johnson's prose AND poetry. I'd have rather memorized War and Peace.
Chesil, I'm shattered. Is that unforgettable story of crass commercialism curtailing creativity, STC's recollection and penning of the perfect '300-line poem' of his dream being irrecoverably cruelled by the awful persistence of an uninvited insurance salesman from Porlock, just a myth?! I thought it was STC's own account. Did he make it up? What are the references?
Post Edited (12-02-04 01:59)
Ian, the received wisdom is that the visitor from Porlock was a myth created by Coleridge to cover the fact that the poem was unfinished.
The reason why it no longer carries weight is that in the Crewe Manuscript (dated 1810 and discovered by E H Coleridge in 1893), it is not mentioned at all. Instead, Coleridge wrote the following:
'This fragment with a good deal more, not recoverable, composed, in a sort of Reverie brought on by two grains of opium, taken to check a dysentery, at a Farm House between Porlock & Linton, a quarter of a mile from Culbone Church, in the fall of the year 1797.'
The visitor from Porlock is an attractive story and persists for that reason.
I have been researching the poem extensively for several years and have a plethora of analyses of the work. These vary from the interesting analysis completed by a Professor from Chicago that the work is Coleridge endeavoring to get in touch with his feminine side and that the fountain reference is clearly intended as a metaphor for ejaculation to Hazlitt's dismissal of the poem as nonsense verse.
For the source of the poem, I recommend John Livingston Lowes fine book, The Road to Xanadu.
What I find fascinating is to consider exactly what was lost. The poem has a beginning and a fairly clear ending, so it was the middle that was lost to us? The beginning was clearly written before 1800 as there is a reference to several lines in a letter written to Coleridge by Mary Evans. However, I continue to wonder whether the ending was written at the same time. I have no evidence at all for this as a theory but it does seem to me at least possible that the original part of the poem ended at 'ancestral voices prophesying war' and that Coleridge subsequently added the rest to provide at least some form of completion for it.
If you will forgive my droning, I'd just like to add that Coleridge really was notorious for not finishing projects. Christabel was unfinished, though he later claimed that he did have the work complete in his head - the ending to Part II has no connection to the rest of the poem and was a verse inspired by Hartley playing (according to Holmes and others). His endings also tended to weakness, the moral towards the end of the Ancient Mariner:
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
is unquestionably weak given the immensity of the poem and what has happened to the Mariner.
In Kubla Khan, there is an ending. The commonly agreed vision of the poet building the dome in air. How would the poem continue past this? So it is tempting to me that Coleridge wrote the ending separately.
Sorry for the essay.
Appgrrl, I think I need my head testing, I have signed up for a discussion group on Blake. In the next couple of weeks, I need to read The Four Zoas again, along with much else. Oh well, keeps me out of bars.
I got a copy of Livingston's Road from the library after Chesil mentioned it a while back. I don't still have it, but I made the following scribble on a scrap of paper:
CH. XIX - Says 1797 is wrong year. Porlock visit was summer 1798. KK followed Ancient Mariner, not preceded it. Bad memory - prob 1803."
That probably does nothing to discredit the Crewe Manuscript; I only mention it in passing.
There is general acceptance of 1797, although not universal and George Watson for one preferred a date of 1798. Even among those that prefer 1797, there is some debate as to whether it was summer or fall. A precise dating would be useful to put it in absolute context with the other works he was producing at the time.
Coleridge was not always precise in his dating of his work!
Chesil, thank you for that very interesting information.
I have mislaid my copy of ‘The Road to Xanadu’, bought many years ago and never read properly; but you have inspired me to go to various websites (starting with Wondering Minstrels) where the poem is discussed, all of which I’m sure you are familiar with. Having been content previously just to read the poem, and to accept the story of the visitor from Porlock, I am totally unlearned about it. So my comments are unprejudiced by any knowledge of the subject.
I wonder how the visitor came to be identified (in what I was told many years ago) as an insurance salesman, when Coleridge in his 1816 Preface described him only as a ‘person on business’. Perhaps the story got embellished by others.
The note appended to the Crewe Manuscript stating that ‘a good deal more’ of the poem was ‘not recoverable’ is doubtless accurate as a summary. It doesn’t necessarily invalidate extra details included in the 1816 Preface.
The discrepancy between ‘summer’ and ‘fall’ doesn’t strike me as significant. Early September might be thought of (especially by someone vague about time and often stoned) as part of either season. More surprising is Coleridge’s estimate, in the Preface, of the total length of the dreamed poem as ‘two to three hundred lines’. For an experienced poet, such a degree of imprecision about a key feature seems remarkably vague.
He also seems to have been loose in subtitling the poem as ‘a fragment’, when it appears to consist of four or five discontinuous fragments. Besides the breaks between the stanzas as published, there could well be a break after ‘It flung up momently the sacred river’.
Your theory about the last part of the poem being a late addition is plausible. I’d identify the coda as starting with ‘A damsel with a dulcimer’ because of the abrupt switch there to the first person. I have always read that as Coleridge’s expression of regret at not being able to recall more of the poem, though much of its phrasing could have come from the original vision.
As we nowadays regard the language of this poem as supernal, it’s startling to read how derogatory Coleridge’s contemporaries were about it. Even he disclaimed poetic merit for it. Was the style utterly alien to the early nineteenth century literati, or was the problem for them that the poem lacked elements they considered essential? What we have are passages brilliantly setting scenes in which (implicitly) momentous events are to be played out. What’s glaringly missing is any narration of such events.
That skew leaves room for a multitude of speculative and unprovable interpretations of the poem, including the one you mention from the Chicago professor which sounds very wacky. My own theory, based on nothing more than a dash of imaginative intuition, is that had Coleridge been able to write down the complete poem proffered by his subconscious, the course of the ‘sacred river’ might have been elaborated as a metaphor for the life journey of some great soul, from blessed childhood to eventual enlightened entry into the bliss of nirvana (‘from the great deep to the great deep’ as Tennyson later wrote) with unavoidable trials, temptations, tribulations and turmoil overcome on the way.
As you say, it’s fascinating to consider what was lost. It would be great task for a challenging literary competition, to compose and insert from 136 to 236 lines to ‘complete’ the poem for Coleridge. Logic would suggest that competitors should be allowed the assistance of up to two grains of laudanum each.
Post Edited (02-01-04 08:46)
If you were selling Eau de Cologne you would have been hard put to make a sale to Coleridge.
When he visited the town of Cologne his experience of it was so unpleasant for some unspecified reason (the imagination boggles!) that he shafted it in two poems as follows:
In Koln, a town of monks and bones,
And pavements fanged with murderous stones,
And rags, and hags, and hideous wenches;
I counted two-and-seventy stenches,
All well defined, and separate stinks!
Ye nymphs that reign o'er sewers and sinks,
The river Rhine, it is well known,
Doth wash your city of Cologne;
But tell me, nymphs, What power divine
Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?
ON MY JOYFUL DEPARTURE FROM THE SAME CITY
As I am a rhymer,
And now at least a merry one,
Mr. Mum's Rudesheimer
And the church of St. Geryon
Are the two things alone
That deserve to be known
In the body-and-soul-stinking town of Cologne.
Ian, wherever you look for discussion of Kubla Khan, you find disagreemnt and dispute. This from the date written, and the apparent importance to understanding at what point STC stopped pushing the boundaries out in terms of experimental forms, to the actual meaning and even to whether it really is acomplete work or not. Dry arguments, I suppose, other than for those of us that are infected by the poem in much the same way as the Wedding Guest was held by the Ancient Mariner.
I had not seen the insurance salesman story. A nice embellishment.
The dates have been long argued about, in particular as to whether KK was written before or after the Ancient Mariner. Lowes writes 'The year 1797, as Ernest Hartley Coleridge has clearly shown, is wrong...The visit to the farmhouse between Porlock and Linton took place in the early summer of 1798 and Kubla Khan, instead of preceding The Ancient Mariner, closely followed it.'
EHC was not clear enough, apparently, Holmes in his excellent biography appears quite sure that the visit to the farmhouse took place in the first half of October 1797: 'It was some time during this first fortnight in October 1797 that he probably went for a long solitary walk along the coast to Lynton, exhausted from his labors, and, taken ill on his return journey, stopped off at Ash Farm above Culbone Church, where he wrote "Kubla Khan."
Coleridge mentions Purchas specifically, but the genesis of the poem was also in Maurice's Indostan. There is an undated entry in Coleridge's notebooks:
"In a cave in the mountains of Cashmere an Image of Ice, which makes it's appearance thus - "two days before the new moon there appears a bubble of Ice which increases in size every day till the 15th day, at which it is an ell or more in height: then as the moon decreases, the Image" does also till it vanishes.
Read the whole 107th page of Maurice's Indostan."
In Kathleen Coburn's excellent notes, she advises that Indostan was reviewed in December 1795 in a publication that Coleridge was probably familiar with. She also mentions that Coleridge may have sent some early lines from the poem to Lamb in July 1797, but there is no evidence to back up this possibility as more than conjecture.
Then, the poem is dispouted as to whether complete. Lowes accepts Coleridge's line, George Watson believes it complete. Elisabeth Schneider doubts it was written under the influence of opium but otherwise accepts the fragment argument and Bloom considers it complete.
As to meaning, well I have read far too many different interpretations to go into here. Schneider is well worth reading and also Mileur, especially for his views on the connections between Coleridge's Porlock preface and the poem itself.
Your theory about the last part of the poem being a late
addition is plausible. I’d identify the coda as starting with
‘A damsel with a dulcimer’ because of the abrupt switch there
to the first person. I have always read that as Coleridge’s
expression of regret at not being able to recall more of the
poem, though much of its phrasing could have come from the
The reason I don't start with the 'damsel with a dulcimer' is because the 'prohesying war' seems to be the natural point to move the poem on into other areas, perhaps the war itself?
As we nowadays regard the language of this poem as supernal,
it’s startling to read how derogatory Coleridge’s
contemporaries were about it. Even he disclaimed poetic merit
for it. Was the style utterly alien to the early nineteenth
century literati, or was the problem for them that the poem
lacked elements they considered essential? What we have are
passages brilliantly setting scenes in which (implicitly)
momentous events are to be played out. What’s glaringly
missing is any narration of such events.
Hazlitt certainly dismissed it as nonsense in the sense of without meaning, but I recall (though I can't find the reference at the moment) that he did praise the writing very highly.
Other reviews were mixed (and if I could just find my book full of them, I'd quote a few!). Watson quotes Peacock saying in 1818:
'There are very few specimens of lyrical poetry so plain, so consistent, so completely simplex et unum from first to last'
That skew leaves room for a multitude of speculative and
unprovable interpretations of the poem, including the one you
mention from the Chicago professor which sounds very wacky.
My own theory, based on nothing more than a dash of imaginative
intuition, is that had Coleridge been able to write down the
complete poem proffered by his subconscious, the course of the
‘sacred river’ might have been elaborated as a metaphor for the
life journey of some great soul, from blessed childhood to
eventual enlightened entry into the bliss of nirvana (‘from the
great deep to the great deep’ as Tennyson later wrote) with
unavoidable trials, temptations, tribulations and turmoil
overcome on the way.
It was certainly being written as part of his deal with Wordsworth for Wordsworth to write on the natural and STC on the supernatural. Depending on the view of completeness, the possible meanings are endless.
As you say, it’s fascinating to consider what was lost. It
would be great task for a challenging literary competition, to
compose and insert from 136 to 236 lines to ‘complete’ the poem
for Coleridge. Logic would suggest that competitors should be
allowed the assistance of up to two grains of laudanum each.
Perhaps, but for me, I prefer to contemplate the possibilities rather than have one found for me!
You may be interested in the research sources mentioned:
Coleridge the Poet - George Watson, published by Routledge and Kegan Paul 1966
Vision and Revsion - Jean-Pierre Mileur, published by University of California Press 1982
Coleridge, Opium and Kubla Khan - Elisabeth Schneider, published by University of Chicago Press, 1953
The Visonary Company - Harold Bloom, published by Cornell University Press, 1971 revision
The Road to Xanadu - John Livingston Lowes, published by The Riverside Press, 1927
Coleridge Early Visions, 1772 1804 - Richard Holmes, published by Pantheon Books 1999
The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge - editor Kathleen Coburn published by Pantheon Press 1957
Not quoted but worth looking for is Humphrey House's essay on the subject, The Milk Of Paradise by M H Abrams, The Cambridge Companion to Coleridge (even though their essayist on Kubla Khan seems strangely attached to the Porlock story) and anything edited by Kathleen Coburn.
If I haven't killed the subject by now, I never will!!
Many thanks again Chesil. Enough material to end this dialogue, but without killing interest in the fascinating subject.
It is a sad fact of my life that when sleep will not come, I often consider my latest readings on the subject of Kubla Khan. In a recent visit to Scotland I picked up A Choice of Coleridge's Verse, the chooser being Ted Hughes and his essay on Kubla, Ancient Mariner and Christabel being the opening to the book.
Naturally, Hughes is admirable where his views and mine coincide and he is weak where they don't.
I don't like his idea of these three poems being almost a triptych demonstrating, purposely, different sides to Coleridge's character and the tension between them.
I like his emphasis on the woman wailing for her demon-lover. It always seems to me that she is a critical component and one that Bloom and others seem to ignore. I started reading his discussion of Mount Abora with hope - I have never really liked the interpretations that assume this to be an echo to Milton's Mount Amara. Sadly, Ted let himself down in interpreting as part of a Latin pun based around ab as the beginning of the alphabet and ora as the imperative of orare, simply to pray. Thus: Mountain of alphabet, pray for us. Apparently, Hughes had not seen the Crewe manuscript where the mount is Amoara. It was a late editing indeed that made it Abora.
I feel sure this is of no interest to anyone but myself, but it provides me with pleasure and seems harmless enough!
the woman wailing for her demon-lover ...
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
Is this a (literary) reference I should recognize? I confess that decades of booze, drugs and wild women have completely destroyed some sections of memory.
I often visit Porlock as I have a relative there and about 10 years ago, on sale in the bookshop or post office, I found a locally-published adventure novel called 'A Person from Porlock' by N V Allen (blurb says a West Country Tale Woven from Fact and Fantasy), printed in 1978. Its quite a good story, though without, according to the discussion above, any factual basis apart from Coleridge's excuse for not finishing his poem. The quality of the book was so poor that the spine fell apart on first reading and it had to be punched and held together with treasury tags! The fact that I gave it first aid shows the story must have been worth keeping. I still have it and must read it again sometime.
Hugh, at least you have fine reasons for memory lapses!
The line was Byron's favorite when Coleridge recited it to him, perhaps unsurprisingly, and was part of the reason he urged the publication of KK and Christabel although Coleridge was still reluctant as both were unfinished
Her importance was as the first mention, other than Kubla himself, of a personality within the poem. It seems unlikely that her demon-lover was as a Satanic demon but perhaps more likely as a minor eastern or Greco Roman style god. There are plenty of classical references available of gods consorting with mortal women. It is trying to place her in the context of the poem that adds to the mystery of the work - it may well be that Hazlitt had it right and it is just a beautifully wrought nonsense poem. Still, my Coleridge studies keep me off the streets and away from wild women and drugs but not, perhaps, the booze!
Marian2 - sounds fascinating. I hope the Person from Porlock met a sticky end! I love that whole north Devon/Somerset area and spent a number of holidays there when I was still living in the UK.
I would think shades of Rosemary's Baby, except for the hyphen. Since STC thought to include such punctuation, the woman must be anticipating a person who worships demons, rather than the demon himself. This will doubtless bother me for some time to come now, for which I can only blame Chesil for reincarnating this old thread.
Oh, and I forgot, there really IS a Mount Amara in Ethiopia (Abyssinia), so close as to exclude another interpretation, I would think, whether Milton was a factor or not.
Hugh, you can't rely on the hyphen. It wasn't present in the Crewe manuscript where both Daemon and Lover were capitalized. It may easily be that the hyphen was added by an over-assiduous editor!
It is the nature of the reference to the rest of the Milton quote I dislike:
Nor, where Abassin kings their issue guard,
Mount Amara (though this by some supposed
True Paradise) under the Ethiop line
The interpretation then is that STC's Abyssinian maid was singing of the true paradise. Then it is the song of paradise that leads the poet to contemplate that if he could revive the song within him, he could then build the Dome in air. Personally, I think that poets usually require less inspiration for their poetic dreams and that a beautiful melody and simpler song might also suffice.
If I've got the correct empire, is this the mountain where all the assorted sons by various wives were kept until the emperor died. At ehich point they raced down the mountain, first one to the palace was crowned, the rest were executed (or castrated and blinded.)