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The Tragedy of Indiscipline

Coleridge is the supreme example of tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; he left the army because he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree. He began a paper called “The Watchman” which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him, “he lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done.

Coleridge had every poetic gift but one—the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.” In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said, “completed save for transcription.” But the books were never composed outside of Coleridge’s mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.

Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 280