Reading For An Epic

LETTER TO JOSEPH COTTLE
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

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