Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
1'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,
2And the owls have awakened the crowing cock;
4And hark, again! the crowing cock,
5How drowsily it crew.
6Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
7Hath a toothless mastiff bitch;
8From her kennel beneath the rock
9She maketh answer to the clock,
10Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
11Ever and aye, by shine and shower,
12Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
13Some say, she sees my lady's shroud.
14Is the night chilly and dark?
15The night is chilly, but not dark.
16The thin gray cloud is spread on high,
17It covers but not hides the sky.
18The moon is behind, and at the full;
19And yet she looks both small and dull.
20The night is chill, the cloud is gray:
21'Tis a month before the month of May,
22And the Spring comes slowly up this way.
23The lovely lady, Christabel,
24Whom her father loves so well,
25What makes her in the wood so late,
26A furlong from the castle gate?
27She had dreams all yesternight
28Of her own betrothèd knight;
29And she in the midnight wood will pray
30For the weal of her lover that's far away.
31She stole along, she nothing spoke,
32The sighs she heaved were soft and low,
33And naught was green upon the oak
34But moss and rarest misletoe:
35She kneels beneath the huge oak tree,
36And in silence prayeth she.
37The lady sprang up suddenly,
38The lovely lady Christabel!
39It moaned as near, as near can be,
40But what it is she cannot tell.--
41On the other side it seems to be,
42Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak tree.
43The night is chill; the forest bare;
44Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
45There is not wind enough in the air
46To move away the ringlet curl
47From the lovely lady's cheek--
48There is not wind enough to twirl
49The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
50That dances as often as dance it can,
51Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
52On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
53Hush, beating heart of Christabel!
54Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
55She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
56And stole to the other side of the oak.
57 What sees she there?
58There she sees a damsel bright,
59Drest in a silken robe of white,
60That shadowy in the moonlight shone:
61The neck that made that white robe wan,
62Her stately neck, and arms were bare;
63Her blue-veined feet unsandl'd were,
64And wildly glittered here and there
65The gems entangled in her hair.
66I guess, 'twas frightful there to see
67A lady so richly clad as she--
69Mary mother, save me now!
70(Said Christabel) And who art thou?
71The lady strange made answer meet,
72And her voice was faint and sweet:--
73Have pity on my sore distress,
74I scarce can speak for weariness:
75Stretch forth thy hand, and have no fear!
76Said Christabel, How camest thou here?
77And the lady, whose voice was faint and sweet,
78Did thus pursue her answer meet:--
79My sire is of a noble line,
80And my name is Geraldine:
81Five warriors seized me yestermorn,
82Me, even me, a maid forlorn:
83They choked my cries with force and fright,
84And tied me on a palfrey white.
85The palfrey was as fleet as wind,
86And they rode furiously behind.
87They spurred amain, their steeds were white:
88And once we crossed the shade of night.
89As sure as Heaven shall rescue me,
90I have no thought what men they be;
91Nor do I know how long it is
92(For I have lain entranced I wis)
93Since one, the tallest of the five,
94Took me from the palfrey's back,
95A weary woman, scarce alive.
96Some muttered words his comrades spoke:
97He placed me underneath this oak;
98He swore they would return with haste;
99Whither they went I cannot tell--
100I thought I heard, some minutes past,
101Sounds as of a castle bell.
102Stretch forth thy hand (thus ended she).
103And help a wretched maid to flee.
104Then Christabel stretched forth her hand,
105And comforted fair Geraldine:
106O well, bright dame! may you command
107The service of Sir Leoline;
108And gladly our stout chivalry
109Will he send forth and friends withal
110To guide and guard you safe and free
111Home to your noble father's hall.
112She rose: and forth with steps they passed
113That strove to be, and were not, fast.
114Her gracious stars the lady blest,
115And thus spake on sweet Christabel:
116All our household are at rest,
117The hall as silent as the cell;
118Sir Leoline is weak in health,
119And may not well awakened be,
120But we will move as if in stealth,
121And I beseech your courtesy,
122This night, to share your couch with me.
123They crossed the moat, and Christabel
124Took the key that fitted well;
125A little door she opened straight,
126All in the middle of the gate;
127The gate that was ironed within and without,
128Where an army in battle array had marched out.
129The lady sank, belike through pain,
130And Christabel with might and main
131Lifted her up, a weary weight,
132Over the threshold of the gate:
133Then the lady rose again,
134And moved, as she were not in pain.
135So free from danger, free from fear,
136They crossed the court: right glad they were.
137And Christabel devoutly cried
138To the lady by her side,
139Praise we the Virgin all divine
140Who hath rescued thee from thy distress!
141Alas, alas! said Geraldine,
142I cannot speak for weariness.
143So free from danger, free from fear,
144They crossed the court: right glad they were.
145Outside her kennel, the mastiff old
146Lay fast asleep, in moonshine cold.
147The mastiff old did not awake,
148Yet she an angry moan did make!
149And what can ail the mastiff bitch?
150Never till now she uttered yell
151Beneath the eye of Christabel.
152Perhaps it is the owlet's scritch:
153For what can ail the mastiff bitch?
154They passed the hall, that echoes still,
155Pass as lightly as you will!
156The brands were flat, the brands were dying,
157Amid their own white ashes lying;
158But when the lady passed, there came
159A tongue of light, a fit of flame;
160And Christabel saw the lady's eye,
161And nothing else saw she thereby,
162Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,
163Which hung in a murky old niche in the wall.
164O softly tread, said Christabel,
165My father seldom sleepeth well.
166Sweet Christabel her feet doth bare,
167And jealous of the listening air
168They steal their way from stair to stair,
169Now in glimmer, and now in gloom,
170And now they pass the Baron's room,
171As still as death, with stifled breath!
172And now have reached her chamber door;
173And now doth Geraldine press down
174The rushes of the chamber floor.
175The moon shines dim in the open air,
176And not a moonbeam enters here.
177But they without its light can see
178The chamber carved so curiously,
179Carved with figures strange and sweet,
180All made out of the carver's brain,
181For a lady's chamber meet:
182The lamp with twofold silver chain
183Is fastened to an angel's feet.
184The silver lamp burns dead and dim;
185But Christabel the lamp will trim.
186She trimmed the lamp, and made it bright,
187And left it swinging to and fro,
188While Geraldine, in wretched plight,
189Sank down upon the floor below.
190O weary lady, Geraldine,
191I pray you, drink this cordial wine!
192It is a wine of virtuous powers;
193My mother made it of wild flowers.
194And will your mother pity me,
195Who am a maiden most forlorn?
196Christabel answered--Woe is me!
197She died the hour that I was born.
198I have heard the grey-haired friar tell
199How on her death-bed she did say,
200That she should hear the castle-bell
201Strike twelve upon my wedding-day.
202O mother dear! that thou wert here!
203I would, said Geraldine, she were!
204But soon with altered voice, said she--
205'Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine!
206I have power to bid thee flee.'
207Alas! what ails poor Geraldine?
208Why stares she with unsettled eye?
209Can she the bodiless dead espy?
210And why with hollow voice cries she,
211'Off, woman, off! this hour is mine--
212Though thou her guardian spirit be,
213Off, woman, off! 'tis given to me.'
214Then Christabel knelt by the lady's side,
215And raised to heaven her eyes so blue--
216Alas! said she, this ghastly ride--
217Dear lady! it hath wildered you!
218The lady wiped her moist cold brow,
219And faintly said, ' 'tis over now!'
220Again the wild-flower wine she drank:
221Her fair large eyes 'gan glitter bright,
222And from the floor whereon she sank,
223The lofty lady stood upright:
224She was most beautiful to see,
225Like a lady of a far countrèe.
226And thus the lofty lady spake--
227'All they who live in the upper sky,
228Do love you, holy Christabel!
229And you love them, and for their sake
230And for the good which me befel,
231Even I in my degree will try,
232Fair maiden, to requite you well.
233But now unrobe yourself; for I
234Must pray, ere yet in bed I lie.'
235Quoth Christabel, So let it be!
236And as the lady bade, did she.
237Her gentle limbs did she undress,
238And lay down in her loveliness.
239But through her brain of weal and woe
240So many thoughts moved to and fro,
241That vain it were her lids to close;
242So half-way from the bed she rose,
243And on her elbow did recline
244To look at the lady Geraldine.
245Beneath the lamp the lady bowed,
246And slowly rolled her eyes around;
247Then drawing in her breath aloud,
248Like one that shuddered, she unbound
249The cincture from beneath her breast:
250Her silken robe, and inner vest,
251Dropt to her feet, and full in view,
252Behold! her bosom and half her side--
253A sight to dream of, not to tell!
254O shield her! shield sweet Christabel!
255Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs;
256Ah! what a stricken look was hers!
257Deep from within she seems half-way
258To lift some weight with sick assay,
259And eyes the maid and seeks delay;
260Then suddenly, as one defied,
261Collects herself in scorn and pride,
262And lay down by the Maiden's side!--
263And in her arms the maid she took,
264 Ah wel-a-day!
265And with low voice and doleful look
266These words did say:
267'In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell,
268Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!
269Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow,
270This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow;
271 But vainly thou warrest,
272 For this is alone in
273 Thy power to declare,
274 That in the dim forest
275 Thou heard'st a low moaning,
276And found'st a bright lady, surpassingly fair;
277And didst bring her home with thee in love and in charity,
278To shield her and shelter her from the damp air.'
THE CONCLUSION TO PART I
279It was a lovely sight to see
280The lady Christabel, when she
281Was praying at the old oak tree.
282 Amid the jaggèd shadows
283 Of mossy leafless boughs,
284 Kneeling in the moonlight,
285 To make her gentle vows;
286Her slender palms together prest,
287Heaving sometimes on her breast;
288Her face resigned to bliss or bale--
289Her face, oh call it fair not pale,
290And both blue eyes more bright than clear,
291Each about to have a tear.
292With open eyes (ah woe is me!)
293Asleep, and dreaming fearfully,
294Fearfully dreaming, yet, I wis,
295Dreaming that alone, which is--
296O sorrow and shame! Can this be she,
297The lady, who knelt at the old oak tree?
298And lo! the worker of these harms,
299That holds the maiden in her arms,
300Seems to slumber still and mild,
301As a mother with her child.
302A star hath set, a star hath risen,
303O Geraldine! since arms of thine
304Have been the lovely lady's prison.
305O Geraldine! one hour was thine--
306Thou'st had thy will! By tairn and rill,
307The night-birds all that hour were still.
308But now they are jubilant anew,
309From cliffand tower, tu--whoo! tu--whoo!
310Tu--whoo! tu--whoo! from wood and fell!
311And see! the lady Christabel
312Gathers herself from out her trance;
313Her limbs relax, her countenance
314Grows sad and soft; the smooth thin lids
315Close o'er her eyes; and tears she sheds--
316Large tears that leave the lashes bright!
317And oft the while she seems to smile
318As infants at a sudden light!
319Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep,
320Like a youthful hermitess,
321Beauteous in a wilderness,
322Who, praying always, prays in sleep.
323And, if she move unquietly,
324Perchance, 'tis but the blood so free
325Comes back and tingles in her feet.
326No doubt, she hath a vision sweet.
327What if her guardian spirit 'twere,
328What if she knew her mother near?
329But this she knows, in joys and woes,
330That saints will aid if men will call:
331For the blue sky bends over all!
332Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
333Knells us back to a world of death.
334These words Sir Leoline first said,
335When he rose and found his lady dead:
336These words Sir Leoline will say
337Many a morn to his dying day!
338And hence the custom and law began
339That still at dawn the sacristan,
340Who duly pulls the heavy bell,
341Five and forty beads must tell
342Between each stroke--a warning knell,
343Which not a soul can choose but hear
344From Bratha Head to Wyndermere.
345Saith Bracy the bard, So let it knell!
346And let the drowsy sacristan
347Still count as slowly as he can!
348There is no lack of such, I ween,
349As well fill up the space between.
350In Langdale Pike and Witch's Lair,
351And Dungeon-ghyll so foully rent,
352With ropes of rock and bells of air
353Three sinful sextons' ghosts are pent,
354Who all give back, one after t'other,
355The death-note to their living brother;
356And oft too, by the knell offended,
357Just as their one! two! three! is ended,
358The devil mocks the doleful tale
359With a merry peal from Borodale.
360The air is still! through mist and cloud
361That merry peal comes ringing loud;
362And Geraldine shakes off her dread,
363And rises lightly from the bed;
364Puts on her silken vestments white,
365And tricks her hair in lovely plight,
366And nothing doubting of her spell
367Awakens the lady Christabel.
368'Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel?
369I trust that you have rested well.'
370And Christabel awoke and spied
371The same who lay down by her side--
372O rather say, the same whom she
373Raised up beneath the old oak tree!
374Nay, fairer yet! and yet more fair!
375For she belike hath drunken deep
376Of all the blessedness of sleep!
377And while she spake, her looks, her air
378Such gentle thankfulness declare,
379That (so it seemed) her girded vests
380Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.
381'Sure I have sinn'd!' said Christabel,
382'Now heaven be praised if all be well!'
383And in low faltering tones, yet sweet,
384Did she the lofty lady greet
385With such perplexity of mind
386As dreams too lively leave behind.
387So quickly she rose, and quickly arrayed
388Her maiden limbs, and having prayed
389That He, who on the cross did groan,
390Might wash away her sins unknown,
391She forthwith led fair Geraldine
392To meet her sire, Sir Leoline.
393The lovely maid and the lady tall
394Are pacing both into the hall,
395And pacing on through page and groom,
396Enter the Baron's presence-room.
397The Baron rose, and while he prest
398His gentle daughter to his breast,
399With cheerful wonder in his eyes
400The lady Geraldine espies,
401And gave such welcome to the same,
402As might beseem so bright a dame!
403But when he heard the lady's tale,
404And when she told her father's name,
405Why waxed Sir Leoline so pale,
406Murmuring o'er the name again,
407Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine?
408Alas! they had been friends in youth;
409But whispering tongues can poison truth;
410And constancy lives in realms above;
411And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
412And to be wroth with one we love
413Doth work like madness in the brain.
414And thus it chanced, as I divine,
415With Roland and Sir Leoline.
416Each spake words of high disdain
417And insult to his heart's best brother:
418They parted--ne'er to meet again!
419But never either found another
420To free the hollow heart from paining--
421They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
422Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
423A dreary sea now flows between;--
424But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
425Shall wholly do away, I ween,
426The marks of that which once hath been.
427Sir Leoline, a moment's space,
428Stood gazing on the damsel's face:
429And the youthful Lord of Tryermaine
430Came back upon his heart again.
431O then the Baron forgot his age,
432His noble heart swelled high with rage;
433He swore by the wounds in Jesu's side
434He would proclaim it far and wide,
435With trump and solemn heraldry,
436That they, who thus had wronged the dame,
437Were base as spotted infamy!
438'And if they dare deny the same,
439My herald shall appoint a week,
440And let the recreant traitors seek
441My tourney court--that there and then
442I may dislodge their reptile souls
443From the bodies and forms of men!'
444He spake: his eye in lightning rolls!
445For the lady was ruthlessly seized; and he kenned
446In the beautiful lady the child of his friend!
447And now the tears were on his face,
448And fondly in his arms he took
449Fair Geraldine, who met the embrace,
450Prolonging it with joyous look.
451Which when she viewed, a vision fell
452Upon the soul of Christabel,
453The vision of fear, the touch and pain!
454She shrunk and shuddered, and saw again--
455(Ah, woe is me! Was it for thee,
456Thou gentle maid! such sights to see?)
457Again she saw that bosom old,
458Again she felt that bosom cold,
459And drew in her breath with a hissing sound:
460Whereat the Knight turned wildly round,
461And nothing saw, but his own sweet maid
462With eyes upraised, as one that prayed.
463The touch, the sight, had passed away,
464And in its stead that vision blest,
465Which comforted her after-rest
466While in the lady's arms she lay,
467Had put a rapture in her breast,
468And on her lips and o'er her eyes
469Spread smiles like light!
470 With new surprise,
471'What ails then my belovèd child?
472The Baron said--His daughter mild
473Made answer, 'All will yet be well!'
474I ween, she had no power to tell
475Aught else: so mighty was the spell.
476Yet he, who saw this Geraldine,
477Had deemed her sure a thing divine:
478Such sorrow with such grace she blended,
479As if she feared she had offended
480Sweet Christabel, that gentle maid!
481And with such lowly tones she prayed
482She might be sent without delay
483Home to her father's mansion.
485Nay, by my soul!' said Leoline.
486'Ho! Bracy the bard, the charge be thine!
487Go thou, with sweet music and loud,
488And take two steeds with trappings proud,
489And take the youth whom thou lov'st best
490To bear thy harp, and learn thy song,
491And clothe you both in solemn vest,
492And over the mountains haste along,
493Lest wandering folk, that are abroad,
494Detain you on the valley road.
495'And when he has crossed the Irthing flood,
496My merry bard! he hastes, he hastes
497Up Knorren Moor, through Halegarth Wood,
498And reaches soon that castle good
499Which stands and threatens Scotland's wastes.
500'Bard Bracy! bard Bracy! your horses are fleet,
501Ye must ride up the hall, your music so sweet,
502More loud than your horses' echoing feet!
503And loud and loud to Lord Roland call,
504Thy daughter is safe in Langdale hall!
505Thy beautiful daughter is safe and free--
506Sir Leoline greets thee thus through me!
507He bids thee come without delay
508With all thy numerous array
509And take thy lovely daughter home:
510And he will meet thee on the way
511With all his numerous array
512White with their panting palfreys' foam:
513And, by mine honour! I will say,
514That I repent me of the day
515When I spake words of fierce disdain
516To Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine!--
517--For since that evil hour hath flown,
518Many a summer's sun hath shone;
519Yet ne'er found I a friend again
520Like Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine.
521The lady fell, and clasped his knees,
522Her face upraised, her eyes o'erflowing;
523And Bracy replied, with faltering voice,
524His gracious Hail on all bestowing!--
525'Thy words, thou sire of Christabel,
526Are sweeter than my harp can tell;
527Yet might I gain a boon of thee,
528This day my journey should not be,
529So strange a dream hath come to me,
530That I had vowed with music loud
531To clear yon wood from thing unblest.
532Warned by a vision in my rest!
533For in my sleep I saw that dove,
534That gentle bird, whom thou dost love,
535And call'st by thy own daughter's name--
536Sir Leoline! I saw the same
537Fluttering, and uttering fearful moan,
538Among the green herbs in the forest alone.
539Which when I saw and when I heard,
540I wonder'd what might ail the bird;
541For nothing near it could I see
542Save the grass and green herbs underneath the old tree.
543'And in my dream methought I went
544To search out what might there be found;
545And what the sweet bird's trouble meant,
546That thus lay fluttering on the ground.
547I went and peered, and could descry
548No cause for her distressful cry;
549But yet for her dear lady's sake
550I stooped, methought, the dove to take,
551When lo! I saw a bright green snake
552Coiled around its wings and neck.
553Green as the herbs on which it couched,
554Close by the dove's its head it crouched;
555And with the dove it heaves and stirs,
556Swelling its neck as she swelled hers!
557I woke; it was the midnight hour,
558The clock was echoing in the tower;
559But though my slumber was gone by,
560This dream it would not pass away--
561It seems to live upon my eye!
562And thence I vowed this self-same day
563With music strong and saintly song
564To wander through the forest bare,
565Lest aught unholy loiter there.'
566Thus Bracy said: the Baron, the while,
567Half-listening heard him with a smile;
568Then turned to Lady Geraldine,
569His eyes made up of wonder and love;
570And said in courtly accents fine,
571'Sweet maid, Lord Roland's beauteous dove,
572With arms more strong than harp or song,
573Thy sire and I will crush the snake!'
574He kissed her forehead as he spake,
575And Geraldine in maiden wise
576Casting down her large bright eyes,
577With blushing cheek and courtesy fine
578She turned her from Sir Leoline;
579Softly gathering up her train,
580That o'er her right arm fell again;
581And folded her arms across her chest,
582And couched her head upon her breast,
583And looked askance at Christabel
584Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
585A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy;
586And the lady's eyes they shrunk in her head,
587Each shrunk up to a serpent's eye
588And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread,
589At Christabel she looked askance!--
590One moment--and the sight was fled!
591But Christabel in dizzy trance
592Stumbling on the unsteady ground
593Shuddered aloud, with a hissing sound;
594And Geraldine again turned round,
595And like a thing, that sought relief,
596Full of wonder and full of grief,
597She rolled her large bright eyes divine
598Wildly on Sir Leoline.
599The maid, alas! her thoughts are gone,
600She nothing sees--no sight but one!
601The maid, devoid of guile and sin,
602I know not how, in fearful wise,
603So deeply she had drunken in
604That look, those shrunken serpent eyes,
605That all her features were resigned
606To this sole image in her mind:
607And passively did imitate
608That look of dull and treacherous hate!
609And thus she stood, in dizzy trance;
610Still picturing that look askance
611With forced unconscious sympathy
612Full before her father's view--
613As far as such a look could be
614In eyes so innocent and blue!
615And when the trance was o'er, the maid
616Paused awhile, and inly prayed:
617Then falling at the Baron's feet,
618'By my mother's soul do I entreat
619That thou this woman send away!'
620She said: and more she could not say:
621For what she knew she could not tell,
622O'er-mastered by the mighty spell.
623Why is thy cheek so wan and wild,
624Sir Leoline? Thy only child
625Lies at thy feet, thy joy, thy pride,
626So fair, so innocent, so mild;
627The same, for whom thy lady died!
628O by the pangs of her dear mother
629Think thou no evil of thy child!
630For her, and thee, and for no other,
631She prayed the moment ere she died:
632Prayed that the babe for whom she died,
633Might prove her dear lord's joy and pride!
634 That prayer her deadly pangs beguiled,
635 Sir Leoline!
636 And wouldst thou wrong thy only child,
637 Her child and thine?
638Within the Baron's heart and brain
639If thoughts, like these, had any share,
640They only swelled his rage and pain,
641And did but work confusion there.
642His heart was cleft with pain and rage,
643His cheeks they quivered, his eyes were wild,
644Dishonoured thus in his old age;
645Dishonoured by his only child,
646And all his hospitality
647To the wronged daughter of his friend
648By more than woman's jealousy
649Brought thus to a disgraceful end--
650He rolled his eye with stern regard
651Upon the gentle minstrel bard,
652And said in tones abrupt, austere--
653'Why, Bracy! dost thou loiter here?
654I bade thee hence!' The bard obeyed;
655And turning from his own sweet maid,
656The agèd knight, Sir Leoline,
657Led forth the lady Geraldine!
THE CONCLUSION TO PART II
658A little child, a limber elf,
659Singing, dancing to itself,
660A fairy thing with red round cheeks,
661That always finds, and never seeks,
662Makes such a vision to the sight
663As fills a father's eyes with light;
664And pleasures flow in so thick and fast
665Upon his heart, that he at last
666Must needs express his love's excess
667With words of unmeant bitterness.
668Perhaps 'tis pretty to force together
669Thoughts so all unlike each other;
670To mutter and mock a broken charm,
671To dally with wrong that does no harm.
672Perhaps 'tis tender too and pretty
673At each wild word to feel within
674A sweet recoil of love and pity.
675And what, if in a world of sin
676(O sorrow and shame should this be true!)
677Such giddiness of heart and brain
678Comes seldom save from rage and pain,
679So talks as it 's most used to do.
1] Coleridge's preface runs as follows: "The first part of the following poem was written in the year 1797, at Stowey, in the county of Somerset. The second part, after my return from Germany, in the year 1800, at Keswick, Cumberland. It is probable that if the poem had been finished at either of the former periods, or if even the first and second part had been published in the year 1800, the impression of its originality would have been much greater than I dare at present expect. But for this I have only my own indolence to blame. The dates are mentioned for the exclusive purpose of precluding charges of plagiarism or servile imitation from myself. For there is amongst us a set of critics, who seem to hold, that every possible thought and image is traditional; who have no notion that there are such things as fountains in the world, small as well as great; and who would therefore charitably derive every rill they behold flowing, from a perforation made in some other man's tank. I am confident, however, that as far as the present poem is concerned, the celebrated poets whose writings I might be suspected of having imitated, either in particular passages, or in the tone and the spirit of the whole, would be among the first to vindicate me from the charge, and who, on any striking coincidence, would permit me to address them in this doggerel version of two monkish Latin hexameters. ''Tis mine and it is likewise yours;/But an if this will not do;/Let it be mine, good friend! for I/Am the poorer of the two.' I have only to add that the metre of Christabel is not, properly speaking, irregular, though it may seem so from its being founded on a new principle: namely, that of counting in each line the accents, not the syllables. Though the latter may vary from seven to twelve, yet in each line the accents will be found to be only four. Nevertheless, this occasional variation in number of syllables is not introduced wantonly, or for the mere ends of convenience, but in correspondence with some transition in the nature of the imagery or passion."
Composed 1797-1801, chiefly in two periods. The first part seems to have been written in Somerset by the summer of 1798; the second part in the Lake District in 1800; only the conclusion to Part II belongs to 1801. Circulated in manuscript, the poem suggested to Scott the form of verse used in the Lay of the Last Minstrel. Christabel, first published in 1816 with Kubla Khan and The Pains of Sleep, ran to three editions in that year. After his death certain friends variously reported Coleridge's projected ending for the poem (see Humphry House, Coleridge, 1953, 126-30); others, however, believe that the meaning of Christabel is complete in spite of its fragmentary state. #celebrated poets: a reference presumably to Wordsworth, Scott, and Byron.
49] The one red leaf. On March 7, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal: "one only leaf upon the top of a tree--the sole remaining leaf--danced round and round like a rag blown by the wind." This is but one instance of the close connection between Dorothy Wordsworth's observations and the poems of Coleridge (and Wordsworth).
306] tairn: tarn, a small mountain lake or pool.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: S. T. Coleridge, Christabel, 2nd edn. (London: William Bulmer, 1816). D-10 8859 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date:
RPO poem editor: Kathleen Coburn, R. S. Woof
RP edition: 3RP 2.447.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/20
Composition date note: 1797 (Part 1), 1801 (Part 2)
Form note: irregularly rhyming
Other poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge