Main Characteristics of S.T. Coleridge Poetry

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      Coleridge, for many years is a neighbour, friend and collaborator of Wordsworth, and their partnership is not only mutually beneficial but also extremely fruitful for the English poetry which they have liberated from the eighteenth-century shackles and put along the road to new freedom and achievement. But temperamentally they are contrasted figures, though they both react enthusiastically to the bright prospects which is opened by the French Revolution and then recant their faith with equal bitterness, as the high hopes has fallen to earth with broken wings. Of the two, Coleridge is more subtle and comprehensive, more gifted with the poetic vein and faculty divine, but his will power is weak and many of his mighty schemes either remains in the limbo of 'might have beens' or are partially fulfilled. He is indolent and dreamy and likes to lie on the floating lotus like Vishnu and wake up a while only to sleep again for ages. He himself is the best anatomist of his chronic ailment:

To me hath Heaven with bounteous hand assigned
Energetic Reason and shaping mind:
The daring ken of Truth, the Patriot's part
And Pity's sigh that breathes the gentle heart
Sloth-jaundiced all.

      His imagination is fed on the romances, travel-books, voyages and The Arabian Nights, entertainments and the lure of the remote and the weird is stronger on his mind than the claims of the practical duties. He is a young proselyte of the revolutionary doctrines, plans the scheme of Pantisocracy, the settlement of a group of kindred souls in the solitude of America which come to nothing but procures him the friendship of Southey. Later on, he marries romantically and suffers all his life for his hasty love. Then comes his habit of opium taking, first as a palliative for his rheumatic pain but thereafter as a matter of course, natural to every addict. These are his fatal enemies and the wonder is not that he did not produce more but that he is able to do so much in philosophy, criticism, poetry, public talks and lectures as well as in his animated conversations.

      Wordsworth is a lonely but tough man and his energy is equal to any crisis and wrung out a meditative optimism from the intractable materials of personal suffering and 'the still sad music of humanity.' All his great characters are solitary, calm, patient and victorious, though charred by their suffering. But Coleridge, mighty philosopher and subtle-souled psychologist as he remains passive and helpless in the grip of sorrow and hardship and his characters also, the Mariner and Christabel, are passive, helpless sufferers like himself.

      S.T. Coleridge As a Romantic Poet, has been considered the ‘most complete representative’ of English Romantic poetry of the early nineteenth century. Referring to his contribution to English Romanticism, John Buchan remarks: “Coleridge’s poetry represents the culmination of romanticism in its purest form. Historically, he belongs to the medieval revival; but he is far too original to be classed merely as part of the movement and the attractive, qualities of his work are all his own. In pictorial power, felicity of phrasing and word music, he is one of the great masters. In his subtly suggestive treatment of the supernatural, he stands almost alone. It is not only that he eliminates from his supernaturalism the crude material horrors then popular with writers of the romantic schools; he also gives it a psychological foundation. This is particularly apparent in The Ancient Mariner, the backbone of which is provided not by the marvels of the narratives but by the spiritual history of the hero. Wordsworth sought to save the naturalism from the hard literalism of Crabbe by touching reality with imagination. Coleridge redeemed romance from coarse sensationalism by linking it with psychological truth. Coleridge’s best poetry is almost entirely the product of a brief period wonderful activity 11797-9). Yet small as it is in bulk, it ranges among the rarest treasures of English literature.”

      With Wordsworth, Coleridge is the co-founder (so to speak) of the romantic movement. He collaborated with Wordsworth in the writing of the Lyrical Ballads published in 1798 the official date of the commencement of the romantic movement in poetry. In fact, lie has all the characteristics of Romanticism—love of liberty and humanity, increasing the supernaturalism and medievalism, intense imaginative power and witchery of language which are duly noted in Coleridge’s poetry in abundance. In this respect, Mair says: “If Wordsworth represents that tides of the romantic revival which is best described as the return to nature, Coleridge has justification for the phrase ‘Renascence of wonder’. He revived the supernatural as a literary force, emancipated it from the crude mechanism which had been applied to it by dilettantes, like Horace Walpole and Mrs. Redeliver, and invested it instead with that air of suggestion and indefiniteness which gives the highest potency to it in its effect on the imagination.” In fact, of all the romantic poets, Coleridge is the not truly romantic. His poetry is deeply permeated with romantic spirit which is purest, and pervaded with sense of mystery. The following are the main characteristics of his romanticism:


      Coleridge is a typical representative of the true romantic spirit which is marked by a fondness for that beauty which has strangeness added to it and naturally flies away from the familiar daylight realities of our common existence into the regions remote, exotic and mysteriously unfamiliar. Thus, medievalism, the supernatural and their combined effect in the primitive ballad poetry became the favourites of Coleridge and are transmitted by him to Keats, then to Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Rossetti. His opium dream and curiosities about the psychic states and even the hidden working of the sub-conscious come as a legacy, again, to Rossetti, Poe and thence to Baudelaire. His practice, equally romantic, of colouring the external nature with the moods of the observer is an anticipation of the employment of that psychological landscape which becomes prominent in Tennyson and in the modern poets like Pound, Eliot and Edith Sitwell. Many of his lyrics are full of that subjectivity, self-pity and self-analysis which are regarded as the keynote of true romanticism, which together with melancholy, characterize the romantics. His suggestive style and the aura of dim but alluring association which clings to words and images represents a development of the romantic manner which eventually is culminated in the symbolist poetry and prose. As a pure poet, also he represents a phase of romanticism, while his love of freedom, his successful experiment in versification and his sense of the brotherhood of all creatures, including even the ass, are the traits which connect him with the romanticism and the speculations of the day.

      To sum up, Coleridge's whole career is romantic in the sense that his life is full of brilliant promises and broken aims. He finds expression for many unheard of his mind in poems like Dejection: An Ode. He is a melancholy man given to brooding over the failure of his life infact, he has the 'romantic melancholy' to the full.

      Coleridge's poetry represents the culmination of romanticism in its purest form. The Ancient Mariner and Christabel mark the triumph of romanticism as fully as Wordsworth's narrative poems mark the triumph of naturalism. It is by virtue of these poems that he has been called by Saintsbury "the high-priest of romanticism."

      There is a certain romantic note present in the best works of Coleridge. "In pictorial power" writes Buchan, "felicity of phrase and word music he is one of the greatest masters. In his subtly suggestive treatment of the supernatural, he stands almost alone. It is not only that he eliminates from his supernaturalism the crude material horror, then popular with the writers of the romantic school; he also gives it a psychological foundation. This is particularly apparent in The Ancient Mariner, the backbone of which is provided, not by the marvels of the narrative, but by the spiritual history of the hero. Wordsworth sought to save naturalism from the hard liberalism of Crabbe by touching reality with imagination, Coleridge redeemed romance from coarse sensationalism by linking it with psychological truth."


      The early nature poetry of Coleridge betrays the clear influence of Wordsworth and echoes the favourite ideas of the latter, such as the sentience and holy plan of Nature, the harmony between the life of Man and the Spirit rolling in the natural universe outside and the beneficial, educative influence of Nature on young minds:

And what if all of animated nature,
Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps
Plastic and vast one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all.
O! the one life within us arid abroad,
Which meets all motion and becomes its soul
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light
Rhythm in all thought and joyance everywhere.

      But the spell of Wordsworth did not last long and Coleridge eventually adopts the idealistic attitude, sanctions by the contemporary German philosophers, which rests on the reality of the human mind, which imparts whatever reality one may perceive in the external nature. Coleridge will have us believe that in looking at external objects he is seeking only the symbols of his subjective thoughts and feelings rather than trying to find out any new fact through observation.

      The point has been elaborated in his Dejection: An Ode where he clearly states:

O Lady! we receive but what we give
And in our life alone does nature live
Ours is her wedding garment and ours her shroud...

      So that he cannot hope to win from external forms that joy whose fountain lies within. Using the favourite symbol of Wordsworth, namely, the wedding of Man and Nature, he asserts that joy is the main bond of union, which gives in dower a fairer charm and brightness to nature-joy, which is a notion born of the perfect harmony of heart and mind in the observer. If this joy is defunct, the observer may see the external objects without feeling any magic power in them and his own grief, meanwhile, may colour the goings on in the external world of Nature. The contrast with Wordsworthian faith is quite obvious and it is also quite evident that for Coleridge there was no external agency but human love and friendship for providing support and consolation in misery:

Flowers are lovely: Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O ! the joys that come down shower-like;
Of Friendship, Love and Liberty,
Ere I was old.

      In his treatment of nature, there is no Wordsworthian tendency to spiritualize the objects and moods perceived in observation, but there is a marked tendency in Coleridge to spread a touch of eeriness, a sort of weird haze over the whole landscape to create the appropriate setting or atmosphere. The natural objects shimmer in an elusive light which does not belong to them. Moreover, his observation is more sensitive and delicate than Wordsworth's and comes, at times very close to Shelley or Tennyson's minute perception of the fleeting and atmospheric lights and shades. While describing the practice of Wordsworth to spread the strange colouring of imagination over the familiar scene, he observes in his Biographia Literaria: "The sudden charm, with accidents of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appears to represent the practicability of combining both."

      Coleridge himself loves twilight or the magic of moon light and notes with great fidelity the subtle effects of light and colour. One may take the description of Geraldine in Christabel as a fit case in a point:

A damsel bright
Drest in a silken robe of white
That shadowy in moon light shone.

      Other details are her neck that "make the white robe wan; her blue-veined feet and gems entangled in her hair that wildly glittered here and there." What is true of the depiction of this lovely phantom is equally good in respect of his description of aerial and sky phenomena of changing light and colour. Rossetti, the painter-poet, has compared him to Turner in the skill to capture and reproduce the aerial glitter: "With him, colour is always melted in atmosphere which it shines through like fire within a vein in crystal. It is liquid colour, the dew on flowers or a mist of rain in bright sunshine. His images, are, for the most part, derived from water, sky, the changes of weather, shadows of things rather than the things themselves, and usually the mental reflections of them." He has noted the peculiar tint of yellow—green in the sky; the rich and amber light of sunset cloud, the last red leaf of autumn; the rich attire of water-snakes—blue, glossy green and velvet—black and their tracks on moon-lit water: 'every track was a flash of golden fire', and when they rear, the elfish light fell off in flakes. In the same poem, we have other touches also;

(i) About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fire danced at night;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

(ii) The upper air burst into life!
And a liundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.

      The early poems are full of vivid descriptions of mountainous scenery and of the glorious splendour of the sun lying on it, while everywhere one can find brief and well-defined pictures of the different seasons, sounds and moods of nature. Yet there is no indication of spiritual communion in solitude which filled him with horror, even though he has a hunger for 'the vast and the sublime' and looks upon the universe of Nature, 'the infinite I am', as an echo of the might and glory of God, so that its contemplation amounts to the silent worship of the Creator and His too human Son.


      Coleridge makes the supernatural as the region and haunt of his genius and shows the way to its most artistic use. There are two ways of treating the supernatural, one external and decorative and the other suggestive and psychological. In the beginning, the supernatural horrors multiplies through a number of direct and vivid descriptions, in the second, they subtly suggests and intensifies through the depiction of their effect on the human victim. The greater effectiveness of the second is evident enough and could be gauged by comparing the terrible effect produced by the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare's Macbeth as they appear as forces of darkness in the first scene, with their motto-fair is foul and foul is fair, with the greater familiarity of their appearance in the later scene, which gives an elaborate picture of their literal cauldron and its conventional trappings. Vague fear is always intenser than the fear defined as an objective reality, as Coleridge himself has described:

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread.
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

      Coleridge is well acquainted with the Gothic novels of horror where the supernatural is simply an external machinery, part of the medieval setting. It is thrilling but not artistic. Coleridge himself has not been able to avoid it completely in his first characteristic poem, The Ancient Mariner, where we have such a sensational touches as the hundred companions of the Ancient Mariner falling down suddenly like lifeless lumps, each with a fixed stare on the sinner, who see this curse for seven days and nights but can not die or the picture of the specter hark with Death and Death-in-life, gambling intently for the possession of the Mariner.

      But in Christabel, the element of the sinister is infused in the atmosphere and the nature of the daemonic force is unfolded gradually through a number of suggestive details which builds up the suspense till the full force of its potency is reached in the transformation of the poor victim into the likeness of the Evil one.

      Similar is the method in Kubla Khan where the touch of the weird mystery is added 'to the deep romantic chasm' which becomes a place as 'holy and enchanted.'

As e'er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover.

      A single comparison here is charged with all the mystery and shuddering thrill of the contemporary German ballad. This artistic treatment of the supernatural opens a wide vista of possibility before the poets and novelists who follows this track.

      Coleridge knows how to handle that type of the supernatural whose essence is entirely psychological. Coleridge's supernaturalism is at once refined and suggestive. It is very unlike the coarse sensationalism of his predecessors - the Eighteenth-century writers of the "tale of terror." Coleridge refrains from being crude, elaborate, conventional or unrefined; and to every word he says he leaves ten unsaid. He creates an atmosphere of mystery and horror in Christabel by means of suggestive and meaningful details like:

Sixteen short howls, not over loud
Some say, she sees my lady's shroud...
Bus when the lady passed, there came
A tongue of fire, a flit of flame

      Coleridge only suggests horror and leaves the rest to the responsive imagination of the reader.


      Coleridge is a Born Story-teller. He knows the art of telling a story in verse. As a narrator, he is superior to Wordsworth. He possesses considerable narrative skill and power.

      His Narrative Poems have a Quick Movement. His narrative poems, like Christabel, have a swift movement. Contrasted with Christabel, Wordsworth's Michael moves very slowly and leisurely. In Christabel, one event follows another with breathless rapidity.

      He Avoids Unnecessary Details. Coleridge avoids carefully all unnecessary details in Christabel. Every detail in this poem either carries the story forward or helps in creating the atmosphere of mystery and horror. There are neither unnecessary characters nor events in Christabel.

      He Creates Suspense. Coleridge is a master of suspense. He always kept the reader guessing as to what will happen next. In Christabel, he creates suspense at every step. The reader continues guessing whether Geraldine would succeed or fail in her evil mission. The story grips our imagination from the beginning to the end.

      He Possesses a Dramatic Sense. Like all good narrators, Coleridge possesses a dramatic sense. The dramatic loaches in Christabel heighten the effect of narrative. In this respect, he is again superior to Wordsworth who has little or no dramatic sense.

      The Interest is Continuous Throughout his Poems. The story never grows dull. The interest is continuous throughout his poems. He employs many tricks to engage the attention of the reader. Sometimes he repeats the idea; at other times he introduces a new situation or character.

      His Narratives Appear to be Convincing. Lastly, Coleridge possesses the art of making his supernatural stories appear natural and convincing. Though he refers to strange and supernatural events, yet they never strike the reader as incredible. The spell (magic) is not allowed to break at any point. Truly, Coleridge is a great spell-binder — a gifted story teller and a successful narrator.

      As a Lyricist. Coleridge is a capable lyricist. In most of his personal poems, he interleaves skilfully the landscape with lyrical utterance. In Dejection: An Ode and Frost at Midnight Nature and personal effusions are inseparably linked. For instance:

I see the old moon in her lap foretelling
The coming on of rain and squally blast,
And Oh! that even now the gust were swelling.

Occasionally he, like Shelley, provides us with instance of a lyric — cry — the piercing note of sadness. For example:

A grief without a pang—void, dark and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned, grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief
In words, or sigh, or tear. (Dejection: An Ode)


      The admirable poem written to Wordsworth after reading The Prelude, it is clear that Wordsworth has wrote the poetry which Coleridge most admires. He himself would have liked to have been such a poet, gathering the meaning of life as he see it. But a poet cannot write the poetry he wants to write but only the poetry that is within him. "Within Coleridge, there was a strange territory of memory and dream, of strange birds, phantom ships, Arctic seas, caverns, the sounds of unearthly instruments and of haunted figures, flitting across a scene where magic reigned in a world beyond the control of reason. Some have sought for a moral in The Ancient Mariner, but the poem itself is like some Arabian tale, where all moves in a wind and unexpected sequence. Kubla Khan, though sometimes judged as a fragment, is best considered as a complete poem, and almost as a definition of Coleridge's poetry, the song of an Abyssinian maid created at the call of magician. These poems are far removed from the gravity and high seriousness of Spenser, Milton, Wordsworth. The poet
in them is no longer the arbitrator of life, but the controller of a dream-territory, called out of the sub-conscious."

      Imagination and its Surrealistic Character. Coleridge's imagination is sometimes surrealistic in character. In Kubla Khan, there was 'a dream' within a dream. Much modern poetry has followed Coleridge in this manner, removing verse from its older and more normal purposes. The strange thing is that Coleridge should have given this lead, for it is one of which Coleridge as critic would have little approved.

      The most remarkable thing about Coleridge is his imaginative sensitiveness. He is a visualist and his mind has made all sorts of pictures. "He was of imagination all compact'' as a great poet must be. In his imaginative flights, he has seen a 'soul in things' at the heart of all the manifestations of life and nature of which he is a very keen observer. He has always been impassioned by ideas and his imagination is only at its height when he run away from human reality. The mystic realm of imagination is more vivid to him than the world of reality from which he easily escapes into it. His fancies from afar are, though a little reckless, extremely fine and lofty.


      Vision and feeling together will never make a poet great unless he possesses the gift of poetic expression also. Coleridge is richly endowed with this quality also. Coleridge alone knows the spell of that unique music of verse in which his imagination finds expression. He is a singer always. Music and imagination are so perfectly blended that it seems impossible to improve the harmony. The fine harmony of his diction, the perfect form of utterance that human words can reach, clearness and simplicity - these have won for Coleridge a unique place among the English poets.


      The Romantic Poets have Intensely Felt for Man: His hopes, sorrows and joys from the substance of their poetry. Coleridge's feeling is not passionate either for Man or Nature when he has worked in actual, he has passion in his work. But in the world where Man and Nature are of the stuff which dreams are made of, his imagination is at once kindled to an amazing degree. The French Revolution, no doubt, has stirred his feelings but there is no endurance in it. The love of liberty as well as other human affections do not arise his emotion. Love is treated with little fire. From love he wanders into fantasies of thought. He does not love passionately and so cannot be expected to sing of that sacred passion.


      Coleridge is a man of wide sympathies. He hates the type of men who have no natural pity or love for the animal world. He feels the law of love pervading the whole creation. The spiritual world of nature would be angry with a man who will feel no pity or love for living beings. Such men will be punished by hardness of heart. The moral of his great poem, The Ancient Mariner, is beautifully worded and is conceived in a truly spiritual mood:

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who love thus,
He made and loveth all.


      Lastly, Coleridge, the subtle psychologist, shows in his poetry a remarkable knowledge of the inner side of human life. As a writer has remarked, Coleridge is as familiar with the avenues of the soul as Wordsworth is with the dales of his much loved country. He can translate soul hieroglyphics as accurately as his fellow-poet can portray the landscape and the flower. To illustrate this aspect of the poetry of Coleridge we take, for instance, his view of the close relationship of the spirit of love for God's creatures and the capacity to pray is so beautifully portrayed in his Ancient Mariner:

A spring of love gusht from my heart
The self-same moment I could pray.

      In the same poem the poet forcibly brings home the reader the lesson of the necessity of love and human fellowship which is realised by the Ancient Mariner through an experience of the horrors of utter solitude:

O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea!
So lonely "twas, that God himself
Scarce there seemed to be:
O sweeter than the marriage feast
'Tis sweeter far to me.
To walk together to the kirk,
With a goodly company!

      Take again the following as descriptive of the two-fold effect of remorse:

Remorse is as the heart in which it grows:
If that be gentle, is drops balmy dews
Of true repentance but proud and gloomy
It is a poison-tree, that pierced to the inmost
Weeps only tears of poison.

      In the following famous lines again the poet gives us another eternal truths about human life with which he is so familiar:

Life is but thought: So think I will
That youth and age are playmates still.

      Here is yet another of the same kind:

Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve
And hope without an object cannot live.

      In this way the poetry of Coleridge will be found interspersed with similar observations on human life, showing an insight into the inner man, which is supposed to be next only to that of Shakespeare.


      As a poet art Coleridge is more pure, subtler and more skillful than Wordsworth who is given to didacticism and whose poetry has 'a palpable design upon us' which a true artist, such as John Keats, naturally abhors. Coleridge, of course, has recorded that nobody can be a great poet unless he is, at the same time, a great philosopher, yet in his poetry philosophical and moral wisdom is always held in solution and is seldom allowed to obtrude itself on our attention so as to mar the poetic effect.

      He quite naturally and spontaneously has achieved that simplicity of style and pellucid purity of diction which Wordsworth can attain but seldom after a good deal of pain and deliberate striving. Then there is the 'elfin music', 'the witchery of sound' which he has managed to produce by a subtle handling of the alliterative effects and internal rhymes, a music which does not depend upon a faithful adherence to a fixed patterns, because Coleridge has paved the way for the later metrical experiments in the direction of freedom and flexibility where accent syllables may be fixed in a number but the unaccented ones may vary from one verse to another.

      His lyrical note is more genuine and narrative skill that shows itself to great advantage by its rapidity and cumulative effect of growing tension and suspense, is combined with great dramatic intensity of a brief but significant snatches of dialogues. He knows the art of charging his plain words with a wealth of suggestion and making the familiar objects of common observation pregnant with profound symbolical significance.

      Development of His Poetic Career. Coleridge's Beginnings. Wordsworth and Coleridge are most intimate friends. Their development until the time of their meetings, offers great analogies. Coleridge, like
Wordsworth, goes through a phase of revolutionary ardour; his first poems are imitative in character. He hogins by imitating the artificial style of the 18th Century, and the themes of his early poems are those of pre-Romanticism.

      Coleridge's Part in 'Romantic Revival'; His Handling of the Supernatural. If Wordsworth represents that side of the Romantic Revival which is host described as the return to Nature; Coleridge has justification for the phrase 'Renaissance (or Renascence) of wonder'. He revives the supernatural as a literary force, emancipates it from the crude mechanism which has been applied to it by fashionable (dilettante) writers of the Terror School like Horace Walpole and Mrs. Radcliffe; and invests it instead with that air of suggestion and indefiniteness which gives the highest potency to it in its effect on the imagination. He goes directly to the supernatural and makes artistic use of it to create the spirit of romance which is a strange wed to beauty. With Wordsworth, he has a programme, a literary manifesto in "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads", in which he expresses his intention of Naturalising the Supernatural i.e., he is intended to present the supernatural in such a manner that it will appear to be natural. Indeed, the very center of his art lies in his faculty of evoking the mystery of things. Gifts with a powerful imagination, he knows how to handle that species of the supernatural whose essence is entirely psychological. It is this which constitutes a great measure of the deep romanticism of his work.

      Coleridge's Defects (i) The Fragmentary Character of his Work. Coleridge is more noteworthy for what, he has suggested to others than for what he did in himself. His poetry is, even more than Wordsworth's unequal; he is capable of large tracts of dreariness and flatness; he seldom finishes what he begins. The Ancient Mariner indeed which is the fruit of his close companionship with Wordsworth, is the only completed thing of the highest quality in the whole of his work. Christabel is a splendid fragment; for years the first part lays incomplete and when the odd in accident of an evening's intoxication has led him to begin the second, the inspiration has fled. For the second part, by giving to the fairy atmosphere of the first a local habitation and name, has robbed it of its more precious quality; what it has given in exchange is something the public can get better from Scott. Kubla Khan goes unfinished because the call of a friend breaks the thread of the reverie in which it is composed. In the end Coleridge becomes addicted to opium and this has fouled the springs of poetry. Coleridge never fulfills the promise of his early days with Wordsworth. 'He never spoke out'. But it is on the lines laid down by his share in the pioneer work rather than on the lines of Wordsworth's the second generation of Romantic poets that of Shelley and Keats has developed.

      (ii) Lack of Human Interest. When we try Coleridge's poetry in its relations to the world of human action, passion, sensation and thought, we are forced to admit that, despite all its power and beauty, it at no moment succeeds in convincing us. The poetry of Coleridge is deficient in human interest. "His poetry leaves too much of the feeling of a walk through a fine country on a misty day." We may have many peep at beautiful scenery and occasional glimpses of the sublime but the medium of vision has been of variable quality and somehow we come home with an uneasy suspicion that we have not seen as much as we might.

      (iii) His Fleeting Poetic Impulses. Coleridge's political or politico-religious odes are the offspring of youthful democratic enthusiasm, the supernatural poems, so to call them for want of a better name, has their origin in an almost equally youthful and more than equally transitory passions for the wild and wondrous. Political disillusion is fatal to the one impulse, and mere advance in years extinguishes the other vision of Ancient Mariner and Christabel which does not revisit the mature man, and the Toryism of middle life will hardly inspire odes to anything.

      (iv) Wonderful Music of Coleridge's Poetry. Coleridge with all his defects is a singer always, as Wordsworth is not always, and Byron never. He is endowed with a glorious gift of song. If a critic like Swinburne seems to speak in exaggerated praise of Coleridge's lyrics, we can well understand their enchantment for a master of music like himself. Probably it is the same feeling which makes Shelley describe France as "the finest ode in the English language".


      The meeting of Coleridge and Wordsworth in 1797 has been an event of outstanding importance in the history of English poetry. Coleridge has been residing at Nether Stowey, which is three miles from Alfoxden, where Wordsworth has settled with his sister. The Wordsworths come to meet Coleridge, and soon there sprang up a friendship between Coleridge and the Wordsworth's.

      Some change in Coleridge is attributable to Wordsworth's influence upon him. Coleridge by nature is unsteady, and also rambling in his speculation; it is Wordsworth who has checked his rambling tendency, helps and encourages him to concentrate his poetic energy along a definite channel. Again Wordsworth's philosophy of nature influences him and colours to some extent his nature-poetry, which reveal deeper insight and perception. His earlier nature-poems are descriptions of the sights and sounds of nature, and though the details have a beauty of their own, they are not harmonized into lyrical unity by the stress of emotion. The later group of nature-poems shows a deeper sense of calm, a more contemplative mood and, above all, a consciousness of unity pervading the universe, of a spirit operating everywhere "at once the Soul of each and God of all".

      But Coleridge do not fully and unreservedly accept Wordsworth's philosophy of nature. According to Wordsworth, nature lives her own life and heals and soothes man in his sorrows and suffering. But Coleridge opposes this view where he says in Dejection an Ode:

O Lady we receive but what we give
And in our life alone does nature live.

      Nature to him is cold and inanimate, and if any glory or joy is to be found in her, it is due to the reflective mind of man and not any quality present in her:

Ah, from the soul itself must issue forth
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud
Enveloping the Earth

      Both Coleridge and Wordsworth has revolted against the artificial poetic diction of the eighteenth century. But Coleridge do not wholly subscribe to Wordsworth's theory. He will not give any importance to rustic speech, nor will he accept the dictum that, "there is no essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition." To Coleridge, the language of poetry is distinct from that of prose. The best poetry of Coleridge is ultimately his own; it is not influenced by Wordsworth at all. Coleridge's genius finds its own way, and attains its fullest and most poetic expression in The Ancient Mariner, Christabel and Kubla Khan.

      Prof. Quiller Couch suggests that Coleridge gives more to Wordsworth than he receives, because his (Coleridge's) presence and talks are more inspiring. In 1797-98, Coleridge write such lines as these:

'No sound is dissonant which tells of Life'
(This Lime-Tree Bower)
That crowds, and hurries and precipitates
With fast thick warble his delicious notes. (Nightingale)

      These lines may be said to be Wordsworthian. But Wordsworth do not attain the intensity of such lines in 1798; he may then write We are Seven, Simon Lee etc. Coleridge may teach a thing or two to Wordsworth, and Wordsworth may improve on them and make them his own. "But that other note - the lyrical note of the The Ancient Mariner - is incommunicable. He has bequeathed it to none, and before him no poet has approached it; hardly even Shakespeare on the harp of Ariel."

      (a) As a poet of the Supernatural: Coleridge most outstanding contribution to romantic poetry is his treatment of the supernatural. When Coleridge and Wordsworth wrote the Lyrical Ballads, Coleridge took the supernatural as his field and undertook to naturalize it. In other words, his aim was to make the supernatural appear natural. His Ancient Mariner fulfills this aim. Coleridge has achieved his object by skillfully blending the real and the fantastic, by giving us a detailed description of the voyage so as to give the whole a diary-like air, by interspersing the poem with pictures of Nature by giving a convincing picture of the mariners mind and its torture and by introducing a moral. He has written two other poems of magic (Christabel and Kubla Khan). He is considered the greatest poet of the supernatural in English literate. His supernaturalism is suggest we, psychologically end refined, not crude and sensational like that of Scott He excels in writing dream poetry (Kubla Khan). It is this causality in his poetry by virtue.) of winch it fulfills the definition of Romanticism as “the Renascence of Wonder”.

      (b) Coleridge Love of Nature: Coleridge is also romantic because of his deep love of Nature. His love for Nature makes him give us her beautiful pictures in The Ancient Mariner and in the opening lines of The Eolian Harp. His attitude to Nature in his early poems (like Frost at Midnight and The Eolian Harp) is much the same Wordsworth’s. In other words, he too thinks Nature to be a living being, sees a Divine Spirit pervading the objects of Nature and believes in the moral and educative influence of Nature upon Man. Later on he modified his attitude to Nature and believed that we interpret the moods of Nature according to our own moods. In other words, if we are happy, Nature looks happy too and if we are dejected, Nature also looks dejected. Nature, therefore, has no moods and feelings of her own. We receive from Nature only that which we give to her. This belief finds expression in his Dejection—an Ode. In this poem, therefore, he expresses an unromantic view of Nature.

      (c) Coleridge Sensuousness: Many passages in Coleridge’s poetry appeal to our senses. Sensuousness is a romantic quality as it shows a love of beauty. Coleridge shows this quality in The Ancient Mariner chiefly in his love of color—the ice is green as emerald; the water snakes move in tracks of shining white and they are blue, glossy green and velvet black. His sensuousness is also seen in The Eolion Harp where he compares the harp caressed by the breeze to some shy maiden half yielding to her lover and where the delicious music of the harp is compared to a solo floating witchery of sound made by fairies.

      (d) Coleridge Medievalism: His medievalism, too, makes him romantic. The Ancient Mariner is wrought with the glamour of the Middle Ages. From the mention of the merry music to the catholic idea of penance which lies at the bottom of the poem, everywhere we see the medieval touch—the cross-brow, the vasper-bell, the shivering hermit, the prayer to Mary Queen.

      (e) Coleridge Humanitarianism: Coleridge is romantic by virtue of his humanitarianism, too. Like Wordsworth, he dreamt of the political regeneration of mankind and had a great enthusiasm for the French Revolution though its cruelty later repelled him His love for humanity is expressed in Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement where he bids farewell to his cottage in order to go to the city and work for the relief of human distress. He condemns those theoretical lovers of mankind who do nothing practical for humanity.

      (f) The music of his Poetry and metrical skill: His metrical skill and the music of his poetry stamp him as a romantic. He is a great musician. His best poems are marked by a delightful melody. He has been called an “emperor in sounds”. The Ancient Mariner illustrates the witchery of his music. Here the artistic reception of words is noteworthy. Indeed, in this poem Coleridge attained the highest level of verbal music ever reached by an English poet. And this he did by the use of the simplest words possible. The poem is perfect in rhythm, sound and cadence and magical in its metrical felicities. He is a master of harmony. About the use of appropriate words, Cazamian thus comments on Coleridge “Nothing more definitely conveys an impression of the inevitable word than the masterpieces of Coleridge, whether the quality of the style be conscious and labored, as in The Ancient Mariner, or whether it would seem to follow closely an inner prompting as in Kubla Khan.

      (g) Imaginative Power: The most conspicuous feature of the poems is their intense imaginative power, superbly controlled, in his finest poems, by his unerring artistic sense. It exploits the weird, the supernatural, and the obscure. Yet, such is the power of true imagination, it can produce what Coleridge calls “that willing suspension of disbelief, and for the moment he can compel us to believe it all. He sees nature with a penetrating and revealing glance, drawing from it inspiration for the stuff of his poetry. He is particularly fine in his descriptions of the sky and the sea and the wider and more remote aspects of things.

      (h) Simplicity of diction: “Along with his explosive fervor, Coleridge preserves a fine simplicity of diction. He appeals directly to the reader’s imagination by writing with great clearness. In this respect, he often closely resembles Wordsworth. His meditative poem frost at Midnight strongly shows this resemblance:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to these,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
with greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
of mossy apple tree, while the night thatch
smokes in the sun thaw;

      (i) Coleridge’s Narrative skill: Coleridge is supreme master of the art of story telling. His narrative skill is, indeed, worthy of the highest praise. This excellence in the art of story telling appears at its best in The Ancient mariner. The very opening of the story shows Coleridge’s sense of dramatic effect. At the very outset, the mariner, hypnotic in his compelling power, mysterious in appearance, with his glittering eyes, skinny hand and arresting voice, arouses our curiosity and we want to read on in order to know why he has stopped one of the three wedding guests. As the mariner’s tale begins, we are spellbound by his narration. Pictures alternate with incidents and images with episodes. The coming of the storm, the ship’s being driven towards the South Pole, the coming of the albatross, the shooting of the bird, the ship’s sailing northward till it crosses the equator, the total absence of wind or breeze, the sudden appearance of the skeleton-ship with Death and Life in death board, the death of all the members of the crew except the ancient mariner, the suffering and agony of the mariner, his appreciation of the beauty of the water snakes which leads to his salvation — these are the incidents of the story which hold our attention. Scattered in the poem are vivid pictures of nature no phase of sea scope, landscape, or cloudscape has been left untouched. Our attention through out remains focused upon the story as there are plenty of action, excitement, thrills as well as psychological interest in the poem.

      Because of the romantic elements contained in his poems, which are thoroughly elaborated above, we can regard him the “most complete representative” of English Romantic poetry of the early nineteenth century.

      Conclusion. Coleridge has possessed the most vigorous mind among the elder English Romantics (i.e., the English Romanticists of the first generation). In some of his pieces, he is their most exquisite poet. But his work, his life, and ever his thoughts are marked by an unhappy fate, which prevents him from reaching complete self-fulfillment. His nervous energy is unable to cope with an intellectual and artistic ambition which has demanded the most exacting efforts for its fulfillment. He becomes a slave to opium, and to a deep-set disease of his own personality, from which he has never recovered.

      Coleridge, the Metaphysician as he is called has produced more work in Criticism and Philosophy than in poetry, poetry beings but one of the many pursuits of his life and engaging him only in the earlier part of it. As Mr. Hales has said: "he did not take the Muse for better or worse and cleave only to her. It is in his young manhood that he is devoted himself to her; in the later period political and critical questions mainly occupies him." Most of his work in poetry again is of a fragmentary nature. As we know, "he was a born procrastinator .... a living Hamlet, for ever plotting and designing but seldom acting." His last pieces — Christabel, Kubla Khan, etc. are brilliant fragments. This small and fragmentary amount of Coleridge's poetry is, however, of exquisite quality. Mr. Stopford Brooke says: "All that he did excellently might be bound in twenty pages but it should be bound in pure gold." This remark, however, is properly true only of the poetry of the 'Nether Stowey' period — the aumis mirabilis — the flowering-time of his poetic genius. His earlier poetry, as the poet being turgid, rhetorical, diffuse and harsh in diction and rhythm. Later, however, he outgrows all his deficiencies and produces a few selected pieces like The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan, Love etc., which have taken their place among those masterpieces in English poetry which the world will not willingly 'let it die'.

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