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April 18, 2013

Coleridge as a Romantic Poet


Samuel Taylor Coleridge happens to posses the most vigorous mind amongst the English romantics. During the 19th century he produced some of the most stirring and eloquent verse that no other poets of his generation could able to replicate. His poetry is, indeed, the supreme embodiment of all that is purest and the most ethereal in romantic spirit. One of England’s many magnificent gifts to English literature, this rather unproductive poet wrote poems that have become the priceless assets of romantic literature.

Supernaturalism

Coleridge’s contribution to romantic poetry reached its apex through his treatment of the supernatural. He is a master poet of the supernatural. He attempts to draw the supernatural in a convincing way, where the reader is compelled to take it for real or natural by willingly suspending disbeliefs. This environment has been created most convincingly in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Element of Mystery

Coleridge’s poetry is noted mostly for its elements of mystery. Coleridge displays painstaking mastery in creating some characters and events that evoke a sense of curiosity or suspense because of an unknown, obscure or enigmatic quality. In his seminal work The Ancient Mariner, Coleridge creates a mysterious character by portraying him as a man of glittering eyes and long grey beard.

Vivid & Convincing Imagery

Coleridge has the most imaginative mind amongst the romantic poets. Coleridge is essentially good at portraying vivid imagery. He has the power to transport the audience in his realm of imagination by convincing the reader to accept no-existent as real. And this is the very quality which enables Coleridge to incorporate convincing/effective elements of mystery. For example, his description of Kubla Khan’s palace forces the reader to believe in its existence:

Dream

The major poems of Coleridge have a dreamlike quality. His poems were inspired by reveries. He saw them in his dreams and visualized in the poetry. For instance, Kubla Khan is a superb example of his dream poetry. In this poem he recounts in poetic form what he saw in a vision.

Medievalism

Coleridge had a strong devotion to the spirit of the Middle Ages. Coleridge’s love for the supernatural was engendered by romance and legends of the Middle Ages. Medievalism provides him the opportunity to create the sense of remoteness and a mysterious setting.

Nature

Coleridge’s initial attitude towards nature was pantheistic. During this stage, he treated nature as a moral teacher. Later on he changed his attitude towards nature. He believed that it depends on our mood and temperament how we would interpret nature. This mood is reflected in Dejection: An Ode:

"O Lady! We receive but what we give,
And in our life alone doth Nature live
Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud!"

Narrative Skill

Coleridge is a master story teller. This is probably the strongest part of his poetic potentials. He is aware of the fact that a successful story telling involves a griping  suspense or continuous evocation of interest. For example, in Kubla Khan Coleridge is able to retain the reader’s interest when he mentions about the romantic chasm:

"But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!"  

Humanism

Coleridge always cared for the wellbeing of the humanity. His love for the humanity is revealed through his strong support for the French revolution. He supported the upheaval assuming that it would free the masses from the oppression of the dictators. But subsequently, Coleridge windrowed his support as the revolutionists deviated from their principles. Coleridge showed this dissatisfaction in his French: An Ode. His love for the humanity is seen best in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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