Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coleridge, Wordsworth, Holmes, Me

"Davy in the kindness of his heart calls me the Poet-Philosopher -- I hope, Philosophy & Poetry will not neutralize each other, & leave me an inert mass...

"Newton was a mere materialist --Mind in his system is always passive -- a Lazy Looker-on on an external World. If the mind be not passive, if it be indeed made in God's image, & that too in the sublimest sense -- the image of the Creator -- there is ground for suspicion, that any system built on the passiveness of the mind must be false, as a system."

-- Coleridge, in letters to Th. Poole, 1801

circa 1801: "While Wordsworth gained the authority of poetic success, Coleridge found the authority of his poetic failure."

-- Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions

I find it difficult to forgive Wordsworth's public denigration of Coleridge's poetry. After all Coleridge did for him! The bits of Coleridge's poetry that have worn well are as brilliant as ever, but Wordsworth's colors have faded uniformly over time. Wordsworth was a better poet: but Coleridge wrote better poems. I'd trade the whole Wordsworth corpus for "Frost at Midnight" or the "Dejection" ode. Or The Ancient Mariner, for that matter -- which Wordsworth was so snotty about.

Poor Coleridge! After a life of virtuous self-abnegation, condemned to come back eventually as a timid no-poet masseur! Just goes to show, you should bust out and live a little.

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