Sara Coleridge

Peter Swaab (ed.), Sara Coleridge: Collected Poems

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pg 162Editor’s NoteIII To a Friend

However dreams may be fallacious concerning outward events, yet may they be truly significant at home: and consolations or discouragements may be drawn from dreams which intimately tell us ourselves. Sir Thos. Browne.

To A. de Vere

  •              Last night I had a troublous dream
  •              De Vere I dreamt with pain of thee;
  •              Methought the well-remembered stream
  •              Of thy loved voice went rapidly
  •              Beside me ever ever flowing,
  •              But now not 'placid in its going',
  •              No longer calm and clear and bright,
  •              Suffused with Heav'n's serenest light:
  •              The very sparkles and foamy spray,
  •              The current flings up in its merriest play,
  •              Pure as the still and silent snow,
  •              That lies upon the mountain side;
  •              By little rainbows glorified
  •              Which stay while on the waters flow! –
  •              Now all was changed – thy voice and look
  •              Were such as I could scarcely brook.
  •              'Twas thou and yet it was not thou, –
  •              I gazed in fear and growing pain;
  •              Thought's temple still was there – thy brow –
  •              Thy gleaming eye, and yet 'twas plain,
  •              That thou and Reason now were twain.
  •              I ask not what this dream portends:
  •              But wherefore was the vision sent?
  •              For well I wot that Morpheus sends
  •              Such dreams for our admonishment,
  •              That we, by way of self-inspection,
  •              May reach the goal of sage reflection.
  •              It may be that with too much pride
  •              I've thought, when thou wast by my side,
  •              Or talked with tongue too bold and free
  •              Of what thou art, and what to me.
  •              Perhaps I've felt too proud and glad
  •              That such a friend as thou I had,
  •              Lowly-hearted yet high-minded,
  •              Warm, but ne'er by passion blinded;
  • pg 163             Full of fine poetic dreams
  •              And philosophic inquisitions,
  •              Careless of what the world esteems
  •              Her low and profitless ambitions.
  •              Yet apt for practice, – glad at heart
  •              To take an unrewarded part,
  •              To labour in Heav'ns hidden mine
  •              Thy travail rather felt than known
  •              And gather palms thy brow to twine
  •              Seen by th'All-seeing Eyes alone! –
  •              These lofty visions, hovering o'er me,
  •              Have they displeased the Pow'rs of Night,
  •              That thus my Friend was placed before me
  •              Unclothed of Reason's holy light?
  •              Ah no! the vision ne'er was sent
  •              From vainer dreams my soul to free,
  •              And bring me sadly to repent
  •              Because I've deemed so well of thee.
  •              I'll think 'twas sent to let me know
  •              Through what mutations we may go
  •              Of grievous loss or wondrous gain,
  •              And yet our very selves remain.
  •              I'll think that so shalt thou, my Friend,
  •              As far thy present self transcend,
  •              Reborn amid celestial light,
  •              A last immortal changeless change,
  •              As now thou dost to waking sight
  •              That apparition sad and strange:
  •              Thy fluent speech that sure must be
  •              To those that, day by day, with thee
  •              Live on, 'a dear domestic stream',
  •              I see it glide with sunny gleam,
  •              'Mid fields of bliss, to circle round
  •              Bright meads of amaranthine flow'rs;
  •              Thou image on its breast profound
  •              Th'eternal City's glorious tow'rs.

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Editor’s Note
Page 162. 'Dreams III. To a Friend' (RB, 1847, 'For A. de V.'). 'This may seem extravagant, but truly represents the feeling of the dream – wherein the flow of speech was what chiefly impressed me and seemed almost a distinct thing – abstracted from the speaker – and yet the speaker was there in person too' (SC). The epigraph from Browne does not show up in electronic searches of his works, and may perhaps be a pastiche of Browne by STC.
Line 6: '"placid in its going"' – Wordsworth, The White Doe of Rylstone, Canto 1, line 148. Line 66: '"a dear domestic stream"' – Coleridge, 'Recollections of Love', line 25. The whole stanza in STC reads
  • You stood before me like a thought,
  •      A dream remembered in a dream.
  •      But when those meek eyes first did seem
  • To tell me, Love within you wrought –
  •      O Greta, dear domestic stream!'
SC's Diary for 13 August 1850 records another vivid dream about de Vere:

On Sunday morning I had a ghastly dream. The dead body of Aubrey de Vere lay in the coffin beside me. It was a corse, and yet de Vere had sense and mind remaining. I sat beside him, talked and took care of him. Then we went forward, as it were, on a journey to convey the body to his friend or for some indefinite purpose. My clothes were dropping off my back and I became more and more impeded and disordered. We stopped at some large farm house – and I arranged my Clothes, leaving the body in charge of the people of the house. After hastily fastening my clothes, I stepped forward again to resume the charge of the living corse. To my agony I found it had been treated as a corse indeed, as a lifeless worthless husk: had been thrust some where under the grate in some stifling hole. I saw indifference to my feelings and invincible obstinacy written on the face of the woman I addressed. The men would come in half an hour, she said carelessly, to carry on the body. I felt as if it were vain even to entreat to have the coffin and body restored to me directly. I strove to think that it was but a senseless corpse after all. In this agony I awoke – the bonds of sleep seemed to be burst by the struggle, and I felt thankful that it was all a dream, and my friend doubtless philosophizing at Tonbridge Wells with his friends the Taylors.

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