281: To Mrs. S. T. Coleridge Address: Mrs Coleridge | Nether Stowey | Somersetshire | England Pay'd to Cuxhaven MS. New York Public Lib. Pub. New Monthly Magazine, October 1835. The manuscript is badly torn, especially at the edges of the pages, and the words in brackets have been supplied from a transcript made by Thomas Ward. Postmark: Foreign Office, 3 June 1799. May 17th -- Friday Night. [ 1799] My dearest Love These Letters, & the Descriptions in them, may possibly recall to me real forms, i[f I should] ever take it into my head to read them again; but I fear that to you they must be [insupportably] unmeaning -- accumulated repetitions of the same words in almost the same Combinati[ons -- but how) can it be otherwise? In Nature all things are individual; but a Word is but an arb[itrary Character] for a whole Class of Things; so that the same description may in almost all cas[es be applied] to twenty different appearances -- & in addition to the difficulty of the Thing itse[lf I neither] am or ever was a good Hand at description. -- I see what I write / but alas[! I cannot] write what I see. / -- My last Letter concluded with the Oder Teich / from thence we enter[ed a second] Wood, & now the Snow met us in large masses, and we walked for two miles kn[ee deep in] it, with an inexpressible Fatigue, till we came to the Mount called Little Brock[en -- here even] the Firs deserted us, or only now & then, a patch of them, wind-shorn; no [higher than] one's knee, matted & cowering to the Ground like the Thorn bushes on our highest Sea-hills. -- The Soil was plashy & boggy / we -503- descended & came to the foot of the Great Brocken / without a rival the highest Mountain in all the north of Germany, & the seat of innumerable Superstitions. On the first day of May all the Witches dance here at midnight / & those who go may see their own Ghosts walking up & down with a little Billet on the Back, giving the Names of those who had wished them there: for 'I wish you on the Top of the Brock[en'] is a common Curse throughout the whole Empire. -- Well -- we ascended, the soil boggy, & [at] last reached the Height, which is 573 Toises above the level of the Sea. We visited the Blocksberg, a sort of Bowling Green inclosed by huge Stones, something like those at Stonehenge; & this is the Witches' Ball-room / thence proceeded to the house on the [hill] where we dined / & now we descended. My Toe was shockingly swoln, m[y feet] bladdered, and my whole frame seemed going to pieces with fatigu[e -- however] I went on, my key-note Pain, except when, as not unseldom happe[ned, I struck] my Toe against a Stone or Stub -- & this of course produced a bravura [of Torture --] In the evening about 7 we arrived at Elbinrode [Elbingerode] -- I was really unwell. The [transition] from my late Habit of sitting & writing for so many hours in the day to such in[tense] bodily exercise had been too rapid & violent / I went to bed with chattering Teeth / beca[me] feverish-hot, & remained tossing about & unable to sleep till two in the morning, [when] a perspiration burst out on me, I fell asleep, & got up in the morning qui[te well --] At the Inn they brought us an Album, or Stamm Buch, requesting that we w[ould write] our names, & something or other as a remembrance that we had been there. I wrote the follow[ing] Lines, which I send to you, not that they possess a grain of merit as Poetry: but because they contain a true account of my journey from the Brocken to Elbinrode. 1 I stood on Brocken's sovran height & saw Woods crowding upon woods, hills over hills, A surging Scene and only limited By the blue Distance. Wearily my way Downward I dragg'd thro' Fir-groves evermore, Where bright-green Moss heav'd in sepulchral forms, Speckled with sunshine; and, but seldom heard, The sweet Bird's Song became an hollow Sound; And the Gale murmuring indivisibly Preserv'd it's solemn murmur most distinct From many a Note of many a Waterbreak, And the Brook's Chatter; on whose islet stones ____________________ 1 Poems, i. 315. -504- The dingy Kidling with it's tinkling Bell Leapt frolicsome, or old romantic Goat Sat, his white Beard slow-waving! I mov'd on With low & languid thought: for I had found That grandest Scenes have but imperfect Charms, Where the sight 1 vainly wanders nor beholds One spot, with which the Heart associates Holy Remembrances of Child or Friend, Or gentle Maid, our first & early Love, Or Father, or the venerable Name Of our adored Country. O thou Queen, Thou delegated Deity of Earth, O 'dear dear' England, how my longing Eye Turn'd Westward, shaping in the steady Clouds Thy sands & high white Cliffs! Sweet Native Isle, This Heart was proud, yea, mine Eyes swam with Tears To think of Thee; & all the goodly view From sov'ran Brocken, woods and woody Hills, Floated away, like a departing Dream, Feeble and dim. -- Strangerl these Impulses Blame thou not lightly; nor will I profane With hasty Judgment or injurious Doubt That man's sublimer Spirit, who can feel That God is every where! the God who fram['d] Mankind to be one mighty Brotherhood, Himself our Father & the World our Ho[me!] We left Elbinrode, May the 14th (N.[B. Rode] signifies a Place from whence Roots [have] been grubbed up in order for building or Plantation. --) We travelled for half a mile thro' a wild Country of bleak stony Hills by our side with several Caverns, or rather mouths of Caverns, visible in their Breasts, & now we came to Rubell[and --] O it was a lovely Scene. Our road was at the foot of low Hills & here were a few neat Cottages -- behind us were high hil[Ls] with a few scattered Firs, & flocks [of] Goats visible on the topmo[st crags--] On our right Hand -- [a] fine shallow river of about thirty yards broad / & beyond the Ri[ver a crescent] Hill 2 clothed with firs that rise one above the other, like Spectators in an [Amphitheatre--] We advanced a little farther; the Crags behind us ceased to be visible; and now [the whole was on]e & complete; all that could be seen was the cottages at the foot of the low green ____________________ 1 eye. [Cancelled word in line above.] 2 A small, indistinct drawing appearing here in the manuscript has not been reproduced. -505- Hill (cottages embosomed (in fruit trees] in blossom), the Stream, & the little crescent of Firs. -- I lingered here, & [unwillingly lost sig]ht of it for a little while -- the Firs were so beautiful, & the masses [of Rocks, walls], & obelisks of Rocks, started up among them, in the very places where if they [had not been, a] painter with the Poet's Feeling, would have imagined them! -- We crossed the [River (it's] name Bode) entered the sweet wood, & came to the mouth of the Cavern with the man [who shews i]t -- it was a huge place, 800 feet in length & more in depth; of many [different apar]tments / the only thing that distinguished it from other caverns was that the Guide [who was really a] character, had the Talent of finding out & seeing uncommon Likenesses [in the different] forms of the Stalactite: Here was a nun -- this was Solomon's Temple -- [th]at was a Roman Catholic chapel -- here was a Lion's claw -- nothing but flesh & blood wanting to make it completely a claw/! -- This was an organ & had all the notes of the organ / &c & &c -- but alas I with all possible straining my eyes, ears, & my imagination I could see nothing but common Stalactite; -- & hear nothing but the dull ding of common Cavern Stones. One thing was really striking -- a huge Cone of Stalactite hung from the roof [of] the largest apartment, & on being struck gave perfectly the sound of a Death bell. [I was] behind, & heard it repeatedly at some distance / & the effect was very much [in the] Fairy Kind. / ----Gnomes & Things unseen, That toll mock death bells for mock funerals! -- [After] this a little clear well, & a black stream pleased me the most; & multiplied by [fifty and] coloured ad libitum, might be well enough to read of in a novel or poem. -We [returned & now] before the Inn on the green Plat around the May pole the villagers were [celebrating Whit] Tuesday. -- This May Pole is hung as usual with garlands on the [top; and in these] garlands Spoons & other little valuables are placed -- the high smooth [round pole is th]en well greased -- & now he [who] can climb up to the Top may have what [he can get]/ -- a very laughable scene, as you may suppose of awkwardness, & agility / [and fail]ures on the very brink of success. -- Now began a Dance / the Women [danced] very well / & in general I have observed throughout Germany that the Women [in the] lower ranks degenerate far less from the Ideal of a Woman than [the Men] from that of man. / The Dances were Reels & the Walzen; but chiefly [the] latter. This dance is in the highest circles sufficiently voluptuous; but here, the motions etc were far more faithful Interpreters of the Passion or rather appetite, which doubtless the Dance was intended to shadow out. -- Yet even after that giddy Round & Round is over, the walking to music, the woman laying [her] arm with -506- confident affection on the man's shoulders, or (among the Rustics) round [his] Neck, has something inexpressibly charming in it. -The first Couple at the [Wa]lzen (pronounced Waltsen / z is pronounced always ts) was a very fine tall Girl [of] 2 or 8 & 20, in the full bloom & growth of limb & feature, & a fellow with [h]uge Whiskers, a long Tail, & a woolen night-cap on: -- he was a soldier, [and] from the more than usual glances of the Girl, I presumed, was her Lover. -- He [w]as beyond compare the Gallant & the Dancer of the Party -- Next came two Bauern, one of whom in the whole contour of his face & person, & above [all in] the laughably would-be-frolicsome fling-out of his Heel irresistably reminded [me of] Shakespear's Slender, & the other of his Dogberry -- O two such faces, [and two] such postures! O that I were an Hogarth! -What an enviable Talent it is to have [a G]enius in Painting! -Their Partners were pretty Lasses not so tall as the former, & [d]anced uncommonly light & airy. The fourth Couple was a sweet Girl of about 17, delicately slender & very prettily dressed, with a full blown Rose in the white Ribbon that went round her Head & confined her reddish-brown Hair -- & her Partner waltsed -- with a pipe in his mouth I smoking all the while! / & during the whole of [th]is voluptuous Dance the whole of his Face was a fair Personification of [true] German Phlegm. -- After these, but I suppose, not actually belonging to [the Par]ty, a little ragged Girl & a ragged boy with his stockings about his [heels w]albed & danced / waltsing & dancing in the rear / most entertainingly. [B]ut what most pleased me was a little Girl of about 8 or 4 years old, certainly not [mor]e than 4, [who] had been put to watch a little Babe of exactly a year old (for one of our party had asked) & who was just beginning to run away. -- The Girl teaching h[im to walk] was so animated by the Music that she began to waltse with him, & the [two babes] whirled round & round hugging & kissing each other, as if the Music had ma[de them mad --] I am no judge of music -- it pleased me! & Mr Parry who plays himself, as[sured me it was] uncommonly good. There were two Fiddles & a Bass Viol / the Fiddlers, but abov[e all, the] Bass Violist, most Hogarthian Phizzes! -- God love them! -- I felt far more a[ffection for] them than towards any other set of human beings whom I have met with in Germ[any, I suppose,] because they looked so happy! -- We left them -- as we go out of the Village the c[reseent shaped] Hill of Firs sinks, & forms an irregular Wood / but the opposite Hill rises, & bec[omes in it's] Turn a perfect Crescent, but of a far other character -- higher & more abrupt [and ornamented] not clothed with Firs, the larger part of the Hill being masses & variously [jutting Precipices] of Rocks, grey, sulphur-yellow, or mossy. -- -507- Shortly after we meet with huge marble Rocks -- & about a mile from Rubelland we arrived at a manufactury where the marble is polished. The veins of the Blankenburg marble have an exquisite Beauty / a foot square is valued at half a crown. Young Blumenbach informed us that marble was a marine substance -- that the veins, at least the Brown & the Red Veins were true Corals, & the white was the accidental Cement. -- Here a huge Angle of Rock comes out & divides the road / O[ur] path went on the left one way, & the River the other. We left the River [Bode] unwillingly -- for it went immediately into a deep deep Pine wood, where [we] saw high Pillars of Rock that, I don't [know] why, seemed to live among the black Fi[r trees], & I wished to be it's companion. But one always quits a dashing River unwil[lingly --] Our path led us over a green Plain that heaved up & down [in hillocks] & Embreastments of Earth / till we came to a Village, Hütten rode -- [We left it and] still the Country continued not particularly interesting, till we arriv[ed at the foot] of a Hill, up which our Road winded with many a scattered Fir by [the side of] the Road. We reached the Top -- & behold I now again the Spring meets us I [I look back] & see the snow on the Brocken, & all between the black mineral G[reen of] Pine-Groves, wintry, endlessly wintry / & the Beech & the Birch, & the [wild Ash] all leafless -- but lo! before us -- a sweet Spring! not indeed in the ful[l] youthful verdure as on our first day's Journey, but timidly soft, half-[wintrym --] and with here & there spots & patches of Iron brown. -- Interesting in the hig[hest] degree is it to have seen in the course of two or three days so many diffe[rent] climates with all their different Phaenomena! -- The vast plain was before us, Rocks on the Right Hand, a huge Wall of Rocks --! on the left & curving round into the front view, Hills of Beeches, soft surges of woody Hills. At the feet of the Hill lay the Castle & Town of Blankenburg, with all it's orchards of blossoming Fruit Trees. Blankenberg is a considerable Town, containing 500 Houses & 3000 Inhabitants; & belongs to the Duke of Brunswick. -- Immediately opposite to our Inn is the House in which the unfortunate Louis the 18th [lived] during 21 months -- he left Blankenberg last February, in consequence of a Lordship have [having] been given him by the Emperor of Russia, in Livonia. -Some enquiries which we had m[ade] concerning him at Rubeland had occasioned a suspicion of our being Spies, [&] one fellow whom we asked answered us -- 'I'll die for my King & Country / wh[at] sort of French Fellows are you?' Hence we were shy of the Subject; but our Landlord, a most communicative Fellow, soon relieved us -- & or at least two hours talked incessantly of the King, with whose most minute daily occupations he had made himself as -508- well acquainted or better, than I am with Poole's. -- These are a chapter of Contents for his Conversation -- 1. His majesty was very religious -- had prayers in his house every day, & an open Service there on Tuesdays, Thursdays, & Saturdays. 2. He kept a regular mistress, a large fine tall Woman of a fair Complexion, a French Woman, whose Husband at the sa[me] time lived in the House, observing the most distant Civilities & Respect tow[ard] his Wife. 3. A Washerwoman's Daughter however of Blankenberg, by the name of Hase, had struck his Majesty's Eye -- a young Girl of no unimpregnable [chastity -- and on]ce or twice a Week his Majesty was graciously accustomed to send one of his [Nobles for her] -on the first interview he presented her with 12 Laub Dollars (about [50 Shillings) wh]ich she had shewn with much glee to our Landlord. -- Afterwards his [presents declined]/. 4. He had 83 persons in his Household, 8 of whom were Dukes -- [& his daily ex]pences were an hundred Dollars (about 20£) -- & he received his money [always from H]amburg, & our Landlord had been informed by his Relation the Post Master, [that he rec]eived regularly 40,000 Dollars (6000£) at a time. 5. He never on any [occasion r]ode out of his own Gardens, & had so much personal Fear of Regicides [that he had] a subterraneous secret Passage under his House. 6. The number of his [Coaches was 15-- a]ll very handsome, & all ball-proof, & the Blinds likewise Ball-proof. [7. He] had 70 Horses; & at one time 7 Princesses in the same House with him. The quantity of meat used & wasted in the Household was prodigious-there were [eve]ry week two Oxen regularly consumed. 8. Twice a week his Majesty bathed in [G]ravy-soup, for which purpose 80 pounds of Beef were constantly used -- which [so]up with the meat was after given to the Poor. 9. He ordered his Surgeons & [Phy]sicians to attend the poor gratis. 10. And wept when he quitted the [pla]ce----/--/ We went & visited the Castle which was shewn us by a young Woman. [Suc]h an immense number of ugly Rooms with such an immense number [of pic]tures, not one of which possessed the least merit, or rather not one of which [whi]ch was not a despicable Daub! -- And almost all obscene! -So false is it [th]at our ancestors were more innocent than we --/ The Passions are much the same in all ages -- but Obscenity & Indelicacy are the fit & peculiar Company of Ignorance & Barbarous Manners. -- One thing amused me -- the young Woman opened a Room, pointed to us to go in, & then herself turned up another pair of Stairs --/ On entering we perceived a parcel of execrable Daubs on execrable Subjects / but the half-modesty of the Girl was interesting. There was no Reason on earth for her shewing us the Room -- & many which she herself [stood] looking -509- at with great calmness were not a whit better. / We returned, [and spent] the Evening with a round of old English Songs, of which God Save [the] King & Rule Britannia were, as you may suppose repeated no small number [of] Times -- for being abroad makes every man a Patriot & a Loyalist -- almost a [Pitti]te! God bless you, my Love & S. T. Coleridge & good night!