Samuel Taylor Coleridge

September 5, 2006


One of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England and one of the Lake Poets
Lifelong friend of William Wordsworth and Charles Lamb
Bright child, could read before he was four
Was bored with school, fled and enlisted in the Light Dragoons under the alias Silas Tomkyn Comberbache
Left Cambridge without a degree
Coleridge started using opium as a pain reliever around 1796
Married but was unable to support his wife and family
Best known for his long narrative poems and poems concerning the supernatural
Sees poetry in terms of unity and paradox: the poem should work organically as a whole
Very concerned with education and the Educated Man


The frost performs its secret ministry, / Unhelped by any wind.

My babe is so beautiful! it thrills my heart / With tender gladness, thus to look at thee, / And think that thou shalt learn far other lore / And in far other scenes! For I was reared / In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim, / And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars. / But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze /  By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags / Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds, / Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores / And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear / The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible / Of that eternal language, which thy God / Utters, who from eternity doth teach / Himself in all, and all things in himself.

-Frost at Midnight

Coleridge addresses his childhood in the city as the root of his discomfort among the natural world
Wants his son, Hartley then 17 moths, to be taught by nature

Kubla Khan (1797)
Or, A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

Takes its title from the Mongol/Chinese emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty
Coleridge’s dream was interrupted by a business man in regards to something trivial
The poem takes us from the ordinary and transports us to the ancient past
Nature is being controlled in the first stanza, but bursts forward and cannot be contained in the second
Poetry can be seen as something constructive, used to recreate this paradise

“In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effect of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas’s Pilgrimage: ‘Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto: and thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall.’

Quotations: (Poem in whole)

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree: / Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea. / So twice five miles of fertile ground / With walls and towers were girdled round: / And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills / Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; / And here were forests ancient as the hills, / Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
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!
    The shadow of the dome of pleasure / Floated midway on the waves: / Where was heard the mingled measure / From the fountain and the caves. / It was a miracle of rare device, / A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer / In a vision once I saw: / It was an Abyssinian maid, / And on her dulcimer she played, / Singing of Mount Abora. / Could I revive within me / Her symphony and song, / To such a deep delight ‘twould win me, / That with music loud and long, / I would build that dome in air, / That sunny dome! those caves of ice! / And all who heard should see them there, / And all should cry, Beware! Beware! / His flashing eyes, his floating hair! / Weave a circle round him thrice, / And close your eyes with holy dread, / For he on honey-dew hath fed, / And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Biographia Literaria (1817)

Merges personal experience with philosophical speculation
Contains the famous distinction between Fancy and Imagination
Argues there are two cardinal points of poetry: the ordinary and the supernatural
Rejects Wordsworth’s claim that ordinary language is superior
Consists of two main parts: Coleridge’s critique on Wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction and-

“My literary life and opinions, as far as poetry and poetical criticism are concerned”


“To carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood; to combine the child’s sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances which every day for perhaps forty years had rendered familiar… this is the character and privilege of genius, and one of the marks which distinguish genius from talents.”

“To admire on principle is the only way to imitate without loss of originality.”

“The primary imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary I consider as an echo of the former, coexisting with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation… The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of time and space and blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will which we express by the word choice.”

“A poem is that species of composition which is opposed to works of science by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth… But if the definition sought for be that of a legitimate poem, I answer it must be one the parts of which mutually supposrt and explain each other; all in their proportion harmonizing with, and supporting the purpose and known influences of metrical arrangement.”

“The reader should be carried forward, not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse of curiosity, or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution; but by the pleasurable activity of mind excited by the attractions of the journey itself.”

“The poet, describein ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity that blends and (as it were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of imagination.”

“Finally, Good Sense is the Body of poetic genius, Fancy its Drapery, Motion its Life, and Imagination the Soul that is everywhere and in each; and forms all into one graceful and intelligent whole.”

“Rustic live (above all, low and rustic life) especially unfavorable to the formation of human diction- the best parts of language the products of philosophers, not clowns or shepherds.”

“It is more than probably that many classes of the brute creation possess discriminating sounds, by which they can convey to each other notices of such objects as concern their food, shelter, or safety. Yt we hesitate to call the aggregate of such sounds a language, otherwise than metaphorically. The best part of human language, properly so called, is derived from reflection on the acts of the mind itself.”

“For the property of passion is not to create, but to set in increased activity.”


One Response to “Samuel Taylor Coleridge”

  1. Thanks for information.
    many interesting things

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