COLERIDGE, SAMUEL TAYLOR (1772-1834)
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF HIS POEM ['ON REVISITING THE SEA-SHORE'], signed ('S.T. Coleridge'), entitled in this manuscript 'After bathing in the Sea at Scarborough in company with T. Hutchinson Aug. 1801', 24 lines in four-line stanzas, marked 'original MS' by Coleridge at foot, autograph signature either distorted because of its position at the foot of the page or perhaps added later, 1 page, quarto, ink blotches evidently from an accident, small hole, professionally backed with Japanese paper without loss to the appearance, 1801
God be with thee, gladsome Ocean!
How gladly greet I thee once more --
Ships and Waves and endless Motion
And Life rejoicing on thy shore...
...O ye Hopes that stir within me,
Health comes with you from above.
God is with me, God is in me,
I cannot die, if Life be Love.
This charming poem was first published in the Morning Post on 15 September 1801 and was included in Sibylline Leaves. E.H. Coleridge prints in footnotes the numerous readings different in the final text from those in a letter to Robert Southey and a manuscript in the possession of Miss Arnold at Foxhow.
Thomas Hutchinson was to become the brother-in-law of William Wordsworth in 1802. He ran a farm at Gallow Hill near Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast. 'Coleridge, whose left knee was conveniently swollen ("pregnant with agony") submitted to a local doctor's prescription of "horse-exercises & warm Sea-bathing" every day. He was advised to use the enclosed salt-water baths, but characteristically plunged into the open sea the moment he reached the beach, having 'Faith in the Ocean.' "I bathed regularly, frolicked in the Billows, and did me a proper deal of good.'" (Richard Holmes). More importantly, the visit gave him the opportunity to spend unfettered time with Sara ('Asra') Hutchinson, with whom by then he was deeply in love.
'Now with his creative struggles, his illness, the isolating effects of opium, he was seeking emotional escape: fantasies of exotic climates, revived dreams of a Pantisocratic colony, flirtations with the Hutchinson sisters. Yet he was also seeking, in his own instinctive way, a genuine convalescence: a revival of his powers, a revival of love, a renewal of his sense of worth as a man. Something of this was caught in a curiously formal little poem he now wrote, and despatched to The Morning Post, entitled "On Revisiting the Sea-Shore, After Long Absence." The last time he had seen the sea was at Porlock...The poem was formal (like a lyric by Samuel Rogers) because it was public. For Coleridge now found himself having to disguise the reality of his private feelings.' (Holmes, pp. 306-307). Only one other autograph manuscript of this poem exists: in a letter to John Whitaker [30 April 1811], now at Colerado College.
The greatest collection of Coleridge's manuscripts is in the British Library; the second largest in Victoria College Library, Toronto. Many American libraries have significant holdings as do the Wordsworth Centre, Grasmere, and the Bristol Reference Library.
PROVENANCE: Edward Spencer, who recorded that it was from the collection of a descendant of Dr. Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), Headmaster of Rugby.
REFERENCES: E.H. Coleridge, The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1912, i. pp. 359-360; Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions, 1989; Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume IV, 1800-1900, Part I, compiled by Rarbara Rosenbaum and Pamela Wilson, 1982, Cos 474.