Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Romantic Period Literature

Coleridge was a precocious child who could read at three and recite from memory a great part of the Bible and the Arabian Nights. He was at Christ’s Hospital, a charity school where he met and befriended Charles Lamb. During this time only the Bastille fell. The revolution (French Revolution) instantly appealed to him. He carried it with enthusiasm to Cambridge where he suffered much from ill health and anxiety about debts. In 1794, he met the youthful Southey with whom he planned to establish Pantisocracy on the banks of the Susquehanna river in America. This utopian plan, a direct product of revolutionary zeal, came to nothing. Subsequently, he went to Germany to study and thereafter to Rome. He started a journal The Friend which was devoted to truth. He also started lectures on poetry and fine arts. Initially, he was quite successful but his audiences dwindled on account of his irregularity in engagements.
The subsequent story of Coleridge’s life is a story of aimless wanderings, of plans made and abandoned, and of failures. His wonderful energies further deteriorated due to his addiction to opium. So this divinely gifted poet shambled through life. He saw many great dreams and projected great books. However, neither of his dreams could come true nor his books were written. All his work is fragmentary but original. He exercised a great influence in theology, philosophy, and literary criticism.
What is best in Coleridge’s poetry is very small in amount, but that little is of rare excellence. Just as Wordsworth saved naturalism from the hard literalism to which it was tending by touching fact with imagination, Coleridge saved supernaturalism from the coarse sensationalism that is in vogue by linking it with psychological truth.

His works are:

  1. Early Works:
    (a) A DayDream
    (b) The Devil’s Thoughts
    (c) The Suicide’s Argument
    (d) The Wanderings of Cain
  2. Later Works:

(a) Kubla Khan (1816): It is just a fragment. It is believed that Coleridge composed this poem in a dream that he remembered and started writing as he woke up. However, he was interrupted in his venture and forgot everything beyond the fifty-four lines that he had written at that time.

(b) Christabel (1797): This poem is also a fragment in which the heroine, Geraldine, is a German woman who is in fact a pure girl and who has fallen under the spell of a sorcerer. The poem contains exquisite poetic lines, grotesque musical tones, and an atmosphere of awfulness and supernaturalism.

(c) The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798): It is Coleridge’s most famous masterpiece which was a part of lyrical ballads. The story is too well known to be recounted. The important elements of this poem are exquisite poetry, wonderful narration, supernaturalism, a well-knit plot and anecdotes, an element of suspense, gorgeous scenery, deep pathos, pre-dominance of fate and mysterious divine power, and above all a true account of life on the sea in Coleridge’s days.

  1. Shorter Poems:

(a) Ode to Dejection
(b) Frost at Midnight
(c) Fears in Solitude
(d) Love Poems
(e) Hymn Before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni
(f) Work Without Hope
(g) Religious Musing etc.

  1. Prose Works:

(a) Biographia Literaria or My Literary Life and Opinions (1817)
(b) Aids to Reflection (1815)
(c) Lectures on Shakespeare (1849)
(d) The Friend (1809)
(e) The Watchman (1796)
(f) Sibyllne Leaves (1817)
(g) Table Talk (1835)

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