Tuesday, March 18, 2008

a nightingale among owls

Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Robert Southey

[Glocester] July 1794.*

You are averse to gratitudinarian flourishes, else would I talk about hospitality, attention, &c. &c.; however, as I must not thank you, I will thank my stars. Verily, Southey, I like not Oxford, nor the inhabitants of it. I would say thou art a nightingale among owls; but thou art so songless and heavy towards night that I will rather liken thee to the matin lark, thy "nest" is in a blighted cornfield, where the sleepy poppy nods its red-cowled head, and the weak-eyed mole plies his dark work; but thy soaring is even unto heaven. Or let me add (for my appetite for similes is truly canine at this moment), that as the Italian nobles their new-fashioned doors, so thou dost make the adamantine gate of Democracy turn on its golden hinges to most sweet music.

[S. T. Coleridge]

*Coleridge, visiting an old school friend in Oxford, met Southey in June 1794. Southey was an undergraduate at Balliol.

-from Biographia Epistolaris by Samuel Taylor Coleridge edited by Arthur Turnbull (London-1911) vol. 1.

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