Mea Culpa

Nightly Prayer
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

from Shorter Works and Fragments, Part II

When I fell from thee, into the mystery of the false and evil will [thou] did’st not abandon me, poor self-lost creature, but in thy . . . mercy did’st provide an access and return to thyself.

When Samuel Coleridge completed The Rime, he decided to travel to Germany on sabbatical, expecting to stay a short while to learn the language and study.  He did not take his wife Sara and family, because newborn baby Berkeley was not well.  It was a fateful decision.  Berkeley died while he was away and when he eventually returned, his relationship with Sara was irrevocably damaged.  He not only left her to suffer without him but inexplicably delayed his return, even after learning of the terrible circumstances.

As Malcolm Guiote writes in Mariner, Chapter Six:

In one way nothing could be plainer or clearer than the mariner’s blunt statement “With my cross-bow / I shot the Albatross.” It has the irrefutable finality of sentences like “And they crucified him” in the Gospels; the dreadful thing is done and cannot be undone. The wedding guest, with his reference to “fiends,” frames the horror in the wider context of devils and angels, of a spiritual struggle between good and evil, but the mariner himself offers neither motivation nor excuse, and in some ways this makes his confession far more stark, powerful, and universal. If there is a mystery in goodness, there is also a mystery in human evil, something unfathomable and inexplicable in the perversity of the human world, in our propensity to make havoc of things when they are at their best and to destroy our own happiness when it is at its height.

have you ever made a decision of terrible consequence?




Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief


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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life