438. To Sara Hutchinson MS. Dove Cottage. Pub. E. de Selincourt, "Coleridge's Dejection: an Ode", Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association, 1937, vol. xxii, 7-25. This earliest draft of Dejection was addressed as a letter to Sara Hutchinson. When Coleridge first published the poem in the Morning Post on 4 October 1802 (the seventh anniversary of his own marriage and Wordsworth's wedding day) and later in Sibylline Leaves, he gave it a unity lacking in its epistolary form and omitted the most personal passages. Thus he turned a poetic letter full of self-revelation and self-pity into a work of art with a timeless and universal significance. See Poems, i. 862, and Letters 445, 449, 464 and 1512. A Letter to ---- April 4, 1802. -- Sunday Evening. Well! if the Bard was weatherwise, who made The grand old Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence, This Night, so tranquil now, will not go hence Unrous'd by winds, that ply a busier trade Than that, which moulds yon clouds in lazy flakes, Or the dull sobbing Draft, that drones & rakes Upon the Strings of this Eolian Lute, Which better far were mute. For, lo! the New Moon, winter-bright! And overspread with phantom Light, (With swimming phantom Light o'erspread But rimm'd & circled with a silver Thread) I see the Old Moon in her Lap, foretelling The coming-on of Rain & squally Blast -O! Sara! that the Gust ev'n now were swelling, And the slant Night-shower driving loud & fast! A Grief without a pang, void, dark, & drear, A stifling, drowsy, unimpassiond Grief That finds no natural Outlet, no Relief In word, or sigh, or tear -This, Sara! well thou know'st, Is that sore Evil, which I dread the most, And oft'nest suffer! In this heartless Mood, To other thoughts by yonder Throstle woo'd, That pipes within the Larch tree, not unseen, (The Larch, which pushes out in tassels green It's bundled Leafits) woo'd to mild Delights By all the tender Sounds & gentle Sights Of this sweet Primrose-month -- & vainly woo'd -790- O dearest Sara! in this heartless Mood All this long Eve, so balmy & serene, Have I been gazing on the western Sky And it's peculiar Tint of Yellow Green -And still I gaze -- & with how blank an eye! And those thin Clouds above, in flakes & bars, That give away their Motion to the Stars; Those Stars, that glide behind them, or between, Now sparkling, now bedimm'd, but always seen; Yon crescent Moon, as fix'd as if it grew In it's own cloudless, starless Lake of Blue -A boat becalm'd! dear William's Sky Canoe! 1 -- I see them all, so excellently fair! I see, not feel, how beautiful they are. My genial Spirits fail -And what can these avail To lift the smoth'ring Weight from off my Breast? It were a vain Endeavor, Tho' I should gaze for ever On that Green Light which lingers in the West! I may not hope from outward Forms to win The Passion & the Life whose Fountains are within! These lifeless Shapes, around, below, Above, O what can they impart? When even the gentle Thought, that thou, my Love! Art gazing now, like me, And see'st the Heaven, I see -Sweet Thought it is -- yet feebly stirs my Heart! Feebly! O feebly! -- Yet (I well remember it) In my first Dawn of Youth that Fancy stole With many secret 2 Yearnings on my Soul. At eve, sky-gazing in 'ecstatic fit' 3 (Alas! for cloister'd in a city School The Sky was all, I knew, of Beautiful) 4 At the barr'd window often did I sit, And oft upon the leaded School-roof lay, And to myself would say -- ____________________ 1 Cf. Prologue to Peter Bell. 2 gentle [Cancelled word in line above.] 3 Milton, The Passion, line 42. 4 Cf. Frost at Midnight, lines 51-53. -791- There does not live the Man so stripp'd of good affections As not to love to see a Maiden's quiet Eyes Uprais'd, and linking on sweet Dreams by dim Connections To Moon, or Evening Star, or glorious western Skies -While yet a Boy, this Thought would so pursue me That often it became a kind of Vision to me! Sweet Thought! and dear of old To Hearts of finer Mould! Ten thousand times by Friends & Lovers blest! I spake with rash Despair, And ere I was aware, The Weight was somewhat lifted from my Breast! O Sara! in the weather-fended Wood, Thy lov'd haunt! where the Stock-doves coo at Noon, I guess, that thou hast stood And watch'd yon Crescent, & it's ghost-like Moon. And yet, far rather in my present Mood I would, that thou'dst been sitting all this while Upon the sod-built Seat of Camomile -- 1 And tho' thy Robin may have ceas'd to sing, Yet needs for my sake must thou love to hear The Bee-hive murmuring near, That ever-busy & most quiet Thing Which I have heard at Midnight murmuring. 2 I feel my spirit moved -And wheresoe'er thou be, O Sister! O Beloved! Those dear mild Eyes, that see Even now the Heaven, I see -There is a Prayer in them! It is for me -And I, dear Sara -- I am blessing thee! It was as calm as this, that happy night When Mary, thou, & I together were, The low decaying Fire our only Light, And listen'd to the Stillness of the Air! O that affectionate & blameless Maid, Dear Mary! on her Lap my head she lay'd -Her Hand was on my Brow, Even as my own is now; ____________________ 1 Built by Coleridge and the Wordsworths, 10 Oct. 1801. See Journals, i. 77. 2 Cf. A Day-dream, line 35. -792- And on my Cheek I felt thy eye-lash play. Such Joy I had, that I may truly say, My Spirit was awe-stricken with the Excess And trance-like Depth of it's brief Happiness. 1 Ah fair Remembrances, that so revive The Heart, & fill it with a living Power, Where were they, Sara? -- or did I not strive To win them to me? -- on the fretting Hour Then when I wrote thee that complaining Scroll Which even to bodily Sickness bruis'd thy Soul! And yet thou blam'st thyself alone! And yet Forbidd'st me all Regret! And must I not regret, that I distress'd Thee, best belov'd I who lovest me the best? My better mind had fled, I know not whither, For O! was this an absent Friend's Employ To send from far both Pain & Sorrow thither Where still his Blessings should have call'd down Joy! I read thy guileless Letter o'er again -I hear thee of thy blameless Self complain -And only this I learn -- & this, alas! I know -That thou art weak & pale with Sickness, Grief, & Pain -And I -- I made thee so! O for my own sake I regret perforce Whatever turns thee, Sara! from the Course Of calm Well-being & a Heart at rest! When thou, & with thee those, whom thou lov'st best, Shall dwell together in one happy Home, One House, the dear abiding Home of All, I too will crown me with a Coronal -- 2 Nor shall this Heart in idle Wishes roam Morbidly soft! No! let me trust, that I shall wear away In no inglorious Toils the manly Day, And only now & then, & not too oft, Some dear & memorable Eve will bless Dreaming of all your Loves & Quietness. ____________________ 1 The incident described in this stanza becomes the subject of A Daydream. See Poems, i. 385. 2 Cf. Intimations Ode, line 40, 'My head hath its corona'. Coleridge's line, which appears in no other version of his poem, clearly links Dejection with Wordsworth's Ode, the first four stanzas of which were composed in Mar. 1802. -793- Be happy, & I need thee not in sight. Peace in thy Heart, & Quiet in thy Dwelling, Health in thy Limbs, & in thine Eyes the Light Of Love, & Hope, & honorable Feeling -Where e'er I am, I shall be well content! Not near thee, haply shall be more content! To all things I prefer the Permanent. And better seems it for a heart, like mine, Always to know, than sometimes to behold, Their Happiness & thine -For Change doth trouble me with pangs untold! To see thee, hear thee, feel thee -- then to part Oh! -- it weighs down the Heart! To visit those, I love, as I love thee, Mary, & William, & dear Dorothy, It is but a temptation to repine -The transientness is Poison in the Wine, Eats out the pith of Joy, makes all Joy hollow, All Pleasure a dim Dream of Pain to follow! My own peculiar Lot, my house-hold Life It is, & will remain, Indifference or Strife. While ye are well & happy, 'twould but wrong you If I should fondly 1 yearn to be among you -Wherefore, O wherefore! should I wish to be A wither'd branch upon a blossoming Tree? But (let me say it! for I vainly strive To beat away the Thought) but if thou pin'd, Whate'er the Cause, in body or in mind, I were the miserablest Man alive To know it & be absent! Thy Delights Far off, or near, alike I may partake -But O! to mourn for thee, & to forsake All power, all hope of giving comfort to thee -To know that thou art weak & worn with pain, And not to hear thee, Sara! not to view thee -Not sit beside thy Bed, Not press thy aching Head, Not bring thee Health again -At least to hope, to try -By this Voice, which thou lov'st, & by this earnest Eye -Nay, wherefore did I let it haunt my Mind The dark distressful Dream! ____________________ 1 idly [Cancelled word in line above.] -794- I turn from it, & listen to the Wind Which long has rav'd 1 unnotic'd! What a Scream Of agony by Torture lengthen'd out That Lute sent forth! O thou wild Storm without! Jagg'd Rock 2, or mountain Pond, or blasted Tree, Or Pine-grove, whither Woodman never clomb, Or lonely House, long held the Witches' Home, Methinks were fitter Instruments for Thee, Mad Lutanist! that in this month of Showers, Of dark brown Gardens, & of peeping Flowers, Mak'st Devil's Yule, with worse than wintry Song The Blossoms, Buds, and timorous Leaves among! Thou Actor, perfect in all tragic Sounds! Thou mighty Poet, even to frenzy bold! What tell'st thou now about? 'Tis of the Rushing of an Host in Rout -And many Groans from men with smarting Wounds -At once they groan with smart, and shudder with the Cold! 'Tis hush'd! there is a Trance of deepest Silence, Again! but all that Sound, as of a rushing Crowd, And Groans & tremulous Shudderings, all are over -And it has other Sounds, and all less deep, less loud! A Tale of less Affright, And temper'd with Delight, As William's Self had made the tender Lay -- 3 'Tis of a little Child Upon a heathy Wild, Not far from home -- but it has lost it's way -And now moans low in utter grief & fear -And now screams loud, & hopes to make it's Mother hear! 4 'Tis Midnight! and small Thoughts 5 have I of Sleep -Full seldom may my Friend such Vigils keep -O breathe She softly in her gentle Sleep! Cover her, gentle Sleep! with wings of Healing. And be this Tempest but a Mountain Birth! May all the Stars hang bright above her Dwelling, Silent, as tho' they watch'd the sleeping Earth! 6 ____________________ 1 howl'd [Cancelled word in line above.] 2 Steep Crag [Cancelled words in line above.] 3 A reference to Wordsworth Lucy Gray. 4 See Letter 377 for the germ of this passage. 5 Hope [Cancelled word in line above.] 6 See Letter 567, at the end of which these two lines are quoted. -795- Healthful & light, my Darling! may'st thou rise With clear & cheerful Eyes -And of the same good Tidings to me send! For, oh! beloved Friend! I am not the buoyant Thing, I was of yore -When like an own Child, I to JOY belong'd; For others mourning oft, myself oft sorely wrong'd, Yet bearing all things then, as if I nothing bore! Yes, dearest Sara! yes! There was a time when tho' my path was rough, The Joy within me dallied with Distress; And all Misfortunes were but as the Stuff Whence Fancy made me Dreams of Happiness: For Hope grew round me, like the climbing Vine, And Leaves & Fruitage, not my own, seem'd mine! But now Ill Tidings 1 bow me down to earth / Nor care I, that they rob me of my Mirth / But oh! each Visitation Suspends what Nature gave me at my Birth, My shaping Spirit of Imagination! I speak not now of those habitual Ills That wear out Life, when two unequal Minds Meet in one House, & two discordant Wills -This leaves me, where it finds, Past cure, & past Complaint -- a fate austere Too fix'd & hopeless to partake of Fear! But thou, dear Sara! (dear indeed thou art, My Comforter! A Heart within my Heart!) Thou, & the Few, we love, tho' few ye be, Make up a world of Hopes & Fears for me. And if 2 Affliction, or distemp'ring Pain, Or wayward Chance befall you, I complain Not that I mourn -- O Friends, most dear! most true! Methinks to weep with you Were better far than to rejoice alone -But that my coarse domestic Life has known No Habits of heart-nursing Sympathy, No Griefs, but such as dull and deaden me, No mutual mild Enjoyments of it's own, No Hopes of it's own Vintage, None, O! none -- ____________________ 1 Misfortunes [Cancelled word in line above.] 2 when [Cancelled word in line above.] -796- Whence when I mourn'd for you, my Heart might borrow Fair forms & living Motions for it's Sorrow. For not to think of what I needs must feel, But to be still & patient all I can; And 1 haply by abstruse Research to steal From my own Nature all the Natural Man -This was my sole Resource, my wisest plan! And that, which suits a part, infects the whole, And now is almost grown the Temper of my Soul. My little Children are a Joy, a Love, A good Gift from above! But what is Bliss, that still calls up a Woe, And makes it doubly keen Compelling me to feel, as well as KNOW, What a most blessed Lot mine might have been. Those little Angel Children (woe is me!) There have been hours, when feeling how they bind And pluck out the Wing-feathers of my Mind, Turning my Error to Necessity, I have half-wish'd, they never had been born! That seldom! But sad Thoughts they always bring, And like the Poet's Philomel, I sing My Love-song, with my breast against a Thorn. With no unthankful Spirit I confess, This clinging Grief too, in it's turn, awakes That Love, and Father's Joy; but O! it makes The Love the greater, & the Joy far less. These Mountains too, these Vales, these Woods, these Lakes, Scenes full of Beauty & of Loftiness Where all my Life I fondly hop'd to live -I were sunk low indeed, did they no solace give; But oft I seem to feel, & evermore I fear, They are not to me now the Things, which once they were. 2 O Sara! we receive but what we give, And in our Life alone does Nature live. Our's is her Wedding Garment, our's her Shroud -And would we aught behold of higher Worth Than that inanimate cold World allow'd To the poor loveless ever-anxious Crowd, ____________________ 1 Or [Cancelled word in line above.] 2 Cf. Intimations Ode, line 9: 'The things which I have seen I now can see no more.' Coleridge's line appears only in this version of his poem. -797- Ah! from the Soul itself must issue forth A Light, a Glory, and a luminous Cloud Enveloping the Earth! And from the Soul itself must there be se[nt] A sweet & potent Voice, of it's own Bir[th,] Of all sweet Sounds the Life & Element. O pure of Heart! thou need'st not ask of me What this strong music in the Soul may be, What, & wherein it doth exist, This Light, this Glory, this fair luminous Mist, This beautiful & beauty-making Power! JOY, innocent Sara! Joy, that ne'er was given Save to the Pure, & in their purest Hour, JOY, Sara I is the Spirit & the Power, That wedding Nature to us gives in Dower A new Earth & new Heaven Undreamt of by the Sensual & the Proud! Joy is that strong Voice, Joy that luminous Cloud -We, we ourselves rejoice! And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight, All melodies the Echoes of that Voice, All Colors a Suffusion of that Light. Sister & Friend of my devoutest Choice! Thou being innocent & full of love, And nested with the Darlings of thy Love, And feeling in thy Soul, Heart, Lips, & Arms Even what the conjugal & mother Dove That borrows genial Warmth from those, she warms, Feels in her thrill'd wings, blessedly outspread -Thou free'd awhile from Cares & human Dread By the Immenseness of the Good & Fair Which thou see'st every where -Thus, thus should'st thou rejoice! To thee would all Things live from Pole to Pole, Their Life the Eddying of thy living Soul -O dear! O Innocent! O full of Love! A very 1 Friend! A 2 Sister of my Choice -O dear, as Light & Impulse from above, Thus may'st thou ever, evermore rejoice! S. T. C. ____________________ 1 gentle [Cancelled word in line above.] 2 O [Cancelled word in line above.] -798-