August 22, 2006

Stopping One In Three

This is interesting. The British Library has bought a great wodge of papers from the family of the poet Coleridge:

Highlights include a previously unknown manuscript of two of Coleridge's poems, written in his own hand, and many reminiscences of the poet in the letters and diaries of other family members. There are also letters from eminent Victorians who were friends of the Coleridges, including the poet Matthew Arnold, Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, the leading cleric Cardinal John Newman and architect Augustus Pugin.

"This is an archive of the whole Victorian era," said Frances Harris, the library's head of modern historical manuscripts.

"It is an incredibly rich record — almost any document you turn over produces something of interest." The bulging archive, she said, "provides a family perspective on the family's presiding genius. There is a powerful sense of affection and fascination" for the poet, who in his later years famously became "somewhat erratic" as his addiction to opium deepened and his health deteriorated.

This warms my English major heart and ought to be a huge treat for the lucky library staffer who gets to catalog it all. Frankly, poetry is among my least favorite forms of writing and only a handful of poets grab my attention. Among the early Romantics, however, Coleridge is one of two whom I genuinely enjoy (the other being, of course, Mr. John Keats).

By the way, I know I've mentioned it before, but I love the way Douglas Adams weaves Coleridge's poetry into his Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. And, of course, Monty Python's Victorian Poetry Reading sketch is one of their masterpieces.

Posted by Robert at August 22, 2006 09:31 AM | TrackBack

IN Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossom'd many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But O, 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!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced;
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reach'd the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she play'd,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me,
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Now, how can anyone not love Coleridge after reading that? It's rare to be able to say this, but, ahem, YAY for the occasional opium addiction!


Posted by: Kathy at August 22, 2006 10:44 AM

Speaking of opium addiction, you just know Edgar Allan Poe could kick Coleridge's trash is a bar fight.

Also, the Coleridge bit in Dirk Gently is one of the finest pieces of literature -- ever.

Posted by: Sobek at August 22, 2006 06:24 PM