On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country

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Sonnets attempted in the manner of Contemporary Writers  (1797)  by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Sonnet III: On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country

A self-parody. Coleridge wrote that its "phrases ... were borrowed entirely from my own poems," and it satirized "the indiscriminate use of elaborate and swelling language and imagery." (Biographia Literaria) As it was originally published under the name Nehemiah Higginbotham Coleridge's authorship was unknown to the general public. "So general at that time," he wrote, "and so decided was the opinion concerning the characteristic vices of my style, that a celebrated physician (now, alas! no more), speaking of me in other respects with his usual kindness to a gentleman who was about to meet me at a dinner party, could not, however, resist giving him a hint not to mention the "House that Jack built" in my presence, for 'that I was as sore as a boil about that sonnet,' he not knowing that I was myself the author of it." Republished 1803, 1805, 1817

And this reft house is that the which he built,
Lamented Jack! And here his malt he pil'd,
Cautious in vain! These rats that squeak so wild,
Squeak, not unconscious of their father's guilt.
Did ye not see her gleaming thro' the glade?
Belike, 'twas she, the maiden all forlorn.
What though she milk no cow with crumpled horn,
Yet aye she haunts the dale where erst she stray'd;
And aye beside her stalks her amorous knight!
Still on his thighs their wonted brogues are worn,
And thro' those brogues, still tatter'd and betorn,
His hindward charms gleam an unearthly white;
As when thro' broken clouds at night's high noon
Peeps in fair fragments forth the full-orb'd harvest-moon!

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.