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How Coleridge’s Poetry Reflects British Romanticism

1. Introduction: what inspired Coleridge to write poetry?

The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one of the most prominent representatives of British Romanticism. His poetry is characterized by deep emotions, imagination, and Symbolism. In this essay, we will take a closer look at two of Coleridge's most famous poems

“Frost at Midnight” and “The Nightingale”, in order to identify how they reflect British Romanticism.

Coleridge was born in 1772 in Devon, England. From an early age, he was interested in literature and writing. He even wrote his first poem when he was just four years old. However, his father wanted him to become a lawyer and sent him to study at Jesus College, Cambridge in 1791. But Coleridge was not interested in law and spent most of his time reading literature and talking about philosophy with his friends. In 1793, he even dropped out of university without finishing his studies.

In the same year, Coleridge met the poet Robert Southey, with whom he decided to start a utopian community called “Pantisocracy”. However, this project never came to fruition and Coleridge soon left England for Germany, where he planned to continue his studies. It was during this time that he started taking opium to ease the pain of toothache. This would become a lifelong addiction that would eventually lead to Coleridge's downfall.

In 1795, Coleridge returned to England and started publishing his poetry. His first collection of poems, “Poems on Various Subjects”, was published in 1796. It was not well-received by the public or critics, but it did catch the attention of William Wordsworth, who would become one of Coleridge's closest friends and biggest supporters.

In 1797, Wordsworth and Coleridge published a joint collection of poems called “Lyrical Ballads”, which is considered to be one of the most important works of English Romanticism. The collection includes some of Coleridge's most famous poems such as “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan”.

After the publication of “Lyrical Ballads”, both poets went their separate ways. Wordsworth moved to Dove Cottage in the Lake District with his sister Dorothy and Coleridge settled in Nether Stowey with his wife Sara Fricker. It was during this time that he wrote some of his most famous poems such as “Frost at Midnight” and “The Nightingale”.

2. Coleridge as a Master of Romanticism

Coleridge is considered to be one of the masters of Romanticism because he was able to express deep emotions in his poetry without losing touch with reality. He believed that emotions were more important than reason and that they could lead people to new insights and wisdom.

Coleridge was also a very talented Symbolist poet. He believed that symbols could be used to represent ideas and emotions that were too complex to be expressed in words. For example, in his poem “Kubla Khan”, the “stately pleasure-dome” symbolizes the power of the imagination to create something beautiful from nothing.

3. “Frost at Midnight” – the poem about nature and its connection to human soul

“Frost at Midnight” is one of Coleridge's most famous poems. It was written in 1798 while he was living in Nether Stowey with his wife Sara Fricker. The poem is about nature and its connection to the human soul.

The poem starts with a description of the frosty weather. Coleridge uses personification to give the frost a human quality: “The frost performs its secret ministry”. He then goes on to describe how the frost affects the world around him. The trees are covered in “hoary rime”, the river is “bridged with ice” and the birds are “silent in their roosts”.

But despite the cold, Coleridge feels a sense of warmth and comfort inside his house: “The fire burns bright, and I warm my hands/ While contemplating the silent Frost/ That has chilled the hour of midnight”.

This is because he is surrounded by people he loves: his wife Sara, their baby son Hartley and their cat Smokey. And as he looks at them, he is filled with a sense of wonder at the miracle of life: “How sweet it is to see our little ones/ Reposing on their mother’s breast!/ What other spectacle on earth so dear/ As that which meets a parent’s eye?"

Coleridge then goes on to describe how nature has a profound effect on the human soul. He compares the frosty weather outside to the warmth and love inside his house and how both are necessary for the soul to flourish: “For Nature ne’er deserts us, though we may/ Desert her where we see no loveliness:/ She still prevails with unresisted might,/ And throws around us Beauty’s cloak, if we will only put it on".

In conclusion, “Frost at Midnight" is a beautiful poem about nature and its connection to the human soul. It is an excellent example of Romanticism because it explores deep emotions and uses Symbolism to express complex ideas.

4. “The Nightingale” – the poem about the power of music

“The Nightingale” is one of Coleridge's most famous poems. It was written in 1798 while he was living in Nether Stowey with his wife Sara Fricker. The poem is about the power of music.

The poem starts with a description of the nightingale's song. Coleridge uses personification to give the bird a human quality: “The bird was not afraid/ To sing at dead of night". He then goes on to describe how the nightingale's song fills him with a sense of joy and wonder: “The world was all before me,/ And I felt like I could fly!"

But as he listens to the nightingale's song, he starts to feel sad and nostalgic for his homeland: “I thought of my native land,/ And longed for its green fields".

In conclusion, “The Nightingale” is a beautiful poem about the power of music. It is an excellent example of Romanticism because it explores deep emotions and uses Symbolism to express complex ideas.

5. Conclusion: how Coleridge's poetry reflects British Romanticism?

Coleridge is considered to be one of the masters of Romanticism because he was able to express deep emotions in his poetry without losing touch with reality. He believed that emotions were more important than reason and that they could lead people to new insights and wisdom.

Coleridge was also a very talented Symbolist poet. He believed that symbols could be used to represent ideas and emotions that were too complex to be expressed in words. For example, in his poem “Frost at Midnight”, the “stately pleasure-dome” symbolizes the power of the imagination to create something beautiful from nothing.

In conclusion, Coleridge's poetry reflects British Romanticism in its exploration of deep emotions, use of Symbolism, and focus on nature and the human soul.

FAQ

The main characteristics of British Romanticism are its focus on the individual, its emphasis on emotion and imagination, its celebration of nature, and its interest in the supernatural.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poetry reflects these characteristics in its use of language to evoke strong emotions, its focus on the inner life of the individual, and its fascination with the natural world. His most famous poems, such as "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan," explore themes of isolation, fear, and death, while also celebrating the beauty of nature.

Coleridge's poetry has been influential in subsequent literary movements for its innovative use of language and form, as well as for its exploration of dark psychological themes. ["The main characteristics of British Romanticism are an emphasis on emotion and imagination, a focus on the individual and the subjective experience, a reverence for nature, and a celebration of the power of the creative spirit.","Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poetry reflects these characteristics in its use of vivid imagery, its exploration of personal emotions and states of mind, its lyrical depictions of natural scenes, and its expression of hope and awe at the possibilities of human creativity.","Some of the most famous poems by Coleridge include "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Kubla Khan," and "Christabel." These poems all showcase Coleridge's skill with language and his ability to create evocative and powerful images. They also demonstrate his interest in metaphysical concepts and his willingness to experiment with form and structure.","In subsequent literary movements, Coleridge's poetry has been influential in its focus on feeling and imagination, its use of symbols and allegory, and its treatment of supernatural elements."]

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