Do we Want The Children To See It?

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 9

A pianist does not have to be a practicing Christian to play Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata or the rippling second movement of Ginastera’s piano concerto. As my friend Tallis once remarked, “When your car breaks down, you don’t ask if the mechanic is an Episcopalian. You want to know how much he knows about cars.”

~Madeline L’Engle

Continue reading “Do we Want The Children To See It?”


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Malcolm Guite

Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God!”
You made your epitaph imperative,
And stopped this wedding guest!
But I am glad To stop with you and start again, to live
From that pure source, the all-renewing stream,
Whose living power is imagination,
And know myself a child of the I AM,
Open and loving to his whole creation.
Your glittering eye taught mine to pierce the veil,
To let his light transfigure all my seeing,
To serve the shaping Spirit whom I feel,
And make with him the poem of my being.
I follow where you sail towards our haven,
Your wide wake lit with glimmerings of heaven.

Continue reading “Epilogue”

The Sinking Ship

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 542-5

The boat came closer to the ship,
But I nor spake nor stirred;
The boat came close beneath the ship,
And straight a sound was heard.

Under the water it rumbled on,
Still louder and more dread:
It reach’d the ship, it split the bay;
The ship went down like lead.

Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound,
Which sky and ocean smote,
Like one that hath been seven days drown’d
My body lay afloat;
But swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the Pilot’s boat

Continue reading “The Sinking Ship”

Wind, Breath and Spirit

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 452-63

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.
It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
On me alone it blew

Continue reading “Wind, Breath and Spirit”

The Two Voices


Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?

Continue reading “The Two Voices”

No Christ, No God

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

12 February 1805

…it burst upon me at once as an awful Truth what 7 or 8 years ago I thought of proving with a hollow Faith and for an ambiguous purpose, my mind then wavering in its necessary passage from Unitarianism (which I have often said is the religion of a man whose Understanding Reason could make him an Atheist but whose Heart and Common sense will not permit him to be so) thro’ Spinosism into Plato and St. John / No Christ, No God!—This I now feel with all its needful evidence of the Understanding, would to God my spirit were made to conform thereto—that No Trinity, No God . . . O that this Conviction may work upon me and in me / and that my mind may be made up as to the character of Jesus and of historical Christianity as clearly as it is of Christ the Logos and intellectual or spiritual Christianity, that I may be made to know either their special and peculiar Union, or their absolute dis- union in any peculiar sense.

Continue reading “No Christ, No God”


The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 393-409

How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.

“Is it he?” quoth one, “Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

“The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.”

The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, “The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.”


John Newton and the Mariner

Bernard Martin

I SUGGEST that when Coleridge was writing The Ancient
Mariner he had in mind, consciously or sub-consciously
(and only a rash man would attempt to diflferentiate, where
Coleridge is concerned), the story of John Newton.
Moreover, I believe that Coleridge had read Newton’s
Authentic Narrative, and, probably, read it about the time
he wrote The Ancient Mariner. As the poem “grew and
grew and became important” the character of John
Newton and, especially, the record of how that character
changed during a sea experience overshadowed the
jumble of images in the poet’s mind—^the albatross of
Shelvocke, the dream of Cruickshank, the dice-players
of Falkenberg, the Wandering Jew and Cain—and provided
the moral which was hidden from “the cursed
Barbauld crew”,** and from the critic who talked lightly
of a new love of animals in English poetry.

Continue reading “John Newton and the Mariner”

Transition & Transposition

Romans 8:16-39

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Continue reading “Transition & Transposition”


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

April 1804

In looking at objects of Nature, while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim- glimmering thro’ the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking, a symbolic language for something within me that already and forever exists, than observing anything new. Even when the latter is the case, yet still I have always an obscure feeling as if that new phænomenon were the dim awakening of a forgotten or hidden Truth of my inner Nature! It is still interesting as a Word, a Symbol! It is Logos, the Creator! [and the Evolver!]

Continue reading “Logos”

Sheer Grace At the Zero Point

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 282-91

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea

Continue reading “Sheer Grace At the Zero Point”

Data And Wisdom

What Coleridge Thought
Owen Barfield

“Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?”

Continue reading “Data And Wisdom”

Seeing Through The Dungeon-Grate

Dejection: An Ode
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

From Poetical Works, Part II, Poem 293 Part VI

But oh! each visitation
Suspends what nature gave me at my birth,
My shaping spirit of Imagination.
For not to think of what I needs must feel,
But to be still and patient, all I can;
And haply by abstruse research to steal
From my own nature all the natural man—
This was my sole resource, my only plan:
Till that which suits a part infects the whole,
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.

Continue reading “Seeing Through The Dungeon-Grate”

At The Rising Of The Moon

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 203-11

We listen’d and look’d sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steerman’s face by his lamp gleam’d white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

Continue reading “At The Rising Of The Moon”


Letter to Robert Southey
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

30 April 1799

Our little Hovel is almost afloat—poor Sara tired off her legs with servanting— the young one fretful & noisy from confinement exerts his activities on all for- bidden Things—the house stinks of Sulphur—I however, sunk in Spinoza, remain as undisturbed as a Toad in a Rock / that is to say, when my rheumatic pains are asleep.

Continue reading “Bolting”

The Deadly Bolt

Sad and Tragic Letters
Sara Coleridge

24 March 1799

My darling infant left his wretched Mother on the tenth of February, and tho’ the leisure that followed was intolerable to me, yet I could not employ myself in reading or writing, or in any way that prevented my thoughts from resting on him—this parting was the severest trial that I have ever yet undergone and I pray to God that I may never live to behold the death of another child for O my dear Samuel! it is a suffering beyond your conception! You will feel, and lament, the death of your child, but you will only recollect him a baby of fourteen weeks, but I am his Mother, and have carried him in my arms and have fed him at my bosom, and have watched over him by day and night for nine months; I have seen him twice on the brink of the grave but he has returned, and recovered and smiled upon me like an angel—and now I am lamenting that he is gone!

. . . and now my dear Samuel I hope you will be perfectly satisfied that every thing was done for the dear babe that was likely to restore him and endeavour to forget your own loss in contemplating mine. I cannot express how ardently I long for your return, or how much I shall be disappointed if I do not see you in May; I expect a letter from you daily, and am much surprised that you have not written from Gottingen; your last is dated Jan. the 5th and in it you say you will write again immediately—now this is Easter Sunday March the 24th. You will write once probably after you receive this, from Germany—and I wish you would be so good as to write me a few lines from London that I may know the very day when I may see you; . . .

I am much pleased to see you wrote that you “languish to be at home.” O God! I hope you never more will quit it! . . .

God almighty bless you my dearest Love!

Sara C—

Continue reading “The Deadly Bolt”

Another Kind Of Opium

A German Lake In Winter
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

from The Friend, 28 December 1809

 Yester-morning I saw the lesser Lake completely hidden by Mist; but the moment the Sun peeped over the Hill, the mist broke in the middle, and in a few seconds stood divided, leaving a broad road all across the Lake; and be- tween these two Walls of mist the sunlight burnt upon the ice, forming a road of golden fire, intolerably bright! and the mist-walls themselves partook of the blaze in a multitude of shining colours. This is our second Frost. About a month ago, before the Thaw came on, there was a storm of wind; during the whole night, such were the thunders and howlings of the breaking ice, that they have left a conviction on my mind, that there are Sounds more sublime than any Sight can be, more absolutely suspending the power of comparison, and more utterly absorbing the mind’s self-consciousness in its total attention to the object working upon it. Part of the ice which the vehemence of the wind had shattered, was driven shore-ward and froze anew. On the evening of the next day, at sun-set, the shattered ice thus frozen, appeared of a deep blue, and in shape like an agitated sea; beyond this, the water, that ran up between the great  Islands of ice which had preserved their masses entire and smooth, shone of a yellow green; but all these scattered Ice-islands, themselves, were of an in- tensely bright blood colour—they seemed blood and light in union!

Continue reading “Another Kind Of Opium”

The Albatross

The Albatross
Martin Gardner

from The Annotated Ancient Mariner

It was Wordsworth who proposed to Coleridge that an albatross be brought into his ballad and that the shooting of the bird provide the Mariner’s “crime.” The idea had been suggested to Wordsworth by his reading of A Voyage Round the World by the Way of the Great South Sea, by Captain George Shelvocke, London, 1726. Shelvocke speaks of a “disconsolate black albatross” . . . that followed the ship for several days “hovering about us as if he had lost himself, till Hatley, (my second captain) observing, in one of his melancholy fits, that this bird was always hovering near us, imagined, from his color, that it might be some ill omen. That which, I suppose, induced him the more to encourage his superstition, was the continued series of contrary tempestuous winds, which had oppressed us ever since we had got into the sea. But be that as it would, he, after some fruitless attempts, at length, shot the albatross, not doubting (perhaps) that we should have a fair wind after it.”

Continue reading “The Albatross”

The Ship Was Cheered


Part 1

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May’st hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

‘The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—’
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.’

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.

Continue reading “The Ship Was Cheered”

Birth Of The Rime

William Wordsworth


For example, some crime was to be committed which would bring upon the Old Navigator, as Coleridge afterwards delighted to call him, the spectral persecution . . . and his own wanderings. I had been reading in Shelvocke’s Voyages, a day or two before, that, while doubling Cape Horn, they frequently saw albatrosses in that latitude, the largest sort of sea-fowl . . . “Suppose,” said I, “you represent him as having killed one of these birds on entering the South Sea, and that the tutelary spirits of these regions take upon them to avenge the crime.” The incident was thought fit for the purpose and adopted accordingly.

Continue reading “Birth Of The Rime”

Frost At Midnight

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
‘Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Continue reading “Frost At Midnight”

Kubla Khan

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment. 

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 blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

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!
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 reached 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 played,
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.

Continue reading “Kubla Khan”

This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Addressed to Charles Lamb, of the India House, London

Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
Had dimm’d mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
The roaring dell, o’erwooded, narrow, deep,
And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
Flings arching like a bridge;—that branchless ash,
Unsunn’d and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
Ne’er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
Fann’d by the water-fall! and there my friends
Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
Of the blue clay-stone.

Now, my friends emerge
Beneath the wide wide Heaven—and view again
The many-steepled tract magnificent
Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
And hunger’d after Nature, many a year,
In the great City pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
Spirits perceive his presence.

A delight
Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark’d
Much that has sooth’d me. Pale beneath the blaze
Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch’d
Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov’d to see
The shadow of the leaf and stem above
Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
Was richly ting’d, and a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
Yet still the solitary humble-bee
Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
‘Tis well to be bereft of promis’d good,
That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
Beat its straight path along the dusky air
Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
Had cross’d the mighty Orb’s dilated glory,
While thou stood’st gazing; or, when all was still,
Flew creeking o’er thy head, and had a charm
For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

Continue reading “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison”

A Visionary Landscape

Malcolm Guite

From Chapter Five

Though we generally read the great works of the past somewhere comfortably indoors, in a library or a living room, we must not imagine the conversations which inspired Lyrical Ballads, and the whole Romantic Movement in literature which took root from that book, as having taken place in such quiet and studious surroundings. Wordsworth and Coleridge were inveterate walkers, indeed Coleridge has been credited with inventing the pastime of fell walking. We must imagine them not as two poetical theorists concocting a new school in some entirely intellectual way but as men of both heart and head, newly awakened by the revolutionary hopes that stirred the age they lived in, and turning to one another and to the world around them in a three-way conversation through which new meanings were constantly being uncovered.

Continue reading “A Visionary Landscape”

Reading For An Epic

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

April 1797

Observe the march of Milton—his severe application, his laborious polish, his deep metaphysical researches, his prayers to God before he began his great poem, all that could lift and swell his intellect, became his daily food. I should not think of devoting less than 20 years to an Epic Poem. Ten to collect materials and warm my mind with universal science. I would be a tolerable Mathematician, I would thoroughly know Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Optics, and Astronomy, Botany, Metallurgy, Fossilism, Chemistry, Geology, Anatomy, Medicine—then the mind of man—then the minds of men—in all Travels, Voyages and Histories. So I would spend ten years—the next five to the com- position of the poem—and the five last to the correction of it.

So I would write haply not unhearing of that divine and rightly whispering Voice, which speaks to mighty minds of predestinated Garlands, starry and unwithering.

God love you,
S. T. Coleridge

Continue reading “Reading For An Epic”

Open Hearts

C.S. Lewis

from Chapter Four, “Friendship”

It could be argued that friendships are of practical value to the Community. Every civilised religion began in a small group of friends. Mathematics effectively began when a few Greek friends got together to talk about numbers and lines and angles. What is now the Royal Society was originally a few gentlemen meeting in their spare time to discuss things which they (and not many others) had a fancy for. What we now call the “Romantic Movement” was once Mr Wordsworth and Mr Coleridge talking incessantly (at least Mr Coleridge was) about a secret vision of their own.

Continue reading “Open Hearts”

The Great Conversation

Dorothy Wordsworth

From A Letter

You had a great loss in not seeing Coleridge. He is a wonderful man. His conversation teems with soul, mind and spirit. Then he is so benevolent, so good tempered and cheerful, and, like William, interests himself so much about every little trifle.

At first I thought him very plain, that is, for about three minutes; he is pale and thin, has a wide mouth, thick lips, and not very good teeth, longish loose-growing half-curling rough black hair. But if you hear him speak for five minutes you think no more of them.

His eye is large and full, not dark but grey; such an eye as would receive from a heavy soul the dullest expression; but it speaks every emotion of his animated mind; it has more of the “poet’s eye in a fine frenzy rolling” than ever I witnessed. He has fine dark eye-brows and an overhanging forehead.

Continue reading “The Great Conversation”

A Network Of Friendships

Malcolm Guite

From Chapter Four

…our chief concern will be with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner itself, but before we look at the poem in detail in Part II of this book, we shall look at the factors that attended and enabled its birth. This includes the network of friendships that inspired and sustained the writing, the deep reading and confident poetic preparation in which Coleridge was engaging, and the renewal of the springs of his own imagination which was provided by his many walks following springs and rivers, both alone and with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, through the landscape around the Quantocks. Coleridge’s sense of renewal is expressed in the three great visionary poems which, as it were, framed and nurtured the composition of The Mariner: This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison written in July 1797, Kubla Khan in October 1797, and Frost at Midnight, written in the February of 1798.

Continue reading “A Network Of Friendships”


Malcolm Guite

from Chapter Three

He was no longer an irresponsible college student off on one jaunt or adventure after another, confident that his family would always bail him out. He would soon be a father, with mouths to feed and a family to care for, and yet, more than ever, he felt the profound and powerful calling of his muse, knowing full well that he could scarcely rely on poetry for a living. He considered the possibility of starting a school or taking in lodgers or boarders as a tutor. He also considered taking a post as a Unitarian minister, since he had been so welcomed by the Unitarian community when he joined them in campaigning against the slave trade. Even this early, though, his theology was moving back more fully in a Trinitarian direction. Deep in his heart, he knew that neither of these alternatives was his true calling, but that he must necessarily provide for his family.

Continue reading “Convergence”

Sara Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Composed at Clevedon, Somersetshire

My pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclined
Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is
To sit beside our Cot, our Cot o’ergrown
With white-flowered Jasmin, and the broad-leaved Myrtle,
(Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!)
And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light,
Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve
Serenely brilliant (such would Wisdom be)
Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents
Snatched from yon bean-field! and the world so hushed!
The stilly murmur of the distant Sea
Tells us of silence.

And that simplest Lute,
Placed length-ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caressed,
Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land,
Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untamed wing!
O! the one Life within us and abroad,
Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere—
Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.

And thus, my Love! as on the midway slope
Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
Whilst through my half-closed eyelids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquility:
Full many a thought uncalled and undetained,
And many idle flitting phantasies,
Traverse my indolent and passive brain,
As wild and various as the random gales
That swell and flutter on this subject Lute!

And what if all of animated nature
Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps
Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all?

But thy more serious eye a mild reproof
Darts, O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts
Dim and unhallowed dost thou not reject,
And biddest me walk humbly with my God.
Meek Daughter in the family of Christ!
Well hast thou said and holily dispraised
These shapings of the unregenerate mind;
Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break
On vain Philosophy’s aye-babbling spring.
For never guiltless may I speak of him,
The Incomprehensible! save when with awe
I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels;
Who with his saving mercies healèd me,
A sinful and most miserable man,
Wildered and dark, and gave me to possess
Peace, and this Cot, and thee, heart-honored Maid!

Continue reading “Sara Coleridge”

Science, Freedom, and the Truth in Christ

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Watchman, 25 March 1796

Whence arise our Miseries? Whence arise our Vices? From imaginary Wants. No man is wicked without temptation, no man is wretched without a cause. But if each among us confined his wishes to the actual necessaries and real comforts of Life, we should preclude all the causes of Complaint and all the motives to Iniquity . . .
And indeed the evils arising from the formation of imaginary Wants, have in no instance been so dreadfully exemplified, as in this inhuman Traffic. We receive from the West-India Islands Sugars, Rum, Cotton, Logwood, Cocoa, Coffee, Pimento, Ginger, Indigo, Mahogany, and Conserves. Not one of these articles are necessary; indeed with the exception of Cotton and Mahogany we cannot truly call them even useful: and not one of them is at present attainable by the poor and labouring part of Society. In return we export vast quantities of necessary Tools, Raiment, and defensive Weapons, with great stores of Pro- vision. So that in this Trade as in most others the Poor are employed with unceasing toil first to raise, and then to send away the Comforts, which they them- selves absolutely want, in order to procure idle superfluities for their Masters. If this Trade had never existed, no one human being would have been less comfortably cloathed, housed, or nourished.

Rick WilcoxSamuel’s marriage to Sara improved in the sequestered honeymoon cottage, but his drive to social activism compelled him back to the fray.  He moved to Bristol, the heart of the slave trade, and found again his revolutionary voice.  Emboldened by his like-minded colleagues, he established a journal as the forum for evangelizing his message.

Malcolm Guite writes:

It was also in Bristol that he found the friend and publisher Joseph Cottle, who would eventually publish not only the first volume of Coleridge’s own poetry but also The Lyrical Ballads, the book Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote together and published anonymously, and which is now seen as the real beginning and founding of the Romantic Movement in English poetry.

And also

“Science, Freedom & The Truth in Christ” was in fact the motto for Coleridge’s new journal, The Watchman, a heroic but ultimately unsuccessful venture, in which he first showed the astonishing bursts of energy and hard work of which his supposedly indolent nature was always capable. The journal may well have done a great deal of good in raising consciousness, in urging boycotts of those imports such as sugar and rum, tainted and stained with the blood of slaves. It was also very important that in The Watchman Coleridge showed time and again that slavery was entirely contrary to the spirit and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. This needed to be said very clearly because at this time almost all the bishops of the Established Church were voting against Wilberforce’s attempts to abolish slavery.

Have you ever written as a social activist?

Join the discussion on Facebook HERE 


John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.