457. To William Sotheby Address: [W.] Sotheby Esq. | Lodge | Loughton | Essex MS. Colonel ff. G. Sotheby. Pub. with omis. Letters, i. 396. Postmark: 30 August 1802. Stamped: Keswick. Thursday, August 26, 1802 My dear Sir I was absent on a little Excursion, when your Letter arrived& since my return I have been waiting & making every enquiry in the hopes of announcing the receipt of your Orestes 1 & it's companions, with my sincere thanks for your kindness. But I can hear nothing of them. Mr Lamb however goes to Penrith next week, & will make strict scrutiny. I am not to find the Welch Tours 2 among them; & yet I think I am correct in referring the Ode, NETLEY ABBEY, to that collection / a poem which I believe I can very nearly repeat by heart -- tho' it must have been four or five years since I last read it. I well remember, that after reading your Welch Tour, Southey observed to me, that you, I, & himself had all done ourselves harm by suffering our admiration of Bowles to bubble up too often on the surface of our Poems. In perusing the second Volume of Bowles, which I owe to your kindness, I met a line of my own which gave me great pleasure / from the thought, what a pride & joy I should have had at the time of writing it, if I had supposed it possible that Bowles would have adopted it -- The line is Had MELANCHOLY mus'd herself to Sleep 3 / I wrote the lines at 19 -- & published them many years ago in the Morning Post as a fragment -- and as they are but 12 lines I will transcribe them 4 / Upon a moulder'd Abbey's broadest Wall, Where ruining Ivies prop the Ruins steep, Her folded Arms wrapping her tatter'd Pall Had MELANCHOLY mus'd herself to sleep. The FERN was press'd beneath her Hair; ____________________ 1 Sotheby Orestes, 1802. 2 Sotheby A Tour through Parts of Wales, Sonnets, Odes, and Other Poem, 1794. 3 See Bowles Coombe-Ellen, fines 36-37: Here Melancholy on the pale crags laid, Might muse herself to sleep. 4 First published Morning Post, 12 Dec 1797. Poems, i. 73. -855- The dark-green * ADDIER'S tongue was there; And still, as came the flagging Sea-gales weak, The long lank Leaf bow'd fluttering o'er her cheek. Her pallid Cheek was flush'd: her eager Look Beam'd, eloquent in slumber. Inly wrought Imperfect Sounds her moving Lips forsook, And her bent Forehead work'd with troubled Thought. ---- I met these Lines yesterday by accident -- & ill as they are written, there seem'd to me a force & distinctness of Image in them, that were buds of Promise in a school-boy performance / tho' I am giving them perhaps more than their Deserts in thus ensuring them a Reading from you. ---- I have finished the First Navigator; and Mr Tomkins may have it, whenever he wishes. It would be gratifying to me if you would look it over, & alter any thing, you like / my whole wish & purpose is to serve Mr Tomkyns -- & you are not only much more in the habit of writing verse than I am, but must needs have a better Tact of what will offend that class of Readers, into whose hands a shewy Publication is likely to fall. I do not mean, my dear Sir! to impose on you 10 minutes' thought / but often, currente oculo, a better phrase or position of words will suggest itself. As to the 101, it is more than the Thing is worth, either in German or English / & Mr Tomkins will better give the true value of it by kindly accepting what is given with kindness. Two or three copies presented in my name, one to each of the two or three Friends of mine, who are likely to be pleased with a fine Book -- this is the utmost, I desire, or will receive. -- I shall for the ensuing quarter send occasionally verses, &c to the Morning Post, under the signature "Eσ+̂τησ+̂ε 1 -- & I mention this to you, because I have some intention of translating Voss's Idills 2 in English Hexa- ____________________ * Asplenium Scolopendrium, more commonly called the Hart's Tongue. [S. T. C.] 1 Underlined twice in MS. 2 J. H. Voss, Luise, ein ländliches Gedicht in drei Idyllen, 1795. In the Mitchell Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, there is an autograph manuscript of Coleridge containing eight lines from this poem. The lines are headed: 'The prefatory Verses to Voss's Louise translated almost verbally, & in the original metre.' Before Gleim's Cottage Up, up! noble old Man! Who knocks there? Friend & Acquaintance Friends should more quietly knock. True! but you would not have heard. Hush! ye'll awaken the Maidens. They love us. Hush! it is Midnight. And could ye wish them to rise? Rise & receive the Belov'd. Whom, prithee? Know you the Vicar of Greeno? What? & Luisa? She and her Husband. But where's Mother? And Mother, to boot. -856- meters, with a little prefatory Essay on modern Hexameters. -- I have discovered, that the poetical Parts of the Bible, & the best parts of Ossian, are little more than slovenly Hexameters -- and the rhythmical Prose of Gesner is still more so -- / & reads exactly like that metre in Boetius' & Seneca's Tragedies which consists of the latter half of the Hexameter --. -- The Thing is worth an Experiment; & I wish it to be considered merely as an Experiment. I need not say, that the greater number of the verses signed "Eσ+̂τησ+̂ε will be such as were never meant for any thing else but the peritura charta of the M. Post. 1 -- I had written thus far when your Letter of the 16th arrived, franked on the 28rd from Weymouth with a polite apology from Mr Bedingfeld (if I have rightly decyphered the Name) for it's detention.-I am vexed, that I did not write immediately on my return home / but I waited, day after day, in hopes of the Orestes, &c. It is an old proverb that Extremes meet, & I have often regretted that I had not noted down as they incurred the interesting Instances, in which the Proverb is verified. The newest subject -- tho' brought from the Planets (or Asteroids) Ceres & Pallas, could not excite my curiosity more than Orestes. -- I will write immediately to Mr Clarkson, who resides at the foot of Ulswater, & beg him to walk in to Penrith, & ask at all the Inns, if any Parcel have arrived -- if not, I will myself write to Mr Faulder, & inform him of the Failure. -- There is a subject of great merit in the ancient mythology hitherto untouched -- I believe so at least -but for the mode of the Death which mingled the ludicrous & horrible, but which might be easily altered, it is one of the finest subjects for Tragedy that I am acquainted with -- Medea after the murder of her children fled to the Court of the old King, Pelias, was regarded with superstitious Horror, & shunned or insulted by the Daughters of Pelias -- till hearing of her miraculous Restoration of Æson they conceived the idea of recalling by her means the youth of their own Father. She avails herself of their credulity -& so works them up by pretended magical Rites, that they consent to kill their Father in his sleep, & throw him into the magic Cauldron -- which done, Medea leaves them with bitter Taunts & triumph. -- The daughters are called, Asteropaea, Antonoe, & Alcestis -- Ovid alludes briefly to this story in the couplet ____________________ Up up, Girls! make ready the Best! Nay, nothing but Shelter -- Shelter and welcoming Smiles. Dear Souls! come in -- it is cold! This translation is on the verso of Coleridge's rough draft of an outline for a poem on Mahomet. See Letter 292. 1 In addition to a number of epigrams, Coleridge contributed such poems as Dejection, The Day Dream, Chamouny, and Ode to the Rain to the Morning Post over this signature. -857- Quid referam Peliae natas pietate nocentes Caesaque virgineâ, membra paterna manu? 1 What a thing to have seen a Tragedy raised on this Fable by Milton in rivalry of the Macbeth of Shakespere! -- The character of Medea, wand'ring & fierce, and invested with impunity by the strangeness & excess of her Guilt -- & truly an injured woman, on the other hand / & possessed of supernatural Powers -- The same story is told in a very different way by some authors -- and out of their narrations matter might be culled that would very well coincide with, & fill up, the main incidents / Her Imposing the sacred Image of Diana on the Priesthood at Iolcus, & persuading them to join with her in inducing the daughters of Pelias to kill their Father / the Daughters under the Persuasion that their Father's youth would be restored, the Priests under the Faith, that the Goddess required the Death of the old King -- & that the safety of the Country depended on it -- In this way Medea might be suffered to escape, under the direct Protection of the Priesthood -who may afterward discover the Delusion. The moral of the Piece would be a very fine one. ---- Wordsworth wrote me a very animated account of his Difficulties & his joyous meeting with you which he calls the happy Rencontre or Fortunate Rain-storm. -- O that you had been with me during a thunder-storm, on Thursday August the 5th / I was sheltered (in the phrase of this country, lownded) in a sort of natural Porch on the summit of Sea' Fell, the central mountain of our Giants, said to be higher than Skiddaw or Helvellin / & in chasm, naked Crag, bursting Springs, & Waterfall the most interesting, without a rival / When the Clouds pass'd away, to my right & left & behind me stood a great national Convention of Mountains which our ancestors most descriptively called Copland, i.e. the Land of Heads -- before me the mountains died away down to the Sea in eleven parallel Ridges -- Close under my feet as it were, were three Vales, Wastdale with it's Lake, Miterdale, & Eskdale, with the three Rivers, Irt, Mite, and Esk seen from their very fountains to their Fall into the Sea at Ravenglass Bay, which with these Rivers form to the Eye a perfect Trident -- -- Turning round I looked thro' Borrodale out upon the Derwentwater & the vale of Keswick even to my own House where my own children were. -- Indeed, I had altogether the most interesting walk -- thro' Newlands to Butter- ____________________ 1 Ovid, Heroides, xii, lines 129-30. See also Pausanias, VIII. 31. 3. -858- mere, over the Fells to Ennerdale, to St Bees, Egremont, Gosforth, up Wasdale, to Sca' Fell, down Eskdale, to Devock Lake, Ulpha Kirk, Broughton Mills, Torver, Coniston, Wyndermere, Grasmere, Keswick / If it would entertain, I would transcribe my notes -- & send them you by the first opportunity. I have scarce left Room for my best respects to Mrs & Miss Sotheby -- & affectionate wishes for your happiness & all who constitute it. With unfeigned Esteem, dear Sir! your's &c, S. T. Coleridge. P.S. I am ashamed to send you a scrawl so like in form to a servant wench's first letter / You will see that the first half was written before I received your last Letter ----