Ode on the Departing Year - Coleridge (1796)
By S. T. COLERIDGE.
PRINTED BY N. BIGGS,
AND SOLD BY J. PARSONS, PATERNOSTER-ROW, LONDON.
To THOMAS POOLE, of Stowey.
My Dear Friend,
SOON after the commencement of this month, the Editor of the Cambridge Intelligencer (a newspaper conducted with so much ability, and such unmixed and fearless zeal for the interests of Piety and Freedom, that I cannot but think my poetry honoured by being permitted to appear in it), requested me, by Letter, to furnish him with some Lines for the last day of this Year. I promised him that I would make the attempt; but, almost immediately after, a rheumatic complaint seized on my head, and continued to prevent the possibility of poetic composition till within the last three days. So in the course of the last three days the following Ode was produced. In general, when an Author informs the Public that his production was struck off in a great hurry, he offers an insult, not an excuse. But I trust that the present case is an exception, and that the peculiar circumstances, which obliged me to write with such unusual rapidity, give a propriety to my professions of it; nec nunc eam apud te jacto, sed et ceteris indico; ne quis asperiore limâ carmen examinet, et a confuso scriptum et quod frigidum erat ni statim traderem. (I avail myself of the words of Statius, and hope that I shall likewise be able to say of any weightier publication, what he has declared of his Thebaid, that it had been tortured with a laborious Polish.)
For me to discuss the literary merits of this hasty composition, were idle and presumptuous. If it be found to possess that Impetuosity of Transition, and that Precipitation of Fancy and Feeling, which are the essential excellencies of the sublimer Ode, its deficiency in less important respects will be easily pardoned by those, from whom alone praise could give me pleasure: and whose minuter criticisms will be disarmed by the reflection, that these Lines were conceived "not in the soft obscurities of Retirement, or under the Shelter of Academic Groves, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow." I am more anxious, lest the moral spirit of the Ode should be mistaken. You, I am sure, will not fail to recollect, that among the Ancients, the Bard and the Prophet were one and the same character; and you know, that although I prophesy curses, I pray fervently for blessings.
Farewell, Brother of my Soul!
————O ever found the same,
And trusted and belov'd!
Never without an emotion of honest pride do I subscribe myself
Your grateful and affectionate Friend,
BRISTOL, S. T. COLERIDGE.
December 26, 1796.
- Multá cruciata limâ.