From Malta he wound slowly on to Sicily, up through mainland Italy, and on through France.
Faith and reason in Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Durham e-Theses
He journeyed slowly, savouring the delights and delicacies of the continent, but always kept on the horizon the idea of Great Britain. His only real reason for staying in the city was to visit Coleridge, which he wasted no time in doing. On the 5th of August he arrived at the Grove, Highgate, and made arrangements to meet with the great poet.
Coleridge in Hauling himself up to the second floor, Emerson entered and found Coleridge in a cramped apartment, overflowing with papers and books, and littered with letters and manuscripts. There was a single window that overlooked Hampstead Heath, a framed version of the wild and endless landscape that had coloured his youthful writings. Emerson reports a lengthy and roaming discussion of the Unitarian faith by his host, but details quickly become scant. Emerson was finding it increasingly difficult to hold on to the disparate threads of conversation offered by Coleridge, who all the while was wildly gesticulating and animatedly expounding his views.
Coleridge talks, and then talks some more, and, when Emerson rises to leave, he begins to recite some lines of his verse, before once again talking. In doing so, he liberally powders his clothing and apparently spoils a good cravat, generating a cloud of the stuff about himself like pepper around the cook in Alice in Wonderland, like a cloud of his own thick and obfuscatory conversation.
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This seems true of the Coleridge that Emerson met. Stepping back out into the cool London afternoon, sooner than he might have hoped, he finds himself a little disappointed.
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His encounter with Wordsworth would prove a little more satisfying, beyond mere curiosity, and it apparently spanned several hours. From Scotland, Emerson travelled south once again towards Rydal Mount in the Lake District, where Wordsworth had been living with his family for more than twenty years. He walked along rural tracks and across windswept fields before Rydal Mount became visible on the horizon, nestled into the thickly forested hillside.
He walked up the path and knocked, unannounced. Emerson gives the impression of a kindly and serene Wordsworth, unhurried, generous with his time, a quietly engaging interlocutor. The pair sit in one of the warm, fire-lit, low-ceilinged rooms of Rydal, and discuss a variety of topics — with equal input and respect for one another.
One impulse from a vernal wood May teach you more of man, Of moral evil and of good, Than all the sages can. The discussion of education leads into a discussion of American society, and Wordsworth moves freely and brusquely through his opinions on the matter.
We can only wonder what Wordsworth would make of the modern Western world. We cannot be sure, either, how the young American in front of him received these remarks concerning his home nation. As the conversation moves on, Wordsworth suggests a brief walk, and leads Emerson out the backdoor of his house. The pair pass through the gardens of Rydal, and crunch their way out along a gravel path which cuts across the hillside. Wordsworth turns to the younger man and tells him that he has composed thousands of lines of verse along this very path, which leads Emerson to recall that the poet is renowned for his ability to hold hundreds of lines of verse in mind before so much as committing them to paper.
Modern scholars are fascinated by this point, and arguments frequently erupt over whether or not this was ever possible — memorizing hundreds of lines of verse is one thing, but composing them and holding them in their rigidly-organized place with the mind alone is quite another.
Earlier that year Wordsworth and his sister had gone on a walking tour around Scotland, and Wordsworth had, the day Emerson arrived, been mentally composing a few sonnets to commemorate his highland excursion. Suddenly — so suddenly that Emerson nearly bursts into surprised laughter — Wordsworth begins a solemn recitation:.
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Driven or venturing to the spot, Our fathers glimpses caught of your thin frames, And, by your mien and bearing, knew your names; And they could hear his ghostly song who trod Earth, till the flesh lay on him like a load, While he struck his desolate harp without hopes or aims.
Vanished ye are, but subject to recall; Why keep we else the instincts whose dread law Ruled here of yore, till what men felt they saw, Not by black arts but magic natural! If eyes be still sworn vassals of belief, Yon light shapes forth a bard, that shade a chief. The sonnets on the Cave of Staffa are perhaps not amongst his finest sonnets, and are rarely discussed today, but the fact that he recites three such sonnets in a row, each freshly composed and as yet unwritten, is deeply impressive in its own right, especially when we consider the careful and unforgiving structure of that delicately measured form.
He barely manages to contain his mirth, despite reminding himself that he came across the Atlantic to meet a poet, and a poet he has met. Eventually, after much discussion, Emerson decides it is time he took leave of Wordsworth, but the poet encourages him to take a last turn around the Rydal Mount garden.
Emerson made the long, arduous crossing back to America in October of that year, in many respects a changed man. Within three years of this, he was happily married for the second time, and had published his landmark philosophical work Nature, in which he sketched a new religious understanding of the universe based on Romantic ideals:. It beholds the whole circle of persons and things, of actions and events, of country and religion, not as painfully accumulated, atom after atom, act after act, in an aged creeping Past, but as one vast picture which God paints on the instant eternity for the contemplation of the soul.
Emerson in Had his experience of the poets helped him through his crisis?
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Coleridge and the Crisis of Reason examines Coleridge's understanding of the Pantheism Controversy - the crisis of reason in German philosophy - and reveals the context informing Coleridge's understanding of German thinkers. It challenges previous accounts of Coleridge's philosophical engagements, forcing a reconsideration of his reading of figures such as Schelling, Jacobi and Spinoza.