Just a Coincidence?

Comparing Draft and Printed Textual Meaning on the Page

Apart from the first two printed text pages, all of MS R is entered in the final section of Coleridge's Poems over and around the last, long poem in the collection, "Religious Musings", and the notes at the back of the book. This may be accidental, but it is not without significance. "Religious Musings" was the poem of greatest importance to Coleridge in the collection.

On page 141 of DC MS 28 a stretch of draft material begins in which Wordsworth writes between the lines of the Coleridge text. This is not his standard practice (see also Spatial entry in DC MS 28 and 30) and it is interesting that it starts on the first page of full text for Coleridge's poem "Religious Musings", and for a block of highly reflective and philosophical musings by the poet about the valley and its community.

Below are two examples in DC MS 28 where the content and meaning of the Wordsworth text strongly resembles the printed text beneath it.

Before you read the examples, decide for yourself. Is it:

1. Just a Coincidence?

2. Deliberately intended by Wordsworth?

3. Somewhere between the two: a kind of subconscious effect?

EXAMPLE 1

On page 142, Coleridge's printed text describes the death of Christ and the effect of his sacrifice in diffusing love through all mankind:

Lovely was the Death

Of Him, whose Life was Love! Holy with power

He on the thought-benighted Sceptic beam'd

Manifest Godhead, melting into day . . .

(1796, p.142, l.37-41)

Meanwhile the Wordsworth draft presents the image of a lamp as a metaphor for mortality - written over an account of Christ's mortal death in order that mankind might gain eternal life.:

Mortal though bright a dying dying joy

{ Lus

{[?Lus]tre which we alone participate whose

Whose lustre we alone participate

That is dependent upon us alone

Mortal though bright a dying dying [?joy]

(Cornell, p.169; MS R 142)

Here is the created intertext:

Lovely was the Death

Mortal though bright a dying dying joy

Of Him, whose Life was Love! Holy with power

[?Lus]tre which we alone participate whose

He on the thought-benighted Sceptic beam'd

Whose lustre we alone participate

Manifest Godhead, melting into day

That is dependent upon us alone

What Mists dim-floating of Idolatry

Mortal though bright a dying dying [?joy]

(Created Intertext from Cornell, p.169; MS R 142)

To clarify, the text contains the following lines (Wordsworth's in red):

Lovely was the Death

Mortal though bright a dying dying joy

Of Him, whose Life was Love! Holy with power

[?Lus]tre which we alone participate whose

He on the thought-benighted Sceptic beam'd

Whose lustre we alone participate

Manifest Godhead, melting into day

That is dependent upon us alone

What Mists dim-floating of Idolatry

Mortal though bright a dying dying [?joy]

(Created Intertext from Cornell, p.169; MS R 142)

Still "Just a Coincidence?"

EXAMPLE 2

The second example occurs a little further on, on page 146 of the Home at Grasmere manuscript. The image in Home at Grasmere, as given in the Cornell Reading Text for MS B, reads as follows:

Fair proof of this, Newcomer though I be,

Already I have seen; the inward frame,

Though slowly opening, opens every day.

Nor am I less delighted with the show

As it unfolds itself, now here, now there,

Than is the passing Traveller, when his way

Lies through some region then first trod by him

(Say this fair Valley's self), when low-hung mists

Break up and are beginning to recede.

How pleased he is to hear the murmuring stream,

The many Voices, from he knows not where,

To have about him, which way e'er he goes,

Something on every side concealed from view,

In every quarter some thing visible,

Half seen or wholly, lost and found again --

Alternate progress and impediment,

And yet a growing prospect in the main.

Such pleasure now is mine . . .

(MS B Reading Text, 693-710)

On the manuscript page of MS R, the draft entry struggles textually to achieve clear expression. This can be felt in the attempt to describe the mists themselves:

pass }

Than trave}ing traveller when his

unpretending

way

Lies through some [?region] never [?trod]

This vale

When [mists ?are] hu

This vale

f }

Say this fair valley's sels}, while mists

On all sides are hun

On every side & yet on every side

[?Low] [?hu]

On every side [?plaintively] [? plaintive] [?murmuring]

streams

in time when mists

Low [?hung] are [?or] [ ? ] [?gazes] [?round]

break up & are beginning to recede

Here, then, the nature of the drafting and the status of the text enacts its own meaning on the page in its inability to find a clear way forward.

What of the Coleridge printed text below?

In the context of "Religious Musings", Coleridge's metaphor occurs at the end of a passage which describes the blessedness of the Elect. The passage portrays the wretched man for whom fear is dissolved by faith. The image of the Shepherd occurs at this point:

As when a Shepherd on a vernal morn

Thro' some thick fog creeps tim'rous with slow foot,

Darkling he fixes on th' immediate road

His downward eye: all else of fairest kind

Hid or deform'd. But lo! the bursting Sun!

Touch'd by th' enchantment of that sudden beam

Strait the black vapour melteth . . .

(1796, p. 146-147, l. 108-114)

The Shepherd in the fog can focus only on his immediate surroundings until suddenly the sun reveals what is truly all around him. Just so is it with the effects of religious faith for those who are to be saved, so that the energies formally used for petty things in life are translated into something higher.

Merging the two metaphors then, we can create a single intertext:

in time when mists

As when a Shepherd on a vernal morn

Low [?hung] are [?or] [ ? ] [?gazes] [?round]

Thro' some thick fog creeps tim'rous with slow foot,

break up & are beginning to recede

Darkling he fixes on th' immediate road

How please he is to

His downward eye: all else of fairest kind

Hid or deform'd. But lo! the bursting Sun!

Something on every side conceald

from view

In evry quarter some [?thing] visible

(Created Intertext: DC MS 28, 146)

To clarify (Wordsworth text in red):

in time when mists

As when a Shepherd on a vernal morn

Low [?hung] are [?or] [ ? ] [?gazes] [?round]

Thro' some thick fog creeps tim'rous with slow foot,

break up & are beginning to recede

Darkling he fixes on th' immediate road

How please he is to

His downward eye: all else of fairest kind

Hid or deform'd. But lo! the bursting Sun!

Something on every side conceald

from view

In evry quarter some [?thing] visible

Just a coincidence? Deliberate? Subconscious?

We may not know if Wordsworth chose to be influenced by Coleridge's printed words, but we do know that he chose to enter his text upon the page in a certain way. By far the greatest degree of coincidence occurs at this section of the manuscript when Wordsworth is writing between the lines of Coleridge's text. This makes clear that the nature of entry onto the page is significant. It may well be that by entering a second text so close to the printed one a far greater degree of psychological and semantic connection is created, whether the writer intends it or not.