The man has Camp Stools, which he and his visitors take with them when they go about the country upon their nocturnal or diurnal excursions, and have also a Portfolio in which they enter their observations, which they have been heard to say were almost finished. They have been heard to say they should be rewarded for them, and were very attentive to the River near them-probably the River coming within a mile or two of Alfoxton from Bridgewater. These people may possibly be under Agents to same principal at Bristol..
From a report by a government spy observing William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1797
Out walking and you pass it,
In its lonely trance of watching,
A peculiar kind of witnessing,
Authority shivered into a million forms.
How to distil this presence?
This thing with a crick in its neck
Like someone always looking over his shoulder,
This thing that aims all round itself
Instead of a head has grown
An all encompassing gaze.
It thinks it sees, it sees, and thinks
When is a person actually a person?
Perhaps it’s that young man, his careful stroll
Hooded and watchful through the afternoon?
And now he’s all but out of range.
Parkforce! There are frail new trees
And a skyline of antennae.
What difference does it make
To the one who walks through this?
As if through a hall of mirrors.
Chilly receptacle, it never shows its face,
Its surface splits like an insect’s faceted eye
Or like a timid bird of prey declares
‘Our actions are proportionate
We’ll get you if you feel like it’
Being made almost entirely of such words:
Recording ‘for training purposes’
The anxious tremor of your voice
How many bits of you are there?
And this vetting procedure
That harbours our darkest desires,
Its wavering attention,
Its careful perplexity –
Believe in it. What else is there?
And another justice secretary’s
‘Non conviction disposals’,
Each one a licence then
To break into your past
It’s what we’ll find, one day, in your saliva
And you? You sit here, wondering
How far your art can take you
Until you’ll disappear like that young man
And later you’ll emerge, as something perfect?
The citizen unharmed
Invisible harm! As if
Each one of us were waiting to be rescued.
Taking a picture of the sky?
But there’s too much sky for a photograph.
And here it comes, the high gaze down at you
From under a peaked cap
Or else a disk containing most of you
A piece of plastic pressed against the flesh
Scaly like a politician’s handshake
Thick animal smell, the burden that is ‘you’.
Meanwhile you thought it was a private art
Since armed in secret
There is the distance your art gives you
However much it dances . . .