MS R Page 135


page: DCMS28.135

[note]Internal title page for "Religious Musings"[note]Note 2: p. 135 Religious Musings Full title (p.139): "Religious Musings A Desultory Poem, written on Christmas' Eve, In the Year of Our Lord, 1794". As James Mays points out, "Religious Musings" was the most important poem in the collection for Coleridge: "C for a while pinned all his hopes on the poem. It was his first adult venture beyond lyric verse without a collaborator" (STCCW PW, 1, 173). Coleridge's letters of the time repeatedly emphasise his desire for others to respond to this poem and his hopes for it: I build all my poetic pretensions on the Religious Musings" (STCL 1, 205). The poem presents itself as being written on a specific day but Mays states that "It was conceived and perhaps begun on Christmas Eve 1794 but . . . had not reached a finished state even as C began to submit copy Poems" (1, 171). The poem was substantially revised when re-published in 1797 with quite detailed and interpretative notes added to it. It contains a number of explicit intertextual references (to Akenside in the epigraph; to Hartley; Berkeley; Milton and others). Wordsworth had certainly read this poem of Coleridge's by May 1796 when Coleridge states in a letter to John Thelwall that: "A very dear friend of mine, who is in my opinion the best poet of the age (I will send you his Poem when published) thinks that the lines from 364 to 375 & from 403 to 428 the best in the Volume" (STCL 1, 215-216). The poem is largely a celebration of Christianity and the sacrifice of Christ which allows each individual to be one with God. It celebrates the blessedness of the elect, the oneness of faith and love and the sublimity in man which is felt when we know ourselves to be part of a greater whole. The poem opposes those who choose to ignore such a state. However, it also acknowledges that bad deeds are done, even in the name of Christ. The poem turns its attention to war and the wretchedness of those kept in misery by society. The masses have already stirred, however, under the Patriot Sage (Benjamin Franklin). At last, the day of retribution draws near. In France, frenzy has begun, the Apocalypse is imminent and in the end spirituality, faith and truth will once again be spread upon the earth.