It might seem odd that, by the end of August, I have the entire remainder of the year pretty much planned through – and beyond that, actually.
I promised less randomness in the choice of the topics that I treat here, and so, here we go:
September will be Lovecraft month for us, because I like the idea.
October then will be Poe month. Because I like the idea.
Then, starting in November, I’ll periodically publish a very long piece on Coleridge, written by Friend of the Blog, Ben Manning (buy his book, will ya?), which will serve us as material for well into 2014.
That, plus the usual stack of news, shenanigans, and stuff I simply like, will likely make for a good Coleridgian winter… Or so I hope!
However, there’s one thing I’d like to have you people’s opinion on – what course the blog, now that it is – arguably – established as a source for connaisseurs of Coleridge, is going to take in the coming year:
2014 will be a decisive year in regards of my career, so, I’ll have to focus on that. And because of that, if I don’t want to give up on Coleridge, I have to do some long-term planning.
So, I’ll let you decide: Which one of the following topics should Your Coleridge focus on in 2014?
(Mind you that the majority decision will determine what about 50 of our average 80 posts per year will treat with!)
So, people, speak your voice, and I shall listen!
So, with this Frosty quote, I am happy to announce:
Holidays are over, or rather, holidays have just begun!
I am back from my break, and hope to entertain you all with more splinters and shenanigans from one of the certainly most interesting poets in British literary history. In my humble opinion. And, likely, yours, too, if you’re reading this blog.
I am really just back from my self-imposed exile, so I have little no content to provide as of now. I have a preview for what will be coming in the next few months, though:
First, you might notice that my posts will be less frequent, but also less random. I have found my field of investigation concerning Mr C, and that I will pursue. Hence, you may expect more bits on the formidable Mr James Livingston Lowes, on the French Revolution, and likely an extended look at the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya. Friends of the blog, Ben Manning, and poet Phillip A Ellis have agreed to provide extensive write-ups on some of our topics here, and of course, I have a whole library of texts that might be interesting to the Coleridgian in the know.
Outside of that, I am somewhat happy that I could take my mind off my mind over the last few weeks; no Coleridge, whatsoever in June and July. A bit Talleyrand, though, but that’s another story for another time.
My internet connection is crappy tonight, for whatever reason, so not hotlinks in this article yet; I’ll insert them later on, though, no worries.
One small tidbit from my time off is there that I’d like to share, though:
It seems Hollywood has discovered 19th-century period movies once again for an ambitious Oscar bet. This time, it’s the story of Solomon Northup, who spent the epinomous 12 years in slavery, even though being born as a free man. (Well, in my opinion, every slave is born as a free man, but whatever.) I am very, very excited to see this picture; while I am not a particular enthusiast for Spike Lee-ish meditations on race, I know the original text, Northup’s biography, a bit, and this – done well – could be a cinematic milestone.
Ben Manning, noted Friend of the Blog, was so friendly as to offer yet another text of his to present to you. This one, an old entry from Ben’s (retired?) personal blog, does not need any further explanation. Enjoy!
Coleridge and Wordsworth in Nether Stowey
Welcome to my second instalment on life over here in the UK. For this piece I thought it best to look at some local history to where I reside, in Nether Stowey – here in the Somerset countryside. Samuel Taylor Coleridge described it as “The deer Gutter of Stowey”. Coleridge is most famous for his poetry – and he wrote all his most famous poems and other notable prose in Somerset, particularly in Nether Stowey. Not in the north of England in the Lake District, as is often assumed. However, as I found out at one of the “Friends of Coleridge” conferences I attended in 2010 – Coleridge was primarily a “Philosopher”. Unlike career poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge really was diverse. Only Blake and Shelley have similar diversity, though as this magazine is called “eclectic” then Coleridge is the very embodiment of the word! Later he would describe himself (to William Godwin, the novelist) as “half poet – half madman”. He was a poet, a playwright, a journalist, political radical, a religious preacher, a lecturer (much like later with Charles Dickens), critic, a theologian, essayist, dramatist, metaphysician…the list seems endless…As a critic his love of Shakespeare even led to “Hamlet’s” first staging in over a hundred years. In this article rather than compiling a generic factual account you could read anywhere – I have tried to go into the background behind the poems and influences as well as such aspect as the imagination, science and collective memory. The latter being the collective memories, often inherited, within social groups and passed on down the ages to us all.
Sometimes I walk our Quantock hills, virtually alone, but for the occasional cyclist…and a sense of childish glee grips me. The thought occurs to me of how many great thinkers walked these hills so long ago. Even more surprising is the lack of knowledge amongst many that live here. True “Coleridge Cottage”, owned by the National Trust – has done a creditable job of informing the uninitiated, though its rather flawed attempt to create a rather sanitised 21st century fakery of an 18th and early 19th century “miserable hovel” leaves a little to be desired. However, as it was before its recent facelift – it is still essential to visit. To Coleridge, the Quantocks were an idyll of clear brooks where he once more lived amongst the West Country meadows of his childhood. Nearby was the sea. He felt he had everything here. He wrote of pretty girls and dances and “Sea, Hill and wood, this populous village!” Even though he was poor – he was at the happiest point of his life. Today, the Quantocks are magnificent, but always under developer threat. It is a mouth-watering prospect to imagine them in Coleridge’s time, before the motorcar and roads that accompanied them.
My last piece concentrated on environmental issues. In a sense this isn’t totally unrelated to the current pieces subject matter. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was very much a man of nature. The environment, it could be argued, is a central tenet of his revolutionary 1798 poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. In fact, the figure of the “Albatross”, (“the pious bird of good omen”), it could be said, is a metaphor for nature and man’s meddling of it. When the poem was originally written science and the very beginning of the ideas that led to train travel and the industrial revolution were just in the smallest acorn form of development, in terms of “progress”.
At the age of fourteen (when I first moved here from the metropolis of London’s cultural melting pot of Notting Hill), I had vaguely heard of Wordsworth and Coleridge. Within weeks – back in 1987 – I soon knew a lot more, after I received my ordered instalment of “The Great Writers” magazine and accompanying book. Dickens, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Poe, Orwell, Hardy…everybody that has made a literary impact was covered but on that particular month it was “The Romantic Poets”. I was thrilled to see Byron, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Percy and Mary Shelley, Keats, and William Blake who were all featured but to my astonishment it was Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his seminal poems – “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan” that was seen as the pivotal moment. Coleridge’s writing of the “Lyrical Ballads” in 1798 with Wordsworth was afforded tremendous detail and it even included a picture of Alfoxden Manor in Holford – a village near me. The house is now sadly in some disrepair. I never quiet listened to Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” in the same way! (It was written as a tribute to Coleridge).
The “Lyrical Ballads” (as a collective idea by the Wordsworth’s and Coleridge) was intended as an entirely new concept in literature…an experiment. An analogy today might be the partnership of “Lennon and McCartney”. Coleridge had a keen love of puns and a fine sense of humour. He observed puns as “harmless… because it never excites envy.” He also had a capacity for self-criticism – qualities which Wordsworth, his great contemporary and friend, so curiously lacked. It was an experiment to make the supernatural commonplace and everyday life seem unusual. The concept led to the term– “the suspension of disbelief”. Wordsworth would write of the rustic lives of the working and “common man” (an entirely new concept at the time) and Coleridge of the supernatural. The result most notably from Coleridge was the Ancient Mariner story which had been based on an idea surrounding the fate of an Albatross (who “the ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth”). It was suggested by Wordsworth. It was during a walk over to the harbour of Watchet – near Nether Stowey – that the first lines of the poem took shape and were later continued at the Stowey cottage. It is thought the beginning of the poem is set there – thought it isn’t named. In recent years a superb statue of the Mariner was erected. Nearby is Minehead and in the distance, out to sea, you can still see what Coleridge would have seen in the shape of two small islands called “Flat Holm” and “Steep Holm”. One has a lighthouse and is technically in Wales, whilst the other, right next to it, is technically in Somerset. Today an ugly nuclear power station blights the view from many angles. Coleridge would have no doubt discovered the “Daw’s Castle” Viking hill fort, nearby. The whole Ancient Mariner poem seems imbued with the spirit of the West Country, from Wiltshire and Dorset, through Devon and Somerset and down to Cornwall. Many claim in the poem that the Mariner sailed from Watchet and the ship dropped below the church of St Decuman, which stands upon a hill on the outskirts of Watchet. Only recently I visited the church and it is in a fine state. Nearby, a charming well is full of coins, where you can sit and make a wish. A railway line, which carries a heritage line of steam trains, also operates near the church and into Watchet. Lesser mentioned poems from Ballads include, “The Mad Mother”, “The Idiot Boy” and “The Convict”. Wordsworth’s moving poem “The Idiot Boy” was unique in that it depicted the brilliance of a mentally handicapped boy and his worried mother, at a time when little was understood of such conditions, let alone written about. Wordsworth laments his inability to describe in poetry what the story contains. “The Thorn” is a tragic rustic tale inspired by real life tragedies that would be talked of by the inhabitants of many a village. Wordsworth also began a series of poems called “The Lucy Poems” during his time living on the Quantocks – though they were written during trips to Germany. The idealized figure of the tragic Lucy is a lover’s ideal feminine image. Many have tried to trace a real life Lucy – perhaps it might be William writing of Dorothy (there is no overt sexuality in the poems) or one of his wife’s sisters. Finding a “real” Lucy, such as one of the Hutchinson sisters (as has often been suggested) is hard to prove, as Lucy dies in the poems. Perhaps she is symbolic of humanity in the face of nature. Intriguingly one of the Hutchinson sisters did die young. This figure of unrequited love was never revealed by the poet. It could be argued that Coleridge, as a poet, peaked in Nether Stowey – indeed at this stage inspiring and influencing/teaching Wordsworth who grew as a poet, as a result. Whilst in Germany a homesick Wordsworth struggled financially and felt jealous of Coleridge’s comparable prosperity –STC and his friend Tom Poole often entertained other literary figures and those of influence. This is both at odds with the image of Coleridge we have in Bristol, as a debt ridden radical, and also with the later prosperous Poet laureate Wordsworth who became somebody quiet different to the one Coleridge felt he knew. Interestingly, years later, Hartley Coleridge mocked the poems in “On William Wordsworth”.
Like, come on, it’s Sunday, take those three minutes it takes to read it. You certainly won’t regret it. Ben, in general, deserves more public recognition for his writing. So, let’s give him some respect!
Ben on his own text: “This poem being a visualization from the story by Roald Dahl of perhaps Coleridge as a young boy, Instead of being nearly drowned in the River Otter we find him in a more exotic setting, with the Albatross’s place being taken by the Turtle.”
The Ancient Turtle and the Boy who loved him……
Based on the short story “The Boy Who Talked with Animals”, by Roald Dahl.
Written in the style of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.It is a native fisherman and he stoppeth one of three: Say the others unto him, “Why stops me my man? Ah! I see a fine catch hast been caught by thee” “There, Here Tis a Sea Turtle….The finest catch!”, quoth he, From near boarding house the guests did gather, “We will be rich! A treasured catch this be For two hundreds years passed as have been enjoyed by he… For he is an Ancient sea turtle… His years worth more than thee or me…or all of us thrice round!”, The sailors did care not for the large creature, But only for selling it, pound for pound. The men looked on, The men did argue, the men did grumble and from great greed there words did stumble, Round and round they circled and vainly did they prod, Like a vulture round its pray they did discuss the turtle fate as it lay, Provoking its venom and its anger, Only to seek to slay it for reasons of danger Its head did bob, Its head did suffer, and its arms and legs scrambled, and did flutter, There it lay as sad as a wounded albatross, For on its back was it laid, Its fate in the hands of a coin to toss, From distance a boy doth come like the rich men that surrounded he, He doth not cometh from lands of sea and sand, where fine men walk, For in Jamaica are such men of palm trees and drums of steel, Honest and fine, The boy he comes from the land of Albion, As doth such men that taunt and barter for this humble beast so old and fine to be used as a culinary starter! This beast so wise and laboured, So suddenly caught from waves of blue, Soon to be eaten or sold as a catch so sought after, Its fine sinews fleshed out and its soul sent to the thereafter, But the boy he screams! For he loveth the turtle that the men did slay as it struggles its last breaths its life only a game for the men to play The boy not more than a ten years child: The Sea Turtle hath his will, “Leave him be!”, sayeth he, So loudly and clearly his words can be heard, Like the winds on the waves and the wings of a bird, Such natures wisdom from his mouth doth spring, Approaching the turtle great kindness did he show, Such peace and good fortune, love from him did flow, “Be gone! Tame the boy! For like a shrew he doth give cunning to the turtle, He is ours to sell and to barter, Take him whence Let us decide its fate“, The mans thoughts were wild, Such money and delights would be his, From this turtle as his bait… His thoughts so wild with greed and power, His thoughts did ring, “The money is mine, I’ve won! I’ve won!”, Like a bird with its prey did the men look upon the sad turtle as it lay, But the boy cradled its head in his hands, Great kindness and love did he show, For he loveth the turtle as lord god loves all creatures great and small, Regardless of goods, money nor vanity, The men looked on, fearing insanity, The boy did speak to the creature, its Shell so wide, The boy spoke on, Meek gentle and so small, “My son! You must let the Turtle go… for his sanity! The turtle so shrewd from the ages so wise, Leave him be to be free and roam far and wide, On the painted ocean so wide with unknown depths so measureless to man”, The men did extort great riches from the boys father, Only to calm the man’s child from fear and wonder, To dispel thoughts of death and destruction, To a creature so wise, omnipotent and round, Once restored did it stumble, Into the ocean it went so humble, The boy did look on his heart at rest… But for in his bed next day he could not be found, For he was known for talking to the animals, Talk he did on the wide ocean for ever more, They did search and roameth high and low for the boy of special powers, But Oh! One, Two, Three footsteps found in the sand Can he be found, by god hand? In the distance the boy is seen The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came the boy!
And he and the turtle shone bright, Clear as day on the back of the giant turtle he moveth toward the sun The catchers did see him but natures law did tell them to follow the boy no further, What a vision they saw! As it came to pass did they let him be, For they have found the child a’ riding on the back of the sea turtle, On the sea, had they searched…… in a circle, The boy saved the men from greed and avarice, He had saved them from penance they might do, Such guilt washed away into the ocean, Oft! they pondered how a kind saint took pity on them, and blessed them unaware Surrounded by love’s light does he ride the waves on the back of gods creature, For he hath drunk the milk of kindness… The men left stunned as the sun rose, The boys kindness and the sea turtle’s age old wisdom had brought such selfish gains to a close, Such higher things were beyond earthly wisdoms, Sadder and wiser men they rose the next morning , But there be no reason for any mourning… The parents so clever and wise, left stunned… Into the unknown there boy did he venture, Water, Water everywhere, A sea wide with adventure…
He is himself a dedicated Coleridgian, a dedicated blogger, and a debuting writer:
Say *hello* to Ben Manning, folks!
Ben has been a supporter of this blog pretty much from the start, and regularly supplies me with some valuable info on the topics I talk about here.
(More of Ben’s connection with Coleridge in the weeks to come.)
For now, let’s focus on that Ben has to blogs, which I regularly read:
One, his personal blog.
Another, the blog dedicated to his novel, The Vril Codex.
Ben had mentioned to me that he had published a novel some time ago.
A supernatural mystery story. With nazis. And a cover I didn’t like.
Yeah, I thought, where have I seen THIS before?
And, yeah, it would have a connection to Coleridge.
– Of cooooooourse, buddy. Nevermind, I’ll read your thing anyway. Because I am the nicest guy in the world, and the best of pals, all over. Friendly neighborhood’s Nick Carraway, you know.
And then, after fighting down some more resistance, I actually cared to read the book, at night, on the screen, via Kindle for PC…
…And I had a BLAST! 🙂
This is a great book, and one that likely will fall under the radar due to the dynamics of modern mass market publishing – which is why I decided to link permantently to Ben’s page.
I won’t spoil anything right now, though. Let’s just say that the Coleridge references in the text are very well placed, not in the rather absurd way that Tim Powers used them in The Gates of Anubis.
The Vril Codex is a well-researched “Indiana Jones”-type story that, while perhaps not sporting the particularly most originally structured plot, never becomes too sensational or too cheap to believe its action.
I’d say “it’s better than the stuff that Dan Brown writes”, but really, Dan Brown is such a no-writer, I don’t think that I’d be particularly complimenting Ben with such a statement. 🙂
Let’s put it like this:
I don’t particularly like nazi conspiracy books or movies, the tropes being old even when Spielberg picked them up.but But I liked this one, and I am as snobbish about books as they come. So, this should say a lot about how good it really is.
I recommend this book to you. 🙂
This is a test post, really.
Over the last week, I have been experiencing rather strange glitches with WordPress, from the engine destroying some layouts, to some content simply not displaying.
Maybe it’s a problem on my side – but if you’re experiencing the same phenomenon, please let me know.
These woes come at a bad time, because I want to take a closer look at the doings of friend of Your Coleridge, Ben Manning, and I don’t want those posts to be somehow messed up because the servers get hacked, or updated, or moved, or, whatever…
Now, since the strong emphasis of my work here so far has been The Rime, I thought I would not stride too much off-topic if I presented my opinion on a book I picked up at the train station a few days back – simply because I was bored:
Released in Germany as Scott – Leben einer Legende, the book appears to be Fiennes’ response to the increasingly negative views other historians and authors have, really over the last quarter of a century, expressed about Scott.
Truth to be told, I don’t have an opinion on this matter; it’s the first time I ever delve into the exploration of the Antarctic in any form. I think Fiennes makes a convincing statement in his defense of Scott, though.
And, quite obviously, the book, a complete biography with photos and other additional materials, is difficult to put down. Fiennes, whom I only knew as a fiction writer, and as what I had frankly always perceived as a con act about being “the world’s greatest adventurer”, that Fiennes really can write.
Overall, I think a can say, a great read, and, for me particularly, a great introduction in the exploration of the remaining dark corners of the world. If I find the time, I’d like to read more accounts of, possibly, older journeys, particularly, as you might already have guessed, historical accounts of expeditions from the Napoleonic era…