Piranesi s fever
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Many years ago, when I was looking over Piranesi's Antiquities of Rome , Coleridge, then standing by, described to me a set of plates from that artist, called his Dreams and which record the scenery of his own visions during the delirium of fever.
Some of these (I describe only from the memory of Coleridge's account) represented vast Gothic halls; on the floor of which stood mighty engines and machinery, wheels, cables, catapults etc. expressive of enormous power put forth, or resistance overcome. Creeping along the sides of the walls, you perceived a staircase; and upon this, groping his way upwards, was Piranesi himself. Follow the stairs a little farther, and you perceive them reaching an abrupt termination, without any balustrade, and allowing no step onwards to him who should reach the extremity, except into the depths below. Whatever is to become of poor Piranesi, at least you suppose that in some way his labours must now in some way terminate.
But raise your eyes and behold a second flight of stairs still higher, on which again Piranesi is perceived, by this time standing on the very brink of the abyss.
Once again, elevate your eye, and a still more aerial flight is descried; and there again is the delirious Piranesi, busy on his aspiring labours; and so on, until the unfinished stairs and the hopeless Piranesi both are lost in the upper gloom of the hall.