By John Spencer Hill
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Extra info for A Coleridge Companion: An Introduction to the Major Poems and the Biographia Literaria
Thus oft reclin'd at east, I lose an hour At evening, till at length the freezing blast That sweeps the bolted shutter, summons home The recollected powers, and snapping short The glassy threads with which the fancy weaves Her brittle toys, restores me to myself. How calm is my recess, and how the frost Raging abroad, and the rough wind, endear The silence and the warmth enjoy'd within. ), would seem to preclude the possibility of coincidence, Coleridge has utterly transformed the passage in adapting it to suit his own purpose.
On the one hand, the presence of other minds - the poet's wife, Charles Lamb, the Wordsworths, the infant Hartley - is therapeutic or at least corrective in that it provides a second consciousness that prevents the poet from slipping into total self-absorption. Occasionally the felt presence of these bystanders is intrusive (as in 'The Eolian Harp'), but for the most part it is salutary and can serve, as in The Conversatz"on Poems 21 'This Lime-Tree Bower' or 'Frost at Midnight', as the powerful catalyst of visionary insight.
To which are added, France, an Ode; and Frost at Midnight. After he returned from Germany, Coleridge suggested to Southey in December 1799 that, if 'Johnson should mean to do nothing more' (CL, I 550) with the three poems, they might find a place in Southey's projected Annual Anthology. Southey was interested, and Coleridge wrote back five days later: 'I will speak to Johnson about the Fears in Solitude - if he give them up, they are your's' (CL, 1552)_ Johnson, however, would not relinquish his right to the poems, and in February 1800 Coleridge told Southey that 'The fears in Solitude, 1 fear, is not my Property - & 1 have no encouragement to think, it will be given The Conversation Poems 39 up' (CL, I 573).