"There was a Boy" and Coleridge's Response

The passage, beginning "There was a Boy" which describes the boy imitating the calls of owls over the lake, and the silences between, is copied into MS JJ on a single page (Sr), suggesting that even here Wordsworth was not sure about including it within the body of the poem. It was not incorporated into "The Two-Part Prelude" (though it was later entered into the 1805 Prelude, V, 364).

In December, 1798 the passage was sent to Coleridge in Ratzeburg. Although the letter in which it was copied has not survived, Coleridge's stirring response of December 10th, 1798 has. The key extract from it is given here:

I observed, I remember, that the "fingers woven," &c., only puzzled me; and though I liked the twelve or fourteen first lines very well, yet I like the remainder much better. Well, now I have read them again, they are very beautiful, and leave an affecting impression. That

Uncertain heaven received

Into the bosom of the steady lake,

I should have recognised any where; and had I met these lines running wild in the deserts of Arabia, I should have instantly screamed out "Wordsworth!" (CL I, 452-453).