Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A fascinating fragment describes the tangible intrusion of a dream into the prosaic world:
What if you slept
And what if in your sleep you dreamed
And what if in your dream you went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if when you awoke you had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?
The famous Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who crafted “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan” has been credited with this fragment, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: Coleridge died in 1834, and more than sixty years later in 1895 excerpts from his unpublished notebooks were printed in the work “Anima Poetae” edited by his grandson Ernest Hartley Coleridge. Chapter 9 contained notebook entries created between 1814 and 1818. A passage at the end of the chapter included a strong semantic match, but the phrasing was quite different. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke — Ay! and what then?
The more exquisite and delicate a flower of joy, the tenderer must be the hand that plucks it.
Floods and general inundations render for the time even the purest springs turbid.
For compassion a human heart suffices; but for full, adequate sympathy with joy, an angel’s.
QI conjectures that the popular modern text was based on a paraphrase or a misremembering of the passage above written by Coleridge circa 1818.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading