Ernest Hartley Coleridge (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Including Poems and Versions of Poems now Published for the First Time, Vol. 1: Poems

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TO MATILDA BETHAM FROM A STRANGER 1

['One of our most celebrated poets, who had, I was told, picked out and praised the little piece 'On a Cloud,' another had quoted (saying it would have been faultless if I had not used the word Phoebus in it, which he thought inadmissible in modern poetry), sent me some verses inscribed "To Matilda Beth am, from a Stranger"; and dated "Keswick, Sept. 9, 1802, S. T. C." I should have guessed whence they came, but dared not natter myself so highly as satisfactorily to believe it, before I obtained the avowal of the lady who had transmitted them. Excerpt from 'Auto-biographical Sketch'.]

  • 1Matilda! I have heard a sweet tune played
  • 2On a sweet instrument—thy Poesie—
  • pg 3753Sent to my soul by Boughton's pleading voice,
  • 4Where friendship's zealous wish inspirited,
  • 5Deepened and filled the subtle tones of taste:
  • 6(So have I heard a Nightingale's fine notes
  • Critical Apparatus7Blend with the murmur of a hidden stream!)
  • 8And now the fair, wild offspring of thy genius,
  • 9Those wanderers whom thy fancy had sent forth
  • 10To seek their fortune in this motley world,
  • 11Have found a little home within my heart,
  • 12And brought me, as the quit-rent of their lodging,
  • 13Rose-buds, and fruit-blossoms, and pretty weeds,
  • 14And timorous laurel leaflets half-disclosed,
  • 15Engarlanded with gadding woodbine tendrils!
  • Critical Apparatus16A coronal, which, with undoubting hand,
  • 17I twine around the brows of patriot Hope!
  • 18The Almighty, having first composed a Man,
  • 19Set him to music, framing Woman for him,
  • 20And fitted each to each, and made them one!
  • 21And 'tis my faith, that there's a natural bond
  • 22Between the female mind and measured sounds,
  • 23Nor do I know a sweeter Hope than this,
  • 24That this sweet Hope, by judgment unreproved,
  • 25That our own Britain, our dear mother Isle,
  • 26May boast one Maid, a poetess indeed,
  • 27Great as th' impassioned Lesbian, in sweet song,
  • 28And O! of holier mind, and happier fate.
  • 29Matilda! I dare twine thy vernal wreath
  • 30Around the brows of patriot Hope! But thou
  • 31Be wise! be bold! fulfil my auspices!
  • 32Tho' sweet thy measures, stern must be thy thought,
  • 33Patient thy study, watchful thy mild eye!
  • Critical Apparatus34Poetic feelings, like the stretching boughs
  • Critical Apparatus35Of mighty oaks, pay homage to the gales,
  • pg 37636Toss in the strong winds, drive before the gust,
  • 37Themselves one giddy storm of fluttering leaves;
  • 38Yet, all the while self-limited, remain
  • Critical Apparatus39Equally near the fixed and solid trunk
  • Critical Apparatus40Of Truth and Nature in the howling storm,
  • 41As in the calm that stills the aspen grove.
  • 42Be bold, meek Woman! but be wisely bold!
  • 43Fly, ostrich-like, firm land beneath thy feet,
  • 44Yet hurried onward by thy wings of fancy
  • 45Swift as the whirlwind, singing in their quills.
  • 46Look round thee! look within thee! think and feel!
  • 47What nobler meed, Matilda! canst thou win,
  • 48Than tears of gladness in a Boughton's1 eyes,
  • 49And exultation even in strangers' hearts?

1802.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 First printed in a 'privately printed autobiographical sketch of Miss Matilda Betham', preserved in a volume of tracts arranged and bound up by Southey, now in the Forster Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum: reprinted (by J. Dykes Campbell) in the Athenaeum (March 15, 1890): and, again, in A House of Letters, by Ernest Betham [1905], pp. 70–7. First collected in 1893 (see Editor's Note, p. 630). Lines 33–41 are quoted in a Letter to Sotheby, September 10, 1802. See Letters of S. T. C, 1895, i. 404.
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7 murmur] murmurs 1893.
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16 coronal] coronel P. Sketch.
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34 stretching] flexuous MS. Letter, Sept. 10, 1802.
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35 pay] yield MS. Letter, 1802.
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39 solid] parent MS. Letter, 1802.
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40 Of truth in Nature—in the howling blast MS. Letter, 1802.
Editor’s Note
1 Catherine Rose, wife of Sir Charles William Rouse-Boughton, Bart. Sir Charles and Lady Boughton visited Greta Hall in September, 1802.
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