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A costly mistake whose consequences bite him even now, and Sara is not happy. Poetry, it turns out, does not last, and writing verse to woo another is a waste of precious words that could be put to far better use. And Samuel attempts to remind himself that the Lyrical Ballads is not really his attempt at showing William exactly what he is worth.

Inspiring California Impressions: “Upon a Painted Ocean” at the Irvine Museum

It is merely a book that they have both published — anonymously of course — to explore form and idealism. And that is all. Though he knows himself too well, and he is young and although he is not quite beautiful he can have what he desires anyhow, and Samuel can never give his beginnings an end but he does fall for everyone he meets regardless. Dorothy is sweetness personified, sharp as a pin and intriguing in her own wide-eyed way.

Not as intriguing as her brother of course, but William is William and Samuel drives himself half-insane on dreams that taste like opium and Sara probably hates him more than she used to. He sometimes wonders what he saw then and if it was better than this.

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Against his eyelashes, the sun pushes harder. Glory of nature and who minds a few marks — but they are not as well off as they could be and silk shirts cannot be provided for by the open spaces he worships so much. The arguments are getting louder. It feels a little like they have forgotten how to be happy. His mouth, Dorothy laughs, is too wide, his eyes too fearsome, his black hair too wild and badly-cut.

Sara thought it made him look exciting, a tragically long time ago. Ragged dark hair fallen against the grass, and he smiles with the lips that repel dear Dorothy so very much. Somewhere, birds share their morning news and his fingers press, soft, against the dirt.

Compared with this much majesty and power, the human race looks a little like a bad joke told by a man rather the worse for liquor.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

As someone who spends more time than is perhaps socially decent rather the worse for liquor, Samuel believes that he is in a position to know. His dreams of a perfect new world have become dust as all things must, and yet they clench their fingers into the misguided marriage vows nonetheless.


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Sheer determination and a refusal to admit their mutual failure. William says that he knew him at once; Samuel believes that their relationship happened too fast to be classed as mere accident. He likes to think that anyway, because if you push the thought enough it stings. He really is sorry.

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The shadow that falls over him makes him want to cry out in shock, but he reminds himself not to; no sense in frightening everything in the vicinity because he has not walked far enough to escape. Samuel can feel a thick, ugly blush creeping up from his collar bones; whilst in his heart he knows that coming here to get close to nature and appreciate it is for his art and peace of mind, the teachings pushed into his young head at school still make embarrassment paint his face and neck. Samuel blushes beautifully, if one can be induced. The laughter, alive and wild, makes him slit his eyes open.

Silhouetted too brilliantly and green-tinged after only the inside of his eyelids for so long, it takes a while for Samuel to focus on the sight. William is too amused.


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The minute it becomes apparent that he is the one laughing, his rich Cumberland accent thickening the sound in a way that haunts Samuel beyond what is probably healthy, the flush deepens. Samuel scowls. He can feel what he wants to feel at any given moment; Samuel is less defined by choice. He sucks his lower lip into his mouth, a nervous habit he developed as a boy. No longer ridicule; merely curiosity and an eagerness that Samuel feels cannot end well.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge | Scottish Poetry Library

The birds have quietened. Samuel is far from an idiot and he can read this for the ill-omen it must be. And the good south wind still blew behind, But no sweet bird did follow, Nor any day for food or play Came to the mariners' hollo! His shipmates cry out against the ancient Mariner, for killing the bird of good luck. And I had done an hellish thing, And it would work 'em woe : For all averred, I had killed the bird That made the breeze to blow. Ah wretch! But when the fog cleared off, they justify the same, and thus make themselves accomplices in the crime.