Is this wide world not large enough to fill thee,
Nor Nature, nor that deep man's Nature, Art?
Are they too thin, too weak and poor to still thee,
Thou little heart?
Dust art thou, and to dust again returnest,
A spark of fire within a beating clod.
Should that be infinite for which thou burnest?
Must it be God?
Mary Coleridge, in Theresa Whistler (editor), The Collected Poems of Mary Coleridge (Rupert Hart-Davis 1954).
"A spark of fire within a beating clod" is very fine indeed.
The yearning for intimations from outside of one's self is captured quite well in: "Is this wide world not large enough to fill thee?" Mary Coleridge wrote this poem in 1892. Given the modern world's predilection for nonstop, superficial distraction and entertainment at all costs, her observation is even more compelling today.
Charles John Holmes, "A Moorland Road" (1923)
"A spark of fire within a beating clod" brings to mind "animula vagula blandula," which I mentioned in my previous post. This is the first line of the poem that the Emperor Hadrian (76-138) is purported to have spoken on his death-bed. The story may be apocryphal, but the poem -- whoever wrote it -- is lovely.
The poem has been translated out of Latin into other languages hundreds of times. For instance, one can find 116 attempts in Translations, Literal and Free, of the Dying Hadrian's Address to His Soul (published in 1876). Here is Matthew Prior's version, which he describes as an "imitation":
Poor little, pretty, flutt'ring thing,
Must we no longer live together?
And dost thou prune thy trembling wing,
To take thy flight thou know'st not whither?
Thy humorous vein, thy pleasing folly
Lies all neglected, all forgot:
And pensive, wav'ring, melancholy,
Thou dread'st and hop'st thou know'st not what.
Matthew Prior, Poems on Several Occasions (1709).
The reference to "this clay" in the following translation by Byron echoes Coleridge's "beating clod":
Ah! gentle, fleeting, wav'ring sprite,
Friend and associate of this clay!
To what unknown region borne,
Wilt thou, now, wing thy distant flight?
No more, with wonted humour gay,
But pallid, cheerless, and forlorn.
George Gordon, Lord Byron, Hours of Idleness (1807).
Charles John Holmes, "The Yellow Wall, Blackburn" (1932)
Finally, the following poem by James Reeves goes very well with Coleridge's poem (and with "animula vagula blandula").
No one knows, no one cares --
An old soul
In a narrow cottage,
A narrow bedroom,
A narrow bed --
A particle of immemorial life.
James Reeves, Poems and Paraphrases (Heinemann 1972).
Charles John Holmes, "Bude Canal" (1915)