There is no single theme that pervades every one of Coleridge's many poems, but a body of motifs relating to familial relationships and friendship imbue both his conversation poems, such as Frost at Midnight and The Eolian Harp, and his mystery poems, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Kahn, and Christabel. As Kelvin Everest asserts in his study of the conversation poems, Coleridge's Secret Ministry, this body of motifs is representative of Coleridge's work as a whole, and gives insight into the personal motivation, stemming from his own experiences, for exploring so extensively the poet-reader and the family-society relationships: The conversation poems represent Coleridge's most clearly articulated statement of a theme that is present in all his poetry. It is in fact more accurate to speak of a number of related themes and images; friendship, family, marriage, the retired, the self-sufficient dell' or vale' or nook' providing an intimately known home in nature.
[...] Although she cannot warn Sir Leoline, Christabel is assaulted by a vision of Geraldine's true form: A vision fell Upon the soul of Christabel - The vision of fear, the touch and pain! She shrunk and shuddered, and saw again (Ah woe is me! Was it for thee, Thou gentle maid, such sights to see?) Again she saw that bosom old Again she felt that bosom cold And drew in her breath with a hissing sound. (439-47) This image of the serpent-like demon that is Geraldine is not simply a Gothic creation; Coleridge sees demon women everywhere, and they make such appearances, tormenting the innocents of his poems, all too frequently. [...]
[...] The final stanza, about the “damsel with a dulcimer is Coleridge's lamentation that he lost the thread of Kubla Khan before finishing it, and were he able, he would build with words and air the poetic equivalent of the pleasure-dome, and his audience would recognize his genius, that on honey-dew hath fed / and drank the milk of paradise The imaginative effort of writing poetry is, to Coleridge, the same process as building a vast temple or cultivating a government, the transformation of pure idea into tangible, brilliant existence. [...]
[...] At first, the image is one of fatherly pleasure; Coleridge sits beside his sleeping infant, noting the quiet and stillness of the night. The dying flame on the grate draws him into thought, and looking through the grate's bars, he is transferred back to the bars of his schoolyard. Ever looking out, waiting for someone, Coleridge as a boy “already had dreamt / of my sweet birthplace Imprisoned, in his mind at least, in the hospital school after his father's death, young Samuel Coleridge desperately awaits rescue from someone he knows. [...]
[...] Poetry and the poet are so deeply intertwined that it is impossible to speak of one without the other. It is impossible, in Coleridge's mind, to read a poem without somehow communing with the author of that poem. poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity” he asserts, 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 I would exclusively appropriate the name of imagination His study of imagination, its ability to engender emotion and unification, is essentially tied to his attempts to create a discourse between himself and the reader, the reader and the world. [...]
[...] audiences, and Coleridge saw the process of creating and presenting poetry as a political and philosophical act, one in which the rapport between poet and reader could intimate and enlighten by simultaneously offering the world of the poem and reflecting on its “imaginary status.” His poems betray a fascination with interpersonal relationships of all kinds in myriad appearances, but in many ways, his own attempts to create and maintain such relationships are inextricably tangled in the fiction of his poetry. [...]
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