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The Statesman’s Manual
The histories and political economy of the present and preceding century partake in the
general contagion of its mechanic philosophy, 1 and are the product of an unenlivened
generalising understanding. In the Scriptures they are the living educts2 of the imagination; of
that reconciling and mediatory power, which incorporating the reason in images of the sense,
and organising (as it were) the flux of the senses by the permanence and self-circling energies
of the reason, gives birth to a system of symbols, harmonious in themselves, and
consubstantial with the truths of which they are the conductors. [. . .] The truths and the
symbols that represent them move in conjunction and form the living chariot that bears up (for
us) the throne of the Divine Humanity. Hence, by a derivative, indeed, but not a divided,
influence, and though in a secondary yet in more than a metaphorical sense, the Sacred Book
is worthily entitled the Word of God. Hence too, its contents present to us the stream of time
continuous as life and a symbol of eternity, inasmuch as the past and the future are virtually
contained in the present. According therefore to our relative position on the banks of this
stream the Sacred History becomes prophetic, the Sacred Prophecies historical, while the
power and substance of both inhere in its laws, its promises, and its comminations. 3 In the
Scriptures therefore both facts and persons must of necessity have a two-fold significance, a
past and a future, a temporary and a perpetual, a particular and a universal application. They
must be at once portraits and ideals.
[. . .] It is among the miseries of the present age that it recognises no medium between
literal and metaphorical. Faith is either to be buried in the dead letter, or its name and honours
usurped by a counterfeit product of the mechanical understanding, which in the blindness of
self-complacency confounds symbols with allegories. Now an allegory is but a translation of
abstract notions into a picture-language, which is itself nothing but an abstraction from objects
of the senses; the principal being more worthless eyen than its phantom proxy, both alike
unsubstantial, and the former shapeless to boot. On the other hand a symbol [. . .] is
characterised by a translucence of the special in the individual, or of the general in the special,
or of the universal in the general; above all by the translucence of the eternal through and in
the temporal. It always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible; and while it
enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that unity of which it is the
representative. The other are but empty echoes which the fancy arbitrarily associates with
apparitions of matter, less beautiful but not less shadowy than the sloping orchard or hill-side
pasture-field seen in the transparent lake below. Alas, for the flocks that are to be led forth to
such pastures!
Biographia Literaria, Ch. XIV
During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned
frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the
The use of the term “mechanic” here is related to the well-known distinction established by STC between two
different ways in which things may take their shapes—“mechanic” as opposed to “organic”. The former happens when
in creating an artwork or manufact we impress on any given material a predetermined form, not necessarily arising
out of the properties of the material—as when to a mass of wet clay we give whatever shape we wish it to retain when
hardened. The organic form, on the other hand, is innate; it shapes as it develops itself from within, and the fullness
of its development is one and the same with the perfection of its outward form. It is exemplified first and foremost by
living things—plants and animals—but may be attained trough art. In the expression “living educts of the imagination”
(in the following sentence), the term “living” corresponds to “organic”.
Results, outcomes: natural consequences, as opposed to “products” (in the previous sentence), which imply a
deliberate imposition of an ‘external’ form on a material.
Threats, menaces.
reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of
novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents of light
and shade, which moon-light or sun-set diffused over a known and familiar landscape,
appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The
thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be
composed of two sorts. In the one, the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least,
supernatural; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by
the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing
them real. And real in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever
source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency. For the
second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life; the characters and incidents were
to be such, as will be found in every village and its vicinity, where there is a meditative and
feeling mind to seek after them, or to notice them, when they present themselves.
In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads, in which it was agreed, that my
endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic,
yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth
sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for
the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth on the other hand was to propose
to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a
feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of
custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an
inexhaustible treasure, but for which in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish
solicitude we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor
With this view I wrote the Ancient Mariner [. . .].