Coleridge and the Ancient Sailor

Coleridge and the Ancient Sailor

By Catherine Angerson, Curator, Trendy Archives and Manuscripts. A small show to mark the 250e anniversary of the poet’s delivery Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) will be seen within the Gallery of treasures till September 25, 2022.

Poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Sailor recounts the experiences of a sailor whose ship is frozen in ice throughout an extended voyage. The sailor brings nice misfortune to the ship and its crew by killing the albatross that helped convey them to security. Coleridge’s despair and his personal journey experiences led to his rising identification with the Marine and he continued to revise the poem, first revealed in Lyrical Ballads in 1798, at totally different episodes of his life.

A brand new temporary display within the Treasures Gallery brings collectively three of Coleridge’s manuscripts (a poem and two notebooks) and two Twentieth-century illustrated editions of The Rime of the Historical Sailor to mark the 250th anniversary of the poet’s delivery.

The Coleridge exhibition within the British Library Treasures Gallery

The primary merchandise on show is a handwritten poem titled ‘Dura Navis’ which Coleridge stated he composed when he was 15 whereas a pupil at Christ’s Hospital in Sussex. The poem reveals the poet’s early concern for the isolation of the traveler and the hazards of sea journey. The manuscript is a self-signed copy written by Coleridge a number of years after he first composed the poem. A 51-year-old Coleridge added a remark on the backside of the primary web page saying that the poem “doesn’t comprise a line which an clever schoolboy may not have written” (Add MS 34225f.1r).

Manuscript page of Coleridge's poem

ST Coleridge, ‘Dura Navis’, composed in 1787; clear copy round 1823. Add MS 34225, f. 1r.

On the middle of the small exhibit are two of Coleridge’s 55 notebooks bought by the British Museum from the descendants of Coleridge’s brother James in 1951. Coleridge used pocket notebooks to file ideas, emotions, quotes, accounts of journey, language studying (particularly German), philosophical reflections, poems and extra. Pocket book No. 9 (add MS 47506) comprises Coleridge’s impressions of a visit to Malta in April 1804. In a quick second of calm within the Bay of Biscay, the poet observes “the truthful floor of the ocean in that light breeze ” (f .33v). A reference to his good friend William Wordsworth’s poem The wandering lady will be seen close to the underside of the web page: ‘And on the gliding ship Heaven & Ocean smil’d!’ (f.34r)

Coleridge's Malta notebook showing handwritten notes

‘And on the slippery ship Heaven & Ocean smil’d!’: a reference to Wordsworth in Coleridge’s Pocket book No. 9, Add MS 47506, f. 34r.

In October 1806, Coleridge wrote a brand new model of a brief part of The Rime of the Ancient Sailor in his Carnet n° 11 (Add MS 47508). Whereas the opening traces, “With by no means a whisper in the primary / Off shot the specter ship”, are near traces 198199 of the poem revealed in Lyrical Ballads in 1798, the next two traces don’t seem within the first or modified model revealed in 1817:

And muffled phrases and moans of ache
Combine’d on every trembling ^ whispering lip

Different photos are altered however recognizable from half III of the poem revealed in sibylline leaves (1817). “The sky was boring and darkish at evening” within the 1806 pocket book turns into “The celebrities had been darkish and thick at evening” in 1817.

Coleridge's notebook showing a manuscript draft and revision of the Ancient Mariner

ST Coleridge, manuscript revision of traces from The Rime of the Historical Mariner, in Pocket book No. 11, 1806, Add MS 47508, f. 5r

Many artists have been drawn to the inventive power and supernatural imagery of The outdated sailor. The primary illustrated version on show was designed, embellished and illustrated by the Hungarian artist Willy Pogány (born Vilmos András Pogány, 1882–1955) and revealed in 1910. The illustration of the ship hit by a ‘storm’ is reproduced at from Pogány’s watercolor and matches Coleridge’s phrases on the alternative web page. Within the poem, the ship is pushed by a storm, “tyrant and robust”, in the direction of the South Pole. Pogány’s storm has a suggestion of wings just like the winged storm that pursues the ship within the poem.

A printed version of The Ancient Mariner, by Willy Pogany, with the text on the left page and an image of the ship and the sea on the right page

ST Coleridge, The Rime of the Historical Mariner: in seven components; offered by Willy Pogány. London: GG Harrap & Co., 1910. KTC40.b.13.

The exhibition ends with Mervyn Peake’s austere picture of a struggling and repentant sailor in an version revealed by Chatto & Windus in 1943. Not like Pogány’s deluxe version printed on vellum, this version with seven illustrations in black and white reproduced from Peake’s designs was designed to be inexpensive. In Coleridge’s poem, the crew hangs the albatross across the sailor’s neck to mark their guilt for killing the auspicious fowl. Peake’s picture hints at the opportunity of redemption for the Mariner.

An illustration by Mervyn Peake showing the sailor with the albatross around his neck

Illustration by Mervyn Peake, in ST Coleridge, The Rime of the Historical Mariner. London: Chatto & Windus, 1943. 11657.dd.18.

THE Coleridge Display on the British Library (till September 25) overlaps the mortgage of the manuscript of Coleridge’s different well-known poem by a number of weeks, Kubla Kahnand a 1798 version of Lyrical Ballads to the Museum of Somerset for the exhibition In Xanadu: Coleridge and the West Country (till June 25). The anniversary can also be celebrated on the British Library on 20 October with the annual Wordsworth Belief lecture by famed Coleridge biographer Richard Holmes. Tickets will likely be accessible from mid-August.

Additional studying

Kathleen Coburn, Merton Christensen and Anthony John Harding, eds., The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge5 volumes (Princeton: Princeton College Press, 1957–2002)

Seamus Perry, ed., Coleridge’s notebooks: a range (Oxford: Oxford College Press, 2002)

#Coleridge #Historical #Sailor

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