Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ernest Hartley Coleridge: Proto-Proclaimer

I won't lie to you: there is a reason why Ernest Hartley Coleridge is not as famous a poet as his grandfather, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ernest is mostly remembered for editing STC's works, from the earliest publication of selections from the notebooks in Anima Poetae (1896), through a detailed reprint of Christabel (1908) and on to the Complete Poetry in 1912. He published one volume of his own poetry in 1898, and it's not a collection that really deserves poetic fame.


In the poem below, Ernest describes to his lover how far he would go for her. He's walk 50 miles. Later, he says he'll walk 250.

Then, skip forward 80 years, and we find the Proclaimers walking 500 miles:

And now, for all your Victorian-geeky-pleasure for the week, sing Ernest's poem along with The Proclaimers tune. (If anyone uploads a video of themselves doing just that, I will think of some sort of prize. Probably sweet-related.) The 1st and last stanzas work especially well:

Love in Absence

If I could travel fifty miles,
Then cross a stream and mount a hill,
(I've done it mad for joy erewhiles),
I know that I would find her still.

She's sitting in the window seat,
Her face is resting on her hand;
She's looking out onto the street,
The fairest maid in all the land.

She does not note the passers-by,
Some vision of her own she sees;
Some grief she hath which makes her sigh,
But doth not make her ill at ease.

Her cheek is like the rose in May,
Her hair is gathered off her brows,
Her wistful eyes look far away,
Her soul hath left its pleasant house.

I see her thus when I am near,
Albeit she is far from me,
And could I stand beside my dear,
This self-same maiden I should see.

And could I touch her face once more,
I know where all the dimples hide;
And that dear land I've travelled o'er
Is yet in all its virgin pride.

And I would travel fifty miles,
Or five times fifty could I know,
My love would welcome me with smiles,
Nor til I kissed her bid me go.