Thursday, 14 April 2016

How many of Coleridge's Latin poems are actually Coleridge's?



No-one is going to pretend that Coleridge is a great, or even an especially noteworthy neo-Latin poet. Landor aside (and Landor was sui generis, which is the polite academic way of saying 'eccentric to the point of being bonkers') the validity of Neo-Latin verse had more-or-less died by the time of Romanticism. Indeed, the last Neo-Latin poet of truly international reputation and greatness was probably Casimir, in the seventeenth-century (the 'Polish Horace'); even such accomplished Latinist contemporaries of his as Cowley and Milton wrote primarily in their vernacular. Still, Coleridge read a lot of Latin, and sometimes wrote in Latin too. It's just that he wasn't always original when he wrote in Latin.

From time to time on this blog I've had reason to look at some of Coleridge's Latin verse. As often as not, as with his 'Ad Vilmum Axiologum' (1807) (which turns out to be mostly re-fried Ariosto), 1814's 'National Independence' or 'Magna Dabit (1812), I find that Latin poems attributed to Coleridge in the standard edition of his verse are not by him at all. Many of these, I have to say, are instances where poems that were never published in STC's day, and never intended to publication, are pulled out of his Notebooks; so it's hard to blame Coleridge himself for this. In many cases he clearly copied out some Latin that took his fancy, didn't attribute it, and energetic editors have assumed he composed it.

Still, I thought I'd have a look to see how many of the Latin poems attributed to Coleridge by J C C Mays in the Princeton Poetical Works are actually his. In what follows, Latin poetry attributed to STC but not actually by him is marked with an asterisk. [I am not counting the poem Mays numbers as 170, 'De Papa: Vaticinium Haud Valde Obscurum, Nee Incredibile' (1798), which was published anonymously in the Morning Post without a name, not collected or even mentioned anywhere by Coleridge. Mays sees 'reasonable grounds' for attributing it to STC, but I don't agree, since (a) though other neo-Latin writers, Landor not least, often did write mock epitaphs like this, Coleridge doesn't do it anywhere else; and (b) the Latin is very rough and unmetrical. But there's no way of proving Mays, or I, wrong or right on that].

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23. 'Honos Alit Artes'. A Latin ode in four quatrains, originally part of a letter sent to STC's brother George. It begins:
Cernis, volucris, quae regit alites
Inane vastum scandit ut altior,
Scanditque fixis viva Solis
Lumina suspiciens ocellis?

[You see that bird, monarch of winged creatures,
into the vast void climbing higher
and climbing, seeing the living sun's
light with unmoving little eyes?]
This poem is original to Coleridge

27. 'Ardua Prima Via Est'. This poem, which takes a famous Ovidian tag as title and extrapolates from it, is original to Coleridge. Neither the Latin nor the metre are very good, actually.

50. 'Latin Lines on Ottery's Inhabitants' (1793). Another poem included in a letter to George Coleridge, about the departure of their brother Edward Coleridge from the family home: 'Ast Hunc Otteriae Juvenes flerunt abeuntem', 'the flower of Ottery manhood mourned his departure'. Original to Coleridge.

*54. 'Latin Verses, Sent to George Coleridge'. Four stanzas beginning:
Ite mordaces, procul ite, Curae!
Me vocat notis Helicon viretis,
Me sacrum lauri nemus, et canorum
Phocidos antrum.

[Away from me, go far away, gnawing Care!
I hear the call of Helicon's familiar meadows
The call of the sacred laurel grove, and the white
cave of Phocis!]
This is not by Coleridge; it's from a poem by Casimir (1595-1640):

It's hard to say, actually, whether Casimir was so famous (Coleridge quite often translated him, as in 67 'Song: Imitated from Casimir' and 68 'To a Friend', also based on Casimir; and he also quotes him in the last chapter of the Biographia) to mean that George would be expected to recognise this poem, or whether this is an example of Coleridge trying to pass somebody else's work as his own. Since the context, in the letter, is him thinking about entering a poem for the Cambridge Browne medal, I'm suspicious it might be the latter.

71. 'Latin Lines on Mary Evans'. Original to Coleridge:
Vivit, sed mihi non vivit—nova forte marita,
Ah dolor! alterius carâ, a cervice pependit.
Vos, malefida valete accensæ insomnia mentis,
Littora amata valete! Vale ah formosa Maria!

[She lives but she does not live for me—it seems she is newly wed,
Ah sorrow! She hangs upon the beloved neck of somebody else.
Farewell to you, deceiving dreams of a fevered mind,
Beloved shores, farewell! Farewell, ah, lovely Mary!]
*323: 'Latin Lines to William Sotheby' (Sept 1802). These are from Italian poet Girolamo Fracastoro (c. 1476–1478–1553)'s 'Hiems, ad eundem'. I discuss them here.

*328. 'Latin Lines on a Former Friendship' (Nov 1802). Actually from the Libri Epistolarum (1735) by Manuel Martí (1663–1737), and I discuss it here.

374. 'Latin Lines to William Wordsworth as Judge' (1806-10). These 9 lines are original to Coleridge. I talk about them here.

*430. 'Ad Vilmum Axiologum' (1807). Most of this poem is from Ariosto's 'Ad Petrum Bembum' [Carmina, 7] I discuss it at length here.

435. 'Latin Lines to Accompany a Personal Emblem' (1808). Six lines: 'Eheu! dum me mea Psyche,/Dulce decus veris aprici,/Pulchra Comes et Zephyrorum,/Dum Psyche me fugit eheu!/Pallidulum me tua taeda/Quid juvat, o inamata Juno!' Alas when my Psyche (soul/butterfly) has (gone) from me/Sweet delight of sunny Spring/Lovely partner of the Zephyrs/When Psyche has abandoned me alas!/Your little torch cannot delight pale me, unloved Juno!' The emblem in question is a butterfly. This poem is original to Coleridge.

436. 'Latin Lines to Accompany a Second Emblem' (1808). Two lines: 'Sine sole, absque Leda/Quid juvat nos junonia Taeda?' 'Without sun, lacking Leda/What joy in Juno's pine-torch?' The torch represents marriage. Original to Coleridge.

440. 'Latin Elegaics on Guy Fawkes'. Two lines of deliberately bad Latin, a joke: supposedly 'a schoolboy construing Guy Vulpes'. Original to Coleridge.

489. 'Latin Lines Perhaps Connected with John Morgan'. Four sexually-explicit lines:
Infelix, ah plusquam infelicissimus Ille,
Semivir in thalamum qui duxit Sesqui-puellam,
Mutumque ossitiens, tantique voraginem hiatüs
Vix rigidi tubuli lacrymoso röre lacessit!
'Unlucky, ah more than unlucky he,/that Half-man who takes to his bed a woman half-as-much again,/And into her silent, thirsty, wide-open cavern/Weeps a little dew from his tiny, rigid tube.' As far as I can see this composition is original to Coleridge.

*493. 'Latin Distich on Giving and Receiving'. This is actually the publisher's or editor's dedication to a man called Faustus Petro Coardo Mecoenatusa, in a late 15th-century edition of Saint Ambrose's Praeit Epistola Nuncupatoria; variously reprinted. I discuss this couplet here.

*508. 'National Independence: A Latin Fragment'. This poem (discussed at length here) is mostly Claudian, with a few other bits and pieces Frankenstein's-monstered into the middle.

570. 'A Practical Problem Concerning Flies'. A four line squib:
Sit alba, sit fusca
(Ni res est absurda)
Quod fuit Merda in Muscă
Jacet Merda in Merdà
'Whether white or black-dye/(Unless it's absurd)/What was shit in the fly/Lies a turd in-turd'. The Notebook entry where this was drafted [CN 4:4710] makes the 'interred' joke plainer: the practical problem is one 'suggested by the Grave Problem', and whether a breed of flies might be raised capable of 'performing burial-service'. This is Coleridge's own composition.

*587. 'Latin Couplet'. As Mays notes, this couplet is based closely on a line from John Swan's Speculum Mundi (1670).

*625. 'Tò τού EΣTHΣE τού έπιθανούς Epitaphium testamentarium αύτóγραφον' (1826) [The at-death's-door "Testimentary Epitaph" of STC, written with his own hand]. This is a couplet:
Quae linquam nihil, aut nihili, aut vix sunt mea—sordes
Do MORTI;—reddo caetera, Christe! tibi
['That which is left behind is nothing, or nothingness, or barely even my own—the corruption/I give to DEATH: I return the rest, Christ!, to you.']. Despite STC calling this an autographon, it actually draws heavily on John Wigand's 1587 epitaph, which was often reprinted. Here, for instance, it is, in the Scots Magazine or Edinburgh Literary Review [71 (1809), 812]:



685. 'Specimen of Pure Latinity: Ex Tempore'. Two versions of the same four lines of (deliberately, and comically) bad Latin. Original to Coleridge.

*701. 'Splendida Bilis'. Another short comic piece: various Latin terms for various illness, glossed with punning Englishness: 'mucus' - 'miew! curse!' and so on. One would hardly call this an original composition (it's not metrical, for instance).

702. 'Latin Address to Christopher Morgan'. Nothing much is known of this Morgan; although he appears to have been a kind of pimp and (as we would now say) drug dealer to George IV. These four lines (the fourth unfinished) are original to Coleridge.

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So: that's twenty-one Latin poems collected by Mays (not counting 170) as by Coleridge, of which nine are not by Coleridge. A strike rate of a little over half.

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