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Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Charles Lamb to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 15 April 1797

Contents vol. VI
Letters: 1796
Letters: 1797
Letters: 1798
Letters: 1799
Letters: 1800
Letters: 1801
Letters: 1802
Letters: 1803
Letters: 1804
Letters: 1805
Letters: 1806
Letters: 1807
Letters: 1808
Letters: 1809
Letters: 1810
Letters: 1811
Letters: 1812
Letters: 1814
Letters: 1815
Letters: 1816
Letters: 1817
Letters: 1818
Letters: 1819
Letters: 1820
Letters: 1821
Contents vol. VII
Letters: 1821
Letters: 1822
Letters: 1823
Letters: 1824
Letters: 1825
Letters: 1826
Letters: 1827
Letters: 1828
Letters: 1829
Letters: 1830
Letters: 1831
Letters: 1832
Letters: 1833
Letters: 1834
Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
List of Letters
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Produced by CATH
April 15th, 1797.
I SAW a famous fountain in my dream,
Where shady pathways to a valley led;
A weeping willow lay upon that stream,
And all around the fountain brink were spread
Wide branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad,
Forming a doubtful twilight desolate and sad.
The place was such, that whoso enter’d in
Disrobed was of every earthly thought,
And straight became as one that knew not sin,
Or to the world’s first innocence was brought;
Enseem’d it now, he stood on holy ground,
In sweet and tender melancholy wrapt around.
A most strange calm stole o’er my soothed sprite;
Long time I stood, and longer had I staid,
When lo! I saw, saw by the sweet moonlight,
Which came in silence o’er that silent shade,
Where near the fountain Something like Despair
Made of that weeping willow garlands for her hair.
And eke with painful fingers she inwove
Many an uncouth stem of savage thorn—
“The willow garland, that was for her Love,
And these her bleeding temples would adorn.”
With sighs her heart nigh burst—salt tears fast fell,
As mournfully she bended o’er that sacred well.
To whom when I addrest myself to speak,
She lifted up her eyes, and nothing said;
The delicate red came mantling o’er her cheek,
And gathering up her loose attire, she fled
To the dark covert of that woody shade
And in her goings seem’d a timid gentle maid.
Revolving in my mind what this should mean,
And why that lovely Lady plained so;
Perplex’d in thought at that mysterious scene,
And doubting if ’twere best to stay or go,
I cast mine eyes in wistful gaze around,
When from the shades came slow a small and plaintive sound:
Psyche am I, who love to dwell
In these brown shades, this woody dell,
Where never busy mortal came,
Till now, to pry upon my shame.
“At thy feet what thou dost see
The Waters of Repentance be,
Which, night and day, I must augment
With tears, like a true penitent,
If haply so my day of grace
Be not yet past; and this lone place,
O’er-shadowy, dark, excludeth hence
All thoughts but grief and penitence.”
Why dost thou weep, thou gentle maid!
And wherefore in this barren shade
Thy hidden thoughts with sorrow feed?
Can thing so fair repentance need?
“O! I have done a deed of shame,
And tainted is my virgin fame,
And stain’d the beauteous maiden white
In which my bridal robes were dight.”
And who the promis’d spouse declare,
And what those bridal garments were?
“Severe and saintly righteousness
Compos’d the clear white bridal dress;
Jesus, the son of Heaven’s high King
Bought with his blood the marriage ring.
“A wretched sinful creature, I
Deem’d lightly of that sacred tye,
Gave to a treacherous World my heart,
And play’d the foolish wanton’s part.
“Soon to these murky shades I came
To hide from the Sun’s light my shame—
And still I haunt this woody dell,
And bathe me in that healing well,
Whose waters clear have influence
From sin’s foul stains the soul to cleanse;
And night and day I them augment
With tears, like a true Penitent,
Until, due expiation made,
And fit atonement fully paid,
The Lord and Bridegroom me present
Where in sweet strains of high consent,
God’s throne before, the Seraphim
Shall chaunt the extatic marriage hymn.”
Now Christ restore thee soon”—I said,
And thenceforth all my dream was fled.

The above you will please to print immediately before the blank verse fragments. Tell me if you like it. I fear the latter half is unequal to the former, in parts of which I think you will discover a delicacy of pencilling not quite un-Spenser-like. The latter half aims at the measure, but has failed to attain the poetry, of Milton in his “Comus” and Fletcher in that exquisite thing ycleped the “Faithful Shepherdess,” where they both use eight-syllable lines. But this latter half was finished in great haste, and as a task, not from that impulse which affects the name of inspiration.

By the way, I have lit upon Fairfax’sGodfrey of Bullen” for half-a-crown. Rejoice with me.


Poor dear Lloyd! I had a letter from him yesterday; his state of mind is truly alarming. He has, by his own confession, kept a letter of mine unopened three weeks, afraid, he says, to open it, lest I should speak upbraidingly to him; and yet this very letter of mine was in answer to one, wherein he informed me that an alarming illness had alone prevented him from writing. You will pray with me, I know, for his recovery; for surely, Coleridge, an exquisiteness of feeling like this must border on derangement. But I love him more and more, and will not give up the hope of his speedy recovery, as he tells me he is under Dr. Darwin’s regimen.

God bless us all, and shield us from insanity, which is “the sorest malady of all.”

My kind love to your wife and child.

C. Lamb.

Pray write, now.