Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Is This A Previously Undiscovered Coleridge Poem?

The answer is, probably not. At any rate, if I had any hard evidence I'd be submitting to a high-profile academic journal in Romanticism studies, not piffling around with it on this blog. Still: it is at least interesting.

Even if (outside chance) it is by Coleridge, it wouldn't really count as an original poem, since it is a translation from the German poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803): very famous in his day, almost wholly forgotten nowadays. When Coleridge and Wordsworth spent time in Germany in the late 1790s one of the things they did was pay the (by now, elderly) Klopstock a visit. This was before Coleridge acquired his fluent German, and K. spoke no English, so the whole conversation had to be mediated through Wordsworth's French (which K. spoke not very well and STC not at all). There's an account of this 1798 meeting in the third of 'Satyrane's Letters', published in The Friend (1809), and later in the Biographia Literaria (1817). 'Wordsworth told him,' Coleridge reports, 'that I intended to translate a few of his odes as specimens of German lyrics.' These translations, if they were ever undertaken, have not been discovered; although by the end of 1799 STC's German was pretty good, and he certainly exercised his linguistic skills by translating German poetry, including Schiller's Wallenstein and Goethe's Faust.

So might the following anonymous 'Ode, from Klopstock' [from the London-based magazine, The German Museum, Or, Monthly Repository of the Literature of Germany, the North and the Continent in General (1801), 400] be by STC?
Moons move round earths,
Earths round suns;
All the host of suns move
Round one great sun.
Our Father who art in Heaven.

On all these worlds, lightened and giving light,
Live spirits unresembling each other, in powers, in bodies;
But all Conceive God, and rejoice in God.
Hallowed be thy name.

He the great supreme of all,
Who can alone wholly conceive himself,
And in himself wholly rejoice,
Formed the vast design
For the happiness of all the Inhabitants of his Worlds.
To us thy kingdom come.

Well for them, that he, not they,
Their present, and their future regulated.
Well for them, well!
And well also for us.
Thy will be done in Heaven,
As it is on Earth.

He raises with the straw, the car on high;
He ripens the golden apple, the blushing grape;
He feeds the lamb on the hill, the roe in the wood;
But his thunder also rolls along;
And the hail lays it low
On the straw on the branch, on the hill, and in the wood.
Give us this day our daily bread.

Do mortals and sinners also dwell
High over the thunders path?
Does there the friend become the enemy?
Must there the friend by death be separated?
Our debts forgive us
As we forgive our debtors
Separate roads lead to the great end,
To happiness;
Some wind through desarts,
Yet in these some joys spring forth
And refresh the thirsty.
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
Adoration to thee, who the great sun encompassed
With suns, with earths and moons:
Who created spirits,
Regulated their bliss,
Raises the ears,
Calls to death,
Who leads through desarts to the great end and refreshes the traveller.
Adoration to thee,

For thine is the kingdom, the power,
And the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.
There's no direct evidence linking this to STC, but it has a certain Coleridgean flavour, I'd say. And after his return to Britain in 1800 Coleridge was certainly known (and known as a Germanist) to the London literary scene from which the editors (amongst them, the Rev Peter Will) sourced their copy: he earned his living as a journalist during these years, after all. And to speculate further, 1801 might be close enough to the (anonymous) publication of the Lyrical Ballads to mean that Coleridge would keep his name from this translation—although such anonymity was also German Museum house style. It's a possible, then; though it would be nice to have some harder evidence.

No comments:

Post a Comment