‘The eyeless chemist’ – in oral communication content is key.

If you’re wondering how to put together content for your next presentation try ‘Kisses’,1 2 a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge for Sara Fricker.3

In this poem Coleridge explains the ‘storying’ process: ‘… if storying Legends tell aright, Once fram’d a rich Elixir of Delight’.

For him, storying is about gathering ingredients that form a persuasive elixir designed to seduce the woman he loves.

And to highlight the importance of this process Coleridge puts in charge of preparing ‘the Precious Compound’ none other than an eyeless chemist4, someone who:

  • Knows how to mix a compound (knows what they want to say)
  • Understands the ingredients needed to achieve the best outcome (delivers the clearest message)
  • Does not need to see to be successful (follows their instincts).

That’s what storying your content is about – gathering the right ingredients, identifying the ideas that originally captured your imagination and working them into a ‘rich Elixir of Delight’.

Your audience is not interested in hearing everything you know about the topic. Storying is about bringing together what is relevant to a particular performance, audience and outcome.

All you need is a handful of carefully chosen ideas ‘mix’d’ together in ‘A Chalice’ – a vessel of ideas that speaks volumes about you and your chosen topic.

Much like the eyeless chemist you set about bringing together thoughts or ideas central to the outcome you want.

The ingredients you mix together should be what you want your audience to hear:

And in it Nectar and Ambrosia mix’d:
With these the magic dews which Evening brings,
Brush’d from the Idalian star by faery wings:
Each tender pledge of sacred Faith he join’d,


Each gentler Pleasure of th’ unspotted mind


Day-dreams, whose tints with sportive brightness glow,
And Hope, the blameless parasite of Woe.

Carefully chosen ideas designed for maximum effect.

Coleridge knew that he had one chance to communicate his feelings to Sara, ‘Pour… the soft murmuring of responsive Love’, one chance to deliver his message.

And the eyeless chemist did all this blind; relying on his intimate knowledge ofboth the ingredients and how they should be ‘mix’d’ – nothing more than a knowledge of his own craft.

The eyeless Chemist heard the process rise,
The steamy Chalice bubbled up in sighs;

a perfect outcome to a carefully crafted ‘Compound’ or message.

Can you imagine anything more delicious to the ear than a ‘sigh’ coming from an audience? An audience who understands your message, a message confidentially delivered by someone who knows their topic inside out.

That message could be many things- a sensitive love song, a beautifully executed painting, a deliciously prepared meal, a succulent smell that conjures up memories of high summer… each evocative in their own way.

Communicating ideas orally is no different.

Could you mix together key ideas into a message blind or eyeless?

The picture you paint in the minds of your audience is what they take away with them. The way you paint this picture will be determined by the way you gather the ideas that you want to deliver and how you mix them together into the message you communicate orally to your audience. It’s how you mix ‘a rich Elixir of Delight’.

Content is the key when communicating thoughts and ideas orally. 

________

  1. A poem originally titled, ‘Cupid turn’d Chymist’.
  2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kisses, 1793, 

    Cupid, if storying Legends tell aright,
    Once fram’d a rich Elixir of Delight.
    A Chalice o’er love-kindled flames he fix’d,
    And in it Nectar and Ambrosia mix’d:
    With these the magic dews which Evening brings,
    Brush’d from the Idalian star by faery wings:
    Each tender pledge of sacred Faith he join’d,
    Each gentler Pleasure of th’ unspotted mind-
    Day-dreams, whose tints with sportive brightness glow,
    And Hope, the blameless parasite of Woe.
    The eyeless Chemist heard the process rise,
    The steamy Chalice bubbled up in sighs;
    Sweet sounds transpired, as when the enamour’d Dove
    Pours the soft murmuring of responsive Love.
    The finish’d work might Envy vainly blame,
    And ‘Kisses’ was the precious Compound’s name.
    With half the God his Cyprian Mother blest,
    And breath’d on Sara’s lovelier lips the rest.

  3. S T Coleridge substituted the original name of Miss F Nesbitt with ‘‘Sara’… to whom he became engaged in the summer of1794’. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Complete Poems, William Keach (Ed), 1997.
  4. S T Coleridge’s reference to ‘eyeless’ could also mean, someone who does not rely on having eyes; meaning is created from ideas communicated orally in images formed in the mind of the recipient/audience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *