November 25, 2003

Querkopf Von Klubstick, Grammarian

Here is a little something that I found in the Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I find it interesting that even heavy doses of laudanum and neo-Platonism couldn't reconcile Coleridge to (the stylistic extremes of) continental philosophy. It would be amusing to channel his appreciation of Jacques Derrida, for example.

In reading Coleridge's biography, I learned that he was apparently the inventor of the word selfless, though the OED's first citation is not until 1825, ten years after the date of this poem.

The following burlesque on the Fichtean Egoismus may, perhaps, be amusing to the few who have studied the system, and to those who are unacquainted with it, may convey as tolerable a likeness of Fichte's idealism as can be expected from an avowed caricature. [S. T. C.]

The Categorical Imperative, or the annunciation of the New Teutonic God, EGOENKAIPAN: a dithyrambic Ode, by Querkopf Von Klubstick, Grammarian, and Subrector in Gymnasio. ...

Eu! Dei vices gerens, ipse Divus,
(Speak English, Friend!) the God Imperativus,
Here on this market-cross aloud I cry:
'I, I, I! I itself I!
The form and the substance, the what and the why,
The when and the where, and the low and the high,
The inside and outside, the earth and the sky,
I, you, and he, and he, you and I,
All souls and all bodies are I itself I!
All I itself I!
(Fools! a truce with this starting!)
All my I! all my I!
He's a heretic dog who but adds Betty Martin!'
Thus cried the God with high imperial tone:
In robe of stiffest state, that scoff'd at beauty,
A pronoun-verb imperative he shone---
Then substantive and plural-singular grown,
He thus spake on:---'Behold in I alone
(For Ethics boast a syntax of their own)
Or if in ye, yet as I doth depute ye,
In O! I, you, the vocative of duty!
I of the world's whole Lexicon the root!
Of the whole universe of touch, sound, sight,
The genitive and ablative to boot:
The accusative of wrong, the nom'native of right,
And in all cases the case absolute!
Self-construed, I all other moods decline:
Imperative, from nothing we derive us;
Yet as a super-postulate of mine,
Unconstrued antecedence I assign,
To X Y Z, the God Infinitivus!'


Posted by Mark Liberman at November 25, 2003 10:28 AM