Posted to Google Groups TechnoRomanticism Discussion Board 2/20/08:

MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS: Coleridge, "Rime" & Discovery of New Text

The below relates to our discussions about Frankenstein and Romantic-era literature because it discovers relationships between German and British literature that could have influenced the production of the literature that we're reading in class. Here's just a taste of the literary debates that go on behind closed online doors (an oxymoron, yes).

How fortuitous: Just as we conclude discussing Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a conversation erupts on NASSR-L (a listserv for discussing all things Romantic) about particular images within the poem:


In discussion of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" yesterday, a student asked me if the image of the "horned Moon, with one bright star/ Within the nether tip" might be a reference to the symbol of Islam. I know that Coleridge glossed this as a reference to the maritime superstition that "something evil is about to happen whenever a star dogs the moon," but I wonder if anyone has explored the possible connections there. Perhaps the word "nether" works against this, but it seems possible.

(Citation: Anderson, Robert. "Coleridge & Islam." NASSR-L Email Post. February 20, 2008.)


While we're on the subject, however, has anyone noticed (in print-- i'll bet lowes has, somwhere) that this is, in fact, an astronomical impossibility? the "horned moon" is, of course, the sliver of a waxing or waning moon that appears when the dark side is almost entirely turned earth-wards. but that means that this "horn" comprises but the visible portion or arc of the complete circle coinciding with the invisible outline of the dark moon, whose bulk would hide from view any star, or other celestial object, in a direct line of sight running "within" that circle, i.e., within its "nether tip"--or upper tip, for that matter. coleridge must have known this, which leads me to think that he expected knowledgeable readers to conclude that the AM had been hallucinating.

(Citation: Rzepka, Charles. "Re: Coleridge & Islam." NASSR-L Email Post. February 20, 2008.)


On the same listserv (and the same day), a ferocious conversation began about a major new finding that Coleridge translated Goethe's Faust. Professor Fred Burwick contends (and has published a huge volume on this) that Coleridge translated this literary masterpiece but published it anonymously. Some other Romantic literary scholars disagree with Burwick in an article that was just published today. Burwick responds in a point-by-point listserv post which I've included below:

To those interested in the arguments put forward in "A Gentleman of Literary Eminence," by Roger Paulin, William St Clair, and Elinor Shaffer.

Please consider the following points:

  1. the letters from Bohte and from Goethe stating that Coleridge is translating Faust cannot be dismissed as literary gossip.

  2. the argument that Boosey claimed that Faust was being translated by a "gentleman," and that Coleridge wasn't really a gentleman, is specious wordplay.

  3. in my annotations to the text, I cite over 800 verbal echoes from Coleridge's other poetry, some of passages of several lines; some with characteristic phrasing often repeated in Coleridge's poetry. The reviewers do not acknowledge these.

  4. all the evidence, circumstantial and textual, points to Coleridge; no evidence points elsewhere. And "gentlemen" like Soane and Mellish aren't viable candidates for the edition published by Boosey in 1821.

  5. Mellish might well have been considered a rival of Coleridge when he translated Schiller's Wallenstein (1800), a play that Mellish wanted to translate, but then translated Schiller's Maria Stuart (1801) instead.

  6. the reviewers overlook the fact that Bohte published another edition of Faust after Soane let him down and abandoned the project.

  7. the reviewers fail to mention that, in addition to twice referring to Coleridge as translator of Faust, Goethe also translated from Coleridge, and appropriated to himself, the lines on 'an orphic tale' originally entitled "To a Gentleman" (later "To William Wordsworth"). Of course, according to the criteria of the reviewers, Wordsworth would not properly be considered a "gentlemen" either.

  8. the reviewers challenge the attribution of Boileau as author of the prose translation (Boosey 1820), but fail to notice that in his review of Hayward's translation, Boileau cited this work as his own.

This review provides a well researched commentary on the illustrations, and includes excellent reproductions of many plates, a luxury not available to me at Oxford University Press. Roger Paulin, an expert on German Romanticism and the work of Tieck, has been researching book illustrations for at least the past 15 years. At Trinity, Cambridge, he has worked extensively in the Julius Hare collection.

See also the TLS review.  Rather than extending this list of oversights, misstatements, and misrepresentations in the review article, let me encourage readers to look at the work being reviewed: Faustus: From the German of Goethe Translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Oxford, 2007)

(Citation: Burwick, Frederick. NASSR-L Email Posts. February 20, 2008.)

Back to TechnoRomanticism
English 149, Spring 2008

Dr. Katherine D. Harris
Assistant Professor of English
San Jose State University