Christabel: by S. T. Coleridge - Line by Line Analysis

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      L. 1-5. 'Tis crew. The poet says that it is midnight. The clock of the tower of the castle of Christabel's father, Sir Leoline, strikes the hour of twelve. The owls, with their hooting sounds, have awakened the cock, which begins to crow in a low and drowsy manner.

      The ticking of the clock, the hooting of the owls, and the crowing of the cock have been charged with an unusual significance which is ominous, by manner of the poet's description.

      L. 6-13. Sir lady's shroud. Christabel's father, Sir Leoline who is a rich baron, has a bitch with no teeth because she is old. She is in her dog-house beneath the rock. She barks in response to the striking of the hour by the tower clock. In all seasons, whether wet or dry, fair or foul, she barks in response to the striking of the clock.

      There are some clocks which strikes the quarters also, i.e., after every fifteen minutes, produce a musical sound. When the hour is complete, first they strike four times to indicate that four quarters have passed, and then they strike the hour. Here the hour is twelve. Hence the clock of the tower strikes four and twelve, i.e., sixteen times. In answer to the sixteen strokes, the old bitch gives out sixteen short growls, which are not very loud. It is her practice to make sixteen short subdued growls exactly at midnight when she hears the clock striking. Some people believe that the bitch thus barks because she sees the ghost of Christabel's mother Lady Leoline.

      In this stanza, the poet very faintly suggests the presence of the ghost of Christabel's mother. It can only be conjectured through the instinctive behavior of the old bitch. This is highly characteristic of Coleridge's treatment of the supernatural, and distinguishes him from the 'School of Horror'. He refrains from the actual description of the horned and the supernatural. He avoids, as far as possible, the repulsive details. But he achieves incomparably stranger effects by such subtle suggestions. In the introduction of the ghost of Christabel's mother, here, we have an example of the fine and delicate presentation of the supernatural. It shall be remembered that, half the poem has been finished, as intended by Coleridge, the ghost of the mother will have played a very important part in the development of the story. It is really to be a contest between the two antagonists: Geraldine, the Spirit of Evil, and this ghost, the Guardian-Spirit of Christabel. Its mention at the beginning of the poem, is thus, very significant.

      L. 14-22. Is the night chilly.....slowly up this way. In these lines the poet gives a description of the night and the weather, which is full of magical beauty. He says that the night is cold, but not dark. The cloud is almost transparent. Though it overcasts the sky, it does not hide it (sky) completely from the view. Behind the semi-transparent thin grey cloud, the moon is easily visible. It is full moon, but shining from behind a thin cloud, it looks smaller than its actual size. At the same time, it looks dull because the thin cloud partially obstructs her light. Being thin, the cloud cannot obstruct the light of the moon. It cannot, therefore, be a dark or black cloud. Because of the light of the moon filtering through it, it looks grey. It is the month of April and the spring season has just began.

      According to Prof. Herford, there is an indefiniteness about these lines. It shall be noted that the manner of description is such that little things seem to become very significant. The unexpected tone of the cock's crowing, the cold night, the thin grey cloud, the full moon behind it, all these are made to appear, by the manner of description, as if there are something unusual about them.

      L. 23-30. The lovely lady.....that's far away. At this hour of midnight the beautiful Christabel leaves the castle. She goes to the forest which is a furlong away from the gate of the castle. The poet fails to understand the reason why Christabel whom her father loves so dearly shall go to the forest at this hour of the night when it is so cold. He himself gives the answer. He says that last night she has a dream of her dear betrothed knight in the far off lands. That dream is not a happy one. Hence it has made her anxious about the knight to whom she is engaged. So she has come out to the forest to pray for his health and happiness.

      Dreams play a large part in supernatural stories. In the times of Coleridge it is considered a superstition to have a belief in dreams. Coleridge himself is greatly attracted by the supernatural power of dreams. After composing the Pains of Sleep, tie wrote: "My dreams become the substance of my life." At another place he writes.

Such perplexity of mine
As dreams too lively leave behind.

      L. 43-57. The night is chill.....she there? In this stanza, the poet gives a vivid description of the atmosphere in which Christabel finds herself beneath the huge oak tree in the forest. The night is cold. There are no leaves on the trees of the forest. In such a condition there can be nothing on the trees to produce the moaning sound. Then who can make it? Is it made by the wind? Christabel rejects this possibility because the wind is not even so strong as to move the light coil of her displaced lock of hair that plays on her cheek. Nor is it strong enough to move the single solitary red leaf that hangs loosely and lightly on the top most twig of the oak tree and dances rapidly whenever there is a gentle breeze. Hence it becomes clear to Christabel that the moan she hears is not produced by the wind.

      The mysterious moaning sound which Christabel has heard makes her heart beat with a lurking fear of evil. She prays to Christ and Man, the mother of Christ, to protect her from all harm. She makes a sign of the cross and crosses her hands under her cloak, in order to ward off evil effect. Then with soft footsteps she goes to the other side of the oak tree. The object that she sees there makes her wonderstruck.

      In this stanza, the poet easily and smoothly and in artistic manner gives us an idea of the atmosphere of horror and supernaturalism in which Christabel finds herself under the oak tree at the dead of night. It is a very vivid and graphic picture a minute observation of nature. But this something natural has been given a supernatural and weird significance. The natural is made to look like supernatural. Writing about this stanza, a modern critic has very finely observed: "It is the game of the art of pressing realism into the service of Fantasy, making realistic details of description, not picturesquely telling so much as suggestive of queerness, grotesqueness and extraordinariness of the scene, all gathering into a total impression of something weird and enchanted round us."

      L. 58-68. There she sees.....beautiful exceedingly. There Christabel see a very beautiful maiden wearing a white silken dress which is shining dimly in the moonlight. Her neck is of such exquisite whiteness that it make her white silken dress appear slightly gloomy and pale in contrast with it. Her majestic neck, her feet in which the blue veins are clearly visible and her white arms are naked. She is bare-footed. She were no sandals on her tender feet whose blue veins are shining clearly through the white delicate skin. The beautiful gems, entangles in her hair are shining with gaiety. The poet thinks that Christabel must have been frightened on seeing a lady, so richly dressed and of such rare beauty, there at that hour of the night.

      This stanza is important for three things. First, white colour is associated with noble things, almost divine. Secondly, blue blood flowing through the blue veins implies a noble descent. Finally the use of 'wildly glittered' and 'frightened' suggest horror.

      L. 104-111. Then Christabel stretched.....father's hall. On hearing the pathetic tale of the strange lady, Christabel move with pity. She gives her hand to Geraldine and consoles her. Then she say to her soothingly. "O beautiful lady! all the things that we have are at your disposal. Sir Leoline and all his brave knights will be at your service. He will send them and his other friends with you to see you back safe in your noble father's house.

      Christabel fail to see any evil design behind the proposal of Geraldine to help her. Her miserable plight arouses sympathies of Christabel and as a high-born lady she offeres her courtesy and sympathy. In this stanza we get a good insight into the delicate inborn kindness of Christabel and the readiness with which she extends her sympathy to someone in misery.

      L. 123-134. They crossed the.....were not in pain. The two ladies crosses the ditch that is round the castle. Then they reach the gate of the castle. There Christabel take out a key that fits the lock. At once she open a little door in the middle of the gate. The gate is covered with strong iron plates inside and outside. It is so wide that an army in battle order an pass through it. Just as they are to enter. Geraldine, who is so long walking slowly and laboriously, sink down on the ground, as if she is in pain due to extreme exhaustion. The poet here hints at the superstition of the Middle Ages that "evil spirits may not enter a house without help from a mortal." With all her strength, Christabel lift Geraldine, who is like a heavy weight and take her across the threshold of the gate. As soon as Geraldine crosses the gate, she begin to walk on with ease, as if she suffers from no pain.

      This stanza reveals three remarkable qualities of Coleridge. First, his knowledge of medieval architecture is very accurate as is shown by the description of the castle. Secondly, he has made a profound study of the psychology of a criminal. Finally, he possesses a good knowledge of people's belief in evil spirits and in the manner how these spirits act when they enter the abodes of innocent persons like Christabel.

      L. 135-144. So free from.....glad they were. Christabel and Geraldine crosses the courtyard of the castle. They are glad that at last they are free from danger and fear. Then very religiously and sincerely, Christabel says to the lady by her side. "Thanks to the holy Virgin Mary, who has freed you from danger. In reply, Geraldine says, "Alas, alas; I cannot speak for I am tired." Thus free from danger and fear, the two ladies are glad to have cross the courtyard of the palace.

      Geraldine is an evil spirit. So, like Christabel, she can not pray to Virgin Mary. Hence instead of saying "Amen" to Christabel's prayer, she only said, "I cannot speak as I am tired." Herein lies the poets art of realistic or psychological treatment of the supernatural.

      L. 145-153. Outside her kennel.....mastiff bitch? The two ladies passes by the old bitch, which lay fast asleep outside her kennel, in the cold moonshine. She do not open her eyes, but when Geraldine passes by her with Christabel, she make an angry howling sound. What could be her trouble that she howles like that and she has never done so before in the presence of Christabel! Perhaps, it is in response to the hoot of a small owl. Besides this, there is possibly nothing that can trouble the old bitch.

      The bitch seems to have been endowed by the poet with a super sensitiveness to the presence of supernatural things. She has howled in answer to the tower clock because she has seen the ghost of Lady Leoline. She give out an angry growl when Geraldine, an evil spirit passes by her side. But the poet mystifies us. He throws a veil over the yell of the bitch. The suggestion that Geraldine is an evil spirit is very faint and mysterious. The bitch have growled on hearing her pass or on hearing the hoot of the owl. We are left in doubt about Geraldine and the mystery about her is not cleared by the poet.

      L. 154-165. They passed.....the sleepeth well. The two ladies passes the hall. Though they walks very softly, yet the hall resounds to their footsteps. There in the fireplace, the logs of wood has all but burnt out. Only a few half-burnt ends lay on the ashes of the burnt pieces.

      But when Geraldine, the evil spirit, passes they suddenly flickers and give out a sudden flash. In the temporary light thus produced, Christabel sees only the evil glare in Geraldine's eyes and the bright raises knob in Sir Leoline's shield which hung on the wall in a dark corner. Christabel request the lady to walk softly lest they shall awaken Sir Leoline, whose sleep is always light.

      In this stanza, we have again a subtle suggestion of the presence of the supernatural. Instead of saying point blank that Geraldine is an evil spirit and a witch, Coleridge simply suggests this idea by the sudden burst of flame of the burnt pieces of wood as Geraldine passes by them. Coleridge here secures the reader in "the suspension of disbelief which is the essence of poetic faith" by placing the normal (the knob of Sir Leoline’s shield) side by side with the abnormal (the evil look of Geraldine). As both are seen in the sudden burst of light, belief in the possibility of the abnormal is made possible by the sight of the normal. Christabel sees the eyes as well as the knob and the poet wishes to sound a timely warning to Christabel against the danger to which she is exposed.

      L. 166-174. Sweet Christabel.....the chamber floor. In this stanza, the poet gives a graphic description of the stealthy entry of the two ladies in Sir Leoline's castle. Christabel remove the sandals from her feet so that no noise is produced by her footsteps. She fears that even if the air stirrers a little, it will transmit the least possible noise to her father's room and he will wake up. Thus with the extreme caution of a thief, the two ladies passes from stair to stair, now in light and now in shade. While passing by the room of Sir Leo line they held their breath as still as death. Sir Leoline is fast asleep and his sleeping room is as silent as death. Finally, they reaches the door of Christabel's bedroom. On reaching there Geraldine presses down with her feet the rushes spread on the floor of the room.

      L. 175-183. The moon angel's feet. In these lines, the poet gives a beautiful description of Christabel's room which Christabel and Geraldine have just entered. Although the moon shines dimly in the sky, its beams does not enter Christabel's room. They can see the beautiful artistic designs of the room in the light of the lamp which hung within, fasten with a double silver chain to the feet of a carved angel in the ceiling. The ornamental designs with which the room is adorned are elaborate and of a fantastic kind. They are the outcome of the artist's own imagination and are quite appropriate for the sleeping room of so young and romantic-looking a lady as Christabel.

      L. 184-189. The silver lamp.....the floor below. The silver lamp in Christabel's room is giving out a very dull and dim light. So Christabel put its wick in order and it begin to burn brightly. It begin to swing to and fro. Sometimes it throw light on the face of beautiful Christabel and some times on that of Geraldine. The lamp in the way is brought to light the two opposites - the innocent Christabel and sinister Geraldine. The latter find herself in a very miserable condition and sink down upon the floor below. Her misery is probably due to the fact that she feel afraid at the thought of evil that she has intended to do to Christabel.

      L. 190-193. O weary lady.....of wildflowers. Like a good hostess, Christabel tries to pull up the spirits of the seemingly weary Geraldine. She offeres her a refreshing wine saying that it will work like a tonic in her present state of exhaustion. She adds that the wine possess wonderful powers of refreshing a tired person and has been distilled by her mother from wild flowers.

      The use of the word "virtuous" has a special significance. It has been made by Christabel's mother "who was goodness incarnate." Will such a wine work upon Geraldine, who is an agent of the Supreme Evil? Will she like to take a wine which possesses virtuous and not evil powers?

      L. 194-203. And will your.....she were? Geraldine asked Christabel, "Will your mother pity me who is an abandoned and miserable maiden"? Christabel heaving a sigh, replies, "Alas, my mother died at the time of giving me birth. I have heard that she has told the grey haired priest who has attended her on her death-bed that she will hear the castle bell strike twelve on the day of my marriage." The memory of her dead mother made Christabel wild with grief. She cries almost like a child in great despair saying, "I wish she was alive and present here." Hearing this, Geraldine says: "I also wish the same thing."

      Geraldine being a witch knows that Christabel's mother is dead. Still she asks whether Christabel's mother would pity her. She asks this question only ascertain if Christabel still thinks of her dead mother and invokes her aid in protecting her.

      Geraldine's reply, "I wish that she was alive and present here" is perfectly hypocritical. She actually wishes her dead. Her words are ironical. Humphrey House writes that Geraldine must be wishing to say: "To hell with her, she have made all my plans fail. Let her lie in her grave for ever, it's good that she is dead."

      Christabel's mother has told the friar on her death-bed that she will hear the castle-bell strike twelve on Christabel's wedding day. This meant that she will be present on the night of her wedding as a spirit. Her spirit can not find rest and will keep hovering about until she see her happily married. It is not altogether improbable, therefore, that here is a suggestion of the wicked design of an evil spirit, who can assume any sex, on Christabel's chastity. But this design is defeat by her guardian-spirit, the ghost of her mother, who keeps a protective watch over her and does not allow any harm to come to her.

      L. 204-213. But soon with.....'tis given to me'. Immediately after that Geraldine see the ghost of Chris table's mother appearing before her eyes The ghost which is the guardian spirit of Christabel has been wandering in the air to protect her daughter from the evil designs of Geraldine. As soon as Geraldine see the ghost, the sympathetic tone of her voice changes to one of hateful defiance. Then addressing the spirit of Christabel's mother, she ask it to leave the castle at once. She conjure her to waste away, grow thin and vanish altogether. She further says that midnight is the time appointed to the power of evil to work its ways. As such, she tells the spirit that she possess the power to drive away the good spirit of Christabel's mother.

      When Geraldine speaks these words, her eyeballs moves wildly. It is because she has seen the disembodied spirit of Christabel's mother and looks worried. In a hoarse voice, she repeats that though the spirit is the guardian of Christabel, yet at that time Christabel is fully under her influence. She adds that the evil hour of the night is entirely hers and hence the good spirit must move out of sight.

      The clue of the theme of the poem seems to be given in these dark words of Geraldine driving the mother's specter away with her sinister spell. The interest of the poem is centered upon a conflict between the disembodied love of a dead mother and the wicked spell of a witch-like woman, in which, no doubt, love is destined to win, for as the poet assures us. 'the blue sky bends over all'.

      L. 226-234. And bed I lie. The tall lady Geraldine stands straight and address the following words to Christabel:

      "Pure and innocent Christabel. All the angels and good spirits who live in heaven love you. Being holy you also love them. Beautiful maiden, I will do all that is within my powers to repay you partly for the sake of good spirits and partly for the sake of good that you have done to me. But now, you should undress yourself in order to go to bed. As regards myself I must pray before I go to sleep."

      Geraldine's desire to pray before going to bed shows that she is still hesitating to do harm to Christabel. There is a conflict going on in her mind whether she shall harm her or not. Another interpretation is that her prayer is a pretense. By pretending to pray she wants to be silent to work up the charm to harm Christabel.

      L. 245-254. Beneath the lamp.....sweet Christabel! Geraldine is kneeling beneath the lamp which is burning in the room. It seems as if she is praying. But actually speaking, she is working the charm to harm Christabel. Her eyes are rolling around. The rolling of the eyes has been interpreted in two ways. She looks around because she is still afraid of the presence of the good spirit of Christabel's mother. By rolling her eyes, by looking in this way she is diffusing the spell. Most probably even now there is a conflict in her mind whether she shall harm Christabel or not. Then heaving a long sigh, one like that trembles with fear she unfasten the belt from beneath her breasts. Her upper silken garments and the woven underwear fell to her feet. Thus half her side and bosom became fully exposed to sight. It is too horrible a sight to be described in words. It can only be imagined. The poet prays to the holy spirits to protect the beautiful and innocent Christabel from all harm at the hands of Geraldine.

      There have been a number of conjectures about Geraldine's breast. The poet, Shelley thought that she has eyes in her breast Coleridge wrote to Southey: It seems that Hazlitt from pure malignity has spread about the report that Geraldine is a man in disguise."

      An anonymous pamphlet pronounced Christabel, "The most obscene poem in the English language." Young writes, "Coleridge deliberately excites expectant horror and then enhances it by leaving the sight unexplained." The poet is too great an artist to describe a horrible sight. So he only says that the naked breast of Geraldine presents such a weird sight that it can be better imagined than described. But his prayer to holy spirits suggests that there is something horrible in the breast of Geraldine.

      L. 255-264. Yet Geraldine..... well-a-day! Neither did Geraldine speak, nor did she move in the least. It seems as if the conflict in her conscience has paralysed her for a while. Though she is an evil spirit, yet she feels the pricks of conscience that makes her hesitate to work evil on a chaste and innocent lady, who has done her so much good. She seems to lift with a weak attempt the heavy load from off her breast. In other words, she appears to overcome her weakness and mental conflict. She fixes her eyes on Christabel for a while, but still she hesitates to do her harm. Then suddenly, the evil in her triumph; she feels the pricks of her conscience as a challenge to her evil nature and pride. She, therefore, shake off her weakness, gathers her strength and lay down by Christabel's side. Then she takes Christabel in her arms. This makes the poet sympathise with Christabel, and he says, "O! What a great sorrow!"

      The whole of this scene has unquestionably genuine horror in it and a psychological treatment of the supernatural. It is these qualities which makes Coleridge so great a poet, the greatest poet perhaps, of the supernatural.

      Taking Christabel in her arms, Geraldine with a dismal look and in a low voice speeker to her as follows: "There is a charm in the touch of my bosom, Christabel. It will cast a spell on your speech and you will not be able to speak a word of what has happened. This night you will know about this mark of my shame and sorrow which you see on my breast. You will remember it in future, but if you try to talk about it to others, you will not be able to do so. You will only be able to say that in the dark forest you heard a low moaning sound and found there a lady of exceptional beauty, whom you brought home due to love and kindness in order to protect her from the bad weather.

      L. 302-310. A star hath.....wood and fell! In this stanza, the poet gives a vivid description of the relief seen in outward Nature as soon as the allotted hour of Geraldine's spell is over. During that period Christabel lay in trance locks in the arms of Geraldine. During that period, She is completely in the power of Geraldine, who does to her what she pleased. While Christabel thus lay in the close embrace of Geraldine, all the birds of the night hold their breath in horror.

      Now it is morning and the star which is so long seen above the western horizon sinks and another stars rises in the eastern horizon. In other Words the time of the night passes. With that the evil star set and the propitious star appears. That is the time of the witch, Geraldine. She cast her spell while that time lasts. The allotted time being over, Christabel is released from the embrace of Geraldine and she recovers from her trance. Geraldine's spell that has cast its influence on nature, too being now over, the owls and the night birds begin to hoot joyfully from rocks, towers, lakes and forests.

      L. 311-318. And see ! the.....sudden light! During the night, Christabel is in a kind of trance under the influence of Geraldine's charm. In the morning, she slowly recovers from her trance. Her limbs: slackens and her face became sad and soft. Her soft, thin eyelids, which remains open because of the mental tension during the trance, now relaxes. They drop softly on her eyes. So the large tears which stood in her eyes during the trance, rolls down her cheeks. The tears, however, makes the eyelashes bright. Now and then for a moment, she seems to smile like small children when they suddenly see some sweet vision.

      L. 319-331. Yea, She doth.....bends over all! Sometimes Christabel smiles and sometimes she weeps. Thus her tears and smiles alternately. She looks like a beautiful young female ascetic, who always prays whether asleep or awake. If she moves restlessly now and then, it is not on account of some bad dreams, but, perhaps due to the rush of warm blood to her feet, which causes a thrilling sensation.

      The poet is confident that during her sleep, Christabel has a happy dream. Perhaps in her dream, she has a vision of the guardian spirit of her mother, who kept constant watch over her well-being; or perhaps she feel conscious of the presence of her dead mother near her in order to protect her from all evils. Whatever the case may be, the sense of sorrow and pain that has overtaken her under the spell of Geraldine is gone. Now she feels quite confident that in sorrow as well as in joy, saints help men if they are prayed for. She firmly believes that all men live under the love and protection of God, in the same way as they live under the wide expense of the blue sky.

      L. 332-337. Each matin bell.....his dying day! Sir Leoline says that each stroke of the morning bell takes him a step further back into the world of death. These words are first spoken by him when he rose in the morning and find that his wife is dead.

      In the medieval church, the bell is rung early in the morning. It is usually a call to prayer and marks the beginning of the day's activities. But Sir Leoline interprets the ringing of the church bell in a totally different way. To him it is a sad reminder of death and the sorrow that comes in its wake, ever since that morning which find his wife dead. So deep is the sorrow he feel at the death of his wife that the words he speake first about the ringing of the church bell are apt to be spoken by him till the day of his death. To him the morning bell of the church has a special significance. It reminds him of death and not of morning prayer.

      L. 338-344. And hence Wyndermere. It is early in the morning when the church bell is ringing that Sir Leoline finds his wife dead. Due to this extraordinary circumstance, he pass the order that the person who ring the church bell must count forty-five beads on his rosary. He must say 'Hail Mary' forty-five times between the strokes of bell. Thus between each stroke of the bell there is to be an interval of about forty-five seconds. The ringing of the church bell in this manner remained a custom for some time, but then it became so well established that it acquires the force of law. The change manner of the ringing of the bell is when some one dies. There are not even one person living from Bratha, where the river Brathay rises to the lake Wyndermere, into which it falls, who do not hear the ringing church-bell in the morning.

      L. 345-359. Saith Bracy....from Borodale. Sir Leoline's bard or court-singer, Bracy who uses to hear the ringing of the morning bell, says: "The morning bell is rung solemnly and by a sleepy sexton who counts the beads of his rosary very slowly. As such the interval between the strokes of bell increases. But this matters little because during the time the bell is silent a similar sound comes from the valley of Great Langdale, Witch's Lair and Dungeon Ghyll. The other sound is the knell rung by the ghosts of the three sinful sextons, who for neglecting duties during their lifetime have been punished by being confined within the mountain region of the three valleys. As ghosts, they use rosaries of rocks and bells of air. They ring the knell in response to the morning bell is rung by their living companion, the sexton of Sir Leoline. As soon as they finish ringing their sad notes one after the other, the Devil, very often as if displeased by their death-notes mocks at their sorrow with a peal of joyful laughter from Borodale over the hills and far away.

      Langdale Pike, Witch's Lair and Dungeon Ghyll are landmarks in Grasmere. The poet by mentioning these places and Borodale which is a valley in Cumberland, gives a realistic touch to the poem. By doing so, he detracts from it the sense of mystery and delightful vagueness which marks it in the beginning and which is the most enthralling aspect of the poem. Hence many critics of the poem find fault with the localisation of the scene of the poem.

      L. 360-369. The air is still.....rested well. In the peaceful atmosphere of the morning, the Devil's peal of happy laughter resounds loudly. Geraldine hears it and being an evil spirit gets rid of all fear. She begins to feel sure that the guardian spirit of Christabel's mother, which has disturbed her the previous night, will not be able to do so again. Then she rises quietly from the bed where she has been sleeping with Christabel. She puts on her white silken dress and arranges her hair in beautiful plaits. She entertains no doubt about the effect of her spell on Christabel. She is definite that Christabel is still under control of the power of the charm which she has cast upon her last night. She then says to Christabel: "Are your still sleeping? I believe you have enjoyed a sound sleep and good rest during the night."

      L. 370-386. And Christabel.....lively leave behind. Christabel awake and she see Geraldine before her. To her Geraldine appears more like the lady she has rescued from distress while she is under the oak-tree in the forest than like the one who has slept by her during the night. Now Geraldine look much more beautiful because like Christabel, she too, has been refreshed by the sound sleep which she has enjoyed at night. While Geraldine talks to Christabel, her looks and her manner seems to express her deep gratitude to Christabel. At the same time her breasts rising and falling with her breath seem to fill her undergarment and make it tight. In such a state Christabel see Geraldine standing before her. When she goes to sleep with her on the previous night she has thought that she has commuted a sin by entertaining such an evil woman and by submitting to her embraces. But now when she see Geraldine standing before her and looking so innocent and beautiful, she feel that she has been unjust in her fears regarding Geraldine. Whatever may have been the case, she still feel confused and fail to decide whether she has done a right or a wrong thing. Her condition is like that of a person whose uncommonly happy dreams leave him in a confused state of mind. Then in a low and weak sweet voice she accosts the beautiful and dignified lady Geraldine.

      L. 408-426. Alas! they had been.....once hath been. The poet feels sorry when he writes about the relationship of Sir Leoline and Lord Roland. In their young age they are bosom friends and very faithful to each other. But false rumours have the power to rend as under the strongest bonds of love and destroy the fidelity between friends. And this happened in the case of Sir Leoline and Lord Roland. The false rumours set afloat by mischievous persons sows the seeds of discord between the two intimate friends. The poet explains its reasons and tells why it is so. He says that constant faithfulness between two persons is not a thing of this world. Abiding loyalty exists only in heaven and is very rarely find on earth. Life in this world is beset with difficulties and complex problems. Young men are proud. They are so confident of themselves that they are apt to be rash and inconsiderate. When they become angry with the person they love, their minds become unhinged and unbalanced. There is no enmity as strong as the one which comes between those who are very good friends. So it happens in the case of Sir Leoline and Lord Roland. They, who are once very intimate friends, became victims of false rumours and turns into sworn enemies of each other. They bade adieu to their friendly, relations and parted, never to meet again.

      The poet then describes the manner of their parting, as he thinks it happen. Under the adverse influence of the false rumours, the two friends, who are more dear to each other's heart use very rude and insulting words for each other. Then they are parted and are never reconciled though each feel sorry for the loss of his friend. Neither of them can find another friend who can remove the pain of the heart which has been made void by loss of a true friend. Separated from each other, the two powerful men stand like two mighty peaks which has been torn as under, and between which a gloomy stretch of water flows. Just as a gloomy stretch of water flows between the two peaks, the same way a sea of hatred has surged and swells between the two men. Like the cliffs torn asunder they, too, carry the marks of separation. They always remain conscious of the bitter pain caused to them by parting. The poet thinks that although two bosom friends may part with violent anger, coldness of heart and hot exchange of words, the former strong attachment and feelings of deep love which they have for each other as friends can never come to an end. Off and on they must remind of their mutual affection and grieve at their separation.

      These lines contain a reference to Coleridge's temporary estrangement with Charles Lamb, and also to his break with Robert Southey. The personal note introduced here has been criticised as inappropriate to the theme and the manner of the poem. But Coleridge himself regards these lines as the "Sweetest and best lines" that he has ever written. They bring about a reconciliation between Coleridge and Lamb in 1800. Byron like these lines so much that he prefixes them to his Farewell to Lady Byron. But despite their great beauty, they have been criticised for the personal emotion expresses in them, as being not in harmony with the romantic context. "They are like a patch of cloth of gold let into a lace garment and straining the delicate tissue till it tears."

      L. 427-446. Sir Leoline, a moment's space.....child of his friend! For an instant, Sir Leoline stand utterly confounded and looking at Geraldine who has suffered very badly at the hands of five ruffians. He remembers once again Lord Roland who has been the friend of his youth. He recalls happy days when he enjoys the sweet company of Lord Roland. Then, under the influence of indignation, rises by the way his friend's daughter has been treated by the five warriors who abducts her. Sir Leoline forgets that he is an old man. His noble heart is filled with a very strong feeling of revenge against the ruffians. He swere by the wounds on the body of Christ who dies on the cross that he will proclaim their guilt in every part of the country. For this purpose, he will send a herald blowing a trumpet and making a solemn proclamation in accordance with the code of Chivalry of the Middle Ages. The herald will proclaim that the five warriors who abduct Geraldine are as mean and hateful as dishonour is stained with sin. In case, they are bold enough to deny the charge level against them, the herald will allow them a week's time, at the end of which those guilty men who has wronged Geraldine and who has disgraced themselves by breaking the rules of chivalry will have to come to the tournament court in Sir Leoline's castle. The Baron swere that as soon as they will reach there, he will kill them and thus he will drive out their poisonous souls from the human bodies which they do not deserve to inhabit. When Sir Leoline utters these words, his eyes flashes and rolls in awful anger, he is roused partly because the ruffians has very cruelly seizes Geraldine, but mainly because she is the daughter of his friend.

      L. 447-456. And now the tears.....sights to see? Sir Leoline is so moved with pity for his friend's daughter, Geraldine, that tears come to his eyes. He, then very lovingly embraces Geraldine. She responce to the affection thus show to her by embracing the Baron as lovingly as he has embraced her. Moreover, she hold Sir Leoline in her arms for a longer time than usual. Her joy at this act of hers can be seen in her eyes because they shine brightly. In fact, her eyes shows the evil gleam of conquest which now she achieves by holding the Baron in her arms. Christabel, who is standing there, see a vision of something fearful in that embrace. She is reminded of that cold embrace which has given her much pain on the previous night. The recollection of that embrace make her move backwards and shiver with fear. The poet sympathises with Christabel and laments at her lot. He thinks that it is really a very sad thing that a pure and gentle maiden like Christabel shall see such shocking and horrible sights. What she see now is a repetition of the ugly vision of Geraldine's bosom and said, "a sight to dream of, not to tell."

      L. 457-462. Again she that prayed. Once again Christabel is reminded of the touch of Geraldine's bosom when she has lain herself down by her side and taken her in her embrace on the previous night. Once again she is reminded of the cold touch of that bosom. This so terrifies and agonises her that she gasps loudly, making a sound like that of a snake. When the Baron hear that queer sound, he frees himself from Geraldine's embrace and turns round angrily to see what the matter is. But he do not find anyone except his own dear daughter with eyes raises towards heaven as if she is praying.

      L. 463-469. The touch the.....smiles like light! Christabel's disturbed state of mind and body did not last long. The gruesome vision of Geraldine's bosom which is "a sight to dream of, not to tell," and which she has seen the previous night, when Geraldine has disrobe herself, soon vanishes away. The painful memory of the cold touch of Geraldine's bosom which she has experienced while laying beside her in her arms passes away from her mind. Now in the place of that terrible vision, Christabel see the sweet vision of the guardian spirit of her mother which she has witnessed after waking up in the morning. This happy vision fills her heart with a sweet, delicious delight and the sense of rapturous pleasure thrills her to the very core of her heart. Her excessive joy is clearly visible on her face because a sweet smile come to her lips and her eyes begin to shine brightly.

      The hissing sound which has escaped from Christabel's lips, and her attitude of prayer, has surprised Sir Leoline. Soon a new feeling of wonder come over him when he sees her smiling in joy on seeing the happy vision of her mother's guardian spirit of which the Baron know nothing. He ask her loving daughter what the cause of her trouble is. In reply, Christabel can only say that everything will be all right ultimately even in spite of what has happened. The poet thinks that so powerful is the spell exercised over her by Geraldine that she can not say anything else beyond that. Though she has a very strong desire to reveal to her father the true nature of Geraldine, yet the spell cast over her by Geraldine is the "Lord of her utterance," making it impossible for her to say anything more.

      L. 475-482. Yet he, who.....her father's mansion. Geraldine has observed Christabel very minutely. As a witch, she can divine her feelings. She knows that Christabel dislikes and feel a strong repulsion for her and wants her to go away from the castle. On the other hand, Sir Leoline entertains a very good opinion of her. He regards her as a very gentle and pious lady who combines in her excessive sorrow and uncommon beauty. He take her to be a gentle and bless person in whose manner there is a strange mixture of kindness and sorrow. To him she appears sad and at the same time kind. All these feelings which the Baron has for Geraldine are not foreign to her? The supernatural powers which she possess makes her acquainted even with the inner working of the minds of Christabel and Sir Leoline. With a view to taking advantage of the Barons's soft
feelings and posing innocent of Christabel's thoughts, Geraldine begins her afresh. Assuming a look of anxious enquiry on her face as if to know whether she has displeased Christabel in any way, Geraldine in a very soft and gentle voice requests the Baron that she will be immediately send to her father's home. Sir Leoline refuses her request saying that it is not possible. He feel that his first duty is to inform Lord Roland that his daughter is safe.

      L. 519-563. The lady fell.....loiter there. Sir Leoline asks his bard to convey the following message to Lord Roland: "I swear by my honour that when I meet Lord Roland, I will say that I must regret for that day when I speak insulting and contemptuous words to him. Ever since that evil, inauspicious day, when I lost a friend, many years have not found a true friend like Lord Roland."

      When Geraldine hear the message to be delivered to her father, she fall at the feet of Sir Leoline and clasps them. Her face is lift up and her eyes are full of tears. This attitude of Geraldine has been interpreted in two ways. It is probably out of gratitude to Sir Leoline for sending the message that she clasps his knees. But probably with her uplifted face and overflowing eyes, she wants to move the Baron's heart so that she may be able to prolong her stay in his castle.

      On hearing Sir Leoline's command, Bracy greeting with kindness all the people present, addresses the following words to Sir Leoline in a soft voice, because he fear that what he has to say, will not be liked by the Baron.

      "O father of Christabel! Your message by virtue of its magnanimity is sweeter than what it will be even if I sing it to the accompaniment of the sweet music of my harp. Still I beseech you to grant me the favour of postponing my journey to Lord Roland's castle today. The reason why I am requesting you for the postponement of my journey is that I see a very horrible vision in a very strange dream last night and I have taken an oath to clear the nearby forest of the evil influence haunting it."

      Bard Bracy has an ominous consciousness of some impending danger. He has sensed some evil influence in the vicinity of the castle. Hence he wants to go on his mission to Lord Roland only after purifying the vicinity with loud singing hymns.

      Bracy describes the dream that has filled his mind with grave suspicions and apprehensions. He says to Sir Leoline, "I dreamt of the dove which you love so dearly and which you call Christabel after the name of your own dear daughter. I dreamt that the bird is all alone among the green plants and trees in the forest. It is flapping its wings and giving out a very painful cry. When I see the dove and hear its fearful moaning sound, I fail to understand the cause of its agony because
I can ‘see nothing near it except the green grass and green plants under the old tree where it was lying."

      In Christian mythology clove is a symbol of purity and innocence. As represents in the Bible, it stands for Divine Spirit which come down to earth in the form of a dove.

      The snake is a symbol of evil and falsehood, as the dove is of purity and innocence. The bright green colour of the snake stands for the false and attractive outward appearance which evil things have to tempt men.

      After describing the dream, Bracy tells of other details connects with it. He says: "I woke up from my dream. Then it is midnight and the clock in the Tower was striking the hour of twelve. Although I am awake, yet I can not forget the dream. The vision which I see in the dream is still present before my eyes. Hence I swear that this very day I will wander through the forest where the trees have shed their leaves, singing holy songs and producing loud music to remove the influence of an evil thing if it is there". In these words Bracy describes his dream and tell his reason for not going to Lord Roland's castle that day.

      Bracy gives a correct interpretation of his dreams. To him the dove stands for Christabel and the green snake for some evil power. He feels that Christabel is going to be harmed by some unholy power, though he does not know what this power is. It is possible that he finds some connection between the evil power and Geraldine who has appeared in the castle in inauspicious circumstances and whose beauty and tale of sorrow fail to produce any effect on him. He is not moved by Sir Leoline's sentimental memories of broken friendship. One thing which deserves special notice is that the time of Bracy's dream is the same as that of Christabel's meeting with Geraldine:

      L. 564-582. Thus Bracy said.....shield her well! Sir Leoline has his own interpretation of Bracy's dream. To him Geraldine is the dove and the ruffians who abduct Geraldine are the snake. He, therefore, pay only a little attention to what Bracy says and smiles sarcastically. He then looks at Geraldine with eyes full of surprise and love. He tells her in the polished language of courtesy, "O beautiful maid: O lively dove of Lord Roland: Your father and I have more power than that of music and song to kill the snake." When he speak these words, he kisses the forehead of Geraldine. She, in a manner befitting a maiden or with a maidenly show of shyness, directed her large and shining eyes towards the ground. She blushes and with a fine show of courtesy turns herself away from Sir Leoline at whom she has been looking till then. Very gently she gathers the long folds of her dress, that trailed the floor and places them again on her right arm. She crosses her arms on her breast and loweres her head on it out of modesty and shyness. While standing in that posture, she throw at Christabel a side-glance full of hatred and distrust, which makes her much distressed. The poet prays to Jesus and his mother Virgin Mary to protect her from the threat contain in Geraldine's look.

      Bracy's dream has been interpreted differently by different persons. The bard suspects some harm to Christabel from an evil power. The Baron has his own notions and interpretation of the dream. To him the dove is Geraldine and the snake is the symbol of the ruffians who has tried to kidnap her. Only Christabel and Geraldine understand the true meaning of the dream. By introducing the dream and by its vagueness and suggestiveness, Coleridge very skilfully produces the sense of horror and tries to maintain the atmosphere of mystery and supernaturalism with which the poem is commenced.

      L. 583-596. And snake's small.....on Sir Leoline. Here the poet tells us how Geraldine's eyes looks when she directs them towards Christabel and what effect they produces on her. Geraldine's large and bright eyes sank into their slits and become the small blinking eyes of a snake. They are full of hatred but the fear in them is greater. The hate is for Christabel. The fear is caused by the thoughts that Christabel may confirm Bracy's suspicions. Geraldine's eyes became like those of a snake for a moment only, but during that brief space of time they carry so much hatred and venom in them that they send Christabel into a giddy stupor. Her feet became unsteady. She trembles so violently as if she will fall, and make a hissing sound. Thus having brought Christabel under her control once again, Geraldine turns towards Sir Leoline as if she is anxious for relief from some deep affliction. Then her eyes which has become for a moment small and snake-like eyes on Christabel that she stands in a stupor. She has lost all her power of thinking. She sees nothing but the hateful eyes of Geraldine.

      Kathleen Royds says: "Here, as to Part I, the description is not so much of the sight that Christabel beholds as of its effects on her and thus it takes possession of the imagination with a sense of horror all the stronger from its vagueness."

      L. 598-612. The maid, alas!.....innocent and blue! The very expression of malice and venom which is present on the face of Geraldine can now be seen on the face of Christabel. The poet fails to understand how Christabel who is so free from deceit and sin can assume such a look but it is decidedly there on her face. Giving its reason, the poet says that so powerful has been the influence of Geraldine's look on her that it is now fully reflected on her face. In other words, the look of dull and treacherous hate in Geraldine's eyes has made such a deep impression on Christabel's mind that instinctively without her being aware of it, a similar look is now clearly visible on her face. It seems to have been forced from her by a sympathetic reaction to circumstances in which she is, because she herself by her very nature is incapable of it. Presenting a likeness to Geraldine s treacherous face to the extent to which it can register itself in her blue and innocent eyes, Christabel stand in a giddy stupor in the full view of her father.

      L. 636-655. Within the Baron's.....the lady Geraldine! What Lady Leoline has prayed do not come to be true. The Baron remains silent probably because his mind is filled with this and other thoughts connects with his daughter. But even if such thoughts about his only child has any place in the Baron's heart and mind, they only serve to create a confusion there and increase his anger. He feel enraged because he is requested by his own loving child to send away his friend's daughter. His heart is broken on the one hand, by anger; and on the other, by a feeling of pain caused by his daughter's ingratitude. His suppress anger made his cheek tremble and his eyes red. He feel dishonored in his old age on being asked by his own daughter to send away a lady who as his friend's daughter has a claim on his hospitality but is thus insulted. He feel that the disgrace done to him is based on nothing else but Christabel's womanly jealousy for Geraldine. Thoughts as these enhance his indignation and looking very angrily at the gentle bard he speake to him in a sudden and harsh voice: "Bracy, why do you linger here? I have commanded you to go from the place quickly." As the bard obeys and left the place, the old Baron turns away in anger from his own dear daughter and in anger and defiance give his arm to Geraldine and go out of the Presence-room.

      L. 656-677. A little's most used to do. In these lines the poet generalises the reaction of a father's mind to anger and pain on being dishonoured by his own child. The poet says that a little child is an active fairy. It sings and dances by itself. With its red round cheeks, it is a beautiful thing to look at. The child finds a joy in everything and everywhere. So it never stands in need of the search of happiness. It is so full of unbounded gaiety that it always presents a beautiful sight to the eyes and fills the eyes of its father with the light of pride and joy. The father's love for the child goes on increasing till its abundance brings him to a stage when he becomes severe and harsh to child. Very often this harshness is not intended at all. This is proved by Sir Leoline's conduct Awards his daughter. It is only due to his excessive love for her that he severely condemns her request and went out with Geraldine, in utter disregard of her request.

      The poet says that it is a very strange thing that such opposite feelings of love and harshness exist side by side in the heart and are complementary to each other. "his we find in the case of Sir Leoline. He speaks angry words and mock Christabel because the charm or attraction of their mutual love has come to an end. He favours Geraldine because her real nature boing unknown to him, he can not see any harm in entertaining her.

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