Sunday, September 27, 2009


I had always pronounced Coleridge as three syllables (KOH-luh-ridge); but I noticed in bits of doggerel written to friends that he scans it as two (COLE-ridge), and Wikipedia says that's the right pronunciation. It feels wrong to me: Kohlaridge is such a wonderful otherworldly name, and Coal Ridge such a prosaic one. But I dutifully try to fix the pronunciation in my head.

My heart goes out to him: it always has. He noted somewhere, in some bewilderment, that he "was made for love," and it's striking -- even more striking than his extraordinary range of reading and knowledge -- how readily and deeply he loved. I can't help but wonder what would have become of him if the modern understanding of addiction and the modern methods of treating it had been available. I suspect that without opium, he would have been, rather than just one of the Romantic Pleiades, the dominating literary figure of his time: the equivalent of Milton in the 17th Century. None of the others had his range of gifts, or his ability to transcend the limits of his own time and culture. And the English-speaking world needed him desperately. He could have done much to bridge the chasms that were opening between science, religion, and art, and which have left all of us moderns stranded on our own sterile islands. Analyze, pray, or create: pick one and abandon the other two! Coleridge never accepted that.

Might have been, might have been. The wind rises and the weeds beside the window shiver. Suddenly it is Fall in earnest: a bright day, but with a chill in the air. Winter is gathering itself in the cool gray shadows. The birds wake uncertain and uneasy, these days: they sing a few hesitant snatches of song and then fall silent. We're all waiting for the rain.

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