Social and political commentary from a conservative perspective

Sara Coleridge the poet

I am excited by the news that someone has discovered 120 poems written by Sara Coleridge, the daughter of Samuel Coleridge.

Who would have thought it? Probably not Coleridge himself. He wrote his poem ‘Metrical Feet – Lesson for a boy’, to teach his sons all about the different metrical feet used in English poetry. In the first draft of the poem, it was addressed to his first son, Hartley. He later revised it to refer instead to his other son, Derwent.

The poem has a touching second stanza devoted to Derwent, expressing Coleridge’s hopes that he grow up to be a good man, and a fine poet. I quote a part:

If Derwent be innocent, steady, and wise,
And delight in the things of earth, water, and skies;
Tender warmth at his heart, with these meters to show it,
With sound sense in his brains, may make Derwent a poet —

So Hartley first, and then, Derwent. Not a word about Sara. Perhaps Coleridge didn’t think she would make a good poet. Small wonder no-one thought to check before now whether she had actually written any poetry.

I look forward to reading her poems.

20 Comments »

20 Responses to “Sara Coleridge the poet”

  1. Tory Lady Says:

    Interesting that Coleridge (or an offspring thereof) should be in the news at this moment. I am currently enjoying Youth and Age.

  2. Joe Says:

    There is a reasonable chance of her work being OK. In my opinion Coleridge stands head and shoulders above his fellow Lake poet, Wordsworth, who I have always regarded as overly sentimental and tedious. All that wondering lonely as a cloud and shades of the prison house and so on. Southey I know little of.
    Coleridge on the other hand is a descriptive genius- comparable only to Keats in that respect. The intervention of the salesman who prevented his completion of Kubla Khan must rank amongst the greatest tragedies of English Poetry.
    I would be interested to see what his daughter picked up from him- was she a heavy opium user also?

  3. Bel Says:

    Joe, shocking to say, but I agree with you 100 per cent!

    Following today’s Coleridge news, I spent some time immersing myself in Kubla Khan.

    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.

    What bliss. What beautiful poetry.
    I agree with you about Wordsworth. Coleridge was far superior, in my opinion.

    I meant to ask you yesterday, on the other post, whether you had studied the work of Immanuel Kant. What a coincidence that we should discuss Coleridge today.

    There is a detailed page on Sara Coleridge on Wikipedia. She was an author and translator. No mention of opium, though. :)

  4. Bel Says:

    TL, I love Youth and Age. It can be both amusing and depressing, depending on your mood at the time you read it. :)

  5. Joe Says:

    Bel, Critique of Pure Reason is one of those books that sit on my book case waiting to be completed. It has to one of the most abstract works I have ever attempted to read and reading more than three chapters at a time can give you brainache.
    The Kubla Khan verse you quote was written after he got rid of the salesman- it is a lament for the vision he had lost in the intervening time and knew now he would never complete…
    Far more intersting than another tedious composition of three hundred lines, undivided into stanzas, basically describing one of Wordsworth’s walks.

  6. Bel Says:

    I was aware of the lament for lost vision, but I didn’t realise the salesman was mixed up in that.

    I have the same problem with Critique of Pure Reason; it sits here uncompleted. I wouldn’t even attempt more than a few pages per sitting, let alone three chapters.

  7. Joe Says:

    A salesman for Porlock knocked on the door as he was writing. By the time he hd got rid of him, his vision had departed…
    Kant is one of those philosophers one feels one has to try to get to grips with simply because of his impact on subsequent philosphy- not to mention his influence on cosmological speculations. The irony is that although his work is very abstract, his arguments are actually aimed AGAINST abstract speculation. To Kant Empirical observation is the only real truth we have, although it could be argued that his real point is that there is no such thing as absolute truth.
    I think Nitezche is the easiest philosopher to read, Kant the hardest- hence our mutual failure to complete him.

  8. Joe Says:

    That should be Nietzche, obviously.

  9. Bel Says:

    I agree with your opinion of both Nietzche and Kant. Problably explains why the Nietzche option was the most popular in first year Philosophy class in university, while no-one wanted to study any more Kant than they were compelled to do. :)

  10. Joe Says:

    It says in the Telegraph that Sara shared her fathers habits- she wrote a poem on the joys of poppies.
    Another philosopher that is largely unread even by his adherants is Marx- again the first half of the first volume of Das Kapital is extremely abstract and each sentence about a paragraph long.
    Tom Paine is very easy to read- and quite enjotable!

  11. Bel Says:

    I read Das Kapital, and I have to agree with you about its unreadability. I much preferred Critique of the Gotha Programme. I found it a lot easier to read.

  12. Joe Says:

    Not read that, I’ll admit- I have read the Communist Manifesto and a little Engels.
    The No 1 book for unreadability has to be Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho!
    It is one book that I refused to continue reading after six or so chapters, parttly due to it’s dullness, but partly due to it’s unsubtle anti-catholicism.

  13. Morag the Mindbender Says:

    I have Immanuel Kant next to my pillow. I promise to tell you boys and girls (?) what it’s all about when I finish wrestling with it. Very pleased to hear poetry being discussed so eloquently. My most favored Christmas present this year was a poem that was penned with me in mind (or at least so I was told). Are any of you familiar with ‘Roses are red, violets are blue……?’ was he lying??!!!

  14. Bel Says:

    No, Morag, he wasn’t lying.

    ‘Roses are red, …’

    Never heard it before. :)

  15. Joe Says:

    That, Morag, is one of those conundrums only you can receive true enlightenment regarding, I fear…
    Maybe I should intoduce Kant to my bedside table. Unfortunately, I’m one of those annoying people who reads several books at the same time- there’s a pile of about eight there at the moment…

    Be a glass half full girl, assume it’s true!!!

  16. james higham Says:

    Coleridge would certainly not have thought it, preoccupied, as he was, with the man from Porlock.

    Bel, your testimonial is coming up later. You’re No.4 and I have 10 to do.

  17. Bel Says:

    Oh James, that’s great. :) I look forward to reading it.

    I have been thinking of doing mine, too. I have to get round to it soon.

  18. Jeremy Jacobs Says:

    What’s a good poetry book to start with?

  19. Bel Says:

    Jeremy, do you mean a book about poetry, or a book containing poetry?

  20. Pup Says:

    Actually, S. T. Coleridge was very proud of his daughter indeed. In 1818, he was given a portrait of her by William Collins, and it hung in his study, over his desk, until he died. And, when her first book, a hefty translation of a treatise about equestrian tribes in Paraguay, originally written in Latin (a language he taught her to read as a teenager) was published, this is what he said: ‘My dear daughter’s translation of this book is, in my judgement, unsurpassed for pure mother-English, by anything I have read for a long time’.

    It gets better. A few weeks before he died, Coleridge talked about a plan he’d hatched, years back, to write a fantasy adventure story in prose, not unlike Robinson Crusoe or Gulliver’s Travels. In his book, Literary Protégées of the Lake Poets (2006), Dennis Low argues that Sara Coleridge’s most ambitious creative work, Phantasmion (1837), is her imagining of what her father’s unwritten ‘phantasmagoric allegory’ would have looked like…

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