Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Kubla Khan Continued 1



:1:

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.


:2:

Tis Taindu's golden square and street
And Xandu's spacious vales and trees
Where many pilgrim travellers meet
All chanting for an end to peace.
           “To war!” they cry
           “All glory ay!
Where shields ring and arrows fly!”

Proud Kublai on a throne of jet
Beneath a canopy of gold
            Nods one
            Nod all
And ever and far off still grinds the sound
Of that unseen and mighty river
Whose deep sublime full fall
Passing far beneath the ground
Where rock and darkness aye dissever
To drive with force along its course
And gush unseen into unknown abysses
Home to forgetfulnesses of human wishes
Kubla himself approaches
Astride a Mongol steed
And eighty wooden coaches
Follow his imperial lead.

Who taught thee this to venture down th' abyss
And ope the regions of primeval bliss?
            A song, a song
            Is borne along!
With melody as fine as its through-pulse is strong!
Whether thy Chinee orgies I behold,
Or Arimaspian rich with conquer'd gold;
Hymalian heights whereon delusive sprites
Of bitter frost and vagrant tempest play
Spout smoaks of snow through the day
And lead the wandering to their doom by night
             Where'er
             This air
             Will travel there
And thrill my mind's true ear and lift me past despair!

The woodsman stands beneath the arch
Of drooping birch or feathery larch,
Or mountain-ash, that o'er it bends,
And sees some streamlet as it wends;
Some brook whose tune its course betrays,
As it is drawn to feed the hidden ways
Of mighty Alph the hidden.
The woodsman has his new command
To fell the trees that dot the land
To hew the timbers into mighty strips
That best can fit a navy's ships.
To planks of oak and planks of pine;
And water gives itself to brine.
All as the Khan has bidden.

To trace the rivers where they flow,
Serenely brawling, fiercely slow
Down to the sea where all streams go.
Streams that over summits leap,
Or in rock-scooped basins sleep;
Pools that deeper are than deep.
Bursting foam in bright cascade,
Toys with lotus in the shade
Freighted with vessels timber-made.

Till earth and sky themselves grow mute,
The maiden's floating songs salute
The Khan's great armys route:
Such the flow and such the dance
Where soldiers strut and horses prance
Astrologer and Necromance
Provisioner and Royal Scribe
Forsworn and tied to Kublai's tribe
Advance! Advance!

A million men! A million men!
Dance stately out and through the glen
And pass beyond the homeland's ken.

Ten thousand ships! Ten thousand craft!
From galleon-yacht to simple raft,
With Kublai's horde as cargo draught!

***

Wouldst thou know the true most truly,
More than middling mortals find?
Drink close fragrance from the lily
Than faint odour on the wind?
Wouldst thou know why sunlight pauses
To cast its shadows on the mind?
Know of what the moon discourses
Looking down on humankind?
Then strike the cithar and the timbrel!
Pound at drums and shake the cymbal
Cast thy voice o'er the restless sea
Of aye-surging infinity!
Grief shall ope the founts of truth,
And heaven sing the truth to thee.
We knew this at our earliest birth
And will again when we quit this earth
And if, between, our memory
Cannot quite grasp such mystery
We need but patience, patience now
Await aye still th' immortan How.
Patience child of grief
The weary unrelief
Patience who is strong
From grief that is lifelong.
Grief in darkling manner freeing.
Wouldst thou yet unriddle of Being
Further than others can?
Sorrow shall give thine eyes new lustre
Sorrow's trumpet is thy muster
That Providence and Mars thus toy with man
To end what it began.

To Love and Sorrow all Nature draws;
If the riddle be read,
The code behind eternal laws
And each divergent thread
Of its mazy texture, and discover:
Whence the ravel spread.

Beside the summer sea I stand,
Where slow billows swelling shine.
How beautiful this pearly sand!
That waves, and winds, and years refine!
Be this delicious quiet mine—
The joy of youth, so sweet before,
When I could thus my frame recline,
And watch th’ entangled weeds ashore!

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Adam Nicolson, "The Making of Poetry" (2019)


Subtitle: ‘Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels.’ Capitalisations, sic.

I don't often review books on this blog (here's one exception to that rule), but Nicolson is a writer I like, and I've been reading his latest: an account of 1797-98 in the life of STC, Dorothy and William Wordsworth. Turns out this book is three things: 1, a detailed, elegantly-written account of Wordsworth and Coleridge's friendship over this year and the epochal poetry it produced (with sidebars on Dorothy); 2, interspersed autobiographical ruminations by Nicolson walking around the west country seeking out remnants of Wordsworth-Coleridge Country in the modern world, and 3, twenty-eight woodcuts by artist Tom Hammick. De gustibus famously not admitting of disputation, you may love these. I can't say I did. Some are pretty enough:



Others, though, seemed to me, in their clonking primitivism, wholly to miss the more nuanced resonances and often oblique sublimity of the poems they notionally illustrate. As, for example, this visualisation of ‘Kubla Khan’s woman wailing for her demon lover:



Teen whining at being served brocoli. I don't mean to descend to merely cheap shots, but, come on: that's a flatly lassitudinous and crayon-doodled image to stand for one of Coleridge's most extraordinary images of the erotic sublime, surely. Other images hang on the gallery wall of the same wheelhouse:


An image, there, illustrating Wordsworth's ‘The Bald Man On The Five-Legged Horse’.



... and this from Coleridge's ‘The Selfie-Stick’. I'm snarking. I'll stop. The images are always bright and bold, and if I found them too nursery-colour-scheme and scrawly, you may find more merit in them. And either way they aren't particularly integral to what Nicolson is doing in the meat, that is the prose, of his book.

And what he is doing is good. I have some issues with some of The Making of Poetry, but the bottom-line is: I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, very often thought-provoking and vivid work. Much of it treads pretty familiar ground, and I was already aware of most of what Nicolson quotes, but the book has an energy of commitment to its topic and an, as it were, writerly charm that carried me easily all the way through it.

In a sense saying so touches on a larger issue with respect to my bailiwick, academic literary criticism. I have read and continue to read a lot of this, as you'd expect (I write quite a lot of it too) and I have to say, by bulk, the vast majority of it is balefully badly written. The badness comes in two main flavours: the energy-vampire boring kind and the rebarbatively difficult kind. Where the first of these flavours is concerned, there is simply no excuse. The deplorable truth is that many professional academics, including actual colleagues and friends of mine, just aren't interested in writing as a craft. The second flavour is trickier to account for, I think—you know what I'm talking about: that brand of lit-crit in which the prose is turgidly baroque and thorny with neoligisms. Two rationales for this style are sometimes floated. One is: ‘it's just a professional jargon; you wouldn't expect to pick up a work of advanced mathematics or science or whanot and expect to be able to read it easily, now, would you?’ The other is slightly more seductive, along the lines of: ‘the critical-theoretical concepts with which I am wrestling are inherently tangled and complex and it would misrepresent them to talk about them with simplicity and clarity of style.’ The first of these justifications has never convinced me, I'll be honest. Literary critics are in the business of elucidating and contextualising great literature, and some of this literature is baffling (in which case it behooves us to de-baffle it somewhat) where most of it is eloquent and penetrating (in which case it certainly behooves us not to insert bafflement of our own). Besides, the ‘this is how they write science!’ defence won't wash. Origin of Species is beautifully written, every sentence clear as the song of a rimrubbed wineglass, and it's one of the most influential works of science ever published.

It's taken me longer to come to terms with my dislike of the second justification, the Derridean or Jamesonian one. The truth is that, though I've flirted with it in the past, nowadays it strikes me as simply a mode of intellectual narcissism. There are tens of thousands of salaried literary critics in the world whose job entails teaching students, doing admin and communicating with readers about literature. Cultural historians looking back on the history of lit-crit over the last forty years or so will surely scratch their heads as to why so many of us manifested such a precipitous retreat from this last charge, scampering away into thickets of obscurity and onano-referentiality. Still here we are.

I mention this only to note that it is possible to write literary history and literary criticsm well—elegantly, clearly, resonantly; and this book, vividly and clearly written throughout, is a case in point. Whatever issues I have with Nicolson's critical-theoretical approach, I can't argue with his elegance of expression.

The Making of Poetry is at its best as an account of the social and topographical contexts out of which the Lyrical Ballads volume was produced.  Nicolson is particularly excellent on the poverty of that war-drained and starving decade. He knows how to select telling details to bring it home to his readers (that, say, people would creep into farmers' fields in the dead of night and surreptitiously milk the cows there, so starving they were). He's also good on how the landscapes of this corner of Somerset are variegated according to a verticalising logic: how quickly a path will plunge into a humidly overgrown valley, or rise to a barer eminence from which the sea is gloriously visible. And he knows his onions when it comes to the exigences of day-to-day life of his subjects:
You could buy opium in all kinds of preparations: mixed with honey, as an electuary, meaning “something to be licked up”; powdered with chalk; sugared as an opiate confection; mixed with soap; in a liquorice lozenge or troche; in vinegar or wine; as a suppository or enema; as a plaster or embrocation; or, most popularly of all, dissolved in alcohol as laudanum, a name given it in the sixteenth century and meaning “the thing to be praised” because it was so effective at relieving pain and distress. Infants were often given Godfrey's Coridal (also called The Mother's Friend), a mixture of opium, water and treacle, to keep them quiet. In some places opium was added to the beer. [144]
A nation of heroin users! This, you can probably guess, is Nicolson setting the scene for Coleridge writing ‘Kubla Khan’, a section of his book that I especially enjoyed. At some point in the autumn, ‘perhaps early in October’, Coleridge left wife and kids at home and went walking: ‘it was for a few days, heading west, out past Williton and down into Watchet, into the thick drooping, wooded, coastal hills on the borders with Devon’ [139]. But Coleridge's perambulations were interrupted by a dose of ‘dysentery’, and he holed up somewhere in the tiny village of Culbone, where he took a slug of opium to deal with his diarrhoea, blissed out for a while, and returned to consciousness with (as he so famously claimed) ‘Kubla Khan’ fully formed in his head.

Nicolson retraces these steps. ‘Upstream from [Culbone] church,’ he tells us, ‘three or four farms claim to be the place’ where ‘Kubla Khan was written’:
Most think it might have been Ash Farm, perhaps only because it seems to look as such a place might look. Some think Parsonage Farm—but would the parson have taken him in? Few claim Silcombe Farm. Mr R J Richards, who is the fourth generation of Richardses to farm there, and all of whose ancestors are buried in Culbone's tiny streamside churchyard, thinks Coleridge wouldn't have come so far. ‘If he was ill he would have gone to the nearest and the most likely spot, to my mind,’ he told me over the farm wall. ‘That's a place that is no longer there. Withycombe. There is a pond there. Every house has a pond.’

Half a mile along the lane from Silcombe, the little valley of Withycombe itself is a steep cut into the shore-facing hill. Just down from the gate off the lane is a flattened spot which is, I guess, where the house once stood. Ground ivy now covers the grass there. ... The water of the Withycombe stream still bubbles through that abandoned place. The stone dam across the stream, built to make the pond, is still there, but broken, so that the stream now runs over the flat and nettly bed of what was once the pond. On its edge, an enormous oak, undoubtedly growing when Coleridge was here, is now encrusted and burdened with ivy. Limbs of fallen ashes now block the paths so that Withycombe now is buried in space as much as time, occupied on this late autumn afternoon only by two old ewes. Bumblebees drift down on the wind. [143]
‘This is where Coleridge in his illness had written the great fragment,’ Nicolson says. I've quoted, here, at some length to give a flavour of the book's style. Much of it is like this: rich and evocative if a little fruitily-written.

Still, if Nicolson is expert at staging his scenes, his literary critical skills are thinner. It is perhaps inevitable, give his larger approach, that Nicolson's accounts of the poems themselves will revert to a kind of biographical criticism. It's a rather reductive way of reading texts, I feel, but there you go. The take-away from The Making of Poetry is its subjects' ‘intuitive genius’ and ‘supreme awareness’: Coleridge's ‘subtilising mind, inescapable complexity and genius’ [170] and Wordsworth's ‘grandeur’, ‘great and lonely soul’ [230] and ‘poetic gift’ [262]. Wimsatt and Beardsley eat your hearts out. These kinds of judgment get iterated and reiterated throughout (with his ‘subtilising mind’ Coleridge ‘was not a simple man’ [270]; Wordsworth ‘is above the world of flux ... the whole of being, the giant self-fertilising’ [312-6]) and whilst this certainly indexes Nicolson's enthusiasm and love for his topic, it also blunts specificity, drags attention from text back to (Barthesian) dead authors. To an extent it even creates a flattening, even cartoony sense of the two men: Wordsworth deep, Coleride complex; Wordsworth profound, Coleridge restless, and so on. At one point, 21st-century Nicolson, shadowing the routes taken by his subjects two centuries earlier, starts literally to somaticise their physical symptoms like some kind of spirit medium. Reading the drafts in Wordsworth's notebooks and ‘the fugutive thoughts, moments of vision and impossible schemes in Coleridge's’
... my body, to my surprise, also started to fill with those pains, in my back and legs, tightening across my chest, numbing one arm or another, and sometimes so severe that after an hour or so I could not stand up from the chair and desk at which I had been sitting. [181]
‘It was,’ he helpfully adds, ‘psychosomatic’ (‘once I had stood up and left the house in Adscombe, it could be cured by walking’). But it figures in the book, really, as something spookier than that, a kind of daemonic possession whereby Wordsworthian poetry about
                          the obstinate pains
an uneasy spirit, [that] with a force
Inexorable would from hour to hour
For ever summon my exhausted mind
glides down the centuries and sheathes its claws in Nicolson's own muscles. I don't doubt the simple veracity of his account, of course. But as a reading of Wordsworth and Coleridge it muddies aesthetic analysis with a kind of psycho-superstition that seems to me, in the end, more belittling than anything. Perhaps that's inevitable in this mode of celebrity historicising. I don't know.

At any rate, as a literary critic, rather than as an aches-and-pains spirit medium, Nicolson leaves something to be desired. Some of his readings strain credulity, as when he suggests, as a key to unlocking ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, that ‘the friendship and brotherhood between Coleridge and Wordsworth find its reflection in the friendship and brotherhood of mariner and albatross’ [165]. Say what? Other judgments inhabit a kind of vatic tautological-ness. Of Coleridge's ‘Eolian Harp’ we're told ‘the wavering wind-songs of the Aeolian Harp could soothe and seduce the mind’ [85], a line whose alliteration hardly compensates for its lack of analysis. ‘Tintern Abbey’, Nicolson tells us, is a ‘triumph’ and ‘represent[s] one of the great moments of human consciousness’ [316] which is fine and lovely and not even necessarily wrong, but doesn't do much to actually unpack the poem.

But The Making of Poetry, despite its title, isn't really a work of literary criticism. If we read the title as implying a question (‘how is it that poetry gets made?’) Nicolson's answer is, nutshell-wise: ‘a couple of great poetic masters really inhabit a particular landscape’. A magnificent nature-writing blankness repels any more analytic interrogation of the wellsprings of creativity. Indeed, there are moments in this book when I found my brow wrinkling at Nicolson's implied model of poetic creativity. One example: ‘for poetry to surface [for Wordsworth] it had first to pass through the great digestive organ of his mind’ [183]. Poems the well-digested turds of the Wordsworthian mental bowel? Dude? I mean: if that's really how poems are made then (great god!) I'd really rather be a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn etc etc.

For all that, I liked this book a lot. Quite apart from anything, there's a commendable chutzpah in the enthusiasm with which Nicolson's jogs alongside his subjects, both physically and writerishly. The Making of Poetry quotes generously from the poetry and prose of Coleridge and Wordsworth, plus chunks of Dorothy. To read Nicolson's anthology is to be struck again and again just how extraordinarily good these geezers were at the writing lark, and so to align oneself with Nicolson's ubiquitous praise. And then, with shoulders back and chest out, Nicolson prints his own poetic-prose alongside the work of these masters of the craft. How could you not warm to such hubris? (you're a better man than I am, Gunga-dam and so on, and so forth—and my name is also Adam!):
Walking westward is a walk towards wildness. As you move into the woods and up on to the rough brown open-weave spaces of Exmoor, the Quantocks start to seem smaller and more ordinary by comparison, a gentler younger brother of this big moory expanse on the fringes of Devon, On this path now, high on the broken cliffs, the scale changes. Islands of shadow breeze across the brown and turgid sea. The Bristol Channel looks as earthy as a ploughed field. The path plunges on, up over the rounded thighs of each valley, slipping into the declivities, down into the ferny damp of the streams running off Exmoor, up again to the sound of the sea that rises from the surf breaking miles away in a constant single outbreath from below. [141]
This isn't bad, by any means. Indeed it's very nice, evocative and a pleasure to read. And rather like Nicolson finding himself mystically channelling Wordsworth's sore back and Coleridge's various neuralgic twinges, he is here, wittingly or otherwise, blocking out rough-edged blank verse:
On this path now, high on the broken cliffs,
The scale changes. Islands of shadow breeze
Across the brown and turgid sea of life.
The Bristol Channel looks as earthy as
A well-ploughed field. The path plunges on, up.
Over the rounded thighs of each valley
Down into the ferny damp of the streams
Running off Exmoor, and up again to (the)
Sound of the sea that rises from the surf
Breaking miles away ...
... and so on. Not sure this would have made the Lyrical Ballads cut. Not that I'm in a positon, glass-house dweller that I be, to pitch stones. And credit to Nicolson for the courage in going for it at all. It makes his book stand splendidly out, brightly coloured in an ocean of prose-grey.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

"The Poet's Eye In His Tipsy Hour" (1800)

Notebook entry 791 (August 1800) records a ‘tipsy’ (that is, likely opium-dosed) Coleridge admiring the view from his Keswick home. He writes retrospectively about the shifting beauties of the lake during the day, jotting down his entry at 11pm that night with one eye on the ‘conical Volcano of coal, half an inch high, ejaculating its inverted cone of smoke’ in his fireplace. It's windy outside. He makes a start on the first draft of a poem:
The poet's eye in his tipsy hour
Hath a magnifying power
Or rather he diverts his eyes/his soul emancipates his eyes
Of the accidents of size/
In unctuous cones of kindling Coal
Or smoke from his Pipe's bole
His eyes can see
Phantoms of sublimity.
An hour later, having gone to investigate some tapping at his window, STC returns and writes a little more in his notebook:


Nick! Nick! This is very nice writing. Magnifying in line 2 might make us think of microscopes and such, but I'd suggest Coleridge has in mind the Latin root of our word: not just ‘make bigger’, but also make more magnificus (‘great, noble, distinguished, eminent, august’). Sublimifying, in a word. The lovely chocky k-alliteration in line 5's ‘unctuous cones of kindling Coal’ (unctuous is a really nicely-chosen word), overlapping with the mouth-circling oh-assonances of lines 5 and 6 (‘cones’, ‘coal’, smoke’, ‘bole’) work together to imply a finely sensuous evocation of the scene. These two sound-patterns, the ck and the oh (the clinking of hot coals, the expanding oh-shapes of the smoke) get picked up in the midnight PS, which moves from nick! nick! to poa(cher). Sublime indeed.

Decades later, Coleridge published an article in Blackwood's Magazine (January 1822) under the title ‘The Historic and Gests of Maxilian’. This is a curious piece of prose, not really like anything else Coleridge wrote: a lumbering exercise in rather donnish comedy. STC had written to the Blackwood's editor, William Blackwood, sending him the text of ‘Maxilian’ and promising more: ‘Within ten days you will receive a second packet consisting of 1. The ideal of a Magazine—2. the first article on the history and theory of Witchcraft &c. 3. The world without and the world within—a tale of Truth from Faery Land-Book I.—4. The Life of Hölty, with specimens of his poems, translated into English Verse.—’

‘Some traces of these projects remain among Coleridge's papers,’ H L Jackson notes ‘but they were evidently not submitted to Blackwood's ... “Maxilian” appeared in January and was hailed by the editor, under the familiar pseudonym of Christopher North, as “a fragment indeed, but such a fragment as we are sure nobody but Mr. Coleridge could have written!” Coleridge's friends were pleased with the piece, and Coleridge was encouraged: “Mr Gillman & Mr Green both liked the Maxilian much—& it will improve. But small interruptions in my state of Health are not small—”.’ [H. J. Jackson, ‘Coleridge's “Maxilian”’ Comparative Literature 33:1 (1981), 38-39]

The essay itself is most odd; its first half a drawn-out, facetious, heavy-handed satire of the modern age; its second a verbose adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann's short story Der goldne Topf. But as part of the piece Coleridge retrieved and reworked his nascent 1800 poem, above. This is how the poem finally appears in print, in Blackwoods, 1822:
The poet in his lone yet genial hour
Gives to his eyes a magnifying power:
Or rather he emancipates his eyes
From the black shapeless accidents of size—
In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe's trim bole,
His gifted ken can see
Phantoms of sublimity.
Unreprinted in Coleridge's life, this version was eventually published by his grandson Ernest Hartley Coleridge, in his 1912 Coleridge's Poetical Works, under the title ‘Apologia pro vita sua’.

In the earlier version we need, obviously, to continue back the strike-through to eliminate ‘Or rather’ from line 3 and so preserve the tetrameter. It's how J C C Mays prints the poem in his standard Princeton Coleridge: Poetical Works:
The poet's eye in his tipsy hour
Hath a magnifying power
His soul emancipates his eyes
From the accidents of size.
In unctuous cones of kindling Coal
Or smoke from his Pipe's bole
His eyes can see
Phantoms of sublimity.
This earlier metre seems to me preferable to the padded-out pentameter of the Blackwood's version: ‘lone yet’; ‘Give to his eyes’ in place of ‘hath a’; ‘black shapeless’; ‘upwreathing’; ‘trim’ ... these are all make-weights and add little. But the final line, in both versions, has excited Coleridge scholars. Michael Johnduff, in his review of Coleridge, Language, and the Sublime: From Transcendence to Finitude (Palgrave, 2011), calls this little poem ‘the most sublime of Coleridge’s fragments’ and adds: ‘Phantoms of sublimity? What is that? Indeed, something so sublime that even phantoms, wispy traces of it are sublime; and yet how sublime could a mere phantom of sublimity be? If we try to see what the poet’s gifted ken can see, this experience that is supposed to be transcendent here comes not to carry us off into the beyond, but to make us fall back upon ourselves, doubt whether what we just felt was real, and begin asking whether what we have grasped was indeed an experience of the sublime.’

That's as may be, but it's worth pointing out that ‘phantoms of sublimity’ is actually Coleridge quoting, or if we wish to be less charitable, plagiarising, Mark Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination (1744). The poet in that work is surveying a sublime landscape, just as Coleridge has been:
                                          Mark the sable woods
That shade sublime yon mountain's nodding brow;
With what religious awe the solemn scene
Commands your steps! ...
                                       Behold th' expanse
Of yon gay landscape, where the silver clouds
Flit o'er the heav'ns before the sprightly breeze:
Now their grey cincture skirts the doubtful sun;
Now streams of splendor, thro' their opening veil
Effulgent. [Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination, 3:286-97]
This leads him into a meditation on sublimity as such:
If human thought could reach, or words unfold,
By what mysterious fabric of the mind,
The deep-felt joys and harmony of sound
Result from airy motion; and from shape
The lovely phantoms of sublime and fair. [3:457-61]
This is, I think, another example of what Harriet Devine Jump has called ‘Coleridge's Unacknowledged Debt to Akenside’ [the title of her article in Studies in Romanticism, 28:2 (1989), pp. 207-224]. Because Akenside is forgotten now we tend to overlook how much Coleridge drew from him: Coleridge wrote to John Thelwall in December 1796 ‘I have room enough in my brain to admire, aye & almost equally, the head and fancy of Akenside, and the heart and fancy of Bowles, the solemn Lordliness of Milton, & the divine Chit chat of Cowper’.

The opening of this short 1800 notebook poem, ‘the poet's eye’, is a Shakespearean tag; but it is one already associated with Akenside, whose fascinations both with vision and the imaginative augmentation of what the eye sees was the ground of his celebrity as a poet, back when his poetry was celebrated. Here, for instance, is a passage from Anna Letitia Barbauld's prefatory essay on The Pleasures of the Imagination, which Coleridge certainly knew:
Why, he asks, does the deep shade of a thick wood strike us with religious awe? Why does the lightsomeness and variety of a more airy landscape suggest to us the idea of gaiety and social mirth? Is there really any resemblance, or is it owing to early and frequent associations? He decides for the latter, and beautifully illustrates that great law on which the power of memory entirely depends. This leads him to consider the powers of Imagination as residing in the human mind, when, after being stored by means of memory, with ideas of all that is great and beautiful in nature, the child of fancy combines and varies them in a new creation of its own, from whence the origin of Music, Painting, Poetry, and all those arts which give rise to the secondary or reflex pleasures, referred to in the latter part of his definition. This is accompanied by a glowing and animated description of the process of composition, written evidently with the pleasure a person of genius must have felt, when reflecting with conscious triumph that he is exercising the powers he so well describes. He had probably likewise in his eye the well-known lines of Shakespear,
The Poet's eye in a fine phrenzy rolling.
[The Pleasures of the Imagination. By Mark Akenside, M.D. To Which is Prefixed a Critical Essay on the Poem, by Mrs. Barbauld (London: Printed for T. Cadell, Junior and W. Davies, in the Strand, by R. Noble, in the Old Bailey, 1794), 26-27]
(That last is quoted from Midsummer Night's Dream.) I'd hazard that Coleridge, warm by his fireside in 1800, might even have been reading Pleasures of the Imagination, and had his own poetic imagination jogged by Akenside's Phantoms of Sublime.

Friday, 24 July 2020

"Poems on Various Subjects": Coleridge's Errata Slip


Click to embiggen. Poems on Various Subjects was STC's first collection of poetry, published by his friend Cottle (Bristol, 1796) and including those of his early poems of which Coleridge was proudest (there are also four sonnets by Charles Lamb, marking his first appearance in print). I have to say, though, I'd not seen this errata slip before. James Cummins, a US rare book dealer, has it on his website and notes that it is very rare to find a first edition including it. You can buy said first edition, errata slip and all, for a trifling $6000 if you want it. For me, it's enough to enjoy this slightly pompous but inadvertently charming page on its own. It's like a poem in its own right. For Antic huge read antic small, indeed!

Thursday, 23 July 2020

William Case Jr

Robert Southey edited two volumes of his Annual Anthology (1799, 1800). Here were first published of a good number of poems by Southey himself, and by Coleridge too (not to mention Charles Lamb, George Dyer, Joseph Cottle, Sir Humphry Davy and others), including some very famous pieces: Coleridge's ‘Lewti’ and ‘This Lime Tree Bower My Prison’ and Southey's ‘Battle of Blenheim’, as well as his ‘The Old Man's Comforts’, so famously parodied by Lewis Carroll as ‘You Are Old, Father William’. Southey planned a third annual, but in the event it didn't happen. Many of the poems in the Anthology are attributed to their authors either by direct name, or transparent pseudonym (several of Coleridge's are signed ‘Esteesi’ for instance). Others are not attributed, but scholars have tracked down authorship, using Southey and Coleridge's own annotated copies of the volumes, later collected editions of poets and so on.

Four of the Annual Anthology poems are signed ‘William Case Jr’, all in vol 2: ‘Gorthmund’, ‘Sonnet VIII’, ‘Sonnet IX: to a Friend on presenting him with a Volume of M.S.S. Poems’ (at the head of this post) and ‘A Winter Sketch’. Nobody knows anything about this geezer; not who he was, nor how he knew Southey or Coleridge (if he knew Southey: maybe he offered his submissions out of the blue). ‘Not otherwise identified,’ says Kenneth Curry, adding: ‘no books of Case are in the British Museum or Bodleian.’ [Kenneth Curry, ‘The Contributors to The Annual AnthologyThe Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 42:1 (1948), 61]. He's not a very good poet, I think; but I was curious about him, so I had a rummage around.

I didn't find much, but I found  a couple of things. So: Case published a fair few poems, as fugitives, in various places 1800-1806 (the latest that I found). Here's one from The Poetical Register, and Repository of Fugitive Poetry (1802), another poetical annual:


Following up that footnote tells us that the friend was another young man and poet manqué called ‘W[illiam?] Evans’. Other poems intimate that Case came from Norfolk:


... the River Yare flowing, of course, through Norwich and into the North Sea.

Case published two volumes of verse. The first, The Minstrel Youth; a Lyrical Romance, with other Poems (Conder 1801), was reviewed in the Monthly Review for 1801:
A very promising specimen of the young author's poetical taste and talents: we suppose him to be young; and if he perseveres in paying his devoirs to the muses, he may probably obtain a considerable degree of their regard and encouragement. The pieces here submitted to the judgment of the public are various, moral, and not destitute of harmony and pathos. The poem, in three parts, intitled The Minstrel Youth, is the most considerable performance, and evinces the the writer's proficiency in the Romantic lore which so strongly marks the ages of chivalry, and many of the manly old English Ballads.
You can read the collection's title poem here if you like, and see for yourself. Case's second collection was Pictures of British Female Poesy (Crosby 1803), concerning which The British Critic and Quarterly Theological Review said:
The author, whose name is Case, and an inhabitant of Lynn, in Norfolk, celebrates, in various poetical metres, the more distinguished females of the present day; Seward, Charlotte Smith, Barbauld, Radcliffe, Yearsley, Hannah More, West, &c. The performance deserves a specimen to be given of it; and we select the following spirited apostrophe to Helen Maria Williams.

“But when she thus essays a wreath to weave
Of flowers, as rich as fancy e'er could paint,
Some meet her eye, that, like the nightshade, leave
In beauty's brightest gloss a baleful taint.
Say, fair Enthusiast, from thy natal land,
What scepric system lur'd thy heart away,
When late amidst an innovating band,
At Peace high altar flow'd the gratulating lay?*
Why give to France supremacy of fame,
Is all the victory, all the glory hers?
No: Britain owns a yet superior claim,
Thy Britain dearer ties on thee prefers.
Helen! the Muse regrets, thy talents shine
In light, that but the moral sense depraves;
Freedom she loves, yet not, oh France! not thine,
Hers is her birthright, thine the liberty of slaves.”

[*Alluding to her Ode on the late Peace, written in France]
No fan of France then, Mr Case. Did he live in Lynn, or was he merely from Lynn? William Case was Mayor of Lynn in 1790, and again in 1798 (he died in 1809). Presumably William Case Jr was his son. Junior published no more volumes after 1803, and no more poems at all after 1806, so far as I can see. Why not?

Could this William Case be the same man as Lieutenant, later Captain William Case of the Royal Navy?
WILLIAM CASE entered the Navy, 15 Jan. 1790, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the HEBE 38, Capt. Alex. Hood, and, in March, 1792, was transferred to the JUNO 32, Capt. Sam. Hood, both stationed in the Channel. From May, 1793, to April, 1796, he again served in the HEBE, as Midshipman, under Capts. A. Hood, Paul Minchin, and Mat. Henry Scott, in the West Indies, where we find him, after a short attachment to the MAJESTIC 74, flag-ship of Sir John Laforey, promoted, 3 Oct. 1797, to a Lieutenancy in LA VICTORIEUSE 14, Capts. Edw. Stirling Dickson and Richardson. While in the latter vessel he cut out a Spanish schooner from under the fire of a privateer and two batteries at Port España, Trinidad—took part, 7 May, 1798, in a very creditable action with two French privateers, the smaller of whom, a sloop of 6 guns and 50 men, was captured, and the other, a schooner of 12 guns and 80 men, put to flight—and, in Dec. following, witnessed the surrender of two forts near the river Caribe, besides valiantly contributing, in joint command of a party of 70 seamen, to the capture and destruction, at Gurupano, of two others, defended by at least 300 men, and of the Couleurre, of 6 guns and 80 men.” Lieut. Case's next appointments were, 27 Aug. 1801, 20 April, 1804, and 21 Dec. 1805, to the BEAVER sloop, Capt. Christopher Basset Jones, MAGDALENE, Capt. Joseph Lamb Popham, and AGINCOURT 64, Capts. Thos. Briggs and Henry Hill, on the Home station; after which he served, from Jan. 1806 to June, 1812, under Sir Sam. Hood, on board the CENTAUR 74, HIBERNIA 110, TIGRE 74, OWEN GLENDOWER 36, and ILLUSTRIOUS 74, off the Western Islands, and in the Mediterranean, Baltic, and East Indies. During the period of his attachment to the CENTAUR, Mr. Case, as First Lieutenant, was meritoriously present, 25 Sept. 1806, at the capture, in company with the MARS and MONARCH 74's, of four heavy French frigates from Rochefort, on which occasion Sir S. Hood lost his arm. He also attended, in Aug. and Sept. 1807, the expedition to Copenhagen—beheld, in Dec. of the same year, the surrender of Madeira—ably assisted, in conjunction with the IMPLACABLE 74, at the taking, 26 Aug. 1808, in sight of the whole Russian fleet, near Rogerswick, of the 74-gun ship Sewolod, after a close and furious conflict, in which the CENTAUR lost 3 killed and 27 wounded, and the enemy 180 killed and wounded:—and, in Aug. 1809, was engaged, under Capt. Wm. Henry Webley, in the attack upon Walcheren. After holding for two months the appointment of Lieutenant-Governor of Madras Hospital, he was promoted, 7 Aug. 1812, to the command of the HECATE sloop; and, on 15 of the same month, he joined the SAMARANG, of 16 guns, of which he appears to have retained command, in New South W. until 24 March, 1814. He has since been on half-pay. His acceptance of the rank he now holds took place 14 May, 1846. Capt. Case, in the early part of his career, also assisted at the reduction of Ste. Lucie and Trinidad. He married, 15 Sept. 1829, a daughter of Henry Hallett, Esq., of Chidcock, Devon. [William R O'Bryan, A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty's Navy (1849), 178]
(I think the numbers after the HMS names are the number of guns each sloop carries). No mention of any youthful poetic ambitions there, but then you wouldn't expect such notice in a Naval Biographical Dictionary. The dates fit, otherwise. And if this is the man, he was very often stationed in the Channel or ‘on the Home station’ up to 1806 (convenient for submitting poems to British journals), whereupon his naval career took off and he was stationed all around the world, 1806-1812 on the CENTAUR in the Med, the Baltic, and East Indies; and after that all the way to New South Wales. This would have made it harder for him to publish his poems, and might have crowded-out his time for poetry altogether. Or perhaps he came to look on it as a youthful extravagance no longer consonant with his position. Case's friend Evans, who died in St Vincent in 1801 of ‘contagion’ could have been stationed there as a naval officer: it was one of the key naval battlegrounds of the Napoleonic Wars after all.

This is all speculative of course, and could be quite, quite wrong. Maybe Case was just a bourgeois-of-leisure in Lynn the whole time and Lieutenant Case quite another person. But there's certainly a quantity of sea-verse in Case's oeuvre. Here, for instance, are stanzas 2 and 3 from the ‘Descriptive Sketch’ whose opening I quoted above:

(The Garien is another name for the river Yare). ‘To thee, vast deep! this moral truth I owe’ the poem ends: ‘That as thy calm now smiles, thy storms now blow,/Each object, e’en most dear, so fluctuates here below.’ Sound like a sailor to you?

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Kablakhan



A rather likeable typo this, I think.

It's from Friedrich Johann Jacobsen's Briefe an eine deutsche Edelfrau ueber die neuesten englischen Dichter (‘letters to a German noblewoman about the latest English poets’; 1820). Pages 220-223 of that book are an account of Coleridge’s Christabel:
Sie erinnern sich, das Lord Byron als Motto zu seinem unsterblichen “Fare thee well” folgende Stelle aus einem ungedruckten Gedichte von Coleridge anführt:
Alas they had been friends in youth,
But whispering tongues can poison truth.
Das Gedicht ist als wild, seltsam und schön vor der Herausgabe empfohlen. Es ist erschienen unter dem Titel:
Christabel Kablakhan, a Vision. – The pains of Sleep by S. T. Coleridge. London, Murray 1816.
The Edinburgh Review von 1816 behauptet, das aus der Lake School so viel Tadelhaftes gekommen sey, das man hätte glauben sollen, es könne nicht weiter getrieben werden; aber in eben dem Augenblick komme Coleridge wie ein Riese, der durch Schlaf gestärkt sey (er hatte von 1808 bis 1816 kein Gedicht herausgegeben) und breche auf das Publicum mit diesen Worten herein:
'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock
And the owls have auaken'd the crowing cock;
Tu – with! – Tu – whoo!
And hark – again! the crowing cock,
How drowsily it crew.

Sir Leoline, the Baron rich, - - - - - - - -
Hath a toothless mastiff bitch;
From her kennet beneath the rock
She makes answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
E'er and aye, moonshine or shou'er;
Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
Some say she sees my lady's shrouds.
Is the night chilly and dark?
The night is chilly, but not dark.
Die Fabel der wilden, abentheuerlichen Gedichte ist diese. Der Lady Christabel träumt von ihrem Geliebten. Sie geht in der Nacht auf's Feld, findet die Lady Geraldine unter einem Baum, woselbst sie von 5 unbekannten Entführern in Krämpfen gelassen ist. Sie wird von der Lady Christabel nach dem Schlosse gebracht. Hier erscheint ihr die verstorbene Mutter der Christabel,  es gehen wunderliche Dinge vor, der Vater der Christabel sendet die Geraldine im höchsten Zorn darüber zu ihrem Vater zurück.

Das zweite und dritte Gedicht sind noch unbedeutender als das erste.

Es heisst in Dr. Adrian's Uebersetzung der Gedichte von Lord Byron, Letzterer habe den Anfang des Gedichtes Christabel, welches damals noch nicht gedruckt gewesen sey, in der Schweiz recitirt. Einer aus der Gesellschaft sey von dem Grausenvollen dieser Geschichte so ergriffen geworden, das er mit Entsetzen aus dem Zimmer geeilt sey. Der Lord und ein Arzt wären ihm gefolgt, hätten ihn fast ohnmähtig und mit Angstschweiss bedeckt gefunden, und er habe behauptet, eine Erscheinung gehabt zu haben. Wie die Gesellschaft zuzückgekehrt, sey der Vorschlag gemacht worden, jeder der Anwesenden solle ein Gedicht niederschreiben, welches auf irgend eine übernatürliche Einwirkung gegründet wäre. Lord Byron habe bei dieser Gelegenheit seine Erzählung, the Vampyr, geschrieben, die auf dem arabischen, griechischen und ungarischen Aberglauben beruht, das es Blutsauger giebt, die das Blut von geliebten Personen so lange aussaugen, bis sie davon sterben. Ich sandte Ihnen den Vampyr, und da Sie die Erzählung der Talente des grossen Dichters unwürdig hielten, so will ich sie nicht weiter commentiren. Viele urtheilen aber günstiger über Coleridge als der Edinburger, und selbst dieser nennt einige der früheren Gedichte von Coleridge als sehr vorzüglich. Coleridge hat eine wahre Wasserscheu vor den Critikern. Er klagt, während Lord Byron und Walter Scott seine Christabel gut gefunden, verfolgten ihn die Critiker so unbarmherzig, das er ihre Gestalten sehe, wo er gehe und stehe. Coleridge's Bemerkungen über Shakspeare werden von Vielen gerühmt.
This means:
You'll remember that Lord Byron's motto for his immortal “Fare thee well” was the following passage from one of the unpublished poems of Coleridge:
Alas they had been friends in youth,
But whispering tongues can poison truth.
The poem thuswise recommended is wild, strange and beautiful. It has now been published under the title:
Christabel Kablakhan, a Vision. – The Pains of Sleep by S. T. Coleridge. London, Murray 1816.
The Edinburgh Review of 1816 claimed that the Lake School was having such a damaging effect on poetry that it ought not to be permitted to continue. But at that very moment Coleridge came like a giant strengthened by sleep (for he had published no poetry between 1808 to 1816) to astonish the public with these words:
'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock
And the owls have auaken'd the crowing cock;
Tu – with! – Tu – whoo!
And hark – again! the crowing cock,
How drowsily it crew.

Sir Leoline, the Baron rich, - - - - - - - -
Hath a toothless mastiff bitch;
From her kennet beneath the rock
She makes answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
E'er and aye, moonshine or shou'er;
Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
Some say she sees my lady's shrouds.
Is the night chilly and dark?
The night is chilly, but not dark.
Here is the story of this wild, adventurous poem: Lady Christabel dreams of her lover. She goes out into the countryside at night, finds Lady Geraldine under a tree, where she has been detained by five unknown kidnappers. Lady Christabel brings her into the castle. Here the deceased mother of Christabel appears to her—for there are indeed strange things going on in this poem. Christabel's father angrily orders Geraldine sent back to her own father. (The second and third sections of the poem are rather less effective than the first.)

It says in Dr. Adrian's translation of Lord Byron's poems that he recited the beginning of Christabel (unpublished at that time) in Switzerland. One of the company was so moved by the horror of the story that he rushed out of the room in fright. The lord, and his doctor, followed this indivdual and found him almost helpless, literally sweating with fear, claiming to have seen an apparition. As the group reassembled, the suggestion was made that everyone present should write a poem based on some supernatural influence. On this occasion, Lord Byron wrote his story, The Vampyre, based on the Arabic, Greek and Hungarian superstition that there exist bloodsuckers who drain the blood of loved ones, until they perish. I sent you a copy of The Vampyre, and since you considered the story unworthy of the talents of so great a poet I will not comment on it any further. Many, however, judge Coleridge more favorably than does the Edinburgh Review, and even that journal praises some of Coleridge's earlier poems. Coleridge complains that although Lord Byron and Walter Scott both rated his Christabel highly, the critics have pursued him so relentlessly that he sees their figures wherever he goes. Coleridge's remarks about Shakspeare are praised by many.
This is interesting on several fronts. Evidently, in 1820 in Germany Coleridge was so little known that it was possible to mangle the title of what is now one of his most famous poems (I assume the mistake in the quoted passage, Tu – with! – Tu – whoo!, is a simpler kind of typo). Also Jacobsen believes that The Vampyre was written not by its actual author, John Polidori, but by Byron himself. That book was, of course, result of the same celebrated competition that produced Shelley's Frankenstein: ‘Polidori developed the idea, and seems to have written it down for the Countess of Breuss, who lived nearby, and from whom the publisher acquired the manuscript. It was first published in April 1819 in Henry Colburn’s New Monthly Magazine, under the title The Vampyre: A Tale by Lord Byron, later appearing as a book with Byron’s name on the title page of the first edition. His name was removed for the second edition. Byron disclaimed authorship, but the work’s immediate success rested largely on being attributed to him.’

According to the diary Polidori kept during 1816, Christabel was indeed among the books read during the famous ‘year without a summer’:
This point is the ‘ghost story contest’ proposed by Lord Byron in June 1816 at the Villa Diodati he rented by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where he hosted, among others, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (Mary Shelley by December) and Byron’s personal physician and occasional homosexual partner, Dr John Polidori, the keeper of a diary during that whole time. That challenge began, Polidori tells us, with an immersion in earlier Gothic: a group reading of Fantasmagoriana (1812), a French translation by Jean Baptiste Eyriés of German Gothic tales imitative of Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), and Byron’s recitation of Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’, just published in 1816, though mostly as its author had left it in 1800. From this confluence emerged a great deal of important writing: Byron’s own extensions of the Gothic in The Prisoner of Chillon and Other Poems (December 1816) and his verse-drama Manfred (1817) – leading later to the ‘Norman Abbey’ cantos in Don Juan (left incomplete when he died at Missolonghi in 1824) – then Mary’s novel Frankenstein (1818) and Polidori’s novella The Vampyre (1819), perhaps the two most influential of all Gothic fictions to this day. [Jerrold E. Hogle ‘Gothic and Second-Generation Romanticism: Lord Byron, P. B. Shelley, John Polidori and Mary Shelley’, in Angela Wright and Dale Townshend (eds) Romantic Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion (Edinburgh University Press 2016), 112]
Polidori also says that it was Shelley who was so terrified by this recitation. Indeed, Polidori tells us more: ‘according to Doctor Polidori’s anecdote, the “sight to dream of, not to tell” caused Shelley to hallucinate women with eyes for nipples and run screaming from the room where Byron was reading the poem aloud’ [Anne C. McCarthy, ‘Dumbstruck: Christabel, the Sublime, and the Willing Suspension of Disbelief’, Romantic Circles].

Jacobens' reference to the Edinburgh Review is to that journal's negative review of Coleridge's poem.
When Christabel was attacked in the Edinburgh in September, 1816—by Hazlitt, it has been commonly thought—Byron's name was linked with Coleridge's, and he was abused for his professed admiration of Christabel. “Et tu Jeffrey?” was Byron's comment upon this latest attack, for he believed Jeffrey to be the reviewer; and he wrote to Moore explaining his position in the matter. “I praised it,” he said, “firstly, because I thought well of it; secondly, because Coleridge was in great distress, and after doing what little I could do for him in essentials, I thought that the public avowal of my good opinion might help him further, at least with the booksellers. I am very sorry that Jeffrey has attacked him because, poor fellow, it will hurt him in mind and pocket. As for me, he's welcome.” To Murray he wrote, “I won't have anyone sneer at Christabel: it is a fine wild poem.” [Edwin M. Everett, ‘Lord Byron's Lakist Interlude’, Studies in Philology 55:1 (1958), 63-4]
Byron, of course, was vastly more famous in Germany (and elsewhere) than Coleridge, which is why Jacobsen tags his account of Christabel to the other poet. An interesting snapshot, though, of the effect a Gothic tale was reputed to be able to have on its audience.

I'm trying to track down where in the German edition of Byron's poems ‘Dr Adrian’ actually says this, but so far without success. It must be in the preface to Adrian's Byron: Erzählungen, in Versen und Prosa, mit einem Versuche über des Dichters Leben und Schriften (Frankfurt, Sauerländer 1819), but I can't locate a copy online. (The best I could do was an 1830 edition, Lord Byron's Sämmtliche Werke, Herausgegeben von Dr. Adrian, ordentlichem öffentlichem Professor der neueren Literatur an der Universität zu Gießen, but neither preface nor notes here make any reference to Coleridge.)

Friday, 3 July 2020

"Zahuris, Red of Eye ..."



This curious folk evidently appealed to Coleridge’s imagination:
The Zahuris red of eye & dwarf in stature, have the power of seeing in the earth as if it were water, & all treasures, bodies, mines springs, &c, appearing therein as substances in the bottom or middle of a transparent Fluid—see only on Tuesdays & Fridays, & are always born on Good Friday.— [Notebooks 2 (1804-1808), 3148]
Kathleen Coburn strikes a rare bum-note with her glossing of this entry: ‘The Zahuris have not been tracked down to their native country; possibly they spring full-blown out of the head of STC.’ They don’t, though. Their native country is Spain, and they spring from Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire Historique et Critique; published in 1697-1709. (The first English translation of this encyclopedia appeared in 1709, with a revised translation appearing in 1734-41; this latter is the edition Coleridge owned). And here is the entry that Coleridge read:
ZAHURIS, a name given to certain men in Spain whose eye-sight is so very piercing, as is pretended that they perceive, under ground, streams of water, veins of metals, as also treasures and carcasses. They have very red eyes. Martin del Rio relates, that when he was at Madrid in 1575, a little boy of this sort was seen there. It is remarkable, that, though this author is very ready to ascribe extraordinary effects to devils, he yet does not believe that the Zahuris discover water and metals under ground, by any magical compact; he imagining that they discover water by vapours, and mines by the herbs which grow in those places; with regard to treasures and dead carcasses, he pretends the devil directs these people to them, since they can declare what treasures and dead bodies they see, and are indued with this power only on Tuesdays and Fridays.
[A General Dictionary, Historical and Critical: a New and Accurate Translation of that of the Celebrated Mr Bayle, by the Reverend Mr John Peter Bernard, the Reverend Mr Thomas Birch and Mr John Lockman, vol 10 (1741), 249-50]
In a footnote, Bayle adds a little more information by quoting one ‘Gutierrius, a Spanish Physician’ to the effect that ‘the credulity of the common people’ supposes ‘that they are born on Good Friday, and that they owe this wonderful privilege to their birth day’, something Gutierrius himself scorns: vide quam futile ac irreligiosum commentum, see what vain and irreligious things some people believe!

There’s nothing here about dwarfs, which Coleridge seems to have imported into his note from his own head.

Many years later STC mentions the Zahuris again. July 1822 he was reading Johann Carl Passavant’s Untersuchungen uber den Lebensmagnetismus und das Hellsehen (Frankfurt am Main 1821), writing in his notebook ‘Dr Passavant has enlivened and renewed my interest in the Magia Thelematica, Thelematomagy, or Zoo-magnetism; but in other respects has left me as he found me’ [Notebooks 4 (1819-1826), 4908]. ‘Passavant's approach,’ says Coburn, ‘appealed to Coleridge because it was that of a medical man interviewing patients and citing cases, interested in the historical background of his subject and seeing in it a pious argument for the power of the spiritual. There were in his work links with magnetists familiar by name to Coleridge’. This quasi-mesmerist thesis, Coleridge thought, had certain explanatory advantages:
The supposition of the truth of Zoo-magnetism enables us rationally to account for a series of Phaenomena hitherto unexplained, or most unsatisfactorily explained away with Lies, Tricks, or the Devil, the Oracles of the ancients, Charms, Amulets, witchcraft, Prophecies, Divination, and extra ordinary Individuals, as the Female who misled Montanus & thro' him Tertullian, Behmen, Swedenborg, & (according to their own declarations, Philo Judaeus, and Porphyry) and of a lower kind, Bleton, Aymar, Pedegache, Campetti, the Zahuris of Spain, & (still living) the Swiss Female, Catharina Beutler.— [Notebooks 4:4908]
The specifics of Notebook entry 3134 can only have come from Bayle, but Coleridge later re-encountered the Zahuri through another text: Jean Paul Richter, whom Coleridge loved. Henry Crabb Robinson lent STC a number of Jean Paul books on 10th August 1812, including his sprawling 1800 novel Titan (notebook entries 4276-79 are all excerpts from this novel that STC has copied-out or summarised).



Early in this novel a strange hooded figure approaches the protagonist, Albano de Zesara:
While Zesara was thus traversing waves, mountains, and stars with a stiller and stiller soul, and when at last garden and sky and lake ran together into one dark Colossus, and he sadly thought of his pale mother, and of his sister, and of the announced wonders of his future life, a figure dressed all in black, with the image of a death's-head on its breast, came slowly and painfully, and with trembling breath, up the terraces behind him. “Remember death!” it said. “Thou art Albano de Zesara?” “Yes,” said Zesara, “who art thou?” “I am,” it said, “a father of death. It is not from fear, but from habit, I tremble so.”

The limbs of the man continued to quake all over, in a frightful and almost audible manner. Zesara had often wished an adventure for his idle bravery; now he had it before him. … He asked, with indignation: “Who art thou? What knowest thou? What wilt thou?” and grasped at the folded hands of the monk, and held both imprisoned in one of his. “Thou dost not know me, my son,” said the father of death, calmly. “I am a Zahouri,* and come from Spain from thy sister; I see the dead down in the earth, and know beforehand when they will appear and discourse. But their apparition above ground I do not see, and their discourse I cannot hear.” [Jean Paul, Titan 1:45-46]

Jean Paul adds, as you can see, a footnote: ‘The Zahouris in Spain are, as is well known, gifted with the power of discerning corpses, veins of metal, &c. far under the earth.’ His message to Zesara is that his sister in Spain is about to die, and that before going to heaven her spirit will zip over to Northern Italy (where they are) with a message. How this fits with the ‘Zahouri’ ability to see through the earth isn’t made clear. But everything the trembling old man says comes true: the evening star sinks behind the mountains and his sister’s spirit appears to Zesara telling him: ‘Love the beautiful one whom I will show thee,—I will help thee.’ Straight away a woman as beautiful as Aphrodite ‘with long, chestnut-brown hair, and dark eyes, and a shining, swan-like neck, and with the complexion and vigor of the richest climate’ rises from the lake, revealing herself ‘down to her bosom’ before sinking again below the surface. Then the sister-spirit repeats ‘Love the beautiful one whom I showed thee’ and vanishes.
The monk coldly and silently prayed during the scene, of which he heard and saw nothing. At length he said: “On the next Ascension-day, at the hour of thy birth, thou wilt stand beside a heart which is not within a breast, and thy sister will announce to thee from Heaven the name of thy bride.”
Fruity stuff!

It’s not clear to me how seriously STC took any of this (fairly seriously, is the implication of Notebook entry 4908). It's also not clear whether he was aware what the word ‘Zahuri’ or ‘Zahouri’ meant. I can’t find any evidence that he ever laid eyes on Stephen Weston’s Remains of Arabic in the Spanish and Portuguese Languages (London 1810)—too late for the first Notebook entry, of course—which implies that the whole thing was a sort of hoax played on foreigners.


So how does the dwarf creep into Coleridge's original notebook entry? We can make a pretty good guess: Coleridge's mind has moved from people on the surface seeing into the innards of the earth to beings living inside those innards, which is to say: Kobolds. Coleridge learnt about these creatures when he lived in Germany and the notebooks often make reference to them. They can ‘materialize in the form of an animal, fire, a human being, and a candle. The most common depictions of kobolds show them as humanlike figures the size of small children. Kobolds who live in human homes wear the clothing of peasants; those who live in mines are hunched and ugly.’

Although Jean Paul's ‘Zahouri’ sppears as a trembling old man the original ‘Zahuri’ reported by Martin del Rio was a child. Coleridge has conflated this underground-y childishness with Kobold-ness. In doing so he creates a very different kind of creature, related to but different from kobolds (who were thought to live in the rock, as fish live in water and we in air). His Zahuris live in air but see through rock like water (and can perhaps swim in it, as we swim in water). It would make a fine addition to any Fantasy novel, or perhaps, though here I am growing fanciful, to the final howevermany sections of STC's unfinished Christabel. Maybe not altogether fanciful though: in his German translation of the Bible, Martin Luther renders the Hebrew lilith in Isaiah 34:14 as kobold.