Wednesday, July 2, 2008


The secret of the superiority of the Stradivarius sound may have at last been found. Meanwhile, the earth is apparently screaming its head off. Voyager 2 has phoned in from the edge of the Solar System. Silliman's blogroll has been updated. And the Dil Pickle Club (with one "l") has been revived.

These news stories are coincident, but not necessarily related.

[N.B. See Paul Zukofsky's dissent re the Strad, via Mark Scroggins.]


"Poetry -- excites us to artificial feelings -- makes us callous to real ones."

(Coleridge, in his notebooks; why is there no affordable edition of The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge?)


"'Verse,' observes Dryden calmly, 'is not the effect of sudden thought; but this hinders not that sudden thought may be represented in verse.' A heavy stress on the element of mystery in art can hardly escape an ultimate stress on the artist himself and his process. Because if the theorist stresses the mystery of the work itself, he is saying in effect that he cannot understand why it is a good work. And this is close to saying that he does not understand that it is a good work. True, nobody has ever yet completely demonstrated any such understanding. Yet criticism and theory do drive toward understanding, or they drive toward nothing at all."

(W.K. Wimsatt, Jr., on Maritain, exhumed from Poetry, February 1956)


. . . . Poetry is certainly
More interesting, more valuable,
and certainly more charming
Than Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic Ocean
And other much admired natural phenomena...

Poetry is quick as tigers, clever as cats, vivid as oranges...

(bits from Delmore Schwartz, "The Kingdom of Poetry," Poetry, May 1958, quoted for my friend, Vivek Narayanan)


Stephen Sturgeon said...

Dear Don,

Do you know the volume of selected Coleridge Marginalia that Princeton published in 2003? It's called A Book I Value. Selected Marginalia. Ed., H. J. Jackson. I'm unsure if it's still in print, but I got mine from the Grolier a couple of years ago for 18 dollars. About 200 pages long, very well worth it. ISBN 0-691-11317-3.

Publishing selections from the Table Talk would also be a fine thing to do. I like it when Coleridge starts wondering how many great geniuses it would take to form someone he considers to be an even better genius:

Galileo was a great genius, and so was Newton; but it would take two or three hundred Galileos and Newtons to make one Kepler.


Newton was a great man, but you must excuse me if I think that it would take many Newtons to make one Milton.

Or (in a letter c. 1801):

I believe the Souls of 500 Sir Isaac Newtons would go to the making up of a Shakespeare or a Milton.

Cheap volumes of the Bollingen Coleridge come up once every year or so in Boston. I found a copy of The Friend at a low price, and about a year and a half ago Princeton had a sale which offered the two books that make up the first volume of the Poems for 100 dollars . . . But I've never found any of the Notebooks for anything less than insanity itself. Princeton should give them the same treatment they did the Marginalia.


Stephen Sturgeon said...

According to A Book I Value, in 1811 Coleridge was reading a seventeenth-century memoir which contained an anecdote about an elderly woman who, decades after she had last nursed a baby, was given the care of an infant whose parents had recently died. Worried how she would nourish the child, she "put it to her breast for warmth, . . . the Child drew Milk, and so much, that the Woman nursed it up with her Breast Milk a good while." In response, Coleridge wrote in the margin:

"The great naturalist, Ray, adduces, in treating of the male teat (vide his 'Wisdom of God'), a yet stronger instance, that of a father whose breast furnished milk sufficient to preserve the life of the babe, whose mother had perished as they were travelling through the waste plains (then so at least), in the North of Italy, and on seeming good authority. I think that I have myself known a man who could have done it, under a conceived intense stimulus of pity and parental fondness."
--p. 45

Apologies for double-posting, but I couldn't help sharing Coleridge's thoughts on this. Who was this extraordinary man he knew? Wordsworth? Southey?

What a book!