Coleridge on Plants and Animals in Anima Poetae

Love, a myrtle wand, is transformed by the Aaron touch of jealousy into a serpent so vast as to swallow up every other stinging woe and make us mourn the exchange. (1)

Human happiness, like the aloe, is a flower of slow growth. (3)

On Infancy:
2. Asleep with the polyanthus held fast in its hand, its bells dropping over the rosy face.
3. Stretching after the stars.
4. Seen asleep by the light of glowworms. (3)

The whale is followed by waves. I would glide down the rivulet of quiet life, a trout. (5)

Snails of intellect who see only by their feelers. (6)

I discovered unprovoked malice in his hard heart, like a huge toad in the centre of a marble rock. (6)

Men anxious for this world are like owls that wake all night to catch mice. (7)

The kingfisher . . . its slow, short flight permitting you to observe all its colours, almost as if it had been a flower. (7)

The nightingales in a cluster or little wood of blossomed trees, and a bat wheeling incessantly round and round! The noise of the frogs was not unpleasant, like the humming of spinning wheels in a large manufactory–now and then a distinct sound, sometimes like a duck, and, sometimes, like the shrill notes of sea-fowl. May 20, 1799 (7-8)

The beards of thistle and dandelions flying about the lonely mountains like life–and I saw them through the trees skimming the lake like swallows. (10)

I addressed a butterfly on a pea-blossom thus, ‘Beautiful Psyche, soul of a blossom, that art visiting and hovering over thy former friend whom thou hast left!’ Had I forgot the caterpillar? Or did Ii dream like a mad metaphysician that the caterpillar’s hunger for plants was self-love, recollection, and a lust that in its next state refined itself into love?” Dec. 12, 1804. (89)

In Reimarus on The Instincts of Animals, Tom Wedgwood’s ground-principle of the influx of memory on perception is fully and beautifully detailed. (91) See Herman Samuel Reimarus “Observations Moral and Philosophical on the Instincts of Animals, their Industry and their Manners. (1770) See B. L. Chapter VI.

I have read with wonder and delight the passages in Reimarus in which he speaks of the immense multitude of plants, and the curious, regular choice of different herbivorous animals with respect to them, and the following pages in which he treats of the pairing of insects and the equally wonderful processes of egg-laying and so forth. All in motion! The sea-fish to the shores and rivers–the land crab to the seashore! I would fain describe all the creation thus agitated by the one or the other of the three instincts–self-preservation, childing, and child-preservation. Set this by Darwin’s theory of the maternal instinct–O mercy! The blindness of the man! And it is imagination, forsooth! that misled him–too much poetry in his philosophy! (92-3)

The hirschkafer (stag-beetle) in its worm state makes its bed-chamber, prior to its metamorphosis, half as long as itself. Why? There was a stiff horn turned under its belly, which in the fly state must project and harden, and this required exactly that length. (93)

The sea-snail creeps out of its house, which, thus hollowed, lifts him aloft, and is his boat and cork jacket; the Nautilus, additionally, spreads a thin skin as a sail. (94)

All creatures obey the great game-laws of Nature, and fish with nets of such meshes as permit many to escape, and preclude the taking of many. (94)

Wonderful, perplexing divisibility of life! It is related by D. Unzer, an authority wholly to be relied on, that an ohrwurm (earwig) cut in half ate its own hinder part! Will it be the reverse with Great Britain and America? The head of the rattlesnake severed from the body bit it and squirted out its poison, as is related by Beverley in his History of Virginia. Lyonnet in his Insect. Theol. Tells us that he tore a wasp in half and, three days after, the fore-half bit whatever was presented to it of its former food, and the hind-half darted out its sting at being touched. Stranger still, a turtle have been know to live six months with his head off, and to wander about, yea, six hours after its heart and intestines (all but the lungs) were taken out! How shall we think of this compatibly with the monad soul?    . . . Is not the reproduction of the lizard a complete generation? O it is easy to dream, and, surely, better of these things than of a 20,000 prize in the lottery, or of a place at Court Dec. 13, 1804 (94-95)

The drollest explanation of instinct is that of Mylius, who attributes every act to pain, and all the wonderful webs and envelopes of spiders, caterpillars, etc., absolutely to fits of colic or paroxysms of dry belly-ache! (96)

O how the honey tells the tale of its birthplace to the sense of sight and odour! And to how many minute and uneyeable insects beside! So, I cannot but think, ought I be talking to Hartley [his infant son], and sometimes to detail all the insects that have arts resembling human–the sea-snails, with the nautilus at their head; the wheel-insect, the galvanic eel, etc. (135-6) This note was printed in the Illustrated London News June 10, 1893

In looking at objects of Nature while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim-glimmering through the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking for, a symbolical language for something within me that already and for ever exists, than observing anything new. April14 1805 (136)

I would not willingly kill even a flower. April 17, 1805 (138)

Yesterday I saw seven or eight water-wagtails following a feeding horse in the pasture, fluttering about and hopping close by his hoofs, under his belly, and even so as often to tickle his nostrils with their pert tails. The horse shortens the grass and they get the insects. (178)

O that sweet bird! Where is it? It is engaged somewhere out of sight; but from my bedroom at the Courier office, from the windows of which I look out on the walls of the Lyceum, I hear it at early dawn, often, alas! . . . It is in prison, all its instincts ungratified, yet it feels the influence of spring, and calls with unceasing melody to the Loves that dwell in field and greenwood bowers, unconscious, perhaps, that it calls in vain. O are they the songs of a happy, enduring day-dream? Has the bird hope? Or does it abandon itself to the joy of its frame, a living harp of Eolus? (193)

Sir G. Staunton asserts that, in the forest of Java, spiders’ webs are found of so strong a texture as to require a sharp-cutting instrument to make way through them. Pity that he did not procure a specimen and bring it home with him. It would be a pleasure to see a sailing-boat rigged with them–twisting the larger threads into ropes and weaving the smaller into a sort of silk canvas resembling the indestructible white cloth of the arindy or palma Christi silkworm. (271)

The merry little gnats (Tipulidae minimae) I have myself often watched in an April shower, evidently “dancing the hayes” in and out between the falling drops, unwetted, or, rather, un-down-dashed by rocks of water many times larger than their whole bodies. (271)

Darwin [Erasmus] possesses the epidermis of poetry but not the cutis; the cortex without the liber, alburnum, lignum, or medulla. On The Botanic Garden (280)

The humming-moth with its glimmer-mist of the rapid unceasing motion before, the humble-bee within the flowing bells and cups–and the evil level with the clouds, himself a cloudy speck, surveys the vale from mount to mount. (287)

The child collecting shells and pebbles on the sea-shore or lake-side, and carrying each with a fresh shout of delight and admiration to the mother’s apron, who smile and assents to each “This is pretty!’ ‘Is not that a nice one?’ . . . such are our first discoveries both in science and philosophy. Oct. 21, 1819 (295)

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