261. To Thomas Poole Address: Mr Thomas Poole | Nether Stowey | Somersetshire | Englandsingle payed to Cuxhaven MS. New York Public Lib. Part of the journal in this letter was revised and published in Satyrane's Letters, iii. See The Friend, No. 18, 21 December 1809, and Biog. Lit. 1817, ii. 287-58. Postmark: Foreign Office, 10 December 1798. Ratzeburgh. Novemb. 20th, 1798 My beloved Poole -- How comes it that I hear from none of you? -- Since your's of the 8th of October, there has been a dreary Silence. Am I not a Friend, a Husband, a Father? -- And do there not belong to each of these it's own longings and inquietudes? -The Post comes in here four times a week; and for these last three Weeks four times every week have I hoped and hoped for a letter, till my heart is almost weary of hoping -- and no hour passes in which my anxiety about you does not for a few minutes turn me away from my studies. -- I fear that you have not written; and I fear that you have written --: if the latter be the Case, you may be blaming me -- & Sara imagining that I do not feel my own & her absence as I ought to feel it. -- Friday, Sept. 21st. Wordsworth & I accompanied Klopstock to his Brother's who lives ten minutes walk from the Gates, in a row of little Summer-houses -- so they appear -- with ugly rows of cropped & meagre Elms before them. -- Whatever beauty may be before the Poet's Eyes at present, it must certainly be purely of his own creatiori -- thought I, as I entered the House. -- We waited a few minutes in a neat little parlour, ornamented with Prints, the subjects of which were from Klopstock Odes. -- The Poet entered. --I was much disappointed in his countenance. I saw no Likeness to the Bust. --. There was no comprehension in the Forehead -- no weight over the eyebrows -- no expression of peculiarity, either moral or intellectual, in the eyes; -- there was no massiveness in the general Countenance. -- He is not quite so tall as I am -- his upper jaw is toothless, his under jaw all black Teeth; and he wore very large half-boots, which his legs completely filled. They were enormously swelled. -- He was lively, kind and courteous. He talked in French with Wordsworth -- &, with difficulty, spoke a few sentences to me in English. -- We were with him somewhat more than an hour. He began the conversation by expressing his rapture, in a -441- very voluble utterance, at the surrender of the French in Ireland 1 -- and his sanguine belief in Nelson's Victory. -- He talked as a most vehement Anti-gallican. -- The Subject changed to Poetry -& I enquired, in Latin, concerning the history of German Poetry, & of the elder German Poets. -- To my great astonishment he confessed, he knew very little on the subject -- he had indeed read occasionally one or two of their elder writers -- but not as to be able to speak of their merits. -- He told me that Professor Ebeling would probably give me every information of this kind -- the subject had not particularly excited his curiosity. -- (N.B. He answered in French, & Wordsworth interpreted it to me) --He shewed us a superb Edition of his works in Quarto -- two Volumes containing his Odes are all that are yet printed --. The price is £2, the volume / nearly twice as dear as the same sort of Books in England. From whence I conclude that they import the Paper from England, & that Printers capable of the Beautiful in Printing are few & of course have their own Prices. He talked of Milton & Glover; 2 & thought, Glover's blank Verse superior to Milton's! -- Wordsworth & myself expressed our surprize -- & Wordsworth explained his definition & ideas of harmonious Verse, that it consisted in the arrangement of pauses & cadences, & not in the even flow of single Lines -- Klopstock assented, & said that he meant only in single Lines that Glover was the Superior. He said, he had read Milton, in a prose Translation, when he was 14. -- I understood this myself, & Wordsworth interpreted Klopstock's French, as I had already construed it. He appeared to know very little of Milton -- or indeed of our Poets in general. He spoke with great Indignation of the English Prose Translation of his Messiah -- All the Translations had been bad, very bad -- but the English was no Translation -- there were pages on pages, not in the Original --: & half the Original was not to be found in the Translation. Wordsworth told him that I intended to translate a few of his Odes as specimens of German Lyrics -- he then said to me in English, 'I wish, you would render into English some select Passages of the Messiah, & revenge me of your Countryman.' -- It was the liveliest Thing, which he produced in the whole Conversation. He told us that his first Ode was fifty years older than his last. I looked at him with much emotion -- I considered him as the venerable Father of German Poetry; as a good man; as a Christian; with legs enormously swelled; seventy four years old; yet active and lively in his motions, as a boy; active, lively, chearful and kind and communicative -- and the Tears swelled ____________________ 1 On 8 Sept. 1798 General Humbert, who had conducted a French expedition to Ireland, surrendered to Cornwallis. 2 Richard Glover ( 1712-85), author of Leonidas, a blank verse epic. -442- into my eyes; and could I have made myself invisible and inaudible, I should have wept outright. -- In the picture of Lessing there was a Toupee Periwig which enormously injured the effect of his Physiognomy -- Klopstock wore the same, powered, &c -- / it had an ugly look; & Powder ever makes an old man's face look dirty. -It is an honor to Poets & Great Men that you think of them as parts of Nature; and any thing of Trick & Fashion wounds you in them as much as when you see Yews clipped into miserable peacocks. -- The Author of the Messiah should have worn his own Grey Hair. -- Powder and the Periwig were to the Eye what Mr Milton would be to the Ear --. -- Klopstock talked what appeared to me great nonsense about the superior power which the German Language possessed, of concentering meaning. He said, he had often translated parts of Homer & Virgil line by line; and a German Line was always sufficient for a Greek One. -- He observed that in English we could not do this. -- I answered that in English we could commonly render I Greek line in a line & a half English; & that I conjectured, that a Line and a half English contained no more words than one German Hexameter. -- He did not understand me well& I was glad of it. -- It appeared to me great nonsense -- & since I have read so many of the German Poets, I find that it really was nonsense. I have translated some German Hexameters into English -- & three lines English will express four lines German. The reason is evident -- our language abounds in monosyllables. -- We took our leave. We did not see Klopstock's Wife. -- He never had any children -- & this is his second Wife. -- Klopstock possesses a pension from the Court of Denmark, or rather I believe from the Bernstorff Family -- It was procured for him by his Friend, Count Stolberg the Poet -- whose Sister was Bernstorff's Wife. I need not tell you, that this Bernstorff was the great & good Prime Minister of Denmark -- whose name smells like a sweet Odor thro' the whole North of Europe / & his Son succeeds him in his office, & tho' not in Talents, yet in Virtue. -- At the beginning of the French Revolution Klopstock wrote some fiery Odes in praise of France -- he received high & honorary Presents from the French Republic, &, like our Priestley, was invited to the French Legislature, which he declined. -- But when French Liberty metamorphosed herself into a Fury, he sent back the Presents with an Ode, expressing his Recantation -- & his abhorrence of the French Proceedings. -- And since then, he has [been] more than enough an Antigallican. -- I will anticipate a little. -- On Sunday 28rd I went to Ratzeburgh -- & stayed there till Thursday -- / In this Interval Wordsworth dined at the Country house of Klopstock's Brother -- & the Poet -443- & his Wife dined with him. -- The Wife had been a great Beauty, & retained the proofs of it -- but according to [him & Miss) W. -She was vain & haughty -- & gratified her pride by manifestly exercising her authority over the Poet, as if conscious alwa[ys] who it was over whom she was ruling. -- So much for her. -Wordsworth had a long [&] various Conversation on literature with Klopstock-but it [was] (& Wordsworth agrees with me) all very commonplacet He [s]poke in high terms of Wieland, as the greatest Master of the German Language; but when prest on the subject of his immorality, he confessed that he would not have written the Oberon. -- He spoke with the keenest contempt of Schiller's Productions; & said, they could not retain their fame many years. -- Of Kant he said, that he was a Mountebank & the Disgrace of Germany -- an unintelligible Jargonist. -- And that his New Lights were going out very fast in Germany. (N.D. / I meet every where tho', with some SNUFFS that have a live spark in them -- & fume under your nose in every company. -- All are Kantians whom I have met with.) -- Of our poets he knew very little. He spoke of Shakespeare's absurdities in a manner which proved he had felt but little from his beauties. -- Of Gray he knew nothing but his Elegy -- An Englishman some years back had given him Collins's Poems, with which he was pleased. -- He spoke of his own Odes as excelling chiefly in lyric Construction; & therein thought himself a successful Imitator of the Ancient Lyric. -- Wordsworth confessed, he had never discovered either sense or beauty in the construction of Horace's Odes; but of this Klopstock would not even hear! -- Now here comes a melancholy Story: -- as it implies a littleness & vanity in the Old Poet that is painful to contemplate. -- He said, he had first planned the Messiah when he was Seventeen -- that he meditated on the Plan three years before he wrote a Line -- / & that he had never seen Milton till he had finished his Plan. -- This was a flat self-contradiction; but he appeared, according to Wordsworth, very fearful lest he should be considered as an Imitator of Milton! -- / -- I was vexed to the Heart to hear this Story -- & the Wordsworths & I strive to believe that it was a mistake on our part; but we cannot. However, we shall never mention it except to our most intimate Friends who do not live in or about London. Well -- so much for that. -- Well, he meditated three years on the Plan -- & then began to write; at first, in measured Prose, like the Telemachus, in which he succeeded tolerably well -- At last the Thought struck him that the Ancient Hexameter would suit the German Language. There had been already some specimens of German Hexameter; but most miserable ones. -- He set himself to -444- work, & in the course of a day or two had constructed 20 German Hexameters; & was so pleased with them that from henceforward he wrote only in Hexameters. -- He published, thro' the urgency of Friends, the six first Books in his 28rd year: -- & they were received with rapture. -- Such is the History of the Messiah from the Poet's own Mouth. -- Perhaps, you will ask, Have you read any of Klopstock's Poetry? -- But a little, & that little was sad Stuff! -- They call him the German Milton -- a very German Milton indeed! -- A sensible young man here assures me that Kl.'s poetical Fame is going down Hill. -- I have heard from Wordsworth -- He is at Goslar -- where he arrived six weeks ago / & his violent hatred of letter-writing had caused his ominous silence -- for which he accuses himself in severe terms. -- Goslar is an old decaying city at the Foot of the Hartz Mountain[s] -- provisions very cheap, & lodgings very cheap; but no Society -- and therefore as he did not come into Germany to learn the Language by a Dictionary, he must remove: which he means to do at the end of the Month. His address is -- la grande Rue de Goslar en Basse Saxe. -- Dorothy says -- 'William works hard, but not very much at the German.' -- This is strange -- I work at nothing else, from morning to night -- / -- It is very difficult to combine & arrange the German Sentences -- and I make miserable Havoc with the Genders -- but yet my progress is more rapid than I could myself have believed. -- We are well -- very well. -- There is a fine lovely Frost. -God love you, & my Sara & Babes -- Love to your dear Mother. S. T. Coleridge