The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry by Harold Bloom

The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry by Harold Bloom

Author:Harold Bloom [Bloom, Harold]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Unknown
Published: 2020-08-30T04:00:00+00:00

superfluous means of grace. Positive Negation:

LIMBO The poem responding to The Prelude is Coleridge's last meditation in the mode that his "conversation poems" had pioneered. After January 18o7 he bade farewell to Nature as a muse. The sonnet To Nature may be as late as 1820 in composition, but its tone is altogether defensive and nostalgic :

It may indeed be phantasy, when I

Essay to draw from all created things

Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;

And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie Lessons of love and earnest piety. This is at a dead end of vision. The poet can be only mildly defiant, and seek to justify Nature by attaching her for sanction to God as a "poor sacrifice" to the higher sacramentalism. Sometime about 1817, Coleridge scribbled a nightmare-like fragment in a notebook, and called it Limbo . The flight from Nature leads to an Ulro as frightening as Blake's state of negations:

The sole true Something-This! In Limbo's Den It frightens Ghosts, as here Ghosts frighten men. Thence cross'd unseiz'd-and shall some fated hour Be pulveris'd by Demogorgon's power,

And given as poison to annihilate souls


The substance of substances, or 1'sole troe Something" in Deiection: An Ode was still "this light, this glory, this fair luminous mist." Now Coleridge is on the other side of dejection, in a den of quietude which knows an essence of annihilation. Ghosts dwell in Limbo, a state whose very name (Latin limbus ) means border or edge, and where no judgment is possible, and non-being reigns. "The sole true Something," the dread substanceless substance, frightens ghosts in Limbo, as ghosts frighten us here. The "Thence cross'd unseiz'd" refers to the Acheron, the river in Hades over which Charon the boatman ferries the dead. In lines crossed out of the fragment, Coleridge says that the dread thing skimmed in the wake of Charon's boat and mocked his demand for a farthing fare. It can cross the gulf between existence and non-existence, for it has at tributes both of what is and of what is not. It is thus the essence or soulless soul of chaos, and shall at a darkly fated time be ground into a poison by Demogorgon, the god of the primordial abyss, and used to annihilate souls. Even now, the fragment goes on to affirm, it shrinks souls who dread "the natural alien of their negative eye," just as moles dread light.

So far these are the metaphysics of nightmare, and the rhetoric of the fragment is oppressive. Coleridge's horror of mere matter, his aversion to metaphysical materialism, so dominates these lines as to give them an undoubted but perhaps illicit power. They play upon our obsessive fear of formlessness, and it needs no Coleridge to do that; any director of a horror film can do more. The fragment becomes poetry when Coleridge recovers himself, and speculates upon Limbo :

-where Time and weary Space

Fettered from flight, with night-mare sense of fleeing, Strive for their last crepuscular half-being;

Lank Space,


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